The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Slow news day? IATA codes make headlines

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in conjunction with national aviation authorities like our FAA, maintains the master list of three-letter airport designations throughout the world. (Another group, the International Civil Aviation Organization, maintains a parallel set of four-letter codes that pilots use. For example, the IATA code for London's Heathrow is LHR, but the ICAO code is EGLL.)

The Chicago Tribune has a story today about unexpected and unusual IATA codes:

The good people of Sioux City, Iowa, just don't get any respect.

For more than a century, the city was best known for an omnipresent smell, an unpleasant byproduct of the massive stockyards that drove the local economy. Meat packers would tell their children, "That's the smell of money."

David Letterman used to joke about the town, back in the days when the local CBS television station was not carrying "The Late Show." Letterman would introduce his Top 10 list, saying it had just arrived "from the home office in Sioux City, Iowa."

And then there was -- and still is -- the Sioux Gateway Airport's ignominious three-letter identifying code: SUX. For decades, city fathers have moaned about the label. In 2002, the mayor labeled it "an embarrassment."

Dave Bernstein has heard all the jokes during his 42 years in Sioux City. But, unlike some other residents, he has taken to heart the old adage about what to do when life hands you lemons. He's making T-shirts -- emblazoned with two words: "Fly SUX."

And let's not forget Fukuoka, Japan....

First flight

I finally found the box containing my mother's journals and appointment calendars from 1971 to 1976, 1980 to 1982, and 1990 to 2004. I already had 2005 and 2006, so this fills in a lot. (She stopped writing in late 2006 because she could no longer hold a pen.) Somewhere there's one more box, I hope, but this is by no means certain.

The contents are mostly mundane. One interesting nugget: I finally found the date I first took an airplane flight. On 19 April 1974, at age 3½, I flew from Chicago to Los Angeles with my dad. I'll have to do the math later, but it looks like I've spent about 11 months of my life in L.A. altogether, which is about what I figured.

More later. It's hot, and I'm running late for dinner.

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.

<Rant>

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.

</ Rant>

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.