Airplanes

Here’s where those planes on trains are going

Yesterday I posted this photo of one of  the planes-on-a-train I spotted during my walk in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

It’s not all that uncommon to see a trainload of these green fuselages going by, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to stop and snap a (non-blurry) photo.

It took no time at all for members of the avgeek community to answer my question about where these plane came from and were heading to:

“That is a 737 fuselage headed from Wichita [KS] to Renton [WA]  where the main 737 factory is located. They go through the Cascade Tunnel along Highway 2 and down the coast line from Everett to Seattle,” wrote a StuckatTheAirport.com reader named Bruce.

Brian DeRoy, a former Boeing communicator, weighed in with more information:

“These are fuselages that come from Spirit Aerospace, in Wichita.  They ship them to the Renton factory where the wings, engines and all the interior stuff is done. Additionally, the train flat beds are specially made and, yes, need to be low enough to get through tunnels. They are a daily site here as the 737 factory cranks out more than 1 plane per day.”

DeRoy reminded me that while planes-on-a-train are not an uncommon sight here in Seattle, they shipping process doesn’t always work out perfectly: in 2014 a train with six 737 fuselages derailed in Montana, sending three future planes down an embankment. All six – made of aluminum and titanium – were eventually scrapped and recycled.

Thanks to everyone who weighed in with information.

Photo by Kyle Massick

 

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Planes on a train

I’ve toured the Boeing factory in Everett, WA a few times, but still don’t know enough about building airplanes to tell you where this airplane part was headed.

But I can tell you that in Seattle it is not that unusual to see a trainload of these parts going through town.

I snapped this pic on a walk through Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood yesterday on the way to the beach. There were lots of other folks on the path, but no one else seemed as entertained about this train-on-a-plane scene as I was.

Hoping one of our avgeek readers can share details on where these parts end up.

 

 

Greetings from … Boston Logan Int’l Airport

I don’t get to fly to or from Boston Logan International Airport that often. But I’m always pleased when I do.

If just for the lobsters, which can be purchased as toys or as meals for now or later.

I don’t get to fly Delta Comfort – the airline’s premium economy seats – all that often either, but I’m glad when my Delta status snags me one of those seats.

And on my Delta flight from Boston to Detroit this week, I found this note sticking out of the seat back pocket.

I made note of the cleaning crew’s work – and the airline’s gesture – and kept my note as a souvenir. But my seatmates didn’t. They left them behind – on the floor – for the next crew to cleaning crew to deal with..

 

 

How about a workout – in the gym – on your next flight?

Courtesy Transpose

Sitting for hours on long-haul flights is bad for both butts and brains, but the standard layout of narrow, forward-facing seats in ever more tightly packed airplane cabins doesn’t offer much option for passenger movement.

But what if you could get out of your seat mid-flight and head to the in-flight gym for a workout – maybe a spinning or yoga class– in a section of the cabin the airline could easily swap out, in plug-and-play fashion, for a kids’ play area or a meeting-friendly café on the next flight?

That’s the idea behind Transpose, a project of Airbus’s Silicon Valley outpost known as which has partnered with Reebok and Peloton to display (through May 19) a prototype ‘flying gym’ module complete with stationary bikes, yoga mats, resistance stations and other workout equipment at Mineta San Jose International Airport.


Courtesy Transpose

“For most people, the future of flight will still be on large commercial aircraft,” said Transpose project executive Jason Chua, “We’re trying to allow for new types of in-flight experiences with a modular cabin architecture that allows for customized spaces that can be loaded and unloaded onto aircraft very rapidly.”

Beyond gyms, Transpose cabin modules could be plug-in spas, napping pods, gaming centers, dining areas, yoga studios or, as one traveler suggested, a karaoke lounge. And, Chua suggests, each creative design would offer new ways for both airlines to generate revenue and for brands to engage with flyers beyond putting advertisements on napkins, on tray table stickers, before in-flight movies and in the pages of in-flight magazines.

More ways to carve out the cabin

While quick-change cabin modules may be a new idea, Transpose isn’t the first to suggest using cabin space for activities that promote wellness.

Back in 2002, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) actively promoted the basic stretching and exercise opportunities offered by a metal bar attached high on a wall in unused space near the galley on some of its long-haul aircraft.

More recently, designers at Seattle-based Teague joined with Nike to envision a Boeing 787 Dreamliner with an interior luxuriously fitted out with amenities for professional and elite college athletes, such as extra-long lie-flat seats, a nutrition zone, biometric monitoring and analyzing systems, a recovery room with massage table, and more.

Courtesy Teague

And last summer, Russian plane maker Sukhoi showed off a concept mock up for a its SportJet, a private jet outfitted for sports teams outfitted with special equipment and lighting, including a variety of in-seat diagnostic devices that will test athletes before, during and after the flight, “to diagnose the physiological and psychological parameters of the athlete’s functionality.”

But while in-flight gyms, yoga studios and other high-flying cabin concepts for commercial airplanes seem intriguing, “A lot of these concepts don’t really account for the business model of air travel,” said Devin Lidell, Principal Brand Strategist at Teague, “They don’t answer the question of how can the airline make money with that, and will someone actually pay for it?”

An entire cabin on a commercial plane outfitted with elliptical machines probably isn’t reasonable – or realistic, said Lidell, “But maybe you could have some seats that are mainly for take-off and landing and then allow passengers to move about the airplane in a different way. Or explore having whole cabins built around passengers with like-minded interests. People may pay more for that.”

When it comes to in-flight wellbeing, for now passengers are limited to walking up and down the aisle (when the drink or meal carts aren’t in the way) or doing stretching exercises – sometimes to the odd glances from other passengers, at their seats.

To help, many airlines offer instructions and encouragement for in-seat exercises on the in-flight entertainment system, in the in-flight magazines or on seat-back cards. Some, like Lufthansa, have recruited sports stars to demonstrate the moves in short videos.

Another, extremely low-tech approach comes from Shanghai-based budget carrier, Spring Airlines, which has instructed its flight attendants to actively encourage passengers to perform in-flight exercises, said Raymond Kollau of AirlineTrends.com.

“Flight attendants announce over the PA that they will be demonstrating in-flight exercises – such as waving hands in the air, massaging temples, or stretching arms – and they recommend everyone do those actions as well,” said Kollau, “And many passengers actually join in.”

(A slightly different version of my story about gyms on airplanes appeared on CNBC)

Alaska Airlines announces plans for Virgin America

Photo by Harriet Baskas

It comes as no surprise, but Alaska Airlines announced its plans for the Virgin America name and brand and has decided that it’s going to keep the Alaska’s name and logo and retire the Virgin America name “likely sometime in 2019,” according to a company statement.

That’s bad news for those who love the Virgin America overall brand, vibe and amenities. But the good news is that Alaska Airlines is keeping its word and bringing some of the best Virgin America amenities forward.

Alaska says it will adopt “enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting, music and the relentless desire to make flying a different experience for guests” as part of an overall goal to create “a warm and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe.”

Alaska says it will adopt some other Virgin America touches including introducing music by new artists  on planes, in airport lobbies and at gates (2017); redesigning the cabin with new seats and amenities (2018) and introducing new uniforms by fashion designer Luly Yang (mid-2019) for flight attendants, customer service agents, pilots, mechanics and ground crew.

Alaska also promises to upgrade the Wi-Fi connectivity fleet-wide, add more premium seats, expand the lounge network and offer other new amenities you can read about here.

What do you think?