The US Airways Super Bowl, well sort of . . .

I was talking to our CFO, Brett McAllister who told me about a very interesting conversation he had with a sports-minded aviation consultant.

Phoenix is the main hub for US Airways (because it was the hub for America West, of course).  In the first round of the playoffs, the Arizona Cardinals dispatched the team from Delta‘s hub (Atlanta), but in the next two rounds they beat teams from US Airway hub cities Charlotte and Philadelphia. In the Super Bowl gameday_superbowlthey will play the team from what used to be US Airways’ main hub, Pittsburgh.  So, in a way, the Cardinals are vying not just to be champions of the football world, but champions of the US Airways system. 

Wonder if the folks in the marketing department of the carrier have caught on to this yet (I do know they have planes painted in the logos of both teams).

My World Series prediction turned out to be all wrong, but that won’t stop me from predicting that the Steelers will have a better defense against the Cardinal attack than Pittsburgh had against the US Airways decision to pull down its hub there.  Steelers, 23-17.

I Have A Complaint . . .

Last week, I flew on four different flights.  While the flight times varied from between 75 minutes and 90 minutes, we were on the plane for 2 hours each time, counting from the time we boarded till the time we left the jetway.

Each flight was smooth; in fact the pilots always announced that the flights were expected to be smooth.  seat-beltBut the seat belt sign never came off, on any of the four flights.

I have noticed when I fly on a non-U.S. carrier, that the seat belt sign usually comes off within 10-15 minutes of takeoff, but it is rare that the seat belt sign on a U.S. flight goes off sooner than 30-40 minutes into the flight.  Sometimes, it does not come off at all.

For those of us who need to move around because of hip or back issues, or both, this can be a problem.  For those of us in the “Flomax Generation” this can be a problem.  Especially when we are on the plane a full 30 minutes before it even leaves the gate (as much as 45 minutes for an international flight).

I don’t know why that seat belt sign stays on so long on U.S. carriers and can be taken off so much sooner on a non-U.S. carrier.  (And I should say I have never been in a situation on a non-US carrier when the sign was off, but really should have been on.)

I don’t know if this has to do with our litigious society, some insurance regulation, or something else.  But I don’t like it.  Do any of you?

People You See in America’s Town Square

I’ve often called airports America’s new town square. You see all sorts of folks there

I am writing this from Charlotte awaiting a connection to Pensacola. On the flight down here I

NBC's Willard Scott

NBC's Willard Scott

sat next to Willard Scott. Mr. Scott is just as nice a fellow as you’d want him to be, fitting his TV persona nicely.

We had a great chat. He grew up in Alexandria, where I live, and we talked about that. We talked about the economy and the virtues of avoiding debt. We talked about artificial joints – his knees, the hip I will soon get.

Of course, we talked about airports. He’s been in Illinois a lot lately and said nice things about the service at Chicago O’Hare and also the airport in Moline. He also said he really likes the airports in Charlotte and Ft Myers, Fla. He talked especially about Reagan National which he remembers from the time it opened and has seen how it has changed and grown over the years.

I also learned about Scottish Eggs (hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage and deep fried — with a side of Lipitor I’m sure). And, he left me with an important life lesson when he told me:  “fat people don’t get wrinkles!” I think I’ll have one of those Scottish eggs now . . . for skin maintenance purposes of course!

Inauguration of Barack Obama

Early this morning, January 20, my wife and I left for the Alexandria waterfront to catch a boat ride to Washington for the inauguration. The bridges from Virginia, where I live, to D.C. were closed to personal vehicles and the Metro was packed. So the boat seemed a good idea.

We had to go through security and the ability of the water taxi company

Then Senator Joe Biden with ACI-NA President Greg Principato a few years back when Greg worked on the Biden staff.

Then Senator Joe Biden with ACI-NA President Greg Principato a few years back when Greg worked on the Biden staff.

to provide the service had to be approved by the Coast Guard. In fact our boat was the only one out there except for a single Coast Guard craft.

After we cut through the ice and arrived, we walked toward the Capitol, using the 3rd Street Tunnel as a pedestrian walkway to get to our destination. Along the way, on New Jersey Avenue, we even passed right by Mariah Carey.

We had been invited to a party at 101 Constitution Avenue, which is the building closest

to the Capitol. We spent a little time up on the roof along with a couple of teams of reporters (one of which was interviewing Al Sharpton). While up there we ran into an old colleague of mine from Senator Biden‘s staff in the 1980’s. We enjoyed reminiscing about our time with the new Vice President. The view up there was just beautiful.

The party, hosted by Van Scoyoc Associates, was large and enthusiastic. I also saw Jeff Fegan, who runs DFW airport, and Bradley Rubinstein, who works for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Obama's Inauguration viwed from 101 Constitution Ave.

Obama's Inauguration viwed from 101 Constitution Ave.

I thought President Obama’s speech was easily the best of the four inaugural speeches I have heard in person, and among the best ever delivered. He talked about universal truths and high ideals while also talking frankly about the challenges we face (I was happy he mentioned energy about which I’ve written much in this space) and the fact that we all have a stake and a role in the outcome. It was awfully good.

Afterwards we went to the office of the Air Transport Association to watch the parade. ATA’s offices are right on the parade route and we had a great view. It was great of ATA to invite us.

A number of key aviation figures were

President Obama's limo passing by the ATA's offices during the parade.

President Obama's limo passing by the ATA's offices during the parade.

there including, of course, Jim May and his staff. I saw Pat Forrey, who runs the National Air Traffic Control Association, talking to a candidate for the FAA’ top post. I also saw Mark Dunkerley and his lovely wife, he is the CEO of Hawaiian Airlines, who I’ve known for a long time. Former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, now CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, was there and we shared stories of trying to get around Washington with 2 million of our closest friends.

The ATA party was a great event and evidence that, while we do not always agree, there is a great deal of good will in this industry.

We have much to do in 2009 to help ensure a strong future for the aviation industry.

The new president has called all Americans to try to work through our differences and find a way forward to a brighter future. He was talking to those of us in the aviation business too.

Flying home from New Orleans

new-orleans-1-09

Jackson Square in New Orleans

I’m writing from Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans preparing to go home to chilly Virginia.

I was here six months after Katrina and things were pretty slow as you’d imagine, but over these past three days I saw New Orleans at its best.

The people here are fully of energy, upbeat and welcoming. I’ve been here four times and still searching for my first bad meal. This is a truly wonderful and unique city and I encourage everyone to visit, especially if you can bring a group or conference here.

We’re waiting for our flight sharing the gate area with a large number of high school students going to Washington for the Inauguration of Barack Obama. I have a feeling the Washington I am returning to will be a little different than the one I left 72 hours ago as the pre-inaugural excitement builds.

Many Heroes Today on the Hudson

I’m in my hotel room in New Orleans doing some work and was told

Photo posted on Flickr by Matt Snod. Shot from a NY ferryboat.

Photo posted on Flickr by Matt Snod. Shot from a NY ferryboat.

 about the plane going down in the Hudson River in New York.  I turned on the television to see the incredible pictures. 

All we have is some preliminary information, but it appears everyone got out of the plane safely.  This is an amazing story, and a testament to the skill of the pilots and cabin crew, as well as a testament to the effectiveness of the emergency procedures in place to deal with these kinds of situations.

Posted on Friday:

Miracle on the Hudson

That’s the headline in todays USA Today and the fact that something like this happened with all passengers and crew surviving without life threatening injuries is surely miraculous.

 

 

What should not be lost, however, is that this outcome was achieved because of the training and performance of the pilot, first officer and cabin crew. It was achieved by the reaction of the passengers who did what they were told. It was achieved because of the performance of the plane and its design. It was achieved because the procedures and rules that are in place to deal with such events — they were designed for a reason and they worked. And it was achieved by the reaction of the coast guard, ferries and other boats who were on the scene almost immediately.

 

In other words, while luck and good fortune had much to do wit the outcome, the bigger factors were training, performance, procedures and people stepping up to do the right thing.

 

For me, this outcome is proof of the safe nature of air travel and reinforcement of confidence in flight and cabin crews and their training as well as of those safety procedures we all here at the beginning of the flight.

 

This “miracle” happened because of a lot of hard work, and some people who did extraordinary things.

 

In New Orleans for insurance purposes

I’m writing today from New Orleans, the site of our annual Insurance and Risk Management Conference. While overall recovery efforts remain underway here, New Orleans is full of life and remains one of America’s most unique and interesting cities.

The Insurance and Risk Management meeting is one of those that covers nearly every topic an airport leader must address. From security to safety to human resources to business development, the insurance and risk management people are involved.

Sessions this morning touched on all those subjects and more. The agenda is

New Orleans International Airport

New Orleans International Airport

 packed, from 8 a.m. learning a great deal about subjects that will help them in their jobs when they return home.

We know that times are tough and that our meetings must be designed to provide maximum member benefit. Our Insurance and Risk Management conference fits that bill.

Let me finish with a word about our host airport, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Sean Hunter runs a great facility here. It has not yet returned to pre-Katrina levels of traffic, but is doing better all the time. The people who were working at that airport when the hurricane hit performed heroically over those days and weeks. They had to turn the airport into a hospital, morgue, military base and so much more, and they did it even though many of them suffered terrible losses. It is impossible for me not to think about that when I come here. They will always have my admiration.