Tag Archives: aviation

The Other Flight: Planespotting AA’s Heritage Fleet

In my last post I mentioned catching a glimpse of an American Airlines plane that had been painted in the livery of Allegheny Airlines. Thanks to a little research I can tell you more about this interesting situation.

Allegheny had at one point changed its name to US Air (later USAirways) which eventually merged with American to form the world’s largest airline. Other “heritage” planes in American’s fleet include planes painted in the liveries of TWA, Piedmont, PSA, America West, Air Cal, and Reno Air. Seven distinct planes. Seven. Out of tens of thousands of aircraft in the world there are just seven that fall into this category.

I mentioned being an aviation buff. I have also written about my time working as a medical courier and the many trips I would take every day through the sometimes mysterious world of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. It was on one such courier drive about two years ago that I first encountered these heritage planes. While cruising the service road past Terminal C one afternoon, a mere stone’s throw from dozens of aircraft, I crested a slight hill and was met with the sight of the TWA/American – a B737 with the iconic red “TWA” painted on the tail. I went home and quickly looked up what this could mean and that’s when I first learned that there were others. So seeing the Allegheny/American A319 today at Reagan National Airport was a treat for me indeed. I feel as though I need to spot the other five now.

But back to my research from earlier today. Enlarging the picture on my laptop I plugged the tail number into flightaware.com and up popped our Allegheny. It showed that it had just touched down in Boston inbound from Charlotte-Douglas. Going back to that flight’s inbound segment I found this…

For the record, my own flight – on Southwest – took off moments later.

For the guy who just has to know everything about how the world around him works – especially when airports and airplanes are concerned – this was like uncovering a gold mine, except without the gold. As a kid I used to look up and wonder where each plane was going, what kind of people were on them, and where they came from. Today I spotted a plane from my youth and, through the magic of modern world, was able to find out where it was flying. I suppose I can live without knowing much more about the folks on board.

I Just Need to Write Something

I entered the year with high hopes of getting back to the hobby I love – writing.  Well, God saw fit to stick me on a plane with a laptop and not much else to do.  So here we are.

I am returning from a convention in the nation’s capital. I had tons of fun. I met many people that (at least) I consider famous – mostly YouTube celebs but some other true, famous folks. The reason I want to write is because my son wants me to write. Remember how I told you that I had been reading old posts to him? Well, after several months of this I’m almost running out of posts! So he admonished me to write more. Coming right up, son.

A nice treat for an aviation buff like me… American Airlines has painted several of their planes in the liveries of airlines they’ve acquired or merged with over the years. This one is an old Allegheny jet on the tarmac at DCA.

But the question is, as the title says, what do I write about?

I could write about coronavirus.

Wow, great going Harvey.  Stoke the panic.  In reality, I do not know what this is all about.  I am sure that when I read my grandchildren these posts years from now; we will scratch our heads and say, “What’s coronavirus, Grandpappy?”  I have determined they will call me ‘grandpappy’ because it sounds fun.  I will say that my flight is half-full which is odd for a Saturday afternoon direct flight.  Nothing more to write about on this Wuhan one.

I could write about how much I love and miss my kids.

The past few days I’ve been away I have enjoyed visiting with the good friends I’ve missed seeing in this part of the country.  I’ve loved hearing talks by people I admire.  I’ve really been thrilled by the availability of the speakers in the hotel lobby and their down-to-earth-ness.  But nothing to me will ever come close to being with my kids.  They’re growing up too fast.  Every minute passes too quickly.  And three days away from them is an eternity.  I’m really looking forward to walking in the door and shouting “Daddy’s home!” and being greeted by silence because they’re fixated on anything else.  Perhaps they missed me too?

I could write about the kid kicking the back of my seat.

Nope.  I’m sure my children did the same once upon a time and it’s a hardship I will lovingly endure.

I could write about this…  I’m watching live TV in-flight.  This service carries the New York local stations and I’m watching my old favorite, WNBC.  When I was a kid, the production value, the talent, just everything about this local station drew me in and made me want to be a news anchor.  We know how that turned out.  But the weird thing is that in the few years I’ve been gone from the New York area things have changed.  The studio is smaller, the music isn’t as driving, and the male anchors… I almost can’t bring myself to say it… they have no ties.  This is disturbing to me on so many levels.  A man presenting the news on television should always have a tie neatly tied around his neck.  I can’t say any more about this; but I will.  It is truly sad.  I do not want casual.  I want you to let me know you care about me.  And it wasn’t just the main anchor.  It was the sports and weather guy too.  Shout out to Al Roker and Len Berman who used to fill these roles waaaaay back in the day.  And you KNOW that my favorite broadcasters ever – Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons – would never let this happen.  Perhaps it’s an appeal to millennials?  No, that’s not right.  Not everyone born between certain years lacks intelligence.  Although…  Two nights ago I stood outside a public house in Washington as a young woman approached me to borrow a cigarette.  My lighter had been absconded at a security checkpoint so I offered her a small book of matches.  She actually said to me “Um, I don’t… I just don’t know how to use those; or even what they are…”  Matches, sister, matches.  Close cover, strike.  It’s not that complicated.

I think they’re trying to land the plane now so I kind of have to go.  Shame I never came up with a topic or four about which to write.

My In-Flight Style

This Saturday I shall take to the friendly skies as I head home to visit my mom. She’s had a health scare recently. Although she appears to be fine I still like to “pop in to town” to let her know I love her.

This got me thinking of an old article I wrote about flying. There are many old articles I have written about flying, in fact. This one, however, made me laugh out loud while reading it to my son tonight. And so I present to you, my lovely audience, the re-printing of My In-Flight Style (originally published October 9, 2011):

When Flying Was Glamorous

Just came across an article on Foxnews.com detailing the level of formality (or lack thereof) people choose to display when flying, particularly evident in their attire.

I can remember my dad, who was born in the 1930’s, always recalling how “in the old days” people didn’t dare attempt to board an airplane unless they were appropriately dressed. It was as much a social thing as it was a matter of pride. Apparently this meant men wore suits and ties, ladies wore a nice dress. To him, people getting on planes in jeans, shorts, tee shirts, generally unkempt was an abomination. I’ve been watching that new show Pan Am* and I can see what he meant. It must have been an incredible time to fly!

These two travelers embody the light, carefree attitude of the modern and sophisticated aeroplane flyer.

According to the article there are six basic in-flight styles ranging from the “ethnic adventurer” (whatever that is) to the “beleaguered parent” (which I have been on a few occasions). For instance, the “suited frequent-flyer” is, as the name implies, one who flies a lot, typically for business. He or she is recognized by the ability to pack everything with precision into a perfectly regulation sized carry-on bag, and zip through security like it’s no one’s affair. This person has been around the TSA screening line before and his or her sole purpose at the airport is utilitarian. Get in. Get on board. Get to the destination.

After much thought I have decided to review my own recent airport episodes and have concocted two profiles.  The first is the type of flier I imagine myself being and the second is who I actually am.

The Flying Man I Want to Be

In a perfect world, I am driven to the airport in a black Lincoln Towncar.  Although I banter freely with the driver I am not personally interested in his life — except in so far as it is fodder for my blog.  Oh, I forgot to mention, there is soft smooth jazz being piped into the back seat of my ride.  I am neatly pressed in my appearance, calm in my demeanor, and ever so excited about my destination.  I am delivered curbside where a skycap opens the door, collects my bag, which is black and showcases an elegantly stitched “HARVEY” near the top.  Another skycap hands me a chilled Sapphire and tonic and leads me to the lounge.  I, of course, given my importance, bypass security altogether.  Once in the lounge I mingle effortlessly with the elite of the world and we trade quips about the weather and the latest offerings from Brooks Brothers.  A stewardess dressed in stylish garb approaches.  “Mr. Harvey, we’re ready for you.  But first, the captain wishes for you to review his flight plan for your satisfaction.”  “Gladly, my dear”, I respond, my voice now bearing a strange British accent.  As we walk through the jetbridge I pass framed 8×10 sepia-toned prints of myself holding plastic models of various aircrafts, not smiling, simply presenting.  After checking in with the flight crew I am seated.  Another stewardess switches out my drink while still another approaches with a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and still a third offers to light my cigarette.  My sportcoat has been placed on a hanger and my shoes stowed overhead.  I am now in a red velvet robe and slippers.  The flight is magnificent — no turbulence — and we land safely, three hours ahead of schedule and, miraculously, my hair is still in perfect form.

See the elegance and grace with which they board the aircraft!

The Flying Schmoe I Really Am

Meanwhile in the realm of reality, I am dropped at the curb by my wife in our white Chrysler Town & Country.  The musical selection is Veggie Tales’ The Princess and the Pop Star.  I try to offer my kids a heartfelt kiss good bye.  “Daddy’s going on a trip now.  I love you!”  “Hurry up, I’ve got to get back in time for Pan Am“, my beautiful spouse informs me as she tosses my bag out the door and speeds away.  At this point I realize I have left my phone in the car and my iPad has zero battery life because my one year-old daughter decided to watch Backyardigans 18 times this morning.  I enter the terminal where I attempt to swipe a credit card for my boarding pass only to realize that my card has my middle initial on it and my flight information does not.  In frustration I kick the machine.  I break three toes on my right foot.  Damn, that’s a long line I’m going to have to stand in.  Shouldn’t have done that.  Meanwhile, in my attempt to get my card back into my wallet I have actually sprung loose five other cards (two of which will remain missing in action for good).

With a smart cocktail in hand and a kiss from a pretty stewardess we’re ready to take off into the future of flight! Lucky Lindy, eat your heart out.

I spend the next half-hour on the line for security only to be touched in ways no one should be by a woman twice my size.  Past security, there is no lounge for me.  There is only the dull passenger waiting area where there are absolutely NO seats to be had.  I am last to board a plane that smells like popcorn and urine.  I do believe the lady sitting next to me is drunk.  Well, that’s a given, she just threw up.  And… OH!  She missed the vomit bag.  I’d hate to be the owner of that jacket she just soiled.  Oh wait, I AM the owner of the jacket.  “Miss, you can keep that jacket…”  The flight takes off with all the gracefulness of an elephant leaping from a waterfall.  It is turbulent for twelve hours until finally crash landing at the wrong airport.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, I know we were supposed to be flying into Newark but our pilots both fell asleep for a while. It happens.  You’ll be enjoying a nice weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire!”  And, oh yes, they lost my luggage.  Meanwhile, I still have not been handed a single drink by a stylish stewardess.

Is it any wonder the airline industry has been teetering on the edge of collapse for some time now?!  At least I have Pan Am!

*Pan Am was cancelled the day after this post was first published or thereabouts.