Posts Tagged ‘flying’

Flying Like its 1954

April 14, 2020

Air travel numbers have dropped to the levels of the early 1950s.

On April 8 the Transportation Security Administration said it screened 94,931 people at U.S. airports, the second consecutive day that the number of those screened fell below 100,000.

Air travel statistics show that the last time the U.S. averaged fewer than 100,000 air passengers per day was in 1954.

Airline industry observers say the number of passengers flying may be smaller than TSA numbers indicate because those figures include airline crew members and some employees of airport shops and restaurants located beyond the checkpoints.

The decline in TSA screenings was 96 percent less than it was on April 8, 2019.

TSA said that on March 1 this year it screened nearly 2.3 million passengers at U.S. airport.

The plunge in passengers began in the second week of March and has only shown signs of slowing in recent days, perhaps because it has just about hit its floor.

Back in 1954 the only commercial jetliner was the British-built de Havilland Comet and it had only been flying commercially for two years.

The Boeing 707 was still in development and would not make its first flight until 1957 and enter commercial service on Oct. 26, 1958.

Industry trade group Airlines for America said airline capacity has been slashed by 71 percent although some reports have placed the figure at 90 percent.

Anecdotal reports have surfaced in the news media that some flights have operated with just one passenger aboard.

The trade group said on average only one in every 10 seats on domestic flights is occupied.

Flight cancellations have been widespread in the past four weeks.

U.S. Airlines have reported taking out of service 1,800 planes or about 30 percent of the airline fleet.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, TSA workers are now wearing masks and in some instances face shields.

TSA said 327 of its employees have tested positive for the virus. The union representing flight attendants at American Airlines said 100 of its members have tested positive.

Industry observers expect demand for air travel to grow slowly once the pandemic subsides.

Airline traffic took a major hit following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and air travel once restored didn’t begin to grow until 2003.

Some believe air travel will grow even slower following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Associated Press reported that Polling firm Public Opinion Strategies found fewer than half the Americans it surveyed about 10 days ago say they will get on a plane within six months of the spread of the virus flattening.

The firm Stifel Nicolaus projects that in a best case scenario air travel demand won’t return to pre-pandemic numbers until the middle of 2021.

Those traveling tend to be health care professionals on their way to pandemic hot spots and a few traveling to be with family.

United Airlines reported it is losing $100 million a day while Delta Air Lines put its losses at $60 million a day.

U.S. carriers are expected to accept federal emergency grants to cover their payrolls through September.

The industry expects carriers to be smaller in the post pandemic era.

How quickly air travel recovers will hinge upon a number of factors including social distancing rules and how quickly those thrown out of work during the pandemic are able to resume their jobs or find new employment.

50 Years Ago Today My First Flight

July 3, 2019

My first flight occurred 50 years ago on July 3, 1969, aboard an Ozark Air Lines DC-9 similar to this one landing in St. Louis in June 1978.

Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life

I’ve always been partial to the Bryan Adams song Summer of ’69 because in many ways the year 1969 was a very good one for me.

I turned 16, got my driver’s license, took my first overnight train trip, ate my first meal in a railroad dining car and made my first airplane flight.

I’ll have more to say about the train trip later this month, but it was 50 years ago today (July 3, 1969) that I boarded Ozark Air Line flight 910 at Lambert Field in St. Louis and flew to Rochester, Minnesota, with intermediate stops at Peoria, Illinois; Quad Cities Airport near Moline, Illinois; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The plane was a DC-9 and we took off at 3 p.m. from runway 12R. Taking off just ahead of us was an Ozark DC-9 bound for Milwaukee and an Eastern Airlines DC-9 headed southward.

I had a window seat on the right side and the view of the city beneath the plane getting smaller was a major thrill because it was something I’d never seen before.

Along the way we flew through a thunderstorm and the plane bounced up and down in the turbulence.

I was seated next to my uncle Harold, one of my mother’s two brothers, who had bought the tickets.

At the time I was staying at my grandmother’s house in a St. Louis suburb while my parents and sister were in Rochester where my sister had open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic.

One day my uncle, who lived with his parents, came home from work and asked if I wanted to go see my sister.

Of course I did. The way things were scheduled, I wouldn’t be seeing my sister or parents until late July after I returned home from the National Boy Scout Jamboree that I would be attending in Idaho.

The travel to and from the Boy Scout event would be by rail. So July 1969 was for me a trains, planes and automobiles month.

Back in those days when you had major surgery they kept you in the hospital for several days and didn’t push you out the door a few hours after surgery or the next day as they do now.

Among the other memories I have of my first flight is that the flight attendants would come around with drinks on most of the flight segments.

At the time I thought it was neat to be sitting on a plane and sipping a Coke and eating from one of those little bags of peanuts that handed out.

I also recall that the flight was in the command of Captain Fleming although I don’t recall ever seeing him, just hearing his voice over the PA system.

He came on as we neared Cedar Rapids and apologized for the rough ride, which he said was bumpier than the flight crew had expected.

Then he added, “but we should make it through here OK.”

At that my uncle leaned over to me and said, “I sure hope we make it through here OK.”

My uncle flew periodically as part of his job as employment supervisor for the St. Louis Chrysler Corporation assembly plant and he didn’t like flying all that much.

That flight 50 years ago kindled in me a fascination with commercial jet transport aircraft and aviation in general.

For awhile I used to collect airline timetables and I still like to photograph planes when I have the opportunity. I also like to look at flight tracking websites online and listen to air traffic control on my scanner.

Those airline timetables I collected are sitting in plastic bins in a closet along with my railroad timetable collection.

Much has changed since July 3, 1969. Ozark was acquired by Trans World Airlines in 1986. My uncle, mother and grandparents are all deceased.

A few DC-9 aircraft continue to fly, but none of them in scheduled commercial service in the United States.

Going back to 1969, my uncle and I flew back to St. Louis on an Ozark Fairchild Hiller 227B turboprop. I don’t recall the flight number except it was 800 something.

We made intermediate stops at Cedar Rapids and Quad Cities. At Cedar Rapids there was a large crowd on hand waiting to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform but cloudy and rainy conditions kept the high performance fighter jets grounded.

I wasn’t happy to be flying on a prop plane. I wanted to be on a jet. At the time my uncle said I would someday appreciate the experience because that type of plane wouldn’t be around any longer.

He was correct about the Fairchild turboprop one day all but vanishing from the skies. And the flight aboard the turboprop was memorable for the way the engines would whine and how the plane seemed to climb in steps.

It would be more than five years before I would get airborne again in November 1974.

I still enjoy the bird’s eye view from a plane, but flying is not the big thrill that it once was even if seeing planes flying still continues to enthrall me.

And like my uncle I’ve come to hate airborne turbulence.