Richard Klaus Thoughts

The World according to Richard Klaus..Trains, Planes, Cars, Wales,Scotland.

One more post on the 747-8

Just in case there was any doubt about the new 747-8 being possibly the prettiest big airliner ever. Case closed.


June 23, 2010 Posted by | Aircraft, Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

747 called A-380s ugly Cousin?

Some time ago, I ran across a blog where the newest version of the Boeing  747 was referred to as the Airbus A-380s “ugly cousin”.

I submit photos of both, you decide.

OK the A-380 is bigger, but wow.

The 747-8 photo I found is of the freighter prototype that will be tested then delivered to Cargolux.  I my humble opinion the freighter with the classic 747 upper deck is by far better looking the it’s passenger carrying stablemate the 747-8 Intercontinental.

How anybody could prefer the looks of the Airbus, I can’t understand. I mean this is real Corvette verses Mack Truck stuff.

And really, 25 years from now. Which plane do you think will still be flying?

Hint:  There are still first generation 747s, most now converted to freighters in the air at any given moment.

I’ll be expanding this post in a day or two. Just got to get some head to head figures for the two planes. Yes the Airbus is bigger, but you might be surprised by the “Seat mile costs” of both.

As always comment away.

Just a quick additional note:  If it’s possible I’m going to be in Everett, Washington for the “First Flight” next month. Will know for sure once the date is set.  If so I’ll have a ton of photos of the event.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Aircraft, Airline Stories | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airline fuel prices

Quick post:
For those of you that are interested. Average fuel price for Jet-A, that’s the stuff they burn in Airliners, is now $3.77 per gallons.
That makes it $180,000 to fill a 747.

It must be noted that many airlines bought fuel on the futures market, and have prices locked in at considerably lower levels.

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Two coolest takeoffs I every saw.

In the days before the end of Eastern Airlines, at the hands of Texas Air Group, I happen to push out a retirement flight.
The pilot was taking his last fight, from Portland back to Miami. 7 AM departure, non stop back to Miami and he was done. Well not exactly, as he was planning to buy a flying boat, move to the Dominican Republic, and fly tourists around.
In any case, we said our goodbyes in operations, I fueled the Airbus A-300, and got ready to push the big bird out.
When the Pilot called for push, the tower surprised us.
Tower :” All aircraft hold your position Eastern has the airport. Taxi, runway, and departure are at pilot’s discression. Eastern, pick your runway.”
The pilot picked 21. This is very unusual, the normal departure runway being 10 left putting the plane on a heading to the east. 21 heads south over the city, and he wanted to see Portland from the air once more.
I pushed the Airbus back, turning the tail to the south as I went, this put him in position to taxi to the north end of 21, without making any tight turns.
Now runway 21 is kind of on the short side, about 7000 feet long, so the big Airbus was going to use every dimes worth of pavment.
While he was taxing to the end of the runway, two of our big fire trucks pulled onto 10 right on the east and west side of the interesction with 21.
As the Airbus lined up, back to the Columbia River and Marine Drive, both fire trucks started an arch of water shooting over runway 21.
As the Airbus crossed the intersection it ran under an arch of water, just before rotation.
Pretty cool for a last flight.

The other one was a United 747, or I should say two, the first setting the need for the second.
Portland has two primary runways, 10 left and 10 right, also of course 28 left and right when you’re landing from the east. While 10 right is huge, 11,000 feet long, 10 left is somewhat shorter about 8,000 feet.
Well, United was running a 747 to Tokyo, and it came time to resurface 10 right/28 left.
The first week 28 Left was unusable the 747 used 28 right. Well a 747 with a large passenger load, a lot of freight, and 336,000 pounds of fuel, weighs quite a lot. Actually it weighs so much that the mains used a bit of the overrun before the plane got into the air. Ron Reese and I were both headed for our fuel trucks, we thought we where going to be helping find people from this one. The 747 did clear the dike and slowly climbed out over the Columbia River, and headed for Japan.
The next week when the time came for the Tokyo trip, the construction equipment was pulled from 28 left, and the runway opened for this one takeoff. I got on the radio to the other ramp workers, and told anybody that could get away “You got to see this, is goinna be great.”
The United 747 made the long taxi to the east end of 28 left, and turned it’s tail to 82nd Ave.
Mind you, this runway has had dump trucks and bulldozers running up and down it for a week. It was checked and any rocks removed, but still covered with dust.
As the throttles were run up, the area around 82nd Ave disappeared behind a 700 foot tall cloud of dust. As the 400 ton plane rolled down the dust covered runway, the Air Force Reserve base was hidden by the cloud.
When the plane was moving fast enough to generate some lift, two tornadoes formed at the wing tips, then on rotation all the thrust of the four engines blew the runway clean.
It took about 15 minutes for the dust to settle.
The one thing I regret is not having a camera with me that day.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Towing a plane in fog.

Yes finally another airport story.

Portland International Airport gets fog. Not the slow on the freeway to 45 mph fog, but real can’t see ten feet fog.

Some years ago, about 1983. Ron Roades and I when across the airport to bring an Eastern Airlines 727 back to the gate.

Eastern had limited space at Portland and the early overnight plane was moved to the west end of the field, so a later trip could use the gate.

About midnight, after I’d pushed out the A-300 on the red-eye to Miami, Ron and I headed over to get the 727 for the morning departure. In fog so dense we could not see the edges of the taxi-way we followed the old center-line. This taxi-way had been a runway back in the early days of PDX. Now unable to see any landmarks, suddenly the bulk of an Eastern 727 takes form out of the fog.

I put the tug alongside the front passenger door of the 727, and Ron climbed to the roof of the tug to get into the plane. Ron’s part of this job was to start the APU (auxiliary power unit) release the parking brake, and be there in case the tow bar was to break. It has happened, and the last thing you want, is a plane wandering of unmanned. We switched of on this job, and I got to say. Powering up an Airliner, and sitting in the pilots seat while the plane is towed, is a pretty cool part of the job.

Anyway. I got the tug hooked to the plane, and Ron got the lights going, and ready to move.

The turn at the end of this taxi-way is huge, I’ve park a couple 747s, an L-1011, and a DC-10 in there at the same time. The fog was so thick, we couldn’t see the marker lights on the plane we were towing. But head for the terminal we did. Or at least we thought.

Staring through the fog, I picked up the center line, and headed along the taxi-way.

After a couple minutes, I saw a row of bright red lights in the pavement, across my path. I’d never seen these before. Time for the radio.

Me “Lockheed tow, Portland ground”

Tower “Go ahead Lockheed tow.”

Me “Lockheed tow, ground…I think we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Tower “Come again.”

Me “Can you spot me on the ground radar.”

Tower “I don’t think I can spot a tug on the ground radar.”

Me “OK, how about the Eastern 727 I’m towing?”

Tower “OH is that you?”

Me “Yeah, left the holding area at the tank farm, I think I picked up the wrong center line in the fog.”

Tower ” Yep, your about to run onto 10 right.”

Me “That would be bad.”

Tower “Well…The fog is so thick that there’s nobody in flight….Go ahead onto 10 right pick up the center line and I’ll tell you when to turn left, back to the terminal”.

Me “Lockeed tow, thank you.”

I slowly moved out onto the runway and found the center, a line of bright white lights, imbedded in the pavement. I followed those lights about a minute:

Tower “Lockheed tow, you should see a left coming up. That will take you back to the terminal.

Me “Got it thank you ground.”

The rest of the tow went well.

There have been times when the tower has called me to go find a plane that landed but couldn’t taxi. Notably several times Fed Ex 727s could get on the ground in Portland, but the fog was so thick they couldn’t see to taxi. So I’d drive my fuel truck out to the end of the runway, find the Fed Ex and lead them back to there ramp.

I suspect that some of these procedures are not in the book. But sometimes you got to make it up as you go.

May 17, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Old PDX stories. Hopefully statute of limitations applies.

Where does one start with airport stories?

I guess with the ones I know to be true, as I was there.

There is the saga of Pacific Express. A start up carrier out of Chico, California. They made an early mistake by saving money on BAC-111 aircraft. They got a good deal on these planes, but the fuel consumption was very high for the planes. The BAC-111 held 70 passengers on a good day, and had to compete with Hughes Air West DC-9 that could carry much more. Fuel load PDX to Boise, Idaho for both place was pretty much the same. Also support for the BAC-111 was not as easy to get, on the west coast.

Then there was the ground staff. Let me first explain that working the ramp for an airline, is the dirty side of the business. Hot in the summer, unbearably cold in winter, dusty, oily, and noisy. Somebody, I’m guessing male and lonely, hired a bunch of girls that looked more like a cheer-leading squad than a ramp crew.
The second day of operation we got a panic-ed call in the office that something was wrong with the plane. The toilets were backed up.
Well I happen to be free, so I got the pleasure of looking into the problem. I grabbed the lavatory service truck and headed over there. Walked upstairs, and asked the cabin crew, when the holding tanks where dumped last. Nobody knew that you had to dump the toilets at the end of the day, and these planes hadn’t been emptied since Pacific had bought them. I took care of the problem, and the office called their main office in Chico to set up regular service.
For some months we supplied push back, that is the pushing of the plane away from the terminal, so they can taxi. Well they got a tow bar hook for their biggest bag tug, and decided that the girls could do this, saving the cost of having the Lockheed crew do it.
Well the first day, the all girl crew sent the overnight plane on it’s way to Boise with the gear pins in place. Crew actually flew the trip like that, flying low, and burning a whole bunch extra fuel. Second push back ran the right wing tip into a parked Northwest Airlines bag pod, knocking it off the cart it was sitting on. About a foot of wing tip was bent. The Co-Pilot came out through the back stairs, looked the damage over, and took off for San Fransisco.
Over a couple years there where other disturbing things about Pacific Express: Pilots that smelled a bit like they had closed the bar the night before, and one February morning while waiting in there operations for the fuel load for the first departure, hearing the Pilot phone a list of no-go items to a mechanic in Chico, so that they could be looked at later that day. That plane then flew to San Fransisco with one radio, and no anti ice for the windshield, and a full load of passengers. I always thought it was a good thing for the pilot to be able to see where he was going.
Late in the life of Pacific Express they got hold of a couple Boeing 737s, but it was too little too late and a few years after they started Pacific Express closed their doors.
Could have been worse, they did make it through those years, without killing anybody, but I don’t know why.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Expedia. Oh I’m so gone.

Well it’s over. Looks like Avrila (my oldest daughter) will be overnight at Heathrow.

For those of you not up to date on the Expedia story.

Some months ago, my daughter was going through a stressful moment in her life. There’s no place in the world like Wales to get rid of stress. So a ticket to Manchester, England and a train ticket out to Wales seem the right thing at the moment.

Now the part that’s my fault. While booking the trip on Expedia, I clicked the wrong return trip. What I’d ment to get was Phoenix/Chicago/Manchester, and Manchester/Chicago/Phoenix return. While picking the return trip I got a Manchester/London/Chicago/Phoenix, with a long layover in London (10 hours).

Starting that evening and for the last several months I’ve tried to get the trip corrected, finally asking if she could just board the plane in London, skipping the Manchester/London leg of the trip. That way she could take a train from Wales to London the day before, enjoy the sites in London for the day, then catch the flight to Chicago the next morning.

Sounds simple right? Well no way, if she dosen’t take the Manchester/London flight the entire trip is canceled. Expedia will do nothing, BMI will do nothing.

During the 80s and 90s, I worked in the aircraft support business. While with Lockheed an Portland, Oregon (PDX), I worked with many of the old school airlines, some of them, Braniff, Eastern, Western, Air Cal, and now it seems Northwest Orient are gone.

With few exceptions, these seem to have been replaced by transportation companies. There’s a big difference between an airline, and a transportation company. When things are going well, ones about as good as the other. When things get difficult, you really need an airline.

I’ve seen entire plane loads of people shifted to another carrier for a trip to Seattle so that they could make their connections. This was when an Alaska Airlines plane had a radio problem in Portland, and the departure was going to be delayed while the mechanics installed a fresh radio. Instead of taking the chance the their customers would miss connecting flights, Alaska transfered the passengers to a Delta flight at the next gate over, getting all their passengers to Seattle on time. By the way the Alaska plane departed within the 1/2 hour, and probably would have made most connections, but they didn’t take the chance. That folks is a real airline.

As a side story..While I was pushing back the Alaska flight, now empty except for the three crew. The pilot asked over the headset “You ever wonder how steep a 727 can climb?’

Me ” Ready for push back, brakes off…And yes I have wondered.”

Pilot ” B pumps off, interconnect closed, brakes off,ready to push…Stick around any watch this take off.”

Well I did. A 727 weighs about 100,000 pounds dry, and has a maximum about 209,000. And I,ve seen that max weight “streched” to about 227,000. But that’s another story.

Anyway. I had just fueled the plane to go to Seattle, and there were only about 18,000 pounds of fuel on board, far lower that the 54,000 pounds it could carry. So we’re talking a 118,000 pound taxi weight, and they burn some just getting to the runway.

So after I disconnected the tug from the plane, and got out of the way, I hung around to watch. They taxied to the east end of the airport to runway 28 Left, turned to the center line, then brought the throttles full up with the brakes set. Easy to imagine the this might have been one of those takeoffs where the Flight Engineer was bent around from his normal possition to watch the engine temp gauges. Thay would have been quite high.

A lot of smoke and dust blown toward 82nd Ave. then brake release. The 727 rolled a short distance on the ground, lifted, then after the gear came up, settled just a few feet off the 11,000 foot long runway, at full throttle. Windows at the terminal shook, much like when a couple of F-15s leave in full afterburner.

Midfield still right down on the deck, I think if he had lowered the landing gear at this point, he would have had to climb just a bit. Then about 3/4 down the runnway He let it climb just a little to clear the ground, and as soon as he had 20 feet or so elevation, must have pulled the wheel way back. That 727 headed for the clouds like an Angel, late for a meeting.

Oh yeah…Expedia (sorry about that). The other day I was stuck in L.A., the truck broke, on what was suppose to be a quick turn. June needed to be in Portland on Sunday for a wedding, so I looked for a last minute fare to get her back to Portland. Got a fare from the Expedia site for a starting point, logged on with Alaska Air / Horizon and found a less expensive fare through that airline.

Got to wonder..If there is no customer service, and by customer service, I mean somebody who will step up and solve a problem. Well what do we need Expedia for anyway? What we really need is a internet travel site that is easy to use, and when the occasional mistake is made, can make a phone call and solve the error. Just reading me back the “Rules of the booking” isn’t good enough. I was in that business long enough to know that “The customer isn’t always right, but he is always the customer”. The sooner Expedia realizes this, the longer they will be around. There are too many places to buy a cheap ticket to put up with this kind to treatment.

I’ve spent a lot through Expedia, and this correction would have made the airline money, in that they could have resold the empty seat. A no loss for everybody. Now unless something is done by Expedia, or BMI (British Midland), well there are other ways to get to the U.K.

April 29, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories, Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

R.I.P. Morning Light/ Pan Am 103

It’s a cloudy October day in 2007. The last few days of a wonderful vacation. We went to London, then back to Manchester to pick up a rental car. A week in Wales, then up to Scotland for another week.

On the drive back from the Loch Ness area, I took and exit off the motorway, June gave me a quick glance, but said nothing. She knew that this would be a very private moment for me.

So I took the Vauxhall up a hill above the little town. Finding the field near a stone church in Tundergarth, Scotland. The grove of trees is a little taller, and a small flock of sheep wander the hillside now, but there was “The Spot”.

27 years ago the Clipper Morning Light was the Pan Am 747, that my mother and I rode to London from Seattle, on my first, and what would as it turns out be her only trip to England. A big beautiful plane, that made it’s way transporting people the world over.

Fast forward eight years, and a great deal of tension in the world. I had taken a job in the airline support business, gotten married. My mothers health was failing, to the point that another trip to England is out of the question. Still have to thank the Department of Defense for that. It seems mother was an unlisted casualty of the cold war.

The 21st of December 1988, I was taking the day off, it being our wedding anniversary. The news was slow picking up the story, for a few hours there was some confusion, but by that evening the image of the fallen cockpit with “Maid of the Seas” painted on the side was etched in my mind.
Years later while researching my first trip to England, I wondered what had ever happened to the “Morning Light”. A quick check with a Pan Am historical site found the entry (Morning Light renamed Maid of the Seas ).

Where I sit in Tundergarth, it’s quiet, and a few miles to the west Lockerbie has recovered. A few buildings are newer than their neighbors, having been built to replace the homes that were vaporised by the wing sections impact.

Little known is that a few people survived the fall, but died before help could reach them. It seems that the Captain” Jim MacQuarrie” was still trying to fly the 747 when the nose section struck the field next to the gray stone church.
Now I know that there are those that will point out, the Pan Am 103 was a target in a war of conflicting societies.

I come from a military family . My father an Air Force pilot, my mother served in the Air Force, my brother and myself both Air Force, my brother for a great many years more than I. In a real war mistakes happen, and innocent people are hurt. But when real men fight real wars, the targets are not third parties.

Giving your pregnant girlfriend a radio packed with explosive, and send her off on a passenger plane is the act of a coward, backed by a group of men unfit for a place in this world. I guess I just have a problem with people that think that I must follow their path or die.To quote the talk show host “Phil Hendri”. “When they strap bombs on their own children, you know there are no real men left in the Arab World”. Probably a gross overstatement but something to think about.

Anyway, I thought that that day in October 2007, with that visit to Lockerbie, I could put the Morning Light to rest. Maybe next trip….Maybe next time I’ll spend a little time, walk the field, and stand at “The Spot”. I’m not a religious person, but maybe this is something I need to do.

February 24, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories | , , , | 1 Comment

Goodby Northwest Orient

Well it looks like one more real airline joins the ranks of history. Heard on the radio today, that Delta has taken over Northwest. The combined airline will keep the Delta name and Northwest is gone.

A few of the greats : Flying Tigers, bought by Fed Ex. Western, bought by Delta. Hughes Air West, merged into Republic, then (I think) into Northwest. Got to check that. Of course TWA and my personal favorite Pan Am. All gone, replaced by airlines run from cubicles rather that the cockpit.

Still got to get to my rants on TWA 800, and Pan Am 103. As they say watch this space. I’ve got some thinking to do on both of these subjects. But believe me it will be interesting.

Pan Am 103 is more a personal story, we all pretty much know what happend there. TWA 800, well I don’t go with any theory about what happened, I do know what didn’t, and I know that we we’re “told untruths” by officials.

OK stop. Before I get started on that, I’ve got some thinking to do.

Back to the original rant. We could really use an airline cut from the old form. Eastern, TWA, Pan Am, Northwest, Western. I’ve worked with these people and these where airlines that where run by people that liked flying, and took some pride in what they where doing. To many of the Mega Airlines are made up of groups of people, just there for the job. This is OK most of the time, but when things get demanding, (weather, equipment falure, etc) , well then you want real AIRLINE PEOPLE running things. Beyond Alaska Air, and Horizon, and some overseas airlines, British Air, BMI, I don’t see much in the way of real airlines any more. Might not seem like a big deal, but I don’t want a bean counter making decisions about aircraft maintenance.

February 22, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories | , | 4 Comments

Horizon Air , A ramp workers veiw.

Sometime after I began working for Lockeed in Portland, Oregon, a little airline “Horizon Air” started up. They showed up in Portland with a half dozen used Fairchild F-27s. These where small twin turboprop, regional planes. The fleet gave the impression of being very tired.

One whole gate, next to Western Airlines, and so it began. I remember during those first few months, two of their gate, ramp personnel were trying to reposition the overnight plane at the gate. At that time Horizon didn’t own a bag tug, much less an aircraft tug. A couple of us sat across the ramp having just parked an Eastern 727 back at the gate, and watched the show. Towing an aircraft is not as easy as it looks, and these two where finding out how many ways the job can be done wrong. After a while, I drove our aircraft tug over, and offered to park the plane for them. This one would be on the house.

Since those days, Horizon has managed to find a slot in the Northwest, and fit themselves into it quite nicely. Haven’t ridden on their jets, but a recent trip took me to Missoula , Montana. The trip, to pick my truck up from a shop, would have taken two of us two days and a lot of gas in whatever car we drove out there. The flight, or rather two flights, seemed the best way to get there.

The flight to Seattle a little less than an hour was on one of the smaller Bombardier Q 200s, about the size of the old Fairchild F-27s. Short flight, but the solo attendant , did bring coffee around. The Q 200 is somewhat quieter than the F27 that it replaces.

Then from Seattle to Missoula, about 2 hours, I rode on a Q 400. The larger version of the Q200, or so it seems. About 70 seats for the Q400, the Q200 being in the 40 range. I might be mistaken , but I think the 400 is a little louder than the 200. There seemed to be a drumming in the longer fuselage, still a nice ride, and with the bigger plane you get two flight attendants, and unlike some big airlines (UNITED) they bring around coffee, wine, beer (quite a good micro brew), some snacks, and unlike the big airline, they don’t charge you for them.

I know that in the early days, I wondered at time how long Horizon would be around. I’d seen a couple airlines come and go Air Oregon, and Pacific Express come to mind.

Someone remind me to tell the Pacific Express story one of these days, we’re all lucky they when out off business before they killed someone.

Anyway back to Horizon. They have found their niche, and seem to fit it well. Being under the “wing” of Alaska Airlines can’t hurt. A lot of people take Horizon to Seattle or Portland, then jump to Alaska Air to go on their way.

I wish them the best, they have worked for it.

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Airline Stories | | Leave a comment