Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Episode 5

Well, last night was awesome as usual. We were treated to two back to back episodes!

We pick up with our teams at the pit stop in Buenos Aires, Argentina. So the teams left in the order they arrived the previous night. They had to go from Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB). It was 3 a.m. when the first team left the pit stop. Having done the South America to JNB trip myself just last November (2004), I knew that they had to get to São Paolo, Brazil (GRU) and then take South African Airways (SA) evening flight arriving early the next morning. This was a part of my round the world trip in the Southern Hemisphere, but that is another story :-).

I immediately, loaded up my downloadable schedule (eSkyGuide) and verified the flight times:

From: Buenos Aires-Pistarini BA AR (EZE)
To: Johannesburg ZA (JNB)
Date: 29 November 2005 [I used this date as I think it was this time of the year last year when they traveled]

Flight From Depart To Arrive Via
SA7851*/SA206 EZE 10:55am JNB 6:55am +1 GRU
RG8617/RG2328/RG7390~ EZE 12:00N JNB 6:55am +1 POA-GRU

So they had to make that 10:55 a.m. flight to São Paolo. Which they all did with ease and now were all together. As Jay said in a comment to Episode 4; it is just sad when they let everyone catch up. Also, why would they let them leave at 3:55 a.m. to catch a flight that they knew did not leave until 10:55 a.m.? I guess we will never know.

I did check the EZE to GRU flights and they could still catch three other flights just in case they had been late for some reason:

LH503 EZE 11:30am GRU 3:00pm
AR1242 EZE 11:40am GRU 2:27pm
BA246 EZE 1:25pm GRU 4:55pm

While Lufthansa (LH) is daily, British Airways (BA) and Aerolineas Argentinas (AR) are not. But they had options at least.

SA7851 is actually operated by Varig (RG) as RG8649 an MD-11. The producers showed an aircraft at the gate in EZE, but it was just the nose and I did not see it long enough to determine if it was a MD-11 or not. It was a wide body Varig aircraft though. It could have been a Boeing 767-300 as Varig uses that equipment on that route as well. So I give them the benefit of the doubt that it was a MD-11.

The next aviation thing they showed was one of the couples sitting in South African Airways' Business Class cabin. This was not explained at all; I thought they always flew Economy...

The next shot showed a South African Airways Boeing 747-200 landing in Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB). The GRU to JNB route is flown using an Airbus A340-300 aircraft! How difficult would it have been to get an aircraft that was in the current fleet, geez...

So they all arrived in South Africa safely and while some of the team members were able to take their bags on board, others were not so they had to wait to get the bags. Once that was done they were off for the next mission.

This involved going to different parts of South Africa including Soweto. Here are some pictures from my trip there last year.

Once the mission was over, they had to leave Johannesburg and head for Gaborone, Botswana. Once at the airport, the first team headed to South African Airways (SA)
to check the departure times. The agent told them that Air Botswana (BP) had a noon flight. At that point I was figuring that not all the players would make this noon flight.

I checked my timetable and verified the SA times, but did not see the Air Botswana schedule as that airline's schedule is not in the eSkyGuide schedule (not all airlines provide their schedule). So I went over to Air Botswana's Web site and verified the flight times.

Johannesburg to Gaborone
Flight No M T W T F S S Depart Arrive
BP210 X X X X X 0730 0830
BP220 X 0830 0930
BP208 X X X X X 1040 1140
BP204 X X X X X X X 1200 1300
BP206 X X X X X X X 1515 1615
BP202 X X X X X X X 1845 1945
BP218 X X X 2030 2130

Here is the schedule for South African from eSkyGuide

From: Johannesburg ZA (JNB)
To: Gaborone BW (GBE)

Flight From Depart To Arrive Via
SA1761~ JNB 5:55am GBE 7:00am
SA1781~ JNB 7:55am GBE 9:00am
SA1771~ JNB 8:15am GBE 9:20am
SA1787~ JNB 9:00am GBE 10:05am
SA1763~ JNB 9:25am GBE 10:30am
SA1793~ JNB 9:30am GBE 10:35am
SA1785~ JNB 11:00am GBE 12:05pm
SA1777~ JNB 11:15am GBE 12:20pm
SA1775~ JNB 11:35am GBE 12:40pm
SA1765~ JNB 1:45pm GBE 2:50pm
SA1773~ JNB 3:00pm GBE 4:05pm
SA1767~ JNB 4:45pm GBE 5:50pm
SA1791~ JNB 5:10pm GBE 6:15pm
SA1769~ JNB 7:20pm GBE 8:05pm

It was neat to see the departure hall of JNB as I'd been there a few times and even picked up timetables from that very Air Botswana counter.

I think three teams made the Air Botswana (BP) flight; an ATR-42-500 and yes they showed the correct aircraft type. This would have been very difficult to mess up as according to Air Botswana's site, that is the only aircraft type they operate.

The other teams made the SA1765 which at that time of the year was departing at 1:35p.m. Again, they did get the aircraft correct as this flight is operated by South African Airlink (YB) using a Dash 8 and that is what they showed them getting on and off. Redemption!

There were no other aviation reference for the rest of the show.

And quite the show it was too. We saw Ray and Deana eliminated, as they should be; they treated Meredith and Gretchen really badly in a previous episode and did the same in this one by not giving them any money when they were stripped of all their cash when they arrived in Soweto last.

Not to be outdone, the famed Rob and Amber, who were recognized almost everywhere they went, did not stop when the brothers Greg and Brian had an accident. The others at least slowed down and asked if all was well. If that kind of behavior is what it takes to win a million dollars, then I don't want to win at all.

Gretchen was injured in the caves, but was such a trooper and insisted to stay in the race and told her husband Meredith to continue searching for the clue, which he did.

Lynn and Alex somehow ended up in a bad part of town; it looked a bit like downtown Johannesburg. Not sure how that occurred, but eventually, they made it to the airport.

Next week promises to be good!

By the way: If the show is taped, why is the CBS Web site not updated immediately after the show? Or is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Episode 4

Well, the new episode just finished and it did not disappoint.

In this episode they leave Mendoza, Argentina (MDZ) and head for Buenos Aires-Newbery, Argentina (AEP), the local airport. At first I use my trusty eSkyGuide Airline Timetable (using the 7-Day Lookup feature) and looked up MDZ to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) and saw that there were no nonstop flights between the two unless a connection was made through Santiago, Chile (SCL). Then I remember that Buenos Aires has two airports and then it all worked.

Taken from eSkyGuide

From: Mendoza MD AR (MDZ)
To: Buenos Aires-Newbery BA AR (AEP)

Flight From Depart To Arrive Via
AR2403~ MDZ 8:10am AEP 9:42am
AR1405 MDZ 9:50am AEP 11:22am
AR1417 MDZ 2:30pm AEP 4:02pm
AR1429 MDZ 7:50pm AEP 9:22pm
AR1423 MDZ 8:20pm AEP 9:52pm
AR1421 MDZ 9:20pm AEP 10:52pm
AR1407/AR1535 MDZ 5:05pm AEP 8:15pm COR

Not all these flights operate all day.

The teams have to catch either the 9:30 a.m. or the 2:30 p.m. flight (the schedule changed slightly as I am not sure when they flew; I picked December as they mentioned that it was Summertime [seasons are flipped in the Southern Hemisphere]; it may have actually been earlier since they need time to edit, etc. but who knows).

The flights are both Boeing 737-200 flights lasting about 1:32 in length. Well the cameras did show them boarding a Boeing 737-200 (Yes!) and the interior was also that of a Boeing 737-200 as well (Yes!). A lot of footage was shown at the airport on the tarmac and the interior as the cunning Rob and Amber showed up at 9:25 p.m. and was still able to get on the flight, much to the dismay of the other three teams that were already on board. To add insult to injury , Rob and Amber ended up winning this round!

The second group was able to catch the 2:30 p.m. and no one was left behind; although there were later flights, but would not have worked as they had assignments that required daylight in Buenos Aires; actually Tigre, Argentina. Which the train lovers would have liked as they had to take a train out to Tigre.

Of course the continuity was flawed, when they showed the first team arriving in a Boeing 767 (they showed a Boeing 767 landing). Which I don't even think go to the local airport. They did redeem themselves though when they showed the second team arriving in a Boeing 737-200; one out of two is not bad I guess.

I have not been to AEP, so I could not tell if they were at that airport or another airport in Argentina when they were getting the cabs or their bags, so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

Oh, my favorites, Patrick and his Mom, lost and deservedly so; Patrick whined the whole time and just about gave up when he thought that they did not have a chance, much to the chagrin of his Mom. Based on Patrick tantrum in Episode 3, I figured they would not last another episode and so said so done. I'm gonna miss them; sorry Mom...

Looks like they are heading to Africa next week, so that should be a blast to see how they get there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Episode 3

Well, the saga continues. There were no aviation aspects in the show last night. The only thing was that the announcer said the following in his re-cap:

"Teams had to get from Cuzco, Peru (CUZ) to Santiago, Chile (SCL)."

When in fact, they had to get from Arequipa, Peru (AQP) to Santiago, Chile (SCL), oh well.

They show pretty much had them going from downtown Santiago to a town in Argentina; Puento Vallejo I think. They had to cross the beautiful Andes mountains (which I've only done by air; check out the pictures). A few of them got lost (one team heading up on the beach) another driving around the city for almost 1.5 hours before finding the highway exit.

Despite how much I can't stand Rob and Amber, they actually did good this week and kind of redeemed themselves by using good strategy to not be eliminated. Knowning the rules of the game is a big part of it all.

All in all, entertaining as usual. Hopefully, they will fly somewhere next week; see you then.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Episode 2

Hey, the new episode is now over and while it was a bit lack luster, once again it failed to disappoint, of course.

When we last left the motley crew, they were still in Cuzco, Peru. They now had to get to Arequipa, Peru (AQP) do some stuff as usual and then get to Santiago, Chile (SCL) to do some more stuff.

I've actually been to Arequipa; O.K. so it was just the airport, and it is a very picturesque place. I was trying to fly out to Lima, Peru (LIM) from Cuzco (CUZ) and did not make the nonstop flight. Our only way out was to get on a flight that connected to another via AQP. Now I was looking forward to seeing a little more on the show.

After the teams finished their chores; the producers said they had to take one of two flights that were 45 minutes apart to Santiago, Chile (SCL). They later showed the routing as AQP to Lima, Peru (LIM) to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) to Santiago, Chile (SCL). My first thought was, why that routing? So I of course consulted my trusty eSkyGuide airline timetable. The only places you can get to nonstop by air from AQP are LIM; Cuzco, Peru (CUZ) and Juliaca, Peru (JUL). So they had to go through Lima eventually no matter what. But why go via Buenos Aires without any kind of explanation. I also could not find two flights that were 45 minutes apart, but it is possible that the schedule was different at the time they flew (which more than likely it was).

Well, it became quite clear why; sponsorship I guess as the plane they showed the teams boarding was a MD88 from Aerolineas Argentinas. This for the sake of continuity does not fly from AQP to LIM. This market is only served by Lan Peru, Aero Continente and Transportes Aereos Nacionales.

The cameras also showed the contestants all boarding at night or it could have been at dawn which did not really fly with the times that they had completed their last task. So now I was very confused. The next thing they showed was what looked like a Boeing 737 landing at an airport that was assumed to be Santiago, Chile (SCL); which actually looked like SCL, so fine.

When they showed the second team landing they showed a Lan Chile (LA) Boeing 767-300 landing at the same airport; so I'm good with that; except that all the contestants were shown boarding an Aerolineas Argentinas MD88!

So the question is where did they board the MD88 and when did they change to the 737 and the 763? Well, based on the schedules from eSkyGuide, Aerolineas Argentinas flies an MD-88 from Buenos Aires to Santiago; so that picture they showed in Arequipa, Peru of the contestants boarding the MD-88 was more than likely in Buenos Aires. Come on producers, quit confusing us.

Now I know that the MD88 was not the plane used from LIM to EZE as that flight is a 4:15 flight that is usually served by an A310 with Aerolineas Argentinas (AR).

So here is what I think occurred; they took two Lan flights from AQP to LIM, possibly LP111 and LP106 as these two are the closest together. They then took a late flight either on AR or LP to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE). There are a few choices; two LP flights and one AR. Once in Buenos Aires, they would have taken the 7:45 a.m. AR1280, an MD88 to Santiago arriving at about 9:00 a.m. Then the other group took AR1282 which arrived at 10:00 a.m. So those Boeing 737 and 767-300 we saw landing in Santiago, Chile (SCL) may not have carried the contestants at all. Of course, I could be wrong; but given the schedules and since they showed them boarding an MD88, those are the possibilities.

We left the teams in Santiago, Chile and one was dismissed as they arrived last. Where to next week? I'm guessing that they continue to head south to possibly Punta Arenas, Chile; let's watch and see...

Episode 2 - funny stuff

Rob and Amber continues to be hated by the group especially when they lied to them about telling the security guard not to tell the others that the later bus got to Arequipa first. Rob then became defensive when the others asked about it

Patrick hurt his right eye and they did not explain how that happened; but by the time he got to Santiago, he was fine...umm...

A low point was when Patrick and his mom ran out of money it seems and had to beg some locals. But it seems that they ran out of local currency, at least initially. I'm still rooting for these two.

Patrick and his mom did finally run out of money at the market and started trying to sell flowers; it is pretty funny as some of the others also did not have enough money and the folks gave them the stuff for free; go figure.

So Rob and Amber won the round and won a trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas, while Megan and Heidi were the last to arrive so they are gone; the two brothers just barely missed it though.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Episode I - Funny stuff

As I watched the race, I could not help but notice the following:

It was quite interesting to listen to what one brother (Brian & Greg) had to say to the other when he saw the two girls (Debbie & Bianca, I think) kiss each; He was like, did you see that to this brother, and then blew it off by saying "nevermind."

Also, either Debbie or Bianca said that Patrick looked like a guy she dated and Patrick quipped, "really? and was he gay as well?" You can't write script this good...

I really liked the two guys, Ryan & Chuck; an interesting pair, so sorry they got there last. I was quite impressed to see Chuck speaking Portuguese to the locals as it is close to Spanish, impressive.

I was not really impressed by Ron & Kelly and if they don't get it together they are going to be the next one off; they barely missed being last on this episode.

The two from Survivor, I just think should not be there. Don't you think they've already won their million? Give someone else a chance why don't you.

I love Meredith & Gretchen: Meredith as he has a girl's name and Gretchen as she is too cool. I loved it when they easily moved the llamas around while the others were pulling and tugging and it just was not happening.

One thing was interesting was how they handled the altitude change. It just seems unreal that they could all adapt that quickly; they must have either taken altitude pills or had some resting time. Going from sea level to 11,000' then running around is pretty challenging. I remember trying to run at Machu Picchu and just could not do it for too long. What do you think?

Episode I Cont'd

Well, I'm home from work now and can think a lot more... Let's continue.

I was thinking, "come on, there has to be a quicker way to Lima from LAX?" I knew that Lan Chile (LA) had a non-stop flight. Why were they not taking that flight? It departed only an hour before the American one and got to Lima at 11:55 p.m. at night... I had my laptop with me, so I booted up my downloadable schedule program; eSkyGuide from American Express and entered LAX to LIM and looked at the 7-day range; the United flight connection did not show up as it was not really logical (it went north to get south), but the American flights did. O.K. I get it; American and United are sponsors, but you know what, it is a race, besides, Lan (LA) is partners with American (oneworld).

O.K. so I accepted the choices, reluctantly, given to the contestants and moved on. Now the United flight is a Boeing 767-300 and yes, the interior shown was that of the same plane; however, when they showed the supposed take off from LAX by United, they showed the stock United footage of their Boeing 777-200ER in the new livery; poor choice I think for continuity, but since United is paying the bills, I guess not.

Now to the American Airlines team... Well, at least the interior was that of a Boeing 767-300 (the right airfraft), but an outside shot of "the plane" at the gate, showed a Boeing 737-800; give me a break CBS, where is your technical consultant when you need them. Of course, not to be outdone, an American Boeing 777-200ER was shown taking off; so much for continuity.

Perhaps the worst piece of continuity in LAX, was at the point where Phil does his voice over and they show the contestants seated in the airplane before departure from LAX; it was pretty obvious that some of them were not in the correct airplane at that moment. Actually, the footage shown was that of the interior of the Lan airplane that we saw them flying on later. You could clearly see the words "LAN" on the seatback cover behind them. I think that is just an insult to the viewers, let's hope this kind of thing gets corrected in future races.

The good thing was at least the terminals were correct in LAX and it all made sense. I would have loved to see what happened in JFK and MIA when the teams connected. But I guess there is only so much one can do in an hour...

To continue all this; when they showed the teams arriving in Lima, Peru, Boeing 747-400s were shown landing, when none of the aircraft the contestants were flying on were of that type.
American flies an Airbus A300-600 and I cannot look up what United flew, as they no longer serve that city, but I know it was not a 747. It was difficult to tell the airliner, from the brown haze and the angle of the photo.

On a good not though, when the teams got to Peru and went to the beach called Playa Hermosa in Ancon, Peru for their clue, the times for the flights the next day made perfect sense; I actually thought that they would get to Cuzco, Peru (CUZ) and then take the train to Macchu Picchu like my friends did a few years back. That is a story for another blog entry :-). But you can see some pictures from our trip here.

Now, CUZ is an aviation marvel; at 11,000' it is one of the highest cities above sea level. Landings and takeoffs are done here usually before noon. After that it gets pretty difficult and oftentimes the flights are either cancelled, delayed or weight restricted. I think this was the reason for the later flights being delayed from Lima to Cuzco. Much to the chagrin of some of the teams.

I did want to see more of the dilema of them being delayed and how they handled it all and possibly the real reason for the delay, but not much of that was shown.

The continuity here was actually quite good, with the correct airplanes being shown throughout and the airport sequences actually making sense. The interior footage actually made sense now as they are actually taking a Lan Airbus A320 on this route. I was of course elated. Now we are getting somewhere.

I'm excited to see the where they fly to next. Watch out for the report on Episode 2 next week.

Episode 1

O.K. I'm an aviation geek, hence one of my reasons for watching the Amazing Race on CBS on Tuesdays at 8 CST.

Last night, it premiered with a special two-hour episode. I only started watching this show last season, but now I am hooked. It is a great show and I love to see the journeys of the contestants. I also like to watch as the aviation continuity sequences are so flawed. Of course last night's episode was no exception.

It all started when the teams departed Los Angeles, California (LAX) for Lima, Peru (LIM). According to the show, they had only two choices; take American's flight over Miami, Florida (MIA) or United's flight over New York-John F. Kennedy, New York (JFK). Not quite...

well. I gotta get back to work (home for lunch); so I'll continue later...