Posts Tagged ‘Bob Hope Airport’

 

I Want Him To Be My Pilot

Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

Here’s the entire story from AP:

A JetBlue airliner with its front landing gear stuck sideways safely landed Wednesday, balancing on its back wheels as it slowed on the runway at Los Angeles International Airport.

Stop. Reread that last paragraph.

I was at my desk when I first caught sight of something out of the ordinary. It was MSNBC, I think. I was looking at a JetBlue A320¹ filling the entire frame. A small courtesy font was in the upper corner of the screen. That meant live, breaking news… and there’s an airplane involved.

As I watched, the story began to unfold. This pretty, fairly new, JetBlue Airbus had taken off from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. An indicator told the pilot the gear had not properly locked and/or retracted.

After a quick trip to Long Beach and a low, slow buzz by the tower, it was decided the gear was down but turned perpendicular to the motion of the plane.

By the time I got to see what was going on there were cameras all over the place peering at this jet. Some of the best shots were coming from hovering helicopters. The shots were close enough to clearly see the recalcitrant landing gear.

The all news channels moved to this like a moth to flame.

MSNBC’s coverage featured Alison Stewart. On CNN it was Paula Zahn. I never stayed long enough on Fox to get a feel for who was anchoring their coverage.

Both channels found experts to talk with. They were mostly pilots, though MSNBC also found Robert Hager (Bob, you’re out of retirement for a few minutes) and Tom Costello.

Some of the info was confusing. Text crawls at the bottom of the screen talked about ‘dumping fuel,’ though this Airbus isn’t equipped to do that. Anchors asked pointed questions implying there was a tragic loss of life on the way.

The coolest head was pilot John Wiley, on the phone, on CNN.

It’s probably going to be exciting for the passengers. It will make for a great story. But I would probably — I would not say that this is a dangerous situation. Obviously, it is an abnormal. It’s a situation we will call a non- normal, to use the latest jargon and stuff.

But I think, basically, what’s going to happen is, these guys are going to touch down. It’s going to make for good video. It’s going to make for good stories for the families, needless to say. Two, they’re going to be a little excited about this. But I think that it’s going to eventually wind up in a very safe outcome.

If this guy isn’t right stuff material, who is? And, in fact, what John Wiley said did come true.

There was talk in the newsroom of what was going on in the plane. I thought the flight attendants were preparing the cabin and passengers for a crash landing. Maybe they were, but the TV’s on each seatback were still operating.

People were on this seemingly doomed plane watching coverage of their own demise!

After hours of circling, the pilot greased a perfect landing right on the centerline of the runway. First the main gear touched. Somehow, even as speed began to burn off, he held the nose up. It was like hang time in the NBA – but with an Airbus full of people.

For the first few seconds everything looked fine. Then came sparks. The sparks grew longer, Finally, there seemed to be flame shooting under the entire length of the plane.

I expected, any second, to see the plane burst into flames.

I kept hoping the front gear would break away, allowing the nose of the plane to slide on the concrete runway. It never did. Instead, the sparks diminished and the plane slowed and then stopped.

It was over.

It was a surreal moment. Yes, it ended wonderfully (as John Wiley predicted). It could have ended tragically. And yet, there was no way to avert my eyes. I had to watch.

The next time I fly, if I can’t have John Wiley, give Captain Scott Burke, that guy from JetBlue. They can’t use his valiant performance for a commercial, but you almost wish they could.

¹ – God bless the Internet. The plane in tonight’s incident, N536JB, had 3 pages of photos on the web before it became famous!

Being Stranded Is Different

Monday, March 28th, 2005

Friday, while waiting in Las Vegas for our delayed flight to Hartford, I tracked the plane using my laptop computer. Las Vegas, like many airports has wireless Internet access¹.

As our 737 made its way from Reno, I wondered how this access to up-to-date knowledge affects the airlines?

Years ago they could, and did, lie about flight status. That was especially true during the days when they were more worried about passengers retreating to another carrier for an earlier departure. With severe penalties for itinerary changes, we can’t do that anymore.

Not only can I find the actual airplane, I can also see the latest aviation weather (forecast and observed) and any air traffic control delays or ground stops.

Today, there’s no need to suffer in silence at the airport. With a PC or cameraphone you can get the word out to the world. I know this as a fact because I’ve just heard from my friend Bob.

Bob is flying to Talahassee, FL from Penn State. Well, he was flying. Awful weather has stranded him, and others, at the Atlanta Airport. He’s not sleeping yet, but his sneakers are off.

Are passsengers forced to sleep on the floor in the terminal? Judge for yourself. The image isn’t the best, but it makes the point.

In case you’re wondering, at 3:30 AM on a night like this with passengers all over the floor of the terminal, the PA announcements still get made, loudly apologizing every twenty minutes that the hotels are sold out!

Of course with wireless Internet access it’s possible to check and make sure they’re not lying about the hotel situation. Sleep tight.

¹ – Access was free in Hartford and Las Vegas, but $9.95 for the day from “T-Mobile” at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

How Sad – We’re Going Home

Friday, March 25th, 2005

The headline of this entry is actually way out in front of the content. I still have a full day to catch up. As far as the blog is concerned, let’s talk Thursday and Palm Springs.

It was breakfast in the room again. And, again, I’m questioning the reviews I read about the Hyatt Suites in Palm Springs. We were so worried about the condition of the hotel, but it was quite nice and the staff was very friendly and helpful. The fact that our included breakfast could be delivered to the room (with a reasonable delivery charge) was a bonus.

The only small… very small… exception is the valet parking. I understand it is run by a contractor and it is not as fully staffed as the hotel, so sometimes we had to wait.

Thursday morning was my time to do something a little unusual – the kind of thing vacations are for. I went 4-wheeling on a quad in the desert.

The back story is, as we first drove toward Palm Springs we passed an area, off the highway, in a desolate desert area on the side of a hill near the wind turbines. There was what looked like a trailer (actually, on closer inspection, it was an old railroad caboose), some off road vehicles and a lot of dust! On the side of the caboose, in big letters, were the words “OFF ROAD QUADS.”

I knew from the first time I spied the place I’d have to go. The big question was when.

Steffie agreed to ride too, though it was obvious she was apprehensive because of a ‘fear of flipping.’ Quite honestly, the place did look a little scary. Little four wheelers, their 90 cc engines whining, were climbing the hills like yellow and red billy goats.

It just seemed like a vacation thing to do.

As we walked onto the lot¹ hand printed signs said to follow numbered signs 1-5 for a pre-briefing. Sign one pointed into what looked like a cave. Inside there was a TV playing a safety DVD.

Though the people on the DVD looked a little scruffy, you could tell they were concerned with safety. Because of the dust, the DVD was pausing and breaking up every few seconds, but the message got through. Each point on the DVD was demonstrated twice – first by a man, then a woman.

I had driven motorcycles before, so I had an idea what to do. This was foreign ground for Steffie, especially the semi-automatic transmission. She watched and as I would later see, the instructions paid off.

We moved on and got a hair net, helmet and goggles. By the time I was outfitted, I looked like one of the villains in the classic MTV video “Take on Me” by A-ha.

We moved on to a final safety lecture as we sat on our quads. More than once the instructor said if you were rode nicely you’d get extra time. We bought 30 minutes, but got 45 minutes.

When it was time to leave, we headed out into the open expanse of the hillside. Steffie went slowly at first, methodically weighing the surroundings before picking up any speed.

It was easy to see Steffie was still a bit uncomfortable, but she pressed on. Slowly we worked our way higher and higher up the hillside – each time screeching down with gravity as our main propulsion.

I’m not sure I would ever do this again, but I’m glad we did it here. My guess is Steffie feels the same way. She’s glad to have what will probably be a once in a lifetime experience for her!

We headed back toward the hotel and after a quick stop turned toward Rancho Mirach and Palm Desert. Steffie and Helaine had heard of more shopping places and didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.

Our first stop was El Paseo. It was a little tough to find, but we made it!

By outward look, this is an upscale shopping street of boutique type stores. El Paseo’s median strip features lots of large sculptures, some serious others more fun. The store fronts are well kept with flowers blooming nearly everywhere.

The problem, I am told, is what’s in the stores. I’m not the expert here, so I’ll tell you what Helaine and Steffie said. The stores had overpriced merchandise but with little style… or bad style. They were very disappointed.

The good thing about shopping is, even when disappointed, there are other places to go. So we headed back up Route 111 and turned into The River.

Like so much else out here, The River is mainly open air between stores. And, again, as you would expect in an area like this, the stores were upscale and attractive. While the girls scouted around, I headed to their Borders bookstore.

Good choice on my part. You can’t have too many books and magazines to read on the long flight back.

Recently, I had noticed the computer section of the bookstores I visit shrinking. There was less and less of what I like to browse… and sometimes buy. This Borders was very large and had plenty of everything.

By this time it was late afternoon, so we headed back to the hotel.

We had heard Palm Springs hosted a street festival every Thursday evening. The main drag… the one in front of the hotel… gets shut to traffic while vendors set up in the street. This was one of those unplanned for fun things that can happen on vacation.

The other unplanned bonus was the arrival of Cousin Michael, Melissa and Max. After our visit to Laguna with them, we all decided it would be fun if they could make it to Palm Springs for dinner. It’s a schlep – over two hours driving, but they decided to come and spend the night at our hotel.

We really didn’t get to spend that much time at the fair, but I did see lots of fresh produce and vegetables, artwork (some reasonably priced… though not all), crafts and some California-centric items, like pictures of your aura!

It was once said that everyone in Palm Springs was gray or gay. That’s not as true today, though both communities were well represented, including a booth for the Caballeros, Palm Springs Gay Men’s Choir, selling tickets to their Barry Manilow tribute show (and singing along with his songs from their booth).

We ended up having dinner at “St. James.” It has a mixed European menu and a very interesting floor plan. The restaurant has all sorts of little nooks and alcoves with tables, giving you a bit of privacy in an otherwise busy place.

I had linguine with shrimp and a white sauce. It was okay – nothing to write home about. It also probably marks my last close contact with pasta for a while.

I can only imagine how much weight I’ve put on during this vacation. I’ve eaten like a little pig. It will all come off over time, but it’s sad.

Was it worth it? Ask me after I’ve been off carbs for a month or so.

I am writing this blog entry from Gate 4A at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank (and later added this photo of our plane as we boarded using the free wireless access at McCarren Airport in Las Vegas). We’re awaiting our first flight, to Las Vegas. Later this afternoon we’ll pick up another plane and head home to Connecticut.

This morning we were all a little tired and a little sad. This was a great vacation. We all did a lot of the things we wanted to do and had a lot of pleasant surprises. The better the vacation, the tougher it is going home.

Later this weekend (hopefully) I will post more photos to my gallery (to see the vacation photos already there, click here) and begin a post mortem. There are all sorts of little stories, too short or out of context for these trip report entries, that I want to write about.

¹ – Though this is the same word, lot, used to describe a movie studio, in this case think of it in the context of vacant lot.

Greetings From California

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

I’m writing from 30 some odd thousand feet. I have no idea where we are, sitting in the aisle seat with the window shades to my left pulled down.

Stef saw what I wrote and pulled up the shade. We’re over mountains – probably the Rockies… possibly the Bullwinkles¹.

Our exit from Connecticut was uneventful. Well, nearly uneventful. Over the past few days a low, throaty whir has been coming from somewhere in the rear of the Explorer. I drove it to Steve at the Exxon station. What an ear! Twenty seconds of driving to hear, “Wheel bearing. Left rear wheel. It could last another 50,000 miles.” But, would it last to Bradley Airport and back? “Yes.”

We headed to the airport… heading to the long term lot where we’ve parked for better than 15 years. AAA gives discount coupons, and it’s a really good deal.

When we got there a man with a walkie talkie was standing out front and the entrance was blocked. Full! We’d never seen that before. We went to their self park lot in the back. This would mean a cold car, covered in snow if it snows, on pickup. Life goes on.

I think we’re really close to the quarter ton goal with baggage. We checked 6, rolled 2 as carry ons and had a few random shoulder bags. The driver of the van to the terminal felt it necessary to ask how long we were staying.

I tipped him anyway.

Though the parking lot was full, the Southwest portion on the terminal was empty. Three people were behind the counter and we were the only ones needing help. I had printed pour boarding passes just after midnight, getting us “A” passes which got us on the plane in the first wave. Helaine handed them to the agent and got our baggage tags. Then it was time for me to drag, roll and push them to the TSA agents.

Even with a large load like this it no longer makes sense to use a skycap. There are too many steps, and the bags are yours to push far too soon for his help to be worthwhile.

We moved on to security screening. As we got there a sweet, white haired woman was having her sneakers removed by a rubber gloved officer. I’m not law enforcement savvy, but she didn’t seem like much of a threat to me.

My camera bag got the twice over and, of course, Helaine got the thrice over. I’m not sure what she’s done to upset the powers that be, but she is nearly always singled out for additional scrutiny.

While Helaine’s inspection continued, I noticed a Connecticut State Trooper on a Segway. I think it’s a good idea… but then I saw another trooper on a bike. Even in the terminal, I suspect the bike is faster… and the trooper gets more fit.

The flight from Hartford to Las Vegas was 5:50. That is too long to be in an airplane without entertainment. It was, by far, the noisiest flight I’ve ever been on. Not the plane – the passengers. I guess that’s part and parcel of going to Vegas. You get in that party mood as early as possible.

Our layover in Las Vegas was around an hour. Helaine and Steffie went to Burger King and brought a Whopper back for me. There is free Internet access at McCarren Airport, but my battery was down to a few minutes, so I checked my mail, sent some cryptic responses and ate my burger.

Las Vegas to Burbank is a much easier trip – about an hour gate to gate.

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is like a throwback to an older time. That’s not to say it’s quaint and pretty, because it isn’t. It’s an airport that’s bursting at the seams. It’s also the first time in years that I deplaned using air stairs! Southwest unloaded the passengers through both the front and rear stairs of the 737.

We chose Burbank because we had heard it was much smaller and easier to get around in than LAX. That was absolutely true. The baggage claim is in a covered, though open air area. Thank heavens the heavy winter rains are over! Aren’t they?

Because we’re bringing enough baggage to stay permanently, should we choose, we rented an SUV. We got a white Chevy Trail Blazer from Alamo. Nice deal. Nice car. It feels bigger and heavier than our Explorer.

The drive to our hotel was uneventful… and now as Helaine and Stef unpack, I’m typing this. I guess I’d better stop and help. More tomorrow from Southern California.

Meanwhile, a little look off our west facing balcony. I believe that’s Santa Monica in the distance.

¹ – Sorry. Unavoidable.