Flights of Fantasy

Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Posted on Oct 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Orville, Wilbur and Me

You too can fly a Wright aircraft.

  • By Phil Scott
replicaA replica is now available for flying just a few miles from where the Wrights experimented. Above: Our writer enjoys a few moments of stable flight.
It’s offered by www.wrightexperience.com

The Wright brothers never trudged up these dunes barefoot.Bruce Weaver, Andy Torrington, and I are struggling to carry a glider up a sandy winding trail in Nags Head, North Carolina. A near-exact reproduction of a 1902 Wright aircraft, the glider rests on a four-wheel dolly with balloon tires. Andy is pulling and steering, Bruce is pushing, and I’m trying to keep tree branches from snagging the flexing wings while tip-toeing on hot sand spiked with underbrush. Barefoot is the best way to get up a hill of sand, but as the sun torches the tops of my feet, I start to appreciate the Wrights’ formality. When they conducted their flying experiments a fewmiles north, they wore shoes (not to mention wool suits and ties).

The glider weighs around 120 pounds, but it feels heavier, and it’s bulky—302 square feet of yellowing cotton wings built just like the original: the same ash and spruce frame and weather-beaten, cross-stitched fabric. Constructed in 2003 by The Wright Experience, a group run by renowned Wright scholar/replica builder Ken Hyde, it’s the closest the team could get to the original. Sure, they used multiple twisted wires because the original single-strand hard wire breaks too quickly, and they added a harness rigged to hold you in when you hit the sand. You’re going to hit a lot of sand.

Complete accuracy is impossible: Of the original, only a wingtip bow exists. The brothers famously never left plans, only the patent drawings. (It was the glider, not the powered 1903 Flyer, that first achieved the three-axis control that the brothers patented.) “There are some sketches and notes in their papers, in their notebooks,” Hyde says, adding: “Luckily, the brothers took a lot of good photos.”

Hyde and The Wright Experience built this glider for the Discovery of Flight Foundation, which used it to train pilots for a flight planned in a replica Flyer for December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight. (That attempt failed.) Once the glider had served its mission, the foundation, like the Wright brothers, stashed the craft in a hangar.

Last year Paul Glenshaw, the executive director of the foundation, and his son visited Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which offers instruction in a variety of hang-gliders. Glenshaw sat down with the school’s manager, and along with The Wright Experience, they worked out an agreement in which the school would use the replica to teach gliding on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Glenshaw says he wanted people to connect with the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, and Hyde says Kitty Hawk Kites was the right group to show what the glider can do: “They know the winds and they know the weather.”

For $349, Kitty Hawk Kites offers a four-hour flight lesson in the glider, with up to five students per lesson. The company has started with one lesson a week. So far, 35 pilots have flown the Wright glider. (“Pilots” may be a misnomer: No experience in airplanes or gliders is necessary.)

When I first arrived at Jockey’s Ridge, Bruce, the clean-cut recreation manager, and assistant recreation manager Andy took me to the school’s hangar. The glider was up on a rack. “It looks fragile but it takes a beating,” Bruce said. “It flexes, it creaks, but it bounces back into shape. It’s tougher than it looks.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“I think it’s very safe,” said Bruce.

Well, no one died in the Wrights’ glider, I thought.

Bruce, Andy, and I made the long haul up Jockey’s Ridge. Andy, a happy guy with long, thinning red hair, was wearing the Kitty Hawk Kites uniform: bare feet, shorts, and a T-shirt.

Up on the Jockey’s Ridge peak, the wheat-color biplane got curious looks from nearby students in starter hang gliders. Bruce and Andy lifted the glider off the dolly and set to work connecting control wires to control surfaces. I put on the helmet that the two give fliers.

Bruce explained the canard—the forward elevator. It’s operated by twisting a one-by-four bar of ash that is mounted horizontally between the two skids, at about the pilot’s chest level. Its ends are wrapped in wax string, the duct tape of the day, to keep the wood from splintering. The bar is linked to the elevator with window sash chains that are routed around wooden pulleys bolted inside the frame. Bruce said it was my job to control pitch: “When flying it, try to make small movements. The canard may flutter—the springs dampen it. Don’t over-control it.”

To lift off, he said, “hop until your foot doesn’t touch the ground, then get it across the bar. On landing, just belly in and keep your feet up. The glider is built so when it comes in to land, it doesn’t want to nose up and stall. It wants to belly-land instead of dive into the ground—which is handy.”

In the open space in the lower wing, I got on my knees. Andy hooked my harness to the glider, had me lie prone in the cradle, and told me to hook the top part of one foot over a rectangular chunk of wood near the trailing edge. We were pointed directly in what little wind there was.

At Bruce’s signal we lifted the glider off the dune. In a 10- to 15-mph wind gust, it does weigh less, but not much. I gripped each end of the swiveling bar and held the elevator level, grinding my naked elbows onto the sandy skids.

The next gust lifted the glider; Bruce asked if I was ready.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

Bruce and Andy started hauling ass down the slope, holding the tow-lines that were attached to the ends of the wing. The glider tried to lift off, and it looked like we had enough speed to let me pull my other leg up and hook my toes over the bar.

It’s flying…. I’m flying…on my stomach behind that famous football-shaped elevator…

Without much altitude or warning, it nosed down. I rolled the ash bar back, which didn’t help the airspeed at all. The glider sort of slammed into the dune.

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked. He was sprawled out on the sand just beyond the wingtip.

“Yeah. Are you okay?” I said.

He leapt to his feet and showered me with positive reinforcement, then told me I’d violated the over-control rule. He and Andy lifted the glider, and Bruce told me to hold the elevator up to get the wings to sail us to the dune top.

Waiting for another weak gust, we sat in the wing’s shadow and guzzled the bottled water we’d packed. Bruce recounted that they’d gotten in some 300-foot glides. “The beauty of it is, if it rains, you get 25 percent more distance because that fabric shrinks up and it’s not nearly as porous. There’s a point where it gets too much, but rain is your friend with that glider.”

We launched again.

I’m flying…. I’m flying…. The left wing dipped, and reflexively I shoved my hip left. The tip stabbed the sand and the glider spiraled. The Wrights called it “well-digging.”

The wind changed direction and picked up to a steady 20 mph, so we hauled the glider from the dune’s relatively shallow east side to the south face’s deeper, wider sand valley. Bruce pointed to a weathered yellow house on the next ridge and told me to point the elevator there. We three lifted the glider—really, we just stopped holding it down—and I got situated: I slid my hips onto the cradle, using my bare feet to push against that aft horizontal bar, elbows clenching my ribcage and holding up my upper body in a sort of yoga pose, both hands gripping the ends of the elevator control bar. I felt like Orville, in the glass-plate photos I’ve seen of him in the glider.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

They ran forward and played out a few feet of line while the glider instantly gripped the wind. I held the glider level, and the ground dropped away. I’m flying…I’m flying…I’m really flying this #*%& glider…

I held the elevator steady, kept the wings level, and glanced down. We were still flying straight and they were running down the white dune backward, maybe 20 feet below. While the Wrights had no altimeter on board, that was likely their average altitude as well—though their pal George Spratt estimated that on one glide, they reached 60 feet. While the glider soared, I tried to spot the yellow house. Mostly I allowed the glider to do what it wanted to do. Don’t over-control.

It plunged, spraying sand and jarring my teeth a little.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

The next flight started out as a repeat of the first, but this time, once I was airborne, the glider dipped left and I got busy sliding the cradle right, but over-corrected; now the right wing dipped, and I slid just a little to the left, all while concentrating on holding the elevator level. We were in no danger of well-digging—then, well, the remaining few seconds played out same as before, though the landing went smoother. We didn’t measure the distance, but I may have flown as far as 200 feet. The Wrights made it farther—between September and October 1902, they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, flying from 200 and 400 feet, though their longest flight was 622.5 feet.

On October 23, 1902, Orville Wright wrote to his sister Katharine: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second or about 30 miles per hour, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind a gliding machine was ever in, so that we now hold all the records! The largest machine we handled in any kind [of weather, made the longest dis]tance glide (American), the longest time in the air, the smallest angle of descent, and the highest wind!!!”

One hundred and ten years later, strapped to an identical aircraft on the same breezy dunes, I started feeling the excitement Orville had. “The sense of connection with the Wright brothers is the overriding sensation I get while flying the glider,” Andy said. “Knowing that the Wright brothers at one point felt exactly what I felt while flying the glider is pretty amazing.” I knew what he meant. After each landing I was torn between wanting to run to my backpack for a quick swig of water, and run back to prepare for the quickest takeoff possible. Each time I realized that my tongue was sticking to the top of my mouth, I thought: There will always be time for water later, when the wind dies down.

 

article originally appeared in:

http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Orville-Wilburand-Me-162924306.html?c=y&story=fullstory

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Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Posted on Sep 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Sir Bob Geldof as the first rock astronaut

Space Expedition Corporation has confirmed the news that singer, philanthropist and Nobel Price nominee Sir Bob Geldof has secured a seat in one of their upcoming space flights, officially becoming an astronaut. He follows in the space steps of  Guy Laliberté, Canadian co-founder and the current CEO of Cirque du Soleil who went into space in September 2009.

Geldof said, “Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honor but pretty mind-blowing. The first rock astronaut space rat! Elvis may have left the building but Bob Geldof will have left the Planet! Wild! Who would have thought it would be possible in my lifetime.”

SXC Founder Michiel Mol added, “We are so proud to have Mr. Geldof aboard. He is an icon of social responsibility and in projects like Live Aid, he proved that entertainment and meaningfulness can be a great combination. We share that vision by offering our astronauts a life changing experience, while at the same time, we are changing the concept of sustainable airline transportation all together; namely outside the earth’s atmosphere.”

Mr. Geldof will be undertaking his first step of training in the space flight simulator based in the Netherlands on September 26th 2013.

From 2014 on, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) will perform daily commercial flights into space. SXC offers participants a life-changing experience in viewing our planet Earth from 100 kilometers high. Plus, having been at that altitude, they can rightly be called astronauts. XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California, USA, designed and built the Lynx spacecraft, which will perform the space flights. SXC is proud to be the launching customer of the Lynx, which comfortably takes off and lands like a normal airplane, from regular airports. The flexibility of the Lynx spacecraft enables operation from almost any commercial airport. The operation has sold over 250 tickets so far.

However, Geldorf hasn’t taken the opportunity provided by a rival space voyage company that is promising the dark side of the moon – then perhaps we have either a Pink Floyd cover or a new Boomtown Rats song that, in fact, he does like Moondays.

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What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

Posted on Sep 9, 2013 | Comments Off on What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

From Bloomberg, By Alan Levin – Sep 6, 2013 2:00 PM ET

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land.

An Asian airline’s wide-body slams into a sea wall. A 737 with 150 people aboard hits the runway so hard its nose gear buckles. A cargo plane barely misses houses before plowing into a hillside short of the runway.

These recent accidents, marking the deadliest period for airlines in the U.S. since 2009, have something in common: had the pilots aborted their landings at the first sign of trouble – – a move known as a go-around — they might have avoided tragedy.

“They’d all be walking, talking and alive if they went around,” Patrick Veillette, a pilot who teaches and writes about aviation safety, said in an interview.

The three U.S. air crashes since July 6, which killed five people, spotlight the difficulty in getting pilots to abort touchdowns if they haven’t made safe approaches to the runway. It’s “the largest, lowest hanging piece of safety fruit” to make flying less hazardous, according to research sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Crashes that occur during approach or touchdown are the world’s leading category of aviation mishaps and deaths, according to data compiled by Chicago-based manufacturer Boeing Co. (BA) The biggest risk factor for such accidents is failing to approach a runway at the proper speed, altitude and heading, known as an unstabilized approach.

If safety regulators can persuade pilots to conduct more go-arounds, lives may be saved and costs to airlines in damaged equipment and liability may be lowered.

Non-Compliant Pilots

Computerized flight-track records and a survey of 2,340 pilots sponsored by the safety foundation found that crews have a long way to go to comply with airline requirements to abort landings if their approaches were unstable. Almost all pilots, or 97 percent, continued to land in spite of the rules that they climb away from the runway and circle around to try again, according to the research.

“That’s a risk factor that we really need to work on,” Rudy Quevedo, director of global programs at the foundation, said in an interview.

The issue isn’t simple or new, Quevedo and Veillette said.

“There isn’t a commercial pilot who can say, ‘Shame on you. You should have gone around,’” Veillette said. “We’ve all been in situations where in retrospect, we should have gone around and didn’t.”

In some cases, rules may be overly rigid, akin to imposing a highway speed limit that is so low drivers routinely exceed it, Quevedo said. Violating the rules has become so ingrained that airlines don’t enforce them and pilots don’t recognize when they are taking unnecessary risks, he said.

Safety Critical

Setting up a proper approach to a landing is critical to safety, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the aviation industry, and the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

“It’s really all physics,” Quevedo said. “You want to be centered on the runway on the correct trajectory, the correct descent rate and the right speed.”

If that happens, a plane will almost always cross the start of the runway at a height of about 50 feet (15 meters), which is optimal for a safe landing, he said.

Airlines typically require that a plane be stabilized at 1,000 feet above the runway in poor visibility and at 500 feet in clear weather. Pilots must also have performed required checklists, extended landing gear and configured the plane for landing, according to the foundation.

“If not — GO AROUND!” an FAA advisory to pilots and airlines says.

Low, Slow

While the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t said what caused the three recent crashes, information it has released shows evidence of the aircraft being unstable at points within a mile (1.6 kilometers) or two from the runway or of pilots perceiving they were off course.

Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560) Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land, according to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. The crash killed three passengers and injured dozens as the plane broke apart and slid to a stop.

One pilot told investigators the Asiana plane was below its optimal glide path at 500 feet, Hersman said July 9. Shortly after, the plane veered off the runway centerline, Hersman said.

The pilots told investigators they failed to notice other warning signs, including that their speed had slowed so much that the wings were in danger of losing lift. When they recognized what was happening, they attempted a go-around, adding power too late to avoid the accident, Hersman said.

Crash Landing

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) plane landed nose-first at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on July 22, breaking the landing gear and skidding across the runway.

The NTSB hasn’t said whether the Boeing 737-700 was on a stable approach. The captain took control of the plane from the first officer below 400 feet altitude, according to the NTSB. In previous NTSB cases, such shifts in control occurred after an emergency or because the captain thought the approach needed correcting.

Nine people suffered minor injuries, according to the NTSB.

The pilots of a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) freighter that crashed in Birmingham, Alabama, on Aug. 14 received a cockpit warning that they were descending too rapidly 7 seconds before they hit trees, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said last month.

Whether the pilots also knew they were too low for their approach, which should have triggered a go-around, hasn’t been released. The Airbus SAS A300-600F hit a dark hillside before dawn and broke apart, killing both pilots.

Dulled Sense

The NTSB has investigated at least 21 cases since 1999 in which pilots could have prevented accidents or incidents if they had aborted landings that ran afoul of airline rules, according to the agency’s case files.

In an attempt to discover why such accidents continue to occur, the Flight Safety Foundation hired Martin Smith, a former pilot and psychologist who operates Presage Group Inc. in Mississauga, Canada. Smith oversaw the survey of pilots that found many weren’t following airline rules.

The pilots who didn’t go-around after an unstable approach tended to have a dulled sense of the risks and didn’t communicate as much with fellow crew members, Smith said the survey showed. They also believed they wouldn’t be reprimanded for attempting to land in those cases. A similar survey of airline managers is under way to determine why the rule is so widely overlooked, he said.

Unrealistic Criteria

At the same time, some pilots said the criteria for a stabilized approach weren’t realistic, Smith said in an interview.

Researchers are attempting to design new standards that require aborting landings only in dangerous situations, improving safety without unnecessarily boosting go-arounds, which can create their own dangers, Quevedo said.

“We should expect that if we have a policy, the people should follow the policy,” he said. “But that being said, we need to make sure that the policy is good before we make people follow it. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

 

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Flight by Flight Upgrade Auctions

Posted on Sep 9, 2013 | Comments Off on Flight by Flight Upgrade Auctions

How much would you pay for the lie-flat bed and quilted duvet?

The good news is that getting bumped up to Business Class just got more affordable. Last month, Iberia became the latest carrier to roll out an online auction scheme that allows customers to bid for seating upgrades.

“Everyone knows that if no one is sitting in seat 2a when the plane takes off from London to New York, it’s a loss for the airline. But everyone in economy wants that seat,” explains Ken Harris, the founder and CEO of Plusgrade, the software company that developed the system. “The idea was to help correct that, and do it intelligently.”

The setup works differently for each airline, depending on their specifications. Some carriers offer upgrades to First Class as well.

Who is allowed to participate in the bidding process also varies. Often, the selection process is determined by the route and the number of leftover premium seats. On occasion, a customer’s frequent flyer status might also come into play.

Auctioning off flight upgrades

Furthermore, bidding is blind; customers enter how much they’re willing to pay, and if that number exceeds other bids (and the airlines keep that information top secret), they win. The cost of an upgrade is extremely variable, depending on the airline, season and route.

Carriers are shy to reveal how much is necessary in securing a winning bid, though it’s fair to say the price is less than a full-fare, Business Class ticket.

The idea that you can simply smile at a ticket agent and get gifted a free upgrade is a romantic notion that simply doesn’t happen.
Ken Harris, Plusgrade

The concept has gained traction with the airline community. A dozen carriers have already introduced upgrade auctions to their websites with the help of Plusgrade and he expects to double that number before the year is out.

Still, one can’t help but wonder if the airlines risk eating into their premium revenues.

Jamie Baker, an airline analyst at JP Morgan, says it’s a possibility.

 

“If airlines make it too easy to pay for an upgrade, it might dilute what the traveler would initially be willing to pay for that ticket,” he notes. “As a result, airlines tend to control the capacity of award seats. There’s a certain amount of experimentation in the process that is required.”

Harris, however, seems confident the bidding system will not impact premium-seating sales.

“There’s no guarantee that simply because you’ve requested an upgrade, you’ll receive it,” he says.

“If you want to sit in Business Class and your budget allows you to do so, you should buy that seat. It’s the only guarantee you won’t be sitting in the back of the plane on your next trip across the ocean.”

This service is for the passenger that just wants to treat himself for a little extra, and can live with the uncertainty.
Stephanie Kunath, Austrian Airlines

Austrian Airlines has one of the more democratic approaches to the process. Everyone, regardless of frequent flyer status, can bid on an upgrade, assuming any are available on the flight in question.

The airline isn’t worried about hurting their profits, because they view the full-fare seats and auction upgrades as two different products, even though passengers who win an upgrade receive the exact same benefits as someone who paid up front, including access to premium lounges and extra baggage allowances.

 

“This product is for a completely different type of group,” explains Stephanie Kunath, Austrian’s director of revenue management and business development.

“It’s not for the business traveler who really wants to fly Business Class and needs a 100% guarantee that he can. It’s for the passenger that just wants to treat himself for a little extra, and can live with the uncertainty.”

While bidding for seats might not hurt an airline’s bottom line, the advent of these auctions will likely eat away at the number of free upgrades awarded passengers.

“It probably will erode the complimentary upgrade process to a certain degree, and airlines do run the risk of offending their elite traveler, who has become accustomed to complimentary upgrades,” says Baker.

Harris, however, argues that free bump-ups are the stuff of fantasy.

“Free upgrades are really only given by necessity in operational situations or given to frequent flyers,” he says. “The idea that you can simply smile at a ticket agent and get gifted a free upgrade is a romantic notion. It simply doesn’t happen.”

From CNN

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“Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 | Comments Off on “Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Airlines and Technology

Smart phones, computers- the 10 best global airlines to take them along

Sep 05, 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will relax some rules in regards for passengers to use communication devices. It may include using a phone even during take off and landing.

This is good news for tech-savvy flyers everywhere. But the question is, just how “plugged-in” are the airlines themselves?

A major online booking portal has compiled a list of what it believes to be the best technology adopters within the airline world. Here is our top 10.

#1: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines takes in-flight technology to new heights by embracing fun gadgets that make the flying experience more enjoyable. Not only does it offer Wi-Fi on select routes and power outlets for all cabins, but it also has a laptop battery lending service for first and business class customers. Similarly, if you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford to travel in style, Japan Airlines provides its first and business passengers with noise cancelling headphones and portable air massagers. And who wants to squint at a tiny video screen? First class passengers also enjoy their in-flight entertainment on 19″-23″ screens, while Select Business customers get to use a liquid-crystal touch-panel controller.

Honorable Mentions: Like Japan Airlines, both ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Singapore Airlines offer in-seat power supply and noise cancelling headphones (to first and business passengers). Likewise, ANA has a portable PC battery rental service, not to mention portable media players (on select aircrafts). And Singapore Airlines provides Wi-Fi on select flights, as well as the capability to connect devices directly to personal touch screens.

#2: Virgin Atlantic
Not to be confused with Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic has long been a forward thinker when it comes to technology. Two decades ago, before integrated systems in the back of seats were prevalent, it offered portable video devices to each first class customer. You just picked the video you wanted from whatever cassettes they had on board and the flight attendant would bring you your choice. Likewise, you have long been able to play video games with other passengers.

But now, the social media savvy airline will be using its already very active Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce live entertainment acts on its domestic Little Red service. (By live, we mean actual musicians and performers doing their thing in-person on your flight).

Virgin Atlantic also offers a plethora of mobile apps to choose from, including a mobile boarding pass. And it boasts gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment through its Vera entertainment system (which allows you to bookmark content for later in your flight, rate content and see other travelers’ ratings, as well as access the Sky news channel live).

#3: Air Canada
If you can afford a first class ticket, imagine an airline that offers seats with a built-in massage function and lumbar adjustment, in addition to the fold-out bed capability that has become standard for long haul flights — ever since British Airways first introduced them in 1996. This is just one of the many perks that Air Canada provides its Executive customers. Even the mattress can be adjusted from soft to firm. And to further help you sleep, Air Canada has created an ambient mood lighting effect to sync with each time zone you enter as a way to minimize jet lag. With technology-driven capabilities like these, it is no wonder Air Canada was named Best Airline in North America by the Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards.

#4: American Airlines
As Air Canada demonstrates, it is not just international airlines that have a corner on technology. And American Airlines is no exception. It has managed to integrate technology into its entire user experience – -from travel planning, to security check, to gate navigation, on board access and baggage claim. Its mobile app not only lets you use your device as an electronic boarding pass, but it will also give you boarding and baggage claim alerts. Need to power up? No problem. Just use one of AA’s gate work tables, complete with charging stations, or plug into the AC power outlet that is a feature on most of its planes. This way you are all juiced up and ready for AA’s in-flight Wi-Fi.

However, a quick poll of Travelzoo employees revealed that it was American’s new upgrade/stand-by feature on its mobile app, as well as the preloaded Samsung Galaxy tablets that were particularly appreciated.

“I like having a reasonable idea of where I stand [with upgrades and stand-by]!” says Alissa Bavli, Senior Sales Director, Entertainment.

For her part, Morgan Ashley Parker, Hotel Content Producer and Merchandising Manager at Travelzoo, loves that American gives its business and first class customers Bose headsets and a Samsung Galaxy tablet with tons of movies loaded onto it. “On the redeye between SFO and JFK, I have to force myself to turn it off so I can get some sleep!”

#5: EVA Airways
Imagine an in-flight entertainment system that integrates with your own devices. If you are flying first class or business, EVA Airways has USB ports that allow you to display your PDF documents, photos and other media directly onto your very own personal touch screen. Their in-flight entertainment system will also let you send and receive emails and cell phone text messages (all classes on select aircrafts). And to make sure your devices stay charged, just use their in-seat power supply.

#6: Qantas
Speaking of in-flight entertainment, Qantas takes it one step further by supplying iPads in every seat so that B767 customers can enjoy 200 hours of streaming on-demand programming. Oh and there are PC power outlets for all classes as well.

It is their Q Bag Tag product, however, that really sets them apart technologically. Designed to make it easier for their customers to check baggage, the little device removes the need for temporary bag tags each time you fly. All you need to do is drop off your bags and go.

#7: Virgin America
Virgin America is pretty tech-savvy too. You can order food, movies and other items directly from your own personal touch screen in the seat in front of you. They also offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

Still, it is their live in-flight TV offering that scores big with Travelzoo. “My favorite flying experience was on a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Chicago this June. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Bruins in a triple overtime Stanley Cup Final game that had the whole plane cheering. I think we frightened the non-locals with our excitement, but it was such a treat to get to experience the win live. On any other airline, we would have missed out on all the fun!” shares Anna Heinemann, Senior Associate Producer, Entertainment.

#8: Delta Airlines
Like American Airlines, Delta also offers in-flight Wi-Fi and USB power outlets, as well as charging stations at its top airports. But it is Delta’s iPhone app that no doubt helped propel the airline to be named “Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline” by PCWorld magazine early last year. Among the many things it can do is track and pay for checked baggage!

#9: Emirates
One of the few international airlines to allow passengers to use their cell phones, Emirates may or may not be helping to pave the way for policy changes on domestic U.S. flights. Regardless, this capability combined with its Ice OnDemand entertainment system and Wi-Fi offering helps position it as a tech savvy airline.

#10: Etihad Airways
This summer Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, debuted Wi-Fly in-flight connectivity on its Abu Dhabi and New York flights. It also offers travelers “Etihad Mapped-Out,” an online mapping tool developed in cooperation with LinkedIn, that gives professionals the ability to search their connections by geographical location and see them displayed on a map. The idea is to make it easier for their passengers to message new contacts, arrange meetings and be more productive while travelling.

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Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 | Comments Off on Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

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Accor has managed Qantas’ First/Business Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne airports for more than five years. It will now take over the operations of the majority of Qantas domestic lounges in Sydney and Melbourne plus Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth, with a roll-out from November this year. They will be will be run under Accor’s upscale Pullman brand.

Earlier this year, Qantas relaunched its newly refurbished lounge in Singapore, also managed by Accor.

Simon McGrath, Accor’s COO Australia and New Zealand, said the deal brings together the two biggest names in tourism and hospitality in Australia to provide the best possible service to Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Accor’s involvement in the Qantas lounges extends to providing staff training, lounge management and food and beverage services.

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iTT addresses the luxury in the experience

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 | Comments Off on iTT addresses the luxury in the experience

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On Sunday September 1, Luxperience 2013 opened in Sydney, Australia’s Town Hall with a “Thought Leaders” evening. David McGonigal of iTravelTree was asked to present as the opening speaker –
his topic was “The Luxury in the Experience”.

Good evening. From Andrew’s introduction you may gather, I’ve been a travel writer/author and photographer for too many decades.

100 places to visit

In fact, a friend recently send me one of those Facebook quizzes on  “100 places to see before you die” –  and I had visited 90 – I’m either well travelled or ready to cark it.

My latest venture is a start-up called iTT. Basically, iTravelTree conducts a meta search of travel data filtered by your social preferences. So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to “luxury” lately – the trend I see in luxury is to collect exotic experiences not things or famous hotels.

If you had asked my mum, she probably would have defined travel luxury as a grand old hotel – like Sydney’s Australia Hotel.

Marstrand-Island-in-Bohuslan-Photo-Lisa-Nestorson

I suspect Scandinavia may agree with her. While flying on SAS last month I read in the in-flight mag: “Marstrand has something that no new luxury resort can buy: dignity and soul”.

It was both a sweeping generalization and wrong. Marstrand may do it well but so do many new resorts. Brilliant architecture, environmental sensitivity and empathy with local residents lie at the heart of dignity and soul. Some go further:

D on ele

© David McGonigal

The Anantara Golden Triangle gives you a chance to be part of a care centre for mistreated Asiatic elephants. More on that later.

My last 18 months have been special as my wife Sandra, stepped down from running Rupert Murdoch’s Australian magazine division early last year and, after a lifetime of being tied to an office has finally had a chance to travel. We’ve been referring to it as her executive gap year. Seeing our industry through her eyes is enlightening. Fittings and service are a given – and only noted in their absence – but special moments like hugging a baby orang utan or being taught to cook Tiramisu by the head chef of the Villa San Michele are prized.

Galleria

* This is Milan’s Galleria Hotel – self proclaimed 7-stars

First can I say how I hate the attempt to add more stars – Dubai’s Burj al Arab started it and the Galleria has taken it further. I think the trend is in reverse: high degree of comfort is no longer limited to 5-star properties. Some 4-star resorts now offer a standard that would have been 5-star a decade ago. And why is it new hotels that think they might be 6 or 7 star: what about grand, established hotels like Monaco’s Hotel de Paris that could probably lay a better claim?

And, anyway, many of us would forego the front door being opened (or yet another chandelier) in exchange for free high-speed internet or the chance to make a cup of coffee and tea in the privacy of our room.

So what makes a property or travel experience truly special? There are three possibilities:

  1. The destination itself is enough
  2. The travel experience itself is enough
  3. The experience maximizes the location

1.       In some rare cases, the place itself is enough.

Simply being there is a luxury. And here I’m talking about discerning, experienced travellers. For the first timer in London, a dodgy hotel in Kensington might seem like paradise – it isn’t.

What’s a destination where the privilege is simply to be there?

Paro

  • Bhutan Paro Festival © David McGonigal

I was fortunate enough to go to Bhutan some 15 years ago. The food was terrible, the accommodation basic and the roads were shocking. But the richness of the culture – and its lack of cultural pollution from modern pop culture – left all of us, all very experienced Himalayan travellers, saying that we had found Paradise. And, then and now it wasn’t cheap.

But what’s the impossible dream? As a boy, I always thought I’d go to the moon but never thought I’d visit Antarctica.

Breaking Ice South of the Antarctic Circle DSC0727

  • Antarctica © David McGonigal

I now work in Antarctica as an expedition leader – I’ve been there more than 100 times and feel privileged every time. Passengers will pay the fare for a basic cabin on a Russian icebreaker that would give them five star accommodation for the same duration anywhere in Europe: $60,000 for two weeks.

The luxury to travel to Bhutan or into polar ice is at least as special as 5-star luxury.

Lunar

Space remains the ultimate travel destination and it looks like I won’t make it there. Space travel is coming but affordability might be a problem. Mike McDowell popularized Antarctica as a travel destination – and his Space Adventures have arranged all 8 people who have paid (a lot) to go into space.

Virgin Galactica

Virgin Galactica says it’ll have first flight on Christmas Day this year. Cost for 2.5 hr flight to 360,000 ft is $250,000. Not bad value for 110 km up.

This is the category where indulgence doesn’t correlate with luxury. There are people prepared to pay $1/4M to throw up in a capsule a long way from home.

2 What about creating the unusual? Manufacturing the whole experience from scratch?

castlebuilding

In the non-luxury market, it’s hard to go past Disneyland then DisneyWorld as places that create their own need. While you’d go to London or Paris regardless, would you go to Anaheim or Orlando without Walt’s worlds?

MONA

© David McGonigal

Closer to home – both in terms of location and audience – we have David Walsh’s MONA that has brought a whole new travel group to Hobart. When a gallery is talked more about in tourism stats than in the Arts pages you know it’s significant. Amazing and confronting, too.

Dubai

Creating something from nothing is hard. Yet that’s what Dubai has done – taken a small fishing village and turn it into the world’s hub of luxury hotels and shopping.

us on eles

© David McGonigal

I go back to the Anantara because it epitomizes the luxury in the experience. And it drew us to a place we wouldn’t have visited. We signed up for a three day mahout course – and we were allocated our own elephants for the duration. Having your own elephant is absolute luxury – coming to understand the likes and dislikes of this giant gentle creature was very special. We still dream of elephants.

Oasis

*Oasis of the Seas

The modern cruise industry has done it, too – created a huge growing industry out of nothing. Of course there were cruises before but ships were mainly a form of transport not entertainment.

Fat DuckFat Duck © David McGonigal

Then we have the modern phenomenon of food tourism. Perhaps it has always existed in a small way. nearly always directed towards France.

But now Noma has as much drawing power as the Little Mermaid, El Bulli rivals Sagrada Familia and The Fat Duck has put Bray UK on the map. Even in my suburb of Balmain, many hear the name and think Adriano Zumbo’s macarons.

When you are creating something from nothing, you are limited only by your imagination. Here luxury can be indulgence and the experience.

3      Finally we have the experience that works to enhance the location – the most common scenario

Cipriani

  • Cipriani Hotel © David McGonigal

Every company that delivers a travel product needs to be thinking “what next?” There was a time when just having been to the rim of the Grand Canyon was enough. Then people said “what next?” So now we can raft through it, hike to the bottom or walk out on a glass platform. Likewise, Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb changed the bridge (and Sydney) from a static setting to an experience.

I experienced this first hand in Venice last year. Once it would have been enough to have Venice as my destination. And for luxury it’s hard to go past the legendary Hotel Cipriani. But then the Cipriani raised the stakes into the stratosphere – “come stay with us and kayak the canals of Venice.”

kayak Venice

© David McGonigal

This was luxury at all levels – the pampered indulgence of the hotel and the experiential indulgence of seeing Venice from my own kayak. I fondly remember the Cipriani – especially breakfast on Easter Sunday – but I’ll never forget paddling under the Rialto at sunset then turning to glide under the Bridge of Sighs.

It’s hard to up the arms race in hotel amenities. Better champagne – but when you get to Krug vs Dom, what’s next? Better beds? More service? If you want to stand out you have to think laterally and offer the unusual – as the Cipriani has done.

David Bowie

Luxury can simply be service. A great concierge is there to realize your dreams. A couple of weeks ago I was London for the day and wanted to see the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A but it was sold out. So we contacted Red Carnation Hotels where we had stayed the last couple of times we’ve been in London and Egerton House Hotel provided a couple of passes that they were offering their guests. They have our loyalty.

Summer Palace

  • Summer palace, St Petersburg © David McGonigal

The ultimate luxury is not more brocade but rather “Access All Areas”. So a cruise that features a private dinner in one of Catherine the Great’s palaces has special appeal. Or a Danube cruise that includes rare tickets to Oberammergau Passion Play. In Sydney you’d hope a hotel has some Springsteen tickets in a drawer. Think big – come to LA and we’ll take you to the Academy Awards. Who would say “no”?

Hugh Jackman

“Access All People” is a luxury for the sociable. I spent a weekend at Gwinganna Health Retreat when Hugh Jackman was there (he’s a part owner) and that’s been good for a few stories afterwards. The lesson I learned was don’t try to hold eye contact with any woman when Hugh is heaving himself out of the pool behind you. I always thought the ultimate would have been on the Antarctic cruise that had the reclusive Neil Armstrong on board.

&Beyond

There’s also the wonderful experience when the environment and the property perfectly interlink. I first discovered this in South Africa where game parks like &Beyond’s are luxurious but have strong links to not just wildlife conservation but also the local community. Luxury for visitors is feeling part of the place not a casual observer.

Turtle Island

Things change. Many years ago I was asked to give Bernie Eccleston suggestions for a tropical Australian resort with no expense spared. I suggested he go to Fiji instead. Places like Turtle Island gave a better experience because you are immersed in local culture while being treated royally. Australia has evolved – today I’d say to Bernie – have a look at the website of Luxury Lodges of Oz.

Southern Ocean Lodge

  • Southern Ocean Lodge

We’ve come a long way from the days when Australian tourism culture was a reflection of Crocodile Dundee.

Bulgari Bali

It’s predicted that more hotels and resorts will align themselves with luxury brands – think the Armani Hotel in Dubai, the Missoni Hotel in Kuwait and the Bulgari resort in Bali. I hear even Vogue is considering moving into the area. Of course, the name gives instant cut-through but I think it’s lazy.

Doing the hard yards to find a way to offer a unique experience that provides your property with an authentic, memorable life moment that ties to its location will result in enduring success.

Easter island

  • Easter Island © David McGonigal

A recent report  by the Adventure Travel Association and George Washington University  defined adventure travel as any trip that includes at least

2 of

a)    physical activity,

b)   interaction with nature, and

c)     cultural learning or exchange

It valued the industry at $US263 billion pa, with 65 per cent annual growth since 2009. There’s certainly money in experiential travel.

But, if I can distill a lifetime of travel into a few words – For me luxury is not about limos or five-star fittings and glamorous furnishings, it’s about taking time to create a memory that’s held in my heart and stands out among all others. In our privileged world we can always buy ‘luxury’ things but access and experience stands out as the ultimate luxury!

Hindu devotees travel on a crowded passenger train in Goverdhan

Sadly, there are a lot of ordinary travel experiences being sold. Exceptional ones stand out – from the time you hear about them to the moment you do them. It doesn’t have to be grand –

Cafe Tartufi

© David McGonigal

I smile when I think of Café Tartufo in Florence where we had perfect truffle paste rolls and good red wine for lunch on a rainy day – it was the perfect Florentine experience.

Bora Bora

© David McGonigal

It was a highlight as much as snorkeling with stingrays in Bora Bora lagoon or

Mig 21

flying a Mig 21 jet fighter as a paying guest of the Slovakian Airforce.

It’s no coincidence that it’s 2013 and we are here at an event called Luxperience. We’re in a Golden Age of Travel and you are at the cutting edge of it. Thanks for the experiences you offer – and the wonders that are yet to come.

If you have special vision – please come and tell me about it. Meanwhile, please “like” iTravelTree on Facebook or bookmark the webpage to follow us as we develop.

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Argentine court delays LAN’s eviction from Buenos Aires airport

Posted on Aug 30, 2013 | Comments Off on Argentine court delays LAN’s eviction from Buenos Aires airport

Argentine court delays LAN's eviction from Buenos Aires airport

Image via apex.aero

Aug 29, 2013

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Court extended LAN’s deadline to leave a Buenos Aires airport, as video surfaces of rival Argentine airline CEO requesting Fernández kick LAN out of Argentina.

A leaked video, protests and a court ruling have stirred the already volatile situation surrounding an order for LAN Airlines to depart from its hangar at Argentina’s main domestic airport — no return flights optional.

On Wednesday, Argentine judge Claudia Rodríguez Vidal called for an extension of the 10-day deadline, which expired that day, given by Argentina’s state-owned airport regulator (ORSNA) to LAN. She said LAN could not be barred from using its hanger until the move’s legality was established.

LAN has a contract to work with the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport until 2023. The company says it will close its operations in Argentina if it is forced to abandon its hangar. Around 1,500 jobs will be lost if the closure proceeds, sparking protests by LAN’s Argentine employees throughout the week.

The airline has precedent on its side to suggest that the Argentine court may come to its defense. Tango and Mac Air airlines were similarly asked to leave the airport, but the Argentine court also ruled in their favor.

The ruling comes as Mariano Recalde, president of the state-owned Aerolíneas Argentinas, is feeling the sting for statements he made about LAN more than three years ago. Speaking at Agrupación Oesterheld, a group which hosts various national speakers on Argentine topics, Recalde was recorded saying that he had asked President Cristina Fernández for the closure of LAN’s routes in Argentina.

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Best and Worst Airports Worldwide for Easy Transfers

Posted on Aug 28, 2013 | Comments Off on Best and Worst Airports Worldwide for Easy Transfers

day-at-airport

Aug 27, 2013

Which are the best and worst airports for making connecting flights and why? Wayne Chen discovered the answers while creating Connect On Time mobile app that provides specific gate-to-gate connect times for many of the world’s top destination airports. His picks are based upon the number of barriers and amount of time needed at each airport to get between its furthest gates once security and passport control lines have been cleared.

10 Best

1. Zurich Airport (ZRH)
10 min.

2. Salt Lake City International (SLC)
11 min.

3. Tampa International (TPA)
12 min.

4. Orlando International (MCO)
15 min.

5. Charlotte Douglas International (CLT)
16 min.

6. Denver International (DEN)
18 min.

7. London Stansted (STN)
19 min.

8. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL)
20 min.

9. Dubai International (DXB)
21 min.

10. Hong Kong International (HKG)
22 min.

The Best airports have better than 70 percent on-time departure and arrival records, logical layouts, efficient security and passport control checkpoints, connected airsides, and gates that are no more than a half an hour apart.

10 Worst

1. Beijing Capital International (PEK)
1 hr. 27 min.

2. London Heathrow (LHR)
1 hr. 25 min.

3. Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
1 hr. 23 min.

4. Shanghai Pudong International (PVG)
1 hr. 18 min.

5. Los Angeles International (LAX)
1 hr. 10 min.

6. Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD)
1 hr. 9 min.

7. Tokyo Narita International (NRT)
1 hr. 3 min.

8. Boston Logan International (BOS)
1 hr. 2 min.

9. Frankfurt International (FRA)
1 hr. 1 min.

10. Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)
59 min.

The Worst airports are the polar opposite of the Best. Beijing Capital tops the list with a dismal 30 percent on-time record and stressed-out passengers constantly struggling to reach their connecting gates on time.

Plan Ahead
So while considering which connecting flight to book, allot at least an hour between flights to account for unexpected delays and wait times at the Best airports, and three hours at the Worst. “Give yourself the gifts of time and peace of mind,” suggests Chen, “because no one else will.”

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Vale Bill Peach (1935-2013)

Posted on Aug 27, 2013 | Comments Off on Vale Bill Peach (1935-2013)

bill_big

27 August 2013

Bill Peach died in Sydney today. While much of the eulogies will be about his role as a television personality, Bill was also a vital part of the Australian travel scene, both as a principal of Bill Peach Journeys and as a travel writer and commentator. iTT first met Bill in Greece in 1987 and we’ve stayed friends ever since. He was an affable, knowledgeable and fun travelling companion. He will be missed. Vale Bill.

 

From the ABC

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-27/the-life-and-legacy-of-bill-peach/4916362

The life and legacy of televison presenter and intrepid traveller Bill Peach

By Jennifer King
ABC journalist Bill PeachPHOTO: Bill Peach had no on-camera experience but took to television “like duck to water”. (ABC)
 

With one of the most radiant smiles in current affairs, Bill Peach will be remembered by a generation of baby-booming Australians for the world he revealed to them in his scenic travel documentaries, and, most recently, as a guide of luxurious travel journeys.

Peach’s sunny disposition made him a natural choice in 1967 to host This Day Tonight, a ground-breaking current affairs program, the first of its kind in Australia.

Having begun as an ABC radio cadet in 1958, Peach had no on-camera experience, but fellow journalist and friend Peter Luck recalled that he “took to television like a duck to water”.

“He was like Ginger Meggs, the boy next door with his sunny personality,” Luck recalls.

“There was some element of larrikinism in This Day Tonight, but I wouldn’t call Bill a larrikin. He was very smart and wise, very loyal and very supportive.”

Together with a team that included Luck, Gerald Stone and Frank Bennett, Peach presented uncompromising coverage of world-changing events, like the war in Vietnam with an informative, sarcastic and witty style.

“There were a lot of things happening in Australia, and part of what made TDT exciting, but also made us friends and enemies, was because we took on big issues, we had furious debates, we had people attacking each other in the studio, and I mean physically as well as verbally,” he told Lateline in 2007.

“And we had riots going on inside and outside the studio, and of course they were happening in the country.”

Fellow journalist George Negus worked with Peach on the program in 1975.

“He was very calm, very composed, very together and very sensible when he was surrounded by a bunch cowboys like myself at the time,” he recalled.

Described as a “self-confessed stickybeak”, Peach’s love for Australia ignited a desire to share the country’s history and beauty, initially with television audiences and later, with tourists.

A life on the road

After working within a studio for eight years, Peach ventured into presenting travel documentaries, with Peach’s Australia in 1975, Holidays With Bill Peach in 1976 and Bill Peach’s Journeys in 1983.

Other documentaries Peach’s Gold and The Explorers followed, accompanied by best-selling history books, magazine articles and newspaper columns.

Paul Murphy, Bill Peach, June Heffernan, Tony Joyce and Peter LuckPHOTO: This Day Tonight team photo from 1974. (ABC)

 

Born in the eastern Riverina town of Lockhart, New South Wales on 15 May 1935, Peach’s wanderlust developed during road trips with his father, a stock and station agent.

“I did it initially to get out of school but found I had a love of the Australian landscape,” he said in a 2008 interview.

It was at the height of his television popularity that Peach stepped away from it all to begin his own travel company, Bill Peach Journeys.

He knew he was taking a big risk because at that time he said Australians felt they were not really having a holiday unless they went overseas.

“Holidaying here didn’t qualify, so we had to change the concept of what a holiday was,” he said in a 2008 interview.

With the memory of bouncing along in four-wheel-drive vehicles on dusty, pot-holed roads during his journalism career, Peach elected to fly his passengers across Australia.

He bought two Fokker Friendship planes and developed a 12-day luxury tour which incorporated such hard-to-reach places as Longreach, Katherine Gorge, the Bungle Bungles, Kununurra and Arnhem Land.

“A big country such as Australia is made for aviation. Planes shrink the distance between places and you have unrivalled viewing,” he said in a 2008 interview.

“I always say to people the way to look at the Gibson Desert is our way – looking out the plane and sipping a gin and tonic.”

Rosemary Champion hosted Peach and his passengers on her property Longway in Longreach, where they would be fed home-made scones and jam on the verandah and be given a taste of life in the bush.

“Absolutely the real, genuine, authentic thing – nothing Mickey Mouse/Walt Disney stuff, you know – what you see is what you get. And, you know, basically, it’s a working cattle property, and that’s what we like to demonstrate,” she told Landline in 2008.

Sydneysider John Gorman went on more than 50 of Peach’s trips and says his adventures always made an impression on travellers.

“Seeing places they’ve never been before, and seeing outback Australia – it’s been fantastic,” he said.

“I’ve been a city slicker all my life, and it’s opened my eyes tremendously. It’s been great.”

Peach’s appreciation for travel, Australia’s natural wonders

Peach was awarded a Logie for Outstanding Personal Contribution to Australian Television in 1975 and the Order of Australia Medal (AM) for his services to the Australian media and tourism in 1991.

Today his travel company continues to highlight Australia’s natural wonders to tourists from all over the world.

His contribution to the nation’s media landscape and his promotion of the country’s wild and remote places is a legacy of the dedication he had for his country.

Australia is full of wonderful places. Which of them is your wonderful place usually comes down to your personal experiences.

Bill Peach

 

“Australia is full of wonderful places,” he said in a 2008 interview.

“Which of them is your wonderful place usually comes down to your personal experiences. My favourite in Victoria is Beechworth, not only because it’s a beautifully preserved gold rush town, but because my grandfather, Robert Peach, was born there. The place is in my blood.

“Ned Kelly spent a lot of time there, most of it in jail, and his image dominates the town. This is unfair to my family. I would like to place it on record that when the Peach boys rode down from the Wombat Ranges, the Kelly boys cowered in their hut. That’s my story, anyhow.”

Peach is survived by his partner Pam Young and his children Steven and Meredith. His first wife Shirley died in 1997.

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