The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Airfare annoyances

Living in Chicago, air travelers have two easy options: American and United, both of whom have hubs here (United is headquartered here), and both of whom are two of the top-ten airlines worldwide using just about any measurement.

Astute readers will already know both airlines (accidentally just typed "airliens"—Freudian?) have made news lately. American is just getting around to applying an airworthiness directive to its aging MD-80 fleet, and United just announced serious fare increases that American will no doubt follow as soon as they can update their databases.

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Both of them, however, have gone out of their ways recently to demonstrate why we used to have regulated airfares in the U.S. Now, I'm not advocating a return to regulation—in today's dollars, Chicago to Los Angeles would cost around $1,000—but it really irks me that an upcoming trip to Richmond, Va., would cost more than double if I actually flew into Richmond instead of to Washington, even including the $55 to rent a car for two days.

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Well, that's traffic, I guess

As I woke up this morning to Abby Ryan's traffic report on Chicago Public Radio, I didn't know what to make of this: "...Inbound Stevenson, it's 35; if you're going to Midway all ATA flights are cancelled today because it filed for bankruptcy; the inbound Edens from Lake-Cook, that's 42..."

I'm just imagining what it's like to hear that your company doesn't exist anymore—on the morning traffic report.

Unrelated to that: yesterday's Cubs game started with the first pitch launched onto Waveland Ave. Guess who won.

Finally flying again

After six cancellations due to weather, I finally got up in an airplane today. I flew 1.9 hours of just maneuvers and landing practice with an instructor. I'm a little rusty, but they can use the plane again, so that's all right.

Long-time readers know that I have a GPS-enabled bike speedometer. Today, I brought the little bugger along in the airplane, so you can see where I flew. (Google Earth 4.x required to view the file.)

Flying in winter, Chicago style

"I'd rather be down here wishing I were up there, than the opposite." So goes the aviation axiom. But this morning, with its 3 km visibilities and 30 m—yes, thirty meters—ceiling, I have postponed a checkout flight for the third time in a row.

Here's how weather can be really frustrating. I kept track of my flights (or lack thereof) during the summer of 1999 when I was trying to get my certificate, and put together a Web page to chronicle the frustration.

Two notes about the page: first, I haven't maintained the page since 9 December 1999, so all the links to the actual flights are dead (I used to have an online log book, and I will again someday...); and second, information about anything in 2008 may not be current, like the flight school's rules.

Because little planes are SCARY

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reports that an enormous block of airspace around Washington is off-limits to general aviation tonight because of the State of the Union Address:

During the president's speech to Congress and the nation, no flights are allowed to or from any of the 21 airports within the Washington, D.C., ADIZ, including pattern work. The special ingress/egress procedures for the "DC-3" airports inside the Flight Restricted Zone are also suspended. Only IFR flights to and from Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) airports will be allowed.

This is what security expert Bruce Schneier calls "security theater."

Unusual aircraft maintenance rituals

Via AVWeb: An aviation mechanic crew chief at Istanbul's airport got fired for allowing a ritual camel sacrifice on the tarmac:

A crew of mechanics at Istanbul's airport were so glad to be rid of some trouble-prone British-made airplanes that they sacrificed a camel on the tarmac in celebration—prompting the firing [December 13] of their supervisor.
Turks traditionally sacrifice animals as an offering to God for when their wishes come true.

So...does this mean God did not accept the sacrifice?

Security Theater

The New York Times (reg.req.) has finally picked up a year-old article by security expert Bruce Schneier, taking the TSA to task for concentrating more on theater than actual security:

FOR theater on a grand scale, you can’t do better than the audience-participation dramas performed at airports, under the direction of the Transportation Security Administration.
As passengers, we tender our boarding passes and IDs when asked. We stand in lines. We empty pockets. We take off shoes. We do whatever is asked of us in these mass rites of purification. We play our assigned parts, comforted in the belief that only those whose motives are good and true will be permitted to pass through.
Of course, we never see the actual heart of the security system: the government’s computerized no-fly list, to which our names are compared when we check in for departure. The T.S.A. is much more talented, however, in the theater arts than in the design of secure systems. This becomes all too clear when we see that the agency’s security procedures are unable to withstand the playful testing of a bored computer-science student.

Four billion dollars to airport security that doesn't work. Could we expect anything more from this Administration (762 days, 2 hours left)?

Toy? Or training aid?

Here's a great idea (via AVweb): using Microsoft® Flight Simulator as a training aid:

Here's how Microsoft Flight Simulator as a Training Aid helps aviators get the most out of every hour in the air or the virtual skies:
  • Student Pilots can use the information in this book to enhance book-learning, review specific concepts and skills, and in preparing for formal flight instruction.
  • Certificated Pilots can complement real-world flying with additional hours in the virtual skies, upgrading flying skills and learning about advanced aircraft and procedures.
  • Flight Instructors will discover new ways to use Flight Simulator as a teaching tool in ground school classes and pre- and post-flight briefings.
  • Virtual Aviators (Flight Simulator hobbyists) will learn more about real-world flying and enhance their enjoyment of virtual flying.

My dad got a copy of the latest Flight Simulator version for his birthday, and even on his old clunker of a computer it looks incredible. On his computer it's a little jumpy as the display sometimes lags behind the simulation, but if you're training to do holding patterns or instrument approaches, the realistic ground display isn't helpful anyway.

Someday, when I have oodles of time, I may pick up a copy for myself.