In Focus has a nice slideshow of photos of blimps, dirigibles, and airships, from the first flights in the early 1900s to the Hindenburg disaster to the blimps flying high over sporting events.
In Focus has a nice slideshow of photos of blimps, dirigibles, and airships, from the first flights in the early 1900s to the Hindenburg disaster to the blimps flying high over sporting events.
After experimenting on protozoa, rats, and his eight children, Ehret recommended that the international traveler, in the several days before his flight, alternate days of feasting with days of very light eating. Come the flight, the traveler would nibble sparsely until eating a big breakfast at about 7:30 a.m. in his new time zone — no matter that it was still 1:30 a.m. in the old time zone or that the airline wasn’t serving breakfast until 10:00 a.m. His reward would be little or no jet lag.
The diet was adopted by US government agencies and other groups as well as Ronald Reagan, but it difficult to stick to. Recently, researchers in Boston have devised a simpler anti-jet lag remedy:
The international traveler, they counsel, can avoid jet lag by simply not eating for twelve to sixteen hours before breakfast time in the new time zone-at which point, as in Ehret’s diet, he should break his fast. Since most of us go twelve to sixteen hours between dinner and breakfast anyway, the abstention is a small hardship.
According to the Harvard team, the fast works because our bodies have, in addition to our circadian clock, a second clock that might be thought of as a food clock or, perhaps better, a master clock. When food is scarce, this master clock suspends the circadian clock and commands the body to sleep much less than normally. Only after the body starts eating again does the master clock switch the circadian clock back on.
Totally trying this the next time I have to travel, although the Advil PM/melatonin combination my doctor suggested worked really well for me on my trip to New Zealand. (via @genmon)
Looks like someone lost their drone in the West Village:
Pretty sure that drones falling from the skies in heavily populated metropolitan areas is going to lead to banning.
Back in October, I wrote a post about the race to win the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition. To win the $250,000 Sikorsky prize, a human-powered helicopter must fly for 60 seconds, reach a momentary altitude of 3 meters, and stay within a 10 meter square. Last month, after 33 years of collective human effort, someone finally won the prize:
Wow, that helicopter is amazing! Popular Mechanics has more on the winning flight.
Reichert knew that the challenge was to keep supplying enough power through his legs to keep the craft from descending too quickly. On two previous flights in which he’d flirted with the three-meter mark, Reichert had descended too abruptly and fallen afoul of a phenomenon called vortex ring state, in which a helicopter essentially gets sucked down by its own downwash. Both times Atlas had been wrecked. This time, Reichert spent the balance of the flight easing the craft down gently to the ground. “You’re so focused on having the body do a very precise thing,” he told Pop Mech. “If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash.”
Yesterday morning, a 747 cargo plane taking off from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan crashed soon after taking off. A dash cam caught the entire thing on video:
It is amazing how quickly a powerful and fast jet airplane turns into a leaden hunk of metal. (via @VictorGodinez)
Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality is opening two Shake Shacks and a Blue Smoke in Delta’s new Terminal 4 at JFK airport.
Another fine installment of XKCD’s What If? series: What would happen if you tried to fly a normal Earth airplane above different Solar System bodies?
Unfortunately, [the X-Plane simulator] is not capable of simulating the hellish environment near the surface of Venus. But physics calculations give us an idea of what flight there would be like. The upshot is: Your plane would fly pretty well, except it would be on fire the whole time, and then it would stop flying, and then stop being a plane.
A team at the University of Maryland are building a human-powered helicopter in an attempt to win the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition. To win the $250,000 prize, the helicopter must fly for 60 seconds, reach a momentary altitude of 3 meters, and stay within a 10 meter square. This is surprisingly difficult.
In June 2009, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro disappeared without a trace. The disappearance turned crash and the questions started: how did a state-of-the-art plane go down so suddenly and who was to blame? The plane’s black boxes were finally recovered after two years of searching and there’s a case to be made that the design of the cockpit controls may be at least partially responsible for the crash.
The official report by French accident investigators is due in a month and seems likely to echo provisional verdicts suggesting human error. There is no doubt that at least one of AF447’s pilots made a fatal and sustained mistake, and the airline must bear responsibility for the actions of its crew. It will be a grievous blow for Air France, perhaps more damaging than the Concorde disaster of July 2000.
But there is another, worrying implication that the Telegraph can disclose for the first time: that the errors committed by the pilot doing the flying were not corrected by his more experienced colleagues because they did not know he was behaving in a manner bound to induce a stall. And the reason for that fatal lack of awareness lies partly in the design of the control stick - the “side stick” - used in all Airbus cockpits.
A seemingly innocuous question: What do all the controls in an airplane cockpit do? When he saw this question posted to Quora, pilot Tim Morgan posted a 9000-word essay on how modern airplanes work, including, yes, what all those little cockpit dials and knobs do.
Every airplane is different. Unlike learning to drive a car, you can’t just hop from one plane to another. A pilot needs familiarization (and in some cases, a whole new type of license) to fly a different kind of plane. Some are piston-powered; some are jet-powered. Some have electrically-driven controls; some are hydraulically-driven. Some have emergency oxygen; some don’t. And so on. All the switches, dials, and knobs in the cockpit control the various aircraft systems, and every aircraft has different systems.
Megan Garber wrote a behind-the-scenes piece about Morgan’s answer for The Atlantic.
Morgan says, “I took the time to go over it again and verify that everything was correct. I used an operations manual from a 737 simulator to check my facts.” And “in the end it was a very personally rewarding experience, because I had had the operations manual lying around and had been meaning to really study it, and now I finally had my excuse.”
So answering the Quora question was as much about learning as it was about sharing. And as for Morgan’s overall motivation? “I can tell you with certainty that it is related to my pathological interest in aircraft,” he says, “and in general a love to write and share knowledge.”
Jeffrey Goldberg on the TSA’s new security theater measures, including pat-downs that are so humiliating and uncomfortable that people won’t mind using the scanning machine that shows them naked.
I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. “Nobody’s going to do it,” he said, “once they find out that we’re going to do.”
In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.” He called over a colleague. “Tell him what you call the back-scatter,” he said. “The Dick-Measuring Device,” I said. “That’s the truth,” the other officer responded.
The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, “Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.”
The agent snapped on his blue gloves, and patiently explained exactly where he was going to touch me. I felt like a sophomore at Oberlin.
What do people drink on trains?
On Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road, beer is the best seller by far, accounting for more than half of all drink purchases. Budweiser and its calorie-conscious cousin, Bud Light, make up about 45 percent.
Vodka is far more popular than other spirits, making up half of all hard liquor sales. (One bartender, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing her job, confided that her stockbroker customers “all drink vodka,” while construction workers “are all about the beer.”) Gin and scotch are a distant second and third.
What do people drink on planes?
While much has been made online about ginger ale’s unexpected aerial dominance (apparently one in ten drinks ordered in economy on American Airlines is a ginger ale, compared to its puny three percent terrestrial market share), there seems not to be a sustained geographical analysis of the beverage consumption patterns on different routes and airlines — or even different seat positions. Do window-seat people disproportionately favour vegetable juice, for example, or is that just the case on the routes I’ve been flying?
And what do people drink with goats? Would you, could you, with a goat? Oop, sorry, things got a little Seussical there.
Nick Gleis shoots the interiors of corporate jets owned by African dictators and other heads of state. I couldn’t decide which jet interior was the gaudiest, but this one is definitely a contender because of the classy naked ladies on the wall of the bedroom.
Who knew that African dictators were so nostalgic for the set design of Star Trek: The Next Generation?
The US Air Force, Pratt & Whitney, and Boeing are jointly developing a hypersonic aircraft that can travel faster than existing cruise missiles. It’s powered by a crazy-sounding “air-breathing hypersonic engine that has virtually no moving parts” and reached a speed of 3500 mph in a recent test.
“This is truly transformational technology,” Brink said. “This engine can be considered the next step in aviation. It’s as big of leap as it was when we went from propellers to jet engines.”
Nelson Minar on why flying is so difficult (in comparison to driving).
Cars only steer in one dimension; planes steer in two. Even a level turn is hard in a plane, you have to coordinate two controls, except sometimes you deliberately uncoordinate them. Managing engine power is harder in a plane: two or three controls in a piston, not just a single pedal. And then there’s auxiliary controls you have to use occasionally: flaps, carburetor heat, fuel tank selector, etc. Even starting a plane requires carefully using four controls in the proper relationship.
My dad was a pilot and used to let me fly when I was little, like 5 or 6. It was easy in clear weather, easier than driving a car in fact…just keep it level. I actually didn’t even need to touch the yoke much of the time…the plane just flew itself. When I got older, I realized that what made it so effortless was that my dad was taking care of the hard part, the 95% of flying that doesn’t involve moving any of the controls. What made it look so effortless for him, even when things got tough1, was the 10,000+ hours in the cockpit of a plane, flying.
 Like when he made a crosswind landing in a Cessna 172 ahead of an oncoming storm which we later learned had spawned some tornadoes while running a bit lower on gas than was generally acceptable by the plane’s captain. He’d already attempted one landing, aborting after the wind dropped us like 10 feet in half a second while about 30 feet from the ground. The sensation of that crosswind landing — of gliding over the runway twenty feet off the ground at ~60-80 mph while pointed about 30 degrees off axis and then, just before touching down and presumably tumbling down the runway wing over wing, straightening out for a surprisingly gentle landing — was one of the freakiest things I’ve ever experienced, partly because I wasn’t scared at all…I knew he’d get us down safely. ↩
This short film was made in 1909 and depicts Wilbur Wright flying one of his airplanes around an open field. At 1:38, they attach the camera to the plane and shot what is thought to be the first video footage shot from a powered flying machine.
Then the plane started up again, followed a launching pad and took off: the camera was fixed for the first time on the ground that gave way…and the emotion was there, so great you could almost touch it! The image was as unstable as the cabin of the plane flying at low altitude, flying over the countryside and gradually approaching a town.
Timelapse video of a cross country flight at night, flying above clouds glowing with city lights.
My advice to you is to make the video full screen, put in your headphones and enjoy the soothing ride. (via migurski)
The BBC did a flight simulation of US Airways flight 1549 that shows what the water approach looked like from the cockpit. (thx, david)
I’m still fascinated by the water landing of US Airways flight 1549 on the Hudson River late last week. Here are a few more things I’ve seen related to it over the last couple of days.
First the videos. Someone visiting the Bronx Zoo caught the plane on video, flying low in the sky just after the bird strike. A Coast Guard video monitoring station got a shot of the plane just after it splashed down…you can see the spray from the impact flying in from the left of the video just after the 2:00 mark.
Soon after the plane hits, the camera zooms in and you can see just how quickly people get out and onto the wings. And then this video shows it most clearly:
Look how low and level and steady Sully guided that thing in! Amazing!
The NY Times has a couple of good pieces in their extensive crash coverage. I loved reading what various passengers had to say about the crash, lots of little moments of heroism in there.
The life raft attached to the plane was upside down in the river, just out of reach. Mr. Wentzell turned and found another passenger, Carl Bazarian, an investment banker from Florida who, at 62, was twice his age. Mr. Wentzell grabbed the wrist of Mr. Bazarian, who grabbed a third man who held onto the plane. Mr. Wentzell then leaned out to flip the raft. “Carl was Iron Man that day,” Mr. Wentzell said. “We got the raft stabilized and we got on.” A man went into the water, and the door salesman and the banker hauled him aboard. He curled in a fetal position, freezing.
The Times also comes through with the 3-D flight graphic I asked for the other day but they upped the ante with a seating chart of the plane where you can click on certain passengers’ seats to read their thoughts. Mark Hood in seat 2A described the landing:
When we touched down, it was like a log ride at Six Flags. It was that smooth.
The whole thing is still so amazing. Looking at the underside of the plane as they lifted it from the water last night, you can see the damage to the bottom of the plane and just how close they all were to being flung all over the place or sinking quickly or a number of other different outcomes.
A comment via email from my dad, himself a pilot, about yesterday’s Hudson River plane crash:
This pilot ran out of altitude and airspeed but not ideas. He did a great job of flying, and as a CAPTAIN, he has shown why he wears the four bars!!!
This is an example of quiet professionalism, training, skill, and bravery. Our craft usually goes unnoticed many times a day, but today, we saw our best work!!!
I remember once going to collect my dad after he’d landed his plane in a farmer’s field in an emergency. Of course, it was a much smaller plane — they’re a lot easier to land without engines and glide well. That and he was accustomed to landing amongst the corn and hay…we had a grass strip cut out of the field behind our house that he used all the time.
A US Airways plane bound for Charlotte just crashed into the Hudson River after aborting its takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. It’s still sitting in the river, slowly sinking with people standing on the wings being rescued by ferries. Photos on Flickr.
Update: Here’s a screenshot from a flight tracker showing the altitude of the flight….1800, 2800, 3200, 2000, 1600, 1200, 1300, 400, 300… The flight tracker has since taken the data offline.
Update: Reports are that everyone is OK. !!! Here’s a nautical chart of the area in question showing the dept to be around 50 feet.
The plane approached the water at a gradual angle and made a big splash, according to a witness watching from an office building. “It wasn’t going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made,” said the witness, Ben Vonklemperer. “It appeared not to have landing gear engaged. This was bigger than a puddle-jumper or sea plane. It was a silver aircraft and it basically just hit the water,” Vonklemperer added.
Update: They’re saying it’s a bird strike…sounds like a bird got sucked into an engine? Here’s another photo of people standing on the wings, waiting for rescue.
Update: Looks like they got everyone off and that the plane is sitting quite a bit lower in the water.
Gothamist reports that the plane is being towed to Chelsea Piers.
Update: The NY Times has this helpful map:
Also, an office mate (from Buzzfeed) just got back from checking out the plane and he said by the time he got to the river, the plane had past Christopher St. and when he left, it was pretty close to Canal St. and “moving amazingly fast”. (thx, scott)
Update: Maybe this is what the crash looked like?
Wikipedia notes that water landings where everyone survives aren’t all that unusual, although this seems like a larger plane than most of the others noted.
In 1963, an Aeroflot Tupolev 124 ditched into the River Neva after running out of fuel. The aircraft floated and was towed to shore by a tugboat which it had nearly hit as it came down on the water. The tug rushed to the floating aircraft and pulled it with its passengers near to the shore where the passengers disembarked onto the tug; all 52 on board escaped without injuries. Survival rate was 100%
Update: Here’s a brief video of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 which crashed in the Indian Ocean after being hijacked and running out of fuel.
125 out of 175 passengers died.
Update: On the always-timely MetaFilter, a bird strike researcher has some interesting things to say.
The first recorded birdstrike happened in 1908 to Orville Wright, no more than a few months after the first powered planeflights.
Surely years and not months… (thx, mike)
A live shot on the TV just now (6:00pm) reveals that the plane is now down at the Battery and they look like they’re trying to secure it or haul it out of the water (likely the former).
Update: A blogger at i’m not sayin, i’m just sayin mapped the plane’s location leading up to the crash using the info from FlightAware. Does anyone want to bang out a quick 3-D version in Google Earth that shows altitude as well?
William Langewiesche wrote a long piece for the January 2009 issue of Vanity Fair about the September 2006 collision of a Legacy 600 private jet and Gol Flight 1907 over the Amazon basin in Brazil. It is a tale of “a paradox associated with progress and modern times”.
Navigational precision poses dangers not immediately apparent. In the Legacy, it was based on three systems. The first was an ultra-accurate altimeter, capable of measuring the atmosphere with such finesse that at Flight Level 370 it could distinguish the Legacy’s altitude within perhaps five feet. The second was almost as accurate. It was the airplane’s satellite-based G.P.S. receiver, a positioning system that kept track of the airplane’s geographic location within a distance of half of its wingspan, and that, linked to a navigational database, defined the assigned airway with equal precision. The third was an autopilot that flew better than its human masters, and, however mindlessly, worked with the altimeter and G.P.S. to keep the airplane spot-on. Such capability is relatively new. Until recently, head-on airplanes mistakenly assigned the same altitude and route by Air Traffic Control would almost certainly have passed some distance apart, due to the navigation slop inherent in their systems. But this is no longer true. The problem for the Legacy was that the Boeing coming at them on the same assigned flight path had equipment that was every bit as precise.
Interesting throughout, it becomes downright gripping about 2/3rds of the way through. The interplay between and the eventual reversal of the pilot and co-pilot of the Legacy is fascinating.
Update: Joe Sharkey, who was on the Legacy jet when it collided with the 737, doesn’t like Langewiesche’s article very much, calling it a “journalistically disgraceful article”.
I’m not a pilot but my dad was and I flew all the time with him when I was a kid. I know what Sharkey is talking about when he says that flying a plane is not like driving a car; once you get in the air and are pointed in the right direction with the autopilot on, there’s not a whole lot the pilot is required to do. But in my reading of the article, I don’t think Langewiesche was saying that the two Legacy pilots in particular were screwing around or negligent. They were acting pretty much how any other two pilots in the same situation might act. Langewiesche’s point seems to be: the experience of flying a plane like the Legacy, with all the technology that’s there to help pilots — good and bad — do their jobs, might actually be made worse and more dangerous by that technology. Also that, as he stated at the beginning of the article, there were a whole lot of different decisions and non-decisions that converged to make that event happen…a huge pile of bad luck.
As for not talking to any of the people on the Legacy for the article, I don’t think that’s as significant as Sharkey asserts. Everyone who was aboard the Legacy jet that day is likely feeling pretty defensive about the whole thing given the intense reaction against them by the Brazilian government, the pilots doubly so given that they’re involved in a lawsuit. A prudent journalist would rightly be worried about the veracity of a narrative offered up in these circumstances, almost two years after the fact. Instead, Langewiesche chose to rely not on opinions and recollections but on the available data — the cockpit voice recordings, air traffic control records, etc….how people actually behaved in the situation, not how they say they acted or what they thought about it. Put it this way: if Sharkey and Langewiesche were to write competing books about the collision, the former based on extensive interviews with those involved and the latter based only on the available evidence, neither would be much closer to “the truth” than the other. (thx, scott)
I don’t know if this is sadly hilarious or hilariously sad. Jeffrey Goldberg took all sorts of crazy stuff through airport security — “al-Qaeda T-shirts, Islamic Jihad flags, Hezbollah videotapes, inflatable Yasir Arafat dolls (really), pocketknives, matches from hotels in Beirut and Peshawar, dust masks, lengths of rope, cigarette lighters, nail clippers, eight-ounce tubes of toothpaste (in my front pocket), bottles of Fiji Water (which is foreign), and, of course, box cutters” — and almost nothing was ever taken away from him or was a source of concern for airport security personnel.
We took our shoes off and placed our laptops in bins. Schneier took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled “saline solution.”
“It’s allowed,” he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don’t fall under the TSA’s three-ounce rule.
“What’s allowed?” I asked. “Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?”
“Bottles labeled saline solution. They won’t check what’s in it, trust me.”
They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schneier held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, “This is okay, right?” “Yep,” the officer said. “Just have to put it in the tray.”
“Maybe if you lit it on fire, he’d pay attention,” I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schneier would carry two bottles labeled saline solution-24 ounces in total-through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)
So hard to pick just one excerpt from this one…it’s full of ridiculousness. I don’t care how many blogs the TSA launches, this is a farce. (thx, anthony)
Evan Roth has been putting metal plates with messages and symbols cut into them into his carry-on luggage when he goes through security at the airport.
Here’s Roth’s idea, which he calls “TSA Communication” and tells me has already made it through three trial airport runs: Take a metal plate, stencil and cut out a message — words or an image — place the plate at the bottom of your carry-on bag, and watch what happens as the TSA employee operating the airport X-ray machine notices … or doesn’t notice.
So far, he’s used plates with outlines of the American flag, a “NOTHING TO SEE HERE” message, and something he calls The Exact Opposite Of A Box Cutter, a plate with a box cutter shape cut out of it.
A map of the world showing a simulation of all of the air traffic in a 24-hour period. Here’s a higher-quality video. Like Aaron Koblin’s Flight Patterns videos, only not just covering North America.
A checklist for landing a 747, presumably in a emergency.
1. Get on the radio, and tell whoever’s listening that you are landing a 747.
A large collection of old airline menus. The collection is poorly organized but worth poking through (check out Air France and Pan Am). Tracked this down after reading this short piece in the Times about a private menu collection, complete with a tiny image of some menus that’s barely worth the effort of clicking the link.
It was Sept. 17, 1908. Orville Wright was showing off a new “aeroplane” at Fort Myer, Va., for about 2,000 people, including Army brass. He took up a 26-year-old lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps, Thomas E. Selfridge, “an aeroplanist himself,” according to the report in this newspaper. Contemporary accounts vary, but the pair apparently made three and a half successful circuits at an altitude of about 75 feet, before a propeller split and hit other parts of the plane, causing it to crash. Orville was badly hurt.
The aeroplane has made three complete circuits of the big parade ground and was dashing around a curve at the far end of the field on the final lap of its fourth when the propellor blade broke. It snapped short off close to the shaft and was hurled sixty feet away.
The aeroplane seemed to tip sharply for a fraction of a second, then it started up for about ten feet; this was followed by a short, sharp dive and a crash in the field. Instantly the dust rose in a yellow, choking cloud that spread a dull pall over the great white man-made bird that had dashed to its death.
Laughing out loud at anything in any movie, whether it is playing on the cabin system or on your own DVD player, is fifty dollars per incident. Asking me to turn off my reading light so that you can see the screen better: also fifty dollars.
If you and your spouse are dressed almost identically, or if you are carrying your passport in a thing around your neck, or if you are wearing any form of footwear or pants that you clearly purchased specifically to wear on airplanes, or if you make it obvious (by repeatedly turning around and talking to passengers in seats not adjacent to yours) that you are travelling with a group, the charge is fifty dollars.