This review focuses on 6 of the many Just Planes DVDs that are currently available. The purpose of this review is to highlight significant features of these DVDs and the hard work that goes into creating them. These DVDs are certainly an alternative way of having a fun aviation filled afternoon when you’re not quite able to jump into the simulator.
Have you ever wondered?
I had the opportunity to contact Michel over at Just Planes to ask a few questions about their DVDs
How long does it take to produce a final edit of your DVDs?
The final edit can be very different depending on whether I'm starting with 5hrs of footage or 25hrs. On average I'd say we have 10-15hrs for a program. I schedule 1-2 weeks for an edit. Some are easier and more straight forward depending a lot on how fluent the pilots are in their presentations... others are a mess and require a lot of editing.
How do you go about choosing an airline that wish to produce a documentary on?
Our team keeps a close eye on what is going on in Aviation/Airlines and sees who is flying what where and then we contact the airlines. Viewers do send in their suggestions all the time and our facebook page is one where they put their comments and request on a daily basis.
The first DVD we will look at is the Alaska Airlines 737-200. Alaska Airlines perhaps needs no introduction since it is part of the short list of major US airlines today. Alaska Airlines began using the 737-200 aircraft due to its various capabilities which will be clearly seen in this DVD. This documentary is truly worth your attention as it pays tribute to the men and women who are part of the 737-200 family.
The Alaska 737-200 DVD starts off with a friendly greeting and introduction from Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer who gives a brief history of the airline, the usefulness of the 737-200 to the airline and the future plans for replacement with the 737-400 Combi.
The first flight takes us along with Capt Gray from Anchorage to King Salmon and then on to Adak. Along the way Capt Rex Gray and his F.O Amy Kohlhase explains to the viewers just how important the 737-200 has been in transporting the rural population to Anchorage. He also highlights the history of the 737-200, its capabilities to land on frozen lakes and gravel strips which were in part the main reasons for Alaska Airlines making the decision to purchase this aircraft.
Apart from the history of the aircraft itself, Capt Gray and his F.O provide lots of intriguing history about the various areas flown to. He also discusses some of the various configurations that make the 737-200 or “Mud Hen” such a versatile aircraft. The versatility is highlighted further in a portion of this DVD that shows how the interior is converted from a seating configuration to a cargo configuration all within minutes! One of the things viewers will readily notice is that each crew member repeatedly reflects on how much they will miss the 737-200. This makes this DVD one that is packed with emotion and truly shows just how much the world of aviation can influence and affect our lives.
Another feature of this DVD that viewers will find enjoyable is the stunning view from the cockpit and cabin of the snow covered terrain, volcanic craters, breathtaking sunsets and a short approach into Anchorage that will leave your heart in your hand! Viewers are also taken on a detailed walk around of the 737 as one of the First Officers highlights various features of the unique gravel kits that are fitted to the 737-200 at Alaska Airlines. This walk around tour, along with the detailed cockpit presentation, will be a treat to all 737-200 enthusiasts and others alike who are interested in this airline.
As with all good things, they must come to an end and the final portion of this DVD features the final flight of their 737-200. It was quite an emotional moment for all onboard as Capt Gray kisses the runway for the very last time. This DVD is quite a masterpiece and it comes along with a Bonus DVD which can only be described as 38 minutes of masterfully edited documentary on the 737-200 that is surely worthy of prime time cable TV.
This extra DVD entitled “Spirit of the 737-200” takes a closer look at the operations of Alaska Airline and the men and women who are proud to be part of this never to be forgotten era of Alaskan aviation. These DVDs are a definite must have!
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/Alaska.html
Video Preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQyZnShe0xU
Our second DVD review is of the Swiss MD-11. Swissair/Swiss International Airlines was one of the launch customers for the MD-11 and became one of the largest European operators of this type of aircraft. The MD-11 as we all may know is a derivative of the DC-10 with technology ahead of its time. A testimony to this is the fact that even though the MD-11 has had its issues, it still continues to fly in both passenger and cargo configuration today and is regarded as a wonderful aircraft to fly. The Swiss MD-11 DVD takes us on a round trip flight from Switzerland to Brazil and Argentina.
This DVD starts off with a variety of video clips of the MD-11 in action around world. These clips mainly feature the aircraft landing, taxiing and taking off. Since the MD-11 was retired in 2004 from Swiss, it was very fitting that yet again Just Planes pays tribute to this fantastic aircraft.
The DVD gets started with Capt Frick and his crew doing a bit of flight planning for their round trip from Switzerland to Brazil and Argentina. At the beginning it seems that the crew may not have been able to do a direct flight to Brazil due to extreme weather conditions which will hinder the fully loaded MD-11 from taking off safely. However as time goes by the weather conditions make a slight improvement allowing the flight to depart as scheduled.
After takeoff the fierce weather conditions are clearly discernable as the MD-11 takes quite a pounding from heavy winds and rain. An interesting sight is the Static discharge on the cockpit windows known as St. Elmo’s fire. This is perhaps one of the first Just Planes DVDs where I have been able to see this.
As the aircraft makes its way to South America, Capt Frick takes time off to explain to the viewers many of the common procedures that are associated with long haul flights. Meanwhile as the morning approaches over South America, viewers are given a stunning view of the sunrise from the cockpit as the MD-11 makes it way over the cloudy skies. The landing into Sao Paulo was uneventful and it really shows the great flying abilities of the pilots since the MD-11 isn’t exactly the easiest aircraft to land due to its preference for higher approach speeds.
On the second leg of the trip, Capt Frick explains some of the cockpit display system features and MCDU preparations for the flight to Argentina. While in cruise, the Capt also takes the time to explain the center pedestal and overhead panel. He also points out a stand alone system which was integrated into the MD-11 due to the Swissair Halifax incident which I am sure many of you are familiar with. This stand alone system is a smoke/fire detection system for the avionics, cockpit and galley.
After landing in Sao Paulo, this system is examined in greater detail as the Capt takes us into the avionics compartment of the aircraft showing many of the aircrafts complex computer systems.
This DVD is jam packed with detailed information. Other areas that are looked at are a detailed walk around of the aircraft, further explanation of the aircraft systems and a view of the cabin service. There is no way you will be bored with this DVD if you are a tri-jet or MD-11 fan. Since having a view of the MD-11 in passenger service is a rarity these days, this DVD will surely help you capture the moments for a long time to come.
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/Swiss1.html
Gemini Air Cargo
Gemini Air Cargo is the next DVD will we take a look at. This DVD features another Tri-jet aircraft that has had a significant history in the age of long haul jet travel. The DC-10 is regarded as a workhorse and is a unique sight to behold now that these aircraft are being phased out of service. The L1011 was a prime competitor against the DC-10 but the DC-10 has managed to out live the competition.
The evidence of this is in the fact that today there are still many DC-10s operating in both passenger and cargo configuration. The DC-10 has perhaps had an extended lifespan due to many upgrades including an MD-11 type glass cockpit layout which eliminated the flight engineer station. This DVD however, focuses on the Cargo operations of the DC-10-30 aircraft in all its glory. We will follow the 3 man flight crew as they take us from Belgium to Nigeria, Kenya and Libya.
The DC-10 DVD starts off with a walk around by the flight engineer in preparation for the first flight from Ostend to Lagos. Because the DC-10 in this DVD handles cargo operations, most of the flights are conducted at night or early mornings which would allow viewers to have a fabulous view from the cockpit window as the DC-10 soars through the skies of Africa and Belgium.
Other highlights of this DVD are the detailed explanation of the aircraft systems and flight engineer’s panel. The Capt and F.O. also give us some personal details about their own flying experiences. The most surprising is that the Capt actually worked as a singer before switching to flying as a career and the DC-10 is the very first “jet” he had ever flown!
One of the amazing features of this DVD is that the crew spares no opportunity to explain various features of the DC-10. You can tell almost instantly that they truly enjoy flying this aircraft and particularly cargo operations. The experience of the crew really shines through as they kiss the DC-10 onto the runway time after time in an almost effortless fashion. Also, flying in Africa isn’t as easy as you would think as the crew has to be very alert in areas that are not sufficiently monitored by radar.
Even though this DVD is only 186 mins (as if that were a short period of time), it is loaded with captivating moments that are a thrill for anyone who loves the DC-10 aircraft. These aircraft may not be around too much longer and perhaps even more so that Gemini Cargo is now out of business. However, Just Planes has made sure that the memories of these flying giants will not be lost forever. This is by far one of the most interesting DC-10 documentations out there! Definitely a collector’s item!
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/Gemini.html
Dubrovnik Airline may sound like a new airline but it has actually been around since late 2004. Dubrovnik Airline is a charter airline based in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It operates tourist charter flights from Europe to holiday destinations in Croatia. The MD-80 aircraft which they utilize has always been one of my favorite and all indications from this DVD suggest that the owners have selected this aircraft due their previous experience with this aircraft as a practical workhorse for its operation.
Destinations featured on this DVD are France, Ireland and Spain. If you are a fan of the Maddog then this DVD is for you, I can guarantee that you will find it very educational and enjoyable as you not only see the Maddog at its best, but also the breathtaking sights of Croatia!
The DVD starts off with the Capt and F.O. having a preflight briefing for a flight from Dubrovnik to Dublin. Before boarding the aircraft, the Capt does an exterior walk around pointing out various interesting facts about the MD-80. For example, you might have noticed that on the nose wheel of MD-80s there is a deflector? Well Capt Bedic explains why this is an important feature of the aircraft. Also, did you know that the MD-80 does not have hydraulic flight controls? They are actually controlled aerodynamically. This explains why the MD-80 series is such a trip to fly because you are flying the aircraft unaided.
Capt. Bedic uses every available opportunity to showcase many of the “hidden” features of the MD-80 that many of us may not know about. For example, the rear tail cone area is also an emergency escape area.
After the walk around, the crew heads off to Dublin where during the flight, the crew once again takes time off to explain some of the features and systems of the aircraft along with various procedures for flying over high terrain. This series of cockpit presentations are seen throughout the DVD providing an almost non stop flow of information about the aircraft.
Other highlights of this DVD feature the reason why the MD-80 was selected by the airline and how practical they are for their operation. Also, one of the features that intrigued me the most were the stunning views of the city of Dubrovnik among other destinations. Up until seeing this DVD I have honestly never heard of Dubrovnik nor had any interest in Croatia but it certainly seems like an ideal European vacation spot.
As the DVD continues on, viewers are not only given views from the cockpit, but also from the cabin as the cabin crew provided their service to the passengers. Finally, I can’t help but mention the “seat of your pants” approach into Nice by Capt Jirosek where we see him fight the controls to line up with the runway due to strong crosswinds (for a second I almost thought he would have gone off the side of the runway).
The MD-80 has always been one of my favorite aircrafts, in fact, it was one of the very first aircraft I flew on and the one that made me want to be a pilot. This DVD is geared at anyone who still has a soft spot for this fantastic aircraft. I highly recommend it!
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/Dubrovnik.html
Video Preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrIJI0HYDzU
Air Italy is an airline based in Italy that provides a scheduled service to destinations in Europe, Brazil and Kenya. This airline was formed in 2005 and began its operations in 2006. This DVD features the operations of their 767-200, 757-200 and 737-700 aircrafts. The 767-200 is a fairly rare aircraft these days unlike the 757 and 737. This interesting blend should surely make this DVD quite interesting.
The Air Italy DVD starts off with a flight from Italy to two destinations in Brazil onboard the 767-200. This is the first time I have ever seen the operations of this aircraft from the cockpit view and I was quite pleased with the experience. While the DVD starts off with a fairly normal flight and cabin crew briefing and walk around inspection of the aircraft, throughout the flight there was never any in-depth cockpit presentation.
Most of the interesting sights on this flight to South American were the cabin service, Capt’s explanation of balancing fuel tanks and the lush green mountain terrain of Brazil. The return flight to Italy was also interesting because even though as mentioned before there was no cockpit presentation, viewers are able to clearly observe the procedures to be followed on long haul flights of this nature.
The documentary smoothly continues on to the 757-200 flight from Verona to Tanzania and Kenya. From the moment I saw these listed destinations I thought of the many interesting sights that will be seen from the cockpit both in cruise and landing. However, due to the fact that these flights were conducted at night, the only sights viewer are be able to see is lighting from a thunderstorm, St.Elmo’s fire on the cockpit window and the well known Mt. Kilimanjaro over Kenya as the sun rises. The landing in Tanzania was quite rough mostly due to what seems to be very poor runway conditions.
The return flight onboard the 757 proved to be quite similar to the 767 as once more there is no exclusive cockpit presentation but a showcase of the crew’s normal flight duties. The cabin service was also highlighted on the return flight and it really shows the hard work that goes into providing these services to passengers. It also occurred to me that clips of the cabin crew and their service surely gives viewers incite into how friendly the flight attendants are and how good the food is for a particular airline.
Finally, the DVD draws to a conclusion with the 737-700 roundtrip flight from Verona to Egypt and Milan Malpensa Italy. Following the pattern of the previous flights, the 737 flight features a walk around of the aircraft, cabin service and a brief explanation of the flight progress and procedures employing at times a few interesting camera angles.
While this DVD isn’t as intense when it comes to learning about the various aircraft, it is certainly not boring. I think this DVD is well worth your time as it provides 240mins of insightful information, stunning sunrises and an opportunity to see various parts of the world, all from your living room.
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/AirItaly.html
Video Preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j5z2hq8P2Y
The final DVD we will look at is the Wideroe Dash 8-100. Wideroe is a regional airline in Norway that exclusively uses Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft ranging from the Dash 8-100, -300 and newer -400 series. This DVD focuses on the Dash 8-100 series which has proved to be a very capable workhorse in this region. There are 12 destinations featured in this DVD and it also includes information on the Dash 8, aircraft walk around and breathtaking scenic views of winter conditions in Norway. This DVD was sold out for quite some time and for good reason! Let’s see why.
From the very beginning, the Wideroe DVD immediately captures your attention with a scenic view of winter conditions of Norway. The first of 18 flights featured on this DVD takes us from Bodo to Leknes and onward to many other destinations in the north of Norway. The performance of the Dash 8-100 becomes quite evident as viewers are able to see this aircraft takeoff and land on very short runways under at times very severe weather conditions.
One of the highlights in this regard is the approach into Batsjford. Apart from the tricky airport terrain, the Dash 8 makes a stunning approach in near zero visibility with high winds onto a snow covered runway that would leave any seasoned pilot on the edge of his seat. The pilots also did a good job at explaining some of the Dash 8’s features in both the cockpit and walk around of the aircraft. Further explanation is provided as to why the Dash 8 is best suited for the operations of Wideroe which will be quite insightful to Dash 8 fans.
Finally, this DVD not only features flights from the cockpit, but it also gives a passenger’s perspective from the cabin with views of Norway and clips of the Flight attendant hard at work. I would highly recommend this DVD if you are a fan of the Dash 8 or you enjoy the breathtaking views of Norway which are a significant highlight of this documentary.
For more information: http://www.worldairroutes.com/Wideroe.html
Video Preview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXaJKgwP358
Summary / Closing Remarks
These DVDs were an absolute pleasure to watch and I think anyone who loves aviation will enjoy them. At a cost of $25-30 each they are quite a bargain. It is also important to note that a lot of hard work went into creating these DVDs.
Negotiation with various airlines can take as long as 2 years! Nonetheless the end result is very well worth it as the team at Just Planes has once again put together a masterpiece of aviation video documentation. Well done!