Archive for March, 2012

The WIFI Airline Dilemma

March 28th, 2012 by Mariah

Washington (CNN) – As competition expands among airlines to offer passengers the latest in-flight entertainment options, intercontinental routes have been slow to add Internet service.

Because in-flight Internet relies on transmitting signals to the ground, intercontinental flights have yet to find a reliably cost-effective means of providing passengers with Wi-Fi service while over water. The main drawbacks are cost and the added weight of the equipment needed for satellite transmission.

Several airlines have plans to roll out transcontinental Internet service this year.

This month, Qantas is partnering with a company called OnAir to test satellite-based Internet service aboard flights from Australia to Los Angeles.

Japan’s JAL intends to roll out Internet service to passengers flying from Japan to Europe and North America this summer. United Airlines is reportedly exploring Internet service on international flights. Emirates Airlines says it plans to test satellite based internet service on its A380 double-deck, wide-body jets.

Meanwhile, nearly all U.S. airlines have announced plans to install Internet service and added amenities on domestic aircraft in recent years.

In-flight Internet service provider GoGo announced Wednesday that it has reached a deal to expand service aboard US Airways fleet of Airbus A319, A320 and Embraer 190 aircrafts.

Delta Airlines recently announced it was partnering with Amazon to provide passengers with free access to shop the online retail giant’s website onboard all of Delta and Delta Connection flights with in-flight Wi-Fi service.

Hunger Games Inspired Travel

March 28th, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN) — The young stars of “The Hunger Games” may remember the blockbuster movie as the one that propelled their careers to the next level. But the biggest breakout star of the “The Hunger Games” may well turn out to be the state of North Carolina.


With $152.5 million opening weekend at the box office, the movie based on the New York Times bestseller by Suzanne Collins had the third best opening weekend of all time (and the best ever opening for a non-sequel), according to And its frenzied fans are already showing up at movie locations around the state to see where scenes were shot.


“People are obsessed with ‘The Hunger Games,’ ” says Marnee Revri, a Raleigh-based travel agent affiliated with Frosch Entertainment, who booked travel for the movie’s cast and crew and blogged about it. “I think there will be a bigger interest in people coming to visit, the same as the ‘Twilight’ movies. Kids are going to want to (see) where it was filmed.”


Many scenes were filmed in the woods of DuPont State Forest, a 10,400-acre wilderness where waterfalls, lakes and fishing streams made ideal settings for the movie’s outdoor scenes. Fans are likely to follow forest trails in search of character Katniss Everdeen’s pond, the bottom of Triple Falls waterfall and the remnants of the fireball sequence. A hike to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls is part of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s eight-hike challenge. Rated “easy,” the 2.6-mile waterfall hike has an elevation gain of 160 feet. (Triple Falls also stars in Michael Mann’s movie “The Last of the Mohicans.”)


It’s true that the abandoned Henry River Mill Village, about 70 miles from Asheville in the small town of Hildebran, was home to the film’s “District 12″ Mellark family bakery and the Everdeens’ shanty. But it’s private property — so just look as you’re driving by — and respect any “No Trespassing” signs.


Parents of tweens and teens on this movie tour, take note. The movie’s stars spent their after-work hours in Asheville, a town you’ll enjoy independent of your child’s movie obsession. With its funky architecture, independent spirit and thriving restaurant and brewing scene, artsy Asheville didn’t need a movie to confirm its tourist appeal.


Actors reportedly dined at the Laughing Seed Café, Lexington Avenue Brewery, Wasabi and the Southern Kitchen and Bar. They also stopped by Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, the local independent bookseller.


Cast member Woody Harrelson enjoyed the 46-foot rock-climbing wall at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, which served as the capitol in the film. (The center will host the U.S. Olympic Trials for canoe slalom April 12-14.) Harrelson also enjoyed playing chess with locals at Amélie’s French bakery in Charlotte.


You could still be inspired to learn some post-apocalyptic survival skills. If you’re in decent physical shape, learn to survive in the wilderness by taking courses at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Summer programs at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown include courses on cooking over an open fire, cooking with wild edibles, beekeeping and woodworking.


If you prefer the work of Patrick Swayze, Kevin Costner or Daniel Day Lewis, you’re in luck. “Dirty Dancing,” “Bull Durham” and “The Last of the Mohicans” were all shot in North Carolina. While your younger family members obsess on “The Hunger Games,” you can celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Dirty Dancing” this year with the 3rd annual Dirty Dancing Festival at Lake Lure (August 17-19).


Fans of the “Ironman” series can expect the third installment of the movie, which is in pre-production in Wilmington, to draw attention to that location. And with North Carolina’s tax incentives for productions filmed in the state, expect more movie and television shows to bring their projects there.


Don’t want to plan your entire trip yourself? The North Carolina Division of Tourism has made it easy for movie fans to make their “Hunger Games” plans. The office has a four-day itinerary and a list of 12 places to experience the movie.

Luxury cruise liner involved in collision off Vietnam

March 28th, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN) — A luxury cruise ship collided in deep fog with a container ship off Vietnam, punching a hole in the container ship and knocking passengers off their feet, a passenger told CNN Monday.

“The foghorn at the back of the ship had been going off consistently, throughout the morning,” passenger Andrew Lock said Monday from Hong Kong about the incident, which occurred Friday morning when the Silver Shadow was about five miles from the coast.


“But there was a certain point in time when the foghorn at the front of the ship suddenly sounded. And it was much much louder. And it caused us to look up. And in fact we looked up straight out of the window. And through the fog, to our horror, we saw this Vietnamese container ship appear, sideways on. And it was as if our ship was perfectly lined up to hit it in the side.


“So, it was a horrifying moment. And in less than about five seconds after the ship appeared. We did in fact collide right in the side of it.”

Lock said he and his wife had braced themselves for the impact and stayed upright. That was more than could be said of the other vessel.


“The Vietnamese ship rolled over — at a 90-degree angle. In fact, we thought it was going to capsize. It then righted itself. And with the forward momentum of our ship, it pushed the Vietnamese ship around, so that it actually came down the side, the length of our ship, scraping along the side as it went. And from that viewpoint, we could see just how much damage had been done to THAT ship, and it was substantial.”


He said he wasn’t aware of any injuries aboard the luxury vessel, which had a hole dug in its bow, but said the other vessel was badly damaged.


“We struck the other ship in several places that we could see — we struck it at the bridge, where they would operate from. We literally crushed the ship inwards. And we also struck the sides of the ship, causing a tear along the side, a vertical tear, quite substantial. And as we passed by the other ship, I personally saw several of their crew members just lying on the deck.”


After the impact, he said, passengers gathered a few of their possessions and headed to the muster stations. “The crew was calm, but the passengers — some were scared, or even frantic,” Lock said.

But after about 10 minutes, the captain announced that there was no imminent danger, he said.


The ship went on to anchor in Ha Long Bay, as had been planned.

“The next day, we went to a nearby port and once we were off the ship we could see how extensive the damage was,” Lock said.

In a statement, Silversea Cruises said the Silver Shadow “was involved in a minor incident on March 16, 2012, at around 4:20 GMT as it was approaching the pilot station in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. There was contact between Silver Shadow and a local commercial vessel. Silver Shadow incurred limited minor dents and guests’ safety was never compromised. The ship was fully operational and continued on its course to Ha Long Bay, where all shore tours operated normally.”

Lock disputed the cruise line’s characterization of the incident. “It was a major collision,” he said.


Silversea said it will carry out a full investigation into the incident.


The 28,258-ton Silver Shadow was built in 2000. It was refurbished last year and is registered in the Bahamas. It carries a maximum of 382 passengers and a crew of 302. It is scheduled to depart March 28 on a seven-day voyage starting and ending in Singapore, according to Silversea’s website. Best available fare is listed as $3,599.


Silversea is based in Monaco and has offices in the United States, Britain, Australia and Singapore.

JetBlue Pilot Suspended

March 28th, 2012 by Mariah

(CNN) — The JetBlue pilot whose behavior prompted an emergency landing Tuesday has been suspended pending further investigation, the company told CNN on Wednesday.


Clayton Osbon was captain of Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas, which landed in Amarillo, Texas, after crew and passengers subdued him.


He has been taken off active duty and is still being paid, JetBlue spokeswoman Tamara Young added.


He has worked for the company for 12 years, she said.

CEO Dave Barger said he has known Osbon for “a long time” and that he has always been a “consummate professional.”


On NBC’s “Today” show, Barger was asked about Osbon’s reported erratic behavior, which allegedly involved him screaming and trying to get back into the cockpit after his co-pilot locked him out.


“What happened at altitude is we had a medical situation,” he said. But, he added, “it became a security situation.”


Without using Osbon’s name, Barger said the captain was receiving medical care under the custody of the FBI.


Asked about his condition, JetBlue tweeted that it will not share details out of respect for his privacy.


No federal charges have been filed so far, said Kathy Colvin, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Texas.


“We’re still investigating,” said Lydia Maese, an FBI spokeswoman. “We coordinated with the FAA, TSA, Amarillo Police Department and the airport police.”


Osbon has not made a public statement, and no attorney has made one on his behalf.


The Twitter page for a Clayton F. Osbon describes him as “JetBlue Flight Standards Captain” for the Airbus320, as well as a leadership coach. Tuesday’s Flight 191 from New York to Las Vegas was on an Airbus 320.


The Twitter page shows no tweets since January.


Both the Twitter and LinkedIn pages in Osbon’s name also describe him as a director of Body By Vi. The LinkedIn page says the company helps “people to a better life” through health and financial prosperity.


A Facebook page for a Clayton Osbon says he is married and lives in Savannah, Georgia.


The blog Writer Killing Darlings carries a profile of Osbon, which it says was published last year in the magazine Richmond Hill Reflections.


“Clayton lives with his wife of six years, Connye, and enough animals to make a lint-brush essential,” the story says.


In addition to his love of flying, Osbon “wants to be a motivational speaker down the road,” the story says.


“It starts with a greater enhanced knowledge of one’s being… you know, I’d like to think the world is more than just getting up in the morning, making a cup of coffee, going to work, coming home, kissing your wife good-night and going to bed,” it quotes him as saying.


A search of public records showed no criminal history for Osbon. It turned up a traffic violation in 2005 which involved no fine.


JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Croyle said she is not aware of any fallout in bookings or any cancellations as a result of the incident.


When asked about passengers jumping in to help, Croyle said, “I know that our flight crews are trained for different levels of incidents in that regard. In this instance we do believe they acted within guidelines.


They are trained to ask for passenger help if needed.”

Barger told NBC, “We always take a look at procedures” involving

screening for pilots, but said the company has confidence in the


JetBlue and industry-wide procedures in place.

He repeatedly praised the JetBlue crew and passengers for their response and the “consummate training” the crew showed when “called into action” during what was a “tough event, to say the least.”


The co-pilot, concerned by his colleague’s “erratic” behavior, locked the door behind the captain when he left the cockpit during the flight, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.


Passengers described to CNN what happened next.


“The pilot ran to the cockpit door, began banging on it and said something to the effect of, ‘We’ve gotta pull the throttle back. We’ve gotta get this plane down,’” said Laurie Dhue.


“At that point, the two flight attendants tried to subdue him, and then seemingly out of nowhere, about six or seven large guys stormed to the front of the plane and wrestled the captain of the plane down to the ground and had him subdued in a matter of moments. It was really like something out of a movie,” she said.


Amateur video of the incident showed a commotion as several men were moving in the aisle. A voice, purportedly that of the pilot, can be heard.


“Oh my God. I’m so distraught!” he shouts. The voice mentions Israel and Iraq.


In another video, passengers appeared to be standing over something, or someone, presumably the subdued pilot.


Paul Babakitis, another passenger and a retired New York police officer, said he was one of the men who helped wrestle the captain to the ground.


“I felt if he got in the cockpit, he was going to try to take that plane down, and not for a safe landing,” he said.


Law enforcement met the aircraft, cuffed the pilot and took him off the plane, Babakitis said. Video showed someone being carried off the plane in a sort of chair.


“I’m not foreign to situations like this, but I don’t expect them at 30,000 feet,” he said.


Babakitis and some other passengers reported hearing the captain say the word “bomb” at one point. However, passenger Jason Levin said he did not hear him say that.


Levin was sitting in the front row of the plane, full of people on their way to a security conference, when the pilot came out of the cockpit.


“It just seemed like something triggered him to go off the wall. He would be calm one minute and then just all of sudden turn,” he said. “If it was going to happen, it happened at the right time and the right



Passenger Tony Antolino hailed the co-pilot as a hero.


“The co-pilot of the flight, he really — I think — is the hero here because he had the sense to recognize that something was going horribly wrong, and he was able to persuade the pilot out of the cockpit,” he told CNN.


The flight left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport at 7:28 a.m.


“At roughly 10 a.m. CT/11 a.m. ET, the pilot in command elected to divert to Amarillo, Texas, for a medical situation involving the captain. Another captain, traveling off duty, entered the flight deck prior to landing at Amarillo and took over the duties of the ill crew member once on the ground,” JetBlue said.


The crew member was taken off the plane and transported to a medical facility, it added.


Everything considered, passenger Antolino said he felt thankful. “This could have had a horrific outcome.”