Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo

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Some of the highlights of the Rivolto airshow. (All images: Alessandro Fucito, unless otherwise stated)

The one organized at Rivolto AB was much more than “just” a celebration of the ’s anniversary: unlike most of the Italian it was also an opportunity to have a look at some of the Italian Air Force capabilities at work.

As we already reported, the , the display team of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force), celebrated their 60th anniversary earlier this year. To mark the milestone, an international airshow was held at Rivolto Air Base, home of the Frecce, on September 8 and 9, 202, representing the first proper airshow in almost two years in Italy. The Covid-9 pandemic, in fact, caused the cancellation of all the scheduled , including the 60th anniversary’s airshow which was to be initially held in 2020 and then postponed to this year.

Even if the 60th anniversary is in 202, it was initially chosen to hold the airshow in 2020 as a way to begin a year of celebrations which would have lasted until the anniversary on March . The cancelled 2020 airshow season was then replaced by an unprecedented tour of Italy, named “Abbraccio Tricolore” (Tricolor Hug), which included 21 flyovers in 5 days before the final flight over Rome on June 2 for the Festa della Repubblica, the Italian National Day and Republic Day.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe Frecce Tricolori with their trademark tri-colored smokes. (Image credit: Alessandro Fucito)

When airshows started to be cancelled in 2021 too, the Italian Air Force did its best to avoid postponing again the celebrations for the Pattuglia Acrobatica Nazionale (PAN, National Aerobatic Team). Efforts were made to allow a wide participation without compromising the safety and the health, ultimately limiting the access to the air base to 17,500 people over the two days with free admission passes and valid Covid “Green Certifications”. The passes went sold out as soon as the request form was made available online in mid-August, but people who couldn’t get the pass could at least count on the live streaming on the Italian State television RAI1 (where The Aviationist’s editor David Cenciotti was one of the guests providing expert commentary) and the Italian Air Force’s YouTube channel.

International aerobatic teams joined the airshow to wish a happy birthday to the Frecce Tricolori, including the Orlik Team from Poland, the Midnight Hawks from Finland, the Patrulla Aguila from Spain and the Patrouille Suisse from Switzerland. Initially, the Red Arrows from the United Kingdom, the Red Devils from Belgium and the Krila Oluje from Croatia were also expected to join the show, but their participation was later cancelled. The French Patrouille de France could not attend the celebrations in Rivolto as they were already involved in their own airshow at the Base Aérienne 116 Luxeuil.

The airshow with lots of interesting displays and demos, including the flypast of the Legend formation, that made its debut in 9-ship formation at the recent 75th anniversary of the 61° Stormo: the formation is a joint civil-military effort with some privately owned warbirds (T-6, G.46, SF-260AM, MB-326E and MB-326K) along with military aircraft in active service (Siai 208M, M-346/T-346, MB-339A/T-339A and MB-339CD/FT-339C).

We will cover the Legend formation and other displays more in depth in a series of upcoming stories (yes, there’s much more to say) we will publish in the next days. For the moment, let’s focus on the COMAO.

Composite Air Operations demo

In addition to the aerobatic teams, the entire Italian Air Force took part in the celebrations with representatives from almost all aircraft types, including the F-2000 Typhoon, F-35A and F-35B, Tornado, AMX, HH-101, HH-139 (as part of a SMI demo), T-346, T-339A and FT-339C (as part of the Legend formation), C-27J, C-130J, KC-767, G550 CAEW and Predator. The flight displays by the Reparto Sperimentale Volo, the Test unit of the ItAF, were followed by operational demonstrations which included a Slow Mover Intercept (SMI) scenario, with two Typhoons scrambling to intercept a HH-139A, and a COMAO (Composite Air Operations) scenario.

The latter included all the capabilities of the Italian Air Force, with the CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) and a Predator RPA operating behind the scenes to provide data and share the “picture” so as to achieve the Information Superiority needed by the decision makers in any conflict or crisis operation.

Actually, several different scenarios were merged into a 30 minute demo.

It all started with a demo of the strategic and tactical airlift capabilities of the Italian Air Force: a KC-767A and a C-130J which also airlifted operators from the “Fucilieri dell’Aria” (Air Riflemen) Battalion of the 16° Stormo simulated an evacuation from an airport located in a contested zone. More or less what the service put into practice to evacuate civilians from Kabul during operation Aquila Omnia.

Then, an F-35A simulated a SEAD/DEAD attack on the airfield, targeting a SPADA SAM battery of the local-based 2° Stormo (Wing), the Italian Air Force missile unit. The aircraft showed two GBU-12 Paveway II bombs during the open weapon bay pass.

After the enemy air defenses had been disabled, it was the turn of a package composed by two Typhoons loaded in a swing role configuration with two IRIS-T IR-guided air-to-air missiles and two GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway II; two Tornados (one of those carrying three GBU-32 JDAM bombs) and two AMX to attack the airfield: this phase provided the crowd with a quite rare sight during Italian airshows, with an AMX dropping flares during a simulated strafing run and inert bombs on the Typhoon, F-35 and Tornado.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoAMX dropping flares. Quite rare in an Italian airshow. Last time this happened during a large airshow was (probably) at Pratica di Mare airbase in the 2000s.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoTyphoon with GBU-48 Enhanced Paveway.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThis Tornado appeared to carry three GBU-32 bombs.

The fourth phase fo the demo saw two HH-101 Caesar helicopters arrive on the “scene” to insert a special forces team of the 17° Stormo “Incursori” (Raiders Wing) using the Fast Rope while one Typhoon and an F-35 provided top cover and Close Air Support with glide 10 strafing attacks.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoOne of the two HH-101A of the 21° Gruppo, based at Grazzanise airbase.

The subsequent phase saw the Raiders exfiltrate a wounded military from a building while one Tornado and one AMX provided armed overwatch flying a Visual Wheel at 1,000 and 2,000 feet.

The next phase simulated a PR (Personnel Recovery) operation: as AMX and Tornado in Sandy role continued to provide cover, the HH-101 Caesar landed to recover the wounded military and egress the combat zone.

Then it was the time for the ItAF F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II to take the stage: the aircraft approached the field from the North, hovered in front of the crowd at the center of the display line and then landed vertically on the runway.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoF-35B banking left.
- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe F-35B of the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Italian Air Force.

The final act of the demo was a flypast of most of the aircraft taking part in the display split into three sections: the first one was a formation made of a KC-767, F-35A, F-2000, AMX, Tornado and G550 CAEW flying at 1,000 feet AGL and 270 knots; the second formation, coming in at 500 feet and 220 knots was a formation with a C-130 and a C-27J while the third and final section, flying at 100 feet AGL, was composed by two HH-101A Caesar helicopters of the 21° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 9° Stormo (Wing).

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe KC-767 leading the first section of the final flypast.

Interestingly, while the AMXs landed at Rivolto after the “Composite event”, all the other assets taking part in the flyover flew back to their homebases. Among them the F-35A that carried out AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) with the KC-767 before heading to Amendola airbase. After all, the demo was also a training opportunity for the involved aircrews and supporting personnel.

Static display and VIPs

A static display of the aircraft in service with the Aeronautica Militare was also available for the public to visit, along with thematic areas dedicated to the Frecce Tricolori’s history, ItAF recruitment and technologies for a sustainable future. Aircraft were not the only protagonists of the static display, as they were joined also by high performance cars of the Italian builder Pagani.

One of the cars in Rivolto was the exclusive Huayra Tricolore, a hypercar of which only three examples have been built expressly for the Frecce Tricolori anniversary and with the astonishing price of about 6 million Euro each. Horacio Pagani, founder and CEO of the company, drove himself the car on the runway for a high-speed drive before the beginning of the airshow, for the delight of the crowd.

Among the authorities arrived in Rivolto for the 60th anniversary there were also the Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, the President of the Senate Maria Elisabetta Alberti Casellati and the Minister of Defence Lorenzo Guerini, welcomed by the “homeowners” Gen. Alberto Rosso, Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, Col. Marco Bertoli, Commander of the 2° Stormo, and Lt. Col. Gaetano Farina, Commander of the Frecce Tricolori.

President Mattarella arrived in Rivolto on board of the A319CJ of the 31° Stormo, the Italian Air Force One, escorted by two Typhoons. The aircraft was parked away from the crowd, with the President taken by car to the authorities’ official gallery where he enjoyed a center stage seat. At the end of the airshow, the President personally congratulated Lt. Col. Farina and all the members of the team on the flight line, before posing for a group photo and being gifted a special print for the anniversary.

“It is always a sight to see you, well done. It was exciting”, said President Mattarella. “In important ceremonies such as June 2 and other days, your flypast is a highlight, a central moment. You are a magnificent symbol of Italy. Congratulations and thanks. I imagine the work, but the involvement is exciting”. The President later departed on the A319CJ back to Rome, after being saluted by the crowd gathered in Rivolto for the airshow.

“An anniversary full of pride for Italy,” commented the Gen. Rosso. “Italians are the pilots, Italian is the training they received at the Air Force flight schools, Italian is the technology of the aircraft. The Frecce Tricolori are the tip of the iceberg of this airshow but there are many capabilities and assets constantly engaged at the service of the community, to protect our skies and the skies of countries that do not have their own defense system, assets also committed in recent months abroad, in the complex repatriation operation of Afghan refugees, and before that committed to supporting the fight against Covid-19 ”.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe 2021 Frecce Tricolori team poses for the photographers at the end of the airshow. (Image credit: Stefano D’Urso)

“Words are not needed to describe this day”, said Minister Guerini during his salute address. “The emotions experienced thanks to the extraordinary spectacle we witnessed are enough. But beyond the emotion, we saw the purest, most immediate and concrete expression of the peculiarity of our military instrument, based on professional skills of the highest level and high-tech means but firmly anchored to values ​​and traditions “.

The Minister of Defence underlined the importance of teamwork that distinguishes all the excellent departments of the Italian Armed Forces, highlighting that with this anniversary “the result of 60 years of history was celebrated, to be watched with great pride and respect, in which the Frecce Tricolori have sailed the skies of Italy and the world, ambassadors of prestige, traditions and Italian excellence and, before that, of the technical and human skills of the entire Air Force “.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoThe sun sets over Rivolto while the maintenance crews perform post-flight operations after the airshow. (Image credit: Stefano D’Urso)

The airshow was replicated the next day, with the rain being unable to deter thousands of enthusiast people from enjoying the special day.

- Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO DemoLanding on wet runway on Sept. 19, 2021.

The second day of the airshow was also dedicated to the participation of former pilots and members of the 313° Gruppo Addestramento Acrobatico (the official ItAF designation of the Frecce Tricolori), as well as those who were part of the historical aerobatic teams who preceded the official creation of the Frecce, sealing the indissoluble bond that ideally binds all those who have had the honor of representing the Armed Force and the country in this capacity.

This bond was also celebrated with the special tails that were created this year for the anniversary, featuring the liveries of the display teams that in the 1950s were given, on a rotational basis, the task of representing the Air Force at air shows and flyovers in Italy and abroad: the “Cavallino Rampante”, “Getti Tonanti”, “Tigri Bianche”, “Diavoli Rossi” and “Lancieri Neri”. The special tails were initially applied to five aircraft earlier this year, with the other five receiving them before the airshow. As a surprise, the pilots also had their helmets repainted the night before the airshow, featuring the current helmet on one side and the helmet of the historical teams on the other side

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Dissecting Frecce Tricolori’s 60th Anniversary Airshow And Its Pretty Interesting COMAO Demo
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.
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Stefano D’Urso is a contributor for TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. He’s a full-time engineering student and aspiring pilot. In his spare time he’s also an amateur aviation photographer and flight simulation enthusiast.

A Photo Contest Beauty From Brent Clark

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This week’s Plane & Pilot Photo of the Week is one you might have seen before. After all, it was the cover of our July 2021 issue—well, at least part of it was! The landscape format photo wound up making a dramatic cover, though its real beauty is in its unadulterated format. It is a spectacular shot.

To get it, Clark did a couple of things that great photographers regularly do. For starters, he got up really early, when the sun is low, and the light looks golden. The second thing he did is keep his eye open for possibilities. Clark shot this one in Lakeland, Florida, at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In. It shows a Cessna single (we’re guessing Skyhawk) just parked in the mist and dewy grass for the upcoming airshow. It’s one of those rare quiet moments before things get rolling at the event, and it’s a special time, that is if you’re up for it, and Clark surely was.

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The result was a prize-winning photo in our 2021 edition of Your Flying World. We’ve just concluded our Wingtip Wonders contest—expect results in a coming issue—and we’ve launched our next contest, which is a reboot of our much beloved Your Flying World, a theme that opens the world of aviation your lens. Details on the contest can be found here. Hope you share your photographic magic with all of us!

Do you love taking photos? Enter them in our 2021 Your Flying World contest!

Miss last week’s Photo of the Week? Check it out: Not Waterskiing!

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

This $4.5 Million Dollar House Has An Airplane Built In, Kind Of

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Even though this place is a few million dollars outside of our price range, we had to share it with you because of its home theater, which is modeled after an airliner (extra points if you know which one and even more if you tell us!), complete with actual airliner seats. The legroom, as you’ll notice, is just a skosh comfier than you’ll find in coach, and the multiple tiers, all the better to see the big screen from, are a welcome mod, as well.

The home is located in Austin, TX, in a neighborhood peopled by the area’s players, and you can see why they’d like it, well, in addition to home theaters modeled after airplanes. And as a side note, it’s perfectly legal to operate seaplanes from Austin’s waterways, well, most of them anyway, and you’ll often see them flying about near the iconic 360 bridge south of town. This activity, by the way, prompted a call to police last year to report a plane going down in the water! Yup.  It did, and it will do it again!

The home is being offered by Jaquelin Freund of Realty Associates. The rest of the home, we should add, is really nice. We’ll take it, but first, can someone lend us around $4 million?

Screen Shot 2021 09 24 at 11.08.00 AM 640x359 - This $4.5 Million Dollar House Has An Airplane Built In, Kind Of

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight Path

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The C-17A flying over Brisbane on Sept. 23, 2021. (All images: Emil Cooper)

Taken from 300 feet above the flight path of the RAAF C-17 Globemaster III airlifter doing the Riverfire Festival practice run.

Yesterday we posted some really amazing shots of the Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster III that flew a practice run for the annual Riverfire Festival along the Brisbane River and through the central business district on Sept. 23, 2021.

As “Stallion 63” flew at 300ft AGL over Brisbane, someone, situated above the flight path was also filming the airlifter as it maneuvered at low level rehearsing the Riverfire run due to take place on Saturday Sept. 25.

“We were situated 300ft above the C-17’s flight path, on the 51st floor of the Riparian Plaza,” The Aviation Studio’s photographer and writer Emil Cooper told us in an email. “The RAAF performed a fantastic demonstration of the Globemasters’ handling capability, they sure know how to throw it around! Riverfire offers an extremely unique perspective and opportunity with no other displays in the world offering this sort of low level flying through a metropolitan area well below building height.”

- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathC-17 banking left.

Indeed, the video and shots taken from that place speak for themselves: it seems like you are observing a low level pass through the Mach Loop or the Star Wars Canyon with the only difference that, instead of green fields, remote villages or desert, there’s a 2.5M city’s skyline with plenty of buildings! Outstanding.

- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathAlmost head on.
- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathImpressive image of the C-17 flying over Brisbane.

The clip, in particular, gives an idea of the maneuverability of the C-17 that, in spite of its size, is able to perform pretty fast rolls (something that is not only good for airshows or flyovers, but can be particularly useful when trying to egress a SAM engagement zone or to avoid detection and interception from fast movers).

Interestingly, the afternoon display consisted of two Australian Army ARH Tigers and two MRH90 Taipans, making their first appearance at the show since 2017. Emil was able to catch some really interesting shots of these too.

- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathAn Army MRH-90 Taipan.
- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathAustralian Army Tiger maneuvering at low altitude.
- Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight PathArmy ARH Tiger.

Thank you very much to Emil Cooper for sending us all the photos you can find in this article. Make sure you follow The Aviation Studio on Facebook and Instagram too.

f5260c1a4f5417527329915544c2932f?s=125&d=mm&r=g - Behold This Awesome Video Of The C-17 Flying Low Over Brisbane Taken From Above Its Flight Path
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Friday Photo: deviating around a forest fire

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CO Forest Fire 2020 10 16 600 - Friday Photo: deviating around a forest fire

The view: October 16, 2020. Friday afternoon cross-country flight from Telluride (TEX) to Omaha (MLE), just south of Denver at 11,000 ft.

The pilot: David Lennox

The airplane: 1999 Saratoga IITC (PA32-301T)

The mission: One leg of a round-the-country flight visiting five national parks from Boston, MA, across north to northwest, southwest, then back to Boston.

The memory: My wife and I were flying from TEX through/near Denver to MLE on afternoon of 10/16/20 in otherwise good weather. As we were approaching Denver airspace, we asked to deviate to left to avoid what looked like an unpredicted storm coming in from the northwest. The controller suggested there was no storm activity in the area, but permitted the deviation anyway. Shortly after, we found ourselves between layers of what we thought was the edge of the “storm cell” off our left wing. Not until that evening, did we understand why we also detected a faint smell of smoke. We were concerned and considered landing, but the smell dissipated shortly thereafter. The “cell” and smell were instead caused by the smoke from one of the largest forest fires in CO history.

Want to share your “Friday Photo?” Send your photo and description (using the format above) to: [email protected]

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Dillingham, Hawaii, Airport Gets A Lifeline

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hawaii skydive crash site3 640x483 1 - Dillingham, Hawaii, Airport Gets A Lifeline
A screenshot from Google Maps of Dillingham Airfield.

Dillingham Airfield has gotten a much-needed reprieve when the Hawaii Department of Transportation announced that it would cancel its plans to close the popular and historic airport. According to AOPA, the airport, located on the North shore of Oahu, the state’s most populous island, provides more than $12.6 million in economic impact to the community, and there are, according to AOPA’s statement, 130 people employed at 11 airport businesses on the field. AOPA has been working with both Hawaii state and U.S.  legislators to push for the preservation of the field, work it believes influenced the HDoTs decision to rescind the early closing order.

As part of its political action efforts, AOPA reminded the decision makers that it has grant obligations to the FAA required by law to fulfil, which closing the airport ahead of its lease termination, which expires in three years’ time, would violate.

But AOPA doesn’t see the reprieve as a final step but, rather, as additional time to negotiate the continued long-term operation of the field. In March, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele (D-Hawaii) wrote a letter urging Hawaii Gov. David Ige to maintain the civilian use of the airfield. AOPA reported that Kahele said, “The Hawai’i DOT’s decision to revoke its notice of early termination of its lease with the Army allows for much needed continued dialogue about the future of Kawaihāpai (Dillingham) Airfield. Since taking office, my staff and I have made a concerted effort to find long-term solutions for the ongoing maintenance and operations to maximize the potential of Kawaihāpai.” He went on to say, “The Airfield is a critical economic driver for the North Shore and serves as an educational epicenter for aspiring local pilots as well as the general aviation and skydiving communities.”

So, the good guys win this round, though the fight’s hardly over, and not just in Dillingham but with other airfields threatened with early closures, and never, it seems for anything resembling a good reason.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

We Tried America’s Newest Airline and It Was a Breeze

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We recently flew Breeze Airways from Tampa (TPA) to Tulsa (TUL). Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of the airline, as it launched barely four months ago.

we tried americas newest airline and it was a breeze - We Tried America’s Newest Airline and It Was a Breeze

Two Breeze planes and Southwest’s Missouri One at TPA

Our flight was on a random Monday morning after all of the new airline buzz had died down and the inauguration fanfare had passed. No AvGeeks, no suits, no tchotchkes. Just a new airline, new crew, and lots of bargain hunters looking to excise their pent-up travel demand. We sure love an inaugural. In fact, that’s how we found ourselves in Tampa to start with. But today’s review is less flashy. Rather, we hope this is what others can expect now that some of the initial excitement and “newness” has died down.

Booking with Breeze Airways

We found the Breeze Airways site (and app!) to be impressive for a brand new airline. In a word: Polished. Breeze offers just two fare options: Nice and Nicer. It’s a smart touch to market basic economy with a positive spin.

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The two booking options on Breeze – Image: Flybreeze.com

For our one-way from Tampa to Tulsa we chose the $84 fare, just on the basis of having a carry-on and wanting the extra legroom. It’s worth noting that the $39/$84 split on this particular route has persisted since launch. There are more expensive days, but seeing a launch fare remain for more than a few weeks is great in terms of setting pricing expectations and letting travelers spread the excitement of a new airline by word-of-mouth.

Flying Out of Tampa with Breeze Airways

Flying in to and out of Tampa is always a joy and this trip was no exception. It was not lost on me that my last visit to Tampa was onboard Citrus Flight 1 — the final AirTran flight — to experience firsthand the sunset of AirTran Airways. Later, I would learn that our Breeze flight would depart from the very gate where N717JL pulled in, bringing the Southwest integration of Tampa’s hometown airline to a close. But this was a new day. It was time for a new airline to shine.

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N910BZ, a seven-year-old Embraer E-Jet at TPA’s gate 44 – Photo: JL Johnson

Breeze launched as a “TSA PreCheck airline.” This stands in contrast to the other upstart airline on the west coast which began operations prior to Breeze but still doesn’t offer PreCheck. Historically, new airlines have taken some time to get through the process of becoming a TSA PreCheck partner. I would propose PreCheck benefits are of particular interest, as frequent travelers look to minimize the slow crowds and general hassle associated with the resurgence of leisure travel. The PreCheck line at TPA was as quick as one would expect at the 23rd-busiest airport in the U.S.

Boarding was not a bright spot. The gate agent didn’t space out group announcements. It felt as if the entire plane rushed to board at once. Thankfully the plane wasn’t quite full. The assurance of priority boarding, assigned seats, and reserved bin space alleviated any potential anxiety.

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Ex-Azul turned Breeze Airways E-Jet Interior – Photo: JL Johnson

In-Flight Experience with Breeze Airways

A real perk of flying onboard Embraer planes — and soon, the Airbus A220 — is the option for two-seat sections. Calling Kansas City, MO home base, we spend almost all of our time on board 737s and A320 variants. The 3×3 layout has long been the norm for us, and we most always wind up with a stranger in our cluster. We welcome the diversity of the Breeze fleet and the opportunity to maintain a small bubble of personal space, particularly given the ongoing global pandemic.

We selected bulkhead seats which had plenty of legroom. I regret I didn’t think to measure, as I’ve been known to do. The seats were comfortable, and the belt length was generous. The safety cards were beautiful and stared at me for the duration of the flight. They insisted they come home with me. I somehow resisted their constant nagging.

Before takeoff, our Captain stood before the cabin and made some basic announcements. The presence and in-person engagement was appreciated. He brought good energy and set the tone for the duration of the “soft” portion of the flight. I would later deduce via some post-flight survey questions that there seems to be an expectation that a pilot be seen and engaged before takeoff. It was a nice touch and I’m glad this is a metric the airline chooses to measure itself on. I suspect seeing the pilot and hearing their relaxed, friendly tone could help relieve some jitters for anxious flyers.

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The best inflight entertainment

There was no in-flight entertainment (IFE.) From my perspective that’s a non-issue. It seems I’m in the minority in not expecting seat-back IFE for a two-hour flight. If needed, I’m always happy to stare at one of the modern distraction rectangles I have lugged onboard anyway.

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In-flight snackage, – Photo: JL Johnson

Snack service was efficient. The “nicer” fare included a soft drink, a bag of chips, and a KIND bar. We couldn’t help but notice the snack bar brand choice was another nod to their nicer way of doing things.

Breeze conclusion

Breeze offered a compelling experience at an impressive price. It is clear that the airline’s leadership has invested a lot of thought and capital into entering the market with a competitive product from day one. The airline appears to be built upon solid technology. They seem to care a great deal about customer experience yet are somehow priced like any other ULCC. From booking through to the post-flight survey, we encountered touches of excellence and unexpected delights all along the way.

I hope for the future of the airline industry that Breeze sets the stage for its much larger peers to follow. If you haven’t flown them yet, you should.

Managing Correspondent – Lee’s Summit, MO. JL joined AirlineReporter in 2012 and has since become one of our most tenured and prolific writers. His passions include catalyzing AvGeek passion in others, spending too much time on Twitter, and frequent travel. While he’s always looking for the next big adventure, home is with his growing AvGeek family in Lee’s Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City. Email: [email protected]


How a local airshow thrives and dies

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As any good story in aviation starts, the rise and fall of Airshow Chattanooga begins with Bob Hoover and a dare. At the turn of 1990, then 28-year-old Morty Lloyd found the legendary WWII pilot and airshow performer’s phone number. On a whim he called, asking if he and his buddies started an airshow in Chattanooga, Tennessee, would he perform. “It was a complete gamble,” Morty, former Director of Airshow Chattanooga, confided in between bites of a taco at a roadside stand where I met him to discuss the rise and demise of the local airshow which graced the East Tennessee skies from 1992 to 2005.

With Bob Hoover 300x206 - How a local airshow thrives and dies

Booking Bob Hoover to perform is a good way to start up an airshow.

However, it wasn’t so far-fetched to “the greatest stick and rudder man who ever lived.” Hoover, a Tennessean himself, called Morty back and spent over an hour explaining to him why Chattanooga, Tennessee, needed an airshow. “Then I got down to work,” Morty said with a grin.

And so began the story of one of the South’s most successful airshows. Airshow Chattanooga’s 13-year run was a wildly successful event bi-annually in Tennessee which regularly brought over 100,000 people to the two-day event. The airshow was twice ranked by the Blue Angels as their number one site to perform. That came as no surprise to Lloyd though: “Each year at our opening meeting our goal was the same: to be the best airshow.”

There is only one way to ensure you’re the best airshow around: secure the US Navy Blue Angels or the US Air Force Thunderbirds. 1996 was the lone year Airshow Chattanooga couldn’t bring a jet team to town and that was due to an internal incident with one of the teams. “They bumped aircraft mid-flight… and had to cancel a week before,” Morty says nonchalantly—as if two fighter jets tapping each other at 300 knots was like a teenager in a fender bender. “But you could see the impact on the show. We still had some of the best performers (Sean D. Tucker, Patty Wagstaff, Bob Hoover, F-14 demo team, civilian warplanes). It didn’t matter. People come to see the Blue Angels.”

In 1990, Morty arrived with the Airshow Chattanooga contingent at the International Council of Airshows annual meeting in Las Vegas for the performer’s selection. Out of almost 350 airshows only 12 would get selected to host the Blues or the T-birds. “Most people there hadn’t even heard of Chattanooga,” Morty admits. “I told Blue Angel No. 7 about our proposal and his response was ‘Chatta-what?’”

But Morty had an ace in the hole. “It certainly didn’t hurt to have mom on the Armed Services Committee,” he said with a wink. Democratic Congresswoman Marylin Llyod represented the 3rd District of Tennessee for 20 years, and most importantly to the future success of Airshow Chattanooga, she was Morty’s mother. In the airshow’s first year it was announced that the Blue Angels were coming to the Scenic City. “We never wanted one of the jet teams to regret taking a chance on us. We would always receive their two-inch thick support manual and we would always try and go above and beyond their demands.”

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Planning for a jet team like the Blue Angels takes serious work.

Demands is an understatement when it comes to working with the military jet teams. They own the airfield and the airspace and that is no joke. Morty rattled off stories of the dramatics of working with a jet team. “They require a sterile airshow box. Meaning no movement whatsoever. One year, Blue Angel No. 7 was doing a clearing flight of the airshow box and he saw a train creeping in the final ten-foot corner of the box. They called me on Friday and said they that they would head back to Pensacola unless that train was gone.”

Morty then began a series of phone calls with CSX which ended in a midnight conversation with the VP of Railroad Operations, who finally relented to stopping the train. In a town made famous by the Chattanooga Choo Choo, the rails would come to a halt for two hours to give way to the skies. “Despite their stringent demands, the Blues were always class acts, never prima donnas,” Mike Brown, Blue Angel Liaison for Airshow Chattanooga, remarked.

Ironically, getting the railroad to stop was easier than closing two holes of the Brainerd Golf Club. After stationing an armed guard on the western most par four and a bargaining a few VIP passes to some inconvenienced golfers, “we finally got those two holes closed for two hours.”

Morty recalled the wildest stories he ever had. In the history of Airshow Chattanooga there was only one fatality… that poor horse. Apparently, after a jet team performed an inadvertent sonic boom (or as the one of the bosses of the jet team described it, “a mere sonic wave”), it resulted in startling a horse to death. “We had to buy a new horse,” Morty said, throwing his hands up. “Despite that, I’m proud to say we never had an accident or a human fatality at Airshow Chattanooga.”

Just as most aircraft crashes are not from a single major malfunction, but the result of a chain of small miscalculations, the end of Airshow Chattanooga was a growing snowball of difficulties which resulted in its cancellation after the 2005 show. First, the main sponsor pulled out. Erlanger’s T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital had been the premier sponsor for the airshow’s entire life. It wasn’t because the show wasn’t generating a profit. The airshow raised almost $235,000 for the Children’s Hospital in the last show. “Leadership changed and they went another direction and that’s all the explanation we got,” Morty says.

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Putting on a big airshow is usually a family affair, as it was for Morty and his son.

However, the real death knell of the airshow was the very thing airshows are designed to promote: the growth of aviation and the local community. The Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, along with the city, experienced a massive transformation in the 2000s. The addition of Mayor Bob Corker’s Tennessee Riverpark, the Tennessee Aquarium, more jobs, and the overcrowding of Hartsfield-Jackson (Atlanta’s airport nearly 90 miles south) turned “Chatta-what” into a tourist and transportation hub of the South once more. The population grew by more than 30,000 in ten years and the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport went from processing 230,044 passengers in 2003 to 550,553 travelers in 2019. There became no way to work around the airlines and stop all movement within an airshow box which now found itself in the heart a growing city.

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Morty says. “It’s great that the economy, the community, and the air traffic of Chattanooga is growing. It’s just a somewhat sad byproduct of a growing city that the airshow couldn’t last.” For those hoping for a possible return of Airshow Chattanooga, Morty’s answer is simple: “never.” The establishment of a corporate air center on the western side of the airport in 2008 fully encroached upon the airshow box and thus sealed the fate of the airshow’s possible return.

Despite that, the memory of Chattanooga’s airshow lives on. Our waitress overhearing our talk of the airshow asked the question many natives ask when hearing about it: “is it coming back?” After hearing no, she then proceeded to tell us how she and her husband volunteered to help with the pyrotechnics for the ’92 and ’94 shows. “He was a Vietnam veteran, and you could see on his face what helping meant to him.” That’s what an airshow does: it brings people together to commemorate innovation, exploration, and pay tribute to service. In an age of 737 Max crashes and over invasive security checkpoints, the local airshow is the one place the aviation community can put forth its best face to the non-pilot public to show its important role of commerce in the community. No place else does civilian, commercial, and military aviation work together better than your regional airshow.

As for Morty, he enjoyed his time with the airshow, but is glad to not have to deal with the stress. “I had a full head of hair before the airshow,” Morty laughingly remarks pointing to his smooth head. When asked the most rewarding part of being director of the South’s best airshow? “That’s easy; the people.” That’s an answer anyone in aviation knows is true. No matter how fast the F-16s become or how many loops Sean D. Tucker can wring out, the one thing that makes aviation as great as it is, are the people involved with it.

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Here Are Some Jaw Dropping Shots Of The RAAF C-17 Over Brisbane During The Riverfire Festival Rehearsals

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Here Are Some Jaw Dropping Shots Of The RAAF C-17 Over Brisbane During The Riverfire Festival Rehearsals
The RAAF C-17A during the Riverfire Festival practice run. (All images: James Woodrow)

RAAF C-17 maneuvering at low level over Brisbane is one of the highlights of the annual Brisbane Riverfire Festival.

On Sept. 23, 2021, a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), radio callsign “Stallion 63” flew a practice run for the annual Riverfire Festival due to take place on Saturday Sept. 25. Operating out of its homebase at RAAF Base Amberley, the aircraft, serial A41-206, performed a number of low passes along the Brisbane River and through the central business district at 300ft AGL.

Photographer James Woodrow was there and took the amazing photographs of the C-17, wearing special 100th RAAF Anniversary markings, you can find in this post.

- Here Are Some Jaw Dropping Shots Of The RAAF C-17 Over Brisbane During The Riverfire Festival RehearsalsManeuvering low over Brisbane

Riverfire Festival is the big finale to the Brisbane Festival, Queensland’s three week arts and cultural festival held each year at the end of September in eastern Australia. From an aviation point of view, the event is quite famous for the flypasts and aerial displays of RAAF aircraft, including the Australian F/A-18 Hornet and EA-18G Growler and the Roulettes Aerobatic team. Most aviation lovers will probably remember the iconic RAAF F-111 AArdvaark’s “dump and burn“ passes, performed at night, from 2006 to 2010.

Anyway, since 2017, the RAAF C-17A maneuvering over Brisbane has become one of the highlights of the Brisbane Riverfire Festival.

- Here Are Some Jaw Dropping Shots Of The RAAF C-17 Over Brisbane During The Riverfire Festival RehearsalsAnother impressive shot of the C-17A over Brisbane on Sept. 23, 2021.

As already reported here at The Aviationist, in 2018, the C-17 literally “stole the stage” performing its flypast over downtown Brisbane and resulting in tons of videos that were posted online. As you may remember, while the majority of those who watched the flypast, either in person or on the Internet, found it “cool”, some others were scared by the sight of a big aircraft zipping between the skyscrapers. Some media called the flypast “9/11 stuff” and said people were “terrified” by the “unnecessarily stupid and dangerous stunt” as the display was defined by those who slammed it on the social media. However, all the criticism seemed way too exaggerated, as I commented in a post published here back then.

Dealing with the RAAF Globemaster fleet, four C-17As were introduced between December 2006 and March 2008, with another four acquired in 2011, 2012, and 2015. The C-17A provides the Australian Defence Force with a strategic airlift capability, able to carry large items of equipment and cargo over long distances and, as often happens with such “force multipliers” their support is, if not in overbooking, in very high demand.

- Here Are Some Jaw Dropping Shots Of The RAAF C-17 Over Brisbane During The Riverfire Festival RehearsalsBanking left after the pass.

H/T to our friend Rich Cooper for the heads-up and to James Woodrow for sending us his stunning shots!

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David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

Welcome to “Hidden Airport”

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Unexpected Pleasures at a Terminal Near You.

WITH SCATTERED EXCEPTIONS, U.S. airports don’t have a whole lot going for them. They’re noisy, dirty, poorly laid out, and just generally hostile to passengers. As my regular readers are well aware, I’ve made this point in numerous prior posts — perhaps too many times. Now, so that I’m not accused of harping on the negative, here’s something different. “Hidden Airport” is a semi-regular feature highlighting little-known spots of unexpected pleasantness.



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Indianapolis International is the rare gem among U.S. airports. It’s spacious, clean, and splashed with natural light. Best of all, and unlike almost every other airport in the country, it’s remarkably quiet. According to Airports Council International, IND is the Best Airport in North America, and the readers of Conde Nast Traveler have dittoed that sentiment multiple times.

Tucked into the A concourse, between gates 14 and 16, is the KIND Gallery. Created in partnership with the city’s Arts Council, it showcases the works of Hoosier artists. The gallery is neither large nor — depending on your tastes in art — particularly breathtaking. But it’s exactly what it should be: an engaging and relaxing little sneak-away spot. My favorite of the current installation is “Cloud Study 1-4,” a four-frame series of cloudscapes by an artist named Kipp Normand.

What do we do at airports? We kill time. And here’s a way to do it that’s a little more fulfilling than staring at your phone or browsing the magazine kiosk.

And about that name, “KIND.” Chances are you’re familiar with the three-letter identifiers for airports, Indy’s being IND. What you probably didn’t know, however, is that airports also have four-letter identifiers. These are assigned by ICAO and used for navigation and other technical purposes. Airports in the United States simply add the letter “K” to the existing three-letter code. KLAX, for example. Or KBOS or KSFO or KMCO. Or, in this case, KIND.



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The next time you’re on the check-in level of terminal 4 at Kennedy Airport, look up. Suspended from the ceiling near the western end of the building is a sculpture constructed of balanced aluminum arms and trapezoidal panels. This is “.125,” the famous mobile made by Alexander Calder in 1957, back when JFK was still known as Idlewild Airport.

At 45 feet long, it’s supposedly the fourth-largest mobile in the world. For years it hung in the arrivals hall of the old Terminal 4, better known as the IAB (International Arrivals Building). Later it was moved to the departure level when the terminal was rebuilt. “People think monuments should come out of the ground, never out of the ceiling,” said Calder. “But mobiles can be monumental too.” The name “.125” comes from the gauge of its aluminum elements. What it evokes is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder. One can detect a certain flight motif, though to me it looks more like a fish.

This wasn’t Calder’s only aviation-related project. In the 1970s he hand-painted two airplanes for Braniff Airways, including a Boeing 727 for the Bicentennial.


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Atlanta. The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has its negatives, to be sure. The low ceilings, beeping electric carts and endless public address announcements make the place noisy and claustrophobic. Many of the windows are inexplicably covered over, and the airport’s skinny escalators were apparently designed before the invention of luggage. On the other hand, ATL’s simple layout — essentially six rectangular concourses sequenced one after the other — makes for fast and easy connections. It’s one of the most convenient places anywhere to change planes. The neatest thing about it, though, is the underground connector tunnel. This is where you go to catch the inter-terminal train, but the better choice is to walk it. (If, like me, you purchased a Garmin Vivofit and have become obsessed with step-counting, note that it takes sixteen minutes and 1800 steps to cover the tunnel’s full walkable length.)

ATL Underground Atlanta  - Welcome to “Hidden Airport”

ATL’s history of Atlanta exhibit.

Along the way you’ll pass a series of art and photography installations. Between concourses B and C, is an excellent, museum-quality multimedia exhibit on the history Georgia’s capital. You could easily spend a half-hour here. My favorite section, though, is the forest canopy ceiling in the tunnel between concourses A and B. This installation, made of multicolor, laser-cut aluminum panels is the work of artist Steve Waldeck. Described as a “450-foot multisensory walk through a simulated Georgia forest,” it features an audio backdrop of dozens of native birds and insects. What a welcome change it is, listening to the calls of sandhill cranes and blue herons instead of some idiotic TSA directive. It takes only two or three minutes to pass beneath the length of it, but these are about the most relaxing (if a bit psychedelic) two or three minutes to be found at an airport.


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The idea of building a memorial to the 2001 terror attacks, at the very airport from which two of the four hijacked planes departed from, ran a fine line between commemorative and tasteless. It needed to be done just right. What they came up with is superb, and ought to serve as a model for such memorials everywhere. Reached along an ascending pathway that twists upward amidst grass and trees, the main structure is a sort of open-topped glass chapel, inside of which are two vertical slabs, one for each of the two aircraft that struck the World Trade Center — and mimicking the shapes, one can’t help noticing, of the twin towers themselves — engraved with the names of the passengers and crew. There’s one for American’s flight 11, the Boeing 767 that struck the north tower, and the other for United 175, which hit the south tower a few minutes later. The glass and steelwork allow the entire space to be flooded with silvery light, creating an atmosphere that’s quiet and contemplative without feeling maudlin or sentimentalized. There are no flags or any of the crudely “patriotic” touches one might expect (and dread). It’s everything it should be: beautifully constructed, understated, and respectful.

Officially it’s called the “Place of Remembrance,” and it was built by the Boston-based firm of Moskow Linn Architects, as part of a public competition. The final design was chosen by airline workers, airport representatives, and family members of the victims. The engraved names are separated into columns of crew and passengers, and the names of off-duty United employees on the flight 175 plate include a small “tulip” logo of United Airlines. This might seem a strange touch, but this memorial was built primarily for the community of people who work at Logan Airport. Among the passengers and crew killed on the two jets were more than a dozen Logan-based employees. But anyone is welcome, of course, and I only wish the memorial were more easily accessible. If you’re at BOS and have some time, it’s worth seeking out. It sits on a knoll just to the southern side of the central parking garage, at the foot of the walkway tunnel that connects the garage with terminal A. Find the tunnel and follow the signs.

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Airport art installations of one form or another are awfully trendy these days. Paintings, sculptures and mobiles are popping up all over the place. And good for that. Among the best is artist Joyce Hsu’s “Namoo House” sculpture at San Francisco International. It’s a huge, wall-mounted display of aluminum and stainless steel insects that, in the artist’s words, suggests the way the airport “fuses science, nature, and imagination, to become the transit home for all passengers” — whatever that might mean. To me, the metalwork moths and six-foot dragonflies represent both natural and human-made flying machines. And they remind me of the erector-set toys that I played with as a kid. Go to gate A3 in SFO’s international terminal, near the Emirates and JetBlue gates.

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RDU 1 - Welcome to “Hidden Airport”

“Ah for the days when aviation was a gentleman’s pursuit, back before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray and jet off to Raleigh-Durham.” That’s from Sideshow Bob, in an old episode of the Simpsons (back when that show was still watchable), and we love the way he gives the words “Raleigh-Durham” an extra nudge of derision. I guess Bob hasn’t seen RDU’s Terminal 2. Home to Delta, American, jetBlue and United, this is possibly the most attractive airport building in America. Opened in 2008, it was the first major terminal with a wood truss skeleton. The design earned architect Curtis Fentress, whose firm also designed Denver International and Korea’s impeccable Incheon Airport, the American Institute of Architects’ Thomas Jefferson Award. “A blend of the region’s economy, heritage and landscape,” is how Fentress describes it. “Terminal 2’s rolling roofline reflects the Piedmont Hills, while the daylit interior provides the latest in common-use technology. Long-span wood trusses create column-free spaces that offer efficiency and flexibility, from ticketing to security.”

All true. And, unlike most airport facilities in this country, it’s quiet. Boarding calls and other public address announcements are kept to a minimum. This, together with the building’s architectural style and flair, will almost make you think you’re at an airport in Scandinavia.

RDU 2 - Welcome to “Hidden Airport”


Kansas City? Yup, I’m talking about MCI, an airport I visited for the first time only a couple of days ago. Its “little-known spot of unexpected pleasantness” to borrow from this post’s introduction, is in fact the entire airport. There’s nothing pretty about MCI’s three semi-circular terminals, unless you have a thing for unadorned concrete, but it’s startlingly convenient. There cannot be a quicker-in, quicker out airport anywhere in America. Curbside to gateside is literally a twenty-foot walk! The MCI experience is quick, quiet, and no-fuss — three rarities among airports these days. Worryingly, there’s a movement afoot to replace MCI’s terminals with something more “modern.” In other words, the existing layout doesn’t provide enough floor space for those “retail and dining options” that have helped turn every other big American airport into a hellish sort of shopping mall. Please keep Kansas City the way it is.


MSP Quiet Area - Welcome to “Hidden Airport”

On the whole, the Minneapolis airport is about as architecturally unexciting as a parking garage. It’s an older complex with low ceilings and endless corridors that reminds me of the ’60s-era grammar school that I once attended. And like most American airports, it has a noise pollution problem. But unlike most American airports, it has a place to escape the racket: an upper-level “quiet area” overlooking the central atrium of the Lindbergh (Delta Air Lines) Terminal. It’s difficult to find, but worth the effort if you’ve got a lengthy layover and need a place to relax. Look for the signs close to where F concourse meets the central lobby.The long, rectangular veranda has pairs of vinyl chairs set around tables. There are power outlets at each table and visitors can log in to MSP’s complimentary Wi-Fi. Delta provides pillows and blankets so that stranded passengers can nap. It’s a bland space without much ambiance, lacking the funky chairs, sofas, and other quirky accoutrements that you might find in Europe or Asia (Incheon Airport’s quiet zones are the coolest anywhere). But it does what it’s supposed to do. It’s comfortable, detached and peaceful. It’s a shame that more airports don’t set aside spots like this.

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I’ve written at length about the Marine Air Terminal at La Guardia Airport in New York City. This historic art-deco building, in the far southwest corner of LGA, is one of the most special places in all of commercial aviation — the launching point for the Pan Am flying boats that made the first-ever transatlantic and round-the-world flights. Inside the cathedral-like rotunda is the 240-foot “Flight” mural by James Brooks. What few people know about, however, is the cozy garden just outside. Facing the building, it’s to the right of the old Art Deco doorway, set back from the street. It’s a quiet, tree-shaded hideaway amidst, grass, flowers and shrubs. Grab a sandwich from the Yankee Clipper and enjoy it on one of the wooden benches. To get there, take the A Loop inter-terminal bus to the Marine Air Terminal. The spot is best appreciated in the warmer months, of course. Like the Marine Air rotunda it is outside of the TSA checkpoint, so you’ll need to re-clear security if you’re catching a flight.

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