Monday, June 30, 2008

Bang for your buck...

I don't know how many people out there enjoy flying for more than transportation's sake. For example, when I fly somewhere, I always make sure to check out what landmarks I am going to be flying over. (That's how I "went" to the Grand Canyon!!)

The thirty minute flight from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile has by far the greatest ratio of satisfaction to money spent. The flight takes about thirty minutes, half of which consists of gaining altitude quickly to cross the Andes, and then losing it quickly to land on the other side.

The rest of the trip looks like this. Depending on the flight path, visibility, and where you are seated, you might see Aconcagua and/or Tupungato. You can see Aconcagua on the left in the picture below - it is 22,841 feet tall. Although some renegade Chilean pilots may announce that the peak is on the Argentine/Chile border, they are full of shit and probably in denial.Last I checked, there are two dailies between the cities operated by LAN. They're running A320's and even on this thirty minute flight they offer you a drink and snack. Here's to South American hospitality!

The safest seat?

Is there really a safest seat on an airplane? On a tip, I looked into a couple of articles and did some web-based research on the subject (read: I looked at some articles during my lunch break) and came up with some thoughts on this.

Yahoo news had a piece on this finding that the safest seats on a plane are the aisle seats. The main argument, it seems, of this British study is that:

"...the best chance of getting out alive from a burning aircraft, people should choose an aisle seat near the front within five rows of an emergency exit..."

I don't know - it seems to me that this would be true if you assumed that everybody on the plane remained calm and in control during the fire. How likely is that? Not very, in my mind. Hear me out: we have all been on flights where once the plane parks and we begin deplaning, we encounter that one passenger who must get out of the plane. They push, they rush, they tailgate you down the aisle. Now, most planes are not on fire when they park and there are always these people who act like it's on fire. In a real fire, do you think these people would remain calm and wait for the people on the aisle seat to get out first? Doubt it...

I would put much more credibility in this article in Popular Mechanics, which says that you're much more likely to survive a crash if you're sitting towards the back of the plane. It just seems like looking at the safety of a seat based on whether it's a window, middle, or aisle is missing the big picture.

Personally, I just stick as close to the front as I can - that way I get my orange juice before all the suckers in the back!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Airplane mecca

Last month I went to airplane mecca, if you will - yes, that's right: St. Maarten. If you are at all familiar with this island, beyond the knowing where it is and that it's a glorious vacation spot, you would know that it has one of the best airports in the world.

Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) has one runway that runs out into Maho Bay. Beyond the end of the runway, there is a small two-lane road, a strip of beach, and then nothing but the Caribbean. The great part about this is that you can stand on that strip of beach and have planes landing literally right above your head.

It gets better - planes take off from that runway also, meaning that if you're standing on that same strip of beach, you get blasted with jet thrust.

Some family friends send me and my gf there as a graduation gift. They got us a timeshare right next to the airport. For one week, I was able to indulge in my three loves: the ocean, the gf, and airplanes (not in that order, but you get the idea).

One of the pluses of SXM is that beyond the small island hopper prop planes, you get to see the big time commercial jets. AirFrance has a daily (I think) flight in an A340, Corsair flew in a 767 and 747 while we were there, KLM flies in a 747 and MD DC-10, and the US carriers (US Airways, Delta, American, Continental, United and JetBlue) get there with 757's, 737's, and A319/320's).

The first time I was able to go stand under one of the landing planes, I was terrified. It turned out to be an American 757, and in the short finals, I could just see it hitting me. I could already see the headlines: "Tourist run over by plane." In any event, I ended up "getting out of the way" and then feeling completely foolish about it. I go the chance to redeem myself a bit later, and it was a thrill.

The takeoffs were a lot of fun. There were definately some pilots that got a kick out of it because they would linger with their engines blasting for a bit longer than necessary. The thrust was so powerful that you literally could not keep looking at the plane as it left. You could not stand still, it was hopeless to attempt it. The sand blasted so hard it would become engrained in your skin - which was not bad because the Caribbean was conveniently 5 feet away so you could go wash off.

This is definately a must for any plane enthusiast - you will not be disappointed. Pictures forthcoming...

This is the captain speaking

Well, now that almost everybody I know has a blog, I figured I better join in. I've notoriously been last among my acquaintances in doing the cool things - I didn't see Happy Gilmore or Billy Madison until this year, and I got my first cell phone after graduating from college. Yeah, I know.

So, I have decided after much thought that the purpose of this blog will be about airplanes and aviation in general. There needs to be more discussion about this in the blogosphere, I have concluded.

Why airplanes?

Think about what it means to fly for a moment: you are hurdling through the air, often 30,000 feet or more above sea level and heading precisely to a strip of asphalt located up to thousands of miles away. Now, I ask you: what is NOT exciting about that? Not only that, but planes are beautiful machines. They are sleek, even athletic-looking. You can even detect a hint of personality in each one.

That's all for now - by the way, if you found this, I'm impressed.