Too many things to read before lunchtime:
Now, back to work.
Pilot Patrick Smith wishes Boeing would update the 40-year-old aircraft instead of pushing the 737 into ungainly configurations:
What I think about the 737 is that Boeing took what essentially was a regional jet — the original 737-100 first flew in 1967, and was intended to carry fewer than a hundred passengers — and has pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed, and pushed the thing to the edge of its envelope, through a long series of derivatives, from the -200 through the -900, and now onward to the 737 “MAX.” In other words it has been continuously squeezed into missions it was never really intended for. The plane flies poorly and, for a jet of its size, uses huge amounts of runway and has startlingly high takeoff and landing speeds. Its range allows for cross-country pairings, but transoceanic markets are out of the question.
I was wedged into the cockpit jumpseat of an American Airlines 737-800 not long ago, flying from Los Angeles to Boston. (In years past, coast-to-coast flights were always on widebody DC-10s or L-1011s.) Man if we didn’t need every foot of LAX’s runway 25R, at last getting off the ground at a nearly supersonic 160 knots — thank god we didn’t blow a tire — then slowly step-climbing our way to cruise altitude. What would it have been like in the opposite direction, I wondered — a longer flight, from a shorter runway, in the face of winter headwinds?
The 737’s poorly designed cockpit is incredibly cramped and noisy. The passenger cabin, meanwhile, is skinny and uncomfortable, using a fuselage cross-section unchanged from the Boeing 707, engineered in the 1950s.
I also like the 757s remaining in American's fleet, and I have some problems with the 737s. I'll be on one tomorrow for four hours, with its vertically-misaligned window and cramped seats. Sigh.
Cranky Flier thinks Brussels Airlines has done a remarkable job keeping its passengers moving after its principal hub closed for repairs last week:
Two days after the bombing, Brussels Airlines started to get things running, but only on its short haul network. It deployed its Avro RJ100 aircraft to Antwerp, a mere half hour north of Brussels Airport, to fly within Europe. That may sound ideal, but the airport has a runway less than 5,000 feet long. The Avro can handle that with ease, but it’s not great for much else.
Meanwhile, Liege, which is about 45 minutes southeast of Brussels Airport, picked up a bunch of flights with the A319/A320 fleet. Liege is the cargo hub of Belgium, but it doesn’t usually do much in the way of passenger flights. The airline is offering free shuttle bus service to both airports from Brussels.
The next day, Friday, Brussels Airlines got at least a piece of its long haul network off the ground. With those flights service a fair bit of connecting traffic, Liege wasn’t the best option. Instead, Brussels moved those flights to operate from Lufthansa’s Frankfurt hub as well as from the Swiss hub in Zurich. (Swiss is owned by Lufthansa as well.)
This was a brilliant move. It allowed Lufthansa Group/United/Air Canada travelers to continue to connect on to these African destinations. And for those who were starting or ending in Brussels, Lufthansa-operated flights were added from Frankfurt and Munich to Liege to help feed people into the new network. Brussels Airlines is flying from Antwerp to Zurich as well.
I'm always encouraged to see a business responding effectively after a major event, especially in aviation.
Stuff to read later:
OK, conference call is ending. Time to perambulate the pooch.
I'm leaving Harold Washington in a few minutes, now that I've caught up on some reading:
- Clancy Martin attempted to explain the martyr-like appeal of Ted Cruz.
- Deeply Trivial, who writes survey questions as part of her job, explained why she doesn't take surveys.
- Via Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the University of Arizona outlined some new data linking sunspots, shipwrecks, tree trunks, and hurricanes.
- Suzy Khimm described the return of the pillory—via Internet, of course—as a tactic of some public prosecutors, most notably in the 2013 "Flush the Johns" operation in Nassau County, New York.
- Cranky Flier got interested in a robot that cleans airplanes. It's pretty cool.
- NPR media critic Adam Frank said I should watch SyFy's new series, "The Expanse."
- Engineer John Hayes wondered if we'll ever see a space elevator of the sort depicted in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves or Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.
- Spanish writer Cristina Pop thought living in London was the worst three years of her life. (It sounds like her experiences don't exactly line up with mine, starting with her not speaking a word of English when she got there.)
I also watched a time-lapse video of the Chicago River turning green last year. If you want to see this odd Chicago tradition, go downtown tomorrow at 9.
Both United and American want approval for non-stop flights from Chicago to Havana:
Initially, the customer pool for Chicago-to-Havana trips would be limited, given the ongoing trade embargo. The Department of the Treasury only permits travelers to fly to Cuba for a dozen reasons, including family visits, official governmental trips and humanitarian missions.
But carriers are eager to establish a beachhead in the island nation, which might eventually prove a robust destination for leisure and business travelers as well.
“It's been an untapped market for 50 years,” said John Weber, director for the Americas at British consultancy Aviation Analytics. “The interest of carriers is to get in and get established from the very beginning.”
Both airlines proposed a weekly 737-800 flight leaving Saturday morning and returning Saturday night. As soon as I can, I'll be happy to spend a week in Cuba and get full frequent-flyer miles for the trip.
Hm. I'm not sure that's the best translation for "gonna fly now," but it's better than anything I had on my own...
Traveling this afternoon, back Sunday. I might have a chance to post. It's not going to be a top priority.
The Dept of Homeland Security says we can still use our drivers licenses at airports until 2018:
The shift gives breathing room to Illinois, which had expected its driver's licenses and IDs to be inadequate for air travel, including domestic flights, as early as this spring.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last fall declined to give Illinois a third deadline extension for meeting the Real ID Act standards put into place in 2005. As a result, it was expected that Illinois travelers by the middle of this year would need to present a passport or be subject to extra security checks unless Illinois was able to get another extension for compliance.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White still plans to seek another compliance extension, said spokesman David Druker. Also, White's staff is talking with members of the General Assembly about potential legislation to fund the changes necessary to bring the state's ID cards up to the federal standards.
The cost for that effort is estimated at $50 million to $60 million. The costs, as well as concerns about protecting individual privacy, have been stumbling blocks so far.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State's office can't even mail out reminders to drivers to renew their vehicle registrations, because governor Bruce Rauner doesn't want to pay taxes.
And it's -10°C today. Moan moan moan.
As the work week slowly grinds down, I've lined these articles up for consumption tomorrow morning:
And now it's off to the barber shop. And then the pub.