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Planes, Planes, Planes (and Some Helicopters)…From My Wanderings

I know that my crews always think I am weird for taking pictures of every single plane we are near, but oh well.  It comes with being an avgeek.  I don’t share a lot of them because I am not really proud of my abilities at this point, but here are a few that I think are awesome.  Not because I took a great picture but because they are just cool shots and/or planes.

Just after a touch and go.

Just after a touch and go.

This is a prime example of a crosswind takeoff.

This is a prime example of a crosswind takeoff.

I recently saw an AOPA article about crosswind takeoffs and I thought these two images were a pretty dang good example of just what that is.  It was a pretty windy day when I took this, but these guys really took it to a pretty serious extreme.

Videos really do more justice to this amazing aircraft.

Videos really do more justice to this amazing aircraft.

The AH-1 Cobra has always been a favorite of mine from when I was in the Marine Corps.  One of my favorite experiences was having them line up behind me while driving through Camp Pendleton.  I tried my hardest to find a great video from early in Iraq that starts out with a Samuel L. Jackson quote from Pulp Fiction as a two ship takes-off into the distance but to no avail.  Nothing special in this shot, but an amazing aircraft.

These beauties will always be my earliest memories of airplanes and airports.

These beauties will always be my earliest memories of airplanes and airports.

As much as I love the new American Airlines livery, this will probably always be my favorite.  There is just something truly iconic about it, and is there another plane that is more American Airlines?

IMG_3371How intense would it be to see all of these guys firing up?

I only had my short lens on...

I only had my short lens on…

...fortunately, he came back around.

…fortunately, he came back around.

Not many F-4s are still flying these days, and it was awesome to see this one in the pattern one day.  I still think it is the loudest plane that I have ever been around.

If you look really closely there is a VC-25 and E-4 in this picture.

If you look really closely there is a VC-25 and E-4 in this picture.

Not a great shot, but there were two government 747s in town this time.  Neither of which you get to see very often.  You just never know what you will see when you are out and about at various airports.

September 2, 2015 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $140 Million for Contract Towers

The contract towers look like they will be getting funding for at least another year.  The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation approved $140 million intended to help fund these vital towers through the next fiscal year once the current stopgap measure expires later this year.

I don’t claim to know much about the way government works, though to be totally honest I’m not sure the people in government really know how it works either, but I really don’t understand why this whole tower issue has become such a problem.  I agree that there are some of these towers that need to be closed because they just don’t have the traffic to support a tower, but many of these towers provide critical support to larger airports.

It is clear that many of these politicians have no idea how the National Air Traffic System works.  It is not just the tower at one airport that affects its traffic.  Every tower in the area affects every other tower’s operation.  You start eliminating some of these towers, and they will see how adversely impacted the entire system will be.

The measure still has to get through the full House and the Senate, so lets hope that somehow they will get past the politics and make this funding a reality.

June 19, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Are Passenger Facility Charges the Answer to Airport Funding Problems?

I’m not sure if there is another industry that has started to nickel and dime its users more than aviation.  Some of these charges have already been implemented, and others have simply been proposed.  Airlines are now charging for food, checked baggage, and even for carry-ons in some cases.  Recently most of the major airlines also increased their flight change fees to $200, which was the same amount I paid for my last round-trip ticket in the first place.

Despite all of these new fees, and the simultaneous reduction in service, the airlines are still doing quite well.  Like many other industries, airlines will likely continue to increase fees and charges as much as the market will bear.  With the debatable success of all of these fees it is reasonable to question if airports couldn’t benefit from increasing these fees themselves.

In the past airports have relied heavily on the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) in order to fund major improvements like new runways, taxiways, or terminals.  However, as the cost of these improvements has increased there has not been a coinciding increase in funds.  Airports are having to get creative with ways to fund the projects they need because this previous source just isn’t cutting it.

One of these income sources are Passenger Facility Charges (PFC).  PFCs are currently capped by Congress at $4.50 but there is an increasing number of supporters trying to get that cap lifted.  The airports themselves are one of the biggest supporters of lifting the cap, but groups like AAAE are also lobbying hard to make this a reality.

I don’t know if PFCs are necessarily the answer, but it is time to give airports more ability to support themselves.  Congress has shown their complete ineptitude when it comes to pretty much anything, but especially when it comes to budgets and funding anything.  They need to get out of the way of the people who know how to fix problems and take care of their needs.

Whether it is PFCs or some other source, it is clear that airports need more funding to support their needs, let alone their wants.  What do you think, should Congress lift the cap on PFCs, or is there another way for airports to raise the money they need?

May 19, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Paine Field Aviation Day to Take Place May 18th; Some Free Intro Flights for Kids Available

Going to an airport at any time is an enjoyable experience for me.  I have spent countless hours just watching planes take off and land.  I am even cool with just sitting at home watching videos, looking at pictures, and even reading about planes.  In fact, just tonight instead of storytime with my son before bed, we watched videos of the F-35, F-16, and AC-130.  A much better use of time in my opinion.

This P-51 Mustang, Impatient Virgin, is just one aircraft that will be on display at Historic Flight Foundation during the event.

This P-51 Mustang, Impatient Virgin, is just one aircraft that will be on display at Historic Flight Foundation during the event.

But, when the opportunity does arise for a special event at an airport, it is important to take advantage of it.  One such event will be taking place this coming Saturday at Paine Field in Everett, WA.

The Paine Field Aviation Day will be taking place May 18th from 9am-5pm.  Paine Field is best known for being the home of the Boeing factory where they build 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft, but this Saturday the focus will be on the general aviation side of the house.  Here is a list of what to expect from the Paine Field Aviation Day Website:

  • All day Family Friendly Event
  • Average number of attendees 5,000 – 8,000
  • Annual Spring event has been occurring for over seventeen years in May
  • Aircraft from both the Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight Foundation fly throughout the day
  • Access to hundreds of vintage, warbirds, and new aircraft on display
  • Local Food and Beverage Vendors
  • Firefighters’ Fly Day 5k Run
  • Burn Center Charity Pancake Breakfast at the Paine Field Fire Department
  • Free Young Eagles introductory flights for kids ages 8-17 (seating limited)
  • Car collection and fire engine displays
  • Local non-profit organizations information booths
  • Access to the Flying Heritage Collection and Historic Flight Foundation collections
  • Free parking and shuttles
  • Seattle Seafair Pirates and Moby Duck
  • Kid Zone with bouncy houses, face painting, games and more
  • Take a flight, meet the pilots, see one-of-a kind aircraft, talk with the flight schools, enjoy some great food, and watch the thrilling flying demonstrations – all this and more!
"Grumpy", a B-25 bomber at Historic Flight Foundation will be joined by another B-25 from the Flying Heritage Collection on the other side of the runway.

“Grumpy”, a B-25 bomber at Historic Flight Foundation will be joined by another B-25 from the Flying Heritage Collection on the other side of the runway.

From what I gather this is not just a typical airshow, but is really designed to get people excited about aviation.  I don’t know if you noticed in the list of events there, but it mentioned free introductory flights for kids ages 8-17.  That is exactly the kind of opportunity that can spark a long career in aviation.

Admission is only $10 for adults, and is free for anyone under 17, which is hard to beat.  There will be all kinds of displays and booths for adults and kids.  Even if you aren’t a hardcore aviation nut like me, there will be lots of science stuff for kids, and it should just be an all around amazing event.

If you are able to go, leave a comment below and let me know how you enjoyed it.  You never know when something like this may turn into your new favorite hobby.

May 12, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

The United Arab Emirates Selects Airbus ProSky for Airspace Restructuring Study

Airspace utilization is becoming increasingly more important all over the world as flying becomes more popular.  One of the fastest growing areas is the Middle East where there is a lot of money from oil, and a continued effort to diversify their economy, especially in areas like tourism.

As part of their efforts to more efficiently use their airspace, United Arab Emirates'(UAE) General Civil Aviation Authority has hired Airbus ProSky. (Full details in the press release below.)  Airbus ProSky will create a report to make suggestions to enhance UAE airspace.

In what is a very wise move, they will base their findings on what they learn from current airport and airspace users, navigation service providers, as well as historical data.  It is all well and good to make changes to the system, but if they aren’t providing the improvements that are wanted, and needed, then it is just a waste of money.

The report will be released this summer, but it will obviously take much longer to implement any changes.  Hopefully, it will be more efficient than the US efforts to implement NextGen.

That has always been one of my biggest gripes about reports like this.  Studies are done to determine needs, but then not enough is done to implement those changes.  An old leader of mine always used to say, “After everything is said and done, a whole lot more is said than done.”

We have been talking about implementing NextGen for at least a decade, but we are still creeping along in the process.  Everyone knows what the benefits are, and what it will take to make it happen, but the politics of it all makes it take forever to implement.

Maybe someday we will be able to get past the politics of life to actually make things happen, and maybe it will take some of these other developing countries advancing ahead of us to make it happen.

Press Release

Airbus ProSky will take an important role in wide-ranging enhancements to United Arab Emirates airspace with its selection by the nation’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) for a restructuring study – which will lead the way for improved air traffic management, navigation procedures, aircraft technologies and more.

28 January 2013 The agreement was signed today at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Air Navigation Center. Under terms of this contract, Airbus ProSky – which is Airbus’ air traffic management subsidiary – will provide a comprehensive report based on its interaction with all airspace users, navigation service provides and United Arab Emirates airports, as well as on historical data.
Working in close coordination with the GCAA, Airbus ProSky will deliver the study and its proposed airspace enhancements this summer.

“It is very important to seek continuous enhancement of [United Arab Emirates’] airspace to better serve the increasing air traffic movement and to be at the forefront of air navigation services providers internationally,” said Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, Director General of the GCAA.

“We are pleased to announce this partnership with Airbus ProSky, known for its expertise in providing solutions to improve and accelerate ATM performance and providing a comprehensive look into the future,” added GCAA Executive Director of Air Navigation Services Ahmed Al Jallaf. “Their experience in flow management, Performance-Based Navigation, innovation and aircraft technologies make them a true partner to the GCAA for our future development.”

The Airbus ProSky subsidiary – which includes the Metron Aviation, Quovadis and ATRiCs companies – is committed to working side-by-side with air navigation service providers, aircraft operators and airport authorities to build a truly collaborative system with greater capacity, better performance and environmental sustainability for all stakeholders.

January 29, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Qatar Airways Flies New Navigational Approach into Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal

Aviation is a very interesting industry.  Aircraft contain some of the most advanced technology in the world.  Most of the new planes could quite literally land themselves in many cases.  Many aircraft now use fly-by-wire technology where the pilot uses a joystick that sends electronic commands to manipulate the plane’s control surfaces.

It is all absolutely amazing stuff, and a far cry from the wood and canvas Wright Flyer that started it all.  Yet with all of this new technology, most of the airways in the world are directed using decades old equipment.

VORs, TACANs, VORTACs, and even NDBs in some cases, are still used all over the world as radio navigation aids for these multi-million dollar jets.  Despite their age they still do an amazing job keeping the airways safe.  In tandem with air traffic controllers, they keep flying as the safest way to travel period.

Safety is of course at the top of the priority list, but creeping increasingly closer is money, and these old navigational aids don’t offer a whole lot to make flying more efficient.

Enter GPS.

GPS has been around for quite a while, and is already used in diverse ways in aviation.  However, it is not being used to its full capacity, and it is costing everyone money.

GPS has the ability to improve aircraft navigation in ways that will not only make flying more efficient, but make it safer for everyone involved.  Qatar Airways recently flew the first approach into Kathmandu’s airport in Nepal using a RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance – Authorisation Required) approach in an Airbus A320.  (Airbus’s press release of the occasion can be found below.)

The unique mountainous terrain of the region has always required complex, difficult approaches that can challenge even the most seasoned pilot.  Using this new approach pilots are able to reduce their workload leading to a much safer, and more efficient approach.  The increased efficiency is what makes this approach so valuable for every single airport out there.

The airports in the New York/New Jersey region are not exactly troubled with terrain issues, but it is some of the busiest airspace in the world.  By using the increased accuracy that GPS provides, these airports can utilize their airspace more efficiently, and in turn more safely.

Implementing these procedures is not as simple as having everyone turn on their GPS, but it is imperative that the newly confirmed FAA Administrator, Michael Huerta, do everything in his power to get these procedures in place immediately in order to further improve the safety of the industry, while at the same time providing some financial relief to the airlines.

Press Release
21 January 2013 A Qatar Airways-flown A320 has made this carrier the world’s first to operate an aircraft into the Nepalese capital’s Tribhuvan International Airport within the Himalayan mountain range using a new navigation approach.

The milestone flight took place with the Doha-based airline’s A320 performing an RNP-AR (Required Navigation Performance – Authorisation Required) approach to landing.  RNP-AR enables an aircraft to automatically fly accurate trajectories without relying on ground-based navigation aids, while also optimising airspace utilisation and reducing diversions in difficult weather conditions.

Located in Kathmandu, Tribhuvan International Airport has one of the world’s most complicated landing approaches due to surrounding challenging terrain at its location in the Himalayas.  Flying an RNP-AR approach considerably reduces pilots’ workload and allows them to take full benefit of the advanced navigation equipment installed in the Airbus A320 to easily circumnavigate difficult terrain.

Qatar Airways partnered with Quovadis, the Airbus-owned flight operations services company, and the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to design and implement the Kathmandu RNP-AR procedure.

Yannick Malinge, Airbus’ Senior Vice President and Chief Product Safety Officer, recognised Qatar Airways on the achievement.

“Airbus always promotes and supports initiatives contributing to improving safety. New technological capabilities like RNP allow aircraft to improve descent trajectory and reduce non-stabilized approaches,” Malinge explained. “Airbus would like to congratulate Qatar Airways and Nepal Authorities for the outstanding results achieved for this RNP-AR project in Kathmandu and we are delighted to have contributed to this major milestone.”

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said safety was the top priority for the airline. “We pride ourselves on adopting the latest technology across our fleet and operation to ensure we maintain our high standards, vital for any business of our nature,” he added.

January 21, 2013 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Is the TSA Finally on its Last Leg?

It is no secret that I am in no way a fan of the TSA.  I don’t feel like we are any safer today than we were before TSA came to exist.  There have been countless changes in the way screening takes place, but still there are numerous occurrences of dangerous items getting through security.

On top of the lack of improvement in security, it has become increasingly more difficult just to get through the checkpoints.  We have to take off jackets, belts, shoes, and anything else that may contain just about anything other than lint.  It seems crazy that we should have to plan our wardrobe around the security checkpoint at the airport.

Maybe less commonly noticed is the complete and utter idiocy of many of TSA’s measures.  When babies are showing up on the no-fly list something is wrong with the way that list is being generated.  This is merely one example of how messed up the entire organization is.

Apparently, all of the bureaucracy and BS that is the TSA may finally be coming to an end.  Christopher Elliott wrote a very informative post regarding a congressional hearing about the TSA last week.  It is one of the most straightforward descriptions of how messed up TSA is that I have ever read.

What it really comes back to is that the organization is a complete mess and change needs to happen.  Maybe now we will see some real change to make traveling better for everyone.

December 3, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Inaugural AAAE Airport Diversity Summit ‘Pathway to Prosperity’ Coming To Little Rock

Alexandria, Va. –  Creating and enhancing diversity in airports and their communities will be the focus of the inaugural Pathway to Prosperity Summit, November 14-16, 2012, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The summit, hosted by Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, will bring together airport and community leaders along with executives from minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs). Airports that receive federal funding are required to participate in the Department of Transportation’s DBE program. The program is a key driver in both airport and local economic development plans, giving opportunities to businesses that, because of their size or status, may not otherwise be able to participate in airport projects.

“A successful airport must serve the entire community including all the diverse members of the business community,” said Ron Mathieu, C.M., executive director of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport. “The goal of this summit is to educate airports on how to run a robust DBE program as well as identify the right opportunities for qualified businesses to engage in the program.”

The event will commence with a Wednesday night welcome reception at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum and continue with one and a half days of panels and educational sessions led by industry experts and thought leaders. The summit will take place at the Double Tree by Hilton Little Rock Hotel.

For more information on the summit, visit the official event website at http://ow.ly/dRLlx or contact AAAE Director, Training & Business Development Starla Bryant, CCA, at (703) 824-0500, Ext. 173 or starla.bryant@aaae.org.

ABOUT AAAE

Founded in 1928, AAAE (www.aaae.org) is the world’s largest professional organization representing the men and women who work at public-use commercial and general aviation airports. AAAE’s 5,000-plus members represent some 850 airports and hundreds of companies and organizations that support the airport industry. Headquartered in Alexandria, Va., AAAE serves its membership through results-oriented representation in Washington, D.C., and delivers a wide range of industry services and professional development opportunities, including training, conferences, and a highly respected accreditation program.

October 8, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Contract Towers: Saving Money and Providing Essential Service

With as much as I write about air traffic control you would think I was a controller or something.  The reality is that atc is just the hot topic in aviation these days.  After relatively little change in half a century, we are at a point where drastic changes are happening that will make the whole system for effective and more efficient.

One of the important sectors of the atc world is the contract tower program.  Through this program, smaller airports are able to hire contract air traffic controllers as opposed to those employed by the FAA.  This allows the tower to function at a lower cost, while still providing the essential service of air traffic control.

This is by no means a new service as it has been functioning for 30 years.  Over the last year, the 246 towers that are part of the contract tower program handled 14.8 million operations at a cost of $133 million.  That equates to handling 28% of all tower operations, while only using 14% of the FAA’s budget for tower operations.

In a time when the vast majority of government programs provide less with more, the contract towers are doing the exact opposite.  Despite their efficiency and effectiveness, the program is looking at changes coming from Congress as they look for places to cut costs everywhere.  Hopefully, Congress will see that this is one area that is already operating at a relatively low-cost for the services they provide.

Most people will never know if the controller handling their aircraft is part of the contract tower program, and that is the beauty of it.  These are FAA certified controllers that are getting the job done just as effectively, but at a lower cost.  It is absolutely essential that they be able to continue to provide these services at smaller airports so that safety can be maintained.

 

July 21, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

NextGen ATC: Creating Highways in the Sky

I have been a big fan of NextGen ever since I first heard about it a decade ago.  It just makes sense that creating more efficient routes would be good for business.  It saves time and money and is better for the environment.

It may not be quite as easy for those that are not familiar with aviation to understand the value of this new technology, but Steve Fulton of GE Aviation wrote a great piece that describes NextGen as creating “highways in the sky”.

It is really so simple that I can’t believe I haven’t seen the comparison before.  By streamlining the system it is unreal the amount of time, money, and fuel that can be saved.  According to Steve’s article, deploying these new routes at 46 regional airports across the country would result in the following savings: 12.9 million gallons of fuel, $65.6 million, 274.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and 747 days of time.

If those numbers don’t open your eyes to the value of the system, I don’t know what will.  Keep in mind, that is only at 46 airports, not including any of the major ones, and they are the ones that could use improved systems more than anyone else.

As we move forward with the implementation of NextGen and companies start to realize all of these savings, I hope it works to expedite the process even more.  They always say that money talks, and there is no industry where that is more true these days than in aviation.

July 18, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.