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Planes I Have Flown On In My Travels

I think I have remembered all the planes I have flown on since I started traveling in the 1960’s. That was tough. I started traveling as a child in the midwest, then to South America, and then, well all over.

Douglass

DC3 North central

The first plane I remember flying on was  a North Central Airlines DC- 3 My father worked for North Central so we flew non-rev, meaning free. We called these planes puddle jumpers.

There are still small operators with DC-3s in revenue service and as cargo  aircraft. The common saying among aviation buffs and pilots is that “the only replacement for a DC-3 is another DC-3”. The aircraft’s legendary ruggedness is enshrined in the lighthearted description of the DC-3 as “a collection of parts flying in loose formation.” Its ability to take off and land on grass or dirt runways makes it popular in developing countries, where runways are not always paved. This was indeed the case when I flew on DC-3’s in Bolivia in the early sixties. The runway was not paved. More exciting was that the ceiling (maximum height the plane could fly) was below the altitude of the Andes mountains we were flying through. So, we weaved our way between the mountains, and could look out the windows at peaks far above us.

For a short while the DC4 flew, and I remember being on one flying to Chicago

For a short while the DC4 flew, and I remember being on one flying to Chicago. It was a big deal because it had four engines!

Very few DC-4s remain in service today.  There are a couple nostalgia airlines still flying them, and I would love to take a trip on one again.

The DC6 came around and became the work horse of many airlines.

The DC6 came around and became the work horse of many airlines.

 I flew on DC-6s all over South America on LLoyd Aereo Boliviano. I flew over the Andes and across the Amazon jungle to Brazil. I swear I remember flying over a native village in the middle of  the Amazon rain forest, looking out the window, and seeing natives angrily waving spears at the giant silver bird. Remember, this was 1964, we were flying at about 5000 feet, and I was 10.

I flew a Panagra DC8 from    Lima, Peru to Miami. before we boarded, there was an eathquake in Lima, which shook the airport quite well. Then, they led a man aboard in shackles. Then, over Cuba, the cockpit filled with smoke. Quite the flight!

I flew a Pan American DC8 from Lima, Peru to Miami. before we boarded, there was an earthquake in Lima, which shook the airport quite well. Then, they led a man aboard in shackles. Then, over Cuba, the cockpit filled with kerosene smelling  smoke. Quite the flight!

The DC9 was cool because it was thie first plane I ever flew with the tail mounted engines!

The DC9 was cool because it was the first plane I ever flew with the tail mounted engines!

The DC10 came along and it proved size does matter.

The DC10 came along and it proved size does matter. Although the last DC10 was delivered in 1989, some still fly.

Lockheed

The DC10 had stiff competition from this Lockheed L1011. The L1011 was not only prettier with the tail engine configuration, it  also used some very modern luggage and in cabin . Trans World Airlines heralded the TriStar (the L1011's commercial nickname)as one of the safest aircraft in the world in promotional literature.

The DC10 had stiff competition from this Lockheed L1011. The L1011 was not only prettier with the tail engine configuration, it also used some very modern luggage handling techniques  and in cabin service innovations, including a galley underneath the main floor. Trans World Airlines heralded the TriStar (the L1011’s commercial nickname)as one of the safest aircraft in the world. Indeed it had almost a flawless safety record.

At this time in my life, my father worked for Lockheed. I got to go on a walk-thru of the plane before the first one was built. Then, when they went into operation I was sure to take a flight. It was a very quiet aircraft, also nicknamed the “whisperliner”.  It faced stiff competition from the DC10 and the 747, and proved to be Lockheed’s last civilian liner.

Boeing

Now, onto the Boeing line!

Ahh, the 727. The only thing cool about this plane is the rear passenger exit made famous by D.B. Cooper

Ahh, the 727. The only thing cool about this plane is the rear passenger exit made famous by D.B. Cooper, one of America’s most mysterious outlaws. I used to fly these PSA 727’s from LAX to SFO to see the Grateful Dead. PSA had a midnight mail run flight for about US$10. The back half of the cabin was full of mail bags and front half full of hippies. We got away with things no one would dream of doing on an airliner today. The stewardesses just ignored us for the entire flight! Those were the days!

The Boeing 737 has been in production and service a very long time.  The initial 737-100 flew in 1967 and entered airline service in February 1968. The 737 series is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation. Newer versions of the plane provide a great mid range fleet option for many airlines, including my favorite, QATAR.

The Boeing 737 has been in production and service a very long time. The initial 737-100 flew in 1967 and entered airline service in February 1968. The 737 series is the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation. Newer versions of the plane provide a great mid range fleet option for many airlines, including my favorite, QATAR.

The 747, known as a Jumbo or a heavy, comes in many configurations and sizes. My favorite flight on one was from Melbourne to LAX. I left at noon on Sunday, and arrived at noon on Sunday. I was in Business class and slept the whole way. It was like being "beamed".

The 747, known as a jumbo or a heavy, comes in many configurations and sizes. My favorite flight on one was from Melbourne to LAX. I left at noon on Sunday, and arrived at noon on Sunday. I was in Business class and slept the whole way. It was like being “beamed”. Instantaneous.

Not one of my favorite aircraft. The Boeing 757 is a mid-size, narrow-body twin-engine jet airliner that was built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes from 1981 to 2004.  Being a narrow body, sinle aisle craft with a large passenger capacity makes in a claustrophobic nightmare. It alsotakes a long time to board and deboard. not fun

Not one of my favorite aircraft. The Boeing 757 is a mid-size, narrow-body twin-engine jet airliner that was built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes from 1981 to 2004. Being a narrow body, single aisle craft with a large passenger capacity makes it a claustrophobic nightmare. It also takes a long time to board and deboard. Not fun

The Boeing 767 is a mid-size, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It was the manufacturer's first wide-body twinjet and its first airliner with a two-crew glass cockpit.  Glass cockpit? This means everyting is digital, nothing analog. My favorite flight on a 767 was (of course before 9/11) from Toronto to Miami on Air Canada. I was flying first class. The cockpit door was open so Istood there and looked in. The co-pilot said hello. Itold him I worked on flight simulator games and was just interested. When he asked which games, I told him and he replied "wow, those are my favorites, step in here" So I pent the next hour in the cockpit. It was a rush. Those guys have a great view!  The whole time, the never touched a thing, the plane was on autopilot. I asked if the had to take over controld to land it and they said "nah, but we like to".

The Boeing 767 is a mid-size, wide-body twin-engine jet airliner built by Boeing. It was the manufacturer’s first wide-body twinjet and its first airliner with a two-crew glass cockpit. Glass cockpit? This means everything is digital, nothing analog. My favorite flight on a 767 was (of course before 9/11) from Toronto to Miami on Air Canada. I was flying first class. The cockpit door was open so I stood there and looked in. The co-pilot said hello. I told him I worked on flight simulator games and was just interested. When he asked which games, I told him and he replied “wow, those are my favorites, step in here” So I spent the next hour in the cockpit. It was a rush. Those guys have a great view! The whole time, they never touched a thing, the plane was on autopilot. I asked if they had to take  control to land it and they said “nah, but we like to”.

The 777ER. This is the plane I find myself on the most these days. ER stands for Extended Range. My favorite seat is 44C. This is a great aircraft, and Emirates is a great airline. The -300 variant of this plane is the longest  fuselage in flight. The "triple 7 set a record for the longest non-stop flight of a passenger airliner by flying 11,664 nautical miles  eastward from Hong Kong to London.[Lasting 22 hours and 42 minutes. I'll bet there some sore butts on that flight.

The 777ER. This is the plane I find myself on the most these days. ER stands for Extended Range. My favorite seat is 44C. This is a great aircraft, and Emirates is a great airline. The -300 variant of this plane is the longest fuselage in flight. The “triple 7” set a record for the longest non-stop flight of a passenger airliner by flying 11,664 nautical miles eastward from Hong Kong to London. (Lasting 22 hours and 42 minutes. I’ll bet there were some sore butts on that flight.)

I’ll get back to Boeing at the end of this post for obvious reasons.

AirBus

For now, let us look at the Airbus planes I have flown.

This is the A319. Druk Air, the only airline that can fly you to Bhutan uses the A319. This is a memorable flight, especially the landing. For an exciting look at the most exciting landing on the planet, go here.

This is the A319. Druk Air, the only airline that can fly you to Bhutan uses the A319. This is a memorable flight, especially the landing. For an exciting look at the most exciting landing on the planet, go here.

Just as Boeing has stuck with the 7 theme in naming its craft, Airbus seems stuck on the 3xx theme.

This is an A320 flown by Air Asia. Ihave made many flights on this baby. Excellent plane, excellent airline

This is an A320 flown by Air Asia. I have made many flights on this baby. Excellent plane, excellent airline. The carbon emissions of an A320 are less than a 737, and one of the lowest in commercial aviation.

Step up to a the A330. It is a wide body that went into service in the mid 90's and is very fuel efficient airplane. Indeed, if you pay the eco offsets when you fly, this is a good deal.

Step up to a the A330. It is a wide body that went into service in the mid 90’s and is very fuel efficient airplane.

The biggest plane I have ever flown on is the A380. An 18 hour flight from central China to LAX. The plane, from a passenger's point of view (in economy) is not that exciting, but  it IS huge.

The biggest plane I have ever flown on is the A380. An 18 hour flight from central China to LAX. The plane, from a passenger’s point of view (in economy) is not that exciting, but it IS huge.

Now for odds and ends.

For four long years I lived in a backwater called Bocas Del Toro, Panama. The only way in or out of Bocas (other than a chicken bus then a water taxi) was to fly. Two airlines served the airstrip (I will not call it an airport). One was Aeroperlas

Aeroperlas, or as I caled it scaryperlas flew thes Shorts 360 (or as I called them 'in your shorts") aircraft which looked to me like some rail car someone stuck wings on. Someone got  this photo after a plane was washed, normally they looked horrible, outside and worse inside.

Aeroperlas, or as I called it scaryperlas flew these Shorts 360 (or as I called them ‘in your shorts”) aircraft which looked to me like some rail car someone stuck wings on. Someone got this photo after a plane was washed, normally they looked horrible, outside and worse inside.

The other option was Air Panama which used a Saab 340. In the four years I lived there, due to pilot error, two flights crashed. That is what you get when yu hire teenagers to fly your planes.

The other option was Air Panama which used a Saab 340. In the four years I lived there, due to pilot error, two flights crashed. That is what you get when you hire teenagers to fly your planes.

Perhaps the safest plane I have evr flown on are called Twin Otters. I have flown them into a fishing  lodge on a river in Alaska, and into a Mining camp in the Andes. They are just great aircraft.

Perhaps the safest plane I have ever flown on are called Twin Otters. I have flown them into a fishing lodge on a river in Alaska, and into a Mining camp in the Andes. They are just great aircraft.

My wife and I trusted our lives to Buddha Air to fly up close and personal with Mt. Everest on a Beech 1900

My wife and I trusted our lives to Buddha Air to fly up close and personal with Mt. Everest on a Beech 1900.

I was treated to a flight between Santiago de Chile and Barriloche Argentina and Stephen Bechtel's Falcon 50. Now I know how the 1% live. The faucets in the head were made of gold. This is in case the plane gets taken by  kidnappers, they can bribe their way out of trouble. It was a comfy flight.

I was treated to a flight between Santiago de Chile and Barriloche Argentina on Stephen Bechtel’s Falcon 50. Now I know how the 1% live. The faucets in the head were made of gold. This is in case the plane gets taken by kidnappers, they can bribe their way out of trouble. It was a comfy flight.

And now, the end, the final, the future…

In about 24 hours I am going to board a Dreamliner, the Boeing 787! This is supposed to be the mostadvanced aircraft made to date, both in aeronautics passenger comfort! We will see, as yu shoul know by now, I have a LOT to compare it to!

In about 24 hours I am going to board a Dreamliner, the Boeing 787! This is supposed to be the most advanced aircraft made to date, both in aeronautics and passenger comfort! We will see. As you should know by now, I have a LOT to compare it to!

Thanks for reading. Sorry this was so long but after all I have been flying for fifty + years! Please share with a friend, and make a comment!

International Air Travel, My Style.

As I start packing for yet another intercontinental flight, I came to the happy realization that I am now quite good at this. I know not to take more than one pair of shoes, two pairs of jeans, and save the weight and space for a few extra pair of BVDs.

In the last year I have been in five continents and if you want to get technical,  I could claim two sub continents. India is known as a subcontinent, but the Indian people are fond of telling you that they are their own continent. It is hard to argue with 1.2 billion people. And then there is the Middle East. I live here and I’ll be damned if I know what continent I live in. This aint Asia, nor Europe, nor Africa. I have never heard of anyone calling this area a subcontinent, so what is it? I’ll just go with subcontinent for ease of calculations.

As far as air travel goes, the Middle East is Middle Earth. Both Dubai and Doha bill themselves as the cross roads for the world. In a way that is very true. A person can fly from Dubai or Doha to anywhere important directly. Both cities are home to an excellent airline. Dubai boasts Emirates Air, and Doha is the proud home of Qatar Airlines, subtitled “The World’s Five Star Airline”. There is virtually no major country that is not served by either of them, together they have the globe covered. On top of that Emirates Air just reduced their fares because the price of oil dropped. Name me one other airline that did that!

I live in the UAE, about a half hour away from the Dubai Airport. This being Emirates home base you would think that I would be loyal to the home boys and that at least the majority of my travel would be with them. However, as any of you who know me are thinking right now, not necessarily.  For my trips to Thailand, the third of which  I am packing for right now, and for our trip to Hong Kong last month, I take Qatar. Why? Well, simply put $. Hundreds of $’s less. More $’s to spend on tours and stupid souvenirs. To fly Qatar I must first fly to Doha, which is a very short flight, then change planes at the Doha Airport. Qatar is building a new super airport, but I have no idea when it will be completed. For now, all planes coming and going must park in the next county. Passengers must  ride a bus into the terminal, and then another bus back out. It is a bit annoying and adds at least a couple of hours to my travel time, but it is the price I pay to save the $s.

Now that I have been a steady customer of Qatar, I am starting to climb up the ladder of their frequent flyer program. Soon I will be a Silver Flyer (please do not confuse that with Silver Surfer) and with a little creativity I will enter the ranks of the Golden Ones (please do not confuse that with getting older). As anyone who flies a lot and stays loyal to one carrier knows, stepping up a rank means multiplying  every mile you travel towards the grail of a free ticket. Someday, Qatar will owe me a free trip to somewhere I would never pay to fly to. (I hope that makes more sense to you than it does to me)  I am considering adding that to my bucket list; “Get a free flight to somewhere, anywhere at all”. It would not be my first time to achieve this, but last time I did it, mining companies were buying my tickets and it did not mean as much to me.

Back to my inspirational moment that led to this posting. Being good at international travel means more than leaving room in your suitcase for underwear (clean and otherwise) and souvenirs.

Let us consider proper travelling clothes. First let me say that anyone who dresses up for a flight is living in the fifties. Today, unless you have to go to a meeting right off the plane, it is ridiculous. Think of flying like taking the bus, it will simplify the journey.

So what to wear?I’ll do this from the bottom up.

Wear flip-flops or sandals. Not all airports make you take off you shoes, but when you have to, it is really nice to just kick off the sandals. In fact, a lot of TSA types will just let you pass if you are wearing nothing but flip-flops. If you are unfortunate enough that your destination is, say, Minnesota in January, you can pack a pair of mukluks and put them on before you leave the terminal.

Pants. Loose and baggy. That way they do not creep up on you and cause a lack of blood flow to sensitive regions. Also, if you can find loose and baggy cargo pants, then you can carry some essential in-transit items on your person, such as a couple of power bars, Ipod and  ear plugs, reading glasses, stuff like that. Yes, it means divesting your gear in one of those little trays before you pass through the security gate, but the trade-off is worth it. If you put all these things in your carry on bag it just causes more work for you once you get to your seat.

Shirt or blouse. Planes are notoriously over air-conditioned. What I find works best is a long sleeve cotton T.

Head gear. Most people do not wear anything. I always wear a ball cap, even when I am not travelling. I have found that this strange custom of mine is great on an airplane when I want to sleep. I can pull it down over my eyes. Combine that with the Ipod and you can drift into another world, while on your way to another world. The hat also keeps your head warm.

These days airlines have started stocking their inventory with planes that have the acronym ER at the end  of the type designator. I.E. B777ER. The ER stands for Extended Range. If you look at international routes available you will find some TRULY Extended Range flights. I think the longest regularly scheduled flight these days is from Atlanta to Johannesburg.  That is something like 19 hours. Dubai to Los Angeles is 16 or so. Just a few years ago either of these flights would have been impossible. You would have had to change planes and probably carriers in London, or Amsterdam. Maybe more than one stop. If you think 16 hours is too damn long to be cooped up in a steel tube at 38,000 feet with recirculated air spreading flu germs, well you are not alone. A lot of people still opt for a lay-over in some city. But the problems with that solution are scarier to me than catching this years flu bug. Let’s take a look at them.

Lost luggage. Every time you switch planes in transit you give overworked underpaid luggage handlers another chance to send your bag to Shanghai when your destination is Topeka. Don’t even bother wondering how they do it, but misdirected luggage is still a significant problem even though the world’s airlines are getting much better about getting your bag on the same plane you are on. That being said, it has never happened to me (knock knock) .

Another disadvantage of a lay over is the extra costs. An overnight in say London could just about double your airfare, considering hotel, taxis, meals and a night on the town.

Maybe all you want to do is get out of the flying tube and walk around an airport for 4 hours between flights, like the good old days. Consider this, count meals, that trip to the book store, some time in the bar, the cute souvenir refrigerator magnet at the gift shop that you would not have bought if you had not made the trip to the bar  and before you know it your travel budget has taken a hit. Plus, that gives the luggage handlers four extra hours to choose which plane to put your bag on.

I always opt for the non stop on the ER. Just remember, you get on the plane, and sooner or later, you get off the plane.

Now about that recirculated air. Well, other than looking like a Tokyo traffic cop and wear a surgical mask, there just is not anything you can do. However, the air up there is not the only source of exotic diseases in an airplane. The plastic tray and the arms on your seat can hold and transmit all sorts of maladies. And then there is the toilet. I always carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer and I use it before and after I touch anything. I think of it as preventing others from catching what I have, so I don’t feel like a paranoid. I also wipe down the food tray and the arm rests. Why risk it? Catching one of the worlds staphylococci can really ruin a nice vacation.

If the person sitting next to you is coughing, hacking, sneezing or bleeding uncontrollably, ask to be moved. Same thing if they stink, or especially if they are so fat they should have been made to buy two seats. If there are any empty seats, the cabin crew will try to help you, if you ask nicely. If you are not nice to them, about anything at all, they will not be nice to you, about anything at all. Frankly I think it is pretty shitty job which I would never do. Nobody tips you and some passengers can be real jerks.

Always carry a pen with you because you will need to fill out one of those immigration forms before you stand in the long line to have your passport inspected. Borrowing a pen from another (read: better prepared) passenger is embarrassing and brands you as a novice.

Many people will go to the trouble of finding the local currency exchange and buying Rupees  (whatever) before they leave home. I wonder if they have ever heard of an ATM machine?  Also, I just can’t understand why anyone uses travelers checks these days. These must be the same people who dress up for the flight. Hello? Eisenhower is not President anymore.

Thats it for today. I am off for Thailand now. All packed in my style, which means I probably forgot some stuff. My next blog will be from Chiang Mai. Stay tuned, tell a friend and please make a comment. Even if you do not know me, just tell me what you think about this post, even if you think it stinks like the guy who sat next to you on your last flight.

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