Thursday, January 21, 2010

Au Revoir Conan

It's hard to believe that seven months after Conan made the big trip out west to Burbank he'd find himself back in the job market again. The comical and occasionally absurd host of The Tonight Show was callously stripped of his life-long dream job by a group of General Electric/Comcast/NBC/Evil Empire thugs last week, like a midnight yard sale in a luxury hotel. Hats off to Mr. Conan O'Brien. With the Tonight Show left on the floor bleeding and facing certain death, Conan did what he needed to do to protect what he thought was more sacred than himself: preserve the sanctity of the program. Thankfully in doing so, he not only preserved what The Tonight Show is, but also prevented Late Night With Jimmy Fallon from being pushed back to 1:05 am. I mean at that point is there anyone left still watching television?

You can't blame it on Leno, it's not his fault his show tanked in the 10:00 slot. In fact you can argue that he wasn't hardly given the chance to prove his show either. You can't blame it on Conan, even though his ratings were poor at their best. You can't blame it on Letterman, although it's fun to blame things on DL, since he's the Big Sleezy. You can't blame it on Jimmy Fallon, because nobody is allowed to blame things on Jimmy. He's awesome.

You can, however, blame it on the man. Blame it on NBC for configuring such a garbage lineup of programming, and then once their mistakes were realized, chopping blindly at will to regain traction. Heads should roll on the top of 30 Rock for this junk. They bought the paint they wanted, painted the house the way they wanted it, promoted it and loved it. Then later, they decided they didn't like it, and blamed the paint store owner.

Tomorrow, Friday January 22, 2010 is Conan's last broadcast on NBC. I suppose the network wants to pull the plug as soon as possible so as to minimize the bashing they're getting from CO and Company. NBC is on the hook for $45 Million, which Conan will share with his 200 person staff. Probably a kick in the bucket for the GE Monster, but it's still nice to see in print.

The good news is that as early as September, Conan could be appearing on another network. I'm happy to say that I'll be tuning in!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The River Visual

Happy New Year! Back in DC, and life is great. To start the new year off, I thought I'd let you into my world for a few minutes, and talk about one of my favorite subjects.

If you know me, you know I love anything to do with airplanes and aviation. So you might suspect that I orchestrated an elaborate scheme to have my current job assignment land me straight below the path of one of the most challenging IFR approaches in the world. Query the most experienced pilots out there, and they'll tell you that landing DCA (Reagan National Airport) from the north can be a quite tricky, if not downright stressful process. One slight misstep is likely to cause a lengthy go-around, and a complete Charlie Foxtrot on the flight deck - if not worse. The good news? I get to watch it all play out from the picture window in my office, day in and day out (once in a great while this can be could possibly be considered a detriment to my productivity - however I will not discuss that here).

The River Visual is set up such that the aircraft must navigate visually by way of the Potomac River, on a southeast course heading (about 148 degrees) towards the airport. There are a multitude of required maneuvers and altitude changes that must be executed precisely at the right time and speed, and certainly without encroaching on the extremely sensitive area "P-56", a restricted air space that protects the White House and U.S. Capitol, among other high profile government buildings. Airmen who fail to avoid encroaching on this space, intentionally or not, are issued stern warnings, and in some cases face legal prosecution from the FAA and Federal Government. Without question, they will encounter a trail of red tape so long that they'll wish they had stuck to crop dusting.

As approach control clears the aircraft to finals, shortly thereafter it passes a mere 800 feet over the 14th Street Bridge, and then must turn exactly 60-degrees to starboard to land on a runway that is roughly 2/3 the size of most normal commercial landing strips. Think of it like flicking a Cheerio from a desk onto a postage stamp on the floor about 5 feet away. To further complicate an already difficult situation, the airport is one of the busiest in the country, packing as many as 50 departures and landings in the span of an hour. This requires immense precision and concentration by both flight crews and air traffic controllers alike, as they negotiate thousands of lives and millions of pounds of metal in and out of DCA each day.

If you as a passenger are on the River Visual approach, you will benefit most from being seated on the port (left) side of the aircraft, as you'll have a spectacular view of the federal District of Columbia, The National Mall and the monuments, and the Capitol Building. However, the starboard side isn't too bad either, which offers sweeping views of Arlington, the Arlington National Cemetery, Rosslyn, and the Pentagon.

It's hard to believe that I get to see this final approach from my office. All of this is part of a routine day for airline crews, fortunately or unfortunately as it may be. Every once in a while I will see them miss and have to go around, but it's not often. More often than not, I watch those rear wheels lay their smoky tracks on Runway 19, just before the aircraft disappears out of sight where the terminal blocks my view.

All day long, day in and day out, I can almost hear them from where I stand - good landing, 'Cap.

(Photo credits: Justin Idle, Nick Onkow and Tim Samples - thank you)