CategoryAir

SFO airport showed me some cool planes

I flew on Virgin American to Portland, Oregon, last year and had to stop in San Francisco on my return journey to Chicago. The layover was over 2 hours long, and I spent that time relaxed in the new Terminal 2. The terminal has great window coverage of the airfield.

I saw for the first time an Airbus A380, the largest of the so-called jumbo jets (is that phrase even used anymore?). It was flown by Lufthansa (see photo).a

I also saw a lot of Boeing 747s from different airlines, including United, OneWorld, Star Alliance, British Airways, and Cathay Pacific. I may have seen a Chinese airline.

I also saw President Barack Obama land in Air Force One. I recognized the plane from far away, as it was coming in for landing, but I wasn’t completely sure until it touched down. My camera was probably hanging around my neck; I was too dumbstruck to do anything about it. After it landed and I was positive that Boeing 747 was flown by the United States Government, I walked around the terminal until I could see it.

The plane had been parked far away from a terminal, near a hanger and two C-17 military cargo planes.

American airports should have viewing platforms. Not just plane spotters like to photograph them. Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) airport has a viewing platform and there was over 50 people up there, including lots of families.

Flying

If I had a car, or lived closer to O’Hare, I would spend more time taking photographs of airplanes. As it stands, it costs a lot of time and money, for transit, for me to get out to places that have good viewing of the planes. I find these places (“the suburbs”) uncomfortable to bike in.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Boeing 747-406M, registration PH-BFS. Find more photos of this specific aircraft on Airliners.net. It’s really cool that there’s a huge community of people who take photographs of airplanes around the world.

Photo of B747-200F up close and personal

From a private bus tour around O’Hare Airport.

Photo of Southern Air’s Boeing 747-200F (F for freight/cargo) by Duane Rapp. See the original photo.

Draft letter to my Alderman about the TSA

To my readers: I am concerned about transportation security in the United States. I am concerned that it grossly oversteps boundaries erected by my rights as a citizen. I am concerned about the effectiveness of security theater. I want to travel without my naked body being viewed, or my clothed body being touched, by strangers at the airport.* I want my elected politicians to do something. The first is to consider our options.

Below is a draft letter to my most local elected official, the 11th Ward Alderman of Chicago. I’ll send this to him to his office at 3659 S Halsted Street after Thanksgiving week.

Do you have ideas for making it better? My opinion is at the end.

Dear Alderman Balcer,

I understand that airports in the United States can elect to remove the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and provide their passenger screening services.

You have probably heard that is widespread confusion, anger, and disgust at how some people passing through America’s airports are being treated. Many object to having strangers view them naked, and others are reporting feeling groped by strangers – all in the name of preventing terrorism. The federal Government Accountability Office reported that it could not confirm if the current “Advanced Imaging Technology” (AIT) machines (either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave) would have detected the explosive material someone attempted to use around Christmas 2009.

I haven’t yet decided if I will include this photo of a sleeping TSA officer at Chicago’s Midway (MDW) airport in 2007. Photo by Erin Nekervis.

As the City of Chicago owns O’Hare and Midway Airports, the City Council has power and authority over their operations.

I urge you and your colleagues to investigate the effectiveness of the TSA’s AIT machines, their protection or lack of protection of Chicagoans’ privacy, the level of training each TSA worker receives, and the possibility of using different passenger screening techniques in the Chicago Airport System, without the aid of the TSA.

I have enclosed an article by the Toronto Star from December 30, 2009, that briefly explains how security works at airports in Israel, a country under daily threats of bombing, and real bombing, without the use of expensive and unexplained machinery.

Steven Vance
11th Ward Resident

*I really want some high-speed rail.

Addendum, 11/19/10: After reading how an airline pilot refused to have his body groped or viewed naked, and describing his experience with the TSA on a message board, I wanted to post the pilot’s comments (via Gizmodo):

Roberts’s reply: “If your perspective prevails [that Roberts’s actions had no effect in changing TSA policy] – and I’m afraid it may – we may all live to find ourselves wishing we had fought in earlier days, when we still had a fighting chance.”

This reminds me of the “If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why are you against it?” position. At the rate the TSA is removing rights protecting Americans from unreasonable searches (Fourth Amendment), I eventually won’t have anything to hide because I won’t be allowed to have anything – no water bottles, no 7 inches long bike tools, no shaving cream. This government, and many other governments, conducts intensive surveillance and collects godawful amounts of data. The government is not always benign, will share the data, and does a poor job of securing the data. I am not doing anything illegal, but that does not mean I want to share all of my activities with the government or the police.

Read more TSA horror stories, in this roundup from the UK-based Daily Mail.

Take the helicopter to the airport!

If you have a lot of money, you can skip the road traffic and take a helicopter from the Downtown Manhattan Heliport to JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark airports. U.S. Helicopter provides shuttle service for $800 one-way and will get you there in 10 minutes or less. HeliNY Charters charges $1,850.

After the helicopter landed, some people got on and one minute later it took off. While I stood here, a couple helicopters came and went. I took video but I accidentally deleted it later.

Sources: U.S. Helicopter, Downtown Manhattan Heliport, HeliNY

Boeing plane spotting in Marana, Arizona

A lot of people got really excited when the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft took off from their testing airfield outside Seattle, Washington, on December 15, 2009.

I found the videos mildly interesting (it shows the “Delay Liner” lifting off and landing). It seemed like the top topic on Twitter that day.

But traveling to Tucson, Arizona, 11 days later (December 26), I spotted the Dreamlifter, or Boeing’s modified 747-400 large cargo lifter. It looks like a 747 (the largest passenger plane until the Airbus A380 came along) with a hunchback (or broad shoulders). I didn’t see it flying, but I saw it a couple miles away from a highway while it sat and waited for something at the Pinal Airpark. Pinal Airpark hosts a boneyard for unneeded airplanes; Northwest Airlines keeps many planes there (see photo at end).

The plane is unmistakable, even from a distance. Measuring perpendicularly from I-10 (going southeast), the runway is 2.6 miles from the road. I believe this plane sat about .2 miles closer, on the maintenance tarmac.

However, it’s more likely the Dreamlifter is waiting for a fixup at the on-site Evergreen Aircraft Maintenance Center. Evergreen International Airlines (unrelated to the Evergreen Group of shipping companies in China) operates the Large Cargo Lifters for Boeing. The Dreamlifter is named such because it typically carries parts from suppliers around the world to the Boeing assembly plant in Everett, Washington.

And not to be outdone, Airbus has a funnier looking plane called the Beluga.

A satellite photo from July 2, 2005, shows the many Northwest Airlines planes parked at the Pinal Airpark boneyard. Their red livery gives them away.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑