Featured Photo

Featured Photo

‘Circling Around’
courtesy of ‘Eric Spiegel’

Long exposures, or keeping the shutter open for longer than the fraction of a second in a typical photograph, can do amazing things in photography. Sometimes you know what you’re going to get in the shot; a lot of the time, you get wonderful surprises. The technique can be used to show motion; it can be used to bring out bright colors; it can show fine details; it can do awesome things with reflections; and sometimes it captures that which is both quick and beautiful.

Eric shows off many of the best aspects of long exposures with this shot of a plane’s approach into DCA. Colors of the plane’s running lights are bright and distinct; the surprise hextagon lens flare which adds a bit of mystery to the shot; and the wonderful lines of the plane’s approach catch the eye. It all comes together for an excellent long exposure.

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River Visual

This is my favorite thing about flying back into DC from a trip: the famous River Visual Approach to DCA, the path planes must take to avoid no-fly zones when landing from the North in clear weather. Sit on the left side of the plane during a river visual landing, and you get great views, from the Mormon Temple and the Beltway, down to the Cathedral, right down to Georgetown, the Watergate, the National Mall, Hains Point, and Southwest Waterfront.

When flying in to DC with a chance to reserve seats, pick a window on the left side. Even if you end up doing the less climactic approach from the South, you get a great view of Alexandria and the George Washington Masonic Memorial before touching down. (Conversely, if flying out, get a window seat on the right side of the plane for similar views.)

Bigger video after the jump: Continue reading

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JetBlue Coming to National

Photo courtesy of
‘Sunrise, National Airport’
courtesy of ‘andertho’

Love flying JetBlue but hate getting to Dulles or Baltimore? Good news – it looks like the discount airline has gained eight daily takeoff spots to operate out of Reagan starting in November. It isn’t many flights a day, but it looks like the targeted routes involve New York and Boston. JetBlue’s ability to get into National is the result of a “collaboration” with American Airlines, which is also expanding its footprint at DCA with more flights to BOS and JFK, and it is certainly good news for anyone who frequents the airline.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

DCA by brokensquare

Ah, the airport.  Is it strange that I find it to be a magical place?  It’s where people come together, some sharing the same flight, others departing to different destinations, but all part of a worldwide system that just somehow works.  You make your reservation online, pack your tiny tube of toothpaste, roll in with your luggage, wait in line to check in, take your shoes off, watch as your cigarette lighter passes right through security, get to the gate and scope out your fellow passengers, grab some food to bring on the plane with you (since the days of free meals are long gone), turn your portable electronics off so as not to interfere with the plane that was built in the 1970’s, sit back, relax, help the person next to you with their oxygen mask before placing yours firmly around your nose, resist tampering with the smoke alarm in the lavatory, read SkyMall and wonder who actually buys this stuff.  You gaze out the window and admire the polished wings, held together with rivets as they pierce through wispy clouds at speeds of over 400 miles per hour.  Oh but wait – what’s that?  Before you know it you’re placing your tray and seat back in their full upright position and the stewarde – um, flight attendant is welcoming you to Los Angeles.  It’s magic I tell you.  Without breaking a sweat, you’ve flown, through the air mind you, to the opposite side of the country.

But like most magic tricks, there’s more than meets the eye.  While you were begging for an exit row seat and anxiously waiting for the gate attendant to call Seating Area 3, the ground crew was loading your luggage, stocking those $10 boxes of airplane food, fueling the plane, de-icing the wings, pushing it away from the gate, oh, and taking photos of the spectacular sunrises that bath the runways in deep hues of purple, orange, and yellow.  Magic, I tell you.

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DCA Power Outage, Ground Stop in Effect

dca closed

Update 1:45pm: Fortunately that was a quickly resolved disruption. DCA is back open and is now green on the FAA map. This may create a residual backup though so check with airlines for flights in/out of DCA to see how delayed they are.

Update 1:17pm: According to WAMU and the FAA, all flights are stopped right now and TSA has halted security screenings.

DCA just can’t catch any breaks these days. Last week, the C terminal was slammed with a massive flood resulting from a water main break. Today there is apparently a power outage. According to the FAA, as well as passengers stuck around the country who can’t take off for DC, there is a ground stop in effect. The image above is a shot of the FAA site as of right now. It is unclear if this is killing all inbound and outbound flights or just some. If you have details, please add them in the comments. Needless to say, if you are flying in or out of DCA, expect delays right now. How long remains to be seen.

FAA details:
Due to EQUIPMENT / OUTAGE, there is a Traffic Management Program in effect for traffic arriving Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington, DC (DCA).

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DCA Under Water, Baggage Claim Flooded

DCA Flooded

UPDATE 12/27: WTOP is reporting that all is back “normal” at DCA this morning. Apparently it took over 100 people working non-stop through the night to get the airport terminal back in working shape. Expect heavy wait times and potentially delays for US Air as they try to play catch up this morning.

UPDATE 6:36 pm: ALL US Airways flights out of DCA for today have been canceled. This is being reported from several people via Twitter. It is also being reported that most flights into DCA may be canceled or at least very delayed.

UPDATE 6:00 pm:At least part of DCA is now closed because of this flood. It is being caused by a water main break. There is an amazing video of this below that shows the water pouring down the outside of the baggage claim. Anyone flying into DCA can probably expect some type of delay, especially if flying into C terminal. I’m guessing that A terminal is not really affected by this right now.

I landed at Reagan National Airport just after 3pm today to find the lower level of the C and B terminals, the baggage claim and ground transportation level, quickly being closed off as water poured in from what sounded like multiple sources. At that time, the baggage claim level had a few inches of standing water and rising. There were also very large puddles rapidly forming on the main terminal level as well, just outside the security gate. At this time, we are not sure if the area has been re-opened or if the flood is under control, but either way, I would expect problems and delays if picking someone up at DCA that has checked baggage. Nobody was allowed to go downstairs and no bags were coming out on the belts around 3:20.

If you are at DCA, please let us know of any updates so that we can pass them along to our readers. More pictures and the video after the jump.

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AA Flight from DCA Overshoots Runway in Jamaica

American Airlines Flight 331, a 737-800 originating from DC National Airport, overshot the runway on landing in Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Jamaica, with heavy rain. The plane broke into pieces and came to a stop on the beach, just short of the water. At the moment we are hearing 154 on board, no fatalities, 91 injuries, 3 reported serious. Survivors escaping the fuselage emerged into dark and rain, then had to walk down the beach to get to waiting buses. More from NPR, and discussion on Airliners.net.

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Live ATC from IAD and DCA

Planespotting at Gravelly Point

Local pilots and planespotters will be happy to know that LiveATC has live streaming tower communications from National Airport (DCA) and Dulles (IAD). Few things are more soothing and fascinating for the aviation geek than listening to the smooth, seductive tower-and-aircraft dance of ATC broadcasts from your local airport.

You can also search for the pertinent airports from LiveATC search; National is KDCA and Dulles is KIAD. Found via DCTower.net.

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Southwest a possibility for DCA

Photo courtesy of
‘Clouds and Landing’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

The AP is reporting that Southwest has put in a non-binding bid on struggling airline Frontier Air, which could bring Southwest to Reagan National Airport if a sale eventually went though. Don’t feel free to move about the country just yet, however. The bid’s non-binding so that Southwest can get a chance to get more information from Frontier and there’s already another bid on the table.  Even if they eventually acquire the struggling airline there’s no certainty they’d keep all the routes or locations.

One can hope, however, and Southwest would be my personal second choice for an addition to DCA. JetBlue would be my first.

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Snowpocalypse Shutting Down IAD

Photo courtesy of
‘going nowhere fast’
courtesy of ‘booleansplit’

If you think you’re flying out of Washington DC tomorrow morning, like I thought I was, you best call your airline right now. United has canceled everything before noon out of IAD, BWI, and DCA. Calling in a panic to my special frequent flyer line, I got one of the last empty IAD to SFO seats for all of Monday. For everyone else, welcome to the madness.

Word is that all the major airlines are canceling their flights before noon and rerouting other flights, telling folks it will be Wednesday before the snowstorm overflow passengers will all get to their respective destinations.

Talkin' Transit, Travel

We Love Travel: WAS EQM Mileage Runs

The view from United Premier Executive seats is so much better

The view from United Premier Executive seats is so much better

For those that fly often, there is not a sense of envy with the gate agent allows First Class and elite frequent flyers to board the plane first. No, there is only lust for such benefits that are often so close yet so far away at this time of year.

See, frequent flyer status is earned annually. For United, you’ll need at least 50,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) by December 31st to maintain Premier Executive status. It may be one up from cattle class, but when you do long hauls to Europe or red-eyes from the West Coast, those emergency row seats or First Class upgrades make the flights oh so much better.

Which brings us to mileage runs – the act of flying just to maintain elite frequent flyer status. It may sound crazy, but there is a whole airline subculture focused on just such acts of desperation. And this year, at 39,200 EQMs, I’m hell-bent on earning 10,801 more by December 31, 2008.

Wanna learn how I’m doing it at no cost to me? Then keep reading…

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The Daily Feed, Travel

DCA Cell Phone Waiting Area

washington dc by wayan
Photo by Wayan

If you are picking up a loved one at National Airport, say a hot pregnant wife for example, you will be sent on a circuitous route to the Cell Phone Waiting Area. An annoying drive yes, but not the stupid distant cell phone lot at IAD that is closer to Leesburg than the airport.

The DCA parking lot is packed with occupied yet idle cars on a Sunday night, reminding me of a red light district or gay cruising zone. We all stay in our vehicles till we get the private notice that its time to move on.

And I now have mine. Time to roll…

Talkin' Transit, The Daily Feed, Travel

Reagan Runway on the Move

WTOP is reporting that the main runway at DCA will be moved 300 feet south and made longer in order to keep planes from ending up in the drink and to comply with current FAA rules. That sounds simple enough, especially since they have until 2015 to complete the job. Yep, 7 years to move a runway 300 feet south. Clark Construction could build two or three stadiums in that amount of time.

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