Monday, November 14, 2005

Bacosaurus Ramblings

Just for a change of pace, I thought I'd have an aviation-related post, since I do like to talk about my career field once in a while. The aircraft pictured above is where I got the term bacosaurus from. I call this picture "Bacosaurus Butt."

I originally chose the term "bacosaurus" to use as part of this blog's web address due to its uniqueness (I was having trouble finding another blogspot name I liked that wasn't taken.) But I think it's appropriate. The aviation industry does, after all, make its living by using the by-products of dead dinosaurs. For more on THAT issue, a good site to check out is Peak Oil. Hopefully expensive oil will ultimately spur innovation to find some other type of fuel that aircraft of future generations can use...but we'll see what happens. Anyway, that's not the topic for today's post.

The mighty bacosaurus, or as it is formally known, the BAE-146, is a good aircraft...quiet, fairly reliable, and roomier than many other "regional" jets. It does great at getting in and out of mountain airports, and is even certified to land on gravel runways (this isn't generally a feature needed in the United States, but it does come in handy overseas.) However, due to its design, it flies rather slowly compared with passenger jets of similar size, and the four engines make it expensive to maintain. (With the exception of widebody aircraft, finding a passenger plane with more than two engines these days is very rare. Even the newer widebody aircraft only have two engines.) Also, the planes are getting older and are no longer manufactured, 9/11 having cancelled the manufacturer's desire to create a new model.

For these reasons, among others, my airline will no longer be flying the 146 after April. We did have about seventeen of these planes flying when I first got here, and that number is currently down to six. It's kind of the end of an era...these planes have been on the property for a LONG time. Or, as my picture above indicates, the TAIL end of an era.

An updated version of the 146 is still being flown by another US-based regional airline, but they're being phased out of service there as well. As far as I know, we're the last two operators of this aircraft type in the United States, although I'm sure it will continue flying in overseas markets for some time to come. For more information about this aircraft, please check out the excellent website Smiliner.

Friday, November 11, 2005

(Almost) New Car

OK, I know it's been a while. But here it is! My first decent blog posting in too many days.

For this post, we will take you back to the year of 2001, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. It was a dark time in commercial aviation, and there was lots of uncertainty about my company's future. As it turned out, my old airline did end up going out of business, a little bit over a year after 9/11. So what did I do to counteract the gloom? Make an expensive purchase, of course! I bought a new car.

In my defense, my old car was definitely showing signs of age, and I got a very good deal on the new car. It was a limited edition model Mazda MP3, so named because it was the first car sold that included a stereo that would play MP3-encoded CDs. I am still driving it today. Basically it's just a fancy Mazda Protege, though. Later year models were called Mazda ProtegeSpeed, possibly to avoid confusion with their minivan, the Mazda MVP.

The car wasn't that expensive, but since it was a limited edition model and popular, dealers were charging more than the sticker price just because they could get away with it. However, via use of the internet, I found an almost-new car for about $1000 under the sticker price. The original owner had busted his leg in a motorcycle accident and no longer wanted a car with a manual transmission, so he traded it in after about 1000 miles.

The only catch was that I was living in Las Vegas, and the car was in Blacksburg, Virginia. Being the aviation employee that I am, though, and by doing shift swaps to arrange for a long stretch of days off, I was able to fly back east and pick up my new car. I spent the first night of my drive back with some old friends of the family in Kentucky, and the second night near Chicago, at my sister Susan's house.

If it seems like I went out of the way on my drive back, it's true! But Chicago is where Route 66 started, and I wanted to attempt to retrace that route on my drive home...and while I didn't have enough time to thoroughly retrace the old highway, I drove on portions of it in every state except California. Later on, I finished the journey and drove from Las Vegas down to Kingman and then all the way to Santa Monica.

My sister and her husband, Mike, liked my new car, as did my nephews, Cory and Chase. However, the first day I was there, I was unable to properly demonstrate the stereo system to my nephews. And, of course, by "properly," I mean "loudly." Fortunately, they were both in the same school that year (8th and 6th grade, respectively) so I was able to give them a ride to school Monday morning and a proper stereo demonstration at the same time.

As soon as we pulled out of their driveway, I popped in a CD I had brought with me for the trip, Rammstein's Sehnsucht, and turned up the volume. For those of you unfamiliar with this band, I can best describe it as German Heavy Metal music. To make the drive to school a little longer, since we were only a couple blocks away, I drove around their block once while blasting the music. Both my nephews seemed to enjoy the music, although they hadn't heard of the band before.

"IS THIS GERMAN?" shouted my oldest nephew, Cory, about halfway through the first song I played, Du Hast, and I nodded in reply. During a break between songs, he said, "Oh, roll your windows down when you drop us off!" I figured what the heck, I don't live here...but we ended up pulling up to the school as the second song ended, so we weren't able to blast his classmates quite as loudly as he'd been hoping. I then went back to my sister's place to pack up and head out on my first day of the "Route 66" journey.

This was one of those times where it was really fun to be an uncle. I don't know if I'll ever have kids, but if I do, I think I'll feel the need to be more responsible and "adult" acting, and blasting the stereo while driving them to school would be something I probably won't do. As an uncle, though, I get to occasionally act immature, and have more fun than I would as a responsible adult.

Here's what the car looks like today. I think it still looks pretty good.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Back to Business

The issue that has been preoccupying my time is proceeding on. I still don't want to blog about it. However, I have realized that the longer I don't post anything here, the easier it will be NOT to write anything here, so I've decided to try and move on for now, and get this blog back into a semi-active mode before it dies of neglect. Therefore I am setting a weekly goal of having at least two decent blog entries per week (this doesn't count as one of them.) I also plan on starting my "airline history" saga next week consisting of my personal experiences in this chaotic industry I've chosen to make my living in. More entries to come later this week, I promise.