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.

Through the Gadling Lens: the latest, greatest shots from the Gadling Flickr pool

It’s been a little over three months since the last time we waded through all the amazing images shared in our Gadling Flickr pool, and it seems like it’s time to do so, again: after all, schools have closed (or are about to close) for the summer break all over the world, and prime vacation-photo-shooting season is upon us. So to help provide you a little inspiration before you head out for your summer holidays, I thought I’d go through eight of my favourite photographs from the Flickr pool and share with you what, in my opinion, makes them great. As with all art, of course, beauty is subjective; however, hopefully you’ll see something in the images shared here which will spark some creativity in you the next time you pull your camera out.

And so, on with the show:
1. Capture the ambiance the weather gives to the scene.

I love the image above, captured and shared by AlphaTangoBravo/Adam Baker, primarily because of the way he totally captured the mood of the scene as the two surfers venture out to capture their first (last?) waves of the day. The way he does this? Buy shooting into the sun, he draws your attention to how bright the day was, and the cloudless sky. In addition, he makes sure to crop the image so that the long shadows of each of the surfers, giving you some clue as to the time of the day that the image was shot. In addition, notice that there are no other people in the shot, other than the two friends in the shot — it gives the feeling that there are no other people in the world other than the two men. Fabulous capture.

2. If there’s something particularly stunning about the day, don’t forget to capture it.

In the same spirit as the first image in this post, this shot shared by insEyedout does a great job of featuring what was most stunning about his visit to The White House, in Washington D.C. — the amazing weather. The difference in this case, however, is instead of shooting into the sun (which, admittedly, can damage your sensor if you do it too often, so shoot into the sun sparingly), he uses the glow of the sunlight off of his companion’s shoulders to communicate the bright sky. And speaking of sky, look at that amazing blue! I also love how he doesn’t take your focus off of the sky, by shooting from behind his friends — had the women in the shot been facing us, you might not have noticed the sky, in favour of looking at their faces or smiles. Well done.

3. Look for patterns.

I love this photograph of the Painted Desert in Arizona, shared by Ash Crowe — and one glance makes it pretty apparent why, I think. Obviously, the coloured striations within the rock formations are pretty spectacular; however, how amazing is it that the pattern repeats itself in the cloud formations in the sky? One of the coolest things that you can do when taking any sort of landscape or scenery shots is to look for any sort of patterns within the frame of the shot — patterns always create interest. Really fantastic shot.

4. Don’t forget about flora and fauna.

While we’re still outside, just a reminder not to forget the flora and the fauna. Because, seriously, do I even need to explain why this image shared by fiznatty is so amazing? This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type images, captured in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

A note about taking photographs of wildlife: obviously, the best way to make it happen is to gain trust — and many times, this means being very still, and being very patient. Also, be sure you don’t take risks: it’s not a great idea to touch wild animals, and remember — when cute babies like the above are around, mom and dad may not be far behind.

5. Do a bit of preparation for fabulous interior shots.

If you’re going somewhere with tons of architectural history, you’re likely going to want to take some interior shots, like the amazing one of the stained glass windows in Sainte Chappelle in Paris, shared by Amy Mengel, above. In my experience, shots like these are possible if you pay close attention to the light that is falling inside the building. In essence, this means:

  • Turn off your flash. Particularly when shooting inside a church or cathedral — your flash is going to wash out the vibrant colours of the glass.
  • You will likely have to up the ISO setting in your camera, unless you happen to have a tripod on you. Remember, if there’s low light, you’ll want a higher ISO setting; if the area is brightly lit, then you can get away with a lower setting (click here for a quick review on ISO). Play with your setting and take a few shots to find the best one.
  • If your camera has a white balance setting (sometimes indicated by “WB”), then adjust accordingly before you take the shot. In essence, this means evaluating what the main light source is in the room — incandescent light (which can make your resulting photograph yellow), florescent light (which can make your resulting photograph green) or natural light. Consult your camera manual beforehand to learn how to adjust white balance.

6. Don’t be afraid of movement.

I love this image shared by t3mujin of a typical tram in Lisbon, and it teaches a valuable lesson: not all out-of-focus images are bad. The blur of the vehicles in this photograph convey speed and movement, which help you to place yourself right there on the busy street corner. Also, I love the use of colour in this image — all of the colours in this shot are generally bland and neutral, save for the bright yellow pop from the paint colour on the front of the tram. Fantastic.

A tip on how to create a great blurry shot? Just shoot and shoot and shoot — keep clicking from the same and different vantage points over and over again. Mere statistics will tell you that you’ll end up with at least one shot that you’ll be pleased with.

7. Don’t forget to look up.

I absolutely adore this image shared by of an intersection in Florence, Italy, particularly because it teaches a valuable lesson: don’t forget to look up! The beauty of this shot is that the negative space (the space between the buildings) communicates the narrowness of the streets and exactly how the streets flow without ever actually showing you the images. In addition, the tall buildings convey the feeling of being closed in amongst all the architecture. And finally, I love how the image is framed so that the intersection isn’t straight up-and-down, but instead, at an angle, providing visual interest. A beautiful shot.

8. Don’t be afraid to shoot at night.

And finally, don’t forget that cities can be absolutely stunning at night, as evidenced by this really beautiful shot shared by macdonaldj2wit of the Washington Monument. The easiest way to take an amazing shot like this is as follows:

  • Look for a location with lots of points of light, to create visual interest — traffic lights, car lights, whatever.
  • Set your camera on automatic or program mode.
  • Set your ISO as low as possible, and the affix your camera to a tripod or rest it on a very level surface.
  • Turn on your camera’s self-timer.
  • Focus the shot, and press the shutter, and then step away from the camera.

By setting the timer, the camera will have time to settle from any movement caused by your clicking the shutter release. The camera will likely keep the shutter open for quite a while in this low light, so it’s absolutely imperative that the camera keep absolutely still. Once you hear the shutter close again, take a look — picture perfect night shot.

So, how was that for a few stunning images? If you’ve got a few great images you’d like to share (or tips that you think might be valuable), please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. And as always, if you have any questions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Bouncing Brit babes help hotels launch free nights offer

InterContinental Hotels kicked off its biggest free nights promotion with a hell of a bounce. Around the world, the hotel chain invited people to bounce on oversized beds in an attempt to set a world record. In all, more than 20,000 bouncers bounced in Paris, New York, Shanghai and London for 16 hours.

The highlight for most was probably the presence of Olympic gymnasts at each of these locations, but it’s hard for anyone to compete with The Sun‘s famous “Page 3” models, who made an appearance at London’s Covent Garden for a bit of bouncing.

In New York, the crowed gathered in mid-town’s Bryant Park (which I walked by, but didn’t see any Page 3-caliber hotties).

Why all the fuss? InterContinental Hotels was just psyched to dish out 4,000 free room-nights at its hotels. Scoring with a Page 3 girl would have just been a bonus.

To see all the bed-jumping action in one place, click here.

Stinky London, Rude Paris, Romantic Venice

If you need a sense of authority to trust a publication, you can’t do better than one from Australia. So, when the Sydney Morning Herald says that Brussels is boring, you have to believe it. Likewise, Paris is overrated, and the food sucks in London (duh).

Well, if you think the folks down under have credibility problems, fear not. It was reporting on a TripAdvisor poll of nearly 2,400 travelers, so it’s really TripAdvisor users who had an epiphany on the quality of London‘s cuisine.

Bad news for London: it also has the worst-dressed locals and is the most expensive. Oh, and it’s the dirtiest.

Sorry, guys.

Meanwhile, we needed a poll to tell us that Paris was the least friendly (though I’ve never had a problem there) and the second most expensive. Yet, Paris is top for grub and fashion, and London leads in nightlife, public parks and free attractions.

Need a romantic getaway in Europe? Venice still wins.


Hang with Andy Warhol in Paris

Elvis may have left the building, but the man who immortalized him (no, not the colonel) has left his mark.

The Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais has scored a major win: the museum is playing host to 250 works by Andy Warhol. Quite simply, this doesn’t happen. The exhibition, called “Warhol’s Wide World,” is a rare opportunity for pop art fanatics to immerse themselves in the accomplishments of the master. With a new package from Concorde Hotels & Resorts, you can separate yourself from the proletarians at this show with VIP passes.

Stay at one of six Concorde properties in Paris – the Hotel de Crillon, Hotel Lutetia, Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare, Hotel du Louvre, Hotel Concorde La Fayette or Hotel Concorde Montparnasse – and you’ll also receive a buffet breakfast for two, two priority tickets to the Warhol show and a Warhol-themed box of Parisian sweets. Rates start at $260 per room-night.

This is a rare opportunity and is only available until June 29, 2009. If you’re a Warhol freak, this show is a must. The Concorde deal just makes it more comfortable.