British Airways gets its 25th 787 Dreamliner

British Airways took delivery of its 25th 787 Dreamliner last week and I had the pleasure of riding along from the Boeing factory in Everett, WA to London’s Heathrow Airport.

Before the flight, everyone was treated to a tour of the Boeing factory floor, where we were permitted to snap a few photos along the way.

There was no plane-side ceremony, but there was at least one pre-flight surprise for the passengers taking the ride: we (along with our hand baggage) were all weighed before the flight. Ladies first!

The explanation was something about gathering some important data for this and other flights, but I made sure not to step on the scale without my (very heavy….) backpack.

Hand baggage weighed separately met us planeside and we were ready to board and take-off.

Eveyone on this flight got a Club World seat, which are configured in a ying/yang (and, in the center  – 3 across, in a ying/yang/ying) configuration with a panel between seats that passengers can choose to raise or lower.

My favorite feature of the seat is the the floor-level storage drawer, which was big enough to hold my shoes and a variety of other items I wanted closed by.

British Airways engineers on the delivery flight were happy to chat with media on board and confirmed that, as part of the pre-delivery inspection, one thing they do is sit in every seat, looking for scratches and other issues and making sure the wiring is correct for the in-flight entertainment system for each passenger.

On landing at Heathrow, the pilots invited passengers into the cockpit and insisted we take a seat and snap a photo, even adjusting the seat so that it looked ‘real’.

Thanks, British Airways, for the ride to London!

Behind-the-scenes at Denver Airport: my ride-along with United

The offer from United Airlines airlines was intriguing: “Want to spend the night at an airport to see what happens between the last flight of the night and the first one the next morning?”

Who wouldn’t?

My adventure took place last week and is documented in my August ‘At the Airport’ column on USA TODAY: “Behind-the-scenes: What happens at an airport overnight?”

Pop over there to read the full story, but in the meantime, here are some snaps from the night:

Much of the evening was spent in the maintenance hangar, where 8 United aircraft were in for various types of repairs.

Between midnight and 6 a.m. one airplane was scheduled to have an engine replaced.

I was reassured to learn how planes get fixed overnight – and that they also get a good cleaning.

During an early morning visit to the Flight Operation Center, I got a peek into the cupboard ‘shop’ where Captains and First officers can purchase extra supplies – such as clip on ties and epaulets for those extra shirts.

An overnight ‘ride-along’ with United Airlines

My overnight ‘ride-along’ last week with United Airlines at Denver International Airport was exhausting – but exhilarating and extremely educational.

I’m working on a full-length slide show (so far, I’ve got 60 photo keepers) and report for my next At the Airport column on USA TODAY,  but sharing a few snaps today here on to get the ball rolling.

At around 10 pm, my tour started at United’s Station Operations Center – a darkened room where about 50 people were seated in clusters at desks with multiple computer screens doing everything from making sure passengers made their connections to monitoring weather and  gate assignments.

Then it was off to the maintenance hangar, where 8 airplanes were undergoing service checks and repairs, included an engine swap for an Airbus 319.


While in the hangar, another airplane was visited by a fast-moving cleaning crew, who were doing everything from cleaning the lavs and galley (with different rags and cleaning solutions) to making sure seat back literature was refreshed and the tray tables were washed.


At 3 am it was back to the Station Operations Center, which was pretty much empty, except for Zone Controller Mike Lowrey, who I’d met earlier in the evening. He was checking with maintenance to see if all the planes they’d been working on overnight were ready for morning flights and doing what he could to make sure the first flights of the day would leave on time.


3:47 a.m. : A quick look in the concourse to see if anything was happening. Nothing. Yet.

The Flight Operations Center opens at 6 a.m.  That where captains and first officers such as Michael Daigneault can pick up supplies and plan for their flights.

My flight back to Seattle left, on time, at 8:08 a.m. I even got a set of plastic wings from the crew.

My full report on my overnight ride-along with United Airlines at Denver International Airport will show up during the week on USA TODAY.



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 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



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.