Tag Archives: airports

Tax Day, Concorde, and Regret

And then there was a time…

…when my roommate and I decided “Let’s fly Concorde to London!” Being FAs without a lot of seniority, and being based in NYC, we had limited funds. So we decided “Let’s do this after we get our tax refund!” For the next few months we flew our schedules and talked frequently about our trip. Our airline offered a sweet deal: for approximately $800 you could fly British Airways roundtrip (standby of course) to London. This particular interline agreement allowed you to decide whether to fly over supersonic and back subsonic, or vice versa. We decided we’d take Concorde over, spend a day or two in London, then hightail it back on a 747. Tax time came and went. Refund checks arrived and were spent. Time passed. We never took the trip. We all know how this story ends. After the accident of an Air France Concorde, the subsequent grounding of the Concorde fleet, and the economics of operating supersonic flights, Concorde flew into the sunset, never to fly again. The end of an era had arrived. Every Tax Day since then serves as a reminder. Not flying Concorde has to be one of my life’s regrets.

Moral: If there’s something you REALLY want to do, do it! Make a plan, stick to that plan. Live life without regret.

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If I could’ve pulled a DB Cooper…

Then there was a time…

…we were cruising through the beverage service; nice crew, light flight, no troubles, very nice passengers. I say to the customer at the window, “And what would you like to drink sir?” And the LADY with the deep voice and sensible haircut at the window answers, “I’d like a Diet Coke.” Talk about embarrassing.  The fact that it takes a long time to pour Diet Coke added to the duration of my embarrassment. If I could’ve pulled a DB Cooper I would have jumped out of the plane, never to be found again.

Moral: Look people directly in the eye when asking questions. Doing so can save yourself from embarrassment AND of the possibility of having to jump out of a perfectly functioning airplane.

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So much depends on HOW you show up

And then there was a time…

…I was working a LHR to JFK flight and decided to go visit with Joan Collins who was seated at the front of the plane. Yes, THE Joan Collins! I spruced up, checked my teeth, opened the curtain and confidently presented myself at her seat. She was reading at the time and kindly placed her book to the side. “Ms. Collins, I heard you were onboard and wanted to come say hello and see if you needed anything.” With eyes wide open, a friendly smile and an attentive gaze, Ms. Collins asked, “Are you the captain?” I found her question splendid. I chuckled and let her know that I was a member of the cabin crew. After some small chit chat, mostly me telling her how I missed her appearance at a London booking signing and her travels to NYC, I refilled her beverage and returned to tourist class. She was most gracious and kind.

Moral: People can be very nice. Depending on HOW you show up and present yourself, people may think the world of you. You part ways feeling like you’re on top of the world.

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Aviation Geek Fest 2014 (AGF14) – Highlights

Aviation Geek Fest (AGF) is becoming a rite of passage for the serious avgeek. We first heard of this annual get together last year in 2013 (AGF13). Sadly, due to scheduling conflicts we were unable to attend. We followed the avgeekry antics and activities of those who were able to attend. To say we wish we had been able to attend is an understatement. So, it was with great determination and perseverance, that we cleared our schedules and made sure we were logged into the website minutes before the tickets went on sale this year. Once the tickets for AGF14 went on sale, those who hadn’t been quick on the computer were out of luck. The event sold out in 3 minutes! Thank goodness for the refresh button!

For those who do not know, AGF is the brainchild of AirlineReporter.com’s David Parker Brown. David began AirlineReporter.com in 2008 and has been sharing his knowledge and passion for aviation with others over many years. The first AGF was in 2009 and attendance for this annual event has been growing by leaps and bounds.

The weekend was full of activities that would turn the novice planespotter into a serious avgeek. Some of the activities and events included: tours of both the Everett and Renton Boeing factories, a raffle for amazing prizes, and the opportunity to meet bloggers, travel writers, those genuinely interested in aviation, and the opportunity to see friends and to make new ones.

Here are but a couple of the highlights from AVG14:

The prototype mockup of the Boeing SST — located at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center, the remnants of this mockup made our hearts go from V1 to VR in seconds! Of course we had heard and read about the Boeing 2707 SST that had never been built due to the large capital resources need to launch the program and political reasons. Click here for link to Boeing site regarding the SST, or here to read more about what would have been the first American SST.

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Inside the first Boeing 747 — going inside the first 747 ever built has been a lifelong dream. We’re sure more than a few avgeeks have this on their bucket list. Thanks to David Parker Brown, and his passion for aviation, he was able to gain access into this iconic aircraft for the attendees of this years AGF14. When the doors of the first 747 were opened we ascended the airstairs with great excitement. Walking inside this airplane was like walking into a time machine. On the day of our visit,  45 years and 1 week had passed since this aircraft took its first flight and would become the first aircraft given the moniker “jumbo jet” (the first flight was February 9, 1969).

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Again, we’d like to thank AirlineReporter.com and David Parker Brown in particular for making this years AGF14 truly amazing!

(More pictures from AGF14 available at our Flickr account: airlineguys)

Delta Sky Deck – an observation

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Observation decks are reminiscent of the glory days of flying. There was a time when people would go out to airports for the sake of watching planes from these excellent vantage points. A few airports in the world still have them. They’re definitely a thing of a bygone era.  When we heard Delta was opening “observation decks” at two locations (JFK and ATL) we were over-the-moon with excitement.

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Dramatic red tarpaulins dissecting the blue skies

On June 10, 2013 Delta opened an all-new 1,710 sq ft Sky Deck at Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The Sky Deck is an extension of the Sky Club, Delta’s lounge for frequent fliers and is located on F Concourse at the Maynard JacksonTerminal.
We were given the opportunity to visit the Delta Sky Deck and here is our account.
When entering the Delta Sky Club on F Concourse our first impression was modern and clean. Once inside the Club we were greeted by an immense, 2-story glass wall which gave us a bird’s eye view of the taxiways, runways, and the airport control tower. Talk about avgeek heaven! The Club is standard in its look and feel across the Delta domestic system. There is ample seating arranged individually and group seating configurations, business center, work stations, quiet area, high top tables, bar area, espresso/coffee machine, and a variety of snacks (from sweet to savory, from healthy to indulgent). Other amenities included power ports to charge your electronic devices and free wifi. We did notice that the wifi was very slow. We surmised it may have been slow due to the number of passengers in the lounge at this time.
What makes this Sky Club unique, like its counterpart at JFK, is the Sky Deck; a partially enclosed outside seating and gathering place for Sky Club members. Cozy sofas, chairs, ornamental shrubs, and high top tables adorn this oasis. The blue sky was dissected by large red decorative tarpaulins. Members have an unfettered view of all the airport activity going on below. During our visit there was a Delta 747 destined for Tokyo, a 737 parked just below, and we even saw the Delta 767-400 BCRF plane (pink plane) taxiing by. Being on the Sky Deck harkened back to an era that no longer exists at many of the world’s airports. We both agreed that more Delta Sky Clubs should have Sky Decks.

At both ATL and JFK, Delta collaborated and partnered with Architectural Digest and designer Thom Filicia to develop the Sky Deck terraces. Many may remember Thom Filicia as the interior design expert in the highly enjoyable, amazingly energetic, Emmy-Award winning hit show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

For those who are not a member of the Sky Club, and want to have this unique experience, there are various ways to gain access. These include, but aren’t limited to: paid membership, using miles for membership, purchasing a 30-day or 1-day pass, and various options through the SkyMiles American Express Card. Please click to see what options are best for you, locations, and amenities offered at Delta Sky Clubs.
We enjoyed our time at the Sky Deck at the Sky Club on F Concourse at ATL. When your future plans take you via Atlanta and you have time, you should definitely check it out.
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Sylvester & Darin

AJC article — “Absolutely beautiful, the sheer monster size of it” — Korean Air A380 lands in Atlanta

We had the pleasure to speak with AJC aviation reporter Kelly Yamanouchi recently to discuss aviation and the arrival of the Korean Air A380…the world’s largest passenger plane. Here is the article. Thank you Kelly for helping us to spread the word on how truly wonderful aviation is.

Sylvester Pittman and Darin Topham, airlineguys

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Korean Air A380 taxis to gate at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Picture provided by airlineguys

 

BY KELLY YAMANOUCHI – THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Airport workers stopped their tugs to watch. Catering employees came out to take a look. A child atop the Terminal South parking garage stood on a cooler for a better view. Dozens of adults pulled out their cameras and smartphones to capture a piece of history.

And, yes, time stood still.

At least, that’s how it felt to Sylvester Pittman.

“It was almost as if traffic sort of stopped for a moment as that plane came in,” Pittman recalled, savoring a moment that, for him and Atlanta’s legions of av geeks, had been a very, very long time coming.

And yes, that’s av geeks — short for aviation geeks, the tribe of airplane connoisseurs for whom last week’s arrival of the first Airbus A380 to fly into Hartsfield-Jackson was almost a religious event.

You see, for av geeks, an airplane is more than just a mode of transportation. It’s a fabulous machine. A technological wonder. A thing of beauty.

The super-jumbo Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger plane, has been flying around the world since 2007. But the world’s busiest airport was not on its itinerary, much to the frustration of Atlanta’s av geeks.

“It seemed like it was never going to become a reality,” Pittman said.

The day finally arrived exactly one week ago when a Korean Air flight from Seoul touched down.

“Amazing,” rhapsodized Pittman.

“Absolutely beautiful,” breathed av geek Jeanene Wilson, “the sheer monster size of it.”

(How big is the A380? Big enough to carry 853 passengers, though current versions are configured to carry far fewer. Powerful enough to lift off weighing more than 1.2 million pounds.)

As you might expect, Atlanta’s enormous aviation industry supports a strong, close-knit community of passionate av geeks.

Pittman and his friend Darin Topham, both former Delta employees, run a website called airlineguys.com targeted at that community.

These are folks who track flights online and on apps, following them around the world as if the planes were celebrities. They travel to other cities just to hang out at the airport and watch planes take off and land.

Sometimes they’re stalking a specific plane, like the A380 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Sometimes they’re content to watch any plane, every plane, all the planes they can.

Av geek Chris Byington grew up in Washington, D.C. watching the Concorde come and go. On Wednesday he watched the A380’s second landing in Atlanta, marveling at how he could smell the jet fuel and see the grass ripple from the engine blast.

A 27-year-old MBA student at Georgia State, he visits Hartsfield-Jackson about once a month, just to plane-watch. “It’s just cool,” he said. “I guess I’m still a little kid.”

Pittman has flown to Los Angeles and Washington to indulge in plane spotting. Wilson likes to travel to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten to watch planes fly directly over her head on a beach near the airport.

Craig Campbell, an ExpressJet dispatcher who took photos of Wednesday’s A380 touchdown, flew to Boston this weekend to embark on a plane-spotting cruise.

It doesn’t take an av geek to understand the fascination of a behemoth like the A380. But listening to them talk planes is like listening to wine snobs wax poetic over rare vintages.

The 777? “Always a delight to see,” Pittman said.

The 747? “Never ever gets old. Just never gets old.”

The 787? “It’s a very, very beautiful plane. The technology alone makes it very special. The profile makes it top notch.”

Huh?

“The nose makes it beautiful, and how the engines sit on the wings,” he strove to explain. “The vertical stabilizer also kind of makes the profile complete.”

OK. Maybe non-geeks will see what he means once the 787 arrives in Atlanta, an event for which no date is yet set.

“We can only hope,” Pittman said. “And the day that happens, we will definitely be out there.”

Pittman’s affection for planes was kindled when he took his first airline flight in the summer of 1981 at the age of 16.

“I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Saturday,” a flight back from a summer program in Atlanta to his home in Florida, he said. “And after that trip, I knew, this was it. I was hooked.”

That summer, he also toured the Atlanta airport’s new terminal complex, which had opened the previous fall.

“We went out to the airport and rode the train from concourse to concourse,” Pittman said. The people-mover train “was very futuristic at the time.”

He knows that when most people think about air travel, they think of the delays, the security hassles and the baggage fees.

But in the community of av geeks, “We also still embrace the wonderment about what aviation is all about,” Pittman said.

“It all culminates to going down the runway and lifting off, and being free from the earth and being able to fly.”

Korean Air inaugurates A380 service to Atlanta

It had been a long time coming. The arrival of the Airbus A380 to ATL, that is. While other airports welcomed the A380 with opened runways and taxiways, ATL wasn’t ready or prepared for the arrival of the world’s largest passenger airplane.

The title of a 2005 article in AccessNorthGa summed it up: “Airbus A380 won’t be landing in Atlanta anytime soon”. During this time airport general manager, Ben DeCosta stated ATL is not approved to land the A380 and didn’t think the market could support the double-decker superjumbo. Furthermore, it would also cost millions of dollars to widen taxiways and install additional jetways to help offload passengers on this plane which can accommodate between 500-800. Back then airport spokeswoman Felicia Browder said, “It’s just not the time or place. That’s just the mind of the (airport’s) leadership right now.”

Fast forward to September 1, 2013. After a few cancelled announcements of the commencement of A380 service to Atlanta, Korean Air finally touched down at Atlanta to much fanfare.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So, here are a few pictures celebrating the arrival of KE 35 to Atlanta.

To see the FULL celebration visit our Flickr page by clicking here. Enjoy!

Following a Dream…liner (on the hunt for the 787 Dreamliner)

The 787 is taunting me. Teasing me. In fact she’s being downright elusive. Ever since the 787 Dreamliner was introduced by Boeing it has been our goal, as the airlineguys, to fly on this revolutionary, highly technical airplane. After years of delays and issues with the lithium-ion batteries, which grounded the entire fleet worldwide, the 787 made a triumphant return to the skies on April 29, 2013 with Ethiopian Airlines.

IMG_2670Currently, United Airlines is the only US-based carrier flying the 787. When United introduced the Dreamliner they were flown on domestic routes to test its reliability and serviceability. After the much talked about grounding, the 787 was re-introduced to the domestic sector, again to test reliability, serviceability, and to monitor the lithium-ion battery fix. As planned from the outset, United’s 787s were designed as an international long-haul product.

So, it was with excitement when United announced that the Dreamliner would fly domestically until the summer schedule went in to full effect, at which time the 787s would fly their intended routes, international. It was our chance to fly this magnificent plane. Unfortunately airlineguy Darin couldn’t join me on this adventure (we gotta get him on a 787 soon!).

The first attempt to fly the 787 was a bust! I didn’t make the flight out of Atlanta to make the connecting 787 flight in Houston. Talk about being majorly bummed. Not wanting to take any chances on the second attempt, I flew to Houston the night before and got a hotel room.

So, now here was my dilemma: standby for the early (7a) IAH – ORD flight, or take the mid-morning (11a) IAH – ORD flight. Against everything I know when it comes to standby travel, I chose the mid-morning flight. (@FriendlyStew and @NonRevAdventure I’ll take your advice next time). All seemed fine until I woke up the next morning to find out that the 11a departure had an equipment swap from a 787 to a 757. Oh, the horror! Again, majorly bummed.

I’m an optimist.  I did some research, made some calls, and sent a few frantic text messages. Much to my delight there was a late afternoon (4p) 787 flight from IAH – ORD. With camera in hand, a positive frame of mind, I headed to IAH for a day of people watching and planespotting. Besides getting on the 787, could you ask for anything more entertaining?

In the hours (about 5) spent at IAH here’s what happened:
• took loads of airplane pics
• was fascinated people watching (amazed how each airport has its own “personality”)
• bumped into 3 aviation professionals who attended a customer service training class I helped facilitate (besides being #avgeeks, the airlineguys are aviation consultants specializing in customer service)
• recognized and reconnected with a high school friend who is an RN and who now is a United pilot (I’m still reeling from this chance encounter and so happy to be reconnected with Mark!)

As you can see, my time spent at the airport waiting for the 787 was well worth it. Yes, she was being elusive, but I had come so far and was not about to give up now.

When I received my seat I was beyond excited: window, exit row.

Here are my thoughts on taking my first United 787 flight:

• First impression — gorgeous
• Mood lighting upon boarding —  soothing (there are 6 settings: boarding, meals, relaxing, cruise, sleep, preloading)
• Layout of FC – spacious (this is where I want to be on my next 787 flight!)
• E+ — roomy, relaxing hues of blue and grays throughout the cabin
• Windows — most were darkened already, customers began experimenting with the window “shades”, impressed with how the tint changes from transparent to opaque with the touch of a button, the size of windows (30% larger according to infographic card in seat pocket) was very noticeable — when seated you had an unobstructed view of the horizon (no craning of neck to look up or down)
• Sound — very taken with how quiet this plane was at takeoff and cruise altitude (60% less noise than planes of comparable size), it was so quiet I could clearly hear the crying kid a few rows back, noise-reducing chevrons on engine nacelles contributes to reducing noise levels of the engines
• Wing — loved the wingflex, sliced right through the air even in mild turbulence
• Crew — friendly and efficient, had nice conversation with Edwin who too is from South Florida, and Sandy was kind to take my picture
• Food — ordered the Tapas snack box, Bloody Mary, water, crew were proficient with handheld devices
• IFE — full selection of films, TV, music, moving map, UA services/amenities, a full system reset was completed on at least 2 occasions
• Landed on time, to gate after short delay due to ramp congestion

A special thank you to ticket agent Heather P (great eye contact, smiled, knowledgeable in job duties) and gate agent Ms. Matthews (smiled, accommodating, calming announcements). They made the check in and boarding process pleasant.

Overall, an awesome passenger experience and a wonderful introduction to the Boeing 787! Would love to take a long-haul flight to experience the 787s feature of increased oxygen and humidity of the cabin air (lessens the effects of jet lag we hear). Hint, hint 😉

Thanks United for an awesome experience!

airlineguy Sylvester

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Air Hollywood

Air Hollywood

Air Hollywood

About 3 weeks ago we read an article about a little known company named Air Hollywood. The article was about their “K-9 Flight School” whereby they train dogs to be comfortable in and around airports and airplanes. As lovers of dogs we were very intrigued. As lovers of all things aviation (some would say we’re geeks), we were enthralled by Air Hollywood. We promptly connected with Air Hollywood to inquire about taking a tour of this very unique studio. To our surprise, and delight, they answered our inquiry with enthusiasm. We quickly set up a visit.

Nestled in an industrial park near Northridge CA, a suburb of Los Angeles, is an unassuming studio. There are no ornate gates to welcome you, no electric golf carts whizzing executives from set to set, no reserved parking spaces with famous movie stars names emblazoned on them. What we found was a small team of enthusiastic, funny, accommodating folks charting a path as a niche studio.

Air Hollywood, which opened in 2001, is the world’s largest aviation-themed studio. Their client list includes major motion picture studios, television networks, and film schools from around the globe. Films and commercials utilizing Air Hollywood’s sets and props include: “Elizabethtown” starring Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom; critically acclaimed TV series “Lost”; comedy film “Bridesmaids” starring Kristen Wiig; and the Ameriquest commercial, “Don’t Judge Too Quickly”, to name a few. In addition to airplane mock-ups, Air Hollywood provides airport terminal sets, prop rentals, set design, a fear of flying program, and they license stock footage. Very ambitious to say the least.

Leading the team is founder and CEO Talaat Captan; a movie producer who experienced the challenges first-hand of filming in and around airports. And these challenges became more evident after the events of September 11th. It was through these challenging experiences that Talaat set out to create an aviation world that would be very realistic and one that would be much easier to work within. And hence, Air Hollywood took off.

The rest of the team included Rachel, Morgan, Matt, and Toshi. All affable and accommodating. And let’s not forget Lucky, Talaat’s adorable little dog that was visiting the office for the day.

It was Rachel, the set booking agent who’s responsible for PR and marketing at Air Hollywood, who gave us the behind-the-scenes tour. She was knowledgeable and excited about leading us on the tour.

The tour began with a visit to a narrowbody (single aisle) mock-up. Once inside we were told that the interior of each of the mock-ups could be custom designed for the needs of the client or specifically configured for a specific airline. We also learned that the ceiling could be removed and the aisle widened, if needed, to accommodate lighting and cameras when filming. The mock-up included galleys, lavatories, and a cockpit. The cockpit was “open” such that filming could take place from all angles. This gave new meaning to the term “glass cockpit”. A unique feature of this mock-up was the ability to create “turbulence”. Huh? Through airbags housed underneath the mock-up platform, compressed gas could be sent to the airbags allowing for the entire mock-up to shake, rattle, and roll. While we didn’t get the opportunity to see it firsthand, we were informed that turbulence could be set on a scale of 1 to 10. And Rachel said 3 was pretty intense.

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We then moved on to the “terminal”. Inside the terminal we found a check-in counter, waiting area with seats, and a security check point complete with magnetometers. Rachel explained that through strategic positioning of seats, signage, and flooring, many different looks and effects can be achieved.

The next mock-up we visited was also a narrowbody, however, it included a first class section. This mock-up, like the previous one, had moveable ceiling panels, real overhead bins, and a cockpit. And what a cockpit it was! This particular cockpit was THE cockpit used for the filming of the movie Airplane! Talk about excited! Surely we had to take a picture in this piece of aviation and film history. And don’t call me Shirley. Roger that. Roger Roger.

THE airlineguys inside THE Airplane! cockpit

Moving on from the narrowbody mock-up, we now visited a widebody (dual aisle) mock-up. The layout was that of a Boeing 767. The cabin was…spacious. If only…but we digress. On this set, the crash scene from the critically acclaimed TV series “Lost” was filmed; an intense scene made all the more real because of the details of the set provided by Air Hollywood. The widebody mock-up also includes a jetway. A few scenes of the comedy “Bridesmaids” was filmed on this jetway and inside this widebody mock-up.

Next came the props department. This was an immense area that housed a Lear jet mock-up and items needed to dress the set. There were various luggage styles categorized by period. So, if a scene called for luggage from the 70s, they have it. There was signage from various airlines. Signage also came in different colors and languages. There were telephones and telephone booths. Beverage and food carts of varying sizes included glassware and snacks that would never go stale (they were plastic). There were newspaper stands with newspapers. Need a smartcarte to haul your luggage? They had those too! Looking for a place to check in for your flight? Kiosks and ticket/gate counters were numerous. It was almost too much, yet we didn’t want to leave!

On the tour we also saw a room for hair and makeup for the actors, and a holding room for the extras who serve as passengers.

After our whirlwind tour of the facilities we had the opportunity to sit with Talaat, the CEO and founder of Air Hollywood. This man is passionate about aviation! As he spoke it was like listening to ourselves speak. He told of us of his love of all things aviation. He shared his experiences in the film industry. His love of dogs and how important the “K-9 Flight School” is to him really struck a chord in us…what a great service! Talaat also shared his desire to grow Air Hollywood’s list of services including the “Fear Of Flying Program”.

He then asked about us. We told him about our experiences in aviation (as former cabin crew, facilitators, PR ambassadors, and our penchant for discerning excellent customer service). We also shared our goal of the airlineguys: To create a community of like-minded people who love aviation; who love what air travel means (experiences that can broaden the mind and change you in a positive way); a community that chooses to focus on the positive aspects of air travel instead of the negative. And through our experiences and connections with other like-minded people, we can bring light to this often maligned marvel of physics and power.

The 3 of us agreed…we’re geeks. Avgeeks!

airlineguys Darin, Talaat, Sylvester

http://www.airhollywood.com