Cockpit Chronicles: How I Fell In Love With An Airplane (Video)

The MD-80 just might be the Rodney Dangerfield of the airline world. It just can’t seem to get any respect. But for those who really get to know the airplane, it offers some features, and admittedly a number of quirks, that has made it near and dear to many pilots. Against all odds, this Boeing pilot has fallen in love with the Mad Dog.

Passengers either love the airplane or hate it. And much of those feelings depend on where you’re sitting. A perch up in first class offers one of the quietest cabins in the air. Conversely, finding yourself in the back row between the engines and across from the lav would only be appealing to the truest aviation geek who somehow enjoys the noise.

Compared to a Boeing, there are so many sounds, levers and quirky features in the cockpit of an MD-80 that I can only do justice by video. So on my last week of flying the airplane back in February, I decided to document a few of the features that have made me fall in love with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 or the “Super 80″ as we call it.

For all the quirks, as I mention in the video, it has an enviable safety record.

But let’s face it; the reason I’ll miss the MD-80 the most might have more to do with which seat I sat in. Bumping back from captain to co-pilot as these airplanes are retired means that I won’t find myself taxiing around La Guardia or Chicago, or any place for that matter as the captain does all the taxiing.

And the co-pilots I flew with were the hardest working aviators at the company. I will absolutely miss them as some became good friends along the way.

You never know, with the flood of A319s, A321s and new Boeing 737-800 and -900s coming at my company, I could be back in the Super 80 left seat soon, or in one of those shiny new jets. Either way, I’m glad I had the opportunity to fly the airplane before it’s gone.

[Photo credit: Kent Wien]

Related: “Captain on the MD-80? Why?” and “A Captain No More.”

Cockpit Chronicles” takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as a captain co-pilot on the MD-80 757 and 767 based in New York. Have any questions for Kent? Check out the “Cockpit Chronicles” Facebook page or follow Kent on Twitter @veryjr.

Flight Turbulence: Just How Dangerous Is It Anyway?

flight turbulenceThe jury is still out on a recent study that says a result of climate change could take fliers on a bumpy ride. Scientists think passengers on transatlantic vectors could experience more unexpected ups and downs, the leading cause of in-flight injury, but agree that more study is needed. But just how dangerous is flight turbulence anyway?

Unexpected turbulence, called “clear air turbulence,” can be surprising when it hits an aircraft before the “fasten seat belt” sign lights up. But aircraft are built to take it and some even know what to do with it.

“Aircraft are built to withstand a 2.5g force load without even any minor damage and, as it is rare for a storm to generate a force that exceeds 1g load on an aircraft, there is no risk,” write the editors of TravelMole pulling from interviews they had with Boeing and the British Airline Pilots Association.

Still, whether caused by invisible air currents that flow over mountains or a natural part of the jet stream, experts agree that the particular aircraft flown can make a big difference when turbulence strikes.

“To ensure the most comfortable ride, it’s best to fly on the largest, most modern aircraft as these are designed to lessen the impact of turbulence on passengers,” concluded TravelMole.When Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner gets back in the air, it may be the aircraft to be on. Like other new aircraft, the 787 is equipped with a system to read the air in front of it, compensating for anticipated turbulence for a smoother ride.

Want to know more about that study? This video breaks it down:




[Photo credit – Flickr user mstephens7]

F-18 Fighter Pilot Takes Dreamliner For A Spin [VIDEO]

Piloted by an F-18 fighter pilot, we see just what the Boeing Dreamliner can do when put to the test. Stretching the aircraft and pushing it to the limit of its ability, the pilot guides the 787 to climb and soar at a degree and rate that passengers (hopefully) will never experience.




Boeing has been working to get the 787 Dreamliner back in the sky after two battery-fire incidents in January forced the FAA to ground all 50 of the 787 models operated by commercial carriers worldwide.

Battery testing complete, it is now up to the FAA to say when the aircraft can be retrofitted and returned to service. In addition to the 50 grounded planes, 20 more sit on Paine field in Seattle, waiting for delivery.

Uploaded to YouTube by user Wonkabar007, the video was apparently filmed at the Farnborough International Air Show in the UK last July.

Flight To Comet Sold Out But There Are Other Options

comet

Astronomers are calling 2013 “the year of the comet” as the first of two comets set to swing by Earth comes within view of the naked eye. Some avid sky watchers may be viewing with binoculars. Others may get an even closer view, thanks to a German travel agency.

On March 16, Eclipse Travel of Bonn, Germany, will have Air Berlin’s flight 1000 full of stargazers, giving them two hours closer to the comet than anyone else on the planet.

The company will fill just 88 of the 144 seats on board the Boeing 737-700, allowing everyone to have a window view at an average ticket price of $500 per person, reports TravelMole.

Wish you had booked a seat? Is astronomy your passion? You have options.

Closer to home, Spears Travel of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has a Sky & Telescope’s Iceland Aurora Adventure set for April 7. Currently, the event is also sold out, but they are accepting names for a waiting list. The seven-night astronomy adventure to view the northern lights in Iceland sold for $2995 per person.Eclipse Tours of Houston, Texas, has more options, planning trips through 2015. Providing guided expeditions of astronomical events throughout the world, Eclipse Tours is the home of Ring of Fire Expeditions (ROFE), the longest consecutive astronomical tour organization in the United States.

This year, Eclipse will visit the island of Tarawa, Kiribati, for its 41st Annular Solar Eclipse Tour in May and space is still available. Another tour heads to Guadalcanal in the South Pacific’s Solomon Islands for a post-eclipse tour.

Even more exotic, Melitatrips, a Travel + Leisure world’s best-award winner, takes the road less traveled for stargazing excursions from Argentina to Zimbabwe. This year, Melitatrips has a Kenya Total Solar Eclipse Safari promising unrivaled views “from the place where man was born,” according to its website. An English Astronomers Tour returns to where the greatest scientific researchers once lived and worked, with stops in London and surrounding towns of Bath, Cambridge and Oxford, with a special visit to Greenwich Observatory and the Maritime Museum.

Sound interesting but not in the budget?

Northern hemisphere stargazers who look to the west as the sun sets should note that just to the left of the horizon they should be able to see the comet Pan-STARRS over the next few days.

“Comets visible to the naked eye are a rare delicacy in the celestial smorgasbord of objects in the nighttime sky,” says NASA on its Asteroid and Comet watch page that offers viewing tips and more information about asteroids and other near-Earth objects.

Another option? Google Sky.



[Photo credit – Flickr user ϟStormLoverSwin93ϟ]

Start The New Year With Your Head In The Right Place

New YearNew Year’s Eve brings ball-dropping fun to thousands in New York’s Times Square and around the world via television and streaming video. New Year’s Day has its share of events too and marks the official end of 2012’s holiday season while opening the door to a unique chance to change ourselves, if only a little bit.

A brand new year is ahead of us. So, what will we do with it? Keep on doing what we have been doing? Start something new?

New Year’s resolutions
commonly include strong initial efforts to live a healthier lifestyle by eating better and exercising more. It’s a time when household budgets are reviewed, long and short-term financial goals get a look and when travelers gaze ahead to what’s scheduled for 2013 and beyond.

No plans right now? A great way to help roll in the new year is by trying new and different things. That does not have to mean skydiving for the first time, a solo kayak adventure that pits us against nature or climbing a mountain. Something new and different, outside of our comfort zone, can be as close as a computer or just outside our back door.

Take a ride on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
An easy way to get this whole “trying something different” ball rolling is by checking in with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner Dream Pass. Visiting the Dream Pass website, we first come to a 360-degree interactive experience on the flight deck. Continuing on to Boeing’s New Airplane website, we see the latest new airplane products and other innovations from Boeing.

Right about here would be a time to mention any one of a hundred new travel-related apps for our smartphones. Although there are plenty of them, that’s not our focus here. Not right now.

Walk outside
We can get very wrapped up in activities that require us to be inside without trying. Work, school, meetings, shopping, dining and other things we do are inside things. Walking outside, we might go in a different way to lunch, take a few minutes to consider the place we are at the moment and, if we really want to get into it, talk to a stranger. Go crazy; leave home with no phone or communication device, on purpose.What’s Important
It’s a recurring theme that comes out eventually whenever someone talks about travel. It may take a while to sort through the places we traveled to, highlighting iconic monuments, destinations and world-famous landmarks. But eventually, some of our most cherished travel memories come from interaction with people we meet along the way.




[Photo Credit- Flickr user Vermin Inc]