Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shot of the Day

The old and the new:  The B727 once was a favorite short- to mid-range jetliner. Many of those routes are now flown with CRJs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We're waiting . . .

As we run up to the end of the month, everyone is waiting to see what happens with the congress and the budget. Specifically, the sequester. Will they let it happen?

As I write this, the common consensus is that yes, they will. What will happen if the threatened sequestration cuts do take place?

Honestly, I don't think anyone really knows. There has been all sorts of stuff put out by all sorts of people about how many furloughs there will be, and what services will be affected. Controllers have been warned that we may be furloughed one day each fortnight, and that vacation time may be cancelled. There is a list of towers that might be closed overnights, and another list of towers that might be closed outright. My personal opinion is that these lists, and a lot of the other statements that have been made by our politicians, are all made to threaten dire consequences that will spur the congress into some sort of action to resolve the situation. So far, to no avail.

If controllers do take furloughs, it won't start happening until April. That's because the government is required to give us thirty-day notice that furloughs will take place. So theoretically, nothing will happen on our front for a month. I don't know if the same consideration applies across the board. There may be other places where the sequestration cuts are felt more immediately.

So here we are, waiting to see what will happen. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Photo quiz revealed

Wow! You guys were all over this like a catfish on stink bait! I didn't count how many, but there must be several hundred baggage buggies in this photo. They don't normally live there; this was a chance spotting. The next day, they were gone.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Post 500: Looking for my happy place

This was originally supposed to be yesterday's post, until I realized that giving you the photo quiz yesterday would make this post number 500. I never expected to attain such a milestone, and it seemed like I ought to mark it with something more auspicious than a mystery photo. And so here it is . . .

It's o'dark-thirty in the morning. The normally bustling LA freeways are quiet as I drive in for work. Ahead of me, the setting full moon glows above the western horizon. I luck out and garner an empty charger at Terminal One before making the hike over to the tower. Everything's right with the world.

After checking my ID, the guard tries to spoil the moment by casually mentioning that the elevator went out last night. I have flashbacks to my Boy Scout days as I start up the twenty-one flights of stairs. We would load our packs with phone books (remember those?) and climb flights of stairs to train for the mountain trails at Philmont Scout Ranch. It's not one of those things you expect to repeat later in life. The elevator outage is a common enough occurrence for us at LAX; sufficiently common in fact that there are rest stations established along the way, with chairs and water bottles. My personal record is three minutes and change, although not recently; I don't keep track anymore. I reflect with appreciation that it's not my turn to make the breakfast run. Somebody told me recently that our elevator is the second-worst in the nation for reliability. I don't know who's ahead of us, but I feel for them - and hope that their tower is shorter than ours.

Despite the hundreds of steps, I'm still a bit early when I report to the tower cab. The setting moon is now lower, and reflected in the waters of the Pacific. The immediate topic of conversation is of course the elevator - the funny noises it's been making lately, and how nobody got stuck in it this time (it has happened, and more than once).  Then we move on to the squirrelly winds. They had to go east traffic for a few hours last night, but now the winds have calmed and we anticipate going west after sunrise. As expected, the bad weather that caused problems in Salt Lake yesterday is today doing more of the same in Denver.

I'm the first of the morning crew, and now the rest are trickling in. The overnight crew yawns as they head down the stairs; they'll be wide awake by the time they make it to the bottom. Meanwhile, the morning rush of departures make their way to the runway and we're opening up more positions. Soon we've got a full house, and things are humming along.

I start out on Local, then I come back from a break to work Clearance for a short while to give the trainee working it a break. He's a good guy, waiting his turn for Ground classroom. Upon his return, I slide over to be an Assist, which is followed by another break and then a stint on Ground. We normally alternate in this manner, from a control position to a non-control position. Most of us prefer working the control positions such as Local or Ground, but the other positions are just as necessary. The rotation keeps people fresh; we really try not to leave someone for more than two hours without a break. Working with trainees, I've found that concentration really begins to fall off after about an hour and a half; your brain just gets tired, and dealing with pilots that don't listen and other complexities only makes it worse.

Along the way, breakfast arrives. On top of that, somebody working overtime has brought in muffins. The smell of fresh coffee wafts through the cab while we wait for the next batch of arrivals. After the initial departure rush, Sunday mornings tend to be slow until well after sun up. Then the traffic heats up with the day as the far-east arrivals begin to appear on the scope. We settle into our roles, keeping airplanes moving with a minimum of fuss. This is when we're happiest; enough airplanes to keep you occupied and interested, but not so many that you're just trying to hold onto the picture.

And this is what I do, six days a week. I often tell people that I have a great job, because I get paid to look out the window. And I get to tell people where to go. How can you beat it? This is my happy place.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday photo quiz: What is it?

Okay, so no airplanes in this photo, but I promise that it was taken at LAX, from the tower. What is it?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

You Decide

The inspiration for this came from a piece I heard on APM's Marketplace program earlier this week. It starts with the opening photo, which is what I saw out the window the day after I heard the radio program. This, in particular:

Now this happens on a regular basis at LAX, I imagine in an effort to control the amount of debris that accumulates on the ramp areas directly beneath what are in effect multi-million dollar vacuum cleaners. Except that, on this particular day, this is what was happening out the other windows:

Tut, Tut! Looks like rain!

Hmmm, that looks like rain too!

So which is it:
  • An exercise in futility, or
  • Job security
You decide!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Visual Bernoulli

Bernoulli's principle states that a fluid in motion, when accelerated, will experience a decrease in pressure. While humid conditions are not common at LAX, the occasional rain will raise the humidity to the point that the pressure drop over the wing can be seen thanks to the brief condensation of the water vapor in the air as it passes over the wings.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Unusual combo

Here's a shot of two aircraft that probably are not often seen together.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Shot of the day: Colorful Copa

I don't think it's a secret that I like color on aircraft. Apparently somebody at Copa Airlines got the message! Credit for this shot goes to CG - thanks!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Presidents Day!

For those of you here in the States, I hope you had a pleasant Presidents Day.  For those of you visiting from exotic foreign destinations, Happy Monday (or Tuesday, I suppose!)

As it is Presidents Day, how about a photo of a plane that is actually older than our president?

Okay, I admit that it's a pretty weak connection, but hey - it's rare for us to see this airplane moving during daylight. This Convair flies cargo into LAX, but normally arrives and departs again both under the cover of darkness. I was able to grab this shot a while back when, for some reason or other, their departure was delayed until after sunrise one morning.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

About that picture

Last weekend, a number of flights were cancelled due to a large winter storm in the Northeast. A number of idled aircraft spent the weekend on the ground at LAX. Here are a few American jets that got the weekend off.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What's special about this picture?

There's nothing wrong with this picture, but there is something unusual about it. Here's a hint: It was taken last weekend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shot of the day: Oops!

I'm pretty sure that the tug is supposed to be in front of the airplane -- not beneath it!

This was a late-night maintenance reposition that went slightly awry. There were no passengers on the plane, and as far as I know, no injuries. It took about an hour to extricate the tug from underneath the aircraft and reopen the taxiway.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Shot of the day: Smile!

Air China brought in this B777-300 recently, their 10th B777. The special paint commemorates Boeing's 40th year doing business in China.

Boeing 'Smiling Faces' Press Release

PR Newswire article

Airlines and Destinations article

Saturday, February 9, 2013

You know it's not good when . . .

 . . . there's this many guys standing around looking at the nose of your aircraft. This poor American flight had to wait for about a half-hour for its gate to open up. Then, to add insult to injury, the tug that was supposed to pull them into the gate suffered a mechanical failure - of an unusual sort. It took another tug to extricate the first: 

 Before we could see what had happened:

Just goes to show, the B777 really is a heavy!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Uncommon visitors

We had a pair of F/A-18s drop in the other day. Formation arrivals and departures are not the norm at LAX; the airlines tend to frown on that sort of thing generally.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mystery photo

Another shot by one of my sharp-eyed coworkers. But what were they taking a picture of?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

I get by . . .

 . . . with a little help from my friends:

I often leave my camera in the tower cab in case somebody else sees something photo-worthy. All of today's shots were taken by my fellow controllers. Some can be credited, while others just magically appeared in the camera. For instance, the sunrise and sunset photos are the work of TB and (I think) SH; the others remain blameless so far. Thanks guys!

I've only seen this airplane once or twice, so it was a rare catch:

 Here are a few more special sightings:

 There's probably a story here, but I haven't heard it yet:

Or this one:

If there's a story to either of these, I probably don't want to know: