Monday, April 04, 2011

Cracks in the Aircraft

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: 2 Filet-O-Fish, fries, Dr. Pepper

It's fast food fish season (aka "lent" for you religious freaks).  2 Filet-O-Fish are $3.33.  Culver's Northwoods Walleye is back.  And over the weekend, I finally tried Freddy's fish sandwich, which consists of two pieces of fish with cheese on a regular hamburger bun garnished with "Freddy sauce" (the same stuff they put on their fake In-N-Out "California Style" burger).  Holy was awesome.

The poor kids over at Southwest sure didn't have a good weekend, did they.  One of their older Boeing 737-300 Classics developed a five-foot tear in its fuselage mid-flight.  The cabin depressurized.  Oxygen masks deployed.  The pilots made a quick dive to an altitude where they didn't need pressurization and ultimately safely landed the aircraft to much applause from the freaked out passengers.

I imagine it must have felt like a roller coaster ride where you actually think "Jeepers.  I just might die right now." 

Probably less matter-of-factly than that.  Unless it was a flight full of Monks.

(By the way, if you didn't know, the official Boeing pronunciation of all Boeing models is to sound the second number as a single digit..."737" is "seven-THREE-seven", not "seven-THIRTY-seven", for example.  Nobody but Boeing employees and me seem to know this.)

I'm probably dwelling on it just a little bit more than you are because I just flew on an even older Southwest 737-300 a couple of weeks ago.  In fact, I flew on two of them.  Ironically, as I sat in one waiting to taxi, I looked around at the immaculate cabin and thought "Gee, they sure do keep these up well."


Southwest, in conjunction with Boeing, is conducting a "high-frequency EDDY" test on 79 of the 737-300's, which can find fuselage cracks the naked eye can't see.  So far, three aircraft have been identified as having cracks. 

This isn't a first.  In 2009, a Southwest flight developed a 'football-size' hole in flight.  That plane also landed safely, was repaired, and back in the fleet within a week (it still is).  But Southwest is calling this weekend's issue "a new and unknown issue", suggesting the tear that happened on this flight was in an area previously not thought to be vulnerable.

Why is this happening? Lots of people are pointing out that Southwest runs their aircraft hard.  They operate over 3,400 flights a day using 548 aircraft which make an average SIX stops per day.  For example, my flight was a single leg of a day-long journey that the aircraft started in Baltimore, then Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Nashville, and Albany.  All done with roughly 30-minute turnarounds at each stop.

All those takeoffs and landings means a lot of compression and decompression of the aircraft, which is hard on the fuselage.

So it'll be interesting to see if this incident leads to a new issue being confirmed and inspections expand to other carriers.

Some are speculating on that, but nobody's officially suggesting it


Friday, April 01, 2011


Place: Taco Bell
Lunch: Pacific shrimp taco (no tomato), beef combo burrito, nachos supreme (no tomato), Dr. Pepper

This is that ridiculous old Taco Bell in an old Sambo's building I'm sure I've mentioned before.  It's a hodge podge of bad paint, old Taco Bell interior pieces, and Sambo's flooring.  The seating, which was brought in recently, is from a Taco Bell eighties decor package that was repurposed from another Taco Bell that either got remodeled or demolished and replaced.  (Not from a Taco Bell around here, mind you.  NO local Taco Bell EVER had an eighties decor package in this market.)

There are far newer Taco Bell buildings than this dump out there that have been demolished and replaced with even newer Taco Bells.

Apparently, this long-running absurdity is going to continue.  They put up a new menu board.  Or maybe it's an old menu board new to this location.  It looks completely out of place, of course.

Smiling Counter Girl is new.  So new that she has no idea how to run the register.  Big Old Biker Dude...the shift cheerfully assisting her.  "So you hit 'Taco', then you, that's actually the Combo button.  Take that off." 

She does.

"Now hit, you hit Combo again."

This goes on so long that he announces my drink will be free for being so patient, which of course only causes MORE confusion on how to do that at the register.  By the time she's taken my money, the kitchen has already made everything.  The good news being that, as Taco Bell goes, the food is pretty well made.

After all the craziness of March (five airports, four rental cars, one auto show, major car repairs, taxes), April is a blank slate. 

I should settle in at home this month.  Maybe get some projects done.

Or maybe just be horribly lazy.