Aviation History Themes: From the Documentary "To Fly" to Charles Lindbergh

THE SMITHSONIAN DOCUMENTARY “TO FLY:”

Perhaps the quest for speed and distance and the conquest of air had not initially been intended to change our self-perspective. But it ultimately achieved this.

When the first balloon had risen from the ground in 1783 in France, it not only signaled the dawn of aerial flight, it also provided the foundation of man’s first external perspective of himself-as if he had removed himself from the ground’s gravitational lock and looked back at himself for the first time. Conversely, this act was not without repercussion. The balloon’s gentle brush with the church steeple not only demonstrated the need for greater lateral control, it also became the first time an actual “intruder” from above had descended upon what consensus had hitherto considered firm, solid, inescapable “earth”-and, perhaps, the only populated one. Because this may have been the first real “small step for man,” it signaled aviation’s infantile beginning.

In its childhood as a machine of pleasure and speed, the 1920s barnstorming designs of piston engines, dual wings, fabric-covered airfoils, and wire bracing struts soon demonstrated their capabilities of conveyance and protection during their rapid World War I and II development by transcending distance, political boundary, country, and continent-and, ultimately, planet.

No other development in the history of human achievement had proceeded at such a rapid pace-in the process changing one’s conception of space and time. The first orbital, atmosphere- and gravity-escaping rocket launch, paralleling the first balloon flight, again provided entirely new, previously inexperienced vistas and perspectives-only now from a vastly increased height attained with exponential velocity. For all its development, the orbiting capsule was, in a paradoxical way, just as “fragile” in the atmosphereless void of space as the balloon had been. It was certainly just as developmentally infantile.

The space mission clearly demonstrated that air-space conquest had striven toward increasing speed and distance. But that mission, like the balloon’s, had only been the first baby-step toward the next stage of development and discovery. Who can predict what that will reveal?

Although the Smithsonian film, To Fly, traces the evolution of human transportation, its successive speed- and altitude-yielding technological advancements have permitted ever-greater distances to be negotiated. With these distances have come ever-changing self-perspectives. As the line “we live only in the narrowest of margins… snowflakes condensed momentarily in the snowstorms and firestorms of matter in space” inherently expresses, this further-reaching travel has demonstrated just how insignificant our position in time and space really is… and perhaps, on a comparative scale, just how fragile we really are. The greater the distance, it seems, the more modified the perspective. Although human-and particularly air and space-transportation has resulted in numerous benefits, it has also yielded a secondary evolution: of human perspective. Einstein’s theory of relativity entails a time/speed ratio. Could there not similarly be a distance/perspective ratio?

THE DEVELOPMENT OF AIR TRANSPORTATION:

The development of air transportation entailed a triple-phase evolution: that of lighter-than-air craft, heavier-than-air designs, and, ultimately, spaceflight.

Faced with hitherto unknown flight realms, the earliest pioneers first had to attain lift with their kites and balloons before subsequent designers could control it. As usually occurs when faced with the unknown, people met it with skepticism, fear, and superstition-explaining consensus thought about Da Vinci’s aerial creations as “works of the devil.” Undaunted, the early pioneers continued to conquer and tame the elements with increased stability, rigidity, speed, and strength. Skepticism slowly rolled into acceptance with demonstrable and further-reaching proof of design integrity with such crossings as those of the English Channel by Bleriot and the Atlantic by Lindbergh. The fact that both were water- as well as distance-coverages represented a simultaneous dual-element conquest: air and sea.

With resultant speed, distance, and reliability advancements, aerial flight increasingly facilitated war, trade, business, communications, and common passenger transport and therefore became increasingly integral to our lives. The emotional responses of fear and skepticism had thus come full cycle-to those of full-scale trust and dependence.

THE NORTH AMERICAN B-25 MITCHELL:

Designed in 1938 to fulfill an Air Corps requirement for a medium-range bomber, the B-25, then designated the NA-40, first flew in January of the following year with two 1,100-hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp engines, but it was subsequently destroyed.

Still impressed with the overall design, the Air Corps ordered a modified version, with tail gun installation, designated NA-62. It initiated test flying on August 19, 1940.

Perhaps its most famously symbolic mission had been the launching of 16 B-25s from the aircraft carrier Hornet on April 18, 1942 to commence the first aerial attack against Japan. Although all aircraft were lost, the mission nevertheless fulfilled its purpose.

Several successive versions were manufactured, including the 75-millimeter cannon derivative designated the B-25G and the 14.50 caliber gun-equipped B-25H-the latter of which qualified as WWII’s most extensively armed aircraft.

The B-25 Mitchell inspected at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport in September of 1995, tail number N3161G in olive green markings, revealed itself as a mid-wing monoplane with dual, 1,700-hp Wright Cyclone, three-bladed engines whose installation points provided the division between the wing root-to-engine wing dihedral and the engine-to-wing tip anhedral. The wing itself, devoid of leading edge devices, featured trailing edge dual-section plain flaps, again divided by the powerplants. Characteristics of the design were the dual vertical stabilizers mounted on either side of the horizontal tail. Forward and aft glazed gunner stations were provided, although both were devoid of seating or armament on this particular aircraft. Visibility was provided by a two-pane wrap-around windshield and two rectangular side windows on either side of the cockpit, which itself was above the forward gunner’s station. The aircraft sat on a single-wheeled, aft-retracting tricycle undercarriage.

Of the almost 11,000 B-25s produced-the most numerically popular of which had been the cannon-removed, 12 machine gun-equipped B-25J-the last had not been retired from service until January of 1959, two decades after its NA-40 prototype had first taken to the sky.

THE GREAT AIR RACE OF 1924:

Concurrent with every life cycle, there is a necessary period of disconnection from the safe, playful proximity of the womb in order to commence the maturing, autonomy-fostering sequence so that one may eventually be able to provide a bonafide function and purpose in the world. One thus becomes a “link” in the survival chain. The barnstormers and stunt pilots, generating interest through their acrobatics and speed, had hitherto demonstrated their aerial designs as playful apparatuses devoid of specific benefit or function. But, like their adolescent human counterparts, airplanes necessarily had to prove their reliability and worth by demonstrating their abilities to traverse distance and geographical boundary. Mitchell, believing that aircraft were the keys to future power, strength, and great utility, endorsed the global circumnavigation of four dual-crewed, Liberty engine-powered biplanes to fulfill such a purpose.

Perhaps to accomplish such a feat, man first had to sublimate his own survival to that of the greater survival of mankind-to risk, to dare, to prove, and to ultimately triumph. This, in part, mirrored the child-to-manhood phase. And risked they did: they contended mechanical failure, accident, diversion, snowstorm, sandstorm, squall line, fatigue, temperature polarity, and death. But mankind would ultimately reap the benefits from the seeds they sowed.

That the first aerial Pacific crossing had culminated in the attainment of their desired trajectory by but a single mile deviation certainly indicated that this aircraft “child” would lead a very fruitful, productive life.

Machines sometimes take on the personalities of those who design (and navigate) them. The fact that the airplane, in its quest to mature and prove its worth, emulated the human’s developmental cycle, almost imbued it with religious overtones: the airplane was designed “in his image”-and was therefore created to serve him.

The successful coverage of the earth’s 26,000 miles in 176 days provided the eternal foundation of aviation and, indirectly, of man himself. For what else could have been reflected in the aerial machine other than the human who had breathed life into it so that it could facilitate him, becoming, like the matured adult, the newest link in the survival chain?

And of the post-adult and -human cycle: is it not symbolic that the 1924 air race entailed a complete earthly circumference? Perhaps like life itself, the race made a complete circle to return to its place of origin. Do all things not begin anew… ?

THE MOVIE “THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS:”

Poised on the threshold of any bold endeavor, one invariably faces the moment when his abilities, skills, and beliefs become directly pitted against the event. Despite all prior preparation and conviction, doubts invariably filter through, shackling confidence and reason, and they must be counteracted with a retracing of the steps which led to the present decision. During the apprehensive, restless night prior to his solo transatlantic crossing, Lindbergh experienced just such a phenomenon.

Rehearsing his past to rebuild temporarily lost confidence, he reasoned his way through the events which had prepared him for his undertaking. Having braved a blinding, stinging snowstorm enroute to Chicago during his mail-carrying days in an open-cockpit biplane and suffering engine loss, he had parachuted to an icy field as the aircraft patterned into a spin and crashed. Ultimately covering the remaining distance by train, he determined that a transatlantic crossing would dispel such a reputation of unreliability and demonstrate commercial aviation’s full potential. With its technological infancy now having been outgrown, it had entered its adolescent, maturity-seeking phase-if the world could only be made aware of this fact.

Although Lindbergh’s investors saw his solo pilotage in a single-propeller design devoid of navigator and sextant as dangerous and dependent upon 40 hours of vigilance and control, his ultimate intent was to sublimate the inherent weight reduction to increased range.

Ryan Airlines, Inc., of San Diego, produced the specified design with a 4,000-mile range during a 63-day period utilizing round-the-clock manufacturing schedules in order to beat Europe-emanating competition. The fact that the aircraft was a streamlined, high-wing monoplane indicated that Lindbergh’s ideals were already being realized. The actual flight would certainly seal the fate of this fact.

Following its almost symbolic rollout into the fog-shrouded dawn prior to departure on May 20, 1927, the silver Ryan monoplane was plunged into the darkness, doubt, and obscurity of consensus belief concerning the attempt, yet the tiny orange glow piercing the sky on the horizon somehow reflected promise and hope-a target for which to aim. From the present standpoint, however, France was just as infinitesimal in size.

The precarious, mud- and water-impeding take off, which barely cleared the tree line at the perimeter of Long Island’s Roosevelt Field, led to a course paved with lack of visibility, black of night, icing conditions, insecurity, sleep deprivation, self-doubt, and much soul-searching.

But Lindbergh ultimately triumphed-with God and perhaps his former student priest pilot’s prayer carrying him the last hundred yards to the ground. Charles Lindbergh, through his 3,610-mile struggle, in the process parented commercial aviation into maturity.

THE BOEING B-17 FLYING FORTRESS:

A sense of awe is invariably evoked in a person when he stands face-to-face with an historically significant aircraft, such as I did on a crystal blue, summer-temperature day in mid-October at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport. The olive-green B-17, resting on its conventional undercarriage and bearing the registration 124485 and the name Memphis Bell on either side of its nose, dwarfed the line of light Beech, Cessna, and Piper recreational aircraft. In many ways, the B-17 dwarfed all other designs during WWII, regardless of their size.

Designed to meet the Army Air Corps requirement for a multi-engine anti-shipping bomber, Boeing broke from the standard twin-engine design by doubling the number of powerplants to significantly increase payload, range, and service ceiling. The resultant Model 299, powered by four 750-hp Pratt and Whitney Hornet, three-bladed pistons, first flew on July 28, 1935-and was crewed by eight and could carry a payload of eight 600-lb bombs.

So inherently flexible had the basic low-wing, dorsal-finned aircraft been, however, that it was progressively adapted for varying roles with turbocharged Wright Cyclone engines for higher-altitude performance, increased area rudder and flaps for greater effectiveness on the B-17B, and self-sealing tanks, flush guns, and a ventral bathtub on the B-17C-20 of which had been operated by the RAF. The B-17D weathered most of the flak in the Pacific theatre. The succeeding B-17E incorporated a larger fin for high-altitude bombing accuracy, a powered dorsal, increased armor protection, and ventral and tail turrets.

So instrumental had the design been to the war, in fact, that Boeing, Lockheed, and Douglas all simultaneously churned out copies in staggering numbers. The 3,405 B-17Fs produced featured the newly introduced long Plexiglas nose, paddle-wing propellers, and underwing rack provision. The ultimate and most numerically popular version, the B-17G introduced in 1942, featured a chin turret and flush staggered waist guns and accounted for an additional 8,680-unit production.

Through 12,731 aircraft, battle over Europe and in the Pacific, and indispensability in mission after mission victory, aircraft 124485 proudly stood before me in triumphantly gleaming morning sun to tell me her story.

US AIRLINE INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT:

According to Robert Crandall, chairman and CEO of American Airlines, “deregulation is anti-labor and transfers wealth from the employees’ pockets to the passengers’.” The dwindling spiral of deregulative force-driven airfares has resulted in higher-density seating, eroding service, increased daily aircraft utilization, and reduced profitability. Although these lower fares have produced explosive US passenger traffic growth-which, of late, has become an increasingly global trend-their inherent reduction leaves fewer monetary resources for aircraft purchases, training, salaries, and employee benefits, and has indirectly resulted in part-time, benefit-devoid, ground-service company employment.

Emphasizing this harsh reality were the common themes expressed by the two guest speakers: present conditions and acute competition have necessitated the ultimate-tuning of the preparation and application process, inclusive of applicable education, resume composition, and self-presentation during subsequent interview formalities. Based upon my own airline industry experience, networking and proper contacts have additionally never been more vital in securing adequately yielding positions.

Airline deregulation is current, still-evolving history. I have lived it! Deregulative forces–and not choice–have been the culprit and responsibility for my hitherto five-carrier, 15-year aerospace career. My personal prognosis regarding ground positions with US airlines is regrettably not optimistic: passengers will never forego the accessibility of air travel attained by means of low fares and airlines have thus far only been able-and some very unsuccessfully-to counteract this spiral with rampant service, salary, and benefit reductions. Equally regrettable is the fact that foreign flag carriers have increasingly emulated, rather than rejected, this pattern. Deregulation, whether in the originating US form or the maturing global guise has wrenched the foundation upon which airlines have traditionally rested: protectionism and adequately-sustaining fares.

LINDBERGH: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH:

Human behavior is like language. A very clear message could well be in the process of being delivered vis-à-vis a person’s actions, but unless one has the ability to translate the statement, it becomes lost communication. The fact that a person’s stigmatized image of achievement and victory further clouds the message’s reception renders the task a double translation. These statements certainly apply to Charles Lindbergh… but only if focus is placed on the man behind the myth.

In order to understand the forces at work, one must first reduce some psychological concepts to simplified terms. I could not give you $5.00, for instance, unless I had $5.00-and unless someone had given it to me. Similarly, Lindbergh could not give love and emotions unless he had been given these feelings, particularly during childhood. People who attempt to navigate life with a hole of this size and significance in their souls characteristically exhibit personality traits of physical- and emotional-disconnection, reclusivity, antisocial tendencies, rigidity, “self-periphery living,” prejudice, and the perceived inability to err. Many powerful, well-known historical figures have sadly portrayed these traits.

That Lindbergh’s father had once left him in a lake in order for him to learn how to swim may have fostered an independence and self-reliance, but it also could have been the early origins of his mistrust. His mother, in shaking his hand each evening before he went to bed, certainly supported this perception of coldness, lack of love, and unconcern. Love is the nourishment of the self; without it, the self fails to develop and one retreats, withdraws, and numbs out-so much as that one can actually disconnect from physical and emotional pain in extreme cases. Lindbergh’s father, in proof, once braved an operation without anesthetic. And what little parental foundation Lindbergh himself had had crumbled at age five when his parents ultimately separated. Thus negotiating life with an undeveloped, unnourished self, he contended with self-estrangement and peripheral living. Unconnected to his inner “core,” he may never have known his true “self.”

Although he loved to fly, the act most likely provided an escape by severing all conscious connection with his painful past. Airborne, he was first able to attain “new heights,” superiority, triumph, and control. It could well have been the only “inner control” he had ever been able to feel. Flight provided a sense of validation: his acts of danger and daredevilism may have been a form of self-test and, when successful, or proof of self-worth, albeit fleeting: nevertheless, it was positive reinforcement and worth certainly never received during childhood. This degree of danger forced him to live “on the edge”-a condition which seemed to mirror his internal state. Self-estranged, childhood-emanating insecurity causes a person to live on the edge most of his life.

That he viewed himself as infallible with cement-like convictions is superficial proof of nothing and conversely indicates a mighty defense against deep-rooted, overwhelming insecurity-a feeling he most likely had never been able to tap into. This chronic need for “cover-up” and compensation usually results in absoluteness, singular-perspective thinking. In its extreme, it is unhealthy.

Although Lindbergh had been greatly lauded with awards, telegrams, gifts, packages, titles, and employment offers after his transatlantic crossing, could the crowds not have been unconsciously celebrating his disjointed toxic foundation which had driven him to the event? The world may have viewed him differently after the flight, but the man behind the triumph remained unchanged: he continued to be just as private, reclusive, and disconnected. A person cannot connect with others until he first connects with his own “self.”

His son’s kidnapping and death may have only strengthened his misbeliefs concerning the primary figures associated with his past and most likely served as a reflection of the world’s cruelty, causing him to tighten his grip on his numbed, unfeeling defenses. Only able to examine the tragedy analytically, he expressed no feeling, grief, or emotion. In its almost historical reenactment, the event, now directed at this son, most likely reinforced his childhood misconceptions and caused him to react the only way he was able to-to escape-an act he may have internally rehearsed every day of his life. Disconnection from the self is escape.

Unable to feel, Lindbergh could not “feel” for others: he was unable to make a distinction between Nazi concentration camp killings and those randomly occasioned by war. Could his endorsement of death not have been an agreeing expression of what he so desperately needed to act out during childhood against those who had failed to foster his needed caring and love and who, resultantly, instilled the initial mistrust in him? Infants who fail to establish a connection with a primary care-giver during the precious first few moments of life are unable to connect with their own “selves” and trust others to meet their needs.

Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight had not been a myth. That only a superior, flawless ultra-human could have made the feat perhaps had been. The fact that we are taught to seek role models and awe heroes instills a subconscious, unchallenged misbelief that superlative acts can only be performed by above-human, superlative people. Perhaps, in the end, we need to examine our own child-taught misconceptions before we can view Lindbergh in a less clouded light.

An Introduction to Plane Spotting

What is plane spotting?

Plane (or aircraft) spotting is an observation hobby. Enthusiasts note details about the aircraft they observe, such as the type of craft, its registration number (also known as it’s tail or “N-number” in the United States), and any distinctive markings. The information collected is recorded via notebook & can be later added to a spreadsheet or online database.

What are some things that plane spotters notice?

  • What type of engine does it have (jet or propeller)?
  • How many engines does it have (2, 3, or 4)?
  • Where are the engines located? Are they on the fuselage or under the wing? Is there one on the tail?
  • What type of tail does it have?
  • What is the wing type?
  • What is the wing placement (high, mid, or low)?

Supplies Needed

The supplies you choose to use can vary. At the most basic, you will need a notebook & pencil to record the planes you see.

For the more advanced, you will want to invest in a decent camera for taking photos. You will likely use apps on a smartphone (such as those mentioned below) and record your sightings using a computer.

In any case, it would be wise to carry your ID, should you be questioned by airport security or police.

Airport Codes

While plane spotting could technically be done from anywhere, it will generally take place near an airport. Regardless of where you spot, you will be tracking where a plane is going &/or where it is coming from. Therefore, it will be helpful to know that there are two coding systems for identifying airfields: IATA & ICAO.

IATA is a three-character code generally used by the travel industry. You will see these codes when purchasing tickets & on luggage. The IATA code for my regional airport, the Spokane International Airport, is GEG.

ICAO is a four-character code used for flight plans, air traffic management, and weather reporting. In the United States, the IACO codes always begin with “K.” The IACO code for the Spokane International Airport is KGEG.

Plane Finder app

Plane Finder gives you information on planes in route. While I almost exclusively use this service via smartphone app, it is also available on the computer.

When using the service, you will see a map with plane icons, which move in real time. To find out more about a specific flight, click on that plan’s icon & (if available) you will be shown the following information:

  • Callsign
  • Altitude
  • Heading
  • Position
  • Squawk number
  • Speed

Live ATC app

Live ATC is a neat service that allows you to listen to your local air traffic control. Like with Plane Finder, this service can be accessed via computer or via smartphone app.

Plane Spotting Databases

Two online plane spotting databases are SpottingLog & Spot2Log. These online databases allow you to record the information on the aircraft you’ve seen as well as any photos you’ve taken. Additionally, each site integrates with social media. These are huge benefits over using traditional spreadsheets!

Conclusion

Plane spotting is a unique hobby that can be done alone or with others. It is an intersection of many different topics (aircraft, photography, cartography, radio communication, etc.). Participation will certainly broaden your horizon!

The History of the Grumman Corporation: The Early Years

Origins and Biplanes:

Synonymous with Long Island, the Grumman Corporation was one of the world’s premier military aircraft manufacturers.

It traces its origins, however, to a man named Grover Loening, an aeronautical engineer who had professional ties with Orville Wright and had later worked in the Army’s aeronautical engineering office before founding his own, namesake Loening Aircraft and Engineering Corporation in 1917, located in a three-story plant on New York’s East Side.

An attractive sales prospect, the fledgling aviation company was subsequently absorbed by the Keystone Aircraft Company, whose focus was a twin-engine bomber slated for the Air Corps, and the Loening personnel were given the option of relocating to its Bristol, Pennsylvania, headquarters, or becoming unemployed.

One of them was Leroy Randle Grumman. A key engineer in Philadelphia and test pilot for Loening’s own two-seat fighter, he was originally persuaded to relinquish his Navy service for a plant manager position with the Loening company itself in 1920, but now, along with its other employees, was forced to choose between the Keystone relocation or a jobless status.

He chose the latter, and elected to tap into his talents to found his own company, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, on January 2, 1930 instead. It would soon prove the tenets of pride, loyalty, and dedication upon which it rested.

Electing to focus on military designs, he tweaked out initial, aircraft-transitional revenue from the repair and remanufacture of the Loening amphibians with which his mostly ex-Loening staff had been familiar.

The first so-called “plant,” a rented, rectangular cinder block in Baldwin, had been inceptionally used by the Cox-Klemin airplane manufacturer, and it inauspiciously opened its doors to a spartan interior occupied by a scatter of furniture and engineering-related equipment, such as drafting tables, drill presses, and woodworking machines.

Initial activity, albeit of non-Grumman indigenous designs, served as the transitional link from the former Loening enterprise, but Grumman’s own military focus was soon established.

The Navy, operating a fleet of both landing gear- and float-equipped Vought Corsair scout and observation types, needed a hybrid design which would incorporate both modes, and Grumman devised a light-weight float into which its wheels could retract. Two, according to its contract, were built for test and evaluation purposes. Ultimately proving themselves, they were retrofitted, as Model A floats, to the Navy’s Corsairs and, in the process, created a connection between the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation and this service branch for its more than six-decade history.

Its second project, equally requested by the Navy’s Plans Division, was to replace the fixed undercarriage of its Boeing biplane fighters with a retractable one in order to decrease their drag and improve their speed. Unlike the relatively straightforward float installation, however, the aircraft’s slender fuselage needed considerable redesign, and Grumman viewed the obstacle as an opportunity-namely, to pitch its own-and first-airframe to replace it.

Despite the still-early evolutionary stage of aeronautical technology, the aircraft, designed to fill the Navy’s March 6, 1931 request for a High Performance Fighter, incorporated a significant amount of it. Featuring a 24.6-foot overall length, it employed an aluminum alloy, semi-monocoque fuselage; a Grumman-designed truss; staggered biplanes whose span stretched to 34.6 feet and produced a 310-square-foot area; a nine-cylinder, air-cooled, Wright Cyclone R-1820 radial engine; a drag-reducing cowling; an enclosed, canopy-covered, dual-person, pilot-and-gunner, tandemly-arranged cockpit; and the soon-to-become Grumman characteristic hand-cranked, vertically-retracting undercarriage, stowed in forward-fuselage wheel wells ahead of the wing leading edge.

First flying on December 29 in prototype form as the XFF-1, the 4,677-pound, carrier-based fighter was the first naval design to exceed 200 mph in level flight, and could climb at 5,000 fpm and reach a 22,100-foot service ceiling.

An order for 27 production FF-1s followed and most of them, replacing Boeing F4B-2s in 1933, were assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island in California.

A scout version, the SF-1, attracted an order for 34.

Space-constrained by his original Baldwin facility and therefore unable to fill the Navy’s fighter and scout orders, Grumman was forced to seek an alternate, and larger, plant, choosing a 200-by-100-foot concrete block eight miles to the west, in Valley Stream, in what itself had ironically been a former Naval Reserve Hangar. Internally unpartitioned, it facilitated a more streamlined production flow and offered the optimally-needed floor space, yet at the same time afforded aircraft testing because of its adjacency to Curtiss Field. The relocation occurred in November of 1931.

Still hungry for space to meet production demands and faced with the imminent expiration of its one-year lease in 1932, however, Grumman pulled up its roots for a second time and relocated 16 miles to the east again, selecting a building at the Fairchild flying field in Farmingdale. Originally used by the Fulton Truck Company, it had also been briefly occupied by Sherman Fairchild himself and the American Airplane and Engine Company.

Serving as residence for four and a half years, it witnessed production of the FF-1, the SF-1, and an amphibious version, which mated the former with the Grumman-designed Model B retractable undercarriage-provisioned floats and designated the “Duck.”

Despite the seeming impermanence of its plant locations, the Grumman Aircraft and Engineering Corporation established the connections and characteristics which would pervade its carrier-borne and amphibious aircraft history, all designed to fill Navy requirements and supported by defense contracts.

Amphibious Commercial:

Because mostly Navy and Coast Guard contracts eventually exceeded even the capacity of its Farmingdale plant, and because its optimized enlargement would have entailed significant renovation and cost, Grumman once again turned his sights to a new location-in this case, a 120-acre one in Bethpage, relinquishing its existing facility to the Seversky Aircraft Company.

After half a year of construction, which began on October 26, 1936, the rapidly expanding manufacturer opened its new hangar doors on April 8 and the Bethpage facility soon became synonymous with, if not a fortress of, Grumman, rising from the once barren field in the form of Plant 1. Comprised of two 140-foot-long by 20-foot-wide low bay sections, it also sported a single, 400-foot-long by 120-foot-wide high bay, a 100-by-100 foot hangar, and, a short time later, a grass strip.

The location change signaled, for the first time, a strategy change. Although, like the Duck, the next significant design incorporated amphibious capabilities, it deviated by transitioning from the bi- to the monoplane configuration and it was aimed at the commercial market.

Designated the G-21 Goose, the ten-largest–and first twin-engine, non-military derivative aircraft-sported a two-step floatable hull, giving it a 38.3-foot length; a high wing with a 49-foot span; and two Pratt and Whitney nine-cylinder, 450-hp Wasp Junior radials mounted on and projecting forward of the wing leading edge. It was ground-supported by a single-wheeled, hand-retractable, conventional landing gear, which was flushly stored in either fuselage side. The equally retractable tailwheel was steerable. Piloted by two, it offered comfortable internal accommodation for six to eight passengers with a galley and a lavatory.

Intended as a personal and corporate aircraft with amphibious capability to replace the Loening Air Yacht and Commuter types, the project was overtaken by Grumman upon Loening’s suggestion, since he had lacked the plant capacity to proceed with it.

First flying on May 29, 1937, the 7,500-pound airliner, with a 175-mph cruise speed and 795-mile range, was awarded its Approved Type Certificate on September 29 and, as envisioned, was operated by wealthy individuals, oil and mining companies, and corporations.

KNILM, KLM’s East Indies subsidiary, served as its first commercial operator, and it proved ideally suited to third-level carriers whose challenging route topographies, comprised of remote islands and peninsulas, depended upon its rugged, reliable construction and land, ice, and water capabilities, as lifelines to small communities. It wore the colors of Alaska Coastal and Reeve Aleutian Airlines. Antilles Air Boats, which inaugurated service in 1964, ultimately operated 18 of the type, while registrations as far afield as Australia represented its diverse transport potential.

Military operators included the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Army Air Corps, and the Navy, the latter of which amassed a 35-strong fleet by the end of `1941.

Its durability, coupled with subsequent modifications, ensured more than five decades of service with operators in a wide range of roles, including those retrofitted with skis and hydrofoils and those powered by four piston and two turboprop engines.

Between 1937 and 1945, 345 G-21s were produced.

Because Grumman believed that the type’s size and cost limited its appeal, he commenced work on a smaller version, designated “Design 44,” which was intended to complement and succeed it.

Powered by two 200-hp, six-cylinder, air-cooled Ranger 6-440C-5 engines, the resultant aircraft, soon named the G-44 Widgeon, sported a 31.1-foot overall length and 40-foot span, optimizing it for four passengers. Comparatively, it offered a 3,000-pound lower gross weight, of 4,525 pounds, and first flew on June 28, 1940.

Although it proved versatile enough for a variety of roles, including seaplane trainers for Pan American Airways, utility liners, and search and rescue aircraft for the US Coast Guard, its production total of 276, along with 41 license-built by the Societe de Constructions Aero-Navales, proved little more than its larger predecessor’s had been.

The Avenger and the Cats:

Although still only manifesting itself as distant thunder, war’s reverberations had already caused Grumman to return to its military aircraft design roots.

In order to succeed the previous biplane fighter, the F3F, and offer superior speed, it drew up plans for the XF4F-1 in March of 1936, but it would have suffered from performance disadvantages over the competing, monoplane-configured Brewster B-139, thus prompting a radical redesign to deviate from its original FF-1 lineage.

Powered by a single, 1,050-hp Pratt and Whitney R-1830-66 engine, the cantilever, all-metal, mid-wing, NACA airfoiled monoplane sported a conventional tail and retained the Grumman characteristic landing gear. It was designated the “Wildcat.”

First flying from Bethpage on September 2, 1937 as the XF4F-1 and delivered to Naval Air Station Anacostia three months later, on December 23, it quickly revealed crankshaft deficiencies and was rejected by the Navy, prompting yet further redesign. The succeeding XF4F-2, retaining the previous version’s fuselage, introduced increased-span and -area wings with square tips and the 1,200-hp two-stage, two-speed supercharger-equipped R-1830-76, which drove a Curtiss Electric propeller. However, flight tests equally revealed shortcomings, particularly those related to stability, and it subsequently incorporated wing dihedral and modifications to improve engine cooling.

As the definitive F4F-3 Wildcat, it attracted a 54-strong order from the Navy.

By the end of the decade, the mounting war clouds began to unleash their torrential conflicts, and in the US, President Roosevelt opened the country’s umbrella of arsenal protection by announcing a national defense policy, which advocated annual aircraft production of 10,000 units. Grumman, needless to say, was expected to provide a significant number of them.

The F4F would become the first link in what would eventually become a chain of five “cats,” each of which purred more loudly than the prior one.

The F4F-4, with a 28.9-foot length and 38-foot span, featured a 5,758-pound empty and 7,952-pound gross weight. Powered by the R-1830-86 powerplant, it offered feisty performance: a 1,950-fpm climb rate and a 318-mph speed at 19,400 feet, although its service ceiling extended as high as 34,000 feet. Carrier storage was facilitated by manually foldable wings.

Temporarily lifted State Department restrictions initially allowed sales of the first Wildcats to the French so that they could equip their two in-construction aircraft carriers. Because increasing war demands delayed their other Pratt and Whitney-powered airplanes, however, they were forced to revert to the Wright Cyclone, whose single-stage supercharger diluted its performance at high, thin altitudes. Yet, after France’s surrender, its intended fleet was delivered to Britain.

When the war clouds ultimately burst and rained havoc, they exerted unprecedented demand on Grumman, which, along with Vought, was thenceforth ordered to supply the Navy, with whose carrier-based design requirements it had become increasingly familiar.

War’s hunger seemed insatiable. Grumman, for instance, produced 459 Wildcats in 1941, yet, despite the reflection across the Bethpage runway of the 4,000-person Plant 2 rising from the ground since its construction had commenced in September of 1940, it could not satisfy it without a third such facility. Plant 2 itself ironically opened on December 7, 1941, the same day that the infamous Pearl Harbor attack screamed of the need for it, and Wildcat production could only be retained at the required pace by allowing Linden, New Jersey-based Eastern Aircraft, a division of General Motors, to license-build them as FM-1s and -2s.

Indeed, the eventual, 7,825-unit production consisted of 1,988 aircraft made by Grumman and 5,837 by Eastern.

Instrumental in the Pacific, both the F4F-3 and -4 were involved in the Doolittle Raid over Tokyo and other Japanese cities on April 16, 1942, as well as taking part in the first carrier battle in the Coral Sea from May 7 to 8 and the Battle of Midway. They provided aerial protection during the amphibious landing in Guadalcanal.

Aside from the ubiquitous Wildcat series, Grumman quickly designed a second, also carrier-borne aircraft intended to fulfill the Bureau of Aeronautics’ requirement for a torpedo bomber. Of the 13 proposals submitted by Brewster, Douglas, Hall, Vought, Vultee, and Grumman itself, the latter’s, as the XTBF-1, was chosen the following April.

Like the Wildcat, it was a mid- and foldable-wing monoplane, but was powered by a 1,700-hp, 14-cylinder, air-cooled Wright R-2600-8 engine driving a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller. Resting on a tricycle undercarriage, it featured a hydraulically actuated internal bomb bay, and was considerably larger. Its three-person crew, housed in a canopied cockpit, included the pilot, the navigator/ventral gunner, and the radio operator/dorsal gunner.

Aside from the complement of bombs and torpedoes, its armament included a.30-caliber forward and aft machine gun and a.50-caliber one in a dorsal, motor driven ball turret. Its unique, Grumman-designed, foldable wing configuration entailed skewed axis movement, the wings themselves horizontally resting against the fuselage to minimize storage requirements. It was referred to as the “sto-wing.”

Stretching 40 feet and sporting a 54.2-foot span in the extended position, the 15,905-pound TBF Avenger first disconnected itself from Bethpage soil on August 7, 1941. Its maximum speed was 271 mph at 12,000 feet.

Despite its ever expanding production facilities, Grumman was unable to satisfy the Navy’s insatiable desire for aircraft, and, as had occurred with the Wildcat, entered into a license-building arrangement with General Motors/Eastern Aircraft, in which case they bore the “TBM” designation.

Of the 9,839 Avengers produced, Grumman itself assembled 2,293 and Eastern Aircraft the remaining 7,546.

TBF and TBM Avengers took part in all Pacific battles, supporting amphibious operations from escort carriers, and engaged in anti-submarine missions in Europe.

Aside from the obvious need for plant facilities in which to produce World War II’s fighters and bombers, and the ever-multiplying personnel to do so, formal training, particularly in aerodynamics and powerplants, was needed to prepare them for their functions. An initial, in-house training program, conducted by subject-proficient instructors, was subsequently replaced by courses taught by New York University’s Guggenheim School of Aeronautics professors at Hofstra University in the midst of Long Island’s cradle of aviation, where it had all begun.

By 1941, the gears of Grumman’s plants turned virtually 24 hours per day with two, ten-hour shifts, and vitally needed space was obtained with the temporary leases of buildings in Amityville, Baldwin, Lindenhurst, Syosset, and the 150,000-square-foot former Pan American base in Port Washington, to which an additional 62,000 square feet was subsequently added. These “satellite” locations accounted for some 3,000 Grumman employees.

In Bethpage, yet a third plant, primarily intended as an incubator to the Wildcat’s successor, opened on March 16, 1942.

It was initially conceived as an improved version with a more powerful engine, increased weights, and a wider undercarriage to augment ground stability. But, in order to take full advantage of the 1,600- to 1,700-hp Wright R-2600 engine, whose 33-percent increase in power production and larger-diameter propeller would have rendered it unsuitable for an F4F derivative, Grumman designed an altogether larger and more capable fighter, which only superficially resembled its predecessor-the F6F Hellcat.

Sporting a 33.7-foot overall length and 42.10-foot span, which gave it the greatest wing area and consequently lowest wing loading of any US fighter, the F6F-3, with a 15,487-pound maximum weight, could climb at 3,500 fpm, yet its slow approach speeds facilitated carrier operations. Its landing gear retraction method, deviating from the Grumman standard, entailed a backwards swing into the wing root.

First flying on June 26, 1942, the Hellcat, in its F6F-5 version, featured a 2,000-hp Pratt and Whitney R-2800-10 two-stage radial, a three-bladed Curtiss Electric propeller, and other improvements, and attained 410-mph maximum speeds. The type, in all its versions, featured the largest wing area of any single-engine fighter, stability as a run platform, speed, maneuverability, and easy transition for newly trained naval pilots.

Because of its design integrity, reliable powerplant, extensive armament, and maneuverability, it was responsible for 55 percent of all enemy aircraft destruction within a two-year period, accounting for 5,156 victories as opposed to 270 Hellcat losses, or a 19.1-to-1 kill-to-loss ratio.

Its principle Pacific opponent was the Japanese A6M2 Zero, whose zinc-based aluminum alloy, all-metal construction counteracted the otherwise minuscule power of its engine, giving the single-seat, low-wing, land- and carrier-based fighter particularly sprightly performance, although its thin wing skins severely eroded its structural integrity and rendered it heavily dependent upon maintenance and repair.

During the three-and-a-half-year period from June of 1942 to November of 1945, 12,275 F6Fhellcats of all versions were produced.

With the introduction of the new, 11,000-ton Independence and 27,000-ton Essex class aircraft carriers in 1943, Grumman/Eastern Aircraft and Douglas were mostly responsible for fleeting them, causing Grumman itself to reach its wartime pinnacles of 25,527 employees and 2,329,100 square feet of floor space in Bethpage. Indeed, of the 34,664 aircraft produced at this time, 18,768 emerged from Grumman’s plants, 15,466 from General Motors/Eastern Aircraft’s, and 330 from Columbia Aircraft’s.

Coupling the F6F Hellcat with the TBF/TBM Avenger was an early strategy to attain night-fighting capability in the Pacific. However, it demonstrated the need for a single design which could incorporate both search and attack elements, resulting in the next-and only dual-engine-one in the Cat series, the F7F Tigercat.

At 45 feet, 4 ½ inches in length, this single-seat, 51.6-foot spanned, mid- and foldable wing aircraft was powered by two, 2,100-hp R-2800-22W water-injected engines driving three-bladed propellers and was noted for its elongated, AN/APS-6 radar-installed nose. Heavily armed, it featured four.50-caliber guns and four 20-mm cannons, and had the capability of carrying two 2,000-pound bombs or a combination of torpedoes and rockets, yet had a 4,360-fpm maximum climb rate. Its all-up weight was 22,560 pounds.

Although the single design was initially intended to fill both the Army’s and the Navy’s requirements, with the principle differences between the two being the turbo-supercharged engines of the former and the mechanically charged ones of the latter, the Army ultimately withdrew its interest, despite having ordered two prototypes, leaving Grumman to exclusively optimize it for the Navy. Yet, its higher-than-standard approach speeds and the need for increased-capacity arresting gear and specialized barrier installations rendered it less than ideal and made it difficult to incorporate in existing naval operations, although it was cleared for them. As a result, it was relegated to mostly land-based missions during which its excellent performance and significant armament strengths could be more properly exploited.

As World War II wound down, so, too, did its production, ending at 364 airframes.

Partially to remain competitive-and perhaps repetitive-and also to restore its reputation, Grumman reverted to its next, and last, Cat model in the series, whose size was intended to approximate that of the one which had launched it all-the F4F Wildcat-but whose performance was intended to eclipse even that of the F6F Hellcat.

With a 27.6-foot overall length and 35.6-foot span, the aircraft, designated the F8F Bearcat, was powered by a single, 2,100-hp R-2800-34W engine driving a four-bladed propeller and first flew on August 31, 1944. Able to climb at 4,570-fpm, it could attain a maximum, 434-mph speed at 19,800 feet.

Although it exhibited outstanding performance, the raging war clouds had alas moved out, resulting in the cancellation of its originally massive order and restricting production to 1,265. It never saw World War II combat.

Nevertheless, the contribution of those Grumman fighters and torpedo bombers, which did, cannot be underestimated. According to government air combat records concerning Navy and Marine performance in the Pacific during this time, 1,295 Japanese airplanes had been shot down by Wildcats, 5,155 by Hellcats, and 98 by Avengers, and its wartime production achievements merited receipt of the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1948 and the Daniel Guggenheim medal for “outstanding achievement in successfully advancing aircraft design for naval and peacetime use.”

World War II, which had been the catalyst of 2,650,000 square feet of factory floor space and a single-plant production record of 664 aircraft in March of 1945, was over. But new conflicts would soon erupt. And Grumman would once again make its contribution to their resolutions-this time with a new powerplant type.

Early Jet Fighters:

Once fueled by war and fed by defense contracts, Grumman realized that its tanks had run dry by the end of 1945, forcing it to lay off three-fourths of its 20,500-strong work force, putter along with short-term Tiger- and Bearcat production, and altogether terminate that of the Hellcat. Robbed of its military raison d’être, it contemplated alternative strategies so that it could, as a company, continue to survive, and initially returned to the amphibious roots it had first planted with the Goose and later cultivated with the Widgeon.

But, although the succeeding, twin-engine, high-wing, boat-hulled Mallard was more advanced and offered a 12-passenger capacity to commuter and feeder airlines, it mostly fell victim, like all flying boats, to post-war airport construction whose runway proliferation obviated the need for aquatic-surface operations in all but island and remote route systems, yielding a paltry production run of 59.

Amphibious capability, however, was still integral to certain aerial missions-particularly those conducted for the purpose of search-and-rescue-and Grumman next offered the twin-engine, high-wing Albatross, its hitherto largest design, accommodating 14 passengers or 16 liter patients. First flying in 1947, it was ordered by the now independent Air Force, the Coast Guard, the Navy, and several countries.

But these efforts could hardly sustain the type of mass production to which it had become accustomed during the war, and it would once again need to contemplate a military design with fighter capabilities if it wished to return to this mode.

Since the Wright Brothers had first conquered heavier-than-air flight in 1903, aviation had embarked on a path paved by ever-advancing technology. By the mid-1950s, the pace of that development seemed to reflect the speed that that development afforded, the increasing thrust capabilities of evolving powerplants outdating what a short time ago had seemed “state-of-the-art” and changing the profile of the Navy’s carrier-borne fleets. While they had once featured gross weights of 15,000 pounds, these had now sustained three-fold increases, thus able to serve as weapon-carrying platforms.

Although the F8F Bearcat represented the pinnacle of piston fighter development, it equally detracted from the conceptualization and design of a pure-jet counterpart, handing the market to McDonnell. Grumman, therefore, had little choice but to explore this realm.

The Korean War marked the technological transition from the piston to the pure-jet engine, and its own entry powered by it, the F9F Panther, served as its expression of that leap.

Sporting a 5,000 thrust-pound Rolls Royce Nene turbojet, the aircraft, with a 37.5-foot length, featured wing root air intakes; a mid, straight wing, whose span was only half an inch more than its length; unjettisonable, 120-US gallon tip tanks; a cross-of-loraine tail; and a tricycle undercarriage. Climbing at 6,000 fpm, it had a 525-mph maximum speed and 44,600-foot service ceiling. Its gross weight was 19,494 pounds.

First divorcing itself from the runway in Bethpage on November 21, 1947, the jet fighter entered production as the F9F-2, and was followed by the 4,600 thrust-pound Allison J33-A-8-powered F9F-3 two years later.

The lighter, more maneuverable, and swept-wing MiG-15, which served as its Korean War opponent, restricted the Panther’s initial role to that of a carrier-borne attack aircraft, but it did become the Navy’s first jet fighter to fly in combat, spending much of its service life as a bomber. Removed from operational fighter squadrons in 1956, the early F9Fs enjoyed a 1,385-unit production run.

The MiG performance nevertheless alerted Grumman of the need for a higher-speed version, which could only be attained with a swept wing.

On March 2, 1951, the Bureau of Aeronautics awarded the Bethpage manufacturer a contract to design an aircraft with the prerequisite geometry, and it elected to use the existing F9F-5 Panther as its platform, mating its fuselage and flight surfaces with a 35-degree swept wing and also a swept tail. Slow, carrier-dictated approach and landing speeds were maintained with the installation of larger-chord leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps.

A two-foot forward fuselage stretch, intended to eliminate the tip tanks, yet retain range, was coupled with a hydraulically-actuated flying tail, while power was provided by a single, 7,000 thrust-pound Pratt and Whitney J48-P-6, water-injected turbojet.

First flying as the F9F-6 Cougar on September 20, the aircraft was able to verify its impressive performance parameters: a 6,750-fpm climb rate, a 654-mph maximum speed, and a 44,600-foot service ceiling.

The F9F-7 was powered by a 6,350 thrust-pound Allison J33-A-16 engine.

The type became Grumman’s first swept wing, carrier-borne Navy aircraft. Like the straight-wing Panther, the Cougar was also flown by the Blue Angels.

But, also like the F8F Bearcat-which appeared too late for World War II combat-it missed its intended Korean War target. Nevertheless, it became the numerically most prevalent, carrier-based fighter during the 1950s, demonstrating its performance capabilities in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific, and had a production run of 1,988 between 1951 and 1960.

Obsolescence in this era of ever accelerating advancement soon proved the type’s ultimate enemy, forcing removal from its front-line positions. Indeed, as technology accelerated, so, too, did the designs which incorporated it-in this case, to true supersonic proportions.

The pure-jet engine and swept wings had served as the threshold to this flight realm; a new design, with an area rule fuselage, would serve to transcend it.

Tracing its origins to the F9F Cougar, it emerged with mid-mounted, 35-degree, downward-folding wings whose thin panels were milled from heavy aluminum; an area rule fuselage, whose narrowing width at the wings’ attachment line reduced transonic drag; and a conventional tail. Flight controls were hydraulically actuated. Powered by a 7,400 thrust-pound Wright J65-W-8 engine, the single-seat fighter, with a 23,459-pound maximum take off weight, could climb at 6,300 fpm and attain 754-mph supersonic speeds, facilitated by 10,500 pounds of afterburner engine thrust.

Although the Bureau of Aeronautics ordered three prototypes on April 27, 1953, the aircraft to be known as the F11F Tiger and initially powered by a non-afterburner-equipped J65-W-7 turbojet, crashed due to engine flame out during its flight test, prompting its program relocation to Edwards AFB. Stability and control deficiencies subsequently necessitated a longer nose and a narrower-chord rudder.

Despite Grumman’s gallant first supersonic attempt, the F11F was powered by a marginally reliable engine and exhibited inferior performance in comparison to that of the competing Vought F8U-1 Crusader’s. Consequently, it had a meager production run of 201.

Because of the pure-jet Panther’s, Cougar’s, and Tiger’s necessarily higher rotation and touchdown speeds, Grumman extended its runway to 6,550 feet to cater to them. But the land-locked plant complex, increasingly encroached upon by suburban sprawl, soon proved inadequate, and once again spurred the search for larger facilities.

Austrian Airlines’ Cancun Charter Flight Operation

Although passengers are aware that airlines fly to the destinations they need to travel to, whether it be for business, pleasure, or relational reasons, they may not know that some are served by cargo-only flights; code-share services, in which another carrier operates the aircraft; or charter arrangements, which enable airlines to extend their reach to cities only supportable by group or travel agency bookings, particularly during seasonal-demand periods.

Acting in the capacities of overseer and trainer, the author experienced one such charter flight operation-that of Austrian Airlines in Cancun, Mexico-at the beginning of its Winter 2006-2007 schedule. Observed was the season’s inaugural flight.

1. Mexican Civil Aviation Regulations

Austrian Airlines was handled by Passenger Handling Services/Maca in Cancun. According to Mexican Civil Aviation Regulations, all ground handling companies were required to adhere to three regulations.

They first needed to submit a letter from the handled carrier, verifying that the ground company in question was properly trained in the areas of Flight Plan Coordination, Weight and Balance, Ramp Procedures, Refueling Procedures, and Passenger Service. The letter also needed to indicate the names of the staff actually trained in these areas.

They secondly needed to possess copies of the applicable, aircraft-specific operations manual(s). In the case of the Cancun flight, it was the one concerning the Boeing 767.

Finally, they needed to file a manual check-in plan, with the necessary seat charts, boarding passes, and other supplies.

2. Ground Operations Training

In order to fulfill the training requirement, the author reviewed the Cancun Station Operation Plan, inclusive of the passenger check-in and Centralized Load Control (CLC) procedures, with the handling company’s Duty Manager shortly after his arrival in Mexico, and held two training classes with its staff the following day.

The first, the 2.5-hour Austrian Airlines Load Sheet Familiarization Training, included an overview of the Centralized Load Control (CLC) procedures, load plans, the creation of an inbound load plan based upon the day’s actual container/pallet distribution message (CPM), and the collective completion of a manual load sheet example, copies of which were placed on file at the Cancun station.

During the second session, held after the flight departed, the author again reviewed the CLC procedures with the three staff members who had been unable to attend the morning class.

3. Passenger Check-In

Passenger check-in and boarding occurred in Terminal 1. A small passenger service office, located behind the Mexicana de Aviacion check-in counters, was located in the Vuelos Nacionales (Domestic Flights) section of Terminal 2, while the Operations office was situated behind the security checkpoint and on the ramp side of Terminal 2. A complimentary, periodically run passenger shuttle connected the two buildings from designated terminal frontage departure points. Terminal 3, intended for international flights, was scheduled for March 2007 completion at that time.

The Passenger Handling Services/Maca Duty Manager of Austrian Airlines’ Cancun flight operations, a licensed Aircraft Dispatcher, had amassed 15 years in the airline/aviation industry and took great pride in adhering to regulations.

Passenger check-in was located in the recently reopened, but downsized, hurricane-damaged Terminal 1, which was then only occupied by charter carriers, such as Miami Air, First Choice, Air Transat, and Corsairfly.

Passenger check-in itself commenced three hours before the scheduled 1640 departure time of the flight at counters that were located only a few yards from the terminal entrance. All passengers, in accordance with Mexican security regulations, were required to have their baggage manually inspected prior to actual check-in.

Five check-in positions were used: one for Amadeus (business) Class and four for the economy cabin. The Passenger Service Supervisor and the business class check-in agent spoke Spanish, English, and German, and seat selection, provided by the MaestroDCS system, along with any authorized upgradings, were coordinated with the Tui tour representative, whose company chartered the flight.

Check-in itself was accomplished with the MaestroDCS system. During the process, a passenger requested a wheelchair and it was immediately furnished.

4. Boeing 767

The Cancun flight was operated by the extended range version of the Boeing 767-300, the second of the two stretched-fuselage, higher capacity variants, whose general design features included the following.

General Description: A widebody, twin-engine, cantilever, low-wing monoplane of semi-monocoque construction intended for commercial passenger and cargo and military applications.

Fuselage: Of aluminum alloy, fail-safe construction.

Wings: Employed advanced aluminum alloy skins and featured 31 degrees of sweepback and six degrees of dihedral.

Tail: Conventional empennage with swept surfaces on both its horizontal and vertical tails.

Landing Gear: Hydraulically-retracted, tricycle undercarriage with a Menasco twin-wheel, which retracted forward, and two, four-wheeled, Cleveland Pneumatic main gear units, which retracted inward. Both were equipped with Honeywell wheels and brakes.

Engines: Two aerodynamic, pod-encased high bypass ratio turbofans pylon-mounted to the wing leading edge undersides.

Design Features: Replacing the 727 with a larger capacity, widebody design, it was nevertheless optimized for 727-type route sectors with one-stop transcontinental range capability. It employed computer-aided design (CAD) during its initial development phase, whose costs were reduced because of parallel 757 development. Although it was not considered a single-aisle aircraft, it introduced a narrower fuselage cross-section than that used by previous widebody types, yielding several advantages, including a reduction in parasite drag; a twin-aisle cabin, in which passengers were never more than one seat from the window or the aisle; gate and ramp compatibility at smaller, 727-like airports; and advanced, light-weight aluminum alloy flight surfaces, specifically the fixed wing leading edge panel, the spoilers, the ailerons, the fixed wing trailing edge panel, the undercarriage doors, the elevators, and the rudder.

Additional benefits were derived from the use of a supercritical wing, such as a high aspect ratio, an aft-loaded section, the development of more lift for less drag than any previous airfoil, 22-percent greater thickness than that employed by previous-decade airliners, a lighter and simpler structure, and more wing-integral fuel tank capacity.

Powered by two high bypass ratio turbofans, it was able to offer higher thrust, lower specific fuel consumption, a reduced noise footprint, lower maintenance costs, and improved reliability.

Like the 757 then concurrently designed, it was operated by a two-person cockpit crew.

By using the previously dry center-section fuel tank, Boeing was able offer an increased-range version that required few other modifications, yet its inherent fuselage stretchability, the greater capabilities of its existing wing and tail, its 757 common pilot type rating, and its extended range twin-engine operation certification enabled carriers to substitute it for DC-10 and L-1011 aircraft.

It offered the optimum range and capacity for Austrian Airlines’ transatlantic charter operations to and from Mexico.

Powered by two 60,900 thrust-pound Pratt and Whitney 4060 high bypass ratio turbofans, the aircraft operating the flight, registered OE-LAX, was first delivered in 1992 and bore serial number 27095. Accommodating 30 Amadeus business class passengers in a six-abreast, two-two-two, configuration and 200 in economy in a seven-abreast arrangement with one additional seat in the middle bank, it featured the following maximum weights: 130,634-kilo zero-fuel, 145,149-kilo landing, 186,880-kilo take off, and 187,333-kilo ramp.

5. Ramp

Operating as Flight OS 9573 from Vienna, Austria, and Varadero, Cuba, the aircraft landed at 1515 and taxied into the non-jetbridge-equipped parking position 1, as scheduled, at 1520. It was chocked and the safety cones were properly positioned. A stair truck was immediately positioned at door L2 and, in accordance with Mexican regulations, marshaled into this position. The passengers disembarked after a short consultation with the Chef de Cabine (chief purser).

According to the inbound container/pallet distribution message (CPM), the following Cancun-destined unit load devices (ULDs) were on board: an empty DPE in position 11L, baggage AKEs in positions 22L, 23L, and 24L, and an empty DQF in position 43. With the exception of the last one, all were located in the forward hold and were single, or half-width, containers. The latter, in the aft hold, was a double, or full-width, one.

6. Departure Gate

All five departure gates were located immediately up the escalator, through the security checkpoint, and a short walk away. Two snack bars and two shops comprised the terminal’s passenger convenience facilities.

Because of the proximity of the aircraft parking positions, buses or mobile lounges were not necessary, and access ramps led from the departures level to the ramp.

Sequential boarding of the departing flight, operating as OS 9574, commenced at 1545, with announcements in both English and German, and entailed pre-boarding passengers, followed by those in Amadeus business and economy class, the latter by row numbers, beginning at the rear of the aircraft.

Boarding control was computerized, with seat numbers entered into the system. After the last passenger passed through the gate at 1612, the general declaration and all required lists were brought to the cabin crew. Since the Varadero station had changed some seats, the seat occupied message (or SOM) of through-passengers to Vienna was not entirely accurate and resulted in several discrepancies, but these were quickly rectified by local ground staff.

7. Centralized Load Control

In accordance with the Centralized Load Control procedure for charter flight operations, the cockpit crew sent the final fuel figures to Vienna by means of the aircraft communication and reporting system (ACARs), while the local operations staff filled out and faxed a preprinted sheet with passenger totals subdivided by class and zone, along with the number of bags and their weights, all of which was furnished by the MaestroDCS check-in system and telexed to the Terminal 2 operations office. Back-up sheets were available in the event of last minute changes (LMCs) or an ACARs failure.

Although initial difficulty with the fax machine delayed the sending of the information to Vienna on the day of my visit, missing Atlantic tracks in the meteorology folder caused a short, 15-minute departure delay.

8. Conclusions

All the members of the Cancun ground operations staff were professional, dedicated, and motivated, and obviously possessed considerable knowledge and experience. Because the handling company’s operations office had to be relocated from Terminal 1 to its then-current Terminal 2 facility due to hurricane damage, the logistical challenge could only be met with ramp vehicle conveyance, but the operation was otherwise well orchestrated. The Maca duty manager was an excellent asset to the station and his team, and the use of the German language at the check-in counter was a plus to Austrian Airlines’ passengers.

Its Cancun charter flight operation that day could not have been more seamlessly executed.

Why Has Emirates Been Awarded the "Best Airline" Title in the Skytrax 2016 Awards List?

Emirates has been named the best airline in the world by Skytrax, the leading consumer aviation website for the year 2016. The Dubai-based airline was given the award at the recently concluded Farnborough Air Show. Emirates has garnered the honor for the fourth time in the last 15 years. The airline had started the winning strategy in 2013. This year the airline dismounts Qatar Airways to get the honor.

What Makes Emirates Special?

When it comes to the Middle East, everything is extraordinary and spells class and luxury, the same goes for Emirates Airlines. From the designer uniforms of the crew and support staff to the onboard food and beverages, Emirates stands apart in all criteria when compared to other airlines.

The amenities that make Emirates special are:

Private Suites – Emirates flights have the hotel like rooms with private space for passengers comfort, convenience, and relaxation.

Shower Spas – Doesn’t matter if you are a business or leisure traveller, the shower spas will allow you to get down fresh and prepared at your destination.

Exclusive Onboard Lounges – If you ever have visited any Emirates airport lounge, you will know why it has been declared the best. The lounges have spas, food buffets, relaxing beds and sofas, and so much more to keep you engaged till you board your Emirates flight.

In-flight Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi is a must for any modern airline and how can Emirates stay behind. This is one of the first airlines which started offering Wi-Fi on all its short, medium, and long haul flights.

In-flight Entertainment – ICE is the in-flight entertainment system for Emirates. Passengers would fall in love with the wide choice of entertainment options. There are over 2,500 channels of movies, TV shows, music programs and online games to choose from in multiple languages. The ice digital screen is wide with subtitles option too. Passengers are allowed to create their own personal playlist for the entire journey.

World Class cuisine – A selection of food from across the world which would define your dining on the flight – yes that is what would describe aptly what Emirates food & beverages section has to offer. From caviar to salmon to exquisite wine, everything can be found onboard an Emirates flight.

These are only the onboard services, but Emirates services are not restricted to this only. The airline takes care of its passengers on the ground too. It offers airport shuttles, car rentals even limos too on request for smooth transport to airport.

Middle East airlines have set the standards for airlines worldwide and its time for other to step up and join the competition. This competitiveness would only make flying fun for travellers like us.

Airline Flight Tracking

Flight tracking is an easy way to track the position of flights. This is done by tracing the actual path of an aircraft.

Flight Tracker is a software tool that provides the immediate status of an airline flight. Flight tracking can be easily networked to remote PCs, so if preferable, one can separate dispatching and briefing areas. Airline flight tracking has helped increase scheduling and operational forecast efficiency for organizations of all sizes like airlines and logistics companies. This has not only increased planning efficiency but one can also look forward to enhanced customer service with faster turn around times.

Air traffic controllers use flight-tracking strips to observe or track flights. A flight tracking strip is a computer printout of an aircraft’s shortened flight plan that is used by air traffic controllers to monitor an aircraft’s flight. It identifies the actual flight path that aircraft operators use when flying, this information database system also identifies all other flights originating at nearby airports. The flight tracks are generated from the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control System’s radar data, which provides the aircraft’s “footprints” in the sky.

Airline flight tracking has been made simple and is reasonably priced, for people, whether professionals or home users, with a keen interest in aircraft. They can use this system by just installing this software in their PCs. Airplane enthusiasts can get information on any airport and track flights throughout the country with only a simple internet connection. It’s easy to track flights by just entering their tracking number.

Track telling is the process of communicating air observations and strategic data information between command and control systems or between services within the systems.

Aircraft Hydraulic Accumulators

Aerospace hydraulic accumulators.

Aircraft hydraulic accumulators are components in hydraulic systems that allow a noncompressible fluid, such as oil, to be stored under pressure. An accumulator has two compartments separated by a flexible or movable partition such as a diaphragm, bladder, or piston. One compartment contains compressed air or nitrogen, and the other is connected into the source of hydraulic pressure.

Aircraft strut servicing equipment.

When oil is pumped into the accumulator, portable charging units or PCUs are used. The partition moves over and increases the pressure of the air. This air pushing against the partition holds pressure on the oil. Hydraulic accumulators in an aircraft hydraulic system act as shock absorbers and provide a source of additional hydraulic power when heavy demands are placed on the system. The maintenance equipment is known generally as aircraft strut servicing equipment.

Accumulator air preload refers to the charge of compressed air or nitrogen in one side of an accumulator. The air preload is normally about one third of the system hydraulic pressure and there is good market for low pressure strut charging kits. When fluid is pumped into the oil side of the accumulator, the air is further compressed, and the air pressure and the fluid pressure become the same. If the air preload pressure is too low, there will be almost no time between the regulator reaching its kick-in and kick-out pressures, and the system will cycle far more frequently than it should. If there is no air pressure gauge on the accumulator, the amount of air preload may be found by watching the hydraulic system pressure gauge as the pressure is slowly bled off the system. The pressure will drop slowly, until a point is reached at which it drops suddenly. This point is the air preload pressure.

Strut/accumulator inflate/deflate tools will now allow aircraft service personnel to achieve accurate setting of aircraft strut pressures. Accurate settings will ensure smoother take-off and landings are achieved and will minimise both aircraft and tyre damage.

Hydraulic equipment repair and pnematic equipment repair.

Hydraulic systems need to generally to be maintained, serviced, and adjusted in accordance with:manufacturers’ maintenance manuals and permanent component maintenance manuals. Hydraulic lines and fittings should be carefully inspected at regular intervals to insure airworthiness. Any evidence of fluid loss or leaks, loose anchorages, scratches, kinks, or other damage should be scrupulously managed, replaced or repaired. The role of the military or civil ground support equipment custom designer should not be underestimated.

The Boeing 747: The End of an Era

The Boeing 747, often referred to as the “Jumbo Jet,” was a remarkable commercial jetliner for its time. The world’s first ever wide-body airplane produced, the so called “Queen of the Skies,” boasted an upper deck, and a passenger capacity that remained unrivalled for decades.

The 747-100 first entered service in 1970 with, the now defunct, PanAm. The -200 model followed in 1971, featuring more powerful engines and a higher MTOW (Max Take-Off Weight). Boeing followed this up with the shortened 747SP (Special Performance), which featured a longer range, and entered service in 1976.

Boeing then launched the -300 model in 1980, which resulted from studies to increase the capacity of the 747. The -300 featured fuselage plugs and a stretched upper deck. This variant, along with the -100, -200, and SP, were collectively referred to as the 747 “Classics.” It was now time for a more significant upgrade.

The most common version, the 747-400, entered service in 1989. This variant featured, along with the stretched upper deck of the -300, more fuel-efficient engines, and was the first to feature a 2-crew glass cockpit, eliminating the requirement for a flight engineer, and is also the most common variant in service. The -400 has a longer wingspan than the classics and was fitted with winglets, which reduced drag, and is the most common aesthetic feature used to distinguish the variant from the -300.

The 747-400 dominated the long-haul market for years to come. It was operated by almost every major airline in the world, dominating every major international airport. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that the -400 had to face competition, after the larger Airbus A380 entered service. Boeing eventually responded by launching a new larger, more fuel-efficient variant.

The third generation 747-8 was launched in 2009, with Lufthansa, and entered service in 2012. This variant boasted a composite fuselage, as featured on the 787, and more fuel-efficient engines. It also featured an increase in capacity, thanks to the stretched fuselage and upper deck. Sadly, it failed to capture the market and was unable to match, let alone surpass, the success of the -400.

The four-engine 747’s time is coming to an end, with an increasing number of airlines retiring the type in favour of more efficient twin engine aircraft. The latest passenger variant, -8, failed to attract as many sales as Boeing had hoped, having earned less than 50 orders from mainly 3 airlines, as the quad can no longer compete with the likes of the 777, 787, and Airbus A350.

Despite this the 747 enjoys a great reputation as one of the most successful airliners in history. As we see an increasing number of smaller, twin engine aircraft in its place, the industry will always remember the beauty and grace with which the Boeing 747 adorned our skies.

The History of Long Island MacArthur Airport

Introduction

Long Island MacArthur Airport, located on 1,310 acres in Suffolk County, is the region’s only commercial service facility which has, for most of its existence, struggled with identity and purpose.

Its second–and oval-shaped–50,000 square-foot passenger terminal, opened in 1966 and sporting two opposing, ramp-accessing gates, had exuded a small, hometown atmosphere-so much so, in fact, that scenes from the original Out-of-Towners movie had been filmed in it.

Its subsequent expansion, resulting in a one thousand percent increase in passenger terminal area and some two million annual passengers, had been sporadic and cyclic, characterized by new airline establishment which had always sparked a sequence of passenger attraction, new nonstop route implementation, and additional carriers, before declining conditions had initiated a reverse trend. During cycle peaks, check-in, gate, and ramp space had been at a premium, while during troughs, a pin drop could be heard on the terminal floor.

Its Catch-22 struggle had always entailed the circular argument of carriers reluctant to provide service to the airport because of a lack of passengers and passengers reluctant to use the airport because of a lack of service.

This, in essence, is the force which shaped its seven-decade history. And this, in essence, is Long Island MacArthur Airport’s story.

1. Origins

The 1938 Civil Aeronautics Act, under Section 303, authorized federal fund expenditure for landing areas provided the administrator could certify “that such landing areas were reasonably necessary for use in air commerce or in the interests of national defense.”

At the outbreak of World War II, Congress appropriated $40 million for the Development of Landing Areas for National Defense or “DLAND,” of which the Development Civil Landing Areas (DCLA) had been an extension. Because civil aviation had been initially perceived as an “appendage” of military aviation, it had been considered a “segment” of the national defense system, thus garnering direct federal government civil airport support. Local governments provided land and subsequently maintained and operated the airports. Construction of 200 such airfields began in 1941.

A Long Island regional airport, located in Islip, had been one of them. On September 16 of that year, the Town of Islip–the intended owner and operator of the initially named Islip Airport–sponsored the project under an official resolution designated Public Law 78-216, providing the land, while the federal government agreed to plan and build the actual airport. The one-year, $1.5 million construction project, initiated in 1942, resulted in an airfield with three 5,000-foot runways and three ancillary taxiways. Although it had fulfilled its original military purpose, it had always been intended for public utilization.

Despite increased instrument-based flight training after installation of instrument landing system (ILS) equipment in 1947, the regional facility failed to fulfill projected expectations of becoming New York’s major airport after the recent construction of Idlewild. Losing Lockheed as a major tenant in 1950, the since-renamed MacArthur Airport, in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, would embark on a long development path before that would occur.

2. Initial Service

A 5,000-square-foot passenger terminal and restaurant, funded by the federal government, had been constructed in 1949. Infrastructurally equipped, the airport, surrounded by local community growth, sought its first public air service by petitioning the Civil Aeronautics Board. Islip had attempted to attract scheduled airline service as far back as 1956, and this ultimately took the form of Gateway Airlines three years later when it had commenced operations, on an air taxi level, with a fleet of 11-passenger de Havilland Doves and 15-passenger de Havilland Herons to Boston, Newark, and Washington. Inadequate financing, however, had led to its premature termination only eight months later.

The airport, which only had 20 based aircraft at this time, annually fielded some 30,000 movements. Allegheny Airlines subsequently received full scheduled passenger service route authority from the CAB in 1960 and inaugurated four daily Convair- and Martinliner round-trips to Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington in September, carrying more than 19,000 passengers in 1961, its first full year of operations.

Two years later, the FAA opened a New York Air Route Traffic Control Center and a seven-floor control tower, and in 1966, a $1.3 million, 50,000 square-foot oval terminal replaced the original rectangular facility.

Mohawk, granted the second CAB route authority that year, inaugurated Fairchild FH-227 service to Albany, and the two scheduled airlines carried some 110,000 passengers from the since renamed Islip MacArthur Airport by 1969. The 210 based aircraft recorded 240,000 yearly movements.

The runways and taxiways were progressively expanded, partly in response to Eastern and Pan Am’s designation of the airport as an “alternate” on their flight plans.

3. First Major Carrier Service

Long envisioned as a reliever airport to JFK and La Guardia, which would provide limited, but important nonstop service to key US cities and hubs, such as Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the major Florida destinations, the Long Island airport urgently needed additional, major-airline service, but this goal remained elusive.

The cycle, however, had been broken on April 26, 1971, when American Airlines had inaugurated 727-100 “Astrojet” service to Chicago-O’Hare, Islip’s first pure-jet and first “trunk” carrier operation, permitting same-day, round-trip business travel and eliminating the otherwise required La Guardia commute. Because of American’s major-carrier prestige, it had attracted both attention and passengers, indicating that Islip had attained “large airport” status, and the Chicago route, now the longest nonstop one from the air field, had provided a vital lifeline to a primary, Midwestern city and to American’s route system, offering numerous flight connections.

The route had been quickly followed in the summer with the inauguration of Allegheny DC-9-30 service to Providence and Washington, while Altair had launched Beech B99 and Nord N.262 turboprop flights to Bridgeport and Philadelphia two years later.

American, Allegheny (which had intermittently merged with Mohawk in 1972), and Altair provided the established Long Island air connection during the 1970s.

In order to reflect its regional location, the facility had, for the fourth time, been renamed, adopting the title of Long Island MacArthur Airport in 1978.

During most of the 1970s, it handled an average of 225,000 annual passengers. Allegheny, the premier operator, had offered nine daily pure-jet BAC-111 and DC-9-30 departures during 1978.

By March of 1982, USAir, the rebranded Allegheny Airlines, had been its only remaining pure-jet carrier with daily DC-9-30 service to Albany and BAC-111-200 service to Washington-National–perhaps emphasizing its ability to profitably operate from small-community airfields with its properly-sized twin-jet equipment.

The early 1980s were characterized by commuter-regional carrier dominance, with operations provided by Pilgrim, New Haven Airlines, Altair, Air North, Mall Airways, and Ransome. The latter, first flying as part of the Allegheny Commuter consortium, later operated independently under its own name in affiliation with Delta Air Lines, offering some 17 daily M-298 and DHC-7 departures to seven regional cities.

Aside from Ransome, it had often appeared as if the airport’s regional airline floodgates had been gappingly opened: Suburban/Allegheny Commuter, Southern Jersey/Allegheny Commuter, Empire, and Henson-The Piedmont Regional Airline had all descended on its runways. Precision, which had inaugurated multiple-daily Dornier Do-228-200 services to both Boston and Philadelphia, operated independently, as Precision-Eastern Express, and as Precision-Northwest Airlink, and had been the only airline to simultaneously offer scheduled service from neighboring Republic Airport in Farmingdale, primarily a general aviation field.

4. Northeastern International Airlines

Market studies had long indicated the need for nonstop Long Island-Florida service because of its concentration of tourist attractions and to facilitate visits between Long Island children and Florida-relocated retiree parents. Deregulation, the very force behind multiple-airline creation, divergent service and fare concepts, and the relative ease of new market entry, had spawned Northeastern International, which was founded to provide high-density, low-fare, limited-amenity service, and fulfilled the idealized nonstop, Long Island-Florida connection when it had inaugurated operations on February 11, 1982 with a former Evergreen International DC-8-50, initially offering four weekly round-trips to Fort Lauderdale and one to Orlando. After a second aircraft had been acquired, it had been able to record a 150,000-passenger total during its first year of service, with 32,075 having been boarded in December alone.

Although its corporate headquarters had been located in Fort Lauderdale, its operational base had been established at Long Island MacArthur and it ultimately served Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, and St. Petersburgh with the two DC-8s and two former Pan Am 727-100s with seven daily departures. Incorporating both the charter carrier strategy of operating high-density, single-class, low-fare service, and the major airline strategy of flying large-capacity aircraft, it actually served a very competitive route-that of New York-to-Florida-without incurring any competition at all by operating directly from Islip.

By 1984, with Northeastern having served as a catalyst to carrier and route inaugurations, eleven airlines had served the airport, inclusive of Allegheny Commuter, American, Eastern, Empire, Henson, NewAir, Northeastern, Pilgrim, Ransome, United, and USAir, relieving JFK and La Guardia of air traffic, directly serving the Long Island market, and fulfilling the airport’s originally envisioned role of becoming New York’s secondary commercial facility. Simultaneously providing nonstop service to Chicago-O’Hare from Islip, American and United both competed for the same passenger base.

By 1986, Long Island MacArthur had, for the first time in its 36-year scheduled history, handled one million passengers in a single year, a level since equaled or exceeded.

To cater to the explosive demand and ease its now-overstrained passenger facilities, the Town of Islip embarked on a progressive terminal facility improvement program which had initially encompassed the addition of two commuter aircraft gates, the enclosure of the former curbside front awning, and two glass-enclosed wings-the west for the now-covered baggage carousel and the east for the three relocated rental-car counters and the Austin Travel agency. The internal roadway had been realigned and additional parking spaces had been created.

A more ambitious terminal expansion program, occurring in 1990 and costing $3.2 million, resulted in two jetbridge-lined concourses which extended from the rear portion of the oval terminal, adding 22,700 square feet of space. Runway 6-24’s 1,000-foot extension, to 7,000 feet, had ultimately been completed three years later after a decade of primarily local resident resistance due to believed noise increases.

By the end of 1990, the transformation of Long Island MacArthur Airport from a small, hometown airfield served by a couple of operators to a major facility served by most of the major carriers had been complete.

Several conclusions could already be drawn from the airport’s hitherto 30-year scheduled history.

1. Allegheny-USAir, along with its regional subsidiaries Allegheny Commuter and USAir Express, had provided the initial spark which had led to the present growth explosion and had been the only consistent, anchor carrier during its three-decade, scheduled service history, between 1960 and 1990. During this time it had absorbed other Islip operators, inclusive of the original Mohawk and Piedmont, the latter of which had intermittently absorbed Empire and Henson, and had shed still others, such as Ransome Airlines, which, as an independent carrier, had almost established a regional, turboprop hub at MacArthur.

2. Three carriers had been tantamount to its three-decade evolution: (1). Allegheny-USAir, which had reserved the distinction of being Long Island MacArthur’s first, largest, and, for a period, only pure-jet operator; American, which had changed its image by associating it with large, trunk-carrier prestige; and Northeastern, whose bold, innovative service inauguration and low fares had been directly responsible for the latest, unceasing growth cycle.

3. Many airlines, unaware of the facility’s traffic potential, never permanently abandoned the air field, including American and Eastern, which had both suspended operations, but subsequently returned; Northeastern, which had returned after two bankruptcies; United, which had discontinued its own service, yet maintained a presence through two separate regional airline affiliations-Presidential-United Express and Atlantic Coast-United Express-thus continuing to link its Washington-Dulles hub; Continental, which had returned through its own commuter agreement; and Pilgrim, which, despite service discontinuation, had maintained an autonomous check-in counter where it had handled other carriers until it itself had reinstated service.

4. Of the approximately 30 airlines which had served Long Island MacArthur, many had indirectly retained a presence either through name-change, other-carrier absorption, or regional-airline two-letter code-share agreements.

5. The Northeastern-forged air link between Long Island and Florida had, despite its own final bankruptcy, never been lost, with other carriers always filling the void, including Eastern, Carnival, Braniff, Delta Express, and Spirit Airlines.

Because of its market fragility, however, the Long Island regional airport was far more vulnerable to economic cycles than the primary New York airports had been, recessed conditions often resulting in the exodus of carriers in search of more profitable routes. In 1994, for example, three airlines discontinued service and one ceased operating altogether.

A $13.2 million expansion program of the 32-year old, multiply-renovated oval terminal, funded by passenger facility charge (PFC)-generated revenue, had been initiated in the spring of 1998 and completed in August of the following year, resulting in a 62,000-square-foot area increase. The enlarged, reconfigured structure included the addition of two wings–the west with four baggage carousels, three rental car counters, and several airline baggage service offices, and the east with 48 (as opposed to the previous 20) passenger check-in positions. The original, oval-shaped structure now housed an enlarged newsstand and gift shop and the relocated central security checkpoint, but retained the departures level snack bar, the upper level Skyway Café and cocktail lounge, and the twin, jetbridge-provisioned concourses added during the 1990 expansion phase, while the aircraft parking ramp had been progressively increased until the last blade of grass had been transformed into concrete. A realigned entrance road, an extension of the existing short-term parking lot, 1,000 additional parking spaces, and a quasi-parking lot system subdivided into employee, resident, hourly, daily, and economy (long-term) sections had completed the renovation. Shuttle bus service between the parking lot and the terminal was provided for the first time.

5. Southwest Airlines

An effort to attract Southwest Airlines had begun in late-1996 when the rapidly-expanding, highly profitable, low-fare carrier had contemplated service to a third northeast city after Manchester and Providence, inclusive of Newburgh’s Stewart International and White Plains’ Westchester County in New York; Hartford and New Haven in Connecticut; and Teterboro and Trenton’s Mercer County in New Jersey. All had been smaller, secondary airports characteristic of its route system. It had even briefly explored service to Farmingdale’s Republic Airport on Long Island and Teterboro in New Jersey, both of which had been noncommercial, general aviation fields with business jet concentrations. Three had offered terminal improvements in exchange for the service. But Long Island MacArthur was ultimately selected because of the 1.6 million residents living within a 20-mile radius of the airport, local business health, and, according to Southwest Chief Executive Officer, Herb Kelleher, “underserved, overpriced air service” which was “ripe for competition.”

Following initial Southwest interest in 1997, then-Town of Islip Supervisor Peter McGowan and other officials flew to Dallas, where Herb Kelleher stated the need for the previously described terminal and parking facility expansions before operations could begin. The meeting had ended with nothing more than a symbolic handshake.

The nearly two-year effort to entice the airline had culminated in the December 1998 announcement of Southwest’s intended March 14, 1999 service launch with 12 daily 737 departures, including eight to Baltimore, two to Chicago-Midway, one to Nashville, and one to Tampa, all of which would provide through- or connecting-service to 29 other Southwest-served cities. Although the low-fare flights had been expected to attract some passengers who may otherwise have flown from JFK or La Guardia Airports, they had been primarily targeted at the Long Island market and, as a byproduct, had been expected to attract an increased airport traffic base, additional carriers, and generate an estimated $500,000 per year for the Town of Islip. Two Southwest-dedicated gates could accommodate up to 20 daily departures-or eight more than the inaugural flight schedule included-before additional facilities would have to be obtained. The Islip station, staffed by 44, represented its 53rd destination in 27 states.

Southwest had provided the fourth spark in Long Island MacArthur Airport’s airline- and passenger-attraction cycle, traced as follows:

1. The original air taxi Gateway Airlines service of 1959 and the initial scheduled Allegheny Airlines service of 1960.

2. The first trunk-carrier, pure-jet American Airlines flights of 1971.

3. The first low-fare, nonstop Northeastern International Florida service of 1982.

4. The first low-fare, high frequency, major-carrier Southwest service of 1999.

American, the last of the original, major carriers to vacate the airport, left it with three predominant types of airlines as the millennium had approached:

1. The turboprop commuter airline serving the nonhub destinations, such as Albany, Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, and Newburgh.

2. The regional jet operator feeding its major-carrier affiliate at one of its hubs, such as ASA feeding Delta in Atlanta, Comair connecting with Delta in Cincinnati, and Continental Express integrating its flight schedule with Continental in Cleveland.

3. The low-fare, high-density, no-frills carrier operating the leisure-oriented sectors to Florida. As of December 1, 1999, three airlines, inclusive of Delta Express, Southwest, and Spirit, had operated 15 daily departures to five Florida destinations.

Long Island MacArthur’s expansion and passenger facility improvements, Southwest’s service inauguration, and the attraction of other carriers had collectively resulted in a 113% increase in passenger boardings in 1999 compared to the year-earlier period. The figure, which had been only shy of the two million mark, had been the highest in the Long Island airport’s four-decade commercial history. Southwest had carried 34% of this total.

Eleven airlines had provided service during this time: ASA Atlantic Southeast, American, Business Express, Comair, CommutAir/US Airways Express, Continental Express, Delta Express, Piedmont/US Airways Express, Shuttle America, Spirit, and Southwest itself.

Less than two weeks after Southwest had secured a third gate and increased its daily departures to 22, it announced, in a unprecedented move, its intention to self-finance 90-percent of a $42 million expansion of the East Concourse in order to construct four additional, dedicated gates and overnight parking positions by the end of 2001, thus increasing the airport’s current 19-gate total to 23.

The concourse extension, intended to provide it with both increased employee and passenger room, would free up its existing three gates for other-carrier utilization while its new four-gate facility would permit a service increase to some 30 daily flights based upon future passenger demand, aircraft availability, and Town of Islip-approved departure increases.

The expansion would mark the seventh such development of the original terminal, as follows:

1. The original oval terminal construction.

2. The partially enclosed arrivals baggage belt installation.

3. The construction of two commuter gates.

4. The enclosure of the front awning, which entailed the relocation of the rental car companies and the Austin Travel agency, and the installation of an enlarged, fully enclosed baggage belt.

5. The construction of the jetbridge-equipped east and west concourses.

6. The construction of the West Arrivals Wing and the East Departures Wing, the gift shop expansion, and the central security checkpoint relocation.

7. The Southwest-financed, quad-gate addition, increasing the number of departure gates from 19 to 23.

Victim, like all airports, to post-September 11 traffic declines, Long Island MacArthur Airport lost eight daily departures operated by American Eagle, Delta Express, and US Airways Express, although the airport’s October 2001 passenger figures had only been six percent below those of the year-earlier period. No nonstop destinations had, however, been severed. With Delta Express’s daily 737-200 Florida flight frequency having been progressively reduced from an all-time high of seven to just one–to Fort Lauderdale–its operations could be divided into three categories:

1. Turboprop regional

2. Pure-jet regional

3. Southwest

Nevertheless, in the four years since Southwest had inaugurated service, the airport had handled 8,220,790 passengers, or an annual average of two million. Without Southwest, it would, at best, have handled only half that amount.

On April 30, 2003, for the second time in a five-year period, Long Island MacArthur Airport broke ground on new terminal facilities. Designed by the Baldassano Architectural Group, the Long Island architectural firm which had completed the $13.2 million airport expansion and modernization program in 1999, the new, 154,000-square-foot, four-gate addition was constructed on the north side of the existing east concourse which had housed Southwest’s operations. Citing increased space and potential growth as reasons for the new facility, Southwest claimed that the existing three gates, which had fielded a combined 24 daily departures, had reached their saturation point and that additional “breathing room” for both passengers and employees had been needed, particularly during flight delays. The net gain of an additional gate, which would be coupled with larger lounges, would eventually facilitate eight additional flights to new or existing US destinations, based upon market demand.

The project, initially pegged at $42 million, but later increased to $62 million, was financed by Southwest, which sought government reimbursement with the Town of Islip for up to $18 million for the non-airline specific construction aspects, such as airfield drainage, which was considered a common-use utility.

The 114,254-square-foot, Southwest-funded and -named Peter J. McGowan Concourse officially opened at the end of November 2004. Accessed by a new awning-protected entrance from the airport’s terminal-fronted curbside, the new wing, connected to the existing passenger check-in area, curved to the left past the flight arrival and departure television monitors to the new, large security checkpoint from where passengers ascended, via two escalators, to the upper level departures area.

Concurrent with the opening had been the announcement that Southwest would now proceed with Phase II of its expansion by building a second, $20 million addition which would connect the new concourse with the old, altogether replacing the east concourse which had served it since it had inaugurated service in 1999. The project incorporated four more gates, for a total of eight, enabling up to 80 daily departures to be offered.

6. New Leadership, Service Reductions, and Infrastructure Improvements

The end of the 2000-decade, characterized by new leadership, airline service reductions, and infrastructure investments, once again signaled a reversal in Long Island MacArthur Airport’s growth cycle.

Al Werner, Airport Commission for 53 years, retired on November 16, 2007, passing the torch to Teresa Rizzuto. Accepted after a three-month, nationwide search conducted by Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan, she brought considerable airline industry experience with her and was appointed to the position on February 5, 2008 after an Islip Town Board vote, now entrusted with heralding the regional facility into the next decade whose multi-faceted agenda necessarily included the following goals:

1. Devise a marketing plan to increase airport recognition, thereby attracting a larger passenger base.

2. Establish new, nonstop routes of existing carriers and attract new airlines able to compete with existing, lost-cost Southwest, to provide the required core service for this enlarged passenger base, yet avoid alienating local residents because of excessive noise.

3. Invest in infrastructure modernization and development, particularly on the airport’s general aviation west side.

4. Increase revenues for the Town of Islip, the airport’s owner and operator.

Long Island MacArthur’s very existence relied upon its ability to serve its customers’ needs, and both destination and airline reductions during the latter part of the decade, coupled with flickering, but quickly extinguished glimmers of new-carrier hope, only obviated its purpose.

Exploratory talks in 2007, with Southwest-modeled, Ireland based-Ryanair, for instance, would have resulted in both the airport’s first international and first transatlantic service, hitherto precluded by the absence of customs and immigration facilities, few connecting possibilities, and inadequate runway length on which heavy, fuel-laden widebody aircraft could take off for intercontinental sectors. But higher thrust engines facilitating shorter-field performance had remedied the latter problem, and pre-departure US clearance would have been performed in Ireland. Because Southwest and Ryanair maintained the same business models of operating single-type, 737 fleets from underserved, overpriced, secondary airports whose lower operating costs could be channeled into lower fares, domestic-international traffic feed between the two had been feasible. Despite existing Islip service provided by Delta and US Airways Express, Southwest still carried 92 percent of its passengers. However, the proposed strategy had yet to produce any concrete results.

Indeed, by the end of the year, the number of potential Southwest connecting flights only declined when decreased demand had necessitated the cancellation of six daily departures, including two to Baltimore, three to Chicago, and one to Las Vegas.

Potential service loss counterbalancing occurred on May 1 of the following year, however, when Spirit Airlines, after an eight-year interval, reinaugurated twice daily, round-trip, A-319 service to Ft. Lauderdale, with $7.00 introductory fares, facilitating 23 Caribbean and Latin American connections through its south Florida hub.

The A-319, the airport’s first, regularly scheduled airbus operation, touched down at 0954 on Runway 6 on its inaugural flight, taxiing through a dual fire truck-created water arch, before redeparting at 1030 as Flight 833 with a high load factor. The second flight departed in the evening.

The departures were two of Spirit’s more than 200 systemwide flights to 43 destinations, but the weak flicker of light they had provided had been almost as quickly doused when, three months later, on July 31, rising fuel prices and declining economic conditions had necessitated their discontinuation, leaving only a promise of return when improved conditions merited their reinstatement.

Further tipping the scales to the service loss side had been Delta Air Line’s decision to discontinue its only remaining, single daily regional jet service operated by its Comair counterpart to Atlanta, severing feed to the world’s largest airport in terms of enplanements and to Delta’s largest connecting hub, and ending the Long Island presence established as far back as 1984. Delta had cited the reason for the discontinuation, along with that in other markets, as an attempt to “optimize…financial performance.”

The second carrier loss, leaving only Southwest and US Airways Express, had resulted in a 10.2-percent passenger decline in 2008 compared to the year-earlier period.

Another attempted, but mostly unsuccessful airline service had occurred in June of 2009 with the appearance of PublicCharters.com, which had intended to link Islip with Groton, Connecticut, and Nantucket, Massachusetts, during the summer.

In order to remedy Long Island MacArthur Airport’s identity recognition deficiency, a study completed by a Phil Nolan-assembled task force strongly concluded that the search for and attraction of new airline service “should be a major focus of management,” a function up until now mostly ignored. The airport’s lack of recognition, coupled with JFK’s and La Guardia’s close proximity to Manhattan and their dizzying array of nonstop services, further urged the need for the study.

A $150,000 federal grant, aimed at answering the elusive question of why Long Islanders still chose to use New York airports when Islip itself offered a nonstop flight, attempted to determine local resident travel patterns and then attract carrier-providing service.

A partial remedy had been the implementation of a $300,000 market campaign, in conjunction with the Long Island Railroad and Southwest Airlines, to increase airport awareness by the eastern Nassau and Suffolk County population, featuring the slogan, “We make flying a breeze.”

Significant attention to airport infrastructure improvement and a related masterplan had also been given.

Long-awaited ramp repairs, for instance, had been made. One year after the $12.4 million apron covering gates five through eight had been laid in 2004, cracks, in which engine-digestible debris could potentially collect, appeared, and were traceable to an inadequate, six-inch-thick subbase which failed to rise above the ground level, and was therefore susceptible to frost. Water, seeping into the subbase, was subjected to freezing-thawing cycles which expanded the concrete, loosened its gravel, and propagated the cracks.

In order to replace the decaying, 105-foot control tower constructed in 1962, the FAA awarded J. Kokolakis Constructing, Inc., of Rocky Point, a $16.4 million contract to build a new, 157-foot, cylindrical tower next to it in January of 2008, a project completed in November of the following year, at which time internal equipment, costing another $8.8 million, was installed.

Instrumental in the airport’s modernization had been the redevelopment of its 45-acre west side, which currently houses charter companies, flying schools, and airport maintenance in mostly dilapidated hangars and buildings, but could potentially be replaced with new energy efficient and conservation compliant structures optimally used by educational institutions offering air traffic control curriculums.

During the latter portion of the decade, Long Island MacArthur Airport once again rode the descending side of the revenue curve, but remains a vital air link and economic engine to eastern Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Between 1996 and 2003, it had experienced an average annual economic impact growth rate of 6.85 percent and between 2001 and 2007 more than 900,000 square feet of commercial space was developed along Veterans Highway, its access roadway, as a result of it. According to Hofstra University’s Center for Suburban Studies, its 2003 economic impact was pegged at $202 million and was projected to increase by 68 percent, or to $340 million, by the end of the decade without any further expansion, indicating that, as a revenue generator, that its potential had hardly begun to be tapped. The service reductions, increases in Homeland Security costs, and eroding economy had all reversed that potential, but its infrastructure improvements, more than 500,000-square-foot passenger terminal, four runways, easy access, uncongested environment, two-mile proximity to the Long Island Railroad’s Ronkonkoma station, and four-mile proximity to the Long Island Expressway places it squarely on the threshold of growth in the next decade, when conditions improve. According to newly appointed Airport Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto, “We’re ready” for new carriers at that time.

Private Jet Detailing And Aircraft Cleaning Entrepreneurs Have Good News For 2017

The general aviation sector has been in the doldrums for quite a while. Some blame this on increased FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, much of which occurred after 9-11 to protect airports from potential terrorists, unfortunately these increased security requirements and increased regulations have stifled the general aviation (GA) sector. The economic crashes of 2000 and 2008 didn’t help, although in 2003 the economy was flying high thanks to Bush Tax Cuts and stimulus, then it hit a wall again and didn’t really do well until the run-up just before the 2008 crash.

The GA sector has only slightly recovered since then but not back to its 2003 highs. When Obama got elected he railed against Corporate Jets and Corporate Fat Cats which hurt jet sales and new aircraft sales. Remember when congress went after the Auto Makers for flying their corporate jets to Washington DC to beg for bailouts? Public sentiment against GA was at an all-time low.

All of this had hurt aircraft cleaners and jet detailers – it made it tough to make money, but it looks like things are changing and the number of GA Aircraft is increasing. This new Trump Administration is pro-Aviation unlike the Obama Administration. Cutting corporate taxes will also help GA and jet sales. It looks like clear skies ahead for those in the General Aviation services business.

There was a great article in AIN – Aircraft International News – December Edition titled; “UBS Bizjet Index Sees Post-election Surge,” by Chad Trautvetter posted on December 12, 2016 which noted the following facts; The new Trump Administration in the U.S. is widely seen as a positive, with 61 percent of those surveyed expecting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election to ultimately be positive for the business jet market, while 11 percent don’t see a positive impact and 28 percent are uncertain.

In fact the article went on to note that there was an increase of between 44-49% increased orders for private jets over last year. Many of those aircraft will be delivered by 2018, and the backlog will increase used aircraft sales and current new inventory. More aircraft certainly means more aircraft to clean and more new aircraft means more corporate detailing customers as well. Meanwhile, along with the fractional jet market, we see jet air-taxi services on the increase as well as Uber style aircraft ride-sharing plans smaller companies can buy into. All of this means the GA sector is ready to take off again and that’s good for business.