Saturday, May 30, 2009

50 Years Ago Today BOAC flew its last Boeing Stratocruiser Flight

           Boeing image of a Stratocruiser berth.
Jeffery Renshaw recalls sleeping between "crisp white sheets" in a berth on a BOAC Boeing Stratocruiser as a child.  Jeffery's Dad was a BOAC manager stationed at LaGuardia and Idlewild (JFK) airports in the 1950's and the family made many transatlantic crossings. He remembers "stewards dressed in white dinner jackets serving appetizers from silver trays."

Well, we know they weren't Fujiyama Trays, as those were unique to Northwest Airlines Stratocruisers in those days.  And the stewards in white dinner jackets were stewardesses in kimonos on Northwest.  But there were no real differences between the gracious flight experiences on any airline that flew the undisputed "queen of the airways" in the 1950's.
Northwest continued flying its Boeing B-377 Stratocruisers until September, 1960.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet in 2009? Heck, we had a public phone on a B-377 Stratocruiser in 1957!

Its always only a matter of time.  And technology!
Yours truly at the console of NWA Ship 704

Amazement at recent accounts of the Wi-Fi race among airlines brings to mind the equally stunning feat (for its time) when Northwest Airlines installed the first air-ground telephone in regularly scheduled passenger service. NWA Boeing B-377 Stratocruiser #704 was equipped with a unit furnished by AT&T and manufactured by the A/C Sparkplug division of General Motors in Milwaukee. The unit weighed 45 pounds. The special telephone, mounted at the rear of the passenger cabin on the stewardess communications panel adjacent to the galley, could be used to place or receive calls to or from anyplace in the world - as long as the plane was within a 175 mile radius of two special ground receiving stations in Chicago and Detroit. These stations were maintained and operated by Illinois Bell and Michigan Bell Telephone Companies. Remember them? Read more about it in Fujiyama Trays & Oshibori Towels (To order click on the contact button above.)
Back to the Future:  It has been reported that Delta (the largest airline in the world) has already installed Wi-Fi on half of its 300 domestic aircraft fleet at a cost of $100,000 per airplane.  Oh, they'll make that up, youbetcha, by charging you extra to use it.  Only one problem, as I see it.  Know how tough it is just to lower your seat tray in your cramped coach seat?  Now try to imagine opening your laptop wide enough so that you can see the screen while you surf the web. Wait a minute - wouldn't that image make a great commercial for i-phone, blackberry, et al?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

It's May: from Ellen Church to . . . Pet Airways?

On May 15, 1930, registered nurse Ellen Church went on duty aboard an Oakland-to-Chicago flight operated by Boeing Air Transport (a forerunner of United Airlines) thus becoming the first airline stewardess.  (She beat me out by about two and a half decades!)

On May 12, 2009, NPR's Morning Edition did a story about "an airline going to the dogs ... and cats"  All animals that fly will be called "pawsengers" and have a "pet attendant" to ease their travel, says airline co-founder Alysa Binder.  Pet Airways will begin operations this July in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Chicago and Denver.
I wonder what Ellen Church would have to say about being a "pet attendant?"

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thats Billion with a "B" . . .

Ah well, remember back a year or so ago when United Airlines became the first U.S. carrier to charge $25 for a second piece of luggage? And most airlines followed? Then American started charging $15 for the FIRST piece of luggage.  The airlines claimed these fees were added to defray jet-fuel costs, which had surged 61 percent in the first half of 2008. 
Then something happened.
Jet fuel prices retreated to 2007 levels.
But the airlines had discovered a cash cow. Altogether, U.S. airlines took in over $1 billion in luggage fees.  Northwest collected $121.6 million and new parent Delta charged $177.1 million.  US Airways, through its successful a la carte program, collected nearly as much as American - $187.1 million.
Hang onto your carry-on!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

You wouldn't, by any chance, have traveled to British Columbia last year, would you?

That would be the southwestern-most province of Canada.  More specifically, I am wondering if you could have been a boarding passenger at the Kelowna, B.C. airport in 2008?

"Why do you ask?" you may be wondering.
It seems that the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority tested a new scanning machine at the Kelowna airport.  No, not the kind you put your carry-on's through on your way to the gate.  The kind you walk through.  This scanner can see through passenger's clothing, performing a virtual strip-search on anyone who wants to board a plane.
You never travel to British Columbia you say?  How about Toronto, Montreal, or wherever else the Canadian government decides to install the seven additional scanners they have already provided funding for? 
During the "test", passengers were asked whether they would rather submit to the scanner or a conventional pat-down.  They were given a brochure which conveniently didn't mention the fact that there was a security guy in a nearby room monitoring their nude images.  The brochure misleads by saying "help us test out new safe screening technology to determine it's ability to detect items concealed on the body." 
As far as I know, this is only happening north of the border.
But just in case, the next time you are asked to "step into a scanner and raise your arms," you may want to volunteer for a pat-down.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

And what did the Air Force One "Photo Op" cost?

I promise.  This is my last word on the subject.  Today we learn that the embarrassing incident over New York City that sent Louis Caldera packing from the White House cost taxpayers $328,835.

I still say it is a great photo!

Friday, May 8, 2009

It sure is a great photo, but was it worth it?

The ill-conceived photo shoot of Air Force One swishing over our Lady Liberty in New York Harbor cost a White House staffer his job. Louis Caldera, Director of the White House Military Office responsible for ordering the photo shoot resigned today, less than two weeks after a "furious" President Obama ordered an investigation into the matter.  Oops.  Be sure to click on the link above because in spite of the circumstances, it really is a great shot, don't you think?