Weekend what we’re reading: Delta Queen comeback, epic western snow, pilots happy and mad


The Mississippi paddle-wheeler, the Delta Queen, may be back on its route along the storied river. It seems that the incoming House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, Rep. Mica from Florida is a keen fan of the old riverboats. There may be a new life for this landmark boat.

The National Historic Landmark — the country’s last steam-driven, paddle-wheeled, overnight passenger boat — was built in Scotland in 1926 as a luxury river cruiser. She worked first on the rivers of the West Coast but was militarized in 1940 to ferry troops.

After the war in 1947 she was sold back to a private company, which hired famed steamboat pilot and historian Frederick Way of Sewickley to bring her back through the Panama Canal to a dock on Neville Island just west of Pittsburgh. There she was returned to her former glory and continued hauling passengers on America’s rivers for the next 60 years.

That is, until she was docked as a non-cruising hotel in Chattanooga, Tenn., in February 2009.

Despite a healthy passenger count, she met that fate two years ago when Ambassadors’ now-defunct subsidiary, Majestic American Line, which operated the Delta Queen and other boats, failed to win her another exemption to the federal Safety at Sea Act.

Ski resort operators are singing in the snow these days

An epic snowstorm left Mammoth Mountain with more than three feet of snow, Lake Tahoe with areas of seven feet of snow and Jackson Hole with the best snowfall on record for November. Anyone planning an early ski vacation should be overjoyed.

All seven of the major ski resorts around Lake Tahoe are operating for the Thanksgiving weekend, marking the earliest lake-wide opening in the last five years. Even the lower-elevation resorts in Southern California had enough snow and cold temperatures to operate snow-making machines to open by Thanksgiving Day.

And it seems November storms have kicked off ski season early throughout the West. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming opens Saturday with 10 feet of snow, the greatest amount for opening day in the resort’s history. In Colorado, the Breckenridge and Keystone resorts also got enough snow this month to open some of their most popular runs in mid-November, the earliest time in the resorts’ history.

Across the country, resort operators hope that an improving economy will bolster spending on food, drinks and souvenirs this year. In the depths of the recession, some ski resorts offered discounts for furloughed state workers. But few such deals are coming this year. In fact, many lift ticket prices are going up.

AirTran pilots OK new pact while United/Continental pilots dig in for a fight

One set of pilots is settling waiting for the new merger with Southwest while Continental/United pilots are dealing with the negotiations over their recent merger. These marriages of unions are never easy. This time outsourcing of regional flights is the culprit.

Jim Morris, a captain and the AirTran ALPA spokesman, says the new pay scale increase brings AirTran pilot pay to the middle of the pack among U.S. major airlines. But the pilots should see another pay increase within the next two years if Southwest’s proposed acquisition of AirTran goes through; Southwest has said it would bring AirTran’s pilots up to its pay scale, which remains higher.

RE: CO/UA issues — What the Continental and United pilots fail to share is ALPA’s dirty little secret: that the wage rates, working conditions, training provisions and other particulars they criticize at the regional carriers were negotiated by their very own union. ALPA represents the majority of regional pilots flying in the US today. So maybe ALPA needs to step up and take some responsibility for its contribution to building the regional sector of the industry that they now deprecate. Only by agreeing to lower rates of pay and more flying time at the regional carriers can ALPA justify and sustain the generous pay, benefits and work rules that benefit pilots at the mainline airlines.

  • Sharon Johnson

    I am curious as to when the Delta Queen will be going back through Sewickley, Pa. I would love to go to the river and watch her go through the lock and dam… I have never had the pleasure of seeing a river boat. I love to do photography and would love to get a pic of her… Please please… if you have any idea as wo when she is coming back around please send me an email.. so I may take the chance to see this girl in my lifetime…
    Sincerely, Sharon Johnson

  • http://www.tripso.com/author/leocha Charlie Leocha

    The Delta Queen is still docked as a floating hotel awaiting some action by the US government.
    Let’s hope that she is freed to sail again along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.