Sunday, July 27, 2008

Climbing Out

I was going through some of my old photos and videos and came across this video I'd shot last year on my second trip to Pensacola. The footage is shot from the right rearmost seat of a Delta Connection Embraer 145 as we climb through the multi-layered cloud ceiling over Ft. Lauderdale on our way to Pensacola.

Watching it, I realized that it might be nice to write some music for it. So, I powered up the project studio here at home and went to work on it. About an hour later, the track was done. I tried to match the music to the visuals as much as possible. I haven't done soundtrack work in a while, so I hope you like it.

With Original Music

Actual Engine Sound

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Busy Busy

I apologize for the lack of updates. I've got plenty of material to write about, but time has been a little short lately. I've got a few web site projects that I'm working on currently. In addition, my in-laws were in town this past week so that's taken up a lot of my free time.

Training's been going alright. This past week started on a bad footing, with a really rough day of training on the Pensacola bank of scopes that left me frustrated. I made a lot of stupid mistakes and wound up with some nasty training reports. I mean, just really, really dumb mistakes. That whole day I just felt mentally "off" and it resulted in some piss-poor training reports.

However, every day after that was progressively better. I'm feeling much more comfortable on the bank now and getting a good idea where all the problem areas lie. The areas I'm focusing on the most are my working speed and my scan. This is due to the overall higher speeds of the traffic and confined nature of the airpace. "Flash early and flash often" is the rule of the game here, as most of the time you've got to get your traffic sorted out quickly. The second an airliner comes off the runway, he's already in handoff status to the center. The moment I get an eastbound King Air on my frequency, he's already in handoff status to Eglin AFB. If you're telling yourself "I'll get to it in a minute" you're already behind the curve.

Anyways, I'll update on that later. Just wanted to make a mention of what's up over here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guns! Guns! Guns!

Okay, what the hell was the F-16 pilot in this video thinking?

No, I mean, really. What made him think he could engage not one but two civilian aircraft and just "play" with them?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Airport Growing Pains

The news has been saying that air carriers are cutting back their routes due to the fuel crisis and the tumbling economy. Up until now, it's been more or less an abstract movement that hasn't

I just read an article today on the Pensacola News Journal that puts that in hard numbers for us here:

Airline cuts hit airport expansion plan
Carlton Proctor • July 9, 2008

Financing and construction schedules for Pensacola Regional Airport's $100 million expansion are being re-evaluated in anticipation of a 13 percent service cut by the major airlines serving the city.
That's fantastic. Wonderful for the traffic count...

Pensacola is losing two Delta Connection nonstops to Fort Lauderdale and two to Tampa beginning Aug. 19, airport marketing manager Belinda Zephir said. The airport also will lose its only nonstop flight to Chicago on Sept. 2, when American Eagle drops that flight.

Oh that's just great... Those two Delta Connections to Fort Lauderdale are the only two flights that go directly from here to where my wife and I used to live in the Miami area. Our entire family and all our friends are down there. The flights were expensive, but at least they were direct. Before I started working here, the two flights we took up here to scout the area were those same Delta Connection flights.

Without a direct flight, flying has zero benefits. Now if we wanted to fly we'll have to go through some hub further north - like Atlanta for AirTran or "regular" Delta - to go back down to Miami or Fort Lauderdale. It's ridiculous.

With Delta Connection, it was 1.25 hours flight time versus 12 hours driving time. Right now, those flights cost $389 per person, so flying is $778 for my wife and I. To get to Miami driving, my car needs three fillups ((((14 gallons x $4) x 3 fillups) x 2 trips)+ $30 in tolls = $366 driving round trip ). It cost twice as much to fly, but at least you got there quick.

But now, with AirTran's fares showing 6 hour layovers in Atlanta between flights, taking to the air has zero benefit. 9 hours worth of flying for twice the price of 12 hours of driving? And when I get to the airport, I'll still need to rent a car? Yeah, I'll just drive, thank you very much.

Other airlines, including Continental Express and AirTran, may cut back flights as fuel prices continue to rise and the traditionally slower fall travel season approaches, Zephir said.

Terrific. Looks like it's only downhill from here.

Airport Director Frank Miller and city Finance Director Dick Barker are in New York City this week meeting with financial advisers to determine how air-service cutbacks will affect the price of revenue bonds needed to finance the project.

"Yes, the service cuts do affect us," said Pam Childers, the city's financial services manager. "We are watching the airline industry and will continue to adjust the feasibility of the expansion project based on what's happening in that industry."

It's like a snowball effect. The problems mesh together and just keep building.
  1. Full airport wants to expand to draw new carriers.
  2. Fuel costs rise.
  3. Air carriers drop service.
  4. Airport left holding the ball - or in this case newly vacated gate slots and space.
  5. Airport cuts back expansion.
  6. Air carriers recover and bring back service.
  7. Airport now left with the same amount of space as before and still can't draw new airlines.
I know that's a great simplification. I'm no economist. I just think that's what's going to happen here if they cut back the airport expansion too much. The area is growing and traffic will return.

One decision already made is delaying Phase III construction of the 1,100-space parking garage from a 2010 completion date to 2012, Childers said.

Phase I of the expansion project, the rental car concession area, began in February.

LOL. Well that explains the huge construction site I have to drive around on my way to the TRACON. I was wondering what that was...

The terminal project, scheduled to start later this year, will consist of a 90-foot expansion of the ticket counter area, an in-line baggage screening system, concourse expansion for three additional terminal gates, and 11 new jet bridges.

That doesn't sound like a lot. Three new gates? Replace the 8 old jet bridges with 11 new ones? Whoop-de-do. It's not exactly Heathrow's Terminal 5. All it sounds like it does is make a small airport, well, slightly less small.

But what's the most important thing it's supposed to bring? Let's ask Wikipedia!
Southwest Airlines has expressed some interest in serving PNS. It is rumored that Southwest Airlines may add service in 3+ years. No timetable has been set. With the new terminal expansion taking place at PNS, 3 new gates will be constructed, allowing for the room Southwest Airlines would need. Also increased ticketing area space, and an expanded security area will also be constructed.
See, right now our airport has two lower level sections, divided by the escalators going up to the security and gate areas. The left side is the arrivals area, consisting of a large space with a few baggage claim belts and the rental car kiosks. It's spacious and bright.

However, the right side is the ticketing area, and it is cramped beyond belief. You have maybe 25 feet between each ticket counter's front and the opposing windows that look out on the passenger drop off area. 10 of those feet area taken up baggage screening gear for the checked baggage. All of the ticket counters are very small and narrow, and the entire area feels dark on the brightest of days and when it's empty. Fill that with hundreds of passengers in line with their huge bags and you've got a nightmare.

So, with that terminal expansion, they'll be able to add an extra 90 feet of ticket counter space. That'll relieve some pressure off existing airline counters and add some room to add new airlines. That along with the three new gates will open things up quite a bit.

And that, hopefully, will be enough to bring Southwest. My hope is that if Southwest comes here, they'll fly to Fort Lauderdale. We really need a direct, fast, and (relatively) inexpensive way of getting there fast if the need ever arises. The way things are right now, we essentially have to pad our trips to Miami with two days - one day down, and one day back up. A two day weekend ends up being four days.

That was one of the worst things about being sent here, the inability to get anywhere else easily or inexpensively. We're out in the freaking boonies as far as the airlines go.

Oh well. I guess we'll stick to the road for now. No other choices are available. I just hope things turn around soon for the airline industry, for both our traffic count and our ability to get where we need to go.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th!

Have a safe, fun, and happy holiday everyone!

Fireworks on Hollywood Beach, FL, July 4, 2003