American Airlines flight makes emergency landing in Las Vegas

An American Airlines flight made and emergency landing in Las Vegas todayAn American Airlines Boeing 757 was forced to make an emergency landing at Las VegasMcCarran International Airport earlier today after pilots detected smoke in the cockpit.

AA Flight 431 was traveling from Miami to San Francisco, and was over Utah, when the crew diverted from their course to make the landing. They touched down at 11:10 AM Pacific time and were met by emergency crews who assisted with the evacuation of the plane. All 159 passengers and six crew, exited without incident or injury.

A spokesperson for American Airlines said that the emergency landing is standard procedure for pilots after smoke is detected on a plane, and that the crew was just acting properly to ensure the safety of all those on board.

At this time, it is unclear as to the cause of the smoke, but investigations by AA flight mechanics and the FAA are ongoing. In the meantime the company is working to re-book all the stranded passengers and get them back on their way to San Francisco.

Smoking ban takes effect in Spain today

Spain, spain, smoking, smoking laws, smoking banStarting today in Spain, it is illegal to smoke in any enclosed space where the public gathers. This includes bars, cafes, and restaurants. It will also be illegal to smoke in school playgrounds and near hospitals. Smoking will even be banned from TV shows.

Spain joins a host of countries that have recently toughened up anti-smoking laws, including Finland, Egypt, and Syria. Countries with national health care systems are looking for ways to reduce costs, and getting people to give up an unhealthy habit is one way to do that. In the U.S., health insurance companies have been among the biggest proponents of anti-smoking legislation.

Living in Spain, it’s seems inconceivable to me to spend a night out on a juerga (pub crawl) and not come home smelling like an ashtray. Then again, I had a hard time believing British pubs would enforce the UK smoking ban a few years back, and they did.

Spanish bar and cafe owners aren’t happy, though. With the economic crisis some have already gone under, and others fear that customers will keep away. A Spanish law in 2006 seemed to have solved the problem by allowing smaller places to choose whether to be smoking or nonsmoking, while larger venues had to provide no smoking areas. Most smaller places chose to allow smoking, but a few did well by becoming bastions of clean air. Now everyone has to ban smoking, and those larger places that built special nonsmoking sections ended up wasting their money.

Historic L.A. hotel remodeled as pot-friendly lodging

A California entrepreneur is reopening a historic 1920’s L.A. hotel as America’s first pot-friendly accommodation. Dennis Peron, a long-time marijuana dispensary owner and medicinal marijuana advocate, is currently remodeling Los Angeles’ Hotel Normandie with plans to turn its 106 rooms into a haven for smokers around the world.

Though the property is far from complete, Peron is planning a grand opening for the new residence today, April 20th, or “4/20” in smoker slang. Once complete, Peron’s vision is a hotel with a “hippie rustic” theme and a rooftop deck where users could light up, framed by the hotel’s vintage neon sign.

Unfortunately the dreams for America’s first marijuana hotel are threatening to go up in flames. As it currently stands, Peron and friend Richard Eastman are running short on funding for the ambitious project. A few rooms have been remodeled but the majority are not. The proposed renovation is likely to cost upwards of $500,000 and the real estate investor who purchased the property for Peron is $200,000 behind on payments.

Will this pot-friendly hotel ever see the light of day? The answer, it appears, is hidden by a cloud of smoke.

Five places to puff in Manhattan: Tips for Smokers

Yes, I know. Every time I write something for the smokers out there, the comments always fill up with an argument over smoking itself. For now, I’m just going to assume that there are some people out there who happen to smoke and travel. I have this sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one. So, for those of you who enjoy a puff on the road, here are five places where you can smoke in Manhattan. At least one of them will surprise you.

1. Tobacco shops
Rather than single out one, I’d like to call your attention to several cigar shops in the city. Rules vary: some allow cigars only, while others also welcome pipe and cigarette smoker. Regardless of what you choose, do have the courtesy to buy something in the establishment before lighting up. In Midtown, you’ll find De La Concha on Sixth Ave at W. 56th Street and Davidoff stores at Columbus Circle and on Madison Ave (at E. 54th Street). There’s a Nat Sherman on 42nd and Fifth and a Barclay Rex across the street from Grand Central Station. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.2. Cigar bars
If you want to light a heater and enjoy a cocktail at the same time, there are a handful of establishments open to the public. On the Upper East Side you can hit Lexington Bar and Books or Club Macanudo. In Midtown, you’ll find the Carnegie Club. Be prepared to pay. Drinks and sticks are a bit pricey, and if you bring your own, you’ll be charged a cutting fee.

3. Private clubs
The best-known is the Grand Havana Room, which sits atop 666 Fifth Ave. It’s a beautiful space and has a fantastic restaurant. The only way you’ll get in, aside from becoming a member, is to convince one to invite you up.

4. Inter-block alleys
Yeah, this is the “when all else fails” alternative. There are alleys that cut through the middle of some blocks in Manhattan, and Midtown has more than a handful. My favorite goes from 5nd to 53rd and is between Sixth Ave and Seventh Ave. It’s covered. In the summer, Moda (the restaurant in Flatotel) runs a bar in there, so you’ll lose some space. This alley is covered, making it great for rainy day.

5. Jury duty
Okay, this one’s really for locals. If you get called for federal jury duty, here’s a good reason not to avoid it: there’s a smoking room just off the big room where the jury pool waits in the courthouse on 500 Pearl Street. Since you can’t leave the building (except for lunch) when you have federal jury duty, this room, I guess, is intended to make your experience more pleasant. The room is dark, sports old furniture and has no windows – it’s hardly a luxury space. After spending several hours waiting to be tapped for that product liability trial, however, it’s hard to complain about the digs.

Plane Answers: JFK kid controller incident and a smoking 757

Probably the most popular offering on LiveATC.net 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 LiveATC.net 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 LiveATC.net:

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