On June 5, 2016, Southwest Airlines began serving Long Beach Airport (LGB) in Long Beach, Calf. As an “Avgeek,” I could not be more excited to help bring Southwest Airlines service into an airport where many aviation advances came to life, but as a Sr. Technical Support Rep, I also knew that there was a lot of work to do behind-the-scenes in order to get our operations up and running.
History of Long Beach Airport
LGB is home to more than 70 years of aviation history and where many great passenger and military aircraft were birthed. Aircraft such as the DC-3, DC-9 family (my personal favorite), DC-10, to military transport aircraft such as the C-17, as well as the B-17 bomber, were all manufactured at LGB.
On May 29, 2006, two final passenger aircraft were delivered to their respective carriers: Midwest Airlines and AirTran Airways. After these deliveries, Boeing C-17s became the only aircraft to be manufactured in LGB. On November 29, 2015, the last Boeing C-17 military aircraft departed the field, thus ending aircraft production that dated back to the World War II era.
Top (2016): To this day, the iconic “Fly DC Jets” sign remains on top of the old McDonnell Douglas/Boeing plant. The space is now owned by Mercedes. Bottom (2003): A Midwest Airlines 717-200 is rolled out from the Boeing plant.
Southwest and Long Beach
Our Southwest story begins in early 2016, when we applied for and were awarded four slots at LGB. We later determined that we would offer service between LGB and Oakland, Calf., (OAK)--a connection that would give Californians and tourists the opportunity for convenient, flexible, and low-cost air travel options to/from virtually any Southwest Airlines destination.
Our Technology story at LGB began on April 6, 2016--the date of our “Kick Off” meeting where Project Partners went over new city details. These details included project assignments, Facilities and Technology details, timelines, and milestones. The week of May 16, was used to gather and prep all of the equipment to be installed in our new Station. Our equipment list varies from city to city. For LGB, we installed a total of 11 PCs and other Technology equipment. Much of the equipment was pre-configured and pre-imaged last week at our Headquarters in Dallas, and we were able to do the rest of the imaging and configuration on-site in LGB. Once everything was prepped, it was staged in our Shipping Department for its journey to Los Angeles (LAX).
On May 23, we made our way to LAX and rented a minivan to transport the equipment to LGB. Who knew how much could fit in a mini-van! At one point, we joked: “The entire Long Beach Station is right here on the 405!” Good times.
Once we arrived in Long Beach, we met with Southwest's LGB Station Manager Larry Pitts (who is also our SNA Station Leader), walked the new areas with him, and unloaded our equipment into a storage room. Throughout the rest of the week, we worked closely with other Teams completing facility work, pulling network data, and installing power outlets. As they finished areas, we would then install our equipment at the Ticket Counter, Skycap, and Gate. Most importantly, we were able to liven up our Comm Room, the Heart of Southwest Technology in LGB.
A view of our completed Comm Room
The following week, we once again made our way West to LAX and another mini van full of equipment that we grabbed from our LAX Cargo facility. After arriving at LGB, we met with the LGB airport to go over final details regarding our IT network infrastructure. Throughout the rest of the week, we installed our Lobby Kiosk, Printers, Time Clock, Back Office PCs, and the Air-To-Ground radio (our awesome Pilots need this to communicate with our Ground Teams)!
On Wednesday, June 2, we were met by our Technology Project Managers. They helped finalize the install and ensured all details had been covered and LGB was ready for its first Customers and 737 LUV Jet Service! Later in the week, we assisted Ground Ops by “Smoke Testing” the Station. This involved checking in a test Customer on the Kiosk, at the SkyCap, and Ticket Counter. The testing was a success and LGB was ready for its first flight to OAK!
Left: SkyCap area and front of the LGB Airport. Right: View of the Ticket Counter. Photo Credit: Joe Kiszka
On June 5, 2016, Southwest Airlines Flight #972 from OAK arrived 10 minutes early. Our Ground Crew worked to turn this airplane for an on-time departure of Flight #1853 back to OAK. Long Beach is Southwest’s fifth Greater Los Angeles area airport and 10th California market—we sure do love California and am so proud to have been a part of this great Team effort.
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We are well underway in the process of integrating AirTran into Southwest at airports where both airlines operate. Generally, integration projects begin with our Project Managers in Dallas. They determine future needs based on flight schedules, staffing and other operational requirements. Once the needs of both airlines have been determined, the Project Managers work with my department (Tech Services) on how to combine all or parts of the airlines' operations.
After a plan is set by all of the Team Members, a date is picked for the integration work. On the night of the project, the integration team goes over the plan for the night. In most cases, we are able to stick to our plan. However, allowing for flexibility during integrations is key to ensuring the project remains a success.
During the evening a few months ago, my coworkers and I removed a section of our existing Ticket Counter in Buffalo. In just under an hour, new millwork was set into
its space to be used by AirTran. Baggage scales were added and calibrated on either side of the millwork. Holes and straps were added in the new millwork to support our technology equipment such as kiosks, monitors and cables.
Since AirTran and Southwest use the same kiosk type, we simply moved their kiosks from the old AirTran area and installed them on our new Southwest millwork. To ensure dual-use kiosk functionality by both airlines, we installed our software and added a few cables to each existing AirTran kiosk. Upgrades and changes to our kiosk software allows for any AirTran or Southwest customer to check-in on it.
Next, we installed, configured and tested the computers and printers used by Customer Service Agents. These computers have both AirTran and Southwest software installed and configured. Some of the AirTran software requires additional hardware and cabling that normally would not be installed at airports where only Southwest operates.
Once the newly combined Ticket Counter was set up and tested, we removed all of the existing technology equipment from the old AirTran space. In addition, we worked with the Customer Service Agents and trained them on how the equipment functions for both airlines at the newly combined location.
The next time you fly us, take a few moments to look around you. Chances are, you will notice our two brands - Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways operating side-by-side. That's what we like to call, "One LUV!"
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Growing up and working in the airline industry has given me many opportunities to experience different aspects of my aviation passion. There are two experiences that will remain etched in memory. Both are similar in nature, yet completely different. My father was a Captain for Midwest Airlines for many years and I started my aviation career at Midwest as well. Starting at the end of 2008, we had to park 19 of the 25 Boeing 717-200's we operated and return them to Boeing. At that time, my dad was asked to fly the first 717 to be returned from Milwaukee, WI to Victorville, CA. Victorville is where we ended up parking all 25 airplanes at the end of Midwest's life. The day that first 717 (N927ME) left our fleet, was the last day of my Information Technology job at Midwest due to downsizing. My leader worked with Flight OPS and I was able to secure a ride on this flight as the only "passenger." I was excited, yet sad for this day. I grew up with Midwest Airlines, earlier known at Midwest Express Airlines and I hated seeing us downsize. The day before our retirement flight, I was at our Hangar facility working on my last project and snapped a picture of 927 with the Midwest titles and logos painted over in blue paint. The next day, my Dad and I drove the 10 minutes from our home to the Midwest hangar. Soon after our co-pilot arrived, we were ready to go. I boarded the aircraft with my dad and we shut for forward boarding door. This flight was a repositioning flight that fell under different rules and regulations. Therefore, we were able to fly with the cockpit door open and I was able to sit up front on the jumpseat. It was my first time flying with my dad up front on an airliner. It's an experience I'll never forget. We were pushed back out of the hangar and started up the engines. After getting clearance, we taxied to runway 1L and took off on a very early, dark and rainy morning. N927ME left its hometown, Milwaukee WI. I was able to capture some beautiful photos en-route. Some of these photos remain the best aviation photos I've taken thus far. All too quickly, our four hour flight came to an end. We started our descent and my dad configured the airplane for its descent and landing into Victorville. We lined up with the runway and the co-pilot extended N927ME's landing gear for the last time as a Midwest flight. We touched down and taxied over to an area where other airplanes that have been retired were parked. It was sad seeing our airplane amongst the others. Although a sad experience, it was exciting to be part of an opportunity to retire an airliner. We were greeted by a shuttle and were driven over to Los Angeles (LAX) where we flew home to MKE. As time went on, I became a Southwest Airlines family member. I've met so many great folks here and many know my passion. That's one of the greatest things about working at Southwest. You are able to share your passion with your co-workers and beyond. Recently, I was lucky enough to be part of something even more exciting than retiring an airliner. A passenger spot opened up for me on a brand new 737-800 delivery from Boeing. Instead of saying goodbye to an airplane, I would be saying hello! On September 5, 2012, I met our flight delivery crew at the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel in Seattle, WA. Boeing provided a shuttle to King Field (BFI), where all Boeing 737 deliveries take place. Soon after our quick shuttle ride, we arrived at BFI and walked up into the Southwest Airlines conference room at the Boeing Delivery Center. Today, we were to take delivery of N8320J, Southwest's 20th Boeing 737-800. The conference room windows overlooked the delivery ramp, where N8320J was parked. Boeing provided a catered breakfast for everyone and walked us down to the Boeing store afterwards. Inside the store, one can purchase models of most Boeing airliners, t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, stickers and much more. It was pretty much an airline geeks dream store. Once we finished shopping, we walked back to our conference room and finalized the delivery paperwork and our flight release. Our delivery flight would take us from Boeing Field (BFI) to Paine Field (PAE). PAE is where Southwest installs WiFi on the 737-800 models. Flight time was eight minutes, cruising at an altitude of 4,000 feet. I only had one other flight that short and low on an airliner. It was a flight operated by Midwest Express Airlines from Milwaukee, WI (MKE) to Appleton, WI (ATW) on a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 in 2002. One of the pilots took us on a walk-around of our new -800 prior to departure and showed us many different aspects of the 737. If I had to pick, the most interesting part of the walk-around was seeing the inside of the wheel well where the landing gear retracts into. It was pristine. He said that these wheel wells will never be as clean as they are now due to de-icing fluid, and general runway/ramp contamination during inclement weather. During the walk-around, I was able to capture a few photos of our brand new 737. It is amazing how shiny these airplanes are when they are freshly painted. Just as amazing as the exterior of the airplane, the interior was quite beautiful. The Boeing Sky Interior combined with our Southwest Evolve Interior makes the cabin look clean and professional. Following our walk-around, we boarded the aircraft and shut the forward entry door. This flight was a repositioning ferry flight which allowed for the cockpit door to be open. Our Captain invited me to sit up on the cockpit jumpseat for the flight. We pushed back from the delivery stand and started up our engines. We waved goodbye to the Boeing folks and taxied over to Runway 31L. Since we only had five people (including two pilots) on an airplane that seats 175 passengers and not a lot of fuel, the airplane was very light compared to its max capacity. This allowed for a very fast takeoff. We departed BFI on a northerly heading and quickly climbed to 4,000 feet. As soon as we reached our cruising altitude, we began our descent into PAE. The crew configured the airplane for landing and lowered the landing gear. Those 8 minutes flew by (no pun intended) and our flight, very quickly, came to an end. I took some nice photos during the eight minute flight. The below photo shows depicts the clear and picture perfect flying day we had for our flight. As an airline geek, our arrival into PAE was exciting. We taxied by many Boeing 787 Dreamliners awaiting delivery to their respective Air Carriers. We made our way over to our parking stand and the pilots shut down our engines. Similar to the Midwest 717 retirement, a shuttle was awaiting our arrival. We were driven over to SeaTac International Airport (SEA) and thus completed the delivery of N8320J. Many folks don't get to experience these types of flights and I felt honored to be part of both. These are two one-in-a-lifetime opportunities I surely won't forget!
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Hey, everyone—please allow me to introduce myself! My name is Aaron, and I work as a Field Tech in our Technical Services department out of Chicago's close and convenient Midway Airport. All of our Field Techs are based out of multiple locations which allows us to fly to each city operated by Southwest Airlines and AirTran Airways. In addition to MDW, we have Tech Shops in DAL, BWI, ATL, SLC, and PHX. Collectively, we work to accomplish a lot of projects, new city openings, and general break fixes. During the first and second quarter of this year, our Team has been working on a fairly large project in each city. For those of you who fly with us often, you're probably familiar with theDING! sound when you hand the OPS Agent your boarding card prior to boarding. We are replacing those DINGs (well, sort of … maybe not). We're just replacing the computers the Ops Agents use which controls that DING! Just like your phone, our computers need some LUV and upgrades! That sound comes from what we call a "Gatereader." The Gatereader is comprised of many devices including computers, a printer, and a monitor. To accomplish this project, we communicate with each city and let them know what's in store and what they can expect once we finish the project. Each Tech Shop schedules the install project and ensures that all required equipment is on-site and ready to go when the date comes to begin the new install.
We begin the install by taking out all of the old equipment inside the Gatereader. Notice how after time, things get messy and dirty. That's four years of use! Next, we clean, vacuum, and wipe down the inside of the Gatereader. We don't want to install new equipment in a dirty environment!
After cleaning, we screw in cable management devices. Ready to know what the device is? Wait for it ... wait for it ... Velcro and screws! This helps keep power and network cables out of the way and makes the inside of the Gatereader look clean. In addition, we install a new printer and monitor.
Finally, we install two new computers. One computer controls the boarding groups you see when you board. You know, A 1-30, A 31-60, etc. The other computer is what the Ops Agent uses and controls the DING! sound letting you know your boarding pass has been scanned and you are officially noted as being on the aircraft! By the way, these two computers talk to each other. With one click of the mouse, the Ops Agent can change those boarding groups from A to B to C! How cool is that? When all is said and done, the Gatereader looks like new. Everything is neat and clean and ready for use! The next time you’re out traveling around our system, you may see one of us giving our equipment some TLC!
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