What is it that pilots and air traffic controllers say to each other?

Friday, 25 October, 2013

Learning to fly an aircraft is one thing… equally important though is grasping the lingo, the… language with which pilots and air traffic controllers use to speak each other:

November 435 Sierra Romeo is cleared to Bravo Tango Victor airport, via: On entering controlled airspace, expect radar vectors to Westminster VOR. Then Victor 457 to Lancaster VOR, Victor 39 to East Texas VOR Echo-Tango-Xray, Victor 162 to Huguenot VOR Hotel-Uniform-Oscar, then as filed. Climb and maintain three thousand feet, expect five thousand feet ten minutes after departure. Departure frequency 128.7, squawk four-six-three-five.

Yep, that sounds a lot like the way I used to speak during my academy, or buzzing over the country side in a Cessna, days.

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Airships, from the past and the present

Tuesday, 22 October, 2013

Airship over Jerusalem, photo via Library of Congress

The way we used to fly… a photo collection of airships and blimps, from the past and present.

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Might a new boarding pass design make air travel more enjoyable?

Thursday, 3 October, 2013

 by Adam Glynn-Finnegan

Adam Glynn-Finnegan thinks aircraft boarding passes are “one of the worst offenders of information design” and puts forward a proposal for a new, more helpful, look.

Airports are not enjoyable places to be. Long distance travel is not a tonne of fun. Badly designed boarding passes are annoying. Seriously annoying. The boarding pass is essential for air travel but when badly designed, must be one of the most counter-productive items an airline could issue. I think they cause headaches for airline and airport staff and travellers alike. Travellers are often stressed, emotional, groggy, jet lagged or a toxic mix of all four. The thought of having to decode a rubix-cube-puzzle of crucial information in that state makes me want to just give up.

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For the entrepreneur who enjoys challenge… how to start an airline

Wednesday, 2 October, 2013

Tips from aircraft manufacturer Boeing on starting an airline, and if they don’t know about this sort of thing, who does? Even if you’re the entrepreneurial type though, setting up an airline, even a relatively small operation, could well be biting off more than you can chew.

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There used to be a romance to air travel. Once. In a far away galaxy

Friday, 20 September, 2013

Pan-Am 747 economy class, late 1960s

Economy class on a Boeing 747 aircraft, sometime in the late 1960s. I almost regret coming along a little too late and missing what looks to be the golden age of air travel… don’t you just want to be on that flight? The experience actually looks enjoyable.

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Airline pilots talk shop, but would you really want to listen?

Tuesday, 10 September, 2013

If you thought reading about the way some occupations actually work, compared to how you think they work, was disconcertingly revealing, wait until you hear some of the things commercial pilots have to say:

Some FAA rules don’t make sense to us either. Like the fact that when we’re at 39,000 feet going 400 miles an hour, in a plane that could hit turbulence at any minute, [flight attendants] can walk around and serve hot coffee and Chateaubriand. But when we’re on the ground on a flat piece of asphalt going five to ten miles an hour, they’ve got to be buckled in like they’re at NASCAR.

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On being ejected from a crash landing aircraft and surviving

Friday, 6 September, 2013

The chances of surviving being ejected, or flung out, from a crashing aircraft are pretty remote, though thankfully the chances of being in such a position in the first place are likewise remote, but those few who make it through such a catastrophe alive, often struggle to understand how they withstood the ordeal.

Modern commercial jets can carry hundreds of people 10 times faster than you can safely drive on a city street, which is 10 times faster than you can probably walk. Though millions of people witness it everyday, the transaction of physics between an airplane and gravity is unimaginably violent. If your puny body ever actually came face to face with what lies beyond your window seat, you’d die almost instantly, via several horrible mechanisms – hyperbaric trauma, friction, blunt force, hypoxia – competing to be the thing that actually killed you.

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Do we not tip flight attendants because their salaries are sky high?

Thursday, 29 August, 2013

Not a topic I’ve ever given much though to… why don’t we tip air cabin crew? To take a stab at the question though, I’d have said it’s because I’m paying enough, by way of an air fare, to be flying in the first place, so why should I have to fork out anymore for the privilege?

London based author Kathleen Barry, writer of Femininity in Flight, however advances an all together different explanation for the absence of the practice in the air:

The answer is, in short, because tips were for Black people. Black porters on trains and boats were tipped as a matter of course but, according to Barry, tipping a White person would have been equivalent to an insult. A journalist, writing in 1902, captured the thinking of the time when he expressed shock and dismay that “any native-born American could consent” to accepting a tip. “Tips go with servility,” he said. Accepting one was equivalent to affirming “I am less than you.” This interpretation of the meaning of a gratuity, alongside airlines’ need to inspire confidence and simple racism, is why we don’t tip flight attendants today.

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Could you anchor down a 747 aircraft that was trying to take off?

Friday, 16 August, 2013

This sounds like a physics exam question. If you ever wanted to stop a 747 aircraft taking off, by trying to restrain it with some cable, how thick would that cable need to be, assuming the craft’s engines were at full power? If you happen, therefore, to be sitting a physics test, then the good news is someone has worked out the answer.

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When airline flight numbers take on a value of their own

Friday, 12 July, 2013

I didn’t think flight numbers might, or might not, be something to boast about, but it seems the lower the flight number, the more popular, and prestigious, the flight you are on:

In general, the lower the number, the more “prestigious” the flight route is for that particular airline. One or two-digit numbers are typically assigned to popular routes – usually of the long-distance variety – such as United Flight 44 from Newark to London. If you find yourself on a flight with a low number, it’s a pretty safe bet that your flight is a regular moneymaker for the airline.

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