Icelandair’s Skjaldbreiður at SEA, being loaded for KEF – Photo: Francis Zera | AirlineReporter
Let’s just start by saying that, yes, I saw the aurora on the flight, and, yes, it was awesome.
Saga Class is Icelandair’s top-tier cabin service, and is roughly equivalent to business class on other airlines. Check-in and boarding were a breeze. When boarding the aircraft, the 22 Saga-class passengers turn left toward the front of the plane, making it very easy to forget that you don’t have the whole plane to yourself. The accompanying checked-baggage allowance seemed quite generous: two 70-lb. bags per person.
Icelandair shares a lounge with several other smaller airlines in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s international terminal (SEA). The lounge is comfortable and clean, if a bit uninspired, but a fine place to wait for your flight. The hot-food options were welcome, and on the day I was there most of the dishes were Asian themed, which are a personal favorite.
The aircraft for the flight to Reykjavik was TF-LLX, aka Skjaldbreiður, a 757-200 which hadn’t yet been through Icelandair’s cabin refresh program. The interior was a tiny bit worn around the edges and had old-style IFE screens, but it was still all very comfortable and clean. Icelandair names its aircraft after Icelandic volcanoes, and, with about 130 of the things in the country, it doesn’t appear that they’ll run out of names anytime soon.
The star of the MEBAA static display, Honeywell’s flying testbed Boeing 757 N757HW – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
As part of this years Middle East Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) show at Dubai-Al Maktoum Airport (DWC), there were over 45 aircraft on static display. Of course, there were countless VIP Boeing and Airbus jets there, however for me the highlight was the Honeywell Boeing 757-200 flying testbed. The aircraft has a rather interesting history; it started out life with Eastern Airlines in 1983 before operating for a British leisure airline from 1995-2002, before finally coming to Honeywell in 2005 after a few years in storage. As of 2008, the aircraft has completed over 400 test flights and some 1,700 flight hours in over 15 countries. That’s impressive.
This is no ordinary 757 – Photo: Jacob Pfleger | AirlineReporter
The most distinguishing feature of the aircraft is the engine mount on the forward right-hand section of the fuselage. The mount is primarily used for in-flight testing of new engines — mainly for the corporate jet market. The most notable engines that were tested and certified on the aircraft include the HTF7000 and TFE731 engines, which power the Learjet aircraft series.
Honeywell’s Boeing 757 sits at Paine Field
Honeywell recently reached out and let me know that their Boeing 757 would be parked at Paine Field (north of Seattle) overnight. They asked if I’d like to take a tour before it departed back to Phoenix. Um… yes please!
The third engine on the side of the 757, with a B-52 in the background
The rain partly cleared as I arrived and the first obvious difference between Honeywell’s 757 and the run-of-the-mill 757 is the third engine on the side of the fuselage. The engine mount is used to test different Honeywell engines in the “real world.” During my tour, the Honeywell TFE731 engine was hooked up and it was being tested for vibration issues.
To the moon! Or maybe just to Jersey.
Let’s start out with the obvious: it’s been a rough few years for United Airlines. Amidst a choppy merger, a CEO ouster scandal (then the new replacement CEO having health issues), and an awful economic climate for the industry during most of the decade, the Chicago-based airline’s public perception took a big hit. It has become pretty clear that major change is needed to win over the hearts and minds of the American flying public.
Over the past year, United has unveiled a number of updates, including the return of free snacks in economy, beer and wine in long-haul international economy, the continued rollout of WiFi, increased direct-to-device streaming entertainment, refreshed menus in premium cabins, and improved United Clubs. Some updates have gone into effect already, while others will be rolled out gradually during this year.
p.s. BusinessFirst – Photo: United
One major structural change in 2015 was United’s withdrawal from JFK Airport, which had previously served as the New York terminus of the flagship domestic Premier Service (p.s.) routes from San Francisco and Los Angeles. As of October 2014, those flights now land at United’s massive and ever-expanding hub at Newark Liberty International (EWR). On the other coast, United has also been investing in its Terminal 3 hub at SFO.
Other airlines have been upping their transcontinental game, with American flying three-class A321Ts, JetBlue expanding its ever-popular Mint service, and Delta offering its Delta One long-haul product between JFK and LAX/SFO.
Over the course of a few trips between San Francisco and New York on the p.s. route, I had a great chance to test drive some of the latest changes at United. Read on as I share some of my insights from putting the new United through its paces.