The flight deck on the Air Koryo IL-62 – Photo: Bernie Leighton
Some people might think our own Bernie Leighton, AirlineReporter Managing Correspondent, is crazy. He has had the opportunity to fly around the world on some old and unique airplanes others might be afraid to step foot on. But Bernie throws caution to the wind and looks to fly on planes that make many AvGeeks jealous. The specialty aircraft he has flown and reported on, via AirlineReporter, include:
Biman DC-10 ready for boarding – Photo: Bernie Leighton
And that is not to mention the “normal” airplanes he flies on too, like the 747, Q400 and G650. Since he has experienced so many different types of aircraft, I wanted to interview him and have him share his ideas. Here is our interview:
Continue reading Interview: Flying on the World’s Most Interesting Aircraft
Touring Singapore’s new Boeing 777-300ER, just last week
Given the success and growth of AirlineReporter.com, I thought it would be both fun and informative to check in with David Parker Brown (@ARdpb), Editor-in-Chief and Founder of the site.
It is possible that many of you have found AirlineReporter.com recently and discovered more AvGeek goodness than you could possibly imagine. Some of you have been reading and commenting for years. A small group of early adopters have been reading since the early days. Undeniably, AirlineReporter.com has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and it’s all because of amazing readers, dedicated writers, and a unique focus on airlines, airplanes, travel, and the interesting parts of the industry.
I don’t remember exactly at what point I found AirlineReporter.com, but it was in the early days. I remember taking the time to go back and read all the archived posts, fascinated that someone was writing stories about topics I was so interested in. Once I commented on a post, David realized he and I had a connection – we had mutual friends in college and lived in the same residence hall for two years. After my 77-hour trip to Singapore experience, I started writing and editing for the site; most of my work is done behind-the-scenes to help our team bring you excellent content, and help David formulate and refine story ideas. I pitched him the idea of this story, and he (reluctantly) agreed! Here is our interview…
Continue reading Interview with an Airline Reporter
Captain Steve Taylor at the controls of a 747-8I before flight. Image from Boeing.
I first met Steve Taylor, the President of Boeing Business Jets, during the press conference for the delivery of the first Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental. He had to leave half way thought the Q&A, which would be rude for most airline executives, but he had a good reason: he had to fly the plane. Then more recently I was able to chat with him another event and enjoyed our conversation so much that I asked for a follow up interview for the blog and here is that interview:
David Parker Brown (DPB): Who is Steve Taylor?
Steve Taylor (ST): I’m basically a very lucky kid from Kansas who’s landed in a job that allows me lead a great team, selling and supporting a great product while still engaging my passion for flying airplanes. I’m second generation Boeing – my father having been an engineer, test pilot and an executive during his 50 years here and my career has (in many ways) followed along in his footsteps. Like him, I have a background in engineering and flight test and also like him; I continue to fly small airplanes very regularly.
DPB: What aircraft are you currently rated to fly?
ST: I fly small airplanes for fun and fly big airplanes at work whenever the opportunity arises. I’m rated for single and multi-engine land airplanes; single engine seaplanes; Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 as well as Bombardier Challenger 604 and Dassault Falcon 10. I maintain my currency on the Boeing airplanes as well as several light airplanes and I use my FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics license to work on those light airplanes as well.
DPB: Which aircraft do you enjoy flying the most?
ST: There’s a saying among pilots that our favorite airplane is always the one that we are currently flying and I must say that there’s a lot of truth in the comment. With that said, the 787 is the nicest handling airplane I’ve ever flown and it is a real joy to fly. The 747-8 is very special to fly because it is so majestic and the 737 is the most comfortable for me personally because I’ve flown it so much. Nonetheless, I’m happy to fly any airplane, any time.
DPB: Where do you sleep during long flights where no seats/crew rests are installed?
ST: Thankfully, all of the seats and accommodations on the flight deck are installed here at Boeing before delivery. In the case of the 747-8, that includes four seats and two crew bunks in the flight deck, so we have all the same amenities available that airline flight crews typically enjoy with the notable exception of a galley, so we have to be a little bit clever with our catering. It is perhaps a bit ironic that when we deliver what will be one of the most luxurious aircraft in the air, we’re frequently carrying a thermos for our coffee and box lunches for our meals. The configuration of the green airplane with no passenger seats does lead to some interesting conversations when you think about a “Boeing four-seater”, but all of us want to be on the flight deck anyway, so we find ways to make it work.
DPB: Are the bathrooms already installed?
ST: Yes, all of our “green” airplanes include at least one lavatory. In the case of the 747-8, there’s even a lavatory forward of the flight deck security door which is a feature that has been a big plus for our airline customers.
DPB: Who are the type of customers that order a BBJ?
ST: There are really quite a variety of BBJ customers, but they primarily fall into three camps: Corporations, Wealthy Individuals and Heads of State. Our corporate customers are mostly very large, multi-national corporations who see the benefits of our airplanes for transporting teams around the globe. With the high-speed data systems that are now typical on all BBJ’s, our customers can make productive use of the time aboard our airplanes. When combined with the amenities and comfort available, they can do more business in more places more quickly.
Our wealthy individual customers share a similar need for productivity – they tend to be very entrepreneurial individuals whose time is incredibly valuable.
The Head of State clients are as varied as the nations they lead, but they share a need to transport large teams reliably, safely and securely. Most of those airplanes have a configuration that addresses the broad needs of a Head of State, so they typically have seating for security teams and other support people.
We also have a few customers who operate their BBJ’s on Charter certificates providing “on-demand” type of service. Those airplanes are typically configured to support the sort of clients most prevalent in their regions. For example, the Middle East charter airplanes are typically configured to support Head of State type clients
This is a Boeing Business Jet. I want one.
DPB: Besides the 737 VIP, which is the most popular BBJ?
ST: The 737 based BBJ is obviously the product that brought Boeing into the business jet market and since we started this venture 16+ years ago, we’ve sold 156 of them. In addition to those, Boeing has sold a dozen 787’s, nine 747-8’s, eight 767’s, five 777’s, five 757’s and a handful of 747-400s and “non-BBJ” 737’s to VIP customers.
DPB: Any news on the 748I becoming the new Air Force One?
ST: Boeing is in ongoing discussions as to what the customer requirements are and how best we can meet them, but nothing other than that to report.
DPB: How does one go about ordering a BBJ?
ST: We have a team of BBJ Sales Directors who work directly with our clients. Each client has unique requirements, so each campaign is different, depending on the client’s requirements.
DPB: Are there customers for 787 test aircraft ZA004, ZA005 and ZA006? When will the first 787 VIP deliver?
ST: Yes, there’s a lot of interest in the market for those airplanes. We’ve already sold ZA006 to an undisclosed customer and we are working several prospects for the remaining two. The first BBJ 787 is scheduled for delivery at the end of this year and there are several BBJ 787 deliveries in 2014, so we are very busy now working with our partners in the Completion business to ensure that we have provided them with the engineering data to support the VIP conversions.
||This story written by…David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.
David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube
Thomas Lee with Mr. Shinichiro Ito, the CEO of All Nippon Airways, while flying the inaugural 787 flight. Photo from Thomas Lee.
AirlineReporter.com (AR): Who is Thomas Lee?
Thomas Lee (TL): I am a 60 year old businessman, originally from New York, who earned my Engineering degree from Tulane University and now reside in Orange County, California. I am married to Sally Glenn-Lee, who was President of the first class of flight attendants at Southwest Airlines and has worked her entire career in the airline industry, currently with jetBlue. I am father to Briana Lee, a 28 year old nurse and grandfather of Tatiana, an adorable 3 year old. I am Director of Marketing and Innovation in the Galleys and Equipment Segment of Zodiac Aerospace, a $4B entity with 26,000 employees globally. Every day, I work on developing the aircraft passenger cabin of the future and proudly have dozens of patents.
AR: What inaugural flights have you been on?
TL: I flew on the inaugural flight of the B747 in January 1970, a Pan Am flight from New York to London; the inaugural flight of the A380 in October 2007, a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Sydney, Australia; the inaugural flight of the B787 in October 2011, an All Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong and the inaugural US domestic B787 flight in November 2012, a United Airlines flight from Houston to Chicago.
AR: What is the allure of going on the inaugural flight of an aircraft?
TL: It is terribly exciting to be amongst the very first passengers to board a brand new aircraft type and experience the magic of flight in the latest aircraft technologies. One can decide for oneself whether new innovations have improved air travel. The atmosphere on these flights is electrifying. Aviation enthusiasts from around the world, airline management and the media all converge to join in the festive nature of each new aircraft launch. It is simply exhilarating.
Thomas’ first inaugural flight was on this PanAm Boeing 747-100 named Victor Clipper (N736PA). Photo by Bob Garrard taken in 1973.
AR: What has been your favorite inaugural flight?
TL: My favorite would have to be the very first inaugural flight, that B747 in 1970. This was the first twin-aisle aircraft, so it was simply overwhelming boarding this behemoth when all past flight experiences had been on narrow body, single aisle planes. And it was no ordinary flight. After boarding the aircraft, every seat was filled and we taxied out for take-off. At nearly full take off speeds, there was a flame-out in engine #3 and the captain had to jam on the brakes aborting the take-off. The plane was rolled back to the gate.
Pan Am had fortunately received a second 747 just the day before from Boeing. It was parked in the hangar and was a completely green airplane with no preparation work done to get it ready for passenger service. To waste as much time as possible, Pan Am arranged for 5 extremely large Greyhound buses to pick us up at Kennedy Airport and take us to an Italian restaurant that they had completely taken over. We had a full sit-down dinner there and a long party waiting for that second aircraft to be prepped for flight.
By the time we got back to Kennedy Airport and boarded the second plane, so much time had elapsed that the first aircraft would have already landed in London. At least 30 passengers refused to board the aircraft, fearing something horrible would happen.
Another memorable part of that flight was that they didn’t have time in the rush to prepare the plane to transfer all the catering carts and equipment. So, the flight attendants laid out a buffet in the galley and we all lined up in the passenger aisles to make our way through the galley and pick up plates of food. What an amazing night.
By the way, that second plane was “Clipper Victor” which seven years later was involved in the worst aircraft accident in history. A KLM 747 at full take off speed, while trying to get airborne crashed into Pan Am’s Clipper Victor in Tenerife.
AR: All together, about how many miles have you flown?
TL: I would estimate that I have flown about 7.3 million miles in my life.
AR: When normally flying, what is your favorite aircraft type?
TL: I have been partial to the Boeing 777 aircraft from its inception. This was the first large commercial plane ever developed entirely on computers. The interior space feels great; the way it flies is extremely comfortable, etc. There has never been a fatal accident on a B777 which attests to its amazing design and engineering.
AR: What is your favorite airline?
TL: There are many great airlines in the world. Each creates its own brand based on that airlines “personality,” which is driven by their culture, style of service, menus, etc. It would be impossible to pick one and say it is the best.
1977 – British Airways Concorde U.S. Launch Brochure. From Chris Sloan / Airchive.com.
AR: What is the inaugural flight you missed and wish you made?
TL: The Concorde as this was the first supersonic passenger aircraft. I was privileged to fly the Concorde three times and found it fantastic to look out the window at 60,000 feet and see the blackness of space above and the curvature of the earth below.
AR: Why did you not go on the Lufthansa 747-8 inaugural?
TL: I typically like to focus on “first of aircraft type” inaugural flights. As the Lufthansa 747-8 was a “derivative” aircraft, I chose not to join this journey. Of course, that doesn’t make any inaugural less exciting, but I have elected to limit my experiences to those aircraft types making their maiden voyages.
AR: What is the next inaugural flight you are planning to make?
TL: I suspect the most likely next inaugural to attempt will be the Qatar A350.
||This story written by…
David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube
Line of Emirate’s tails in Dubai.
Recently, I had the ability to ask Patrick Brannelly, Emirates Airline Vice President – Corporate Communications, Product, Publishing, Digital & Events, some questions about Wi-Fi and the future of entertainment on the airline. Here is our discussion:
AirlineReporter.com (AR) How many Emirates aircraft currently have Wi-Fi available?
Patrick Brannelly (PB): The whole A380 fleet (currently 21 aircraft) has Wi-Fi. We’ll be getting another 10 A380s before the end of 2012 and they’ll all have Wi-Fi as well. We’ll also be introducing the ability to use your own mobile phone next month on our A380s – a service that we already have on over 90 of our other aircraft (we launched that service in 2008).
AR: What is the schedule for the entire fleet to be fitted?
PB: Going forward, all A380s will have the service and we aim to start fitting the rest of the fleet with internet before the year end. It will take some time to equip the entire fleet but we are working on accomplishing this as quickly as possible.
AR: Are new Airbus/Boeing aircraft equipped with the Wi-Fi?
PB: Yes for our A380s and we hope to have our Boeing 777s equipped from mid-2013.
Why did Emirates choose OnAir?
OnAir was the only option offered by Airbus for equipping the A380 fleet straight out of the factory – they have provided a good service and we are happy with them.
Emirates plans to install Wi-Fi to their 777 fleet in the future.
AR: Currently, Wi-Fi pricing is set up based on the amount of data used and how do passengers patrol/control the amount of data used?
PB: Customers buy a package of data, either 5MB or 30MB for mobile or 30MB/100MB for laptops. They can see their current usage and decide whether to buy extra MB or cut off at the limit.
AR: Is Emirates looking at offering an unlimited plan?
PB: The above packages are often more than most people need during their flights. Over two thirds of passengers use less than 20MB and only 1.6% of passengers use more than 100MB.
AR: A recent APEX story shows the record being at 680MB, has that been broken yet?
PB: It’s still a record – 680.51MB was used on our New York flight on Valentine’s Day. Someone in love perhaps!
AR: What is the current pricing structure?
PB: We may tweak this pricing in time, but currently users can connect a mobile from as little as $2.75 for 5MB of data. This is more data than most will need to connect socially throughout even a long flight. We also have a heavy (30MB) mobile package available for $15 but few opt for it. Laptops can connect from as little as $5, and there is a heavy user package for $15 for 100MB. These prices are low for satellite connectivity, but we see this as a service to our customers rather than a profit centre (in fact we lose money).
AR: What are the usage statistics? Is there growth?
PB: Yes – we are still seeing growth. This is probably because awareness is still growing about the service and because increasing numbers of people are carrying on devices that can connect. We see over 4% of passengers connect on the very long flights of over 12 hours (such as New York / Sydney etc.) but much less on flights under 5 hours (less than 1.5%).
Emirates already offers a pretty slick product. Adding Wi-Fi will only make it better. This is First Class seen on a Boeing 777.
AR: Are there any plans to offer on-board Wi-Fi entertainment options (where passengers can access Emirates entertainment from their personal devices via Wi-Fi)?
PB: We are looking at all options – but with over 1,300 channels of the latest and greatest entertainment available on your large screen personal TV for every Emirates customer, the need to play media on your own device is reduced.
AR: Will passengers be able to access the internet through ice (the name for the entertainment system)?
PB: We hope so but not at the moment. There are some technical issues, largely to do with the seatback’s light-browser’s capability to connect to the internet for a good experience. You really need a mouse and a keyboard at the moment and that’s not practical. However, we are working on it.
AR: Are there dark spots where passengers will not be able to have internet?
PB: The OnAir service uses Inmarsat’s geo-stationary I4 satellites which cover the entire globe except for the extreme poles (above about 80 degrees). There are also a few countries that are yet to provide approval to use the service in their airspace, so we have to block it… but these are reducing.
AR: What digital “wonders” from Emirates can passengers expect for the future?
PB: Emirates has led technology in the air for 20 years or more. From being the first airline to install TVs on every seat on the entire fleet in 1992 to today, when we’ve introduced services such as mobile phones and internet inflight, as well as large HD capacitive touch screens onboard our latest 777s. Rest assured we have a lot more innovation coming, but we tend to talk about it when it’s ready to launch rather than before…
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