Stories by JL Johnson

Managing Correspondent - Lee's Summit, MO. JL joined AirlineReporter in 2012 and has since become one of our most tenured and prolific writers. His passions include catalyzing AvGeek passion in others, spending too much time on Twitter, and frequent travel. While he's always looking for the next big adventure, home is with his growing AvGeek family in Lee’s Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Email: [email protected]

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31 LA-SL "Mormon Mesa" in Clark County, NV, 2016. - Photo: JL Johnson

We aren’t ready to fly. Which is a bummer because travel is a large part of our identity. What are sidelined AvGeeks to do to remain connected to our passion? We are all coping with this disaster in different ways. Looking to an aspirationally brighter future (and planning future travel) is certainly one method that holds promise. For my [formerly] frequently-traveled household we have been deep in research and planning for most of the year. As a result, our impossibly long #AvGeekToDoList has grown a great deal since our voluntary pandemic-grounding. One item of low-hanging socially-distanced fruit on our list is getting out and visiting more air mail arrows.

I have long been fascinated with the infancy of U.S. aviation. Keen AirlineReporter readers and AvHistorians alike will know that the modern aviation industry is what it is because of air mail. Indeed, all of the domestic legacies – except Delta – were formed or became successful because of income from air mail. These earliest routes were flown mostly during the day. In the evenings, mail would continue to travel, albeit via train. To further increase the speed of airmail it was determined night flying would be required. Thankfully congress stepped in to fund a vast array of large concrete arrows and beacons which formed the lighted Transcontinental Airway System (TAS.) At its peak the TAS had one concrete arrow roughly every 10 miles along the various routes. The TAS and its air mail arrows provided the infrastructure for the air mail boom which, in time, led to normalization of passenger service.
BONUS: How Delta got their non-airmail start

Join us for a discussion on how you can plan your own trip to visit these nearly forgotten 1920s-era relics of aviation’s past.

Delta planes line MCI's 1R/19L and taxiway.

When I learned that Kansas City International would become the site of a mass airplane storage site, I ignored it. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented and rapid change upon us all. And we are all coping with it differently. For me, rather than accept the fact that my passion has ground to a halt, I have done my best to ignore the bad news while focusing internally on my family and friends.

But history is in the making and after a few weeks of airplane stockpiling I had to go see. I don’t know what I expected. I was excited to visit the airport for the first time in months. But when we drove past the threshold of runway 19L the site was… heartbreaking. Words truly cannot describe the feeling of seeing over a hundred planes in “active storage” lining a once busy runway and taxiway at an airport that has seen consistent and impressive growth over the past few years.

Global Entry kiosks seen at HOU's international terminal unveiling in 2014. Photo- JL Johnson

The State of New York has recently reminded all of us that it is time to either get or renew your Global Entry… and a bit at their expense. No, this isn’t a call to be opportunistic. Well, maybe a little. Hear me out…

Recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that New York residents are being cut off from Global Entry (both applications and renewals). “New York residents will no longer be eligible to apply for or renew membership in CBP Trusted Traveler Programs and CBP will cancel all pending Trusted Traveler Program applications submitted by residents of New York,”according to a February 6th CBP press release. “New York residents who are currently enrolled in Trusted Travel Programs will retain their benefits until their memberships expire.”

The CBP will not comment on the volume of enrollments by state, but it is safe to assume that the most populated city in the U.S., which also happens to be the world’s financial center, makes up a sizable chunk. With New York enrollment activity being placed on pause, due to political nonsense, now is the time to take advantage of short lines. Yes, this is an advantage to the rest of us. But by shifting our applications forward, we can clear the way for when New York is again approved. Short lines for us now, and a slightly better experience for our New York friends, when their pent-up demand rolls in. Win-win for everyone! Sort of… given the situation anyhow.