Inside Donald Trump’s 757

When you’re Donald Trump, you need to have a plane to match your larger-than-life personality. In this case, that plane is a 757. His new ride sits 43, has a 16-hour flying range and is powered by Rolls Royce engines. To give a bit of a comparison, a typical 757 seats 186 to 289 passengers and the seatbelts and other accessories are not 24k gold plated. (Shocker, we know.) Other notable features? A 57″ TV in the “media room”, a DVD storage system of 1,000 movies, Trump’s personal DVR, a private master suite for Trump and a guest suite with a full bed, bathroom and more.

According to BTJ Online, Trump selected the aircraft because he “always felt the [Boeing] 757 was the best looking of all the commercial planes.”

The plane is about twice the size of his 727 and, although he’s not disclosing price, rumor is the plane was bought for around $100 million from Microsoft’s Paul Allen.

Breaking: United grounds all Boeing 757 aircraft

united 757 groundingIf you were scheduled on a United 757 earlier today and are wondering why it was canceled, we now know why. According to the Wall St. Journal, the airline is in the process of grounding its entire fleet in order to perform maintenance checks to air data computers that were modified earlier this year.

According to Gadling’s resident pilot Kent Wien:

There are two air data computers on every 757 and they’re used to take inputs from pitot tubes, static ports and temperature probes to determine the speed, rate of climb and altitude of the airplane. Any difference in the captain and the co-pilot’s side requires a quick determination as to which side is giving the correct data. In 1996 a 757 experienced a blocked pitot tube that caused it to crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic. While not the same problem as an ADC failure, the failures would look very similar to the pilots.

In this specific case, checks have acturally already been completed on the 96 767s; this round of study is in order to comply with Federal Aviation Administration requirements that were not followed at that time. Continental‘s 62 aircraft are not affected.

Each check takes less than two hours so the groundings should be brief. But operation on the aircraft will be disrupted for the rest of today and into tomorrow’s schedules.

Contacted for comment, United Airlines’ Charles Hobart confirmed:

We have about 25 cancellations. The maintenance checks are ongoing and will continue until completed. We expect minimal further disruption tomorrow.

[flickr image via THE Holy Hand Grenade!]

Plane Answers: Have turbulence encounters become less common?

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

Fellow Gadling writer Mike Barish (author of the hilarious Skymall Mondays asks:

I have a plane answers question of my own for you and thought others might be curious, too.

Not sure if it’s my perception, improvements in technology or changes in flight paths, but it truly seems like I experience less turbulence in general, and less aggressive turbulence when my flights do hit it, than I did back in the 1980s. What’s changed to make flights smoother?

You’re likely right, Mike.

In the past ten years, more of the airplanes flying today have advanced radar, with features such as ‘Predictive Windshear’ and better depiction of turbulence associated with precipitation.

The FAA has also installed weather monitors for Air Traffic Controllers that show the level of intensity for a given cumulonimbus build-up of clouds. It’s comforting to hear “we show a level three thunderstorm along your route of flight, deviations to the right or left are approved” from ATC before the weather even shows up on our radar.

Occasionally these advisories are for storms that are well below us, but the courtesy report is well appreciated, especially since they include the intensity of the weather, which saves us from having to pan and tilt our radar to determine if a cloud could cause significant bumps. Exceedingly wet clouds that climb above 25,000 feet are the best indicator of possible turbulence, and it takes some manipulating of the radar to find those.
Dispatch plays a role in forecasting where the weather may be during our flight and routing us on a different and possibly less direct path to get around the weather.

The other possible explanation for your experience may have to do with where you’ve been sitting lately. The difference between turbulence at the rear of the airplane versus over the wing or in the front is rather significant, especially on stretched versions of airliners like the A340-600, the 757-300 and the 737-900. On your next flight, if you’re sitting in the back, pay attention to how the flight attendants in the front are walking and continuing their service, while those in the back may have to sit down.

So, if turbulence gives you the willies, try getting a seat in the front.

Coincidentally, this post is being written in the business class section of a 757 while I’m on my crew rest break. It’s bumpy enough that the main cabin flight attendants are seated, but our purser is currently serving drinks up front without much difficulty.

In the future, the 787 will have a ‘gust suppression’ capability that is said to improve the rides by adjusting the rudder constantly to compensate for some types of turbulence. I can’t wait to experience that.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work. Twitter @veryjr

Plane Answers: JFK kid controller incident and a smoking 757

Probably the most popular offering on is the JFK ground and tower frequency. It’s rather entertaining to listen to the Kennedy controllers who are often faced with the daunting task of moving so many airplanes from all corners of the world with a variety of accents.

So it’s no surprise that when a JFK controller hosted a young visitor to the tower on February 17th, and even allowed the kid to make a few transmissions over the tower frequency, those listening to were there to catch it. And the TV reporters weren’t far behind.

The child, who was possibly the controller’s son, was heard handing off an Aeromexico and JetBlue flight to departure control as well as clearing the JetBlue flight for takeoff.

As a pilot, I’d probably react in the same way the JetBlue crew did. I’d get a chuckle out of it, but the FAA can’t possibly shrug off this now highly public incident. I just hope the controller doesn’t lose his job.

Frankly, these instructions could have been given in French and pilots would understand exactly what was instructed. And each pilot in this case read back the instructions clearly, so there was no misunderstanding. If the readback was incorrect, the controller would have jumped right in. So don’t believe the hype that a near disaster was narrowly avoided.

Of course we don’t bring our kids to work in the cockpit. In fact, there were two high profile examples of why this isn’t done. A Turkish pilot was fired in 2008 for letting a 15-year old sit in his seat.

And tragically, an Aeroflot flight crashed while the captain’s 15-year old son was flying. But a child saying adios from the tower to a departing flight isn’t exactly the same as letting a kid fly the plane.

No doubt the media will be all over this today. Here’s one report from The Early Show on CBS this morning that includes the kid’s ATC audio that was surely obtained from

And finally, we’re going to get back to more questions on Plane Answers. Here’s today’s:

Pete asks:

Dear Kent,

On a recent flight from BOS to SFO there was significant smoke from the engine when started. Let me lay the facts out… Light snow was falling. The plane needed to be de-iced. The plane was a 757. Upon starting the engine, significant smoke came from the engine. I worried at first but then figured it was because of the De-Icing solution. Is that correct and is it normal for smoke to come from the engine on start?

Good observation, Pete. The 757 and the Lockheed L-1011 use the Rolls-Royce RB211 engines which smoke quite a bit during engine start, especially on cold days. We’ve had passengers think the airplane was on fire during start, in fact.

While I’m not certain, it’s likely unburned fuel or pooling oil that’s at the root of this phenomenon. Either way, it’s definitely noticeable. Other jets don’t seem to produce the amount of smoke that this engine does on cold days.

De-Icing fluid can also cause a bit of smoke, but not as much as a cold 757 does.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answer’s Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work. Twitter @veryjr

Photo of the Day (06/19/08)

St. Maarten is the greatest location in the world for aviation spotters, and we’ve featured a number of those pictures here. But this one from matt.hintsa stands out for me because of the timing of the crashing waves.

I’m dying to bring my camera to that beach someday. While I’ve been there a number of times, I’ve never left the airport, so my pictures were only from this perspective.

Well done, Matt!

Are you a Flickr user who’d like to share a travel related picture or two for our consideration? Submit it to Gadling’s Flickr group right now! We just might use it for our Photo of the Day!