February 3, 2011

Meanwhile, Back in the 21st Century: Twilight Landing At LAX (Cockpit View)

We are on final approach. Mesmerizing and beautiful.

"The original idea was to a) compress a 30 minute approach into three minutes; and b) to see what it would look like if you you were riding on the back of a cruise missile.... My main purpose for making this video was for the benefit of my airline friends who have kids. They have an attention span of three minutes and want to see exactly what it is Daddy or Mommy does. It's just meant to be fun and somewhat educational."

More notes and technical specs at YouTube

Posted by Vanderleun at February 3, 2011 8:52 AM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

That's gorgeous, Gerard. Thanks!

Posted by: Julie at February 3, 2011 9:22 AM

Thank you for creating a stunning video.

Posted by: Cilla Mitchell, Galveston Texas at February 3, 2011 10:24 AM

Sweet! But I'm stunned the camera didn't interfere with the plane's electronics.

Posted by: Lileks at February 3, 2011 11:48 AM

Nyuck, Nyuck...

Posted by: vanderleun at February 3, 2011 12:07 PM

I don't think non-pilots understand how difficult it is to find the runway, even for most big airports. It can be easier at night, but at some places it's more difficult due to all of the other lights.

Great vid. Thanks

Posted by: Scott M at February 3, 2011 12:37 PM

I asked a friend who flies (non-airline) in that area a lot why LAX didn't have approach lights leading to the runways.

He laughed. "Finding LAX from the air is the same as finding it on the ground," he said. "Take Century Boulevard west."

Just before the plane lands, you see an extremely brightly-lit street off to the left. That's Century Boulevard. If your runway's 24, stay a mile north; if it's 25, stay a mile south. Pretty effective approach lights!

Posted by: Ric Locke at February 3, 2011 3:27 PM

Wow. Beautiful but I had no idea it was so chaotic on the runway - just like the LA freeways. So many choices and opportunities to screw it up.

Posted by: Patty at February 3, 2011 5:46 PM

I don't pretend to be Capt. Dave, but in my non-virtual life, I am a Captain at a major national airline, and I fly in and out of LAX weekly.

Yes...it is beautiful and sometimes we-who-have-a-window-seat-in-Row-Zero forget just how special it is. Its not always as pretty as in the video...this was shot on a very clear evening, on what I suspect is a HD camera, and of course, the video has been sped up, and the music adds a lot too.

But it is also chaotic at times, in a way that the video doesn't quite do justice to. The time in the air is the easy part....the more challenging period comes on the ground.

BTW, if it already hasn't occurred to you, this video is a major no-no. While I have no doubt that many guys have taken their own "souvenir videos", there is no one that I know who would make that video available to the public.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 4, 2011 6:03 PM

Thanks, AZ, for the info. Much appreciated. I didn't think it was a yes or no, but knowing it's a no makes it.... in these over-regulated times ... that much sweeter.

Posted by: vanderleun at February 4, 2011 11:44 PM

"...but knowing it's a no makes it.... in these over-regulated times ... that much sweeter..

Believe me, Gerard, I'm no fan of over-regulation*, but in this case, I think there's a point to it.

The other night, one of those inane medi-dramas that my wife likes to watch had a little sub-plot of someone in an operating room tweeting the whole thing. Maybe I'm just a prude, but if I or one of my loved ones were on the table, I'd like everyone there to be concentrating on what they're supposed to be doing, rather than spreading it to the world.

Likewise, there is a point to the view that as an airliner with hundreds of passengers on it is descending for it's landing, maybe the two pilots should be completely focused on their jobs, and not distracted--even a little bit--by producing a video.

* On over-regulation.....
Flight-Aware shows that there were
22,000 canceled flights last week. Of course, this is all due to weather. And this is the fifth large storm this winter to produce these levels of cancellations. This is very disruptive to everybody, but few are asking: Why is that?

Here's why....
Airlines now live under a DOT3 rule, which says that if I can't get my passengers airborne within 3 hours of closing the boarding door (or to a gate within three hours of landing), that the airline will be fined $27500....per passenger.

I fly 757s and 767s and they come in a number of different passenger configurations, but I most frequently see the one which seats 184 passengers. Doing the math, this means that a DOT3 delayed flight will generate a fine of just over $5million.

We're simply not going to operate under such a draconian fine. So when the weather becomes an issue, we cancel flights. Wholesale.

And the passengers who are saved from waiting more than 3 hours period on an airplane are now passengers who have to wait days for a re-booked seat to their destination.

Folks--you're getting what those who were noisy about "tarmac" (BTW, nobody uses "tarmac" inside the industry.) delays demanded.

Believe me: Nobody likes delays. Not passengers. Not the airline employees. And not the airlines themselves. Delays are inefficient for everybody. But delaying a flight for weather (and it is always weather), is a prudent thing to do. You drive slower when you drive in snowy or rainy conditions, right? The establishment of these fines for a delay beyond an arbitrary point has created these cancellations.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 5, 2011 6:41 AM

I take your point about having all focus on the landing at hand, AZ. Seems to me though that you could just set the camera on auto in a rigid mounting and keep both hands on the stick. When to do it? Seems to me ATC would keep you informed of conditions on approach. You just punch record and see what you get later at home when you have all your vid production software running.

As to DOT3 and the fines.... sheesh. But my default state regarding delays as a passenger is, "Hey, if they don't want to fly it, I don't want to fly in it."

Posted by: vanderleun at February 5, 2011 11:17 AM

"...Seems to me though that you could just set the camera on auto in a rigid mounting and keep both hands on the stick. When to do it? Seems to me ATC would keep you informed of conditions on approach. You just punch record and see what you get later at home when you have all your vid production software running...."

Here's the problem with that, Gerard: Let's say that I do everything perfectly on my flight...it's an exact duplicate of that flight in the video.

But right before they pulled into the gate, did you notice that road where the pilot stopped for the firetrucks? That road bothers me every time I fly in and out of LAX.

Let's say that after my perfect flight, right there where the firetrucks are, one of those knuckleheads who drive the baggage carts blows right through the stop sign and drives right into the side of my airplane. [Don't laugh: It's happened.]

It won't matter if they drug test us both and find him higher than a kite: If I've got that very unauthorized video camera attached to the dash, I'm in deep trouble. The enforcement side of the FAA is going to list that camera as one of the causes of this accident, and my company is likely to fire me. Goodbye career.

Its silly, but it is the way it is.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 5, 2011 3:39 PM

Interesting discourse on CYA. As AZ is also covering a few other A-s in the process, I'm for caution. Hasn't knocked the shine off the product of the vicarious sin though, I'm ashamed to say. Exciting flick!

Don't think there has ever been a big-time FU at LAX - yet - has there? Had to attend one at LHR in the course of duty in 1973:


Not a nice experience. On that occasion vicarious gawpers blocked the roads around the airport causing serious delays in getting emergency services to the scene. So on balance, cavalier cinematographics notwithstanding, I applaud the down-to-earth common sense expressed by AZ. Carry on killjoy, I'll feel happier next time I board a plane if you do.

Posted by: Frank P at February 7, 2011 9:24 AM

Just to emphasis AZ'S point, as I departed my PC to watch Fox News on my living room television, after tapping out my previous comment, this incident was reported by Megyn Kelly.



Posted by: Frank P at February 7, 2011 11:06 AM

Well, Frank, firstly, I hope that Gerard doesn't mind our little conversation in his comments, but in response to your....
"...Don't think there has ever been a big-time FU at LAX...."

Yes, there has been more than one big FU at LAX.

In 1991, there was a runway collision between a commuter plane on the runway awaiting clearance for takeoff and a landing 737. And before that, there was an inflight collision in 1986 and another in 1971. All of these accidents have brought about changes in how we do things.

The 1986 accident brought us yet another "box" called TCAS--Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (although many of us call it "the fish-finder"). It basically lets me see all the airplanes within a pre-determined range (the version on my planes sees 40 miles) which are near my altitude. The box calculates which of these planes might intrude on my flight path, and gives us both a correcting climb and descent to keep us from colliding.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 8, 2011 8:15 PM


Thank you for that reassurance. Glad to hear that even as a libertarian, you approve of properly agreed and updated rules in light of experience to ensure the safe passage of those in the sky - and on the ground.

As we're gossiping - and I'm sure Gerard won't mind - the Met. Police Incident Officer at the 1973 crash never really recovered from the experience and I attribute his early death a couple of years later to the trauma of it all. Collateral damage all round.

But all-in-all we should congratulate you and your crews - and the industry at large, for being the safest mode of transport in the world.

Posted by: Frank P at February 9, 2011 10:35 AM

"...But all-in-all we should congratulate you and your crews - and the industry at large, for being the safest mode of transport in the world."

Thanks for recognizing that, but with no false humility, it really is a collaborative effort. The mechanics are good; the Air Traffic Controllers are good; pretty much all of us are good at what we do. We're human, and therefore not infallible, but in 23 years in the industry, I've never seen anyone who wasn't a professional.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 9, 2011 4:48 PM

And now I see that the video has gone private. Perhaps those who produced it found themselves a bit too close to being identified.

Posted by: azlibertarian at February 9, 2011 5:00 PM