Gadling’s 2011 NYC summit / NoFF happy hour recap

One week ago, the nefarious crew here at Gadling assembled from all parts of the globe to gather in the Big Apple for our annual team summit. Led by Gadling’s steadfast Editor-in-Chief & tequila pusher, Mr. Grant Martin, the team took to the bustling streets of NYC for a weekend of strategizing, socializing, pool sharking, and vital face time.

The highlights of the weekend (from what we can remember) included a travel/tech panel organized & curated by Gadling’s own Jeremy Kressmann; where Drew Patterson (CEO of Jetsetter), Geoff Lewis (CEO of Topguest) and Grant Martin discussed the present and future of social media’s impact on loyalty programs.

On Saturday evening, we had the pleasure of teaming up once again with the boys at the Nomading Film Festival to wrangle some of the top NYC-based talent in the travel industry for our second happy hour of 2011. Hosted at the Lolita Bar in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, we convened over a special pouring

of 17 Year Old Fine Oak & 18 Year Old Sherry Oak Single Malts from the Macallan. A sensible amount of scotch & tequila was consumed, new friends were made, old friends reunited, and when the fine folks at Mastercard & Travelocity started feeling generous, coveted gifts (and gnomes) were raffled.


We couldn’t have asked for a better group to share the celebrations with; thank you to all that were able to make it. If you missed us this time around, then scroll through the gallery above to see the photos that we were allowed to publish. If you want the uncensored version, you’ll just have to join us next time!

Cockpit Chronicles: Catching a little show in Paris

To refine a popular saying, “The worst day at an air show beats the best day at work.” But what if you’re doing both?

That’s exactly what happened when Grant Martin, the editor of Gadling, told me that he’d be attending the Paris Air Show and wondered if there was any chance I’d be flying from Boston to Paris that week.

As luck would have it, I was scheduled to be the relief pilot (FB) on his flight. Grant immediately picked up two passes from the Paris Air Show administrators so I could attend the event during the middle of the week, a time normally reserved for the press and industry executives.

I showed up at the gate an hour before the flight and met up with Grant. Realizing he’d have no chance to plead with the agent for an upgrade (see Grant Martin’s post on The top 5 myths about getting upgraded) I was at least able to board him early and give him a full tour of the front-end of the airplane.

Grant saw what was involved in the interior preflight as I typed in our co-ordinates for the navigation system and programmed the flight management computer. We checked the overhead panel and set the pressurization, verified the fuel and adjusted the airspeed ‘bugs’ (markers that tell us when we can take off and retract the flaps).

The captain came aboard and suggested we had plenty of time to get a picture of Grant hanging his head out the window of the 767. The co-pilot, Sean, immediately volunteered to snap the shot from the terminal, and Grant and I stood out the window for a silly pose.

It was good enough to make it as last Thursday’s “Photo of the Day” here at Gadling. Coincidently that is the day of the week that I choose the photos.

Grant stepped back to his seat in row 28 while we double-checked the route and finished up the before starting engines checklist.

The flight across the ‘pond’ was almost entirely smooth, a rare occurrence as there’s usually a portion of the flight that requires the seatbelt sign to be flipped on.

The captain gave me part of his break so I could try to get as much sleep as possible. I invited Grant to sit in the open seat next to me in business class. I thought he could use the sleep as well, since we’d be skipping the requisite nap in Paris and heading directly to Le Bourget for the air show.

Grant went back to his seat in the back after my nearly 3-hour break and we vowed to stay awake the next day long enough to report on what’s new in commercial aviation for Gadling.

Sean was nice enough to give up his leg to me so I could do my best to impress my Gadling ‘boss’ with what would have to be a perfect landing in Paris. Giving up a leg to the relief pilot was a very nice gesture on his part.

Once I had a chance to look over the approach into Paris, I clicked off the autopilot to savor rest of the flight. Since we were landing to the east, the activities going on at Le Bourget were visible out the right side of the airplane as we lined up on the final.

I couldn’t help think how cool it would to be fly yourself directly to the show – perhaps in a 787, while we’re dreaming. For now, landing a couple of miles away at Charles de Gaulle in a 767 would have to do.

The captain, Mark, went above and beyond by carrying my bags to the hotel so Grant and I could leave straight from the airport for the show via train.

The normal bus ride to the hotel is two hours, and crews occasionally have to wait in the lobby for another 2 hours to get a room – time that, for us, would be better spent staring bleary-eyed at military and commercial airplanes flying overhead by going straight to the show.

But for Grant and I, just two hours after landing we were walking around the show floor in awe of the size and scope of the booths.

Just about every third party spring, hydraulic actuator or fastener for the newest Boeing and Airbus jets are on display, not to mention the many air-to-air missiles and fighter jets being promoted.

Attending the Paris Air Show during the middle of the week is rather subdued, though. Everyone is dressed in a suit, there were few smiles and the mood is a bit somber. Perhaps everyone was just as tired as we were. Most reports suggested it was the economy, but since I haven’t been before, I can’t really make a comparison to previous shows.

I did run into Les Abend, a columnist for Flying magazine. “It’s not Oshkosh,” he said. I knew just what he meant. It was an observation that hit me as well. Airventure in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is packed with people who consider aviation less a business than a passion.

But we were here to report on what’s coming for travelers for Gadling.

Grant and I managed to find out a few details of the high-tech passenger and cockpit windows that PPG has developed for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We saw the new Sukhoi Superjet 100 fly in its first public display and we were impressed with the Tiger helicopter performing a full aerobatic routine as well as the A380 flying demonstration:

Check out all of our bleary-eyed coverage if you haven’t already.

After a full day at the show, we had dinner at a crêperie in the Latin Quarter, at a restaurant I can rarely talk other crew members into. After we spent 26 euros on a cafeteria lunch at the air show, we both welcomed the cheap ham, egg and cheese crepe.

Four days later, I came back for a second look at the show, this time on a Sunday. The mood is far different, with aviation enthusiasts, families and even baby-strollers making the rounds. The flying display had changed as well, with the vintage Lockheed Constellation, Boeing B-17 and even a Bleriot taking flight.

In hindsight, the Friday through Sunday show is well worth the effort to see, especially if the weather holds out as well as it did this year. By the time I get the chance to do this again, I just wonder: could it ever be in a 787?

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Boston. Have any questions for Kent? Check out Plane Answers.

Photo of the Day (6/18/09)

Gadling’s photo of the day today was taken by Sean Roskey, who managed to capture this shot of Gadling’s editor, Grant Martin enjoying a tour of the 767 cockpit given by yours truly before heading off to the Paris Air Show.

Given Grant’s near destruction of Virgin Australia’s 777 simulator, we made sure he didn’t touch anything.

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!

Cockpit Chronicles: St. Elmos Fire, Falcons and Segway-ing through Paris

Rich, the relief co-pilot, looked over my shoulder and pointed to the radar.

“Looks like you’re painting some weather there.” He said.

I looked down, noting the sea of green ahead.

“It doesn’t have much vertical to it.” I replied, which meant the clouds hadn’t developed into anything that would produce much in the way of bumps.

“I think it’s just heavy rain.” I said.

After flying around Hurricane Ike and Hanna, it was nice to get away from the Caribbean weather by escaping to France. Sure, there may be some specks of yellow among the green Rich had pointed out, but this was no real thunderstorm from what I could see.

Soon we entered the clouds from above. The sunrise we had been enjoying was gone now and the cockpit was a bit darker. As we descended towards 20,000 feet, St. Elmos fire began to sparkle on the front windshield. This phenomenon looks like lightning, but it’s actually static discharges occurring right on the glass just in front of our faces.

Rich grabbed my camera to film the scene. [Video after the jump]

As we approached Paris on the arrival, we broke out long enough to see the sun trying to peek above the cloud layer. Moments later we flew through a few small build-ups. This weather was hardly painting on the radar, yet these were some powerful little clouds. The airplane bumped and shook for the next ten minutes causing Rich to give up with the camera. He couldn’t film much longer anyway, since we were about to reach the 10,000 foot sterile period.

Checking in on the radio behind us was a U.S. Airways flight that was beginning to pick up the same ride conditions we had. Since I was working the radios, I gave a quick pilot report about the moderate turbulence we had just flown through, hoping the U.S. Airways flight might do a better job avoiding it than we did.

It turned out Rich made a good call. The green weather with specks of yellow turned out to be rougher than anything I’d ever experienced in Europe. Fortunately we were through it by the time we reached 10,000 feet.

Captain Frank finished off the approach with a nice landing at Charles de Gaulle.

We talked about our plans as we rode the bus into the city.

I’ve always wanted to do it. Maybe this was the layover to give it a try. The reflective vests and helmet makes you look so goofy. Could I get past that? I mean, it is a form of transportation, and I do like gadgets. But I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince Rich to join me.

Of course I’m talking about taking a tour of Paris on a Segway. City Segway Tours offers as many as three of these tours a day during the summer with the rides tapering off as winter approaches. So I would have to do it on what would likely be my last Paris trip, number 17, of the year.

At 70 Euros, it doesn’t come cheap, but amazingly Rich really wanted to give it a try. He’s a bit of an adventurous type, who’s currently heavily involved in his new hobby of beekeeping. Since touring around Paris on a Segway wasn’t something he’d done yet, it didn’t take much to convince him.

Fat Tire had an opening on their 6:30 p.m. tour, so Rich and I had some time to roam around the city. I told Rich that Grant Martin, the editor of Gadling who normally resides in Michigan, was just a few miles from the hotel playing a competitive game of Frisbee at the Cité Universitaire.

We had some time to kill and we agreed that it’d be interesting to see what was involved in a competitive Frisbee game, so we walked over to the park where he and his girlfriend had met up with his sister and some others for a game.

It was apparently the nicest day of the summer according to the local media with warm 70+ degree temperatures, perfect for hanging out in a park and I suppose ideal weather for a Frisbee match.

Unfortunately, we wouldn’t see a real Frisbee match, since a local falconer was out flying two of his birds at the field. It gave Rich a good opportunity to take the pictures below while I shot some video.

Grant trying to determine if this bird would be using the field for the rest of the day…

The falcon unexpectedly took off after a kid ran towards it. (See video below)

We agreed to meet up with Grant and the ladies later that evening if we survived our Segway experience.

We met Lisa at Fat Tire Bike Tours and City Segway Tours at their office near the Eiffel Tower and she immediately made us sign away any rights and agree to pay for any damage we may do to the machines. That didn’t dissuade us, so we took the next step and picked out helmets before joining the five other riders.

Our guide, Dana, was an enthusiastic American who was rather adept at Segwaying through Paris. She gave us a good thirty minutes of instruction on how to operate the Segway.

Before we knew it, we were all getting comfortable with the motions needed to step on, move, turn and most importantly, stop Dean Kamen’s amazing little invention. The tour takes four hours and covers the major sites of Paris. Rich and I had seen these landmarks before, but we couldn’t stop grinning.

In just a few minutes we completely forgot just how dorky we looked on the Segway and we began enjoying the freedom it provided.

Our concerns with the €70 per person had been put to rest almost immediately. This was worth it.

It’s easy to underestimate just how fast 12 miles an hour is, until you’re on a Segway. We flew through the parks, mostly at a comfortable 1/2 speed, occasionally ‘opening it up’ a bit to feel the wind blow through our hair while demonstrating our prowess to the other riders.

I struck up a conversation with one of the riders who had his new camera damaged a few days earlier. He wondered if I might forward him some pictures and video, and I told him I was writing this up for a blog, and I could at least sen
d him a link.

Much to my surprise he was a fan of Gadling and he was pretty sure he’d read a Cockpit Chronicles. Or at least he thought.

So I vowed to send him this story–a post I’m sure he’ll remember, if only because he was actually there.

Dana gave everyone the option of stopping for a drink and an appetizer at a café, or simply taking a rest break at a Creperie/Bistro so we could spend more time running around the city.

Everyone decided to keep the rest break short and continue our tour as we were really enjoying the zippy little wheels. I was amazed that battery life wasn’t an issue even though we were almost constantly moving for the four hours. These machines never seemed to slow down.

For a novice, riding a Segway is almost more demanding than a bike tour, since your feet and calf muscles aren’t used to the corrections and weight-shifting required to speed up and slow down.

I was able to balance the device, even while shooting video along the way. I may regret this, but I’ll go ahead and share the video:

I know I’ve recommended the Fat Tire Bike tour of Paris and Versailles in the past, but you just might have to forgo those, and give the Segway a try. No one in our group regretted it.

We met up with Grant and his girlfriend over at the Latin Quarter at almost 11 p.m. Grant’s sister Chi twisted her ankle playing Frisbee and couldn’t join us for drinks and dessert. I would have enjoyed talking with her–to get her viewpoint on what it’s like as an expat living in Paris for the past few years. I guess I’ll just have to keep reading her blog. Here’s the day from her perspective along with some great pictures of the Falcon demonstration.

We’re no longer flying to Paris for the winter, so it’s time to bid farewell to this amazing city. It was more expensive this year than in years past, but far more memorable, too.

Now it’s back to the Caracas, Miami, and who knows what other trips we’ll see this winter. Stay tuned…

Cockpit Chronicles takes you along on some of Kent’s trips as an international co-pilot on the Boeing 757 and 767 based in Boston.