27 February 2006

Gone West: Robert L. Scott

Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the World War II P-40 ace who told of his exploits in the China-Burma-India theater in his book "God is My Co-Pilot," went west today at the age of 97.

I read a tattered paperback copy of "God Is My Co-Pilot" when I was ten. At that age, I thought that flying a P-40 in combat had to be one of the most exciting and intense things anybody could ever do. I still do.

Maybe it's time to read the book again -- not just because the author has left us, but because it truly is an interesting, inspiring story, and a reminder of how great the "greatest generation" was.

23 February 2006

Cloud Streets

I'm fascinated by clouds, unusual meteorology, and the sky in general. I could live my entire life looking down on this beautiful planet, and I feel sorry for those who rarely, if ever, get to see it from aloft. A common theme in my ground-bound photography lately has been the discovery of repeating patterns, and I've even found this theme in clouds. A beautiful example is found in this photo of "cloud streets" along the Irish coast, which I took recently on a trip from Paris to San Francisco. [Click photo to enlarge...]

20 February 2006

High Altitude Merge

I've been a little lax about writing lately. I'll write something substantial soon, but I've been in more of a photographic mood lately. In the mean time, I hope you've been enjoying my photo postings. Here's another of my favorite recent shots, a United Airlines 757. Approaching fast and pulling a nice, thick contrail, he's at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, going west. I'm at 34,000 feet, going east. I was fortunate to capture this photo, as our combined closure speed was over 1,000 miles per hour and the subject was less than a mile away.

Often, Air Traffic controllers will point out impending closures like this. They try to give the pilots of each airplane a "heads-up" a minute or more before the event. Thanks to today's super-accurate GPS and INS navigation systems, aircraft following established airways often cross each other's paths with little or no lateral offset, a fact that allows me to attempt to get photos like this quite often. In the "old days" of VOR-only radio navigation, such crossings were much more rare.

15 February 2006

California Sunrise

Here's another nice scene, this time off the coast of California, looking back to the east, just after the sun begins to peek over the mountains. We're just south of Watsonville, California. I love the way the sunlight and the mountain shadows have colored the haze layer that settled in the valleys overnight, and the way little blobs of steam rise from various factories and industrial buildings. A light ocean breeze has kept the thicker clouds several miles inland. I imagine that people down there are just waking up, stretching, yawning, and looking out the window. My work day is 20 minutes from ending, with a smooth landing in San Francisco, followed by a mad dash to the hotel, where I'll pull the curtains closed and try to sleep while attempting to convince myself that I didn't just see the sun rise.

03 February 2006

Phoggy Philly

When you think of thick fog flowing over downtown buildings, you usually think of San Francisco, but other cities sometimes get it, too. This is what Philadelphia looked like, early on a recent morning. The fog extended all the way out to Harrisburg! (Click to enlarge photo) Posted by Picasa

02 February 2006

UAL 2.0

United Airlines has exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a viable entity, making them one of only three airlines out of 166 since 1978 to ever successfully pull off this significant feat. I've watched the process closely and intimately for the past 1,150 days, and I still know next to nothing about what actually transpired in the courtrooms and conference rooms. Maybe I never will. I do, however, know a bit about what it was like for the grunts in the "trenches." Someday, someone will have to write a book about the drama, heartache, and tension that have gripped the employees of United for the past four years.

I'm proud of all the United employees who slogged through what will go down in history as one of the largest and most costly bankruptcies in U.S. corporate history. It also resulted in the largest pension default in history, setting an appalling standard for all other domestic airlines to follow.

I hope United's leaders will not squander or take for granted the incredible sacrifices made by their employees over the past four years. United's front-line employees were, in my opinion, not just instrumental in rescuing the company from oblivion, but almost totally responsible for it. We'll see if that fact is remembered at contract time in 2009.

Ah, flying. What a romantic endeavor...