Planes Crash, But This Is Different


I never had a fear of flying. Still, the French crash of the Germanwings Airbus has me totally freaked out.

I remember the EgyptAir crash from 1999. The airline tried to hide the suicidal cause, if memory serves.

And now I worry this is why MH370 was never found. An airline cockpit is an impenetrable cocoon.

From NPR:

Although uncommon, such incidents are not unheard of. Since the mid-1970s, air-crash investigations have brought to light eight others in which intentional actions by a pilot or co-pilot to bring down an aircraft were either confirmed or suspected.

The Daily Mail asks,

Was Andreas Lubitz inspired by other plane disasters? Germanwings pilot’s actions echo recent tragedies – and could explain what happened to MH370

Is there an industry that has a higher percentage of unhappy employees than the airlines?

I’m still not scared to fly. But none of this is comforting.

Stuff You See While Flying

We’re back in the OC tonight. Why is flying so exhausting? We are all bushed.

The drive back from LAX was amazing! No traffic. How very un-SoCal.



On the way to Milwaukee our little 737-300 taxied by an Emirates Airbus 380-800. What a behemoth. My seat was lower than its wing! The A380-800 is bigger than nearly all 747s.

It’s got 399 seats in Economy, plus 75 in Business. There are also 14 “closed suites” in First Class for the 16 hour flight to the Persian Gulf.


Winner of the “Best Paint Job” award goes to Air New Zealand for this black, silver and gray 777.



Nearly every flight from LAX exits over the ocean. On the way out we flew over the Port of Los Angeles. It might as well be considered a wormhole in the space-time continuum connecting China and America.

Look closely at the cranes. Ships used to unload in port. Now everything stays in its container and moves on.


We also flew by Rancho Palos Verde. When I took this shot I didn’t realize the Trump National Golf Course Los Angeles is cut off on the right. If I would have known I would have aimed farther left.

Too Much Technology Run Amok


I bought a new car a few months ago. Traded my SLK230 for an SLK250. Higher number. Smaller engine. Well played Mercedes.

It’s been 15 years since my last new car. Lots has changed.

I like having Bluetooth. I like satellite radio. This car feels more substantial… and it’s a lot less noisy.

And then there’s the GPS. It uses traffic reports from the satellite radio for route planning. It even checks for faster routes while in motion.

I got the car and gave it free reign, clicking the button that made the GPS boss. All of a sudden my routes looked like I was trying to avoid being tailed! Exits. Side streets. Crazy detours. I’m learning the area. Sometimes there’s no choice but to follow.

Reconfiguration time.

This time I clicked the ‘ask me first’ button. Now the weirdness made sense. The GPS has a hair trigger. If it could shave seconds, it would try.

Problem is the information it receives is full of little errors that momentarily make slow roads look fast. So, I get messages like this:

Traffic Jam On Your Route
Recommended Detour:
approx. 1 min Faster
Approx. 200 ft Longer

I’m sure this feature is great, but someone’s got to turn the sensitivity down. Right now it’s too much technology run amok!

Now Air Travel Sucks More

jetblueHappy New Year. Air travel sucks more.

Over time airlines have offered less and less to passengers. Remember food? We’ve got smaller seats, crowded planes and baggage fees.

Now, airlines have begun to eat away at any semblance of dependability.

JetBlue cancelled hundreds of flights over the weekend into Tuesday. More weather than they’re staffed to handle! It’s as simple as that.

JetBlue decides how much they want to spend to be prepared. Their threshold for preparedness falls below this weekend’s weather. The weather was bad, but snow falls in the Northeast nearly every year. An FAA rule affecting pilot rest hours just kicked in, but JetBlue knew it was coming two years ago.

After hundreds of cancellations over the weekend, JetBlue shut down their major Northeast operations Monday at 5:00 PM. Things start up again in the morning, gradually. They just need some ‘me’ time.

JetBlue operates as many as 240 departures and arrivals daily in Boston, and as many as 440 departures and arrivals a day at the New York City region’s three major airports: John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International. The airline said the hiatus would allow for “17 hours of rest for our equipment and crew members and time to service aircraft.” – Wall Street Journal

As airlines have figured out how to fly mostly full planes, options for displaced travelers have disappeared. Miss a flight? Be prepared to wait many days.

Richard Bellefeuille said he had been sitting with his two young sons at Logan since Saturday evening. The boys were supposed to fly to San Francisco at 8 p.m., but after hours of delays, the flight was finally canceled at 3 a.m. The airline told them the next available flight leaves Saturday.

“Their mother’s in San Francisco, but they were here with me for the holidays and it looks like I’ll have them an extra week,” he said. – Boston Globe

When I was a kid, flying was very expensive. Only rich people and celebrities traveled by air. Air travel was luxurious.

Flying has been democratized. Inflation adjusted prices are way below what I paid when I finally did buy a ticket.

Deregulation has been a mixed blessing to travelers. Lower fares, but more hassle.

I liked it better the way it was when I couldn’t afford to use it! There are no easy answers.

I Bought A Car

I bought a new car this afternoon. My fifteen year old ride will be retired.

What I bought is inconsequential, though I will admit it isn’t the sweet Tesla I drove a few weeks ago. I’m in SoCal. This seemed the wrong time to stop driving a convertible.

I attempted to buy the car the way I buy most everything: online research. I’d rather buy brick-and-mortar than online, but if two places have the same item, I buy on price.

I knew the model and options I wanted. That made it easier. The more done online the better.

Car shopping has given me the creeps. It’s impossible to know when you’re being taken advantage of. I always assume that’s the salesman’s goal.

I went to and got a few quotes from dealers. Some weren’t anxious to deal online. They wanted me in-person to strike a deal. It’s 2013. I’m not giving up that leverage anymore.

Is it just me or is ‘competitive’ now a euphemism for, “You’ll find the best price elsewhere?”

Based on everything I can see, we got a good deal. In fact we paid less than expected. And, I eliminated the hassles.

We should pick the car up in a few days. I’m excited.

I Took A Tesla Test Drive At The Mall

Model S Design Studio   Tesla Motors

The decision has been made. Fifteen years is long enough. My 1999 Mercedes SLK230 is back on its feet and running well&#185 after a recent trip to the car hospital, but it’s time.

There are lots of cars to look at. Today I looked at the Tesla Model S.

The Model S is quite the car. It’s an all electric, no gas engine at all. Built in California, its range is listed at 265 miles.

Tesla doesn’t have dealers. It sells its cars direct from company owned showrooms. There’s one about 25 minutes from here at Fashion Island–a mall in Newport Beach.

IMAG0224-w1400-h1400I’m not sure I can describe Fashion Island properly. Let’s just say valet parking doesn’t see too many Chevys! That’s two Lamborghinis in a row in that photo.

As with most shopping centers in SoCal, Fashion Island is mainly open air with lots of foot traffic. The are a few anchor stores like Macy*s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s plus smaller shops and kiosks.

IMAG0238-w1400-h1400We walked into the Tesla store and looked around. There were two cars on display, a Roadster and a Model S. People were crowded around both.

The Model S had its hood up. There was no engine there. It was actually a trunk. The trunk’s a trunk too!

Before long Jay walked up. His card says “Owner Advisor,” which means he’s a salesman. With some prodding from Helaine and Stef I asked if a test drive was possible.

Usually one could be scheduled in a few days, but maybe… Ten minutes later we were walking into the mall’s garage and climbing into the car.

It is a sedan. It’s a nice sedan, but from the outside not much nicer than any other car. The doors unlocked as we approached.

The Tesla is a fully electric vehicle, so there are a few immediate differences from what you’re driving now. It has motors, not an engine. When it’s not moving it’s silent. When its moving it’s still pretty quiet. The Tesla has no ignition key and no igntiion!

There are no gears. There’s no transmission. There’s no PRNDL. Push a small stalk on the steering column up for forward, down for reverse.

In front of me was a fully digital instrument panel. To the right was a 19″ flat display mounted so the long edges were vertical.

I gingerly backed out of the space then forward toward the street. Jay was telling me about the car, but I was concentrating on not hitting anything.

I am used to driving a powerful car. The Tesla is more powerful. At low speeds the torque is insane. It was obvious as soon I pushed down on the gas pedal.

We ran through some city streets then up into the hills overlooking the Pacific. Newport Beach is spectacular. I was taking a test drive in a location fit for a car commercial!

We made a right turn. Jay told me to hit it hard. The cars low center of gravity kept us firmly on the road as we accelerated through the uphill turn.

If a car can be unflippable, this one is. All the weight from the batteries beneath the cabin give it a very low center of gravity.

I hit 83 mph on one road before easing back. A man walking his dog gave me a dirty look. The car wants to run. I was at its mercy.

Jay showed me the GPS system and looked up something we were chatting about on the web browser. Yes, the car is on the Internet.

As we headed back toward Fashion Island we saw another Model S and pulled up to it at a light. I rolled down my window.

“I’m taking a test drive. Do you like it,” I asked? Two big smiles. Two thumbs up. Jay couldn’t have staged it better.

Like I said, it’s quite a car.

Using electricity brings the operating cost way down, as does the lack of scheduled maintenance. Of course this is offset by it’s astronomical price.

I’m considering it. It’s not out of the question. But, yeah, you have to swallow hard to pull the trigger on a purchase like this.

I’ll be looking at other cars. If not a Tesla, maybe another convertible–maybe the SLK250? I’m at the very confused stage of the process.

The Sun was going down over the Pacific as Helaine, Stef and I reunited. They’d done some ‘mall-ing’ while IMAG0231_PerfectlyClear_0001-w1400-h1400I drove.

We headed back to Irvine.

&#185 – Thanks Steve W. and Steve M. in Connecticut for excellent guidance that saved me grief and money in getting my car repaired recently.