Today’s Photo of the Day is relevant for several reasons. The shot of the tarmac on the way to Paris was taken by Kent Wien, our resident pilot who is actually currently on layover in the middle of a BOS-CDG-BOS turn.
This week is also the week of the 45th Paris Air Show, the massive biannual event that brings thousands of suppliers, manufacturers and press to Le Bourget for updates on all of the new technology. It’s the biggest air show in the world, and both Kent and Grant will running around collecting data for Gadling. Stay tuned later this week for updates from the show.
Oh, and if you’ve got any cool photos that you’d like to share with the world, add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day. Make sure you save them under Creative Commons though, otherwise we can’t use them!
I don’t typically read the Wall Street Journal (call me a leftist liberal), but its Fridays edition cover page caught my eye: “Why Even Sunny Days Can Ground Airplanes,” the title says. That is a question that’s been on my mind lately as I sit on the tarmac for hours trying to figure out what the problem is (see my recent complaints about a clear-weather cancellation I had on Delta). I have long suspected that the way the airline industry works is about as straightforward and transparent as the healthcare administration in the U.S. (me: leftist liberal).
Back to the story though. On Thursday, President Bush met with Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters to discuss the reasons for air transportation problems: from old air-traffic technology, and the growing number of corporate and regional jets, to labor tensions among traffic controllers, and overscheduling by airlines. The one fundamental shortcoming seems to be obvious: There are too many planes in the air, especially on the East Coast, and the airspace is choked with traffic. Contrary to popular belief, the sky has a limit. Yet, airlines continue to schedule more flights, even while using fewer total aircraft and employees than in the 1990s boom, and they fill their schedules with smaller, regional jets to save on fuel. Plus, there has been a massive rise in small, private-jet travel (200+ passenger jets often wait in queue with 10-person private jets).
Of course, the WSJ blamed government regulation for forcing planes to fly on fixed paths that date back to the time when airmail planes flew along cross-country roads they could see from the air. People want to travel fast and airlines want to make money. What do we do about the lack of sky? It’s not an easy fix to get our hands on. You can’t exactly invade countries to get more airspace. Or can you?
Yes, flying is bad. Not flying, however, can be worse. June 2007 was the worst month for taxi-out times (the time between boarding and taking off) in a decade, with 462 planes stuck on the ground for more than 3 hours, today’s International Herald Tribune reports.
Once a while, you hear stories of passengers frustrated with the airline industry who can turn their rage into something productive…while the rest of us fume for a while, possibly write a letter of complaint and then forget. This is one of those stories.
Last December, Kate Hanni and her family were stuck aboard a jet for hours out on the tarmac. After that experience, Hanni decided she would get a law passed making long confinement on a plane illegal and allowing passengers to get off the plane. Like that, she became a passenger advocate. You can get more information and sign a petition at www.flyersrights.com.