What happens on Aeroflot, stays on Aeroflot

Passing on Ghana Airways is easy, but I’ve been fascinated with Aeroflot for a long time. They’ve been upgrading their fleet and service is significantly better (even the food looks good), but there’s still some wildly abstract inconsistencies which I find rather appealing.

Replacing old Russian planes with modern western planes was easy. Replacing old staff attitudes with new customer-friendly ones is not so easy. Whereas too many staff at US airlines now seem to greet their customers with open hostility, the Aeroflot staff simply greet customers with complete neutral apathy – or perhaps, they just ignore them completely!

Aeroflot’s old Soviet-era logos are now apparently retro-cool. Just don’t anger the flight crew.

Fly the friendly skies of Ghana Airways: wing and prayer required

ghana_dc10So yeah, flying on America West mostly sucks, but it could be much worse. Take Ghana Airways for example. Ghana Air hasn’t renewed its operating license to fly into US airspace. The US Department of Transportation has banned them from flying here anyway because of “serious questions surrounding the safety of its aircraft”. 200 Accra-bound passengers have been stranded in BWI limbo after one of Ghana Air’s two remaining DC-10s was grounded for safety reasons (leaving them with only one long-haul jet). Big surprise then than Ghana Airways’ passenger comments vary between angry and wrathful while industry watchers look on with disdain.

Meanwhile Ghana Airways has been rummaging through the Mojave Airport mothball fleet for replacement jets, but I suspect that the FAA takes a dim view of painting your airplane with (get this) paint rollers. However, Ghana Airways isn’t through looking for help just quite yet:

What does an airline do when it has only five planes, only one of them is still flying and that one, too, is grounded with a “Technical”? When for years it has been sitting on $160 million of debts thanks to ongoing mismanagement and corruption, its sole shareholder, the government, is reluctant to shell out any more money, and the fourth CEO since the beginning of 2001 cannot make any headway with the problems? When the company, bloated with 1,500 employees, many of them unproductive, has more drivers than vehicles and more secretaries than typewriters, let alone computers, and the payroll is only intermittently paid? They put their trust in God. At the beginning of June, the hopelessness among the workforce of Ghana Airways had reached such proportions that they flew an expatriate preacher back to the capital city, Accra, from London and joined with him in a three-hour prayer session, during which they beseeched the Almighty for help.

Back on the west coast

And finally back home after being out in NYC for awhile. Public service announcement: you might think that you’re getting a deal with cheap airfare on America West, but you would be wrong because there’s a good chance that your flight will be cancelled due to mechanical problems. I was late able to catch a new connecting flight to SNA, but apparently I’m not the first one that’s had this happen. More America Worst West commentary and the obligatory sucks page.

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To add insult to injury, the first gate I attempted to depart from at JFK was British Airways‘ old Concorde gate and lounge. Tremendously obvious thought of course but while standing around watching the dust gather in the lounge I can’t help but count up the number of steps backwards travel/culture/etc. is taking. Sure, I’m not in any situation where I can spring for supersonic travel, but goddamn I sure want the option to.

Additionally, someone at America West needs to get it through their thick head that if they’re going to serve the New York and Miami areas they need to offer some food that doesn’t have pork in it. Just saying…

165 minutes at LAS

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For something billed as one of the best airports in the country LAS sure is an anonymous sprawl. Much like Las Vegas itself I suppose. I’m sure at some point in it’s past McCarran International swung as much as the rest of Vegas in the 1960s but wannabe Rat Packers would need a magnifying glass and tray full of martinis to unearth any evidence of its past. Now you have to leave LAS’ secure area to drink up because even with Vegas’ current sleaze-positive image there isn’t an appropriately scuzzy airport bar to anchor the terminal. Just a couple of clean, well-lit sports bars devoid of anything, including customers.

LAS_stewardessLAS is not that great of a place to hang out. The high-rolling gentry of course, fly on corporate or privately-leased jets and consequently never use the terminal, but there’s still plenty of people-watching opportunities if free-floating anxiety is your bag. People anxious to hit the casinos and do things that they can “leave in Vegas” and hungover people anxious to get the hell out of town after blowing their wad. The only “regulars” that LAS has are the “Janet” 737s of the Area 51 squadron and the mannequins that are part of the vintage Bonanza and Hughes Air West airline displays.

747 firefighting tanker

747firetankerImpressive film and video footage of a Boeing 747 that has been converted into a firefighting tanker plane. I can’t help but notice this paragraph in the listed capabilities:

The aircraft’s exceptional drop capabilities, loiter time and size make it an ideal tool to perform challenging homeland security missions, able to neutralize chemical attacks on military installments or major population centers, and help control large, environmentally disastrous oil spills.

So they just want some of those blank checks Homeland Security has been getting, but pictures like this are still unsettling. The promotional video is a classic bit of promo video cliche.

Fillmore VORTAC toasted

You won’t notice this as an airline passenger, but as a pilot this is a huge deal.

FIM is the primary NAVAID for jet traffic from Northern California and the Pacific Northwest into Southern California. Literally, every arrival into Burbank, Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Long Beach, John Wayne/ Orange County, Los Alamitos, Camp Pendleton, Palomar and San Diego may navigate via FIM.

At this time there are no RNAV STARs planned or in existence which can substitute for these procedures. The permanent loss of the FIM would require every procedure now utilizing FIM to be redesigned and flight checked. Because of terrain/coverage and location issues, it is unlikely that other VORTACÂ’s will be able to adequately substitute for FIM. Radar and radio coverage is good in the area of FIM. At the current time ATC is vectoring aircraft along the route of flight to compensate for the loss of FIM.

 

Normally the VORTACs look like a little building with a cone antenna on top. I can’t imagine how hot the fire was when it swept through there.

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JetBlue from Long Beach rules!

While other folks are having problems with airlines and the the awful state of affairs in which you have to figure out which airline sucks the least, I have to admit that I’ve fallen for JetBlue. Direct flight from LGB (Long Beach) to JFK with no layovers or plane switching. Reasonable airfare. Comfy seats for my 6′ 3″ frame and accompanying 15″ PowerBook G4. Satellite television in every seat. Amazingly, JetBlue is profitable and hasn’t gone whining to the federal government at the slightest drop of a loss. I can’t recommend them highly enough, and will continue to vote with my dollars. They’re one of the cult brands I’m happy to be a cult member over.

Flying out of Long Beach is wonderful, it’s how I’ve imagined flying in the 1940s was like. The airport terminal still has it’s period deco architecture and is decorated with period travel and flight posters. There’s no gates really, passengers still go outside to board their planes on the tarmac. Very relaxing place. And you can’t go wrong with the free 802.11b.

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