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Penguin Airlines 274

An anonymous reader writes " interviews Chris Stevens, President of Penguin Airlines about his young venture's business model that includes using Linux in all aspects from the ground up -- from desktops to the reservations system! 'Tux' is more than just a name for this new air taxi service which brings convenient, economical, time-saving air travel via the shortest route between home and destination." They wrote an essay about their business plans, and their heavily computerized jets look nifty as well. CD:Those interested in the aviation side of things should check out James Fallows book "Free Flight" as well.
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Penguin Airlines

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  • by dagoalieman ( 198402 ) <> on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:17PM (#4042386) Homepage
    But Penguins don't fly....

    I hope they have better luck than the real birds.
  • by GoodWebDesigns ( 599819 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:17PM (#4042388) Homepage
    Upside: An airline that never crashes. Downside: Who wants uptimes that last for months?
  • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:18PM (#4042399)
    You know what that means: All of the Customer Service Agents will have to be able to type 160 words per minute to keep up!
    • Lol!

      "What's the command to change this guy's reservation?"

      "It's 'chgres -x -p#30240 -usrname=John Doe -t12:00 -tx13:35 -fn usa412."

      "Oh... Didn't realize that command had a vowel in it."

      • "It's 'chgres -x -p#30240 -usrname=John Doe -t12:00 -tx13:35 -fn usa412."

        I don't mean to be pedantic, but you probably ought to quote the username. The shell will think it's another arg otherwise. So you'd change his reservation like so:

        chgres -x -p 30240 -usrname 'John Doe' -t 12:00 -tx 13:35 -fn usa412

        Yes, I realize you were joking.


    • Ever seen an agent use the old SABRE reservation system? It wasn't nearly as friendly as a typical UNIX shell - the commands were even more terse and cryptic. A well trained agent could get information faster than with any fancy point and click UI.
  • by theRhinoceros ( 201323 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:19PM (#4042401)
    The airlines like to use majestic bird names like Eagle and Falcon that convey a powerful animal soaring gracefully through the air. Since one of our fundamental missions is to make private jet travel affordable for all travelers, we needed something that most people could relate to.

    So, instead of a large bird majestically soaring through the air, the chose a name of a... dumpy, flightless bird that spends most of its time in the water. Hmm...

    To the non-linux savvy, the choice of imagery to represent the company is perhaps less than ideal. I mean, how's about starting with a bird that actually flies through the air?
  • Windows.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Mir322 ( 519212 )
    Will it be possible to get a seat by the window ? Or will they offer economy command line flights... the jets being much faster and streamlined after all ;)
  • by T-Kir ( 597145 )

    So if a Pengiun Airlines jet does a fly over of a fleet of parked Penguin Airlines planes, will the planes all fall backwards in unison??

    BBC link - old news []

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:20PM (#4042410)
    Why is using one platform, regardless of it's appropriateness, just for the sake of using it, a good idea? Shouldn't a company or group look into all options and decide on tools that are the best fit for what needs to be done?
    • Ok, we're building this airline ourselves and we've got to have software. Ummm...why don't we just use Linux because we all know it really well? Objection...something else might be better. Yeah, but then we'd A have to hire someone or B waste valuable time learning something. Don't we want to learn stuff? Sure, but we can do that after we've made tons of money and retired. Cool... Ok, are we all agreed? Yeah...given the needs of the business, our resources, and our time limits, we're agreed that Linux is the best tool for our situation.

      Can we run it on Macs? Macs are evil.

    • Why is using one platform, regardless of it's appropriateness, just for the sake of using it, a good idea?

      It's not, necessarily (yeah, I realize it was rhetorical)

      What IS a good idea is that they're basing their entire system on Open Source Software. If I was setting up a new business, I would try like crazy to avoid using proprietary software for anything important unless there was really no choice.

      Anyway, the applications they use (which are probably custom written anyway) are far more important than the OS. We all know that Linux is good enough to handle this stuff!
    • Lots of companies are MS only. What's the big deal?
    • You standardize the things that are not worth being different.
      As a ridiculous example, a sentence is composed of words. Pick each word from the language that best characterizes the exact shade of your meaning. Each word is the best choice, but the sentence is a mess.
      With a name like Penguin Airlines, there are some natural image effects with the Linux mascot. As long as it's not a horrible choice for the particular job, methinks they'll do just fine.
  • They've named their business and based much of their marketing on the fact that they use a particular computer operating system. This reads more like a tech-company pitch, not an airline pitch.

    Linux is great and all, but I'd feel a little more comfortable knowing that the people behind the scenes are experts in something else, like, I don't know . . . FUCKING AIRPLANES?!

  • Untill the first time one of their planes flies into the water.

    Which is all the flying penguins do...
  • I REALLY hope the web site is not hosted on the same machine doing reservations, or running the autopilot-Python script...

    Because 5 posts into this story, their box is slashdotted.

  • Slashdotted (Score:5, Funny)

    by topham ( 32406 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:24PM (#4042455) Homepage
    Slashdotted already.
    Too bad they didn't use Linux... oh, wait...
  • by Soko ( 17987 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:24PM (#4042456) Homepage

    Linux Airline

    Disgruntled employees of all the other OS airlines decide to start their own airline. They build the planes, ticket counters, and pave the runways themselves. They charge a small fee to cover the cost of printing the ticket, but you can also download and print the ticket yourself. When you board the plane, you are given a seat, four bolts, a wrench and a copy of the seat-HOWTO.html. Once settled, the fully adjustable seat is very comfortable, the plane leaves and arrives on time without a single problem, the in-flight meal is wonderful. You try to tell customers of the other airlines about the great trip, but all they can say is, "You had to do what with the seat?"

    Taken from this page []

  • The Eclipse jet is a great concept, and I hope it works out, but keep in mind it hasn't had its first flight yet. It is at best 3 years from certification.


  • "No, we don't have windows seats."

    "The inflight movie is Revolution OS ... again."

    "If you bother the stewardess again, I'm going to have to mark you a Troll and have you sedated, sir."

    "Our complementary meal service will be brought to your seat by a Mindstorms robot our pilot just built. Cool, huh?"

    and of course:

    "Penguin Airlines: If You Don't Like How We Operate, Fork Off!"
  • Gee, I'm ashamed of you idiots! Look at you! You act like you didn't even read the interview (you probably didn't). You sound like you didn't look at the airplane. And you obviously didn't think about the fact that this is *general aviation*. No fricking security checks. No X-raying. No pat-downs. No opening up your laptop and turning it on just to prove that you didn't replace your hard drive and cdrom with explosives (which duh you could have anyway).

    What they're selling is freedom, and it's freedom at a reasonable price. I'm definitely going to check these guys out next time I fly. Yeah, I won't be flying to Texas any time too soon, but still, I'll encourage them to expand as rapidly as they can.

    Not only that, but they're flying from small town to small town. So intead of having to go to an "airport", you can go to your town's airport, e.g. Potsdam's. This jet can land, pick you up, and take off again in less than ten minutes. And that airport is only ten minutes from my house.
    • Yeah, pretty cool, huh? If they ever start flying internationally, I'm SO never driving my ass down to LAX again.

      The "shortest possible route" thing is what I'm interested in. Unfortunately, they're in Texas, an area not known for supporting new ways of thinking.
  • Oops.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <r_j_prahad AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:35PM (#4042545)
    All flights are temporarily grounded due to a severe slashdotting. You may move about the cabin until the disturbance subsides, but please refrain from smoking. Thank you.
  • the beginning of the next century, our spaceship has been already ordered, and hey, now you asked the coolest question: our business plan? Well, we name the company "Penguin" Moon trips, cause you know, it's easy to get published on Slashdot and that sort of places if you just mention that bird, dunno why. We are even planning to send them to moon, as one market trick.

    Seriously, come on!?!? It might be news if their business ever gets really started and if using Linux really provides them with some other competitive edge than the one - marketing edge - which was already used.

  • The server's /.'ed, I think I'll start Beastie Airlines or maybe Daemon Air. Plus Beasties can fly.
  • As we all know, right now is the best time to be in the airline business...

    Seriously though, I wish them intelligence. I'd wish them luck, but intelligence seems to be so much more scarce.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @05:58PM (#4042667) Journal
    Hmmm. They only sell one-way tickets *out* of Redmond WA.
  • One important point about the airplanes only seating a handful of people is that they probably wouldn't be subject to the new airline security standards. At least, this is what I'm guessing; does anyone know for sure? It doesn't really seem like hijacking a 5-person flight would be that attractive to terrorists.
    • Last October, NPR had a good article on the topic. They started off by saying that there were some airlines that were prepared to profit handsomely from the WTC attack. They then mentioned an aircraft manufacturer (not Penguin, could it have been Maverick?) that had already received orders for a billion dollars worth of airplanes. That's 1000 planes at $1 million each. The model was a new and very small jet with a seating capacity of 6, and the customers were new air taxi services.

      They went on to explain that, because all flights would be "charter" and to/from small airports, they would be exempt from the new security checks. And unlike airliners, there were over 5000 airports in the US where they could land.

      The estimated cost of a flight was somewhat more than the price of a first-class airline ticket. But for that price, you could take up to six people.

      They were predicting lots of business as the airlines came under the control of the new security procedures.

      Occasional followup reports have said that these predictions are slowly coming true.

  • They can spin off a taxi company called "Tuxi Cabs" or "Tuxi's Taxis".
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @06:10PM (#4042738) Journal
    The Eclipse 500 is constructed principally of aircraft aluminum.
    That's good to know. I hate it when airlines use jets constructed principally of coke-can aluminum. And the aluminum siding planes are just annoying when one end of a plank breaks loose and starts thwacking against the side of the plane. These guys show real promise.
  • Well the airlines is certainly a tough business to be operating in. Airlines go out of business in Canada faster than fashions go out of style. Maybe cutting costs in this area would be enough to help their bottom line and bring down costs. It would be incredibly damaging to Linux's reputation though if some systems failed, and chaos or bankrupcy resulted.
    • Airlines go out of business in Canada faster than fashions go out of style.

      Dude, flannels, mooseskin hats, and Kraft Dinner in an igloo will *never* go out of style, Eh.

  • An airline where I don't have to wear my tinfoil hat!

    Do you people have ANY IDEA of the shit I've had to put up with gettin that thing onboard normal airlines?

    Ali [the dark side]

  • This is perfect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This guy is trying to break into the CEO lear jet world. They're offering general aviation flights (which means they can pick you up and drop you off practically anywhere there's 200 yards of pavement) that are high-class. Now that's generally an expensive proposition, and they have a tough market to break into. A lear jet costs about $8000 (according to the article) for a flight. These guys are trying to do the same thing for much much less and linux is really helping them do it. Linux is allowing the little guys to break into the market and offer an affordable solution. That's supposed to be the beauty of it all, right?
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @06:17PM (#4042770) Journal
    I couldn't get up to stretch and shmooze because the overhead "No Trolling" light was on the entire fricken time!

    Next time I'll take Blue Skies of D (BSOD) Airways, a subsidiary of MS. (They wouldn't tell me what the 'D' stood for.)
  • phpgroupware and postnuke?

    Yes, both have made progress, but it's STILL a bit much to say that you're basing an entire airline's support on those projects. I loved the line about 'phpgroupware is rumored to potentially support VoIP in the future'. Great reason to use things now - something in the future *might* support something that other packages already *do* support today.

    My company supports PHP wholeheartedly - and PHP training courses are two services we offer. But trying to run a whole airline (even if it's small) off postnuke and phpgroupware - they're going to spend quite a lot on inhouse staff writing custom modules. They *might* be better off financially using *some* third party stuff.

    The focus here is as much on open source stuff as Linux (phpgroupware could be run on Windows, for example) so instead of 'right tool for the job' you've got 'open source at any cost', which is, imo, just as bad as 'closed source at any cost'.
  • Big Mistake (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @06:26PM (#4042823) Journal
    You got it all wrong: "Penguin" in the name has nothing to do with Linux, but what they serve for meals. I learned that after taking "Dogways Airlines".
  • by ArticulateArne ( 139558 ) on Friday August 09, 2002 @06:48PM (#4042927)
    I, for one, am terribly interested in the aviation side of this. Using Linux all the way through is very cool and all of that, and I suppose it's groundbreaking for an airline, but it's more an adaptation of existing technology (OS, desktop software, database, web server, scripting software) to a new problem (an airline). Where these guys are really breaking new ground is on the airplane side of things. I read the interview, and somehow I've managed to miss these guys, but I've heard references to this concept before, and as soon as this takes off, I hope to be using it as much as possible.

    What these guys are proposing is using the Eclipse 500 [] to fly people all over the place. It's a six-seat airplane, 355 knot cruise (ca 410 mph), and according to the specs page, it has an accelerate-stop takeoff distance of 2,595 feet. This means it can accelerate to just under the speed it needs to fly on one engine, lose an engine, and still stop safely without running off the end of the runway. This will increase the number of airports Penguin can fly to versus, say, Northwest Airlines, by at least a factor of five. Most municipal airports have at least a 3,000 foot runway. Now, their page is slashdotted, so I'm not sure exactly how they'll handle this, but theoretically that means they could fly me (on a typical trip) from Springfield, MO [] to New Richmond, WI [] in a total time of about two hours, including drive time to and from the airport. Currently, it takes about six hours, including nintey minutes for checkin/security and an excursus through St. Louis, Memphis, or (heaven forbid) O'Hare, and then an hour driving from the Minneapolis airport to New Richmond. It's about twelve hours to drive, so it's almost not even worth it to fly, but with these guys, it would be so much nicer. This has the potential to be a serious boon for travellers. Depending on how they do this, it could eliminate hubs, and eliminate having to fly into one of the larger airports, followed by up to three hours of driving.

    The Eclipse isn't yet certified, but it looks like it has a really good chance. These guys have been working on it for a while, and they seem to know what they're doing. They're using the Williams EJ22 engine [], which is similar to their FJ44 engine that has been very successful on the Cessna CitationJet [] series. What really amazes me, though, is the price of these things. They're only asking about $850,000, which is barely enough to buy a twin-engine pison (instead of jet) Beech Baron [] these days.

    All of which is to say, I'm really, really excited to hear about these guys, and I hope their business does well. I'll be flying them as soon as I can. They've got cool technology all the way around, and it has the potential to make life much better.
    • I suppose it's groundbreaking for an airline

      I must say, seeing the words "groundbreaking" and "airline" together in the same sentence mad me a tad nervous.
    • The aircraft may go for an asking price of 850k, but the other 150k will got to the insurance company for risk/liability suites.

      I love the thought myself, but right now my "jet" is a "Compair 7" with a turbo-prop. I can carry 6 people at 250mph at a cost of about 100 grand after 2 years of building hehe.

      AeroComp itself is working on a Jet as well.

      The experimental restrictions prohibit commercial use of such aircraft, but atleast it will help accelerate development/r&d of such aircraft to ultimately lower the TCO of Certified jets.

  • Here's a mirror of the essay, because penguin airlines' own site is kinda DOS'd for a while 6. html
  • Can I take one of their flights, remake the flight plan and have it deliver me elsewhere? Or still better, can I take one of their planes and just fly it myself wherever I want? What about the ticket source? Can I print my own ticket? Can I print tickets to anyyone who wants it? Do they give away free beer during th flight?

    If the answer to these questions is a Yes, then I can believe "Tux' is more than just a name for this new air taxi service which brings convenient, economical, time-saving air travel via the shortest route between home and destination.".

Remember to say hello to your bank teller.