Klausrl’s Weblog

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

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland this summer?

I’ll let the links speak for themselves.



And, if you decide on a trip to the Ffestiniog/Welsh Highland check out the Oakeley Arms Hotel. Large rooms for the U.K., and great food. In the Pub, on cool nights they have a coal fire going in the fireplace. The coal warms you to the bones.

New this year to Porthmadog  a Travelodge. Provides the equivalent of US turnpike, motel service.  For those on a budget, this could make the difference.

Remember also Port Merion is just nest door, for you Patrick McGoohan fans, Port Merion is the Hotel/Town that served as the setting for “The Prisoner” BBC TV Show.

For those of you that are “Bucks UP” The Village is operated as a Hotel, although the tariffs are breath taking.

The grounds are however open to us commoners for a small fee. It’s worth an afternoon walkaround.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | trains, Uncategorized, Wales | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Expedia may have lost a customer

I’ve bought a lot of tickets through Expedia.com. We see if that happens again. Got a round rip to Manchester, England for my oldest daughter. Was in a bit of a hurry and ticked the wrong return trip. Instead of a direct from Manchester to Chicago, then on to Phoenix, she will be going to London, then Chicago.

I realised the mistake within minutes, but there was not way to correct the problem on line. An E-Mail to Expedia returned a stock answer, from the computer. The next day a short phone call, resulted in a less personal touch than I’d gotten from the computer.

Today a couple of e-mails back and forth resulted in nothing but frustration. Mind you this is a 5 month advance purchase, and could be fixed. I was in the airline business for 18 years, and I know what can be done. This is simply a case of somebody not wanting to pick up a phone. This was ticket number 10 in a two year span, seven of them to the U.K. It seems like after nearly $7,000 in ticket purchases with Expedia, they could have fixed the one problem I’ve had.
I guess it’s not the end of the world that Avrila will have to spend 11 hours at Heathrow, but the other trip would have been quicker for her and cheaper for the airline.

Having said all that. BMI (British Midland) is a great airline, super service, nice people. I’ll continue to use their service. As I have the last two years.

Manchester is a great airport to enter the U.K. at. For much of England, Scotland, and Wales, Manchester is more centrally located. There’s a train station at the airport, and your a short train ride to Manchester Picadilly, the main train station for Manchester. From there you can catch a train pretty much anywhere in the U.K.

I’ll be going again, but probably book through BMI direct.

I know that the saying “The customers always right” isn’t really true, but, “The customer is Always the customer.”

February 3, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment