Monday, July 28, 2008

Qantas 747 Depressurization Culprit Found?

Investigators think an exploding oxygen bottle may have caused the hole in the fuselage which depressurized a Qantas 747 aircraft in-flight last week, forcing it to land in Manila. This seems eerily reminiscent of the ValueJet Flight 592 DC-9 crash back in 1996. Glad everyone on the Qantas flight was able to walk away from this incident unharmed.

Also, a Qantas 737 plane had to return to its origin in Adelaide today, after a minor problem was discovered with one of the landing gear doors. Qantas definitely seems to be having a bad week this week!

Mini-Review: Wilco E-Jets PIC

I know I promised this one a few weeks ago, but real life happens sometimes. I have finally had a chance to spend several hours flying around in the Wilco Publishing E-Jets PIC add-on, so I will now take the time to share a few of my impressions of the product.

Overall, I really like flying around in the E-Jet. For starters, here is a view of one of the JetBlue E-Jet liveries from the optional airliners pack, which contains extra liveries from McPhat Studios:



The E-Jet offers excellent flight performance: typical cruise speed is around Mach 0.80, and maximum cruise is around Mach 0.82. Service ceiling is 41,000, right up there with the Boeing 737 NG among others.

The avionics used in the E-Jets are among the most advanced around. One nifty feature is the use of touchscreen technology on the glass displays. Wilco has faithfully modeled this technology on the E-Jets add-on, as seen here:



Embraer uses the Honeywell Primus Epic avionics suite in the E-Jets. This is essentially an enhanced version of the same avionics suite seen in the ERJ and Cessna Citation X: the Honeywell Primus 1000. Among other things, the FMS bears a strong resemblance to the one seen in the ERJ:



One nice advantage of the E-Jets over the ERJ is the availability of an autothrottle. This makes speed management much more consistent.

The manual is a little on the thin side, even thinner than Wilco's manuals for the Airbus Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 products. It covers the basics and gets you up and flying relatively quickly, which is great for less experienced flyers. Wilco also throws in some tables for recommended Vr and Vapp speeds, which is a nice touch.

The E-Jets base pack comes with a respectable set of liveries, although they are not exhaustive. If you are more into flying the plane without worrying about bearing the colors of any airline in particular, then you can get by just fine with the base pack. On the other hand, the deluxe pack is only around $10 US more, and you get pretty much every airline known to fly (or planning to fly) the E-Jets to date. The deluxe pack has all the JetBlue variants for the E-190, for example, which I think is really fun.

When learning to fly a new add-on, I typically fly the same route over and over again several times to get the hang of the plane. This allows me to spend more time getting familiar with the plane's systems, and less time worrying about routing. When I lived in Texas, I used to fly KAUS-KDFW and KAUS-KIAH a lot. For the E-Jets add-on, I decided to simulate KLGB-KSJC in a JetBlue livery on several occasions. This is one of the shortest E-Jets flights that JetBlue operates out of Long Beach. It took me a few tries to fully get the hang of the behavior of the autopilot, but it is very nicely done.

The FMS uses the same navigation database as Wilco's other recent add-ons, so if you subscribe to the navdata updates from Navigraph, the updated information will appear in the E-Jets FMS as well. The FMS does a very nice job of handling terminal procedures. My descents into KSJC were practically effortless.

I have just a few complaints:
  1. The E-Jets add-on is a major resource hog, at least with FSX. If you have anything less than a state-of-the-art CPU, plenty of RAM, and a top-notch video card, you may have a less than satisfactory experience flying this particular plane. My GeForce 8600 GS (admittedly not the best) really struggled to keep up at times. You can dial down some of the FPS settings in the E-Jets configurator, but this trade-off comes at the cost of increased visual stuttering -- particularly on the gauges.

  2. Elements of the 2D panel tend to be very cramped at 1280x1024, as seen in the following image:



    I know there is a lot of data to present, but I wish they could have devised a way to space it out a little more. Some of the text in the glass displays tends to be rather small to read as a result. This can be mitigated some by right-clicking on each glass display to bring up a zoomed-up version of the display, but this is kind of irritating in flight:



  3. Related to the above, the center console 2D panel is hideously cramped:



    I wish they would have just broken this up into multiple, larger 2D panels as seen on many other add-ons.
On the other hand, the 3D virtual cockpit is beautiful. You may actually get a more satisfying experience flying with it, rather than the 2D panel:



Bottom line: I found the Wilco E-Jets add-on to be a really fun plane to fly once you get the hang of it. If you have a system beefy enough to handle it, it is well worth the beans to get hold of this one. Were it not for the minor issues and resource constraints, I would rate this one even higher.

Overall rating: ****

New CoolSky Super 80 Pro Manuals Online

Whoa! The Super 80 Pro manuals have made their appearance today!

Espen √ėijordsbakken says the Super 80 Pro will be out "within days."

You can also pick up some forum signature banners for the Super 80 Pro, which CoolSky made available last week.

Wilco E-Jets PIC v1.1 Update

Wilco Publishing has released an update for the E-Jets add-on. Go pick up version 1.1 from here if you need it. No word on what this update fixes, but I am sure it probably addresses a lot of bugs people have been complaining about since the product was released.

You will have to reinstall all your additional E-Jets liveries (including those from the airliners pack) once you apply this update.

Wilco's site indicates that their staff is going on holiday for much of August, so I suspect further developments on the E-Jets and other products will be quiet until the autumn.

I know I promised a mini-review of the E-Jets add-on, and I am planning to get to it shortly. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yikes!

According to CNN, a Qantas Boeing 747-400 popped open in flight, forcing an emergency landing in Manila. The article includes a picture of the hole. Fortunately, the plane was able to safely land without any injuries to the passengers and crew.

Mini-Review: Flight1 Pilatus PC-12

I have been checking out the Pilatus PC-12 add-on from Flight1 lately. It is a rather unique bird in some respects -- a pressurized, single-engine turboprop capable of seating up to nine. It is intended for economical corporate or even regional airline short-haul operations. Wikipedia has a nice writeup of the plane with additional details.

First, let us start off with a couple of exterior views of our specimen. Here is a daytime shot in heavy rain:



Next, a night shot:



One of the beautiful things about Flight Simulator is that you have the ability to do crazy -- nay, insane -- things that would normally get you killed in real life. For example, I once tried flying the AirTrike Ultralight upside down, just to see if it could be done. In this particular case, we are going to take a flight from the Brazoria County Airport (KLBX) in Angleton, TX to Valley International Airport (KHRL) in Harlingen, TX. Ordinarily, this would be no big deal. However, if you have been following the news lately, you may have noticed that Hurricane Dolly came ashore in the immediate vicinity yesterday. The storm was still well offshore at the time this flight was performed, but the winds and rain were definitely picking up.

The PC-12 climbs effortlessly through 9,000 ft. up toward cruise level of 24,000 ft. as seen here:



I think aspects of the 2D panel are rather well done, such as the glass gauges. Clicking on them brings up a magnified version:



Furthermore, clicking on the OBS brings up another panel allowing you to change the course and heading settings. This minimizes keystrokes and makes life easier while flying.

Here is a daytime shot of the 2D panel:



Here are a few more interior shots, including the virtual cockpit and the radio/navigation stack:





The GPS navigation on the radio panel is very reminiscent of the built-in FSX GPS unit. Which makes perfect sense, as both units are simulated versions of Garmin products. Some of the features on the GPS unit seem a little byzantine to me, but I confess I have not taken much time to fully explore these yet.

My only irritation with this plane is the simulation of the rocker switch governing the altitude and vertical speed settings on the autopilot. This switch does not recognize use of the scroll wheel to increase or decrease the setting, which is almost second nature with these gauges on the planes I fly. Having to click one side of the rocker switch dozens of times to increase or decrease the setting gets really tedious.

Bottom line: this plane reminds me of a single-engine version of a Beech 1900 or King Air, only cooler. It seems a lot like the built-in FSX aircraft on steroids. The price ($33 US) is fairly reasonable as far as payware aircraft go. For a nice GA aircraft, this one is a lot of fun. I can't honestly say too many bad things about it. Another quality product from Flight1.

Rating: ****

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oops!

Wonder if this pilot forgot to set his parking brake?



Actually, this is a screwup in some of the add-on scenery in my FSX installation.

(Disclaimer: this is a screenshot from a recent session of FSX. It does not depict a real-life situation in any way. I have never flown with flyBe, but they seem like a nice airline, and I would not have any reservations about flying with them if I lived in the U.K.)

A New Preflight Ritual?

This is an oldie, but I just happened to run across it while surfing the web last night. Last year, officials with Nepal Airlines sacrificed two goats next to a Boeing 757 prior to takeoff. It seems that the plane had been beset with a number of technical difficulties up to that point, and the sacrifice was deemed necessary to appease the Hindu god governing aviation. Apparently it worked, as the plane successfully completed a flight to Hong Kong after taking off.

Hmmm. I'll have to remember this next time my computer breaks!

Northwest Airlines: New Adventures in Flying

If you fly with Northwest Airlines, you seem to have an above-average chance of ending up somewhere other than your advertised destination of late. Northwest Airlines made several emergency landings recently:
  • A Northwest DC-9 landed in Madison, WI on Monday due to a pressurization problem. (They really are still flying those things?)
  • This weekend, spectators at an airshow in Dayton, OH were treated to an extra spectacle as a Northwest 757 made an emergency landing there after an engine failed.
Given some other recent incidents involving Northwest Airlines airplanes, you have to wonder if they are just having a run of bad luck, or more systemic problems?

For what it's worth, my family and I were stranded at PDX for nearly 12 hours last month due to a malfunction of a Northwest 757 there. Not exactly encouraging...

Some Quick Hits

I am back online again today. Couldn't blog much last week due to various issues, including family illness and work-related items.

Lots of airline news while I was away. Here is a quick rundown:
  • Delta, United, US Airways, and American all lost megabucks in Q2. JetBlue also hit a rough patch. But the financial news for the airlines isn't universally terrible -- Continental almost broke even, and Southwest is expected to announce a small profit on Thursday. Northwest announces Q2 results tomorrow, and if my math is correct, analysts think the loss will be somewhere around the $100 million-$200 million range, excluding one-time items.
  • Midwest Airlines is privately-held by TPG Capital, which means its finances are not publicly disclosed. However, it announced major cuts last week, including 40% of its workforce and termination of service in many markets. The head of Midwest's pilots' union thinks the carrier may be headed for a Chapter 11 filing soon.
  • Regional carrier Pinnacle Airlines extended its deal with Delta to fly as Delta Connection. Pinnacle also operates as Northwest Airlink, so this deal makes a great deal of sense once the Delta-NWA merger goes through. Related to this, Delta is ending its regional carrier contract with Mesa Airlines as well. Not terribly surprising, as Mesa did not account for a huge percentage of Delta's regional traffic.
  • Northwest Airlines is touting new service between LAX and Milwaukee. This is sort of interesting as Milwaukee is not one of NWA's traditional hubs. Then again, NWA runs quite a few direct point-to-point flights out of PDX and SEA as well.
  • JetBlue also announced new service from PDX to Long Beach, CA using Embraer E-190 jets. This announcement is in contrast to a number of cuts in capacity announced by JetBlue, including pulling out of Ontario, CA altogether. Still, this is some good news for PDX, which is losing Mexicana and some Horizon routes to some smaller Oregon cities.
Continental operates one of the most state-of-the-art short-haul fleets, having retired all their MD-80s by 2005. All those fuel-efficient 737NG planes are probably a big factor saving their bacon right now. The airlines which still fly lots of MD-80s, including American, Delta, and Midwest, are really getting pinched on fuel costs right now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wilco E-Jets Airline Pack Issue

When I installed the Wilco E-Jets Airline Pack containing the extra liveries from McPhat Studios, I encountered a minor issue when starting up Flight Simulator. I got a message about "more than one object exists" for the Northwest Airlines E-170 livery. It turns out that this is a minor issue in McPhat's additions to the aircraft.cfg file, which is easily fixed. If you get this message, simply pull up Airplanes/feelThere PIC E170/aircraft.cfg (FS9) or SimObjects/Aircraft/feelThere PIC E170/aircraft.cfg (FSX) in notepad, and scroll down to the section starting with [fltsim.43]. Change the line that says:

title=Embraer 170 Northwest

To:

title=Embraer 170 Northwest mcp

Then save and exit. Restart Flight Simulator, and it should be happy now.

Hopefully Wilco and McPhat will fix this issue soon.

Wilco E-Jets First Flight

I took a test flight in the new Wilco Publishing E-Jets add-on today. Overall, I think it is a really nice add-on. My only complaint is that the 2D panel is a bit cramped, making some of the text -- in particular, the labels on the buttons -- rather difficult to read. Otherwise, it is a really fun plane to fly. I will do a more in-depth review soon, but here is a teaser screenshot from a quick flight I took from Chicago-O'Hare to Indianapolis:



This is a United Express E-175, operated by Shuttle America. I picked this particular route because of some thunderstorms that happened to be moving through Chicago at the time. The E-Jet simulates weather radar in realtime, and I thought it would be a good venue to test it out. Sure enough, it worked great.

More screenshots and an in-depth mini-review soon, I promise!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Flying Into Chicago-Midway

Just can't resist posting a few more snapshots. I was lucky enough to get an approach to Runway 22L at Chicago-Midway airport, so I got to do a nice flyby of the Loop en route.

Here is a view toward the south of the lakefront. Notice Soldier Field and the Adler Planetarium as well. The peninsula is the site of the former Meigs Field, a small airport that had been used primarily for corporate aviation interests in the Loop. It was also notable for being the default starting point for aircraft in the original Flight Simulator game, over 20 years ago. Mayor Daley had the airport razed and turned into a park in 2003:



Here is the Sears Tower, currently the tallest building in the U.S. At one time, it was also the tallest building in the world:



The perspective here is pretty cool -- almost makes it look like we are going to fly right into the antennae, doesn't it? Actually, the plane is about a thousand feet above them.

Flying Into Washington-Reagan (National)

Here are a couple of really cool screenshots I took on a simulated approach into Washington-Reagan (National) Airport (KDCA). The plane is a Midwest Airlines MD-80, using Flight1/CoolSky's excellent add-on for FSX with stock scenery:





Here I am flying over the Pentagon on final for Runway 15. Is this allowed in real-life, post 9/11? I haven't flown into DCA in almost 20 years, so I have no idea. Runway 15 is quite short, at less than 5500 ft. long. However, the lightly-loaded MD-80 has no trouble stopping in time.

I believe most commercial traffic into and out of DCA uses Runway 1-19, if I am not mistaken. It is definitely the longest runway there, at almost 7000 ft.

Landing on Runway 19 and taking off on Runway 1 pose some interesting challenges. The entire airspace over the Mall in Washington D.C. (home of the U.S. Capitol and numerous other important buildings) is prohibited up to 18,000 ft., so flying over it on landings and departures at DCA is not allowed. Violating this airspace is a good way to become acquainted with a few fighter jets which will hurriedly scramble to confront you. In essence, when landing at DCA on Runway 19, aircraft have to roughly follow the Potomac River and then make a hard right turn to line up with Runway 19 at the last minute for landing. Takeoffs on Runway 1 are less tricky, as they involve simply making a sharp bank to the left to avoid the prohibited airspace.

DCA is the smallest of the three airports that serve the greater Washington-Baltimore megalopolis, but it also happens to be the closest and most convenient airport to the center of Washington D.C. itself.

Enjoy!

AdSense Content Observations

Per Google's AdSense policy, I don't want to draw any unwarranted attention to their ad banner on the right-hand side of the blog. When I envisioned this blog, I actually went back and forth as to whether I should even have any advertising on the blog at all. In the end, I decided to try it -- I don't know that I will make a whole lot off of it, but whatever I do make will go directly into flight simulation products that I can discuss here. I stress that the reader should only click on an ad if there is a legitimate interest in the product or service being offered.

That said, I have noticed some interesting trends regarding the selection of ads on the banner over the last few weeks. It started out pretty much as I expected -- ads regarding flight simulation, flight training, and airfares to PDX (where I live). Then I started commenting more about some bad news in the airline industry this week, and a whole bunch of ads regarding stress relief started appearing. Now today, it just seems totally random, though in particular, I have noticed a bunch of ads regarding anti-spyware products. I'm not sure what to make of that, though I know the AdSense ad selection is based on an algorithm that interprets site content whenever Google's web crawler spiders the site on a routine basis. Did I manage to totally confuse the ad selection algorithm with my blog? Heh!

I suppose if ads for "male enhancement" products begin appearing, then maybe I should check into some of those stress relief products... ;-)

(Then again, hopefully this won't become a self-fulfilling prophecy!)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

How Did I Miss This One?

Flight1 has a really slick-looking Fokker F70/F100 add-on, developed by a German outfit known as Digital Aviation. This is an "early adopters" release which lacks a few features -- most notably, the 3D virtual cockpit. If you can live without that for now, the 2D panel looks great. It can be had for $49.95 USD, although the price will go up later for the full release. Early adopters get a free update to the full version when it is released, so it looks like a good deal.

The Fokker planes have largely fallen out of favor in the U.S. over the last several years or so, as the airlines here have tended to favor the regional airliners like the Bombardier (Canadair) CRJ and Embraer ERJ/E-Jet series instead. American, US Airways, and America West all previously flew F100 planes for a time. I understand the F70/F100 planes are still wildly popular in Europe and Latin America today, though.

More Fees, Less Fun for Travellers

The hits just keep on coming. More austerity measures from various airlines in the name of survival:
  • According to CNN, Northwest Airlines is going to follow the lead of American, US Airways, and United and start charging $15 extra for the first checked bag. On top of that, pink slips are going out to 2,500 people.
  • CNN also reports that US Airways is removing in-flight entertainment from their flights.
I do have to say, I have flown US Airways a lot over the last year, and I have never been on a plane that offered in-flight entertainment. I have only flown on their ex-America West 737-300 and A320 planes, though. Did only the legacy US Airways (pre-merger) planes have in-flight entertainment? Or is this only present on their bigger planes, such as the 757s?

Ugh, US Airways is rapidly becoming no fun to fly with. First the extra bag charges, then they started charging for all in-flight refreshments. I understand they have to do what they have to do to survive, but it seems like they are just nickel and diming us to death. Just raise fares by $50 each way and get it over with.

The checked bag charge in particular really gets me. Other than people flying on the Delta Shuttle between New York and Boston for same-day business, who travels without clothes? Sure, if you are just going somewhere for a day or two, your clothing will fit just fine in a carry-on. However, I read recently that American in particular is cracking down on carry-on luggage, and if your bag doesn't fit in the little box at security, then be prepared to check that sucker and fork over the extra $15. It seems like the cost involved to police this would offset any gains realized by the $15 fee. So why not just slap on the extra $15 to the cost of the ticket and be done with it?

I don't get it.

RIP ExpressJet "Branded"

The airline woes continue. ExpressJet has decided to cease flying its independent operations as of September 2, according to a the Austin American-Statesman. On top of that, Delta announced last week that they are ending their contract with ExpressJet to operate as Delta Connection to various cities in the western U.S. So as of September 2, ExpressJet will only operate flights branded as Continental Express.

I have seen ExpressJet employees refer to the independent operations as "branded" to distinguish them from the Continental Express (and other) operations. A few years ago, ExpressJet decided to use some of their spare ERJs to serve point-to-point routes between mid-sized cities that did not directly compete with routes served by their Continental Express routes. A whole bunch of these flights were based out of places like Austin -- by the summer of 2007, ExpressJet served around a dozen cities non-stop from Austin. Unfortunately, this seems to be a business model that worked when oil was trading at around half of its current value, but not anymore.

I have heard it said that it actually costs the airlines less money to idle their ERJs on many routes than to actually fly them full of passengers. Fuel costs are insane these days.

Best of luck to the ExpressJet folks. I have a feeling that more than a few jobs are going to be lost as a result of this.

Breaking News: Wilco Publishing E-Jets Now Available!

Just checked over at the Wilco Publishing site, and their E-Jets add-on was just released today! It will be arriving in my hangar shortly. I will post my impressions here within the next day or so.

For those of you who, like me, will be shopping from the U.S. and paying in U.S. Dollars, here are the current exchange rates at the moment:

Base pack: €30.52 = $48.00
Deluxe pack: €37.15 = $58.43

Perhaps a little pricey, but roughly in line with other great add-ons such as the Level-D 767 and the Flight1/CoolSky Super 80. Hopefully the quality will be on par with those as well.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Southwest to Partner with WestJet on Canada Flights

According to Reuters and various other sources, Southwest Airlines is planning a codeshare agreement with Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet. WestJet follows a very similar model as Southwest in Canada: an all-737 fleet operating point-to-point service between various cities in Canada, as well as a few U.S. cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Given that Southwest happens to have a heavy presence in both of those cities as well, this pairing could work out rather well. Canada is typically a more expensive destination for U.S. fliers than many domestic destinations, so deals like this to open up more affordable access to Canada are a good thing.

I have heard some good things about WestJet, although I have never flown with them myself. Like Frontier Airlines in the U.S, WestJet offers LiveTV satellite service on all their flights within Canada. If they started up service to Chicago-Midway, Denver, or Baltimore/Washington, this deal would be absolutely killer.

Follow-Up: FAA Denies Bird Strike on Northwest 757

Saw this on Fox News on TV while ago: the FAA is denying that the nose cone collapse of the Northwest Airlines 757 in Tampa yesterday was caused by a bird strike. I haven't seen this in print anywhere yet, though. If true, I guess it points to a structural failure of the nose cone. A bit disconcerting...

Follow-Up: Obama Flies ExpressJet

After getting stuck at the St. Louis airport for several hours yesterday, U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama and his entourage managed to score an ExpressJet ERJ-145 to take them on to Atlanta, according to Fox News. Good thing it was a relatively short flight, given that they had to cram it full. Those small ERJ planes (not the larger E-Jets) are like flying sardine cans...they make the CRJ planes look positively spacious by comparison.

Fox is also reporting that Obama and crew have flown on to Washington, DC aboard another Midwest MD-80 today. Apparently everything is routine so far -- no mention of any more spontaneous emergency slide deployments in-flight this time around.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Mountain's Out

With all the bad news with the economy and airlines going around lately, I figured it was time for a little pick-me-up. So thanks to KATU in Portland, here is a nice view of Mt. Hood from their webcam in Hood River, OR. Indeed, it is a beautiful, cool, sunny day here in the Pacific Northwest today. Enjoy!



I love the flight pattern into PDX from the east, as the you usually get an up close and personal view of Mt. Hood as you fly by in the daytime, if the weather cooperates.

Frontier Airlines in Bad Shape

According to the Denver Post, Frontier Airlines' financial situation has deteriorated rapidly over the last few months. High fuel prices and increasing competition from Southwest at Denver International Airport are really squeezing them hard right now. They are apparently planning to shed more planes, routes, and jobs in a valiant effort to survive.

I hope they are successful. I have flown Frontier a few times, and it was a smooth, enjoyable experience nearly every time. My kids really like their liveries, with the large pictures of animals on the tails. We would be very sad if they went under.

Obama's MD-80 Diverted to St. Louis

According to CNN, a Midwest Airlines flight carrying U.S. Presidential candidate Barack Obama en route to a campaign stop in North Carolina had to divert to St. Louis after the pilot reported a mechanical issue. The pilot reported a "control ability issue" issue in the "pitch" of the plane. Fortunately, the pilot reported that he had maintained "full authority of the aircraft."

Eeek, this sounds eerily similar to the Alaska Airlines MD-80 plane crash off the coast of California back in 2001, when the jackscrew in the tail stabilizer failed. Glad nobody was hurt in this one.

Just for fun, I have been simulating a few of Obama's recent flights using a Midwest Airlines livery with Coolsky/Flight1's excellent Ultimate Airliners: Super 80 add-on. Fun stuff.

Update: here is the track of the flight at FlightAware. Looks like it never really headed in the direction of North Carolina to begin with. Wonder how soon into the flight the problem was discovered?

Update 2: According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an emergency slide partially deployed unexpectedly in the rear of the plane, which affected the pilot's ability to maintain the pitch of the aircraft. The pitch problem was apparently discovered relatively soon after takeoff from Chicago-Midway. In the meantime, Mr. Obama awaits another plane to STL to take him on to his next stop. I guess airline delays happen to even the best of us!

Kalitta Air 747 Cargo Plane Crashes in Colombia

More bad news for the Kalitta family. CNN is reporting that a Kalitta Air 747 cargo plane has crashed near Bogota, Colombia. None of the 8 crew members on board are reported killed, but two souls on the ground weren't so lucky. Prayers for all involved.

It sure has been a tough stretch for the Kalitta family of late. First, another Kalitta Air 747 crashed and broke apart back in May in Brussels after aborting a takeoff. Then Scott Kalitta was tragically killed a few weeks ago in a racing accident. Now this. I sincerely hope things turn around for them soon.

Ironically, both this plane and the USA Jet plane that crashed in Mexico yesterday were based at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Northwest Airlines 757 Nose Cone Caves In

Lots of aviation news today. First of all, a Northwest Airlines 757 suffered a bizarre incident in which the nose cone caved in during flight, according to CNN. A spokesman for the airline claimed that this was a "minor maintenance issue" and a "very rare occurrence."

I don't know about you, but structural failure in flight is, at the very least, rather disconcerting. Minor? Uh, guys, if you say so...

There is some speculation over at airliners.net that this happened due to a bird strike, although this is not yet confirmed. Then again, another Northwest 757 apparently had to divert to Las Vegas back in April when it lost part of a wing panel. Are they having some maintenance issues, or just a run of bad luck?

Update: a spokesperson at Tampa International Airport confirms that it was a bird strike. Must have been a big bird...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

USA Jet Cargo Airliner Crashes in Mexico

According to CNN, a USA Jet DC-9-15 cargo plane crashed in Mexico en route to Monterrey. The pilot has died, and the co-pilot is reported to be badly burned. Prayers for all involved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A (Virtual) Trip to Sweden

I took a little flight on a SAS Scandinavian MD-80 from Stockholm-Arlanda to Luleå, in the far north of Sweden. Screenshots and narrative are available here. Enjoy!

More Service Reductions at PDX

The news for the airline industry has been almost universally bad lately, with a perfect storm of both soaring fuel costs and a sputtering economy. The same scenes have been playing out repeatedly almost everywhere -- airlines are trimming service, reducing capacity, and implementing other cost-cutting and revenue generation actions. My hometown airport (Portland International Airport, aka PDX) just got hit with some more bad news to this effect today. A few weeks ago, Mexicana announced it would pull out of PDX altogether, ending daily nonstop service to Mexico City and Guadalajara. Now, Horizon Air announces that it will end service altogether to two Oregon cities: Klamath Falls and North Bend/Coos Bay. (The latter should not be confused with Bend, OR which is actually served by Roberts Field in nearby Redmond.)

I suspect this is likely some fallout from United Express announcing new nonstop service from both of these cities to San Francisco beginning this month. There probably just isn't enough demand there to justify daily flights to both Portland and San Francisco from these small cities.

In addition, Horizon also plans to end service between PDX and Pendleton, OR. However, Horizon wants to fly from Pendleton to Seattle and Walla Walla, WA instead. Horizon points out that you could still fly to Seattle and catch a connection to Portland there. I suspect not many people will take them up on this one, since it would probably be faster to just jump on I-84 and drive a couple of hours west to Portland. Then again, maybe this will work out better for the folks out in Pendleton, as there are more direct national and international destinations available from Seattle.

In happier news, Northwest recently announced new service from PDX to Lihue (Kauai), HI. PDX already had nonstop service to Honolulu and Kahului (Maui), so this adds a third direct destination to Hawaii now. Given how dreary the winters can be in the Pacific Northwest, these are no doubt very popular flights.