Thursday, July 21, 2011


The public works folk in California closed down a very busy section of the I-405 for a weekend, and the predicted resulting traffic snarls were termed Carmaggeddon by the media. This merits a blog post here because air carrier JetBlue seized the opportunity to get some publicity, by advertising four dollar flights between the Bob Hope Airport at Burbank and Daugherty Field at Long Beach: opposite ends of the closed section of highway. The flight distance direct is 30 miles, but the flight was blocked at 45 minutes to allow time for taxiing and manoeuvring.

A local cycling club decided to challenge the airline to a race, and JetBlue took up the gauntlet. The challenge for the competitors was to get from a North Hollywood intersection (Burbank is the Hollywood airport), to the aquarium in Long Beach. Passengers had to drive to the BUR airport, park, check in an hour before the flight, clear security, board, take the flight and then cab to the aquarium. Cyclists just had to ride the whole way.

Here's the route filed (pale dashed) and flown (green) by the JetBlue A320. It's a little convoluted, but my sources tell me that was for safety. It's very busy low-level airspace with lots of amateur weekend pilots, so they arranged a route that would keep them in class B (the US equivalent of Canadian class C) airspace the entire way. Everyone in the airspace was required to have a transponder and a clearance, and maintain a constant listening watch with ATC. The airborne portion of the flight lasted only twelve minutes, but not having had to drive to the airport or submit to screening, the cyclists reached the destination about an hour before the airline passengers. Another race participant who took public transit arrived midway between the other two teams.

It all sounds like fun. I've operated out of Burbank (excellent FBO service, restrictive noise abatement regulations and insanely expensive hotels) and driven on I-405, but I found a back road to where I was going that I found more pleasant and interesting, despite having a few traffic lights. If a journey takes the same amount of time in a car or bike, unless the weather is very unpleasant, I usually prefer to take a bike. I don't think I've ever made an aircraft trip that would have been faster by bike, though. Maybe, if I count the times I've waited three days for suitable weather.


Anonymous said...

We're in LGB right now for some training and the carmageddon thing turned out to be somewhat disappointing from a newsworthy perspective. Somehow I missed this whole JetBlue thing. Although I did hear on the local news about some folks who decided to have a dinner party (expedited) complete with wine and fancy clothes, in the middle of the freeway at suppertime..

A said...

JetBlue cheated! They got up to 283 knots under 10kft.

Of course, I suspect the cyclists may not have followed the traffic laws to the letter, either.

(Which I know there was probably a 33kt tailwind, but this is all entertainment anyway, etc.)

vgbaron said...

Don't forget Trix - if you every get back to KBUR, the Mexican food and margaritas are on me!


amulbunny's random thoughts said...

Sunday morning I made it to church in 8 minutes by taking the 405. My door to the nave. I love it when there is no traffic.

Jet Blue has a takeoff pattern that flies right over my house. I know when LGB has opened because it seems like the first flight of the morning wakes me up.

Aviatrix said...

vgbaron: The LA area has such good Mexican food. Best I ever had was about two blocks walk from the Van Nuys airport. My mouth is watering already.