Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recent Arrivals

I'm severely overdue for a post, and we have some unfinished business, but for now I'm going to show you some new things I've seen recently.

British Airways has started bringing in B777-300s from London

I don't get to see Malaysia very often, and this B777-200 was the first time I've seen them departing for Tokyo; their usual destination from LAX is Taipei.

Virgin Atlantic has been showing up with a B747-400 on their early flight this past week

Anytime we get an Antonov, it's something of an occasion

Friday, March 23, 2012

Super shot of the day caption contest

While yours truly is out and about, a couple of the other LAX guys set up this shot. So for this weekend, come up with your caption ideas for this photo. Suggestions will be published Monday or Tuesday, depending upon when I get back to civilization.

Photo credit goes to Dale Elhardt - thanks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I am an Electronaut

Warning: This post really has nothing to do with LAX or airplanes in general, beyond the fact that I took some of these photos on an airport.

I've got a new set of wheels: It's a BMW ActiveE. Said another way, it's an electric BMW: essentially, it's a 128i with the gasoline engine and associated hardware replaced by an electric motor and 192 lithium-ion battery cells. This is the second electric car field test model from BMW; the first was the MINI E. BMW built about 1,100 of these cars, of which 700 are being assigned to test markets in the United States. As such, I am more or less paying for the privilege of being a beta tester (BMW calls these people "Electronauts"); at the end of the two-year lease period the car goes back to BMW. In 2013, BMW plans to introduce their first production electric car, the i3, and a lot of that model's hardware is getting proven in this car. This is my first experience with an electric car (I don't think golf carts really count), and I'm looking forward to it. As I write this, I've had the car a little over a week and have put about 400 miles on it so far.

The first question everybody asks is how far can it go? The published range is about 100 miles, although that is dependent on driving technique. The car has an energy-conserving setting that stretches that to about 110 miles by reducing power to the motor and air conditioning, and I've been using that setting almost exclusively. My daily commute to work is around 42 miles round trip, so theoretically I could make that trip twice before recharging.

The next question is usually how long does it take to recharge? This depends on the charger being used. The car comes with what amounts to a trickle charger that can be plugged into a household 110-volt outlet. This charger gives about four miles for every hour of charge. Put another way, if you drive four miles it will take an hour to recharge the car. As mentioned, my daily commute is about 42 miles both ways, and the recharge time for that is over ten hours. Fortunately, because of the car's capacity, I don't have to recharge the car while I'm at work if none of the public charging stations or outlet-convenient parking spaces is available. Thus far, the longest day I've done is 92 miles, and it took over twenty hours to recharge the car after that. There is a much quicker option: a wall-mounted charging station. The charging station cuts the charging time down to a much more reasonable four hours, but requires 220-volt power and must be installed by an electrician. I've got one ordered for the house, but it has yet to arrive.

The charging port is located behind what is normally the fuel filler door

The trickle charger that comes with the car, shown here with a 12-pack carton for size reference.

The third question I get asked is what's it like? In a word, quiet. At speed, there is a whine from the motor, but it's not objectionable and is easily covered by the radio. The tire and wind noise is the same as any other car, but is more easily heard because there's no engine making even louder noise. There's also a noticeable lack of engine vibration, especially when stopped at a stop light. With the radio and air conditioning off, the car is still and silent when stopped, and would be indistinguishable from parked except for the instrument indications.

The other big difference from a gas-powered car is the regenerative braking. When the driver lets up on the accelerator pedal, the electric motor becomes a generator driven by the car's momentum, and recharges the battery by a modest amount. The amount of regenerative braking can be regulated via the accelerator pedal, and it is possible for the car to essentially coast down the road. Alternatively, it is also possible to bring the car to a virtual halt without using the traditional brakes. Naturally, it takes a bit of practice to get used to this - but not as much as you might expect. The bigger adjustment for me has been when I get back into a 'normal' car and have to remember to use the brake pedal.

The electric motor is mounted in the trunk, above the rear axle. About a third of the normally-available trunk space is lost to the motor.

After a trip to work and back, with an errand along the way, the trip odometer shows almost 47 miles (and it actually was 47 miles, since I was late to reset the odometer)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Got it!

Last month, I told you that Air China has started using B777-300ERs on their LAX - Beijing route, and showed you a grainy night time photo. The recently-added daytime flight is still usually a B747-400, but thanks to daylight saving time, the evening flight now sometimes arrives before dark. Los Angeles is the first North American city to receive B777 service from Air China; the evening flight is expected to switch to the B777 later this spring or summer, with B777 service to New York and San Francisco planned for next year. Air China plans to have nineteen of these B777s, which will replace their current B747-400s and A340-300s. Air China's B773s seat 313 passengers; the B744s being phased out seat 340, while the A343s seat 255. An interesting thing I noticed is that Air China also operates B777-200s with a seating capacity of 345. No, that's not a misprint; their -200s really do seat more than their -300s -- which just goes to show how much carrying capacity these long-haul flights have to use for fuel to make the trip. Flight time to Beijing runs 12-13 hours, and at present Air China is the only carrier offering direct passenger service from Los Angeles.

I must say that I personally think the Air China paint scheme appears more attractive on the B777 than on the B747.


Air China International

Accidental Travel Writer (anybody notice that the photo with this article is NOT a B777-300?)

Business Traveller


Wikipedia: Air China

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another what's wrong with this picture?

You guys seem to enjoy these, and I've gotten lucky with the camera again. So what's wrong with this picture -- that is, besides the darkness and the reflections off the dirty tower windows?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Technical Difficulties

Sorry, but for reasons beyond my control I was unable to get to my Mac and so I'm afraid that there is no new post here. Happy Monday!

Friday, March 9, 2012

What's wrong with this picture revealed

This one was perhaps a bit tricky if you're not familiar with how things normally work at Terminal 1, especially because I didn't show you how it started. That said, for anyone who looks at this everyday, one of these airplanes sticks out like a sore thumb. Let's take another look at the original photo:

Here, in addition to the Virgin America A319 on the concrete pad, we see a pair of Southwest B737s in play. Both have just pushed off their gates: The one on the right came off Gate 11, the one on the left came off Gate 13. For those playing along at home, here's a shot of the north end of Terminal 1 showing aircraft parked at those gates with the gates numbered for reference:

The following two shots illustrate normal pushbacks from Gate 13:

The first photo shows the usual push off Gate 13: Tail west on Delta, behind Gate 14. This sets the aircraft up for the concrete pad, and is the most common Gate 13 operation. We probably do this a dozen times a day. In the second photo, Shamu demonstrates the alternate way to push off Gate 13: Tail east into the top of the D-7 alley, behind Gate 11. This position allows the aircraft to either go onto the concrete pad or straight ahead on Delta, and, as seen here, can also allow an inbound aircraft to pull onto the gate while the outbound disconnects from the tug. We do this less often, maybe once or twice a day; it's generally only done when there's some benefit to the ground controller. So now, take another look at our special aircraft from the other day:

The question that immediately comes to mind is 'How did that airplane get there?' This Southwest B737 was parked at Gate 13, which is just beyond the right edge of this photo. As we've just seen, a normal pushback off this gate puts the aircraft on Taxiway Delta, either facing westward behind Gate 11 (not possible in this instance because the other Southwest B737 was pushing off that gate) or facing eastward behind Gate 14. In this case, they got it in the right place, but the tug crew somehow got the thing pointed northward on an east-west taxiway. I guess they were a little unclear on the concept; they did at least place the nose gear on the taxiway centerline. This operation would not have worked had there been an aircraft on Gate 14 at the time. As it was, I imagine the windows along the north side of the terminal shook considerably when the plane powered up for taxi.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What's wrong with this picture?

You guys seem to enjoy the quizzes, so here's another one. This is an early-morning view of Terminal One, but there's definitely something not right happening here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's missing from this picture revealed

You guys sent in some great suggestions for this one, which I've held off on posting until now so as not to spoil the fun for those who came after. There were several variations on the idea of "tugless towbars"; I think someone also mentioned "stealth" tugs.

I wasn't working ground control at the time this occurred, so I'm not sure what lead up to the initial shot I showed you. Shortly after, a tug arrived on the scene, as shown here. As B757s generally taxi right onto this gate (73), there must have been some sort of interesting scenario. One is that the aircraft was being towed up to the gate from the maintenance ramp when something happened to the original tug. Another possibility is that it was an inbound flight that experienced some sort of steering issue as it approached the gate. Or perhaps there was just a miscommunication between the cockpit and the ground crew. A tongue-in-cheek alternative (I hope) is that they ran out of fuel just as they were about to pull on to the gate; I've heard of that happening, although I've never personally witnessed it. I have personally worked aircraft being towed when the tug ran out of fuel, and that was bad enough (would someone please call AAA?!?) Stick around; we're gonna do it again!

Monday, March 5, 2012

What's missing from this picture: Need a hint?

A number of you, having discerned the missing detail, have written in with comments. For those who wanted a hint, here you go!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What's missing from this picture?

Okay, it's a new month -- and time for a quiz. I looked out the window this afternoon and this is what I saw:

So, what's wrong with this picture?