Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Monday 7 April 2014

Via AVWeb, the FAA has announced a proposed rulemaking that would eliminate the 3rd class medical requirement for most small-plane pilots (like me):

The FAA on April 2 announced plans to go through a rulemaking process that could result in expanding the number of pilots eligible to fly without the need for a third-class medical certificate. The announcement comes two years after AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association jointly petitioned the FAA to expand the third-class medical exemption to cover more pilots and aircraft.

The rulemaking effort, which the FAA is calling the “Private Pilot Privileges without a Medical Certificate” project, will consider whether to allow private pilots to fly without a third-class medical certificate in certain circumstances. Instead, pilots will be able to use other criteria, including a valid driver’s license, to demonstrate their fitness to fly. The agency offered no other details of the planned rulemaking.

The FAA has announced plans to go through a rulemaking process that could result in thousands more pilots being allowed to fly without a third-class medical.Legislation to expand the medical exemption has been gaining momentum in both the House and Senate. That legislation, known as the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, would go a step further than the AOPA-EAA petition. Under the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, pilots who make noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats would be exempt from the third-class medical certification process. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots. The FAA would be required to report on the safety consequences of the new rule after five years.

That would be great. I haven't had an aviation medical in a while, and it's one of three things keeping me from flying lately. (The other two are time and money.) The medical certification process never seemed particularly onerous, but it is expensive ($200 or so) and time consuming (find an AME, go to the AME, get the exam, go home). I hope the legislation and the rules both pass.

Monday 7 April 2014 08:42:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Monday 24 March 2014

I'm now at Heathrow where I've got a really great perch overlooking the approach end of runway 9L. A JAL 777 has just floated down to the runway and a BA 747 is taxiing past the window. It's a little piece of aviation heaven in Terminal 5 as I wait for the 787 to Toronto.

As I mentioned earlier, however, my trip home tomorrow morning may end a little differently than usual because of this:

(Photo credit.)

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, the El still missed its flight. Never try to carry too much baggage up the stairs; use the elevator instead.

Boarding starts in a few minutes. Time to boogie. But I'll wait for this BA 777 to land. They're really amazingly graceful when they touch down.

Monday 24 March 2014 15:27:53 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#

Just checking the local news in Chicago a moment ago I see a weather forecast of -2°C and blowing snow for Tuesday, rain for the rest of the week, and a crash at the O'Hare subway station:

Thirty people were injured after a CTA Blue Line train derailed and hit a platform at O'Hare International Airport about 2:55 a.m. Monday.

The injuries are not life threatening, according to early reports from the scene to Chicago Police Department headquarters, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

It's not clear how fast the train was moving but it jumped a bumper at the end of the line and moved up an escalator, according to Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford.

The CTA posted to its Twitter page that trains were stopped at O'Hare but running between the Logan Square and Rosemont stops.

Yeah, I'm in a hurry to get back.

Monday 24 March 2014 11:06:17 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Sunday 23 March 2014

It's 11pm on Sunday and everything is closed, so I'm taking a break from my break. My body still seems to think it's on Chicago time, which will help me rejoin American civilization on Tuesday, though at the moment it means my body thinks it's 6pm and wonders what it will do for the next three and a half hours or so.

I have accomplished what I set out to do this weekend. I visited the British Museum, the Southampton Arms, and another pub a friend recommended, The Phoenix. I've also finished Clean Coder, read Snow Crash cover to cover, and have gotten mostly through High Fidelity. The last book in the list connects Chicago and London—specifically, Camden and Gospel Oak, two neighborhoods I spent time in this weekend—more completely than any other book I can think of.

Tomorrow evening (morning? it's hard to tell) I'm flying out on a 787, about which I will certainly have something to write. I'm quite jazzed about it.

Now, back to Nick Hornby...

Sunday 23 March 2014 23:11:47 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Best Bars | London | Travel#
Saturday 22 March 2014

Thursday morning:

Thursday evening:

More photos tonight.

Saturday 22 March 2014 14:05:10 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#
Thursday 20 March 2014

I believe I made record time from my house to my final stopping point in the Ancestral Homeland. Most importantly: I got here before all the curry places closed.

More later.

Thursday 20 March 2014 23:54:52 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | London | Travel#
Tuesday 4 March 2014

If I have time, I'll read these articles today:

Now, to work.

Tuesday 4 March 2014 08:31:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Wednesday 12 February 2014

So how do people at Maho Beach know when planes are landing? They check the surfboard:

And now my final Maho Beach photo for this trip, a US Airways A330 coming in from Charlotte:

We now return to your regularly-scheduled winter, already in progress...

Wednesday 12 February 2014 14:17:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel#
Tuesday 11 February 2014

First, to give you a better sense of what it actually looks like, here's a Delta 737 approaching SXM normally:

And here's a (gorgeous) Air France A340 landing normally:

And here's an American 757 landing two meters above people's heads:

Sorry about the image quality—I had a long lens on the camera, and it was set for a different kind of photo than this. We didn't realize how low he was until just a few seconds before this happened. The entire beach yelled "Whooooooaaaaa!" and then broke into applause.

I love a place where people appreciate a good landing.

Tuesday 11 February 2014 12:00:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel#
Friday 7 February 2014

This is why I love Sint Maarten:

Friday 7 February 2014 17:53:24 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Travel#

According to FlightAware, KLM 785 is over the central Atlantic and will land in just under 2½ hours. I've already showered and eaten, so it's likely I'll have time to make the 15-minute walk along the beach to the Sunset Bar & Grill to see it come in. The weather is -19°C and windy—sorry, that's back in Chicago. The weather here is 27°C with a gentle breeze from the east, same as the last 48 hours. (It did get all the way down to 24°C last night. Brr.)

After the 747 lands, I'm not exactly sure what I'll do, but it will probably involve lots of walking. And photos. Maybe a book; who knows? It's irie, mon.

Friday 7 February 2014 10:28:08 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel | Weather#
Thursday 6 February 2014

It turned out that I had an actual task today. Two, in fact. Both were pure stupidity on my part. And both completely scotched my goal of doing nothing worthwhile for four days.

First, I had promised something to my team at work before I left, but didn't realize until I checked email this morning that, well, the task was not completed. (Notice the subtle use of passive voice there.) So I had that task, which took half an hour.

Second, mentioned forgetting a few vital items in my luggage, so I had to buy them. And I paid a stupidity tax. The cost of one hat, two pairs of shorts, one pair of sandals (which I didn't already own and therefore had planned to buy here anyway), and one bottle of sunscreen was two hundred bloody dollars. In other words, I paid a 100% tax on bad packing.

So to compensate for having to do things today, after accomplishing both tasks I put on my new shorts, sunscreen, and sandals, then walked the 800 meters from my hotel to the opposite side of Maho Beach and watched planes land for three hours. I need to point out that along the way, I walked through the Caribbean Sea. My new shorts got seawater on them. I think this is exactly what they're for. Especially since the seawater was about the same temperature as the air (27°C), and unlike walking through Lake Michigan on any day except that one day in the beginning of September when everything lines up perfectly, it felt really good. (My feet are, in fact, still wet.)

I also met a few good people, had a few good drinks, and learned that the best airplane landing of the week occurs tomorrow around lunchtime when KLM flight 785 lands. It's a 747-400, the largest plane that flies here. If I have to stand out in the rain, I'm going to see this thing land.

Of course, this means I now have a plan. Even though I came to this island with the explicit goal of not accomplishing or planning anything, except maybe reading a book or two, I just can't help myself. The Dude is onto something...I just can't get there yet...

My plan is:

  • Tomorrow: sleep late, eat something, walk across Maho Beach, take photos of the 747 landing, walk back to my hotel, change my shoes, walk somewhere else (possibly Marigot or Phillipsburg), have some drinks.
  • Saturday: sleep late, walk somewhere (maybe even take a bus and then walk), read something, walk somewhere else, read some more, have some drinks.
  • Sunday: sleep late, shove things into my suitcase, walk somewhere, retrieve my suitcase, go to New York, have some drinks.

Understand that "have some drinks" is an ongoing activity. And the happy accident is that the room I got for cheap through Bookings.com includes free drinks.

Someday, and that day may never come, I will do nothing for an entire week. Meanwhile, this is the least I can do right now. Baby steps.

Thursday 6 February 2014 17:12:37 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 4 February 2014

If most of what Jason Harrington wrote in Politico last week is true, I'm disappointed to have my suspicions confirmed:

Each day I had to look into the eyes of passengers in niqabs and thawbs undergoing full-body pat-downs, having been guilty of nothing besides holding passports from the wrong nations. As the son of a German-American mother and an African-American father who was born in the Jim Crow South, I can pass for Middle Eastern, so the glares directed at me felt particularly accusatory. The thought nagged at me that I was enabling the same government-sanctioned bigotry my father had fought so hard to escape.

Most of us knew the directives were questionable, but orders were orders. And in practice, officers with common sense were able to cut corners on the most absurd rules, provided supervisors or managers weren’t looking.

[T]he only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.

In one of his blog posts, Harrington points to "the neurotic, collectively 9/11-traumatized, pathological nature of American airport security" as the source of all this wasted effort and money.

I've always thought TSA screeners are doing the best they can with the ridiculous, contradictory orders they have. It's got to be at least as frustrating for them as it is for us. Harrington pretty much confirms that.

Tuesday 4 February 2014 09:23:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Security | Travel#
Wednesday 22 January 2014

Cranky Flier explains:

You might think that airlines hate when they have to bump people, but that’s not really true. They hate when they have to involuntarily bump people.

These are bad. If the airlines can’t get enough people to volunteer to take a later flight, they are forced to bump people against their will. Naturally, that means that there are going to be some angry people who don’t get on that airplane.

[T]he penalties for involuntarily bumping someone have gone up a lot.

Not only can the penalty now be 4 times the value of the ticket, but the cap has been raised to over $1,000 (and rising). With the potential cost going up, airlines have had to get more conservative on how much they overbook.

He lays out some more details about how airlines work it out.

Wednesday 22 January 2014 12:09:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Monday 23 December 2013

Back in October, Chicago O'Hare International Airport opened its fourth east-west runway and promptly switched most operations to east-west from the diagonal pattern they'd used before. Chicago Tribune transportation writer Jon Hilkevich, a private pilot, explains the implications:

Today taxi times to the gate are generally longer than they were several months ago because of a longer route that takes arrivals an extra mile or more around the airfield. The purpose is to have the planes taxi behind other planes waiting to take off so as to reduce the possibility of collisions, airline and FAA air traffic officials said. The taxiing time and distance vary, based on the runway and the gate involved.

Any time saved in the air can be canceled out by the additional time spent on the ground.

"It is a longer taxi route, designed to keep you from taxiing across active runways," said Halli Mulei, a Chicago-based first officer who has flown for United Airlines for 17 years. "But we are flying a shorter final (approach) into O'Hare, saving fuel and about 10 minutes."

From the Oct. 17 opening through Dec. 11, O'Hare has been able to accommodate 112 or more landings per hour on average on 68 percent of the days, according to the FAA. That compares to a rate of 112 or more arrivals per hour only 20 percent of days in November 2012, FAA data show.

The airlines, in other words, love this new configuration, because fuel use while airborne is quite a lot more than fuel use on the ground. Of course, if there are stiff crosswinds, it's a different story:

During winter, when winds often howl out of the north, wet or icy runways are another condition pilots confront.

"The combination of an icy runway and high wind gusts is where we can have a problem," said Mulei, the United first officer and also a spokeswoman for the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association. "If braking action is poor, my crosswind limit on a Boeing 767 could go down to 17 knots" from a norm of up to a 40-knot crosswind on a dry runway, she said.

Monday 23 December 2013 09:09:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago#
Monday 9 December 2013

American Airlines and US Airways are now legally one company:

While we’ve legally combined as one company, we'll continue to function as two separate airlines for quite some time, and very few changes will happen immediately. This is especially important throughout the busy holiday travel season, as our first priority will be delivering a smooth operation for customers of both airlines. There is no impact to any existing travel reservations you may have with American Airlines or US Airways at this time, and any mileage balance or elite status you have earned in either frequent flyer program are completely safe.

Throughout the process, we’ll continue to provide you updates on benefits we plan to begin rolling out in early January, such as the ability to earn and redeem miles on both carriers and reciprocal lounge access. In early 2014, you’ll also enjoy easy access to our combined premier global network through our codeshare agreement with US Airways, which will offer a convenient travel journey when booking, checking-in or connecting on flights between our two airlines.

Cranky Flier has some advice for the new company:

Be American With a Healthy Dose of US Airways
The management team comes from US Airways but they need to quickly get into the mindset that they are now running one of the great global airlines. I really don’t think this is an issue – there has been plenty of time to plan for this and President Scott Kirby is already talking the talk – but it can’t hurt to repeat it. At the same time, don’t lose a lot of the forward-thinking that made US Airways so successful.

Do Tech Right
I’ll end with one last note. We saw it with US Airways/America West and it’s been a bigger nightmare with United/Continental. Don’t rush the tech transition, especially the reservation system combination. Just make sure it’s done well. Take all the time you need. Just don’t mess it up.

American is now the largest airline in the world, with 6,700 daily flights to 330 destinations.

Monday 9 December 2013 10:23:19 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Friday 6 December 2013

Wow, do I hate eastbound overnight flights.

Wednesday I felt totally fine. I got up normally, went through a normal day, and felt pleased with myself for conquering jet lag. After picking up Parker, I went to Duke of Perth for a nice cheeseburger (I never eat American food while abroad if I can help it), had an Old Chub, and got home by 9:30.

At this point, my body decided that since it was only noon (in Korea), there was no crashing need to go to bed. So it kept me up for another seven hours. I finally drifted off to sleep around 4:30.

Yesterday, therefore, was a disaster. Last night I slept from 9:30 or so until 7 this morning, and right now I want to crawl back into bed for about three days. Also, I feel chilly, which I hope has to do with the weather (it's -8°C outside) and not with some pathogen trying to get a beachhead in my respiratory system.

Note to self: no more short trips to Asia. Or, at the very least, plan to return during the long weekend, not leave for the long weekend.

Once again, American flight 90 looks like the best thing on their schedule. Next time I go overseas I'm doing that, and avoiding the overnight.

Friday 6 December 2013 10:58:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel#
Tuesday 3 December 2013

Oh, so this is the world's greatest airport. All right, I can go to aviation heaven now, and shop on the way.

Don't get me wrong: less than 10 minutes after I checked in, I was through security and immigration. Kind of like at O'Hare the day I left, it turns out, but Incheon extends that efficiency to everyone, not just those of us who have gotten our Pre-Check clearances.

And I do appreciate the "best shopping chance" advertised on the train, in the check-in area, on the escalators, and in the loo. Yes, because who doesn't like buying luxury goods while waiting for a flight?

And I'm totally down with thinking DFW and O'Hare are not the best airports in the world. In fact, I'll go so far as to put DFW in a category that includes Atlanta, JFK, Newark, and Dulles. If you've flown to any of those five airports you know what I'm talking about.

Maybe I'm just tired and feeling negative about things. Maybe I should remember that I'm about to go a third the way around the world in half a day, taking a trip that 50 years ago required stops in Alaska and Japan and took three days.

So, I've got about 15 hours before I land in Dallas, and with a little help from some frisky yeast I expect to sleep for at least 5 of them. I've got this month's Atlantic, the Economist's "World in 2014" survey (both on paper), and a full Kindle* that includes Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and today's entire New York Times. Plus I'm still about 8 episodes behind on This American Life.

I'm still processing Seoul. I have a couple of conclusions, which I'll hazard here even though they make me look uncultured. First, after trying a lot of it, I don't like Korean food. I don't know why. I like Japanese food; I like a lot of Chinese food; Thai; Indian—Indian!—and lots of others. Bulgolgi is OK, and so is galbi, I guess. But I just didn't fall in love with Korean street food. And they have crap sushi, I'm sorry to report.

Second, there's something exciting and new about young East Asian cities like Seoul. I can feel the determination, the drive, the shabu shabu. But it's not my thing. I mean, London is my favorite place to be in the world, and I really loved Tokyo, so it's not like I'm all about rocking a hammock for a week or anything. But Seoul doesn't know how to chill. Even their relaxation is intense, like it's work. It's not a good fit.

It's not you, Seoul; it's me.

Like I said, I'm still processing. I may not come to any considered conclusions for a while. Just the same, I feel no need ever to come back to Seoul.

* I have an Asus tablet running Android, not a proper Kindle, but Amazon decided that they're about the content and not the device and made a pretty good Android reader.

Tuesday 3 December 2013 16:20:10 KST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Travel#
Friday 29 November 2013

Two years ago this week, I used a bunch of miles and hotel points to go to Tokyo, and had a great time. That was the week that American Airlines—whose frequent-flyer program had gotten me to Japan—filed for bankruptcy protection. Also that week, journalist James Fallows wrote a blog post about to the ban on using small electronic devices on takeoff and landing.

Well, on my flight to Korea Wednesday, I could use small electronic devices, because the FAA rescinded the ban last month. And right before the flight took off, the U.S. bankruptcy court approved American's merger with US Airways, clearing the way for the airline to exit bankruptcy protection soon. The airlines will consummate their merger on December 9th.

I post this in case you wanted an update about my post from two years ago today. (The post was about American's reassurances to us frequent fliers that, yes, our miles were safe. Yup, they were.)

This is why I blog.

And now that the first glimmer of daylight has appeared, I will now shower and look for coffee. Last night I made it almost until 9pm, and I woke up around 4:30am, so I'm almost adjusted to the +15/-9 hour difference. Almost.

Saturday 30 November 2013 06:39:17 KST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel#
Thursday 28 November 2013

Yesterday, on the Siberia side of the Bering Sea:

Our flight path yesterday followed the terminator as the earth turned. The sun stayed right on the tip of the left wing for about 90 minutes before we jogged slightly west over Kamchatka.

Friday 29 November 2013 04:47:01 KST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Photography | Travel#
Wednesday 27 November 2013

At this writing I'm just west of the Alexander Archipelago, with 7,093 km left from Dallas to Seoul. We started out at 10,999 km, so this is serious progress.

It turns out, this is the longest flight I've ever been on. I didn't realize that when I booked it; I thought Shanghai to O'Hare was longer. Well, it's farther: PVG-ORD is 11,355 km; DFW-ICN is "only" 11,005 km. But because I'm flying west, this flight will be nearly two hours longer than the one from Shanghai.

Fortunately for me (if not for the airline), the flight has a lot of empty seats. I'm in 33A and I have 33B for my stuff. The person in 32A has reclined all the way back so her seat is almost touching my nose, forcing me to put my laptop on the 33B tray table and type at a 45° angle.

Well, I've had nearly three hours of that, and I'm done. Time to pull out my backlog of This American Life episodes and close my eyes.

All right. It's 7am in Seoul. We land in nine hours...

Wednesday 27 November 2013 12:52:00 AKST (UTC-09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Travel#

"Short" in geologic times. I'm at Dallas-Fort Worth, with about half an hour to start diagnosing a production issue. Then I'll be on a plane for about 14 hours.

Here's the plane:

You know how you always forget something when you travel? This time it was my guidebook. Lonely Planet Seoul does no good back home on my bookshelf.

Wednesday 27 November 2013 08:52:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Travel#
Monday 18 November 2013

Geography is fun. It explains how Canadian airline WestJet can manage their newest trans-Atlantic flight which gets to Dublin in a little more than 4 hours using a 737-700:

Dublin itself might not be that strange, but this isn’t coming from a big city. No, it’s actually going to be a flight from St John’s, way out in Newfoundland. The metro area, if you can call it that, has almost 200,000 people. That’s good enough to be the 20th largest metro area in Canada. Yeah… 20th.

For WestJet, there is very little at stake here. The flight is surprisingly short to those of us who don’t pay much attention to Canadian geography. Remember how I said that WestJet already flies from St John’s to Orlando? Dublin is less than 25 miles further from St John’s. Via Great Circle Mapper

You always think of Transatlantic flying requiring long flights, but St John’s is so far out there that the eastbound flight is scheduled gate-to-gate at a mere 4h15m. It’s shorter than Vancouver to Toronto. Heck, it’s shorter than Phoenix to Philly. So this will be easy for the airline’s 136-seat 737-700 to operate.

It leaves St John’s at 1115p and arrives Dublin at 7a. It turns around quickly, departing at 820a, getting back to St John’s at 955a. WestJet likely would just leave that airplane overnight in St John’s otherwise, so the amount of extra aircraft time being used here is minimal.

The 3,300 km flight is just a little farther than L.A. to Atlanta (3,150 km) and a little closer than Washington to Las Vegas (3,350 km), and those city pairs are easily served by 737s today.

Monday 18 November 2013 15:34:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography#
Tuesday 12 November 2013

Saw this coming:

American Airlines and US Airways struck a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department that will allow the airlines to complete a $17 billion merger and create the world's largest carrier, the airlines announced Tuesday.

The deal, which heads off a trial planned later this month, calls for the combined airline to give up some takeoff-and-landing slots and some airport gates, including two American Airlines gates at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

It also requires the combined airline to maintain Chicago and other airports as hubs for at least three years, something executives said they intended to do anyway and will keep long past three years.

Under terms of Tuesday's settlement, the airlines will give up 52 slot pairs at Washington Reagan National Airport and 17 slot pairs at New York LaGuardia Airport, as well as certain gates and related facilities to support service at those airports, the airline said. A slot pair entitles the holder to one departure and arrival.

Tuesday 12 November 2013 15:58:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Business#
Monday 11 November 2013

Not one bit:

They took a somewhat entertaining idea and made a monster out of it. The video runs for an excruciating five minutes. Imagine being a Virgin America frequent flyer — or employee — and having to listen to that thing over and over and over and over. The cabin crew are going to need counseling.

Airline safety briefings are a kind of legal fine print come to life. They do contain some important and useful info, but it’s so layered in babble that people tune out and ignore the entire thing. “Federal law prohibits tampering with, disabling, or destroying a lavatory smoke detector.” What’s wrong with,”Tampering with a lavatory smoke detector is prohibited.” And do we really need a full dissertation on the finer points of attaching and inflating a life-vest — overly detailed instructions that nobody is going to remember if the vests are actually needed? Merely setting all of this ornamental gibberish to music does not make it more compelling or palatable. It also undermines the briefing’s potential value. It also undermines the whole purpose of the briefing. If safety is really the point, the briefing should be taken seriously. Here, you’re watching it for fun, not to actually learn anything that might save your life.

I posted the video last weekend.

Monday 11 November 2013 12:25:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Tuesday 5 November 2013

The flights, between Newark, N.J., and Singapore, is the longest in the world:

The two all-business-class flights, which operate between Singapore and Newark, New Jersey, take around 19 hours and cover 15,300 km. But late last month, Singapore airlines announced that it would be cancelling the services, along with another between Singapore and Los Angeles that is almost as long.

The title for the world's longest flight...will now shift to Qantas, which operates a 13,800 km service between Sydney and Dallas.

Hey, wait a minute: Qantas is a oneworld carrier. How many frequent-flier miles does that cost again? Here it is: 37,500 for coach, 62,500 for business, and 72,500 for first. Each way.

I'll keep saving them.

Tuesday 5 November 2013 14:56:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography#
Saturday 2 November 2013

Gulliver harrumphs:

For this observer, it's too long (around 90 seconds longer than Air New Zealand's "Bare essentials", for example) and actually quite annoying. Also, I don't think it does a particularly good job of fulfilling its primary purpose, which is to explain the safety-related features of the plane. With all the pizzazz and robot rappers, passengers will end up watching the dancing and admiring the production values, without actually digesting the message. It tries so hard to entertain the many flyers who are over-familiar with safety videos that it fails to explain clearly and simply to new flyers what they can expect. To top it all, Virgin America will have to change various scenes in the next few months now that the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to allow the operation of electronic devices on planes from departure gate to landing gate.

Well, fine, but you have to admire their spunk.

Saturday 2 November 2013 08:43:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Cool links#
Friday 25 October 2013

Once again, here's a list of things I'm sending straight to Kindle (on my Android tablet) to read after work:

Back to work. All of you.

Friday 25 October 2013 12:29:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Monday 21 October 2013

Cranky Flier explains:

Dallas is an increasingly large hub of business, and it sees no flights to Hong Kong today. It can also provide connections to a lot of places around the Midwest and South that don’t have single stop connections today. Look no further than joint venture-partner Qantas to see how that works. Qantas abandoned San Francisco and decided to run a flight to Dallas instead. It’s such a long flight that a stop in Brisbane is required on the westbound trip, but it’s apparently worth it.

That all sounds good, but there’s an even bigger benefit when it comes to Asia flying… Latin America.

Flying from Asia to Latin America is really far and requires stopping somewhere. To give you an idea, connecting the two financial capitals of Hong Kong and Sao Paulo would require flying more than 9,700 nautical miles. You know the longest route in the world today, Newark to Singapore? That’s 1,500 nm shorter. So you need to stop somewhere. And today, the options aren’t great. But Dallas provides a real opportunity to make for simple connections between Hong Kong and Latin America.

I'll be a beneficiary of this new strategy this autumn. More on that later.

Monday 21 October 2013 18:04:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Travel#
Monday 14 October 2013

Two clients, both alike in dignity, yadda yadda yadda...so no time to read these yet:

Hello, "Read Later" button...

Monday 14 October 2013 15:27:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | US#
Thursday 12 September 2013

US bankruptcy judge Sean Lane has approved American Airlines' bankruptcy plan—mostly:

Judge Sean Lane approved the plan at a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, but denied a clause that would pay Tom Horton, AMR's outgoing chief executive, $19.9 million in severance.

But on Thursday, after nearly two weeks of consideration, Lane concluded his job was to determine whether the plan meets standards of feasibility under bankruptcy law, independent of the lawsuit.

"The question is whether it will succeed once consummated, not whether it will be consummated," Lane said. "Here, there can be no dispute that the plan is feasible, if allowed to proceed."

For AMR, the focus now shifts to resolving the Justice Department's lawsuit, filed on August 13. The department argues the merger will create too much consolidation and hurt consumers.

While Lane's ruling gives his blessing to AMR's restructuring efforts, any divestitures or other material changes to the plan that result from settlement talks with the Justice Department would have to go back to him for approval.

Sorry, Tom. You crashed your airline; you don't get your $20 million. And while I can't speak for all the employees of American Airlines, I'll bet money that they're all glad of this result, and ready to see the back of you.

Thursday 12 September 2013 15:52:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Tuesday 10 September 2013

He had a little more hassle than I did. Only a little:

So back in July I decided to give it a shot. If you’re a US citizen/permanent resident, Dutch citizen, South Korean citizen, or Mexican national, you can join the program. (Canadians can join via the Nexus program.) I went online and filled out the extensive application. I mean, this thing looks at your history going back for several years. It requires previous residences, everywhere you’ve traveled, and more. Once you finish filling it out, you pay the $100 fee (regardless of whether you get accepted or not), and then you wait.

It took one week until I received an email saying my application status had changed. I logged on and it told me that I had been approved for an interview so I just needed to schedule one.

The big day came, and I prepared for a grilling. I was WAY over-prepared. I showed up at the Bradley Terminal at LAX and they told me to take a seat and wait. I saw a lot of people waiting there, so I was afraid it might take awhile, but I was wrong. Within 5 minutes, they had called me and another person to go back. The interview between me and the Customs/Border Patrol (CBP) officer went like this:

CBP: Have you been to Canada in the last 5 years?
Me: Yeah
CBP: Have you been to Mexico in the last 5 years?
Me: Nope
CBP: Ok, you’re all set.

I’m not exaggerating at all. It was that quick.

My interview in 2010 ran about 10 minutes, but it was no big deal. They stamped my passport right then and I've had easy entry to the US (and easy trips through airports) since.

It's worth signing up for.

Tuesday 10 September 2013 15:07:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Monday 9 September 2013

The Economist's Gulliver blog has had enough of UnitedContinental's computer problems:

Late last month, for example, America's Department of Transportation fined United $350,000 for taking too long to process its customers' refund requests. ... Here's the remarkable thing about this latest fine, which was connected to delays of some 9,000 refund requests: United blamed it on the merger. According to the Los Angeles Times, United told the regulators that when the two legacy airlines' reservation systems were merged it resulted (in the words of a DOT report) "in some unforeseeable anomalies that caused a temporary inability to process refunds in a timely manner."

That's unacceptable. Again, it's been nearly three years since the merger. "Unforeseeable anomalies" should have been corrected by now. And on what sort of scale is it appropriate to describe a three-year-old problem as "temporary?"

It seems like both United and Continental have some bureaucratic issues that have exacerbated their technology trouble. Gulliver goes on to say that UAL crews are still contractually bound to UAL planes, so two companies still haven't merged their front-line labor forces.

Assuming American and US Airways get past the DOJ's roadblock (which I expect they will), will they have as much difficulty merging their computer systems? I hope not.

Monday 9 September 2013 14:15:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Sunday 8 September 2013

I rarely buy plane tickets this far out, but something made me think buying holiday tickets right now might be a good idea. Things, for example, like this:

The Department of Justice’s somewhat surprising lawsuit to stop the merger of American Airlines with US Airways may not offer much help for passengers hoping that competition among the majors will keep a ceiling on airfares. Like any commodity, airfares are a function of supply and demand — and carriers have been removing supply from the market. Some 13 million departing seats have been vanished from the system in the past year, according to Aviation DataMiner.

It’s crowded up there, and it’s going to stay that way.

Which is to say, don’t expect much in the way of bargains over the next peak period, the Thanksgiving holiday. “Fares will be up slightly, but not a lot,” says George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog.com. His advice is to keep checking on prices until you see one you like. Conversely, if you have the travel bug, one of the cheaper times to fly is right about now: September is a slow period of the airlines.

Right now round-trip fares from Chicago to San Francisco for Christmas week start around $400. I can comfort myself thinking that's only $250 in 1995 dollars...

Update: Total fare, $452. That was the lowest available on American for any round-trip that got me into San Francisco for December 24 and 25.

Sunday 8 September 2013 12:14:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Wednesday 4 September 2013

The Economist Gulliver blog reported today that Korean Air has partnered with CSA, a strategy that may help both of them in Europe:

Prague offers something that larger airports cannot. Passengers are weary of the congestion and long distances between gates at the mega-hubs, as Which? highlighted. Switching planes is even more of an ordeal if you do not speak the local language. In Prague, connecting times are short and all signage is provided in Korean. Mr Moreels said the Czech capital is styling itself as a "specialised gateway or mini-hub" for Asian traffic, and he promised that Korean passengers would enjoy "special treatment" in the event of delays–a privilege the mega-hubs reserve for customers of their home carriers.

Geography is another advantage. Prague's location in the middle of Europe makes it an ideal springboard for travel to the rest of the continent, including eastern parts of Germany traditionally connected via Lufthansa's Frankfurt hub. CSA's network is not massive, but most of the spots frequented by Korean travellers are served. Interline deals and codeshares between CSA and Korean Air ensure convenient flight times. "We don't want to transfer everybody to everywhere," [CSA CEO Philippe] Moreels emphasised. "We just want to redistribute a big plane from Korea to the rest of Europe."

It's hard to find an appropriate analogy in the U.S. because our market isn't nearly as fragmented as Europe's. But if you can imagine KAL flying into St. Louis on a partnership with pre-merger TWA, that might be close.

Wednesday 4 September 2013 16:55:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Thursday 22 August 2013

Last week the Justice Department and several states, including Texas and Florida, sued to stop the American—US Airways merger. Today a couple of them realized their error:

Political and business officials in Florida, Texas and North Carolina are asking the U.S. to reconsider its suit to block the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, saying the combined company would benefit their local economies.

Florida, Texas and North Carolina...are home to large hubs for both airlines.

American Airlines, which sought Chapter 11 protection in late 2011, is one of the largest private employers in Miami-Dade County. The carrier operates around 70 percent of the flights at the Miami airport, making it a dominant hub for flights to and from Latin America. Local officials have long promoted Miami as the “Gateway to the Americas.”

Yeah, I didn't understand that four of the six states who joined the Justice Department suits (these three plus Arizona) contain four of the five largest hubs of the two airlines—including the airlines' headquarters (American in Texas and US Airways in Arizona).

Even though I thought there would be a challenge to the merger, after I thought about how the challenge actually went down, it didn't make any sense. Obviously the people who depend on American and US Airways for their livelihoods agree.

Thursday 22 August 2013 17:29:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | US#
Tuesday 20 August 2013

Two more opinions this morning about the Justice Department sued to block the American-US Airways merger. First, from Cranky Flier:

[I]f DOJ really wanted to settle for slots at National, it would have done so before filing such a strongly-worded, broad case. Now it has sort of pinned itself into a corner. If it settles, it sets precedent that can be used against it in the future. If it goes ahead with trial, it risks everything.

See, if it goes to trial, then the judge will review the case on its merits. And the end result will be binary. Either the DOJ’s complaint is validated (which still seems unlikely at this point, though we don’t know if DOJ has something more substantial hidden somewhere) or it’s shot down. And if it’s shot down, then the new American not only gets to merge, but it gets to keep all its slots at National and everywhere else. That’s quite a risk to take.

Clearly DOJ thinks that it can win this thing or it never would have taken a chance like this. But it’s a huge gamble. Now we just have to wait and see what happens.

The Economist's Gulliver Blog also weighs in about whether deregulation is to blame:

The consolidation of air service at central hub cities is bad news for cities that aren't hubs. But it's great news for the cities that are. It's good for airlines that are saving money by shutting down inefficient routes. If it's encouraging businesses and people to move to more densely populated areas, well, there are numerous economic and environmental benefits to having people live and work closer together. And the loss or decline of network carrier service to some small airports has fuelled the rise of ultra-low-cost carriers at some of those same airports. All of which is to say: the decline of small and medium-size airports is less of an unmitigated disaster and more of a mixed bag than Mr Longman and Ms Khan make it out to be. Returning to a more regulated airline industry would be a huge political lift with countless unintended consequences. It's worth thinking about how deregulation has changed the face of the airline industry. But the troubles of America's smaller airports—and the communities they serve—have roots far deeper than the demise of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The merger will, of course, cause some more consolidation. The alternative is that we have two giant global airlines and two smaller ones that can't possibly survive much longer.

Tuesday 20 August 2013 13:15:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Thursday 15 August 2013

The judge in the American Airlines bankruptcy just expressed doubts the airline will survive:

A judge asked AMR Corp for guidance on whether he should approve its plan to exit bankruptcy, in light of an antitrust challenge to its planned merger with US Airways Group Inc.

The request suggested Judge Sean Lane would hold off on approving AMR's plan at a hearing in U.S. bankruptcy court in New York on Thursday.

Lane said he had "lingering doubts" as to whether it was appropriate to confirm the plan. He told AMR, its creditors and other parties in the bankruptcy to submit briefs on the issue.

Lane said he had strongly considered canceling Thursday's hearing but decided to give parties an open forum to discuss the antitrust challenge.

Absent the antitrust challenge, Thursday's hearing would have been the final step in AMR's exiting bankruptcy and implementing its merger.

This really sucks, not just for American's shareholders, but also for air travelers in the U.S. The Justice Department believes the merger will hurt air travelers, but Cranky has some good analysis why this isn't so. Plus, the Justice Department has had access to the competition data for years; that makes the timing of their case look suspect, in my mind.

And personally, my biggest beef with all this concerns the bank of frequent flier miles I've built up for many, many years now. If American can't merge with US Airways, all my miles might vanish. (US Airways has promised to honor them if the merger succeeds.) The judge and the Justice Department have made that much likelier this week.

My worst fear is that the bankruptcy proceedings could turn so rapidly there won't be time to cash in any of the miles, or even if I can cash them in, there won't be an airline around to honor the award tickets when I try to use them.

What, on earth, was the Justice Department thinking?

Thursday 15 August 2013 16:45:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | US#
Wednesday 14 August 2013

...but the Department of Justice suing to block the American-US Airways merger was sure stupid. Cranky Flyer gives them a Crazy Jackass award:

It really does appear that DOJ has gone off the rails. The best way to sum up the argument is that airlines should all be punished for trying to be successful enterprises. The complaint is filled with talk about how capacity has shrunk and fares have risen. They think this merger will result in more of the same. But what they’ve failed to recognize is that the airline industry of the past was a sickly mess. You had too many cooks in the kitchen and some of them had the cooking skills of a 12-year-old. So airlines pushed in too much capacity just to gain market share, then they had to discount fares and nobody made money. It was a mess.

Apparently the DOJ likes that plan. It’s sad to think this is how the government looks at private industry. If you want to decide that the airline industry is a public utility, then go all-in and fully regulate it. (Fares will rise, but I would respect the argument.) Otherwise, this nanny-state-style semi-regulation will keep the industry from ever becoming truly healthy.

The Economist takes a more sober view, but still doesn't think the suit makes sense:

The DoJ suit mentions the likely loss of US Airways’ low fares, known as Advantage Fares, which undercut those of American, Delta and United on one-stop trips and which have prompted US Airways’ competitors to reduce their prices. The DoJ has been scrutinising the merger since January, a month before it was announced publicly. Last week the European Commission nodded the deal through after a minor concession on slots at London’s Heathrow. But the DoJ said the merger would take consolidation too far, leaving four airlines controlling over 80% of the American market.

Doug Parker, the chief executive of US Airways, still hopes the deal can be completed before the end of the year. If it is not, American will struggle longer to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as it would have to assemble and seek court approval for a new rescue plan. The existing one was relatively generous to creditors and shareholders, leaving the latter with a stake in the merged carrier. If the courts uphold the DoJ’s view, some observers think it will have the effect of intensifying the dominant position of United and Delta, leading to more losses and later pressure for more mergers—an unintended consequence of the DoJ’s stance.

The DoJ has come down firmly on the way to solve the consolidation problem that will result in the worst deal for consumers. Having three giant airlines doesn't end competition, but it does make it easier to circumvent existing competition rules. The DoJ should concentrate on the actual effects of the proposed arrangement, not on its hypothetical effects, especially when their hypotheses don't actually have a lot of evidence supporting them.

Wednesday 14 August 2013 13:30:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | US#
Tuesday 13 August 2013

As expected, the Justice Department and several states' attorneys general have challenged the American-USAirways merger:

The Justice Department says the deal would result in the creation of the world’s largest airline and that a combination of the two companies would reduce competition for commercial air travel in local markets and would result in passengers paying higher airfares and receiving less service.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the transaction between US Airways and American would result in “higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices.”

The attorneys general were from Arizona, Florida, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The challenge won't succeed, but the AGs had to make it anyway. (Note that Arizona is headquarters of USAirways and Texas is headquarters of American.) The problem is, if American doesn't merge with USAirways, then it's toast—and USAirways will get a hunk of its assets anyway.

I may not have conducted the same analysis as the AG, but I concluded long ago that for me personally the merger works out pretty well. I admit, that may not be true for people who live in smaller aviation markets.

Tuesday 13 August 2013 10:34:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | US#
Thursday 8 August 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final 2012 statistics:

Part 121 commercial airline operations remained fatality-free, and general aviation accidents were virtually unchanged. In the general aviation segment, the number of total accidents was 1,470 in 2011 and 1,471 in 2012. Fatalities decreased slightly, from 448 to 432, and the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours declined from 6.84 to 6.78. On-demand Part 135 operations showed improvement, with decreases across all measures, the NTSB said.

Part 121 refers to the section of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) involving scheduled commercial passenger service. What these statistics mean is, in 2012, you had a better chance of dying doing anything else than flying on a commercial airliner.

Thursday 8 August 2013 15:42:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Thursday 1 August 2013

...because I didn't have time to read them today:

I will now go home and read these things on the way.

Thursday 1 August 2013 18:16:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | Windows Azure | Work#
Monday 29 July 2013

It completely passed me by that last week was the 30th anniversary of one of aviation's biggest moments in "it could have been worse," when an Air Canada 767 ran out of fuel over western Ontario:

On 23 July 1983, flight 143 was cruising at 41,000 ft., over Red Lake, Ontario. The aircraft's cockpit warning system sounded, indicating a fuel pressure problem on the aircraft's left side. Assuming a fuel pump had failed,[3] the pilots turned it off,[3] since gravity should feed fuel to the aircraft's two engines. The aircraft's fuel gauges were inoperative because of an electronic fault which was indicated on the instrument panel and airplane logs (the pilots believed flight to be legal with this malfunction). The flight management computer indicated that there was still sufficient fuel for the flight; but the initial fuel load had been entered as pounds instead of kilograms. A few moments later, a second fuel pressure alarm sounded for the right engine, prompting the pilots to divert to Winnipeg. Within seconds, the left engine failed and they began preparing for a single-engine landing.

As they communicated their intentions to controllers in Winnipeg and tried to restart the left engine, the cockpit warning system sounded again with the "all engines out" sound, a long "bong" that no one in the cockpit could recall having heard before and that was not covered in flight simulator training.[3] Flying with all engines out was something that was never expected to occur and had therefore never been covered in training.[4] Seconds later, with the right-side engine also stopped, the 767 lost all power, and most of the instrument panels in the cockpit went blank.

What happened next...is worth reading about.

Thanks to Jim Fallows for reminding me about this anniversary.

Monday 29 July 2013 10:57:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Tuesday 23 July 2013

Three weeks ago, I visited San Francisco. Two days after I flew out of SFO, there was the first fatal air-transport accident in the U.S. in 12 years.

Sunday, I flew out of LaGuardia, and yesterday a Southwest Airlines plane suffered a nose-gear collapse on landing:

The front landing gear of a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines collapsed upon landing at La Guardia Airport on Monday evening, thrusting the plane’s nose into the tarmac and sending out a stream of sparks as the plane skidded to a stop, officials and witnesses said.

At least [8] people were injured, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport; six of those were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known, though it appeared that none were serious.

The airport was closed for about 80 minutes, and one of its two main runways reopened at 7:06 p.m.

All the injuries were minor.

Good thing I'm not scheduled to fly anywhere for five weeks.

Tuesday 23 July 2013 11:41:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Saturday 20 July 2013

Two weeks ago, I described my experience zipping through SFO's security lines. Because I have elite status on American Airlines and because I'm in the CBP's Global Entry program, I qualified automatically for TSA PreCheck.

Yesterday, TSA administrator John Pistole announced that now, any U.S. citizen traveler can apply:

Until now, travelers could only apply to use PreCheck if they were members of certain airline frequent flier programs or were enrolled in "trusted traveler" programs with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

The expansion is part of the TSA's efforts to focus more attention on high-risk travelers and cut back on the screening time spent on frequent travelers.

Travelers who pay the $85 must submit to fingerprinting and a background check. Applicants who are cleared by the TSA are enrolled to use the PreCheck lines for five years.

I'd say it's worth $85 to get through security lines at speeds not seen since the last century.

Saturday 20 July 2013 08:33:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [2] | Aviation | US | Travel#
Friday 12 July 2013

First, a Boeing 787 caught fire at Heathrow this afternoon; fortunately, no one was aboard:

Video footage showed the plane surrounded by foam used to quell the flames. The airport said in a statement that it was an on-board internal fire, but didn’t offer more details. It said the plane was empty, parked in a remote area and there were no reported injuries. All flights in and out were temporarily suspended Friday afternoon -- a standard procedure if fire crews are called out.

Ethiopian Airlines said smoke was detected coming from the aircraft after it had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours.

You can bet that Chicago-based Boeing will watch this story very, very carefully. Their shares dropped 7% on the news, for one thing.

In other unfortunate aviation news, the San Francisco Police have confirmed that one of the two victims of the Asiana 214 crash got run over by a fire truck, but they don't know yet whether she was alive when this happened:

Medical examiners will not release autopsy results for “at least two or three weeks,” San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area on Sunday. Coroner’s officials are working to determine how 16-year-old Ye Mengtuan died.

Police officials confirmed that the girl was hit by the truck in the chaos that followed the deadly crash, which also killed her classmate and travel companion, identified by the airline as 16-year-old Wang Linjia.

The girl was blanketed in white foam emergency crews sprayed to douse the flames billowing out of the Boeing 777, police said. She was discovered in the tire track of the fire truck, police spokesman Albie Esparza told NBC News.

Not a good week for aviation.

Friday 12 July 2013 14:08:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | San Francisco#
Sunday 7 July 2013

Yesterday, an Asiana 777 crashed on approach to San Francisco airport:

Two people were killed and 49 seriously hurt when Flight 214 crashed at 11:27 a.m. But the rest of the 307 passengers and crew members escaped either unscathed or with lesser injuries, Doug Yakel, an SFO spokesman, said at an evening news conference.

The plane came to rest on the side of Runway 28L, one of four runways at SFO, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration. The jetliner appeared to hit short of the runway and then slowly turn as it careened across the ground - losing its tail and leaving a trail of debris.

(Photo: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Initial reports suggest the plane had a higher-than-normal angle of attack on an otherwise normal approach, and its tail struck the seawall at the end of 28L—the runway my Alaska 737 landed on last Saturday. It also seems from the reports that the pilots attempted a go-around immediately before the tail strike, which would explain the higher angle of attack and the reports of the plane "bouncing up" and "putting on the gas" from passengers.

I'll be following this story closely. This is the first-ever fatal accident for the Boeing 777, and the first fatal heavy airplane accident since 12 November 2001.

Sunday 7 July 2013 09:35:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | San Francisco#
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The end of 3rd-class medical certificates?
Minor delays on the El this morning
Can't wait to get home
Week ending in London
Modern travel in two photographs
Smooth sailing flying
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About this blog (v 4.2)
Two last photos from Maho Beach
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It hung in the sky much the way bricks don't
Long-range planning for the day
Taking a break from nothing
Confessions of a TSA agent
How does overbooking flights work to the airline's benefit?
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American Airlines Holdings, LLC
Worst travel recovery ever
That was the trip that was
Following up on my last Asia trip
View from the window
Seemed shorter on paper...
Only a short flight to go
New route to Europe
US Airways and AMR cleared to merge
Patrick Smith does not like Virgin's new safety video
Singapore Airlines ends Flights 21 and 22
Virgin's new safety video
Lunchtime link list
American's Dallas to Asia strategy
Another link roundup
AMR bankruptcy plan approved, except for one bit
Cranky Flier finally enrolls in Global Entry
I hope US American Airways does it better...
Visiting the family for the holidays
Czech Airlines interesting partnership with KAL
States change their minds about USA/AMR merger
Still cranky about the Justice Department
OK, this just got real
Maybe the lawsuit wasn't universally predicted
Saw that one coming
It's official: flying is so safe, it's hard to measure
Articles I've sent to my Kindle
The Gimli Glider, 30 years on
Unnerving coincidences in aviation
TSA PreCheck now generally available
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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