Drew Vane has written a few posts for AirlineReporter.com and his most recently one takes an inside look at FlightAware.com after speaking with their CEO Daniel Baker. Many aviation fans use this tool to follow planes flying around the United States. Here is his story in his own words:
As some of you fine aviation enthusiasts may be aware (pun fully intended), a handly little website called FlightAware.com has been quietly making headlines as a source for tracking flights real-time (well, almost real time). The site provides info on airport delays, weather, flight routes, and updated flight status.
If you have any interest in aircraft and air travel, this web site is for you. According to FlightAware CEO Daniel Baker, “FlightAware was founded with the goal of providing flight tracking to pilots of general aviation aircraft in the United States. It wasn’t long before that goal grew to include flight departments, dispatchers, airport operators, and private aircraft passengers. We’re now involved in worldwide airline operations, consumer flight tracking of airline flights, and more. FlightAware has over 3,000,000 monthly users of the free web site and over 2,500 commercial customers that use FlightAware in an operational or research capacity.”
South Ops in Charlotte: Just put your cursor on an aircraft and it will give you the flight number, aircraft type, flight level, speed and origin/destination.(Image used with permission).
How does a simple web site get all this info? According to the web site, “FlightAware compiles, aggregates, and processes data from a variety of government sources, airlines, commercial data providers, as well as FlightAware’s proprietary flight tracking network.” In other words, its all public domain and some skilled web programmers have developed a system to let the common person see accurately where domestic (and now international) flights are headed within a 5-minute window.
Since its inception in 2005, FlightAware has added new features regularly including mobile apps. What started as a small business with a handful of executives has grown to 25 employees with offices in both Houston and New York City. FlightAware even has a company store and is giving something back to support Breast Cancer Research.
Although great, FlightAware is far from perfect. Recently, I tried to track my friends flight from O’Hare to Virginia Beach which was experiencing bad weather. After two go-arounds his flight diverted to Raleigh. Flightaware only showed a couple loops around the airport but did not show the flight continuing on. In addition, it showed his flight on the O’Hare departures list twice with one flight cancelled. Perhaps this is a programming hiccup since the original flight was not completed. The flight to Raleigh never did show up on the web site, but I wouldn’t depend on flightaware over a phone call to check on loved ones travelling.
Flightaware currently has over 1.2 million registered members and that number is growing at a rate of 30,000 to 50,000 new users per month. CEO Daniel Baker shared with me that, “the rate of airline travelers adopting the site means that it’s our biggest growth area and certainly they’ll eclipse pilots in the long term. That said, we continue to focus on our roots and will be providing great service to the aircraft operators that use FlightAware operationally.” With so much already to offer, and a price that’s hard to beat, I’m excited to see what this web site and business will share with us airline nerds in the future.
Here are some of my favorite links to follow of popular aircraft:
* Airbus A380’s
* Donald Trump’s New 757
* Michael Jordan’s Gulfstream IV
* Roush-Fenway Racing’s 727
* Boeing’s 787 Aircraft ZA001
* The new Honda-Jet
This post is written by aviation and photography enthusiast Drew Vane about the MD-80:
Ahhh. I remember the good ole days when the aircraft were loud, smoked like a B-52 and fuel efficiency was unheard of. No, I’m not talking about the 60’s. I’m talking about yesterday.
An American Airlines MD-83 (Super 80) lifts off of Runway 36C at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
As commercial aircraft manufacturers transitioned from props to jets, Douglas Aircraft Corporation developed a smaller jet aircraft for the shorter range domestic market. The 90—seat DC-9 first flew in 1965 and gave birth to additional series, culminating with the 50-series under the original DC-9 design. McDonnell-Douglas introduced its newest, longer version of the DC-9, fondly called the DC-9 Super 80, or MD-80. This 142-seat product of Long Beach, CA got its start with PSA Airlines (eventually to become US Airways). The MD-80 added 15 feet in length and 20 feet in wingspan, resulting in an additional 28 seats to the 139-seat DC-9-50.
Similarly, the MD-80 family (also called the “Mad Dogs”) has improved with each subsequent version. The MD-88 added aerodynamic improvements for longer range, a redesigned tail-cone, and glass cockpit. The MD-90 upgrade increased capacity to 150 passengers and replaced the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines with quieter, more fuel efficient IAE V2500 engines. Following the merger of McDonnell-Douglas with Boeing in 1997, a further upgrade, the MD-95, was born which eventually became the 117 seat Boeing 717. The 717 added a more advanced cockpit, more efficient engines, fly-by wire controls, and other features to bring it into the 90’s and beyond. Strangely, the AFC (or Advanced Common Flightdeck) most closely resembles that of the massive MD-11. Over 2,400 DC-9 series aircraft have been produced over the last 40 years.
Look Ma! No Rabies! A Delta Air lines MD-88 slows after landing at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport
Although the seating configuration is a bit skewed (2-3), today you’ll still find these workhorses on domestic routes for Delta, American and Allegiant here in the US. The Boeing 717 is flown in the US by AirTran (soon to be Southwest) and Hawaiian Airlines. As of midway through 2010, there were over 450 Mad Dogs still flying here in the US with 100 or so still active in other countries.
Its been a long time since my last Mad Dog flight but I was pleasantly surprised last November when I flew with my family on an AirTran Boeing 717 down to Florida. The holidays brought free WiFi and the aircraft just felt newer compared to my memories of the Mad Dogs. Here in Charlotte, there are ample opportunities to spot the Airtran 717’s and Delta MD-88’s bound for Atlanta as well as the fully loaded American Super-80 bound for Fort Worth that seems to use every inch of the runway on taking off.
Mad Dog Wannabe: An AirTran Boeing 717 taxis onto Runway 18L at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Unfortunately, the sun is slowly setting on these older aircraft as more eco-friendly, and efficient domestic jets continue to enter the market. American recently announced its plan to replace its fleet of MD-83’s (in addition to its 757’s and 767’s) with re-engined Boeing 737 and Airbus A320neo jets and its expected that Delta will follow in its footsteps to stay competitive. Have you had the opportunity to ride on these gas guzzlers lately? I’d love to hear about your experience.
More info on the background of the MD-80 here and MD-90 here.
All photos by Andrew Vane
US Airways Express (PSA) CRJ 200 on the taxiway followed by “Company Traffic” CRJ 700
When passion, creativity, photography and the ability to write combine with fans, I love to share their work. This is a blog written by Andrew Vane for Airline Reporter taking a close look at Bombardier’s CRJs:
Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace acquired government-owned Canadair Ltd and entered the regional jet market in the 1980’s. Today the most commonly seen and flown CRJ’s consist of the CRJ-200 (50 seats), CRJ 700 (75 seats) and CRJ900 (90 seats). CRJ’s are most popular amongst the major airline’s subsidiaries for shorter domestic flights between hubs and along spokes. Here in Charlotte (KCLT), virtually all of Terminal E is occupied by gates to serve regional jets and turboprops. Similarly, in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (KCVG), Delta dedicated a major portion of the largest terminal to their regional jet carrier Comair.
No this ain’t headed for New Orleans. It’s an Air Canada Jazz CRJ 200 bound for the Great White North.
The CRJ 200 is an upgrade to its -100 predecessor with the addition of more efficient engines coming in Extended Range (ER) and Long Range (LR) versions. Guess which one is longer? Answer: Without consulting Bombardier’s data, your guess is as good as mine. (Per the web site the range of the ER is about 1,800 miles and the LR version is 2,300 miles.) CRJ 100/200’s are most common domestically among the major airliner’s regional carriers Comair, Skywest, ASA, Air Canada, MESA, US Airways Express (PSA), Skywest and Republic.
First entering service in 2001, the CRJ 700 series provided a bit more seats and comparable range to the LR version of the CRJ 200. In profile, the easiest way to tell the difference between a -200 and -700 is the fact that the -700 is longer and the rear end is sticking up in the air. In addition to more seating, the CRJ700 features a new wing with leading edge slats and a stretched and slightly widened fuselage, with a lowered floor. CRJ 700’s are most frequently flown in the US by Air Canada Jazz, American Eagle, ASA, Comair, Horizon Air, Mesa, Skywest, and US Airways Express (PSA). A further refinement of the CRJ 700 was the CRJ 705 series, operated by Air Canada, which added 75 seats and split the aircraft into business and economy classes of 10 and 65 seats, respectively. Only sixteen 705’s were built.
ASA “Acey” CRJ 700 rolling on 18C at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Eventually, this French Canadian company, who also produces the popular Dash-8 family of turboprops, expanded the CRJ fleet design to include a longer -900 version. The CRJ 900 features a “complete re-design of all of the structure and systems. In addition, an all-new wing was developed that increases the cruise speed of these aircraft while offering excellent airfield characteristics. These aircraft also feature an all new interior cabin that offers increased room for the passenger, enabled by a lowering the floor by 1” (2.54 cm) and redesigning the aircraft frame RJ900 that featured as of the original CRJ200, offering more headroom and a wider cabin. The seating and bins were completely redesigned to allow more passenger space and increased bin stowage,” says Bombardier’s web site. CRJ 900’s are currently operated by Mesa Air, Air Canada Jazz, Skywest, Comair and Pinnacle Airlines.
From my own personal experience, I was a bit disappointed with the window placing and height for my 6-foot tall frame. I ended up with a neck ache each time I sat by a window. The windows are much lower compared to Bombardier’s Brazilian competitor, Embraer.
Some airlines have planned a future full of regional jets in lieu of larger aircraft with empty seats. Smaller aircraft lower to the ground provide easier boarding in variable conditions (jetway or stairs). With over 700 CRJ’s of all versions delivered by Bombardier in the last 30 years, chances are you’ll be riding in one of these the next time you fly out of a small city.
Bombardier’s CRJ story here.
Images: All photos by Andrew Vane
US Airways Airbus A320. Photo by Andrew Vane
By guest columnist Andrew Vane
Although not as flashy or grandiose as some more colorful liveries, US Airways is still transitioning to brightening their fleet from the blue top/grey bottom to a bright white top and blue bottom (with blue tail). The flag icon takes center stage on the tail with a bit of wispy lines drifting back along the fuselage. Gone are the red Air Wisconsin and teal America West colors in favor of a red white and blue themed livery consistent with the airline name.
In addition to the standard livery, US Airways has introduced some retro-themed liveries in former merger/acquisitions PSA Airlines, Piedmont Airlines and Allegheny Air as well as NFL teams from its hubs (Charlotte, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia).
But don’t let the name fool you, US Airways also has flights direct from its Philadelphia and Charlotte hubs for points South to Central America and the Caribbean, and East to Europe with one direct to Tel Aviv (from Philly).
What are your thoughts? Too bland and in need of rebranding or the new normal?
US Airways retro liveries:
US Airways NFL liveries:
* Philadelphia Eagles
* Pittsburgh Steelers
* Carolina Panthers
* Phoenix Cardinals