Flying the skies for better times

This year is about in the books. Were it not for turning 60 next year, I’d say: “Yeah, get it on!” But I think I will need the almost 10 months before hitting that mark to prepare. You know, I’ve been saying: “You’re getting old” for some time. Damned if it isn’t really happening now.

I ruminate over this subject, not in the cud-chewing sense, because this year wasn’t one of the best. Like other years it has had its good parts and bad ones. But these type of things usually balance out. Not so much this year. Up until 2014, for the past nine years, I have pretty well written on this blog something at least once per day on weekdays. That hasn’t been the case this year.

The reasoning is a combination of all the crap that was heaped upon my life, and death. The latter being the double whammy of losing two brothers within two months of each other. A knee injury and the workers compensation system I faced caused an extended length of time in pain waiting for surgery then physical therapy. I still have mobility issues with the knee. I went through the hassle today of attempting to locate a place to tie my shoelace because the knee doesn’t work properly. I also started a steady schedule in my part-time job that is 32 hours per week. That’s almost a real job. Combined with my duties as a regional vice president for my Union local, it actually is more than a full-time job at times.

And on and on. You don’t want to hear my tales of woe and I don’t particularly care to relive them. But this is just my way of saying I want to do more on the blog. Maybe overhaul it a bit. I haven’t added or taken away a bookmark in quite awhile. That changes today.

I am including on my list of bookmarks a link to a site called It is not a political site nor humor nor any of the categories I generally seek out for a read. GlobalAir is a reference site for the aviation world. Why do I care about that? First of all, I find this a site of great potential to search when I need information about aircraft and pilots. I am not a pilot, by the way. I once was a nervous flyer. But during one time during my full-time career as a reporter I was tasked to write about transportation. It happened to be a rich environment because one of our “neighbors” in my newspaper’s area happened to be George W. Bush.

I found myself writing many times about “TFRs,” for Temporary Flight Restrictions, which were least restricted when the President was in Washington and increased to the point that at least two general aviation airports were shut down whenever some high-powered leader came to see “W” at the Crawford ranch. I might just have enough information to write a book of potential pitfalls when a President decides to live in your town or decides to become President while he lives in your town. It’s not exactly a cakewalk.

So, a gentleman from introduced me to the site and asked if I would be interested in linking my blog to it. appears as if it has a load of useful information for me as a journalist and I can only imagine how helpful the site could be for one who’s livelihood is in aviation.

We are almost to a new year and I’m not 60 until next October. So I am getting an early start to 2015 with hopes of making it much better than the last year. I can’t say adding a link about aviation will do it, but it is is a place to take off.


Southwest 737 lands eight miles short of destination

All over the news today, the errant landing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at an airport near Branson, Mo.

Southwest Flight 4013 had been scheduled to land at the Branson Airport. It instead landed at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport — a.k.a. Clark-Tanney Co. Airport — some eight miles away and with a runway almost half of the size of the Branson facility.  The Springfield News-Leader website reported that the Southwest jet took off today without incident. The aviation website reported that the plane landed some 30 minutes later at the Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma.

While this can be chalked up to one of those “Oops” moments — and was by some news outlets — the safe landing had the potential for disaster as the 737-700 came to rest only “a few hundred feet” from a 50-foot gravel embankment at the end of the runway, according to the News-Leader story by Thomas Gounley. The story and the initial one by Claudette Riley provided the best coverage of the incident I have seen in reading some of the Missouri, AP and network stories on the Web. Hey, trust me, I was a journalist  for some 20 years and covered several of these breaking news events that received national attention. And you can believe me because I’m always right and I never lie.

Southwest has suspended the pilots. Buses took the passengers, who spent about 75 minutes on the landed aircraft, to the Branson airport. The story today had the interesting footnote, one subtle yuk, that Southwest had to “find Branson for another five months.” The airline plans to cease flights to the airport in June.

The 2010 Census estimates say Branson has 10,520 people although the city has long been known for its many theaters catering to country music lovers and an older crowd such as Roy Clark, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams and the Oak Ridge Boys. Frontier Airlines is the other carrier currently operating out of Branson. Even with the extensive tourist trade its hard to imagine a city with 10.5 thousand folks having an airport with two major airlines serving it. Our airport here in the Beaumont-Port Arthur and Orange, Texas vicinity serves a regional population of a half-million people, however, it is only an hour-and-a-half from Houston and its two major airports. It currently has American flying to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International. United Airlines still has a bus service to George H.W. Bush International Airport in Houston back and forth to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Nederland from its merger with Continental

Private and public entities had to put a $1.5 million revenue guarantee for American to begin flying its regional jets from Southeast Texas from its D-FW hub. American became the most recent airline over the past 40-something years in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.

Southwest pulled out of Beaumont-Port Arthur after a little more than six months in 1979. My third airline flight, flying from what was Houston Intercontinental in 1974 to BPT, was on a turbo-prop Convair 880 that was part of the Texas International Airlines fleet. Texas International, previously Trans-Texas Airways, eventually merged with Continental.

Back and forth. Up and down. That’s the airline biz.


Othingnay ellyray

Hidy Hi and hope you had a Merry Christmas or whatever you did in the many places of the world around this time of year.

My friend, Rick, from Nacogdoches, came down and we visited for awhile. We dined at the Iron Skillet down the road, it is the restaurant at the Petro Shopping Center truck stop. Everything one orders come in an iron skillet. Well, not milk or iced tea or coffee. I do remember stopping for chicken fried steak — back when eating one was burned off a lot faster — in, I think, Fort Stockton, Texas. The creamer pitchers were shaped like cows. That was on a trip to El Paso for a state firefighters’ union convention. My union brother and fellow firefighter, Bob, likes to tell that on the return journey, he and I got a case of Texas Pride and put it in the cooler. When we ran out is where we spent the night, he says. That is not really true, as care-free as it sounds. It was actually Olympia beer. Not the smooth version we got in the Philippines via Washington, but the kind that was made by Pearl or Lone Star or whomever.

I had to work today which kind of “ucks-say.” I mean work means money. But being off one day and that’s it. Not so good. Plus, I had to visit a bunch of crowded stores. The good news is I am off for three days. Yaaah! I think I will cut off all of my phones to help ensure no one will wake me.

None of this is probably entertaining. Well, sorry. Later “udes-day.”





Going to Lafayette or parts east? Don’t let the Beaumont traffic tie you up.

Expect a tie-up on Interstate-10 nearing the Neches River bridge about 80 miles east of Houston. You see, this is actually a normal condition for those of us who live in and around Beaumont. The Neches River bridge — actually named the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge but shoulda been named the George Jones Bridge — is under renovation until who knows when. Right now it is the eastbound lane getting backed up but eventually the westbound lane will have its share. Although, the westbound side will probably get stacked on the Orange County side. Serves them right for failing to vote for George Jones.

At this moment, the eastbound lane on I-10 in Beaumont is backed up some six miles or so from the bridge. That is right before you get to the Washington Boulevard overpass. So if you are reading this while driving. STOP!!! That’s a very stupid thing to do.

A pretty good rule of thumb during construction on the EB side of the bridge is to avoid it at all costs during rush hours. Yes, we get those too. I would not even attempt to cross the bridge on Friday afternoon. During the rest of the week, you should check out this map. It gives a pretty good representation of the live traffic.

But what if you are going to gamble at Delta Downs or the Lake Charles boats? Or perhaps you are going down to Lafayette to do the Cajun twist. Perhaps you might just decide to visit a friend in New Alluns. He be in Harvey and you can find him easy because he stays by his Moms like always, dat is, if he ain’t out chootin’ some bones or maybe even some alleygator. That might not be how the New Alluns people speak, but this here blog it ain’t about etymology nor is about words. And it sho’ nuff ain’t about no double negative. Right on?

That reminds me, I was talking to this creole dude from Thibodaux or some place like that and after every sentence he be saying “right on,” right on? Man, this cat was talking about some bar fights and people bringing knives to gunfights and allus kinda s**t! Right on? Right on.

That also remind me. One of my favorite bayou boogie song was a tune called “Cajun Twist.” I hadn’t heard it in a long time but heard that dude who say “choot it” on the alligator show “Swamp People.” I think his name is Troy. He was half singing and half humming a verse while he was doing something or other. And trut’ be tole, he weren’t doing much to either half on that song. Which, I suppose is just as good as sticking to the original lyrics when you do have the vocal blessings.

So, I have given you Randy and the Rockets, doing that old Cajun Twist. And I will give you some alternate routes to Louisiana while I am at it.

There are a couple of ways to get to Louisiana without having to go through Beaumont while this $59 million bridge renovation is under way. And it’s easy to find those ways. All you need is this magical device. It’s called a map.

Everyone needs to learn how to use a map.  Have you a jumbo kinda time whether you be headed to Louisiana or Texas-ana. Have fun this weekend. Stay safe.







Super Bowl madness yields too little music, so far

Lots of sports and lots of nothing have graced the magical electronic airwaves this week from Super Bowl in New Orleans. We know almost everything about the two brothers Harbaugh coaching against each other almost to the point that I fear we will learn about each one’s success at toilet training. We know the San Francisco 49ers player, who don’t seem to be as much of a “player” as he thinks, who said we “the team” ain’t got no gays! Okay he didn’t say it exactly like that. But he is so much of a non-story that I will not bother to look up his name so excuse me if I don’t quote him verbatim.

And we’ve had Ravens perhaps Hall of Fame-to-be linebacker turned street preacher Ray Lewis accused of using a potion from deer antlers. Give me a break. This guy got a lesser charge of obstructing justice on a murder rap! It’s supposedly the last season for Ray Lewis. But we’ve heard that before from some who just can’t kill the golden goose even though he … sorry. Forgive me pastor, for being so cynical.

What we’ve not heard a lot of or a lot about is music. New Orleans is music. The vaunted Mardi Gras Carnival time is now. A few parades were shifted around to accommodate the big game. So what comes to your mind when you hear “New Orleans?” “Oh when the Saints go marching in … ” perhaps? Well, maybe you think “Katrina.” Bad vibe indeed. Let’s just say when you think of New Orleans music a song will come with it.

All large U.S. cities have songs written about them or in their title or lyrics: “New York, New York these vagabond shoes they are longing to stray … ” Or maybe a little “Chicago, Chicago that toddlin’ town … ” Even jump on down to the No. 10th largest city, “Deep within my heart lies a melody, a song of old San Antone, San Antone … ” Okay, it’s actually San Antonio, but give me some license Jack!

New Orleans is a large U.S. — not as large as before Katrina hit. Actually, U.S. Census figures show NOLA was declining in population before Katrina. The city ranked 24th in the ’90 Census but shrank to 31st in the 2000 Census. Today it is 51st in the U.S. However, rebuilding and repopulating has made the Crescent City the fastest growing large city in the U.S., according to the 2010 decennial tally.

Hey, all that stuff don’t mean a thing. Well it does to some. It means something to many to be exact. But even if New Orleans was a just a tiny photograph of itself the city would still be playing music and folks would be singing “Iko, Iko” or a jazz band would still be blasting away as some soul was carried to his final resting place. Well, providing no more Katrinas come along.

Songs remain in our minds and on our musicians fingers and hands and lips so we all hear songs about New Orleans or with a New Orleans reference like just a half-dozen of my favorites:

“New Orleans Lady,” Le Roux (Louisiana’s Le Roux)

“Battle of New Orleans,” Johnny Horton

“Hey, Hey, (Indian’s comin’)” The Wild Tchoupitoulas

“Walking to New Orleans” Fats Domino

“House of the Rising Sun” The Animals

“Louisiana 1927 (The river had busted through clear down to Plaqemines/Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.)” Randy Newman

Well, all six songs may “technically” not about New Orleans proper but it don’ madda.

Sorry, I’m just not up to linking all the songs. If you want to hear them, you know what to do. Oh, and as for the songs about big cities. I am flying to Dallas next week but I, hopefully, won’t be flying at night and definitely will not be flying on a DC-9 at night. 


American comes to SE Texas: Will its new paint job & updated eagle follow?

Commercial air service returns to our local airport next month when American Eagle begins flights between Jack Brooks Regional Airport (BPT) and Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW). Whether this will bring American’s “new look” or its oldest, I suppose we shall have to wait and see.

American has just unveiled its new look with a new logo. Perhaps it is because the airline has taken a new order of Boeing 777-300ERs for delivery so they figured it might be a good time to repaint its old fleet as well. As the airline’s chief commercial officer explains:


“Just drop me off at that next mountain top, Cap’n!” A new paint job and logo for American Airlines. Could there be new fares to match?

“Our new logo and livery are designed to reflect the passion for progress and the soaring spirit, which is uniquely American,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s CCO. “Our core colors — red, white and blue — have been updated to reflect a more vibrant and welcoming spirit. The new tail, with stripes flying proudly, is a bold reflection of American’s origin and name. And our new flight symbol, an updated eagle, incorporates the many icons that people have come to associate with American, including the ‘A’ and the star.”

There is nothing like an updated eagle to get your motors running. Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles and the wonders the updated eagles have done the team in recent years.

But seriously it is nice that we are finally getting an airline to our little airport even if one has to fly to D-FW first, no matter where they are going. It would have been nice to have an airline that flies to Hobby or G.H.W. Bush in Houston, a 20-30-minute flight from Brooks. Continental, under the guise of Colgan Air, did that. But Colgan quit the friendly skies as part of its parent firm’s, Pinnacle Airlines, restructuring plan.

I am not sure but I would think the public relations folks for the Jack Brooks airport, owned by Jefferson County, Texas, did not write this little factoid in BPT’s Wikipedia page:

“Jack Brooks Regional Airport has the distinction of being the only destination that Southwest Airlines has ended scheduled daily service to (1980), and has never returned.”

Ouch. And I don’t know if that is a fact, Jack. I don’t know why anyone would lie about such a matter. Then again, in Wikipedia, anything’s possible.

One attraction of the new airline is that with the initial flights, at least, it doesn’t seem as if they’ll clean out the old bank account. Since I don’t talk regularly to American, or any other airline for that matter, I have no idea what they are up to with what seem to be reasonable fares (certain March and April round-trip, no extras, flight from Beaumont to El Paso via Dallas, for $223 plus tax (and check bags, and seating INSIDE the plane rather than on the wing … ) Check it out yourself if you are interested. Surely there’s a catch. After all you have to find someway to pay for a new paint job and an updated eagle. Of course, with my bank account at the present time, a bag of Munchos would wipe me out.


Top 10 bills to follow in the 2013 Texas Lege reduced by 7

Austin television station KXAN has an interesting Top 10 list of proposed bills to follow in the 2013 Texas legislative session. Some are downright playing-to-the-right-wing-base ignorant. Here are my top five from that list:

1. Drug testing for welfare — There will be no epidemic of poor folks using drugs by the time this bill, filed by GOP Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, passes than there is now. It’s a “feel-good” elixir for the right wing. It’s demagoguery plain and simple.

2. Ten Commandments in Class — Republican Rep. Dan Flynn of Van wants copies of the Ten Commandments placed in “prominent” places in the classroom. I’ve got nothing against the Ten Commandments, but they violate laws separating church and state. This will wind up in court(s) and cost the taxpayers untold dollars while losing the case.

3. TSA Anti-groping — It could only be a guess but I bet when the Twin Towers et. al. came down on 9/11 probably some of those hollering the loudest for the federal government to stop such a thing from happening were some of our friends on the right. And on the left. We have security now in airports and many think they are too important to be inconvenienced by precautions which often leads to them getting groped in the first place. Yes, it might be random. So what? You don’t have to fly. GOP Rep. David Simpson of Longview tried to pass this last session and Gov. Good Hair had it brought up in Special Session. Jeez, prohibit TSA groping? Can we also prohibit Fox News?

Well, I only got to three that were out-of-the-Solar-System-Stupid. That doesn’t mean the remainder are all winners, or losers for that matter.

–Open Carry — Republican Rep. George Lavender of Texarkana may file a bill similar to one he pushed last time which would allow those holding licenses to carry a concealed handgun to optionally carry the weapon in the open. I’ve often thought that this made more sense than allowing concealed carry only. At least if someone is openly carrying a gun one can see it and do all that is possible to either ignore that person or make sure that you have something twice that person’s firepower. No seriously, I don’t know but the proposal seems to have some good points as well as bad ones. I know a lot of folks who would like guns outlawed. I can see how that would be a good thing in a different world. We are unfortunately stuck with the world we have.

— Texting while driving. The GOP former House Speaker Tom Craddick of Midland is pushing this bill, which Good Hair vetoed, again. It needs to be not only passed, but signed by our idiot governor.

–Tuition freeze. Dan Branch, the Republican House member from Dallas wants college tuition in state institutions frozen for students for four years from the time they enter school. UT Austin currently freezes tuition for two years. This is to encourage finishing in four years. I think this is a good idea, perhaps with a fifth year available in emergency situations.

–SJR 6 — Casino and slot gambling. Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, and others want a constitutional amendment to let voters decide whether a small number of casinos should be allowed in Texas. Limited numbers of slot and video gambling machines at horse tracks would be allowed as would gambling at the state’s Indian reservations. I have no moral reservations about this, pardon the pun. I wonder if it can pass what with surrounding states and the large gambling interests behind those states.

–The rest — I have no opinion on the other bills listed. You can read them your own-self.






A one-day to and from riding the ‘dog’

Top o’ the morning to you! That’s right, morning. Well, speaking of blowing it, I blew it in that I wrote my post on the bus from Beaumont to Houston this morning and forgot to publish it. My memory is shot. Speaking of shot, I am passing by Minute Maid Park in Houston as I write this. Shot being the word because the Houston Astros are about to play its last game as a National League team. Let’s hope the Lastros get a little better next year in its debut season as an American League product, like losses only in the double digits.

Incredible how I made it to this bus. I finished my appointment at the VA in time to take a jam-packed bus to a stop near the Houston Metro Rail line. Then I rode to the Downtown Transit Center, just a couple of blocks from Greyhound. My ticket was for a 6:05 p.m. bus that supposedly gets back to “Beaumont-Vidor” around 8 o’clock. More on Vidor in a moment. But I made it just as the gate locked on the 4 o’clock bus that allegedly arrives at 5:30 p.m. That’s not going to happen with all the stop-n-go with the bus heading toward I-10 at the beginning of rush hour. Hopefully, I will be back a bit earlier than I had planned.

My truck is parked in Rose City. That is a freeway truck stop spot on I-10 just across the Orange County line headed toward Louisiana. That is where the Beaumont Greyhound station is now located, having moved several months ago from its long-time stretch downtown on Magnolia Street. It is considered by Greyhound as the “Beaumont-Vidor” bus station now although its closer to downtown Beaumont than Vidor. I guess downtown “revitalization” is like the weather. People do a lot of talking about it but do nothing. The bus station is but one piece of downtown moved out into the nether lands. First Baptist Church, which takes up a whole city block between Calder and Broadway avenues, is being moved out to the West End. It makes me wonder if the great work the church does for our less fortunate brothers and sisters will be continued once it moves out into the land of milk and honey. I hope so, one never knows when one is going to need that help one day.

Traveling by bus isn’t quite the adventure it was during the days of my youth. I guess that’s a good thing, for me. Why the bus even has electrical outlets and WiFi. And the WiFi works.

Bus stations are certainly fewer and farther in between nowadays. Why I can remember in the old days — time to roll your eyes boys and girls — when every little mud hole and town that was big enough for a city limit sign had a bus station. Of course, there were more bus companies than just Greyhound back then as well. Let’s consider my trip today to the VA hospital in Houston.

The bus route from Beaumont to Houston — a straight shot west on Interstate 10 — now travels to Port Arthur on U.S. 69/96/287 where it stops at some Latino bodega on Gulfway Drive a.k.a. State Highway 87. The bus then picks up Texas 73 to Winnie, which is not named after Winnie the Pooh, or at least I don’t believe that is the case. The route jumps back on I-10 and makes another stop at a convenience store on the north side of the interstate in Baytown before heading downtown to the Houston bus station.

On the bus I’m now riding it is “an express” to Rose City as this puppy’s major destination is New Orleans and, perhaps even Miami, or Cuba.

We just now passed a traffic SNAFU that held us up for awhile. It looks as if three Army trucks were somehow involved. It looked more like a breakdown than an accident. One certainly hopes so. It is already 5:30 and we are at least 30 or so miles from Beaumont. If I make it back by the time I intended to depart Houston I will feel lucky indeed. I really better quit while I’m ahead now. Or as one of my old hippie friends used to say: “Better quit while I’m a head.”



In search of the perfect airline seat

“Six A.” “Six A.” “Six A.”

Say what? Well, I’m certainly not playing Bingo. It turns out that on a standard airliner the most popular seat is 6A, according to a poll of more than 1,000 aircraft passengers that was published in the British travel site Skyscanner.

We're all just cattle here in this truck. Photo courtesy of USDOT

The poll queried passengers, in addition to seat preferences, as to what sections of the aircraft they prefer and what influenced their decisions such as legroom or deplaning.

Of course, the aircraft itself influences such decisions especially if one flies certain routes to and from a specific airport. For instance, I rode “Continental Connection” partners mostly Colgan Air, a few times out of both Waco and Beaumont (the latter is now called Jack Brooks Regional Airport, named after the longtime congressman from Beaumont who drafted impeachment charges against Richard Nixon.) Back to the air, these flights were usually on turboprops such as the Saab 340, notoriously known as “puddle jumpers” or worse. Even though I had some hairy rides on the turboprops they are kind of a fun ride as long as the weather is smooth.

Seat 6A on a Saab 340 is located over the wing and forward of the amidships emergency exit. Because of the exit, the seat doesn’t recline — information thanks to SeatGuru. The “A” seats do have the advantage of having one seat on the left side of the plane, thus every seat is a window seat (or aisle seat.)

Other aircraft on which I’ve flown don’t even have a row 6 such as Boeing 737s.

So perhaps this British poll must be taken, like similar sampling, with a grain of salt from that bag of peanuts that is your in-flight meal these days, if you get even that.

What was more interesting than where these polled passengers — not to be confused with a polled Herefordsat are the reasons for where they sit. Some passengers like to sit near the wing because there is less turbulence. Some older men like to sit, naturally, toward the back of the plane near the restrooms. Deplaning be damned!

Interestingly enough was the lack of statistics citing those who choose their seats based on the probability of surviving an accident. Not something we talk about but it was one of the first considerations I had when I began flying somewhat more after only a few flights some 25 years before. I admit to having been a nervous flier. Luckily, an old flame — interesting word for this discussion notwithstanding — who was a frequent flier gave me insight as well as tickets to come visit her for a week. All of that helped make me somewhat more airworthy. I’m by no means a jet-setter but I’ve probably made three-dozen flights in the intervening 13 years. Which brings to mind that some planes also do not have a row 13.

Quite often I have no choice when it comes to seating for one reason or the other. An A or F seat in the 30s is fine with me on a 737. I like looking out the window and appreciate the proximity to the lavatory. I like it even better when I have a whole row to myself. It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened. I like First Class even better but that has happened even less frequently.

It’s all a matter of choice and even chance, sometimes.



How are the terrorists going to get their 77 virgins this way?

The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly stopped another potential al Qaeda threat in which a terrorist was to have blown up a U.S. bound airliner with a bomb in his skivvies.

Well, yeah, I get underwear and the hiding place thing but I mean, symbolically, think of the first thing to go. A real dork. I mean, beside being a potential mass murderer, but blow up his ‘nads? Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and pulled pork sandwiches! Didn’t somebody already try that and wound up growing increasingly old in a tiny jail cell?

Personally, I’m very glad someone is out there stopping these assholes who want to blow people up. I’ve had mixed feelings about some of the ways these terrorists are shot first and tried later. But those feelings on the side of the Ts were never all that strong.

Caitlin Hayden, deputy spokeswoman at the National Security Council, said the bomb never posed a risk to public safety. Uh, I kind of doubt that. Caitlin? What kind of name is that for an NSC spokeswoman? How old is she? Twelve, and captain of her middle school girl’s soccer team? Sorry, Caitlin, hope you can take a joke and I don’t have drones following me everywhere I go.