Say Hello to My Stretched-Out Friend

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C., Feb. 17, 2017 – The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, the third member of the 787 Dreamliner family, made its debut today at Boeing South Carolina. Thousands of employees at the North Charleston, S.C. site celebrated the event. Trump was there too. During his speech he said, “The 787 is a beautiful airplane,” which may be the first time I agree with something he’s said.

787-10
Image courtesy Boeing

“What’s happening here at Boeing South Carolina is a true American success story,” said Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing chairman, president and CEO. “In just a few short years, our team has transformed a greenfield site into a modern aerospace production facility that is delivering 787s to airlines all over the world and supporting thousands of U.S. jobs in the process.”

The 787-10, built exclusively at Boeing South Carolina, will now be prepared for its first flight in the coming weeks.

“This airplane, the most efficient in its class, is the result of years of hard work and dedication from our Boeing teammates, suppliers and community partners in South Carolina and across the globe,” said Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO. “We know our customers, including launch customer Singapore Airlines, are going to love what the 787-10 will do for their fleets, and we can’t wait to see them fly it.”

Boeing will deliver the 787-10 to airlines in 2018. The airplane has won 149 orders from nine customers across the globe.

The 787-10, the longest model of the Dreamliner family, will grow the nonstop routes opened by the 787-8 and 787-9 with unprecedented efficiency. As an 18-foot (5.5-m) stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 will deliver the 787 family’s preferred passenger experience and long range with up to 10 percent better fuel use and emissions than the competition. The 787 Dreamliner family is a key part of Boeing’s twin-aisle strategy, which offers a modern, optimized and efficient airplane family in every market segment. Since entering service in 2011, the 787 family has flown more than 140 million people on 530 routes around the world, saving an estimated 13 billion pounds of fuel.

I’ve flown on both versions of the 787 that are currently flying with airlines. My first 787 flight experience was with British Airways in autumn 2015, of their 787-9 inaugural flight from London Heathrow to Austin, Texas. A couple of weeks later, I flew with Qatar Airways on a 787-8 delivery flight from Seattle to Doha. Both flights were in the front, thank goodness. In economy, when airlines arrange their seats at 9-abreast, it can be quite tight.

In my humble opinion, the 787-10 is the most attractive Dreamliner yet. I’ll hopefully get a close-up look next week when I travel to Charleston, SC for the delivery of Korean Airlines’ first 787-9.

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Qatar Airways Announces Massive Boeing Order

qatar-787At a press conference in Washington, DC on Friday morning, Qatar Airways announced an order for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners and 10 777-300ERs, valued at $11.7 billion at list prices. The airline also signed a Letter of Intent for up to 60 737 MAX 8s, valued at $6.9 billion at list prices. This is clearly an intentional shot to the gut of rival manufacturer, Airbus.

Today’s announcement builds on Qatar Airways’ current fleet of 84 Boeing aircraft, a combination of 787s and 777s, all delivered over the last nine years. With this new order, Qatar Airways increases its firm order backlog of Boeing widebody airplanes from 65 to 105, including 60 777Xs. The slower sales of the 777-300ER this year mean that Qatar probably received a handsome discount on these planes.

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Business Class on Qatar Airways 787-8 Dreamliner (photo: author)

“Qatar Airways, already one of the fastest growing airlines in the history of aviation, today announces a significant and historic aircraft order that will power our future growth for the years and the decades ahead,” said Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker. “Boeing has proven to be a valuable partner, and today’s announcement is testament to our appreciation of the quality of their product and their dedication to providing world class customer service.”

Al Baker has been passionately vocal about the issues his airline has experienced with Airbus this year. Qatar declined to take delivery of its first A320NEO aircraft, due to lingering problems with its Pratt & Whitney 1100G engines. The airline was supposed to be the launch customer for the A320NEO, but Lufthansa ended up taking first delivery once Qatar backed away. Since then, it has been received by six other airlines, including Air Asia, IndiGo, GoAir, Pegasus, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris.

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Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker with Boeing’s Ray Conner

Qatar still has A320NEO orders on the books with Airbus, but they sent a very clear message about their dissatisfaction by signing a letter of intent (LOI) to purchase up to sixty Boeing 737 MAX-8s along with the firm order for the 777s and 787s this morning.

Qatar was the first to operate the 787 in the Middle East and is a launch customer for the 777X. With the commitment for the 737 MAX 8, it would be the first Boeing single-aisle airplane model to join Qatar Airways’ fleet in more than 15 years. The airline previously flew Boeing 727s.

“Congratulations to The Boeing Company and Qatar Airways on the remarkable milestone they’ve reached, which will significantly grow the number of Boeing aircraft in the Qatar Airways fleet,” said U.S. Secretary of CommercePenny Pritzker. “Beyond its importance for these two companies, this agreement demonstrates the importance of global commercial partnerships in strengthening our bilateral ties. This deal will strengthen economic opportunity and job creation, and highlights the importance of strong global trading relationships.”

“We are so very proud that a discerning and market-leading customer like Qatar Airways not only continues to endorse our current products, but  also has confidence in Boeing’s new technology that will soon be evident on the 777X and 737 MAX,” said  Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner. “Our partnership with Qatar Airways has grown and strengthened tremendously over the years and I look forward to the time when its fleet will feature an increasing number of both our single and twin-aisle airplanes.”

In his remarks, Al Baker said, “Boeing’s competitors [Airbus] don’t want me saying this, but inside they know this is true: Boeing makes the best airplanes.” However, passengers might beg to differ as it is widely known among industry analysts that the economy seats in the Airbus A320NEO and A350XWB are wider and thus more comfortable.

Having flown with Qatar Airways a handful of times myself, it is exciting to see them continuing to advance their fleet growth. Though the Airbus A320NEO and A350-XWB are wider and thus more comfortable for economy class passengers, the airline has made growth and route expansion a priority. After all, few passengers will bother to research things like seat width between different aircraft types – but they should.

 

Fish Out of Water! Southwest Promotes Shark Week

For the first time since late 2015, Southwest Airlines is flying a Boeing 737 featuring sea creatures, by partnering with the Discovery Channel to promote Shark Week. The 737-700, registered N422WN will fly for Southwest until August 31st this year.

Southwest Shark Week 2

“Now more than ever, brands have to be creative and unique in their approach to reach new Customers,” said Linda Rutherford, Chief Communication Officer for Southwest Airlines. “Partnering with Discovery’s Shark Week allows Southwest to connect with our Customers in a fun and memorable way. Only on Southwest can you enjoy this Shark Week experience, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Shark Week will air on Discovery Channel from June 26 – July 3rd. Southwest’s passengers will be able to view a Shark Week episode on Southwest’s flights for the whole month of June. Passengers and aviation geeks who see the Shark Week plane are encouraged to share photos with @SouthwestAir and @SharkWeek on Twitter, using the hashtag #sharkstakeflight and may receive special Shark Week gifts for doing so.

Enter the Dare to Dive Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (PVR), including roundtrip air travel for four on Southwest, a $2,000 hotel gift card, and a $1,000 Visa gift card to put toward an aquatic excursion for the entire family. For full rules and to enter for a chance to win, visit Southwest.com/SharkWeek.

For nearly thirty years, Southwest flew 737s painted with Sea World’s famous “Shamu” Orca, and more recently, one with penguins as well. However, those aircraft were all repainted near the end of 2015, when Southwest discontinued its partnership with Sea World, following backlash over a documentary film about Orcas living in captivity.

Untappd is a Must-Have App for the Traveling Beer Lover

Did you know that as of the end of 2014, there were over 3,400 beer breweries on the United States? That’s a 19 percent growth over the previous year. And what really blows my mind is that we finally surpassed the number of pre-Prohibition breweries that existed before many were shuttered. If you’re a beer drinker, that’s great news! But with so many choices, where does one begin? Well, as the cliche goes, there’s an app for that, and this one is called Untappd.

My Untappd profile.
My Untappd profile.

I have been an enthusiastic Untappd user for a few years now. I don’t remember the exact date on which I joined, but I have logged nearly 1,200 unique beers on my account. Now before you get all judgmental, a high percentage of these were tiny samples ingested at one of the many beer festivals or tasting events I’ve attended. At these festivals, I’ll likely sample 30 or so beers, in very small quantity, just to try as many as possible. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. But I digress.

Untappd's search function allows you to begin typing a beer name, then pre-populates the best match.
Untappd’s search function allows you to begin typing a beer name, then pre-populates the best match.

Why do I use Untappd? Well, that’s simple. It fulfills my needs as a beer drinker. First, because there are so many beers out there, I like to keep track of the ones I’ve tried. Second, It allows me to rate those beers and provide notes and/or a photo if I choose. Finally, when I am traveling, which I do fairly frequently, the search function helps me find local breweries. If there’s not a local brewery nearby, I can visit a bar that will likely be serving local brews. For example, in the summer of 2012, my family went to San Diego. While there, I used Untappd to locate Russian River’s Pliny the Elder – one of the highest-rated IPAs in America. At the time, we lived in Texas, so there was no chance I would find it there. But while cruising the Pacific Coast Highway, I used Untappd to find Pliny on tap at a nearby bar. Since then, I’ve also used it to find breweries and beers in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Hamburg, Houston, London, NYC, Orlando, Seattle, Vancouver, and other places.

All of these breweries, just in downtown Denver! Jealous yet?
All of these breweries, just in downtown Denver! Jealous yet?

Speaking of beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival is September 24-26th in Denver, where I am fortunate to live. It is the worlds largest competitive gathering of brewers. There will be 154 breweries in site, just from Colorado! This till be my first year to attend GABF, and I have been looking forward to it for months. While it may appear anti-social to be using my iPhone the whole time, I’ll be logging my beers in Untappd as I go along. Plus, I’ll be there on my own, so it’s not like I’ll be ignoring conversation with anyone. If you happen at GABF on Thursday the 24th, hit me up on Twitter @FlyingPhotog and we’ll raise a glass. It’s always great to meet other people with the same appreciation for great beer.

Cheers!

My Avgeek Bucket List

I admit it. Sometimes, okay, frequently, I scroll through the updates of friends and colleagues I follow on Twitter & Facebook and I come down with a case of “Avgeek Envy.” Those who get to frequently fly to far-off places just to sample and write about the latest aircraft seating innovation or aircraft introduction. I often read these posts and think “gosh, why can’t that be me?”

But then, I remind myself that in most cases, these are just examples of passengers being along for the ride. I’m fortunate enough to be involved in the day to day operation of a major commercial airline. Very few of these people I envy have ever marshaled a 120,000 pound plane to its stop mark on arrival. They haven’t had to plan how to load an aircraft, or be accountable for its on-time departure, while protecting the aircraft, customers and coworkers from damage and harm.

I’d like to think that some of the people I envy also envy some of the cool things I get to do daily. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of aviation-related things I’d like to do in the near future – so I present my Avgeek Bucket List:

(In no Particular order)

Ride in a B-17 Bomber
Ride in a P-51 Mustang
Ride in a modern military jet
Skydive (planning for my 40th birthday)
Ride in a private jet (any private jet will suffice)
Ride in a hot air balloon
Ride in a zero gravity plane (weightless simulation)
Fly over the International Date Line
Fly over the Equator
Barrel roll – preferably in the P-51 mentioned above
Tour other commercial assembly lines – Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier
Attend a major international air show as a writer (Farnborough, Dubai or Paris)
Participate in a commercial aircraft delivery flight
Fly a plane, including takeoff & landing
Circumnavigate the globe, starting and ending at the same point
Fly over 100,000 miles in a year
Hang gliding
Fly to every continent. So far I’ve only flown within the U.S. and Europe.
Fly on the following aircraft types I have yet to fly: 747-8i, 787, 737-900, A318, A321, A330, A340, [any and all regional planes except the Embraer 190 and ATR-72]
Avgeek accomplishments

Tour Boeing aircraft factories in Everett & Renton Washington
Attend Space Shuttle Launch (Atlantis STS-129 Nov 16, 2009)
Witnessed the landing of the Solar Impulse at DFW Airport
Flew on Lufthansa inaugural A380 flight from Frankfurt to JFK
Attended British Airways A380 & 787 introduction ceremony
Flew on a sea plane (1950 Grumman Albatross)
Photo-documented the final landing and museum installation of the very first Boeing 737-300 (N300SW)
Landed (as a passenger) on the USS George H.W. Bush while it was at sea. Spent 24 hours on board as a “Distinguished Visitor,” and departed the next morning via catapult launch.
Over 490 flights and 285,000 miles flown since 2001 (when I began recording trips)

 

 

 

 

 

The NEW American Airlines

At 9:00 this morning in Dallas, and all over the Internet, American Airlines unveiled its first branding change in four decades. The airline began early in the morning by posting a countdown clock, teasing its social media followers into a frenzy of conversation and speculation.

Countdown

About an hour before the official unveiling, an image of the logo was leaked online via Twitter user @gatsby:

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Personally, I think the logo is pretty smart! It’s a modern interpretation of their logo, evoking a half “A” with what is presumably the head of an eagle. It also brought the Texas flag to my mind.  Regarding the tail, it’s a bold statement that says “American” – loud and clear! One person I follow mentioned that it really seems to convey a message of power.

You may click here to view video from American regarding the changes made to the brand:

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Image provided by American Airlines

Throughout the morning, I followed tweets about how various people were receiving the new branding message. Generally it seemed that most people like the new logo over the tail design. I viewed CEO Tom Horton’s press conference online, and the 737-800 they had on display looks even better than in some of the early images I had seen. The paint wasn’t light gray we many originally thought – but in the hangar, under lights, I noticed a pleasing pearl-like sheen to the paint – like that which you’d find on a luxury car. At that point, I felt a suggestion of class and power. American has come a long way since going into bankruptcy, and this clean image will help take into the decades to come.

There are some noticeable similarities in the tail areas between this and US Airways’ current livery – and as rumors continue to swirl around a potential merger with US Airways, I think this livery would tie into the US Airways brand as well.

A Winter’s Night at the Four Seasons of Seattle

My first overnight stay at a Four Seasons hotel was by far the most memorable and luxurious hotel experience in my 30-plus years of travel.

After having walked a few blocks from the nearby Westlake train station, I was greeted by a valet at the front door of the Four Seasons Hotel of Seattle. I entered the lobby, which is designed to echo a riverbank. It features walls constructed of basalt, which reminds visitors of the region’s volcanic landmarks – Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens.

I found the check-in desk, where again I was greeted warmly. My reservation said I was confirmed for a Deluxe Bay View room, and the employee at the desk informed me that I had been upgraded to a corner room. This being my first stay at the hotel, I wasn’t aware of the awesomeness that I was about to experience.

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My room featured a panoramic western-facing view of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound! I arrived about an hour before sunset, which gave me time to check out the room and get settled in. See that big TV there? I found the room so restful, I never even turned it on!

Before heading out for the evening with friends, we stopped by the fourth floor pool deck to view the sunset. The pool deck has Seattle’s only outdoor infinity-edge swimming pool, which appears to empty directly into the Bay. The rooftop terrace bar also has a fireplace and whirlpool. This is the view of the sunset which we were treated to from the Pool Deck that evening:

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As you visit the pool, you’ll see the 24-hour Fitness Center, which offers a variety of cardio and weight training options. Guests can even choose to work out with an on-site personal trainer. For the ultimate relaxation experience, guests can visit the 6,000 square foot Spa at Four Seasons, which offers a host of treatments while overlooking the bay.

The bathroom offered luxuries not often seen in my travel, which is usually on a fairly tight budget governed by expense reports. It featured a deep soaking tub and a separate walk-in shower that had a detachable head and a rain shower head . I took advantage of both tun and shower, and enjoyed watching the TV which was built into the bathroom mirror. I found the fragrant L’occitane bath products to be invigorating.

Perhaps because I’m a native Texan, when I stay in hotels, I usually find the bedding too heavy or cumbersome. So, what I like to do is crank the air conditioner way down to about 62 degrees, pull the covers over me and just hibernate in my downy cave of pillows and blankets. The soft yet supportive bed gave me one of my best night’s sleep in recent memory – but that may also have something to do with the luxury of the bathroom.

This room was seriously plush, and if I had to suggest one improvement, it would be for the one thing that should always be plush – the toilet paper. It was thin and fragile, like you’d find in a public restroom.

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Just off the downstairs lobby you’ll find ART Restaurant. I had the pleasure of dining here last summer, and I must say the combination of attentive service, food quality and ambiance made it one of my top dining experiences. I highly recommend this restaurant whether you are a hotel guest or just visiting the area.

In addition to the incredible service and upscale luxury at the Four Seasons of Seattle, one of the greatest features of the property is its location adjacent to Seattle’s waterfront, a block over from the famous Pike Place Market. It is easily accessible from local freeways. If you’re arriving at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, the best option to get downtown from the airport is Sound Transit’s Central Link Light Rail. For under $3.00 per person, you can ride from the airport downtown in 39 minutes – saving you the cost of a rental car and pricey downtown parking. The hotel is about a 10 minute walk from the Westlake rail station. Across the street from the Four Seasons, you will find the Seattle Art Museum, which was hosting a Paul Gaugin exhibit during my stay. Within a 5-minute walk of the hotel, you can also find Benaroya Hall – home of the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Aquarium.

Four Seasons Seattle |  99 Union Street, Seattle, WA 98101

Telephone: 1 (206) 749-7000

http://www.fourseasons.com

*note:  My accommodations were provided by the Four Seasons of Seattle, but all thoughts, opinions and photographs are by this author.