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2014: 258,704
2013: 330,818

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Guest Blog: Birds – The Inspiration for Planes PART 2

Birds surround a British Airways Boeing 757. Photo by Adam Samu.

Birds surround a British Airways Boeing 757 in Budapest. Photo by Adam Samu.

Introduction from David: This is the continuation of my guest’s (aka my mom) blog posted last week about birds and planes:

At the beginning of the 20th Century, Man began to take over the skies. Birds had dominated for millennia, but now planes started to usurp the atmosphere.

At first it didn’t seem a problem. Man and bird managed to share the airways. However, as planes became more predominant, birds became more of a hindrance to the flight of humans.

Collisions between birds and planes  cause damage to the planes and on rare occasions, planes are downed. According to the FAA, twenty-three people have been killed and 209 injured by bird strikes. Not huge numbers. However the financial cost has been estimated at a total of $400 million. Of course the fatality to birds has been great. Since there are 5,000 bird strikes per year and 80% are not reported,many of our avian friends are lost. They have no chance when it comes to encountering a plane! Interestingly, the first bird strike was reported in 1905 by Orville Wright!

Since birds cannot solve this problem, it is up to Man to create a way for birds and planes to share the sky. Since the majority of strikes occur below 3,000 feet and during take-offs or landings, most of the research centers around airports, both civilian and military.

To discourage birds from hanging around airports, there have been experiments with electromagnets, ultrasonic devices, scarecrows and other predator effigies and noisemakers. None of these methods have been endorsed by the FAA. And even though there is still hope that someday there will be a “magic box” having to do with microwave alarms, the common wisdom as of now is much more simple.

According to Matt Klope, a civilian biologist at NAS Whidbey Island, “…the best management practice is to identify the problem species… and modify/alter the airfield habitats to encourage the birds to go somewhere else.” This stategy is also echoed by other experts.

In other words, birds need a habitat that includes, food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young. Birds are attracted to airports that provide some or all of these needs. Thus, if the airport eliminates them, the birds will leave.

So, airports need to minimize water at runway ends, close landfills and other food sources.If prey birds are discouraged from airports, predators won’t have food.  An additional tactic is to introduce predators and dogs to keep the much more numerous prey birds away.  Gulls and pigeons are the most common birds in strikes.

Airports also continue to experiment with random explosions and fireworks as well as gas cannons. As a birder, I am encouraged with the efforts to keep my feathered friends away from those huge metal avians. And I am realistic enough to concede that human life and financial considerations trump the lowly bird who once inspired Man.

Hopefully, Man will continue to find ways to keep these two fliers apart!

For more information:
* FAA
* USDA
* BLOG: Why don’t airlines put screens on engines for birds?
* Aubrey Cohen with the Seattle PI looks at dealing with birds at SEA

Image by Adam Samu via Airliners.net
Used with permission

Guest Blog: Birds – The Inspiration for Planes PART 1

Drawing of Davinci's Ornithopter

Drawing of Davinci's Ornithopter

Introduction from David: My mom has always loved birds and I have always loved planes. We have talked about the similarities a lot and she loves reminding me how birds were around before planes. I asked if she wanted to put some thoughts down for a blog on the concept of birds, planes and flight and she was more than happy. Here are her thoughts in her own words…

For eons and eons, birds had the skies to themselves. Even though there were insects and bats, birds were the dominant aviators.

Man would look up to the skies from Earth and marvel at the wonder of flight. The shepard with his flock, the fisherman at sea, the Indian on the plains would enviously wish that some day they could soar above the mountains, prairies and oceans.

For thousands of years, Man could only wish for flight, so the birds were free to tease the earth-bound. As the years progressed, humans began to study birds and how they can defy gravity. It probably began in China in about 400BC with the invention of kites.

Wings were obviously important to flight. Many early attempts at flight tried using the flapping of wings like birds. These attempts all failed because the shoulder muscles of birds are so much stronger than humans, plus the fact that birds have hollow bones, making them much lighter.

So Man floundered in his experiments with flight.

The turning point seems to have begun during the Renaissance with a man named Leonardo Da Vinci. Yes, that Da Vinci! He was a scientist and inventor as well as an artist. He was intrigued with flight and believed humans could conquer it. In 1485, Da Vinci wrote, “The bird is a machine that operates according to mathematical law. It lies within the power of man to make this instrument with all its motions”. To try to prove this statement, DaVinci produced a hundred drawings of what he called the ornithopter, and even though there is no proof that he created a model that flew, it is considered the forerunner of the helicopter.

So Man began to realize that perhaps it was possible to break the bounds of gravity and soar like an eagle!

It took another 300 years for the hot air balloon to be invented by the Montgolfier Brothers. Then during 1799-1850, Cayley invented the glider and realized the importance of a tail( birds knew that!) and the need for a power source.

Later in 1891, Lilienthal showed that a glider could fly a person and go long distance. Based on a study of birds and how they fly, he wrote a text. And this text was studied by the Wright Brothers who also through experimentation, created that historical flight at Kitty Hawk. Their first flight traveled 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds!

The rest is history! From the time of the first flight until putting a man on the moon was less than seventy years-one generation. In fact, my grandmother who was born in 1878 and died in 1973 saw during her lifetime the entire evolution of the flight of Man!

So now Man has conquered the skies and now dominates the air. Birds, who once were his inspiration are now a nuisance.

What are we doing so man and birds can coexist? Stay tuned for Part 2 early next week.

Mom Tells How Flying Used To Be

Braniff International knew how to do it right!

Braniff International knew how to do it right!

My mom (Jennifer Brown) loves to support my blogging efforts, but she isn’t the biggest fan of aviation (well she LOVES birds, but that is a whole other story). A lot of our conversations about airlines comes back to how everything was different when she was younger and that “my generation just doesn’t understand.” She is kind of right. Sure I can read the history books and look at the old video and pictures, but it is not the same as being there. She has written for the blog before and I invited her to talk a little bit about her experience with flying. Here is her story:

My first flight was in 1962. I was 14 years old and my family was flying from Denver to Indianapolis via Chicago. But that flight was not my first experience with flying. My dad was a businessman who had to fly often. The rest of my family would take him to the airport and that was an adventure in itself. Back then in the late 50’s and 60’s, you never just dropped someone off at the airport. Of course there was no security. So we would all go in with him, walk to the gate, watch him walk across the tarmac to the plane (no jet tunnels back then). We would watch him climb the stairs to the plane, waving madly. Then after he was on board, we would hope he’d have a seat on the terminal side of the plane so we could wave some more. You never left the gate until the plane was in the air and a mere dot in the sky. Often we would have dinner at the airport-a true family outing.

Those trips to the airport made me long to fly! How exciting it would be! However, back then flying was rare for middle-income families. It was mainly for business or the rich or emergencies. In fact when I took take my first flight in 1962, it was to be with family at Christmas because my mother had died.

During the 60’s and 70’s, I probably did fly more than most people for various reasons. And now that I can look back on that time and compare it to now, I have noticed some differences.

One difference was that there were not many choices. If you wanted to fly from point A to Point B, there were usually only one or maybe two airlines to choose from. There were also fewer flights. People were also loyal to airlines. If you wanted to book a ticket, you had to go through a travel agent or sometimes actually go to the airport to pick up your ticket. Airlines didn’t have 1-800 numbers and of course no Internet to check for deals. There were no deals.

The first deal I ever remember was in the late 60’s. I think it was Frontier Airlines who had a half-fare stand-by for students. At the time, my sister and I were in college in Colorado and would fly to St. Louis where our dad lived. It was perfect for us, so we used to race down to the Denver airport, hoping we’d get on. Otherwise, we’d have to drive across the plains. I used to count the windows of the plane, multiply by four, and then count the people at the gate to figure out if we’d make it. We always did!

Flying was an event-not just a way to get to a destination. People who flew dressed up-no jeans or T-shirts. I still cannot wear jeans when I fly. The stewardesses [Gosh mom they like to be called "flight attendants" now :) -David] were all young and pretty. It was a high status job and many young girls aspired to being one. The food service had real food on real plates and silverware and was included in the fare.

I know there have been a lot of changes to flying since then. I think most of the changes started in the 80’s when deregulation of the airlines began, but I’m not an expert.

I think we all know what it’s like to fly now. To me flying is no longer an adventure but an ordeal. I think that passengers nowadays are driven more by the price of the flight instead of the “experience”. And the consumer usually gets what they pay for.

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Image: The Braniff Pages

1st (err 2nd) Person Perspective: Seattle to Alaska on Alaska Airlines

 
Flying with the

This Boeing 737-800 had the Hawaiian Lai on the tail, which didn't make too much sense flying to Alaska

My mother recently flew from Seattle, WA to Alaska and was excited to write about her travels, knowing her son runs an airline blog. I normally run a series “1st Person Perspective” where I will talk about my travels, but this will be the first “2nd Person Perspective.” My mother is a wonderful woman, who hates the travel process. We both thought it would be interesting to get the perspective of someone who hates the travel process, but loves to go new places. This is her story….

Even though I am an experienced, but reluctant traveler, I am not that knowledgeable about airlines. So this article is a simple personal account of my trip to Alaska and back.

It all began on August 23, my sister and I headed to SeaTac Airport which serves the Greater Seattle area and Puget Sound.

The new check-in system that Alaska Air has might look confusing and something out of the future, but it is efficient.

The new check-in system that Alaska Air has might look confusing and something out of the future, but it is efficient.

I have flown out of this airport many times, and since Alaska Airlines is headquartered there, they take up a large portion of the concourses.

Check in was very efficient. Lots of kiosks to get boarding passes and at least ten counters open to check and weigh baggage. The counters surround a central conveyor belt that seemed like a great idea to me.

After going through an uneventful security check we headed to our gate to board Flight 836 to Anchorage. It turned out our gate was in the North Satellite, which meant we had to take the underground train to get there. It took a bit longer, but we had given ourselves plenty of time.

While we were waiting to board, the woman at the counter announced that they were taking upgrades to First Class for $100; at first we were hesitant, but then decided we’d do it. It was a 3 1/2 hour flight and we were on vacation!

In First Class you see real food, that is actually good.

In First Class you see real food, that is actually good.

We were very excited, but trying not to show it, hoping the other first class passengers would think we belonged (who knows how many of them were using bonus miles or upgrades themselves).

I have flown first class before and it reminds me how coach used to be in the “olden” days: larger leather seats and more legroom, attentive flight attendants, and real food on real china. We felt very privileged and a little decadent, especially when ordering a bloody Mary at 8:00 am and no little bottle! A real mixed drink! Plus you get to deplane early in First Class.

The flight left on time and our Boeing 737-800 cruised northward at 38,000 feet. We had a female pilot-or co-pilot-whoever sits on the right. We were offered a free DVD player and an exceptional breakfast (asparagus quiche, fresh fruit, and sausage).

It is Alaska's (the state, not the airline) 50th year of being a state.

It is Alaska's (the state, not the airline) 50th year of being a state.

Out the window, I could see Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies before it clouded over.

The flight time zoomed by and after a smooth landing, we were in Anchorage. The airport is very modern and filled with stuffed wildlife in glass cases. It is named after former Senator Ted Stevens who has since been indicted for corruption. But that’s a different blog story…

We only had to wait for our bags for about a minute-Alaska Airlines has a new policy that if you have to wait more than 25 minutes, they give you $25 dollars toward your next flight.

Fast forward through the wonders of Alaska….

On the return flight from Anchorage to Seattle, my sister and I decided to “slum” it and go coach. I did notice that Alaska attendants now call it the” main” cabin. We had aisle seats across from each other and no one was in either middle seat, so we were fairly comfortable in the narrower seats that were also leather.  No fancy meal, but we could have purchased an Asian Chicken Wrap or Anytime Chicken Basket for $6. There were complimentary drinks including generic cola and a bag of “Gourmet” Party Mix. Not exactly as luxurious as our flight out, but the plane did get us there with a smooth ride and almost on time. We again landed at the North Satellite concourse, so our luggage actually beat us to the claim area.

Overall, both flights were  uneventful-a definite plus for me.

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