Caught (up) in traffic

Home » Air travel

Category Archives: Air travel

Air crash mysteries

I wrote about the Concorde recently and how I at one time dreamt of flying in one. I shared an article in that post about the air crash that doomed the Concorde. While it appears morbid to certain people, there is that fascination about air crashes not because of the deaths but because these often lead to better designs for aircraft and policies for the aviation industry. Here is a recent article about the still missing (vanished without a trace?) Malaysian Airlines Flight 307.

Admiral Cloudberg (March 27, 2021) “Call of the Void: Seven years on, what do we know about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370?”, Medium.com, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/call-of-the-void-seven-years-on-what-do-we-know-about-the-disappearance-of-malaysia-airlines-77fa5244bf99 [Last accessed: 9/23/2021]

Unlike other disastrous crashes that include weather factors, pilot errors, instrument or engine failures, we cannot learn (much) from this crash as the black box or any other parts of the aircraft were never recovered. Of course, not in the same category as these types of crashes are those that were blown up or shot down whether by accident or deliberately such as the ill-fated Korean Airlines Flight 007. There are other lessons to be learned if not yet learned from those tragedies.

On my first plane rides, and dreaming of supersonic travel

Even before this race to space by billionaires, one option for travel captured my imagination and attention – supersonic travel. I cannot remember exactly the first time I was on my first flight but I know it was a trip between Manila and Iloilo in the 1970s. Iloilo is the home of my father and we basically had only two options to get there – airplane or ship. While maritime travel was much cheaper, it took a day one way to get to Iloilo and vice versa. We didn’t want to waste two days especially as my father took leaves from work when we went on vacation so air travel was usually the choice especially for the shorter Christmas breaks. We usually took the ships in summer.

My earliest memory of flight was on a turboprop airliner. This was a Philippine Airlines (PAL) Hawker Siddeley HS 748. My first on a jet plane was on a BAC 111 on the same route and the same airline. There were no competition then for domestic air travel. Following are the photos of these two aircraft that were the workhorses of PAL until the 1980s.

Philippine Airlines BAC 111

The fascination with flight and aircraft included a dream of experiencing supersonic flight. The only ones that time were the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144. The Tupolev had a rather short service with the last commercial flight in the late 1970s. Also, the politics at the time meant it was highly improbable that I could have a trip that involved this plane. The Concorde had trans-Atlantic flights and I also dreamt about traveling around the world. I thought maybe I can save up for a one-way trip between Europe and the US. Unfortunately, that opportunity never came up. My first international flight was in 1996 when I rode on a Boeing 747 from Manila to Narita. I did eventually travel to the US and Europe but these were after the Concorde was decommissioned. That was probably mainly due to the following incident in this article:

Cloudberg, A. (August 29, 2021) “Death of a Dream: The crash of Air France flight 4590,” Medium, https://admiralcloudberg.medium.com/death-of-a-dream-the-crash-of-air-france-flight-4590-84c8a9e6c74a [Last accessed: 9/1/2021]

Will there be supersonic services in the future? Probably not. However, the aircraft designs of the future should satisfy ones needs when traveling on these planes. One just wonders how much air travel will change due to Covid-19.

On the Boeing 747

We deviate from our usual topics that are mostly about land transportation to something about air transportation:

Waldek, S. (February 10, 2021) “How the Boeing 747 Changed the Way Airplanes are Designed,” Architectural Digest, https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/how-boeing-747-changed-way-airplanes-designed?utm_source=nl&utm_brand=spotlight-nl&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=thematic_spotlight_021021_2&utm_medium=email&bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&hasha=cf6c402001bc473063a8744033fe9be3&hashb=ec2bb753c2e6299f5107823241955221da67bd1f&hashc=09f65c608bfb62050199733de500e3cd82827631b36d537ce8386d41a3bd1ff7&esrc=FYL_SEG_APR18&sourcecode=thematic_spotlight&utm_term=Thematic_Spotlight [Last accessed: 2/14/2021]

My first flight on the Boeing 747 was back in 1996 when I first traveled overseas to Tokyo. I was booked on a Northwest Airlines (NWA) flight and the airline used B747’s on the regular flights between Manila and Narita. Later, I was on another Northwest Airways, JAL and Korean Air B747’s for homecoming trips and a trip to Seoul. While in Japan, I usually took the Shinkansen for long distance domestic trips. I even had the chance to ride Pakistan Air’s B747 that was a half passenger, half freighter plane. The flight between Narita and Karachi in the 1990s had a stopover in Manila that meant cheap tickets between Manila and Narita (also because passenger demand for the airline was not as high since PAL, JAL and NWA were the airlines of choice between MNL and NRT. I was even upgraded to Business Class en route to Narita the only time I flew on PIA in 1998.

Here’s a model of a Delta B747-400 we got from one of our trips. Delta acquired Northwest and its flights to Asia.

On airline travel in the time of Covid-19

I haven’t been on a plane since February 2020. That is almost one year next month. I have friends though who have traveled by air recently. They had to follow certain protocols before departing and upon arrival at their destination. These include testing for the virus and observing quarantine especially upon their return to Metro Manila and prior to returning to their respective homes. Fortunately, all have been testing negative for Covid-19 and were able to come home safely.

Here is an interesting article on air travel, particularly how airlines and airports are handling passengers during this time when processes need to consider the prospects of getting infected by Covid-19:

Marshall, A. (January 21, 2021) “The Art and Science of Boarding an Airplane in a Pandemic,” Wired, https://www.wired.com/story/art-science-boarding-airplane-pandemic/ [Last accessed: 1/26/2021]

I am anxious about being required to travel for a project we are currently doing for a major city in Mindanao. While our clients have been very understanding about our health concerns, it might be inevitable for some of us in the project team to travel by March 2021 to present the findings and recommendations of our study. I will continue to update myself about travel guidelines in preparation for that likely travel.

What to look forward to Philippine transportation in 2021

I usually wrote a year-ender for transport but somehow never got to it. I’ve spent much of the break working on projects that have been extended due to the pandemic’s impacts on their implementation. Two of these projects are being implemented in Zamboanga City where we are lucky to have hard-working counterparts and a very cooperative city government. I think given what have transpired in 2020, there’s much to expect in 2021. I also want to be hopeful and optimistic about the outlook for this year. So positive thoughts for now. Here are things to look forward to in 2021:

  1. More bike lanes around the country – these include the bike lanes to be constructed using the billions of pesos allocated for Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao. Is there a plan? None yet unless you count the sketch mapping exercise people have been doing. Sure, the DPWH came up with guidelines for bike lanes designs but these are a work in progress at best if compared to the existing guidelines from countries that have built and maintained bike facilities for a very long time now (e.g., Netherlands, Australia, even Singapore).
  2. Construction of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Cebu – this is a much delayed project (more than a decade in the making already) that needs to be implemented already. This year might just be the year? We certainly hope so. That EDSA carousel is still far from being the BRT the Philippines need to be a model system for its cities. I still think Cebu can be a better model for other cities than Metro Manila. And so a BRT success there has a better chance of being replicated in other cities that need a mass transit system now.
  3. More rationalized public transport routes in major cities – by ‘rationalized’ I am not limiting this to the government’s original rationalization program but also to the other reforms that are being introduced this year including service contracting. Whether the latter will work wonders, we’ll get a better idea of it this year. Will services be better? Will drivers improve the way they drive? Will this be cost-effective in the long run? These are just some of the questions that need to be answered, with some of those answers hopefully coming this year.
  4. Full scale construction of the Metro Manila subway – would you believe that there’s actually little work done for this project aside from the preparatory and PR work that have been the focus the past few years. It seemed like they’ve been doing realignments and groundbreakings every year. Meanwhile, they haven’t even started tunneling yet. To be honest, I don’t think there will be an operational subway by 2022. I’ve seen subways being built in Tokyo, Singapore and Vietnam, and you can’t do even a demo project in 1.5 years time.
  5. More air travel – as the vaccines are delivered and administered, there should be a feeling of more safety and confidence for people to travel again. Much inter-island trips are actually done via air travel. Airlines have lost a lot in the last year and are certainly going to come up with nice deals (I already saw a lot of promos from various airlines that I usually book for my flights – PAL, Cebu Pac, JAL and SIA.) Hotels and resorts, too, are welcoming tourists with great deals. So perhaps it will be a rebound year for tourism and…air travel.
  6. More rail transport in general – hopefully this year will be the year when the Line 2 extension becomes operational. Meanwhile, other projects like the PNR and Line 3 rehabs, the Line 1 extension, and Manila-Clark railway line construction continues. Perhaps this year will also see the construction of Mindanao Railways.

What do you think are things to look forward to in Philippine transportation in 2021?

On the DOTr Guidelines for Public Transport – Aviation Sector

Here are the guidelines for the Aviation Sector. My only comment here is that many people are anxious about when they can travel again, particularly to other parts of the country mainly for business or to go home (e.g., many students have been stranded in the cities where they go to school and away from their hometowns). Part of this anxiety is the thinking that airfares will increase significantly as airlines are forced to reduce capacities for their aircraft to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. Gone, probably, are the discount fares like the Piso fare promos.

Related to this, I have received emails from 4 airlines I frequently used – Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines. All provided updates on their respective efforts to ensure the future air travel will be safe, health-wise. As for the airport terminals, that’s another story…

Inflight meals on Philippine Airlines

I recently wrote about the inflight meals on Cebu Pacific. This time I am posting photos of the inflight meals on Philippine Airlines. To be fair and accurate, the following photos show inflight meals on board international flights (MNL-SIN and SIN-MNL). The airline is a full service airline so PAL’s fares already included the meals.

Beef and rice for the wife, but not because they ran out of chicken and pasta

A pleasant surprise that came with our meal was our dessert in the form of an Auto chocolate bar. These were fine chocolates from Davao.

I opted for the chicken and pasta dish. The meal also included dried pineapple that you can have as dessert or snack (for later during the flight)

On the flight back to Manila, we both had beef and pasta

The surprise came in the form of dessert – ice cream!

This was very good ice cream c/o of SATS, Singapore’s airline food concession

Details on the ice cream on the container

The ice cream was manufactured in Thailand

Limited – Inflight meals on Cebu Pacific

My friends and I were just talking about inflight meals prior to boarding our Cebu Pacific flights last week. En route to Zamboanga, we didn’t have to get some refreshments for the typically 1.5-hour flight. There were many choices to eat from at NAIA Terminal 3. However, heading back to Manila on a lunchtime flight, we joked about what could be available on the plane. We all had our experiences of ordering items on their menu for flights scheduled at different times of the day (e.g., red eye, last flight) and it always seems as if the airline didn’t have many if not most of what appears on their menu.

 

Lucky Me cup noodles and pretzels for lunch

To be fair, the airline offers pre-ordered meals that they do deliver inflight. We got pre-ordered meals for our flights to and from Singapore last year. But not everyone would usually avail of this option and there is real demand for inflight meals even if there were just pastries or quickly prepared (i.e., instant) meals. I don’t remember the last time we were able to avail a meal more decent than the cup noodles shown in the photo. In fact, we were curious about the new items they had in the menu that included champorado (chocolate porridge). That was supposed to be available last December 2019 but so far we haven’t had the chance to have it inflight.

On airport congestion again

I have been traveling a lot the past months and most of these trips require air travel. We’ve experienced quite a number of delays including waiting for about an hour inside an airplane. That happened after boarding and being informed by the pilot that they have been instructed by Manila air traffic control to standby where we were. Where we were was one of the major cities in Mindanao so that meant instant delay to our travel. Other times, we were on time; leaving around the original ETD and landing around the original ETA. To be fair, my most recent flights were quite okay with our plane landing 15-20 minutes ahead of the ETA. This recent variation in the travel times show that congestion is not necessarily a big a problem as it was months ago or even a year or so ago. Perhaps there have already been adjustments, for example, in airlines’ juggling their fleets to reduce turnaround times. Air traffic control may also have been optimized for various airports. This challenge to reduce airport congestion both on the ground and in flight is a continuing effort by airports and is not limited to Manila.

Aircraft queuing for take-off at Changi Airport in Singapore

Aerial photos of Cebu and Mactan

I enjoy taking aerial photos when the opportunities present themselves. Leaving Cebu for Manila a couple of weeks ago, I was able to take some nice photos as or plane took off and cruised over Mactan Island. Here are some of the better photos:

A view of Mandaue and Cebu cities across from Mactan Island as our plane took off from the airport

Here’s a first look (a bird’s eye view) of the ongoing construction of the third bridge connecting Cebu and Mactan Islands. This is part of the Cebi-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX) project.

Here’s another view of the island with the airplane engine in the photo.
Here is a close-up photo of the island where tall columns will be built to support the CCLEX bridge. The viaduct in the photo is the one connecting downtown Cebu City with the South Reclamation Project area that includes the SM Seaside development.

The SM Seaside as seen from the air

Here’s a view of the South Reclamation Project area with SM Seaside as our plane turned north towards Manila.

Another view of Cebu City and the SRP

Here’s my favourite shot of Cebu and Mactan Islands with the SRP on the foreground, the CCLEX bridge under construction and Mactan International Airport