Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to tell you're having a bad day

I was working with my current trainee on ground control the other morning when this happened. We had just been discussing how he should be making "Plan B" at the same time he's making "Plan A" so that if Plan A doesn't work out he'll already know what he's going to do next.*

This B777 was stuck in the position shown here for about ten minutes, completely blocking the intersection of C and C-9. At certain times of day, something like this can really throw a wrench into the operation. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.

This close-up was taken a few minutes prior to the opening shot, and gives a better view of what's happened. Hint 1: The tug was towing the airplane along that curving yellow lead-in line in the lower left corner of the photo. Hint 2: Anytime that many guys are all gathered around looking at something, it can't be good. Hint 3: The airplane is normally supposed to be behind the tug. Hint 4: Look at the angle of the airplane's nosewheel.

* ATC101: This is a standard practice among controllers; it's what we do. You evaluate the situation and make a plan for how to resolve it. While making Plan A, you're also making Plan B so that you don't have to think about what to do next if Plan A doesn't work out. While making Plans A & B, you should also have a good idea of what Plan C may need to be, and at least an inkling of what Plan D might be. More simply stated: Always have an "out" (aka "exit strategy" or "escape hatch")

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Home for the holidays

They say that timing is everything, and I guess that's so. It certainly was for me, having been away from LA for the last week. It was drizzling and sprinkling from gray skies as I left, and the news has been full of stories about record rain in California ever since. The rain finally let up yesterday afternoon, just in time for my flight to arrive. We landed on runway 25 left, and as we came down the final, the view out my neighbor's window was of a city standing in water. Every street and highway (and Hawthorne's runway) glistened with sunlight reflecting off the puddles, lakes, and rivers that covered them. Once I was in the car, the radio traffic reports covered a long list of streets and highways that had lane closures - or were closed completely - due to flooding. After I drove home through a continuous sprinkle, the rain resumed.

While the storms have now moved on, it will take LA some time to get back to what passes for normal out here. During my absence from LAX, it sounds like things were hectic: Holiday traffic, lots of rainy weather, and east traffic. I've discussed east traffic at LAX before, so suffice to say that it makes everybody a little bit crazy and tends to slow things down a bit. My current trainee was due for certification checkrides on ground control, so I'm glad we got to do a few hours of east traffic last month.

My west-bound ride

A special shout-out to the crew of Southwest 267. Will, Chris, Nancy, Craig, and Donna all did a great job with a full-to-the-gills planeload of holiday travelers, including at least three screaming babies. The guys up front had a special Fasten Seatbelt sign: Every time we hit some bumps, they'd turn it on, whereupon the bumps would stop. Magic! Here's hoping that your holiday travels go smoothly, where ever you're headed . . . be it the comfort of the barn or greener pastures.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Mystery Plane

A while back, I showed you a picture of a Sun Country airplane that they had obviously gotten from somebody else:

Well, they've done it again; this is not a great photo, but it's enough to see that this B738 used to fly for another carrier. I've held off bringing you this in hopes that I'd have a chance to get a better photo, preferably day time, of this aircraft. But since we came off of Daylight Savings Time, Sun Country's schedule seems to preclude that for the time being:

So, any guesses where this airplane came from? If so, post yours in the comments.

As a refresher, here's what we expect Sun Country airplanes to look like!

Monday, December 6, 2010


The first week of December has brought some different weather, and thus some opportunities for interesting photos.

I should have checked to see if anyone on this plane was named Jonah.

I know I've shown you a bunch of fog and marine layer shots, so how about a couple more:

Volaris has started bringing in A320s in addition to their A319s. What's funny is that apparently their dispatchers don't know, because all the flight plans say "A319"

Santa 17, a special flight for Make-A-Wish, taxies out for departure.

And away they go!

Okay, a generic B747. Big deal. Actually, look at what's in the background: a B727-100. Rarely see short B727s anymore.

A couple more old birds that are becoming less common: another B727 (in this case a -200) and a 50-series DC9; both are sports team airplanes.

Big buncha Boeings, including 2 B757s, 2 B767s, and a B777

While we've been seeing Continental aircraft with the United name for a little while now, they're stll being operated as Continental flights. This B772 is the first one I've seen operated as a United flight.

And here's another different-looking United

Hey guys - How about a caption contest? If you've got an idea for a caption for this photo, post it in the comments section.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving week, Part 2

To all my readers in the states, here's hoping that you had a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend. The day itself was really quiet; we ran with a skeleton crew and still had more folks than we needed. Our union local sprang for a turkey, and everyone brought something in, so we had more than enough to eat. Not many airplanes to talk to, though: I think our traffic count was down by about 500 operations for the day. Not to worry: it definitely picked up for the rest of the weekend.

Thanksgiving night, and the scope is empty: Those are ten-mile range marks, and not a plane on any of the finals!

But this was what the traffic into the airport looked like at six in the morning on the Sunday after: backed up way down Century Blvd.

A while back, a reader asked about Tristars at LAX. Lockheed 1011s are few and far between these days, but this one passed through during the week. Notice the immense difference in having the sun behind the camera as opposed to in front of it!

Shortly after my last post, in which I mentioned that Qantas was going to resume A380 service on the Sydney-Singapore-London route, all three of the A380s on the ground at LAX were flown out to Sydney. I didn't see them go, but coworkers told me that they all went out as non-revenue flights. Qantas has said that they are limiting the power used on their A380 engines, pending further testing. The reduction in available power means that the A380s are not able to operate on the LAX flights because of the heavier required fuel loads. So in the meantime, we get to see more sights like this:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving week

It's a big week in the US as we observe the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, which leads right into Black Friday, the first day of the Christmas shopping frenzy. Traditionally two of the busiest traveling days of the year are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after. Despite the recent loss of Mexicana, we're seeing a bit of a bump in our traffic count, as is usual for the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years season. Come January, we'll be in the doldrums again until Spring Break.

We've had some lousy weather, which in LA means rain. In this case, about three days' worth. Nothing too serious, but we did get to go east for a few hours this past Saturday. I didn't get any east traffic photos this time around because I was working with a trainee on ground control for his first taste of east traffic. It drove him nuts, but I'm glad he got to see it before we cut him loose and he's on his own.

From the A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words Department: We're starting to get an idea of what the remodeled Tom Bradley International Terminal is going to do to our view of Taxiway S; namely we won't have any. As I've mentioned before, LAX has taxiways that the controllers are responsible for but can't actually see, and it appears that S will join R and AA in the blind spot club. For those of you following along at home, the earth-moving equipment in the the photo above marks the location of Taxiway S, which runs north-south between the two sides of the airport.

Here's an earlier view, showing the monster crane that's being used. This crane is expected to eventually be taller than the control tower, and is already so tall that it restricts the use of the Instrument Landing System (ILS) to the 24 runway complex. Also seen here are two of our resident Qantas A380s, one of which can be seen waiting for a replacement engine. Qantas has announced that they will resume A380 service this coming Saturday, although on the Sidney-London route; I guess the LAX half of their fleet will have to wait a bit longer.

An interesting view of the United maintenance ramp: An A320, with a B752 directly behind

I expected some sort of response from November 9th's bonus points question, but nobody spoke up. While I didn't think many American readers would get it, I thought for sure some of you in Europe would recognize this former Jetairfly aircraft. This airplane actually wore Sun Country colors and a US registration few years ago before being returned to the leasing company, whereupon it went to Jetairfly in Belgium. Here's an earlier photo, taken in Brussels, that I borrowed from Airliners.net:

Boeing 737-86Q aircraft picture

If the New York team was called the Propellers, would they have to put the name on a different airplane?

A couple of weeks ago, this Horizon Dash 8 took a bird strike and made an emergency landing at LAX. No injuries except for the bird and the airplane's right wing. Reportedly, the damage was severe enough that it's being classified as an accident. That said, the airplane is expected to return to service. Here's another Horizon Dash 8 wearing some new University of Idaho colors:

Other interesting recent LAX visitors:

After the recent weather, some nice shots with no airplanes:


Downtown rarely looks so good

The full moon setting behind the Malibu hills