Author Archives: Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin is a senior reporter for the Wichita Eagle covering aviation and aerospace.
She joined the newspaper in 1995 and has covered a variety of beats, including banking, retail, real estate and economic development.
Before joining the Eagle, Molly was a reporter for the Wichita Business Journal and managing editor of The Kansas Business Report, a Topeka, Kan.-based monthly business publication.
She is a graduate of Wichita State University’s Elliott School of Communication.
Molly has traveled to Russia, Italy, France, Scotland and Brazil covering the aviation industry and has won multiple state and national awards, including awards for a four-part series on Boeing’s globalization efforts, called “Shifting Winds: Boeing’s Global Push.”
She is the recipient of the National Business Aviation Association’s 2013 Gold Wing Award for Journalism Excellence.
Molly is a licensed pilot, and learned to fly in her dad’s 1956 Piper Tri-Pacer.
She is married to Mike and has three children, Scott, Ashley and Andy, and two granddaughters.

Thunderbirds flight postponed ’til tomorrow

A lone washer is all that kept me from flying with the Thunderbirds this afternoon.

After three rounds of briefings, Thunderbirds advance pilot Capt. Kristin Hubbard and I walked to the flight line to board the F-16 that would be my seat for the next hour.

But a washer was found someplace inside the cockpit. And that means there’s probably a loose bolt.  When you’re flying upside down, doing rolls and other maneuvers, having something loose isn’t such a good idea. We’re scheduled to fly in the morning.

In the meantime, we watched the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds aerial presentation team practice the performance they’ll give during McConnell Air Force Base’s open house and air show this weekend. Children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation were there Friday to watch. Wichita Eagle photographer Jaime Green and I watched and wore headsets so we could hear the pilots in the air talking to one another.

Earlier in the day, however, Sgt. Amber Alumpe, fitted me with a G-suit and oxygen mask.

Flight surgeon Thom Bowden took my blood pressure and listened to my heart and my breathing. He briefed me on how to withstand 9 G forces and explained that when pulling 9 G’s, my body will weigh nine times its weight. He instructed me how to tense muscles and how to breathe to withstand those kind of forces.

Then I met 30-year-old pilot Kristin Hubbard, currently the only female pilot on the Thunderbirds team. Hubbard has been flying F-16s for six years.

If you’re at the show this weekend, it will be Hubbard’s voice you hear narrating the performances. Her call sign is “Mother” for Mother Hubbard. Friday afternoon, she explained how we’ll do the same maneuvers the pilots will be performing in the air show — only in the show, they’ll be doing them at times only 18 inches off one another’s wingtips.

In the show, Thunderbirds pilots will demonstrate what the F-16 can do — the barrel rolls, vertical rolls, corkscrew, clover loops, flying upside down and other maneuvers. It’s the same kind of maneuvers pilots would do to escape and evade an attack overseas if they were in combat.

The Thunderbirds arrived Wednesday with a 60-member team who travel around the country each year giving more than 75 shows a year.

The team’s purpose is to represent the 700,000 men and women serving in the U.S. Air Force, including the 40,000 who are deployed. It’s purpose is also to represent the entire United States, said Master Sgt. Pam Anderson.

“We’re speaking for those who don’t have the opportunity to speak for themselves,” Anderson said.

Every Monday, for example, a tanker takes off from McConnell Air Force Base carrying personnell deployed overseas.

If you plan to go, the Thunderbirds will perform Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. and be available for autographs afterwards.

Compare Boeing’s contract offers to the Machinists

The Seattle Times has compared how Boeing’s latest offer to the Machinists union to the one workers rejected August 28.

The union made gains on outsourcing, health care and pension. Missing from the latest offer is a company incentive pay plan.

The chart compares general wages, wages for recent and new hires, pensions, bonuses, incentive pay plans, medical plans and outsourcing  language.

Caffe Moderne owner’s “Quest” for a Staggerwing shows in her new mural

Caffe Moderne owner Janet Rine is on a “Quest.”

She is working hard to expand the Old Town restaurant to include a separate room for special events. The highlight of the room is an Art Deco-style mural painted by local artist Steve Murillo, called “The Quest.”     Rine’s goal, after the bills are paid, is eventually to use income from the room to buy a Beech Staggerwing like the one depicted in the mural.  “I want that Staggerwing,” Rine said.  In fact, she is calling the entire room the Quest Space. “This has been a quest for me to be able to afford an airplane.” The Staggerwing is one of eight airplanes depicted in the mural.

The room should be open in a couple of weeks.

India will need about 1,000 new airliners over the next 20 years

At the India Aviation 2008 exhibition and conference in Hyderabad, India, Boeing’s vice president of commercial airplane sales said that India will need 1,001 new commercial airplanes worth about $105 billion over the next two decades. That’s according to Boeing’s 2008 Market Outlook.

“The long-term fundamentals of growth that drive commercial aviation in India remain strong, despite the near-term challenges that face the country,” said Boeing’s Dinesh Keskar in a statement.

Traveling? Here’s a list of airports with free Wi-fi

Wichita Mid-Continent Airport offers travelers free Wi-fi connectivity. Go Wichita. That’s not the case everywhere. While at the the Atlanta airport recently, I discovered the charge for Wi-fi services there was $7.95. My flight was leaving soon, so thought I’d read instead of checking e-mail.

This morning, I ran across a blog with a list of airports that offer free Wi-fi connectivity. The list is long.

Thought I’d share.

Wichita Aero Club revival?

The new Wichita Aero Club now under formation may be a revival of an organization by the same name, said Dave Franson of Franson Consulting and an organizer of the club. According to documents filed with the State, a group of that name was chartered in 1915.   The former group sponsored a ballooning event nearly a century ago, but Franson said no other references to the club could be found.

Today’s Wichita Aero Club is a way for people interested or involved in the aviation industry to network and discuss major industry issues and promote education. The group will host monthly luncheons, sponsor fund-raising events and  recognize prominent aviators with an annual trophy at an awards gala.

A $3 billion difference in tanker bids

Aerial refueling bids from Northrop Grumman and Boeing were both “technically outstanding” but Boeing’s bid came in almost $3 billion more, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer told the Washington Post.

John Young, the undersecretary for acquisition, said the tanker proposal from Northrop Grumman and partner European Aeronautic Defence & Space, the first 68 tankers would have cost $12.5 billion, compared to $15.4 billion under Boeing’s bid.

Northrop also promised earlier delivery and that its aircraft “provided more tanker capability and offload rate,” Young told the Washington Post.

Bombardier Learjet closes one building as flooding precaution

With flooding in west Wichita, Bombardier Learjet closed one of its production buildings this morning as a precaution. But the company is open for business, a Bombardier official said. It’s allowing employees to leave if they need to check on their homes, cars or personal property because of the high waters.

Maybe, they’ll begin production of an Ark out there today.

Floods and hurricanes

As Houston braces for  Hurricane Ike’s arrival, Continental Airlines has canceled flights from Wichita to Houston after 8 a.m. Friday until Sunday morning. At the same time, Wichita is expecting rain and potential flooding from Ike.

If you’re a Continental ticket holder needing to rebook a flight, be sure to call the airline’s reservations line  at (800) 523-3273. You also can go to the counter at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

Hurricanes and floods? What’s next, locusts?

Boeing strikers give false names

An interesting thing happened on the picket line at Boeing Wichita this week.

One of the strikers I interviewed about the work stoppage talked for a while on his views and gave me his name. Nothing unusual there. But it turns out, he didn’t give me his name at all. He gave me the name of a Boeing supervisor. Imagine the supervisor’s surprise to see his name in the paper with comments that didn’t come from him. The Eagle ran a correction today.

It seems, though, that I’m not alone. The same thing happened to one of the TV stations over the weekend, a Boeing spokesman told me. Like me, the striker gave the TV reporter the name of his supervisor instead of his own. Come on. A little honesty, folks. It’s important for the public to hear from the union why they’re out there walking the picket lines. Strikers complain that the public sees them only as greedy Boeing workers. They can’t counter that if they don’t say why they’re walking the line. As in most things, the actions of a few give everyone a black eye.

Cessna Cardinal’s come home

It’s been 40 years since Cessna Aircraft began producing the Cessna 177 Cardinal. Cardinal owners and operators from around the country will be in Wichita later this month to tour Cessna’s plants in Wichita and Independence and take part in a 40th birthday party.

Cessna built nearly 4,300 of the light, high-wing aircraft before stopping production in 1978.

The event, sponsored by the Cardinal Flyers organization, will be held at the Wichita Hilton at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport Sept. 24 to Sept. 28

Airplane auction

The inventory of Safewing Aviation in Kansas City, Mo., will be on the auction block next week.

Don Doroty, who is owner of the air cargo and charter service, plans to liquidate his business, including 10 aircraft, equipment and parts at the auction, which begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The aircraft for sale include seven Piper Lances, two Piper Aztecs and one 25C Learjet.

The auction will be held at the Downtown Kansas City Airport.