Air traffic control

Look for Santa at Indianapolis International Airport

North Pole ice santa

You may still be eating Thanksgiving leftovers at your house, but at Indianapolis International Airport they’ve already moved on to Christmas.

On Saturday, Santa Claus will arrive at the airport at 11 a.m. and hang out for a few hours in the airport’s pre-security Civic Plaza.

While he’s there, he’ll pose with kids for free digital pictures.  There will also be a cookie and ornament-decorating station as well as a chance to enter to win tickets for entry to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and other attractions. And everyone who enters the contest ‘wins’ free parking.

Get airline miles for airport purchases

You’re spending that money anyway, so even if you’re not a frequent traveler, it makes sense to enroll in at least a few miles and points programs associated with airlines, car rental companies and hotels.

If you can’t cash your miles or points in for a free flight, a free rental day, or a free night’s lodging, you can at least take advantage of some of the complimentary amenities these programs provide.

So here’s one more program to join. And one more way to accumulate airline points:

The Paradies Shops – represented at 65 airports nationwide – have partnered up with Thanks Again for a program that awards airline miles for purchases made in airport stores.

Participating airlines include Alaska, Continental, Delta, United and US Airways.  The Paradies Shops include CNBC News, PGA TOUR Shops, Brooks Brothers, Brighton Collectibles, Harley-Davidson, and The New York Times Bookstores.

Sign up for the Paradies Thanks Again program – it’s free – and make at least a $10 purchase in one of the stores before June 30, 2010 and you’ll get a kick-start of 100 bonus points.

Capt. Sullenberger and Amelia Earhart at the Museum of Flight

Monday evening I was fortunate to be in the audience at Seattle’s Museum of Flight for a  presentation by the recently retired Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the now-legendary pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 who was able to successfully land a plane in New York City’s Hudson River.

He began the evening by showing the NTSB’s animated version of the US Airways 1549 flight path (below) and then went on to talk a bit about his family, his upbringing, his training as a pilot, the importance of preparation and teamwork, and his philosophy of work and life. After he was done, some of the kids in the audience got to ask a few questions as did some of the aviation geeks from our high-tech community.

(Here’s a link to a more detailed report on the evening by aerospace reporter Aubrey Cohen)

Before Captain Sullenberger’s speech, I spent some time in the Amelia Earhart exhibit, which will be at the museum until May, 2010. In addition to photo panels and film clips telling Ms. Earhart’s life story, there’s a section showing some of the products she endorsed to help pay the bills, including Amelia Earhart luggage and Lucky Strike cigarettes.

All in all, quite an inspiring evening.

Inside Santa’s Flight Center at the North Pole

On Saturday, while everyone else was plotting how to get a first view of the 787 Dreamliner during its (probable) Tuesday test flight, I joined a group of children from Spokane for a flight to the North Pole.

North Pole - Passengers Only

One of the perks of being welcomed into the elf brigade for the night was a visit to Santa’s flight center, where I was able to snap photos of these very important internal memos.

North Pole TSA - Present Loading Instructions


And, my favorite:

North Pole - TSA - Santa chimney tips

Listen to your airport

While working on a column about airport viewing areas I came across at least one airport that provides a link on its Web site to audio of the communication going on between pilots and the air traffic control tower.


The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) includes a pre-recorded sample of the chit-chat and promises that you’ll get to hear the live feed when you visit Founder’s Plaza, the airport’s well-appointed viewing area.

Want to hear what’s going on at, say, your airport?  There’s a good chance that the air traffic control communications are feeding in real-time on It’s got a live feed from DFW airport and keeps adding more airports all the time.