Sunday Jan 11, 2009

Clear experience in Atlanta's Delta Fortress

My first experience with Clear came this evening in the Delta Fortress (KATL). I whisked through security in record time. Use your chosen bio-authentication method, and they direct to the line with the fewest in queue immediately. Nice. I also like the fact that my first year is free - I am Platinum Marriott.

Friday Nov 14, 2008

Delta 1080, KLAS-KATL, 2008-NOV-14. B757-200

Delta's flight 1080 from Las Vegas to Atlanta's Delta Fortress was late in departing because of a "blue-water" leak. Definitely do not want to be spreading blue water all over the place between Las Vegas and the Delta Fortress. Not to mention the fact that icing might cause structural problems, which is not an acceptable risk, being probably non-recoverable at 300+ knots indicated airspeed (about 500 MPH groundspeed). In this case, the Lavatory Service cart was brought back to the aircraft and corrected the problem with the forward lav.

Push-back was about 8 minutes late, 0958 Las Vegas time, taxi to the runway took 18 minutes. Then, with appropriate leading-edge and trailing-edge flaps set, landing lights switched on, take-off power was applied. After a 37-second run in dry, cool air, the flying pilot rotated the aircraft (at the indicated airspeed known as Vr) and lifted off into slightly choppy air. "Rotation" is the process of decreasing lift on the horizontal stabilizer at the rear of of the aircraft, which causes the nose to "pitch up", resulting in an increased angle-of-attack of relative airflow to the wing surfaces. Increased angle-of-attack causes increased lift and the aircraft rises into the air - or is "sucked" into the air. However, increasing the angle-of-attack past a certain point (measured in degrees) causes lift to be "dumped" and the aircraft wing stalls - not a promising flight mode in any aircraft, let alone a big commercial ship.

Interestingly, the speed just before Vr (rotation speed) is V1. V1 is the speed after which the airplane is committed to flying, and stopping the aircraft on the runway after V1 has passed is generally not possible, or if possible carries extreme risk. V2 is takeoff safety speed with one engine out at take-off (which would suck for sure).

Your author does not know if they still call the flight deck or cockpit the "front office", but it should be called the "data center". For the most part, the flight management systems are in complete control of the aircraft just a few minutes after takeoff, say around 10,000 MSL. The flight management computers form a complex, interlinked, highly-available system, with backup systems every which way from Sunday, and if all else fails, there are "old school" manual instruments such as pressure-controlled altimeters, airspeed indicator, standby artificial horizon and so forth. In the business of Sun we work hard at high availability and redundancy, and commercial big-iron aircraft computer systems are wonderful examples of systems redundancy. On big-iron many failures would have to occur to endanger a flight because of the redundancy of systems, and the chances are extremely remote of such a sequence of failures occurring.

Route of flight today is Las Vegas - Albuquerque - Oklahoma City - Tulsa - Memphis and into the Atlanta arrivals (commercial flights are under "positive control" for most of the flight, including the "arrival", but the pilot-in-command can cancel IFR under certain conditions if landing is VFR - which won't be happening on today's flight). Flight time is scheduled for 3:13, not counting any arrival delays due to the low IFR in Atlanta. Conditions have improved since departing Las Vegas, but visibility is still less than 2 1/2 miles in mist and fog. These conditions will almost certainly eventuate an arrival delay. With low IFR, this might be a good time to use the auto-land - also at the discretion of the pilot-in-command. If there is very little wind, it might be advantageous to let the auto-land "ride" the glideslope and localizer all the way to the runway surface.

Flight cruise is scheduled for FL350 - pronounced "flight level three five zero", more or less 35,000 feet, but altimeters are set to 29.92 inches when aircraft fly above 18,000 feet, so FL350 is not exactly 35,000 feet, but with all aircraft using the same altimeter setting, the exactness of altitude does not really matter for separation and safety.

Over two and a half hours into the flight the aircraft began descending toward what looks to be a solid cloud layer.

On the ground, and at home. We were barely minimums on the approach. Great job by the boys up front.

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Sunday Nov 09, 2008

Delta 1085 ATL-LAS 09-NOV-2008. Be nice, people.

On Sunday, 09-NOV-2008, Delta Air Lines 1085 (ATL-LAS) was delayed leaving ATL (AKA the Delta Fortress). For whatever reason, Delta elected - or was forced by circumstances - to utilize a smaller B767 than had been originally dispatched for the flight to Las Vegas from Atlanta. The smaller aircraft had a different cabin configuration (from the standpoint of seating) than the aircraft passengers had expected. The different cabin configuration resulted in the gate area software "dumping" all seating assignments and apparently doing a "refresh" of those assignments. The change in seating resulted in passengers being assigned seats that may not have matched their boarding pass, and a number of passengers low on the upgrade list may not have been upgraded: there is a possibility that on the larger aircraft that was withdrawn from service they may have been upgraded.

Those are the facts. The PAX (sheeple) failed to respond to this news in what could be considered a deliberative, accepting way. A number of PAX took strong issue with the gate crew, failing to understand, or to care, that the gate crew had nothing whatsoever to do with what is known as a "change in equipment" or an "equipment change". There were a number of sharp words from PAX who failed to upgrade, even though they were on the upgrade list or queue and may (or may not) have been upgraded on the larger, original aircraft. The gate crew responded with blank, non-emotional faces and carefully considered responses to PAX, some of whom spoke more sharply than necessary, and others who tried to spin the situation into one where the gate crew deliberately targeted certain passengers for different seat assignments or removal from the upgrade list (queue). The gate crew does not target specific passengers - but I would not blame them in this case with certain a$$holes, and you know who you are.

The gate crew made responses that were long in content and explanation, and short in emotion - just as they should. The gate crew were professional in the utmost, in stark contrast to the PAX who failed to comport themselves in a way that a gentleman or gentlelady should in a public place, dealing with service-based employees. The gate crews' explanations of the nature of the delay, the change in equipment, and how that affected their operations were particularly impressive, and may have been targeted to assuage those PAX who were expecting a factual explanation of the scenario as it unfolded.

Be nice, people. Running an airline, being an employee of an airline, and trying to make sense and profit of an airline job in times of economic challenges is difficult enough. There is nothing to be gained from belittling airline employees, trying to force them to do what they cannot, or playing the "I am a frequent flyer" card. On that last, be assured that if you are a frequent flyer, the gate crew as well as the cabin crew on board the aircraft are well aware of that fact. The much-maligned business-frequent-flyer is oftentimes that most pleasant traveler, and the most polite and reasonable in adverse operational conditions - we know how the system works and we generally just sleep through any problems. Be nice, people. Your mother taught you better.

On board the aircraft after a 50 minute delay (be assured the craps tables will still be in place in Sin City even though the aircraft departure was delayed), the cabin crew was professional, quick, efficient. This obviously experienced cabin crew executed a delightful, pre-planned ballet that showed the tremendous training regimen Delta cabin crew undergo. There is nothing more pleasant than a routine, boring flight - trust me, the non-routine ones are not fun - and a cabin crew responding to adverse conditions with professionalism and thoughtfulness made up for the short delay. No one is flying to Vegas to connect to go someplace else, so give me a break on the delay.

The gate and cabin crew of Delta 1085, 09-NOV-2008 ATL-LAS deserves our thanks for a professional and pleasant 4 hour flight. A routine flight, with well-known and expected objectives, is a testament to the tremendous job done by the FAA, the NTSB, Delta Air Lines, and everyone else who contributes to a safe flight environment and a near 100% expectation of arriving where you set out to arrive, and a testament to the quality of flight from a safety and comfort perspective. Try finding another service-oriented business with similar objectives and results.

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Saturday Nov 08, 2008

InSeat AC Power

The last time I checked for InSeat AC power I was way off-base and so was the Delta attendant with whom I spoke before the flight. That last time was the last time I really needed power - the flight was ATL (The Delta Fortress) - CDG (Paris). According to Delta and SeatGuru, that aircraft had InSeat power, yet it did not. This trip is a much shorter one, ATL - LAS, but the B757 supposedly has InSeat power. We will see.

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Wednesday Aug 20, 2008

American Airlines WiFi offering

American Airlines is now offering WiFi in-flight on certain routes cross-country and New York - Miami. Soon we will be seeing tweets from passengers aboard commercial aircraft. To extend that in an interesting way, it would be useful to have the aircraft itself tweet about itself and its environment. In a way aircraft already tweet - actually that would be called "squawk": almost all aircraft have a transponder that transmits certain information automatically on a commanded frequency. For example, the transponder "tweets" altitude, which ATC uses for spacing and assignments. Extend that capability - if it hasn't been already - to have the aircraft tweet weather conditions. This capability would be a powerful enhancement to aircraft routing and give warning to other aircraft of undesirable invisible weather conditions like clear air turbulence, wind shear, and rotor waves.

Link: Reuters, Aviation.COM

Wednesday Aug 06, 2008

Free Internet in Hotels?

I am looking forward to the day when hotel properties chalk up internet service as a "cost of doing business". Charging guests for internet access is simply ridiculous. The other charges (heat-light-water) are nicely hidden in the rack rate - charging for internet access seems disingenuous. Tell us we are getting internet access for free and hide it in the rack rate. Have some subtlety.

I would go one step further: frequent business travelers, let's band together to boycott hotels that charge for internet access. Writing that felt good, made me feel like Samuel Adams getting ready to chuck some tea.

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Tuesday Jul 15, 2008

No time for coffee in the morning?

If there is no time for coffee before you leave in the morning, there is always Shock Soap.

Monday Jun 23, 2008


Having a surfeit of frequent traveler miles and points, often I cannot use them all. I donate quite a few, let my SO use some for conferences. You don't see mom in that list because my sister is a flight attendant, you figure it out. :)

One website I've found recently offers a listing of conferences that one might attend: GoingToMeet. This is also a good use of those millions of miles and points. GoingToMeet also offers RSS ... I don't have to go to the website at all, just check out the feeds in NetNewsWire.

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Wednesday Jun 11, 2008

Flying commercial, what a horrible experience ...

... for the airlines. Astonishingly, fuel costs are now greater than 50% of the price of a ticket in many cases for commercial aircraft. Running an airline has got to be one of the most difficult businesses. Ever. So when you bitch about airlines, delays, half-a$$ed airline employees, uncaring, unfeeling airline executives, and uncomfortable airplanes, put yourself in the place of the airline executive who is responsible to his shareholders.

I'm a very frequent flyer (Platinum Medallion on Delta, Platinum Marriott as usual), and am as critical as anyone of the shortcomings of air carriers, and when I think about fuel costs, scheduling, safety concerns, and everything else, I'm like Chris Rock: I don't approve, and I don't like it ... but I understand.

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Sunday Jun 08, 2008

squall line!

Today is 08-JUN-2008. Not surprisingly for this time of year, there is a long squall line stretching from Texas to Wisconsin tonight. Flights into Chicago after 2000 Central might be affected - just a guess, I have not looked at the TAF for ORD.

Why is this interesting and bloggable? One does not often see such a well-formed squall line. Note also how far ahead of the cold front the rain is in Iowa. The heavy rain (red) is close to the cold front (blue line with pips pointing east in the direction of travel of the front) through Kansas, northwestern Missouri, but diverges in Iowa.


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