Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Odds and ends

Here's something I saw that I thought was kind of interesting in a geeky sort of way. This is a flight plan strip; one of these will print out at the Clearance Delivery position for each aircraft planning to depart LAX. The interesting thing about this particular one is the callsign: AAL1050, and its assigned transponder code: 1050. There's no correlation between an aircraft's registration or callsign and the squawk code assigned to it, so this is a rare coincidence. I probably see this myself once a year or so, and it always causes me to look again at the strip to make sure that I didn't transpose or imagine the numbers. A similar sort of thing will happen occasionally in which a flight crew will input their flight number into the transponder instead of the assigned squawk code. This usually causes minor havoc until we can get it sorted out as it usually means that their transponder target appears as some other flight on the radar until they can input the assigned code.

In other news, Delta has become the third airline (after Hong Kong and Asiana) to bring the Airbus A350 to LAX, operating it between Los Angeles and Shanghai:

Meanwhile, Alaska is planning to phase out some of the Bombardier Dash 8s flown by their regional partner Horizon. In their place will be Embraer 175s. We have already started to see Embraer 175s in Alaska colors at LAX flown by SkyWest, although so far primarily covering routes not currently served by the Dash 8. This particular Dash 8 bears the colors of the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves:

A Horizon Dash 8 and a SkyWest E175 - the airplane that will be its replacement
The Dash 8 and the E175 have similar seating capacities (76 passengers), although the Dash 8 has single-class seating while the E175 offers three classes of seating. The Dash 8 is more fuel efficient, but the E175 is faster.

Time for another construction update photo:

I deliberately took this photo under the cloudy sky because the construction near the American hangar has reached a stage where there is a great deal of exposed shiny sheet metal that glares terribly in the sunlight.

On a personal note, some of you may be aware that I am also a pilot. The CaptainVector airfarce currently consists of a tired Cessna 172. I mention this because I will soon have to bring this airplane into compliance with the FAA requirement for ADS-B. I am currently considering either a Stratus ESG or a Lynx NGT-9000:
Stratus OUT 
Anybody who has experience with either of these units is invited to comment with your thoughts and experiences. These comments will not be published unless you authorize; I merely seek input before spending a large percentage of the aircraft's worth on new tech.

And finally, apropos of nothing relating to aviation, this happened:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Random thoughts

For those of you in the US, happy Independence Day. To everyone else, happy Wednesday. That said, today is actually Monday in my world. Since I have the late-late evening shift tonight, I'll take a few minutes to post a little something before heading to the tower.

For those of you residing outside the US of A, the 4th of July is a national holiday that is generally observed by going to the beach/river/lake/pool/campground, having barbeques, drinking beer, eating watermelon and/or making ice cream, and fireworks. Even though fireworks were not invented in this country, we Americans really love our fireworks. Legal, smegal, who cares - everyone (it seems) sets off fireworks. My neighbors certainly have a fascination with fireworks, so even though it's not yet really hot enough to necessitate running the air conditioning, for the sake of the critters the house is closed up with the a/c going and the radio playing just to shelter them from the worst of the noise.

Here are a couple of interesting things I've learned about this blog lately:

This blog pretty much fails the xkcd Simple Writer test:  https://xkcd.com/simplewriter/

On the up side, however, this blog seems to pass the Great Firewall of China test

Now for a little consumer advice. If you like chocolate, avoid these:

I sampled these so that you don't have to. Trust me, they're horrible. The things I do for you guys . . . 

And now, a gardening tip. If you don't harvest your artichokes, this happens:

This artichoke flower bears an amazing similarity to a sea anemone

More on the subject of gardening: Over the last year or so, I've converted my front lawn into drought-resistant, all California native (except for the awful palm tree) plants. So have some gratuitous flower photos:

Aromas Cleveland Sage

Trish Monkeyflower

Shasta Sulphur Buckwheat

Apache Plume

White California Fuchsia

San Luis Obispo Coyote Mint

White Sage

Coast Sunflower

Red Buckwheat

Conejo Buckwheat

St. Catherine's Lace

California Buckwheat

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a blog about airplanes at LAX. So for those of you who've made it all the way down to here, a shot of one of our recent airline additions at LAX. VivaAerobus (callsign: Aeroenlaces) operates one flight a day at Terminal 6 in the late afternoons:

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Uncommon visitor

An uncommon visitor passed through LAX last week. At one time, the B727 was the backbone of the domestic airline fleet. Everyone flew B727s: American, Braniff, Continental, Delta, Eastern, National, Northwest, Pan Am, TWA, United, Western, and many others all relied upon the trusty B727. Even when the mainline carriers phased them out, B727s still flew for charter operators and as freighters.

These days, however, the B727 is a rare bird. The last scheduled B727s flying out of LAX were operated by FedEx, and the last of those was retired in 2013. Since then, the B727 has become a rare sight; a few are still operated by corporations and sports franchises and occasionally put in an appearance at LAX.

This particular B727 is a bit unusual because it is the short -100 model; most B727s that pass through LAX are the larger -200. Another noteworthy detail is that this aircraft has winglets, which came on the scene as most B727 operators were looking to get rid of the airplane instead of upgrade it.

Today's regional jets aren't much smaller than the B727-100; seen above is an Embraer 175, and below a Bombardier CRJ-200.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Photo Friday: Construction Update

Well here we are, a solid week into June. It's probably time for a construction update. For fun, I'll start with the remodeling of the Terminal 4 parking garage, seen in the opening shot. This parking garage, which is sandwiched between the control tower and the TBIT, used to feature an active public heliport on its roof. It was common for helicopters to fly in and pick up or drop off passengers. I've been told that Robinson Helicopter, whose factory is less than ten miles away at the Torrance airport, would pick up customers at LAX and shuttle them over to the factory to pick up their new helicopter.

This changed around 2012-2013, when construction work around the TBIT and Terminal 4 required large cranes in the vicinity. The heliport was initially closed when the cranes were in operation, but the temporary closures became permanent when Los Angles World Airports (LAWA) opted to convert the roof of the parking garage into revenue-generating parking spaces. To be fair, there was undeniably a need for additional parking capacity at both Terminals 3 and 4. Despite that, the roof of the parking garage was used by law enforcement helicopters in the wake of the Terminal 3 shooting in November, 2013. Since then, there has been an emergency-use helipad on the southeast corner of the parking garage. As you can see in the above photo, that has now been closed to allow for construction of vehicle access ramps.

Now for the mid-field concourse construction:

And here's the current state of Terminal 1:

There is more to discuss on the topic of construction, but I'll leave it there for now. To close, a couple of shots of an airplane that I've only before seen at night. As it is, these photos were taken shortly before dusk under the marine layer, so the camera was struggling to focus with the poor light and movement. I've tweaked the first shot, while the second one is pretty much how it came out of the camera. This Hainan Airlines B787 Dreamliner sports a bevy of pandas:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Photo Friday: Odds and Ends

This week's edition of Photo Friday is a collection of recent shots that seemed worthy of sharing. There have been some camera issues as of late and May gray has set in, so good photos are somewhat less plentiful than usual. Nonetheless, the opener is the American A321 with the cancer-fighting Avengers.

Next is the Xiamen Dreamliner in UN blue:

And we now have a second carrier operating the Airbus A350 at LAX:

One other item of business is that the new EU regulations about internet privacy have taken effect. Those of you from that part of the world should be seeing a notice to that effect at the top of the page. If not, let me know. In short, this blog is hosted by Blogger.com, which is a Google property; Google Analytics and AdSense and related cookies may be used. I don't know what impact all of this will have on my European readers, but everyone who has content on the web right now is advising their readers of privacy policies and such. I do not personally collect any sort of personal data beyond any comments that you care to make, and many of those are published with the relevant blog entry. I use no third-party features beyond those included with Blogger, and the only information I get from the Google Analytics lets me know how many visitors come to the blog, what blog entry they see, and what website referred them here if there was one. The notice I received reads as follows:

European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used and data collected on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.

You are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third party features, this notice may not work for you. If you include functionality from other providers there may be extra information collected from your users.

Learn more about this notice and your responsibilities.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Photo Friday: Double Feature!

When I saw this out the window yesterday, it took me a moment to realize that while I've seen this special Alaska-Virgin America paint before, it wasn't on this airplane.

Continuing with a variation of that theme, I'll now show you this airplane, which you've also seen before:

I believe that the (former) Virgin America A321s are the first A321neos at LAX. Here are a couple more:

Since I missed last week's edition of Photo Friday, this week's is a double feature. Anybody see anything wrong with the new Air Canada paint?

The new Air Canada livery on a new B737 Max 8. Air Canada is the second carrier to bring the B737 Max to LAX; Southwest has had them here since January

In case it's not obvious, here are a few hints:

I'm guessing that either Delta and Air Canada went in half-and-half on a paint order, or one of them is picking up surplus planes from the other. If it's not one of those, perhaps Air Canada is now a subsidiary of Delta and is taking on the parent company colors (or vice-versa, I suppose). In any case, this gets my vote for the worst idea for a new livery since the SkyTeam and Star Alliance liveries were introduced:

As a tower controller, air carrier paint schemes are an important tool in identifying aircraft when I'm looking out the window. Any of these liveries causes confusion when trying to make a traffic call because it's not immediately obvious who one of these airplanes belongs to. Yes, if you look closely enough, each of them actually does have the actual airline name on it somewhere, but it's comparatively inconspicuous relative to the rest of the aircraft's markings. At night especially, these paint schemes are problematic because they become more difficult to identify. A controller or another pilot should not have to spend conscious effort studying an aircraft just to figure out who it belongs to. Where this matters is when a controller tells a pilot to "Follow the Delta from your left" or some similar instruction. If the pilot receiving that instruction doesn't see the Delta name in small lettering under the windows, perhaps because from their vantage point only the rear half of the SkyTeam (Delta) airplane is visible, then they won't be able to identify that it's the airplane that they're supposed to follow. Then they sit there blocking the taxiway, waiting to follow an airplane that is already long gone. 

This is enough of a problem that I teach ground controllers in training to identify the subject airplane as "Star Alliance" or SkyTeam" when making traffic calls instead of using the carrier name because that's what the pilot that they're talking to is going to see out his cockpit window. Am I being pedantic? Perhaps. Does it make for more effective traffic calls and lead to less pilot confusion? Yes, absolutely. The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is at night, when I can't see the airplane a mile away at the other end of the airport, and thus can't tell that it wears Star Alliance or SkyTeam colors. Then we're back to square one, in which I refer to the airplane by its company name because that's the information available to me on the flight strip and/or the radar display. 

While the new Air Canada paint scheme does clearly say Air Canada on the side and have the Maple Leaf logo on the tail, the overall livery is so similar to the current Delta livery that we often misidentify it when looking out the window. So that's a big thumbs down for the new Air Canada paint scheme. Rant over!

As a reward for putting up with all of that, here's a fun shot:

No, I didn't Photoshop this; that's really what it says on the side of this Volaris Airbus!

As I alluded to in the caption of the Air Canada B737 Max 8 photo, Southwest was the first carrier to bring the B737 Max to LAX. Here is one of those first B737 Max 8s seen at LAX, taken in early January of this year:

Southwest was the first to bring the B737 Max to LAX; this shot was taken during the first week that we started to see them. The most obvious spotting point from this angle is the shape of the tailcone and APU exhaust. Compared to the adjacent B737-700, the Max has a longer taper to its tailcone. An unfortunate side effect  of this new tailcone is its greater resemblance to the A320-series' tailcone.

On the subject of Southwest, it's time for a construction update:

Southwest has opened up Gate 14, and work is now progressing on Gate 12. In this shot, we see Gates 14, 16, and 18A occupied on this side, and continuing clockwise, Gates 17B, 17A, and 15  occupied on the other side.
Meanwhile, on the Terminal 2 side of the alley, Gate 23 has re-opened while Gate 25 is now getting some work