Tuesday, July 29, 2008

North American Regional: Can Air Canada be stopped?

It's time for the second installment of the Best Color Scheme Among Flag Carriers Tournament. Today we will settle the North American Region. This Regional will include eight airlines from Central America, the Caribbean and Canada. (Remember, the US will not play in this regional - click here to read the tournament rules.)

There is a situation that requires explanation. Mexico has two government designated flag carriers: Mexicana and AeroMexico. These two airlines will play, but will be forced to face off in the first round - sorry Mexico. There are four airlines on each side of the bracket as follows:

Bracket 1:
#1 Air Canada vs #4 TACA
#2 AeroMexico vs #3 Mexicana
Bracket 2:
#1 Cubana vs #4 Air Dominicana
#2 Air Jamaica vs #3 Copa

Let's get it started... Bracket 1 is up first...

Air Canada vs TACA: This is a battle of two airlines with great tail designs. The Air Canada color scheme wins points for embracing a national symbol (the maple leaf) and the national colors (red and white). TACA has a great tail design - I like those combinations so much I might put them in my living room. However, the red over the cockpit makes it look like it's wearing a bad hair piece, like this guy. That's it - WINNER: Air Canada.
AeroMexico vs Mexicana: Here it is the battle of Mexico. This is a tough call because both exhibit very interesting logos on the tail. AeroMexico has the polished look, ala American Airlines. That look is not only classy, but also saves fuel. In this day and age, that's a winner in my book. WINNER: AeroMexico.

Air Canada vs AeroMexico: This is this bracket's final. The winner of this match goes on to the Regional Final. Not an easy call by any means. Air Canada is easy on the eyes. The red on white lettering is pleasant, and the maple leaf is classy. But that Aztec on AeroMexico is awesome. It is not only emblematic of Mexico's rich history, but will also kick your ass if it has to. This is a tough call, but WINNER: AeroMexico.
Phew, that was tough, but nobody said this was going to be easy. Now it's off to Bracket 2...
Cubana vs Air Dominicana: A color scheme does not have to be flashy to be good. But Air Dominicana goes to far in the "blah" direction. Nothing very exciting here. The lettering is not even noticeable. And the two orbits in diverging directions are giving me vertigo. WINNER: Cubana.

Copa vs Air Jamaica: What we really have here is the battle of Continental-light vs the old Houston Astros uniform. I'm personally a fan of the globe logo on Copa's tail. It's an overall nice color scheme. But it would be hard to dismiss Air Jamaica's colors. If anything, it's good marketing if people are interested enough in your color scheme to stop and read the name on your plane. But even the Astros organization got tired of those colors, and Air Jamaica should follow suit. WINNER: Copa.

Cubana vs Copa: This is Bracket 2's final. The winner will face AeroMexico in the Final for a chance to represent North America in the Elite Eight. I must admit that I am kind of bored by this final. Copa is certainly classy, but too safe. Cubana has the traditional white, and I like what they do on the tail. It's sort of Air France-ish, but unique in it's own way. The difference is the block lettering. WINNER: Cubana.

Now for the moment of truth. We are about to find out who will join Varig in the Elite Eight of the Tournament. Let's see who the North American representative will be...on to the Final!

AeroMexico vs Cubana: People, it comes down to this...It's traditional, yet fierce. It's simple, yet elaborate. It's too much, yet not enough. No other airline in this regional was able to stand up to this logo. The fiercest challenger was Air Canada's maple leaf, but even that great logo fell just short. Maybe Air Canada could have won if it had two hockey sticks on the tail - but no such luck. Interestingly, AeroMexico's logo may not have worked with any other color in the background. AeroMexico got this right, and they move on the the Elite Eight. WINNER: AeroMexico.

Now to celebrate...margaritas on Mexico!!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hole-y Mole-y

A tragedy was averted today when a Qantas 747 from London to Melbourne landed safely after a gash on the side of the plane forced an emergency landing. Read about it here. And see footage shot on a cell phone from inside the plane here. There were over 300 people on board - so kudos to the flight crew for getting everyone to the ground safely. There were no injuries reported, but CNN twice mentions that people vomitted after deplaning. I probably would have, too. Maybe they all ate some bad guacamole.
This story brings back memories of Aloha Airlines 243, which completely disintegrated in mid-air, yet managed to land. Unfortunately, one of the flight attendants died as a result of this disaster. Of course, the other thought that came to mind was the famous (in my mind, anyway) reference to Qantas Airlines in the classic movie "Rain Man." At one point, Charlie (Tom Cruise) and Raymond (Dustin Hoffman - aka Rain Man) have to get to Los Angeles from Cincinnati. Raymond refuses to get on the plane and this conversation ensues:
Charlie: Ray, all airlines have crashed at one time or another, that doesn't mean that they are not safe.
Raymond: QANTAS. QANTAS never crashed.
Charlie: QANTAS?
Raymond: Never crashed.
Charlie: Oh that's gonna do me a lot of good because QANTAS doesn't fly to Los Angeles out of Cincinnati, you have to get to Melbourne! Melbourne, Australia in order to get the plane that flies to Los Angeles!
See it for yourself here - it's a great scene.
It's nice to see that Qantas once again maintained its perfect record.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

South America Regional

It's time for the first regional tournament of the Best Color Scheme Among Flag Carriers Tournament. Let's head south, way south, and start with South America.

In the interest of full disclosure (I work at the government, so I don't get to say "fill disclosure" much and mean it - whoa, that felt good), you should know that I am from Argentina, and Aerolineas Argentinas is very much a favorite in this region. However, my job is to be fair with legislation, so I will be fair with my heart as well in this tournament.

With that being said...to the bracket:

There are ten players in this region: Aerolineas Argentinas, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano (LAB), TAM Mercosur, LANChile, PLUNA, Varig, TAME, Avianca, Conviasa, and Air Peru. Here's how I split them up: We'll have a Southern Cone and Amazon sector. There will be a play-in match in each sector, and the winners of the play-in will face Aerolineas Argentinas and Varig (both chosen because they serve the countries with the biggest populations on the continent).

Here are the first round matches, including the play-ins:

Southern Cone Sector:
Aerolineas Argentinas - BYE
LAB vs TAM Mercosur - Play-in, winner faces Aerolineas Argentinas

Amazon Sector:
Varig - BYE
TAME vs Conviasa - Play-in, winner faces Varig
Avianca vs Air Peru

And...now the results:

LAB vs TAM Mercosur: This was, in my mind a very difficult round to judge because both schems seem very unimaginative. It's not that I don't like simple schemes, but at least offer me something interesting - a logo, a picture of a bird, an interesting name. These airlines offer neither of these. The names of the airlines don't help. Lloyd Aereo Boliviano - could you even fit that on a fuselage and still read it --- and who names an airline Lloyd?? TAM Mercosur -- You can't even tell where it's from. Pretty disappointed here, but I go with LAB on the basis that the light blue against the white is much more pleasant and they actually have something creative on the tail. WINNER: LAB
LANChile vs PLUNA: First of all, I have to give serious props to LANChile for their new color scheme, it is much more pleasant than the old colors. Again, the old was simple, which is not bad, but the star on it made it look like a sheriff. Here's my problem with LANChile, the red stripe makes it look like it's unhappy. I can see that they want to add a highlight of red on the plane because red is on Chile's flag, but couldn't they think of a better way to do it. And I'm not too crazy about the faded star on the tail. I want striking images on a color scheme - not some sort of airbrush star that I could see in a children's book. PLUNA is certainly not the most exciting scheme in the world, but it is striking and there's a sense of certainty and boldness. Also, I like the script Uruguay. Big upset here folks, WINNER: PLUNA

TAME vs Conviasa: Another play-in match, and another difficult choice, in my opinion. What is it with South America and blue color schemes? TAME is certainly interesting, but seems a bit too busy. Too many lines, And when I look at Conviasa, I don't know whether to like it or carve a jack-o-lantern into it. That shade of orange is just not doing it for me. Reluctantly, I'll say WINNER: TAME

Avianca vs Air Peru: I worried that during this contest I would make contradictory statements - and here's a possibly contradictory statement. I said earlier that the red in TAM Mercosur was not tasteful, and here, Avianca shows how you can do red with style. Air Peru is also a tasteful red, but it's too triangular-ish. WINNER: AVIANCA

PLUNA and Avianca advance to the Semis ... let's see who they will face...

Aerolineas Argentinas vs LAB: I know that I may come off as a homer here, but there's really no match here at all. Aerolineas is a classy and simple color scheme. True, it's not the most flashy color scheme, but it reflects the country's national colors with taste. The tail blue and condor logo on the engines are a plus. WINNER: AEROLINEAS ARGENTINASVARIG vs TAME: I'm a big fan of VARIG's color scheme, especially on this DC-10. Again, simple, but effective. I've always liked the compass/star on the tail, and the script Brasil is a nice addition. We all knew TAME was not going anywhere, anyways. WINNER: VARIG
To the Semifinals:
Aerolineas Argentinas vs PLUNA: These two countries have a proud tradition of competition in soccer, territory, mate, and now, finally, flag carrier color schemes. PLUNA has a bold tail design, although it kind of looks like the nose and whiskers of a small rodent. But I also think that a national carrier must carry itself with grace and style, and the Aerolineas Argentinas color scheme is so classy. Simple, yet powerful. Like most other competitions between these two countries, Argentina comes out on top. WINNER: AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS

VARIG vs Avianca: VARIG has the most diverse fleet of any South American flag carrier. And the color scheme looks good on each one of the planes. That's a winner in my mind. WINNER: VARIG

And, now, the moment you have all been waiting for...THE FINALS

Aerolineas Argentinas vs VARIG: How could I set myself up this way. My country of birth facing off against our rival in almost every aspect of life. I think what it comes down to here is that VARIG has been able to distinguish it's color scheme much more than Aerolineas. The Argentine flag carrier's condor logo on the tail could well be confused for that of another country at a distance, but when you see that star on VARIG's tail, you KNOW you're looking at Brasil's national airline. As much as it pains me to say this: WINNER: VARIG

You screwed me again, Brasil.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July-August-? Madness

The graduate school I went to has a good basketball team, and to that effect I became a big fan of March Madness. The year before I got to Albany, the #16 seed Great Danes faced #1 seed UConn in the First Round. Never - ever - in the history of March Madness has a #1 seed lost in the First Round. We came pretty damn close to making history.

My first year here we won the America East Conference tourney (woot) and faced Virginia in the First Round of the NCAAs, this time as a #13 seed versus a #4. Unfortunately, it did not go very well.

However, attending a school with a good basketball team has solidified my love of brackets. I didn't know how much excitement and happiness a bracket could bestow on my life. These days, I even closely follow brackets to see who Obama and McCain are going to pick as VP. A fellow blogger did a worst band ever tournament March Madness style. Wouldn't it be nice if all disputes could be decided in such a neat and logical way. Now, in that spirit, I present to you:

"The Best Color Scheme Among Flag Carriers ... Tournament"

Here are the rules:

1. I will break the world up into regions as follows: South America, North America (including Caribbean and Central America), Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia, and Oceania. The US does not technically have a "Flag Carrier" so there will be a "primary" to see which US carrier gets to play. The winner of each region and the US primary winner will give us our Elite Eight.
2. Color schemes will be judged on creativity, symbolism, design, and "sexiness."
3. The flag carriers in each region will be placed in a bracket (bracket size and organization will vary depending on size of region) and will be faced off against each other until a winner is chosen.
4. The Elite Eight contestants will be randomly seeded and bracketed.
5. Only flag carriers can play. Just so everybody is on the same page, a flag carrier is a country's national airline. The flag carriers were selected based on the extensive web-based research (read: looking up "List of National Airlines" on Wikipedia).

I think that covers pretty much everything. If any situations arise which have not been covered by the rules, they will be settled as they come up.

South America will be up first...

...let the madness begin!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Yeah, but Albany makes it up in other ways

Yesterday Money Magazine came out with it's top 100 best small cities to live. And it was not very surprising that right up there at #2 was Fort Collins, CO - the place where I grew up, went to college and where my mother and sister still live.

Now I live in Albany, which sadly did not make the list - but that's okay, because Albany is good in other ways. For example, it rains here a lot and rain is good. And Albany did come in first in this contest.

In all seriousness - Fort Collins is a wonderful city to live in and for me it was a great place to grow up. The FoCo has grown incredibly since my family first moved there in 1990. The city's population is well over 120,000 and there is basically no open space left between the south edge of town and the city of Loveland. The neighborhood where my mother and sister currently live in is now well integrated into the city - but when we arrived in Fort Collins, we considered that neighborhood to be the countryside.

Northeast Colorado has really turned into a bustling little hub of activity, and with that has come regular flights from the Fort Collins/Municipal Airport to Las Vegas operated by Allegiant Air. I took this flight once with my sister and my dad and we loved it. We lived only about 10 minutes from the airport, so on the way home we landed and were home in a flash.

This is a small airline, and as far as I know only operates MD-80 family machines, but they have a fairly extensive reach across the country.

The Fort Collins/Loveland Municipal Airport is a very small facility. It is used mostly for private planes, and over the years had very limited service by Mesa Airlines. A better facility was never in the works because Fort Collins is just too close to Denver International Airport (about an hour and a half away on I-25). However, an hour and a half means a lot when you have to be at the airport at 6:00 a.m. or if you won't arrive until 10:30 p.m. Am I right, folks?

Eventually, Frontier should look into operating out of this airport. The Fort Collins/Loveland area's population is close to 200,000 by now. And if you add Windsor, CO, Greeley, CO, Wellington, CO, Cheyenne, WY and Laramie, WY, which are all closer to Fort Collins/Loveland Municipal than to Denver International, the airline could be serving a market of over 350,000 people with no competition. I would bet that folks would pay a premium to fly out of Fort Collins and avoid the drive to Denver.

They could start with a flight to midwestern hubs, like Chicago or St. Louis. Then maybe start heading south to Dallas. It doesn't really matter where they connect to - the point is that they should JUST DO IT!

Allegiant is a good start. The city has a vibrant college population (of course, I wouldn't know because I lived at home during my undergrad years, but I heard some things that people did and they sounded vibrant). Vibrant people would seemingly be very attracted to the sinful activity that Las Vegas offers - especially for a short weekend getaway.

Imagine heading out to Vegas on Thursday AFTER your last class of the week. Then, after gambling, drinking, and enjoying the other cultural offerings of Sin City, said college students could get on a plane, land, and be home in 10 minutes and proceed to pass out on their couch/futon/whatever hungover college kids are passing out on these days.

Then, they can go to class on Monday and take the midterm.

See ... everybody wins.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More St. Maarten

I fully embrace the nerd-ly aspect of my airplane interest. And, actually, when people rolled their eyes at me when I explained why I was going to St. Maarten, I gently explained the wonder that is Maho Beach. Well...if this video doesn't de-nerdify me, then nothing will.

A few thoughts on the video...

1. These folks did a nice job on the video, I personally like the way the Pirates of the Caribbean music is worked in. They really capture the experience quite well.

2. It looks like their overhead shots are from the Royal Islander La Plage, which is the place we stayed at. Right on the beach and, most importantly, walking distance to Maho Beach.

3. I like the addition of the jet blast footage on the people on the fence, that's sometime overlooked in the St. Maarten experience. In my humble opinion, the MD-11, operated by KLM, had the fiercest blast. The A340 was nasty, too, as were the 757's. Unfortunately, I didn't get to experience the wrath of the 747 - so I can't really claim that my findings are complete.

4. Lot's of good A340 shots in the video -- what a graceful machine that is, eh?

More quick videos of St. Maarten here, here, and here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Logan South-bound Departures ... oh yeah, and Scituate

On America's birthday weekend, we had the good fortune of being invited to spend the weekend with some good friends in Scituate, MA, which is on the South Shore. One of my gf's bff's grandparents have a house (literally) on the beach and they were gracious enough to let us stay there for the weekend.

The place was amazing - we were right across the waterway from the lighthouse, and minutes from a great little beach. And, of course, the pea that completes my pod was along. We had a little slice of heaven to play whiffleball on. Also, we played the name-game (Mass Pike edition) and quoted Seinfeld to the annoyance of our beautiful company.

The weekend came out exactly as planned. There was very little traffic on the way out, and that first night we had some chili (Chili Davis) and watched the Red Sox embarass the Yankees.

The second day was a bit on the cool side, but that did not deter us from heading to the beach and spending a good couple of hours relaxing. We also took the whiffleball game on the road, and set up the field so that home runs would land in the ocean and the pitcher would have to fetch the ball --- that turned out to be quite unfortunate for me.

The night of the 4th we grilled (Jason Grilli). Hebrew Nationals were def the hit of the grilling - perhaps the best hot dogs ever. However, someone did point out that Nathan's are still pretty damn good, too. We also sat out on the porch so that we could see all the south-bound departures out of Logan - oh yeah, and the fireworks, too.

We rounded out the evening by systematically beating the neighbor's kids at whiffleball and taking a lovely walk down the sea wall (Donne Wall). Phew...what an industrious weekend...