Saturday, February 28, 2009

Travelogue: Day 7 - Atlanta, Georgia to Chicago, Illinois

Today we depart one of the busiest airports in the world -- Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta -- for another: O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. With one cold front dumping snow over Tennessee, and another one dumping snow in Chicago, this promises to be a rather bumpy adventure! Fasten your seat belts, and prepare to enjoy the ride.

We are directed to Hartsfield's Runway 27L for takeoff. As we depart the cargo area, we see the passenger terminals across the airfield. Hartsfield is a major hub for Delta Air Lines, so it is no surprise that we see quite a few Delta planes parked at the gates here:

Soon, we are cleared for takeoff. As we ascend into the clouds, the passenger terminals at Hartsfield remain barely visible behind us. Notice how they are lined up in neat little rows: they are linked together by an underground train system.

Trivia: the passenger terminals at Denver International Airport are based on this same design used at Hartsfield, and are also linked by an underground train system. Denver is on our upcoming itinerary, so stick around!

Quickly we turn north toward Chicago. Atlanta and its vast expanse of suburbs are somewhere down there below the clouds:

We soon climb above the clouds. Somewhere down there in Tennessee, lots of snow is falling:

Farther north into Kentucky, you can see quite a lot of snow on the ground. The ground will be covered in the white stuff from here the rest of the way to Chicago:

Looking down through the clouds off to our left, we can sort of make out Indianapolis down there:

We are almost at the top-of-descent point into O'Hare now. Here you can see Lake Michigan, and vast expanse of Chicagoland on its western shore:

We are directed to land on Runway 14L at O'Hare. This is kind of a bummer, as this runway is almost 180° around the other side of O'Hare from our approach! We will have to practically fly over O'Hare as we circle around to get on the approach for 14L. Oh well, maybe we will see something interesting along the way. Then again, given the weather, maybe not. Here we see some of Chicago's neighborhoods down below as we descend:

Fasten your seat belts, as things are getting a little bumpy here. We are descending through some snow showers as we line up on final for 14L:

Ah, there is 14L ahead of us at last. We lower the flaps and gear, and prepare to set this bird down:

In spite of the heavy snow, we touch down on 14L without any trouble at all. Interestingly, ATC directed an American flight to land on 4R (which crosses 14L) as we were touching down, so we better hurry and get off the runway:

O'Hare is a major hub for both American and United Airlines. Not surprisingly, we can see quite a few American planes here. O'Hare also happens to be a very popular destination for many international carriers. Here we slide into a spot right next to a Korean Air Lines 747:

Look at all the snow! Quite a contrast from the warm Brazilian sun several days ago. Get your warm woolies on, and let's go throw some snowballs! Later on, we can go out for some world-famous Chicago deep dish pizza. Good times!

Total flight time: 1:32

Next: on to "Beantown!"

Wilco ERJ v2 Sneak Peak

This one was posted a few weeks ago, but I missed it up to now! Enjoy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Pay toilets on airplanes? Ridiculous. I know Ryanair's business model is still sell you a seat on the plane and charge for everything else, but this is crazy. I've never flown on Ryanair, as I live over on the U.S. side of the Big Pond. I think I'll avoid flying with any airline that ever tries this, though. Or else, bring a baggie and a blanket for privacy...

Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 Crashes

I know this one happened a few days ago...sorry, I am a little behind. Have not had time to blog for a few days. Condolences to all affected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Travelogue: Day 6 - Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia

I know Miami is a blast, but unfortunately, the time has come to move on. Never fear -- we will be paying a visit to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport nearby very soon. However, we must move on to Atlanta today. Here we taxi toward Runway 8L at Miami International Airport:

We are headed to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Hartsfield-Jackson is Delta's premier hub, and by most measures, one of the busiest airports in the world. It also serves as a major hub for the low-cost carrier AirTran.

Before long, we are airborne! We zoom past the Miami skyline and sweep left over Biscayne Bay toward the north:

Before long, we are over swampy south Florida. Here is Lake Okeechobee:

In a few more minutes, we cruise over lots of little lakes. Orlando is down there somewhere. Everybody wave to Mickey Mouse as we fly overhead!

A little west of Jacksonville, we turn northeast and head toward Atlanta. The Atlantic Ocean is behind us:

Somewhere over central Georgia, we begin our descent toward Atlanta:

Here we line up for a final approach on Runway 27L. Too bad Hartsfield-Jackson's new Runway 10/28 has not made an appearance in Flight Simulator yet...

We park at the cargo terminal just off Runway 9R/27L. Across the airfield, some of Hartsfield-Jackson's passenger terminals are visible:

Help yourselves to a Coca-Cola and some peaches! Next stop: Chicago.

Total flight time: 1:20

Travelogue: Day 5 - Houston, Texas to Miami, Florida

Today we move on from Houston to Miami. We will hug the Texas and Louisiana coasts for a while, then swing out over the Gulf of Mexico for a bit. We'll come back ashore south of Tampa, cross the Everglades, and land at Miami.

Here we taxi past a couple of American Airlines MD-80s. Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport is primarily a hub for Continental Airlines, but American does offer service from Houston to its major hubs, including DFW and Chicago O'Hare:

Here is a scene much more typical at Intercontinental: lots of Continental Airlines aircraft. mainline Continental is an all-Boeing shop, and you will see every type of modern Boeing in their fleet (except the 747) at Houston if you stick around long enough: 737, 757, 767, and 777. Looks like mostly just some 737s in this shot:

At Runway 27, we get ready to take off. I'm not sure if a 747 could pull this off in real life, as there is a large cargo terminal at the west end of 27. But in Flight Simulator, it's no problem. :)

We circle around to the southeast, and the impressive Houston skyline is visible below:

Here we head out to the Gulf of Mexico over Galveston Bay. Bolivar Peninsula and Galveston Island are the only things separating us from the Gulf at this point:

We are just over the Gulf now, hugging the shoreline for a while. At roughly the mouth of the Mississippi, we turn southeast toward Florida.

Water, water everywhere:

At least we have a nice tailwind to blow us along! Our bird gets up close to 600 kts KIAS at cruise. We'll be arriving there in hardly any time at all:

Sure enough, the Florida Gulf Coast appears ahead of us:

As we fly over the Everglades, we begin our descent into Miami. Looking over to our left, we see the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. (We will be paying this airport a visit later on in our tour.) Off in the distance, we see the Atlantic Ocean:

Interestingly, ATC has given us an approach on Runway 12, the crosswind runway at Miami. I am not sure how often this happens in real life, but what the hey!

We touch down effortlessly and taxi to parking:

Here are some of the passenger terminals at Miami. Miami is a major hub for American Airlines, which they acquired when they bought up some of the former assets of Eastern Airlines when that airline went under. Miami is an important gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America for American Airlines. Here, we actually see a varied assortment of airlines represented here, including Northwest, Continental, and AeroMexico:

We pull into a parking spot at the cargo terminal for now. Next to us is an ABX Air 767. A DC-10 freighter sits behind us, as well. Miami is also an import cargo gateway between the U.S. and Latin America:

Grab a Cuban sandwich and a mojito, and kick back for a while on South Beach! Tomorrow, we are off to Atlanta.


Capt. Randazzo from PMDG was kind enough to give a status update yesterday! Highlights:
  1. An update to the MD-11 will be out shortly. Mostly bugfixes. Good to see them making a very high-quality product even better.
  2. Their 737 NGX (2.0) is coming along swell. No info as to a release timetable yet, but they will keep us posted.
  3. (The biggie) They are going to unveil a surprise new product soon, possibly in March! w00t! Speculaton is rampant over at AVSIM as to what this might possibly be. Many of us (myself included) would love to see a PMDG 777, since nobody has done a really good one yet. This is one of the most popular long-haul birds in service today, and it is a shame there isn't a high-quality one available in Flight Simulator yet. Another contender might possibly be a 717, which would make sense since its cockpit is almost identical to the MD-11. Lots of people want to see PMDG do a Dash 8 turboprop as well. Capt. Randazzo only says that it is not the A320 (as previously hinted by PMDG), nor is it one of the upcoming products that McPhat Studios have hinted at. Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out!
This is one of the things I really admire about PMDG: their willingness to engage their fanbase, and keep us informed about what they're working on. I understand not committing to release dates, but I just like to hear about how things are progressing.

P.S. I strongly suspect that the Q3 product from McPhat invovles feelThere/Wilco's next baby. The Q1 product is a bit of a mystery though. Don't quote me on this, though...

Captain Sim 727-100 Pro Update

Captain Sim has announced that the v2.1 update to their 727-100 Pro product is now available. Word in the forums is that this update fixes a whole bunch of annoying bugs that were present in the initial release.

I hope to pick this bird up eventually, as it looks like a lot of fun. Captain Sim is still apparently working on the 727-200 and 727 Freighter expansions for this product. Hopefully soon!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Colgan Q400 Turboprop Crashes in Buffalo

CNN story here. The flight was operated by Colgan Air as Continental Connection. Things are still very much in flux right now, but it appears that there are 49 fatalities. Prayers and condolences to all affected by this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Travelogue: Day 4 - Mexico City, Mexico to Houston, Texas, U.S.A.

(Author's note: ironically, when I conducted this flight in FSX, I was actually suffering from a raging case of Montezuma's revenge. Too much info, perhaps? Maybe, but I thought it was kind of a humorous coincidence.)

Today we leave Latin America behind for the good ol' U.S.A., or "El Norte" as our friends south of the border often refer to it. Including some visits north of the border to Canada, we will be jetting around these parts for the next 34 days or so. Given that the U.S. and Canada represent a major chunk of the world's aviation traffic, many of the world's busiest airports are located here. We will come back to South America once again at the very end of our world tour, so yes, I am well aware that there are a few more airports down there worth seeing. We'll get to 'em, don't worry.

We will begin our visit to the U.S. in Houston. This is fitting for yours truly, as I grew up in a small town about an hour from Houston. So, this will be something of a homecoming for me! We depart bright and early from Benito Juarez in Mexico City, bound for George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Once again, it looks like things are buzzing at Benito Juarez. Being relatively centrally located within Mexico, it serves as a natural choice for a domestic hub for several Mexican carriers, including Aeromexico and Mexicana. As the premier international gateway to Mexico, many flag carriers are also well-represented here, too. Here we see a Mexicana Airbus A318 pulling out onto the taxiway in front of us, along with several widebodies from JAL, Lufthansa, and Iberia:

Fortunately, things are not terribly stacked up this time of day, and we manage to depart on Runway 5L within a just few minutes. We quickly rise above the notorious smog of Mexico City, with one more view of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes in the background:

We are headed northeast, toward the city of Tampico on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn't take long at all before we begin to see the vast blue expanse of the Gulf on the horizon:

Our route takes us just slightly over the water between Tampico, Mexico and Palacios, Texas. The Gulf Coast beaches of Mexico and Texas are never out of our sight the entire time:

Before long, we are back over land near Palacios, Texas. We start our descent into Houston very soon! Looking down, we see the Colorado River emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Note that the Colorado River in Texas is distinct from the river of the same name that flows through several southwestern U.S. states, also forming the border between California and Arizona. The Texas version of the river rises in eastern New Mexico and flows southeast toward the Gulf of Mexico. Parallel to the Gulf, you can also see the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway here, which is a major shipping canal for domestic shipping within the United States:

On our descent, things begin to turn cloudy. Turns out there is a cool front moving through the area, and things are a little cool and rainy. Nothing severe, but it will be a little bumpy on our way down. Turns out we are a little high for our approach onto Runway 9 at Bush, so we have to apply some drag to help us get down to where we need to be:

Here we are on final for Runway 9. Other than the haze and rain, things are looking just fine for our arrival:

After we touch down, we taxi to our designated spot. As you can see here, Bush is a major hub for Continental Airlines:

Welcome home! We are not planning on staying long, however. Next stop: Miami.

Total flight time: 1:22

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Travelogue: Day 3 - Bogota, Colombia to Mexico City, Mexico

Today we depart Bogota for Mexico City as we head north toward the U.S.A. and Canada. We will be flying over the isthmus of Central America, and there will be tons of wonderful sights to see along the way. Buckle up and settle in for a treat!

As we push back at El Dorado International, an Avianca Airbus taxis by behind us. Avianca is Colombia's national flag carrier, and they have one of the nicer liveries around:

Here we are at the runway, cleared for takeoff. The mountains of Colombia rise all around us, providing some dramatic scenery:

Here we are airborne over one of the Andes Mountains ranges in Colombia:

Soon, we begin to see the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean off to the west. Before long, we will also see the Caribbean Sea (part of the Atlantic Ocean) off to the north and east:

As we fly over the Pacific Ocean, the isthmus of Panama is visible immediately ahead of us:

This is one of my favorite shots on this leg of the tour! We are flying over the Panama Canal here. See the locks below? Panama City is located immediately adjacent to the canal. You can also see two former U.S. air bases below as well, one on either side of the canal. Both bases were returned to the government of Panama along with the canal:

Now we are flying over the Caribbean side of the isthmus for a while. Costa Rica is off to our left:

Here we are back over land -- Nicaragua, in fact. Lake Nicaragua is visible below us. Note the large island, Ometepe, with its twin volcanoes:

Now we are back over the Pacific coast, looking toward Guatemala:

We are in Mexico now, on our descent toward our eventual destination of Mexico City. Puebla lies in the valley ahead of us. The Valle de Mexico (Valley of Mexico) is located on the other side of the two large volcanoes visible ahead, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl:

Here is a much closer view of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl as we swing by:

Looking ahead, the Valle de Mexico (including Mexico City) stretches out before us on the other side of the mountains. We will circle the valley and line up with Runway 5R at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport to land:

And here we are on the ground. Looks like a busy day in Mexico City!

Total flight time: 3:48

Next: on to Houston!