Stormy Afternoon In Connecticut

These aren’t simple one-shot episodes. They’re really event-after-event-after-event. Following them is like trying to play “whack-a-mole.”

Francine did my hair this afternoon. It was warm and sultry when I pulled into her shop on the Branford Hill. I knew something was coming (it is my job to predict the future) so I was a little fidgety and stopped a few time to check the radar on my BlackBerry.

Yeah–I know it’s a CrackBerry!

As I got to work I could some some pretty vivid lightning to the west. There was already a Severe Thunderstorm Watch up.

You know the expression “it never rains, but it pours?” These aren’t simple one-shot episodes. They’re really event-after-event-after-event. Following them is like trying to play “whack-a-mole.”

And, of course, when you’ve got torrential downpours&#185 you’ve also got flooding. And when you’ve got strong thunderstorms you also can have damaging wind and large hail. Good grief.

It’s just really tough keeping in front of this stuff. You don’t want to concentrate on one small area lest you miss the bigger picture.

I have never finished covering this type of weather where I’ve been totally happy. There are always places better work could have been done.

I’m typing now because the bigger storms are gone. Usually that would be the end of it, but there is still rain falling on our already saturated ground.

I’m looking forward to the weekend.

&#185 – Tweed/New Haven Airport reported .5″ of rain in just three minutes!

Tweed/New Haven Airport Is Not A Happy Place

Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

Tweed New Haven Airport USAir Express takeoffI opened the editorial page of Friday’s New Haven Register and was unhappy to read: “Tweed’s prospects fade for new airline.”

In this case, Tweed is Tweed/New Haven Airport. It’s big enough for 737s and DC9s, but the only service nowadays are puddle jumpers to Philly and back.

There was a time when a bunch of airlines flew to New Haven. In the last decade we’ve had non-stop service to Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (though not at the same time). Each time one of them pulled out, the word from within was, the service was doing fine, but the airline wanted to be elsewhere.

It is by far the most convenient airport I’ve ever flown from. The terminal is small and steps from the parking lot. There is a jetway, but it hasn’t been used for scheduled service in years and I’d be surprised if it’s full functional.

My sadness comes from the closing paragraph:

The reality for Tweed is that even with the necessary safety and runway improvements, its ability to attract new air service is severely hampered by the state of the airline industry. Airlines are desperately trying to cut costs to survive, not expand to small cities like New Haven.

I’m sad because it’s true.

The level of airline service says something about a community. Not having it says something too. For the foreseeable future, Tweed has no future.

Greetings From Birmingham, Alabama… Y’all

I was planning on leaving for Birmingham a little before 4:00 PM. Helaine had a suggestion – leave earlier.

How do you react to that? You really have no choice, because if you leave ‘on time’ and miss the flight&#185 it’s incredibly embarrassing. On the other hand, what’s a little time in the terminal?

I left early and the trip was even quicker than I had anticipated. It took 20 minutes door-to-door.

This is not LAX or JFK I was going to. This is Tweed/New Haven Airport. This little field is a gem. All it’s missing is frequent service! Right now, you can fly to Philadelphia via USAir (prop) and Cincinnati on Delta (jet) and no place else.

I’ve attached two pictures to give you a feel for the place. The first, a residential street scene is actually the last street you drive on before you get to the airport.

Tweed is in a neighborhood.

The second shot is the ticket counter. This is not a cropped shot. This is everything. The whole shooting match. USAir’s on the left. Delta’s on the right.

What’s good about the airport is that it is so easy to get around in. Everything is close. Everyone is friendly.

I hear about people driving to New York or Hartford and say, “why?” Yes, sometimes these bigger airports are appropriate, but Tweed has so much going for it and too few people use it.

I cleared security and headed upstairs to my gate. Though there is a jetway, these little jets (mine was a Canadair CRJ40) board from the tarmack.

In the gate area, a TV suspended from the ceiling was showing Fox News. I looked up. The picture was an Air France passenger jet on fire at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto.

Oh my God!

The dozen or so of us watched attentively. What kind of omen was this?

The flight was called and we all walked back downstairs and onto the field. I had brought both my bags as carry-ons. The bigger didn’t fit in the overhead.

The one advantage smaller jets and prop planes have is the ability to check something at the plane. You get a little ticket, watch it get put into the belly of the jet and then pick it up at as you deplane. No waiting for checked baggage. It’s sweet.

As we took off, fully nine minutes early, the plane accelerated like a little sports car. Other than my ride in a Navy F/A-18, I can’t ever remember a takeoff with this much ‘push you into your seat’ kick. The climb was swift and smooth.

I’d liike to say the flight to Cincinnati was smooth. Instead, we bumped our way up to 32,000 feet.

The CRJ40 is a very nice plane. It is about the right size for a single aisle regional jet. There are 40 seats and a crew of three.

I didn’t have a tpae measure, but it seems like the distance between rows is substantial. The width of the seats is not. I’m 5′ 9″ and I was too tall for the bathroom!

We landed in Cincinnati (actually, Northern Kentucky) about 7:15. We were sent to C72 with my connecting flight at C12. It’s as far as it sounds.

As I walked through the terminal, I looked at the TV screen to see my flight and an earlier flight to Birmingham, leaving in ten minutes. Was it possible?

I got to the ticket counter and explained how I had just flown in, was scheduled to leave later, but would gladly take a seat on this flight. No problem!

I walked onto the CRJ 700 and settled into the aisle seat in row 17. The man sitting at the window was speaking to someone on his cellphone. Swedish possible? It had that ring to it.

Whereas the 40 seater is sized right, this 70 seat jet is all wrong. It is cramped and much too long for a very narrow single aisle.

For takeoff and landing, one of the two flight attendants sits in a jump seat centered on the rear bulkhead. I turned to her and asked if this was punishment for something she had done wrong?

We were in Birmingham by 7:30 CDT. That meant it took three and a half hours to fly from New Haven to Birmingham. Unreal. That’s more than I could have ever asked for.

I walked into the terminal and, seeing the courtesy phones used, called the Radisson on my cellphone. Ten minutes later a van driven by a very nice man with a very bad hairpiece drove up.

We started to the hotel, but before we could get off airport property, his cellphone rang. There were more. Would I mind?

The hotel is fine, though nothing special. It could have been a Holiday Inn or Sheraton or any of a zillion moderately priced business hotels. It does have a floor mounted air conditioner in this room which is noisy.

It also has something I’ve never seen in any building before – a 13th floor!

More later today from Birmingham. Registration for my conference is at noon and I’m bushed.

&#185 – I have been flying commercially since 1967. I have never missed a flight – never. I have stated this fact to Helaine enough times that she is entitled to slug me if I ever say it again… which I will.

Return of Humidity

The past week has been unreal – truly. New England in the summer is hot and sticky, sunshine is limited, rainfall is never far away. This past week was some sort of San Diego dream sequence.

Reality has returned. I haven’t checked the numbers, but sitting here in my pajamas, with the window open, I estimate the dew point as 66&#176&#185. It’s certainly high enough for me to consider turning on the air conditioner as soon as I finish typing this – certainly before I hit the shower.

Even with this sultry return, the summer is winding down. Acorns, actually smashed acorns, now litter the end of my driveway near the garage. No leaves have fallen yet, but I have gotten my first email asking when the leaves will change.

As spring is my favorite season, fall might be the opposite. Winter is more harsh, but fall is the writing on the wall. Nature says, “Hey, we’re shutting down for the winter – see ya’.”

Soon, geese will return to this area on their way to warmer weather. Over the next few weeks it will become common to see them flying in their “V” shaped formations. I’m not sure why, but I always seem to spot them, in the air, over Interstate 91. Maybe they follow the road south?

The summer can be brutal. Winter is worse.

I have been in some very cold places, including the top of Mount Washington in February. The coldest I can ever remember is waiting outside, in line, to go ice skating inside at Flushing Meadow Park. I think it was before the New York City World’s Fair, making it pre-1964. The fact that my mom was there also implies early ’60s.

The cold was so awful I remember it 40 years later.

In 90 days snow will be here. In 120 days the bleakest of the cabin fever days of mid-winter will arrive. Every year, facing this weather gets tougher.

Thirty five years ago I lived in West Palm Beach, Florida. Shouldn’t there have been a competency test before I was allowed to move on?

&#185 – OK, shoot me. I couldn’t not check. The dew point is officially 68&#176 at Tweed/New Haven Airport. It’s probably a degree or two lower here, nearly 10 miles inland.