Posts Tagged ‘Aviation’

The miracle of aviation — “Skyfaring” by 747 pilot Mark Vanhoenacker

In beauty, journalism, Technology, travel, world on October 30, 2015 at 12:33 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Temple roof, Mae Hong Son, Thailand -- right across the street from the airport!

Temple roof, Mae Hong Son, Thailand — right across the street from the airport!

Do you love the smell of JP4 — jet fuel — as much as I do?

Live to plane-spot?

Enjoy the app, which tracks every commercial flight in the world, offering its starting and ending points, time left in flight, airline, flight number and aircraft model?

This is your book!

Isn't this cover gorgeous?

Isn’t this cover gorgeous?

The author, who is American, came late to aviation — 2003 — and now pilots 747s for British Airways on long-haul flights.

Here’s a Q and A with him from The New York Times:

When you fly from London to Tokyo, you go into the Arctic and it’s a night flight. You leave London in the afternoon and you get to Tokyo in the morning. So it’s a night flight. But the sun never goes down because in those higher latitudes it doesn’t go down at all during the summer. So you fly into that area where it’s continuous sunlight, and by the time you’re flying out of that area, it’s morning where you are. But sometimes you turn south a bit and the sun will set. Then when you climb, you get higher — just a few thousand feet can make the sun rise again because you’re still getting that higher vantage point over the top of the Earth. And so, you can get three or four in the flight. It really makes you question what exactly is a day. It’s sunrise to sunset, or is it?

His book is lovely and lyrical and completely captures so many of the fleeting, private feelings that aviation inspires.

Like this passage:

“It’s four days later. I’m at home, standing sleepily by the sink. The water runs over the soles of my sneakers, sweeping the African dust brightly over the stainless steel. I have to say it in my head, practically to spell it out, ‘This is the red of the soil under the South African tree, from the morning I saw the weavers and their nests.’ I think of the term earth, both soil and planet; this earth could not have expected to meet this water, here.”

The only child of a couple that lived to travel the world I’ve been flying from an early age, my first solo trip from Toronto to Antigua, age seven.

I love the expression “turning left” — i.e. into the first class cabin — a place I’ve yet to experience. I’ve enjoyed business class a few times.

I’m enough of a geek that I often stay to the very end when disembarking just to say hello to the pilots and sneak a peek into the cockpit or ask a question. I once noticed retro-fitted winglets on one aircraft, mentioned them to the pilot, who lit up with pride and pleasure that anyone had even noticed.

When flying home to Toronto from Westchester, NY, I end up in propeller planes so small — maybe 10 seats per side — I call them the cigar tube.

Other memorable flights I’ve taken:

— Flying into Nairobi, the city suddenly appearing out of nowhere like a handful of Legos tossed into dust, Isak Dinesen’s Ngong Hills nearby

I was lucky enough to go there in my 20s

I was lucky enough to go there in my 20s

— Flying out of Charles de Gaulle, in Paris, and its weird space-age tube-enclosed escalators

— My longest flight, 15 hours, from Los Angeles to Sydney

– A crazy flight into Cuzco, aboard Faucett, that made like a sewing machine needle, up and down through cloud cover, seeking that airport’s only runway between the Andes. Shriek!

– An astonishingly luxurious trip aboard a 767 aboard Open Skies, flying from JFK to Orly, fitted normally for 300 passengers, that held about 80 people. The seats were so wide I could tuck my legs beneath me sideways. Heaven!

— The flight from Managua to Bilwi (coastal town) where they weighed every passenger because the plane was so small

Our flight from Managua to Bilwi

Our flight from Managua to Bilwi

— Flying from Caracas to Los Roques in a plane where every bit of writing was Cyrillic, a former Russian aircraft

— Heading north from Kujuuaq, Quebec to Salluit, Quebec, a town of 500 people near the Arctic Circle, landing on a small, narrow landing strip of — what else? — ice

— Smuggling my hamster Pickles underneath my coat in a specially-made box from Toronto to Edinburgh for the summer (before the use of security checks and Xray machines)

Our aircraft from Managua to Bilwi -- and back!

Our aircraft from Managua to Bilwi — and back!

Tell us about some of your most memorable flights!

Canadian Student Makes Aviation History With Flapping-Wing Plane

In business, design, History, science, Technology, travel on September 23, 2010 at 3:32 pm
Ornithopter Flight - July 08, 2006; Registrati...
An earlier protoype….Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a video of a plane you’ve never seen before — one that, like a bird, flaps its wings.

The 94-pound ornithopter flew on August 2, the invention of University of Toronto Phd Todd Reichert. (My alma mater!)

From the Montreal Gazette:

Todd Reichert, an engineering graduate student and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, accomplished the feat when he flew the aircraft “Snowbird” for 19.3 seconds on Aug. 2 at the Great Lakes Gliding Club in Tottenham, Ont.

The 42-kg plane made from carbon fibre, balsa wood and foam, travelled 145 metres at an average speed of 25.6 km/h during the flight.

“Our original goal was to complete this sort of, original aeronautical dream, to fly like a bird,” said 28-year-old Reichert on Wednesday. “The idea was to fly under your own power by flapping your wings.”

The four-year project, a brainchild of Reichert and student Cameron Robertson, was worked on by 30 students, including some from France and the Netherlands.

The plane, with a wingspan of 32 metres, was powered by Reichert, who pedalled with his legs, pulling down the wings to flap. He had to endure a year-long exercise regime to bulk up on muscle and lose nearly 10-kg so he could fly the aircraft.

I live to travel, love aircraft and have visited Kitty Hawk, N.C., the site of the Wright Brothers’ first short flights 107 years ago. Wish I’d been there!

More details here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The World’s Ten Best Airports

In business, cities, design, travel on August 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport. Image via Wikipedia

Pack, rush, stand, wait, take off shoes. Flying, so much fun.

Do you notice the airports you travel through? Here’s a recent list of the world’s top 10, which includes Paris Charles de Gaulle (which, built in 1974, looks like a cartoon idea of the future with all its tubes) and Rio’s domestic airport and Dulles, in D.C.

Here’s my top 10:

1) Santa Barbara, California. Tiny, red-tile-roofed. There are pool houses larger. Charming, cute, feels like vacation.

2) Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The only sound you hear is that of temple bells from the Buddhist temple across the street. The only airport I’ve ever flown into where you can walk right into town.

3) Vancouver. The architecture is spectacular — lots of glass, waterfalls, totem poles inside and out. One of the very few airports that actually makes specific reference to where you’ve just landed. The approach is also fantastic — the Rockies, the ocean, not to mention all the huge log booms on the water. I also love their use of YVR as its name — every Canadian airport code starts with Y. (YUL is Montreal, YYZ is Toronto. Go figure.)

4) Seattle. Think about it — when do you ever notice, in a good way, what’s at your feet? I’ve flown through this airport a few times and marveled at what lovely materials they chose for the flooring. Not to mention the inlaid bronze salmon inserted randomly. One of whom carries a briefcase.

5) Toronto Island Airport. You can wing into this one if you fly Porter Air from Newark. It’s set on a small island from which you take a ferry for about 1 minute, then a ten-minute taxi ride to downtown. The best way to see Toronto’s dramatic skyline.

6) Cuzco, Peru. OK. I admit it. I remember nothing of the airport but my immense, weeping gratitude that I saw it at all, after a hairy, scary descent on Faucett Air. (now defunct.) Think of a sewing machine needle threading up and down through cloth. That was us, trying to find a clear bit of air between many large mountains.

7) Shannon, Ireland. I love any airport that immediately gives me a strong sense of place. Landing in the west of Ireland, you look down over an impossibly beautiful patchwork of green, hundreds of small fields ringed by low stone walls.

8) Bastia, Corsica. Like Galway and Mae Hong Son, the landscape is at the edge of the airport. I remember seeing sheep within a few hundred yards of the runways.

9) Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Although many hate it, it is saturated with happy memories for me from my year living in Paris on a fellowship. From there, I flew out, or back, from Montserrat, England, Istanbul. I loved that CDG became “my” airport. Easy access to central Paris on the RER.

10) Westchester, New York. My home airport. It’s impossibly crowded but small and easy to get in and out of. I love that we walk across tarmac into the planes. You can sit in the restaurant and watch planes taking off and landing. I love being able to get to an airport in 20 minutes.

What are your favorites and why?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Steve Slater — Hero!

In behavior, business, travel on August 11, 2010 at 1:26 pm
JetBlue Airways logo Category:Airline logos
Image via Wikipedia

If there’s a popular hero right now, it’s Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who hit his last nerve, cursed at a plane full of passengers and fled, beer in hand.

My retail memoir has a chapter devoted to Customers From Hell. I always had a running list of the brutes, morons, divas and princesses who made our lives behind the cash-wrap toxic and wearying. It took a lot to make my top five, but there was — sadly — plenty of competition.

We live in a country where the rich see the rest of us as peons, weird little creatures scurrying beneath their feet. Outtamyway! The income inequality is growing while millions of others are losing their homes and jobs, with no idea how they will find a new job or home or pay their most basic bills.

I saw this princess-iness firsthand while selling T-shirts and ski jackets to the wealthy shoppers in my suburban area. Their sense of entitlement was relentless and anyone who dared oppose it does so at the risk of losing their job.

I was in a fabric store the other day and shared war stories with an employee there. We all have war stories! She is in her 60s, elegant, calm, helpful — and told me that a young woman who couldn’t find what she wanted (but could not even describe it) snapped her fingers at her. Then, still unable and unwilling to tell the associate what it was she looking for, complained to management that this employee was unhelpful.

If this behavior was occurring anywhere private, sharp words would be exchanged and the offending diva put neatly in his or her place. But, no, when it’s public, the worker has to suck it up and the offending party can safely revel in their temporary power.


Slater faces criminal charges. His profanity offended many people. His reaction was intemperate.

But every single person working in a service job knows exactly how he felt.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Retablos And B-29 Bombers — A Tucson Afternoon

In History, travel on January 12, 2010 at 1:19 am
SR-71B Blackbird, taken on December 1994 from ...

The Blackbird. Image via Wikipedia

Few people might equally enjoy visiting an 18th-century Mission and an aviation museum filled with Migs and cargo jets and Sikorskys, but I was lucky. I spent the afternoon today with Roxana, a 23-year-old Tucsonian who recently graduated journalism school here, a former student of my partner in a workshop held here every two years by The New York Times.

She must have wondered how the day would go, as I did  — sort of a blind date between two women of quite different ages who had never met, but two passionate photographers and writers. We had a great time.

The mission, established in 1700, is extraordinary, sitting nine miles outside the city on the reservation of the Tohono O’odham tribe. Its exterior is blinding white plaster on the side that has been restored, with only one tower retaining its cupola.

The interior, restored by a group of Italian and native conservators in 1995, is a riot of carving, faux-finishing, plasterwork and retablos. Two lions with gilded heads guard the altar and there is a wooden statue of St. Francis in one side niche, his lacy robe covered with tiny votos, the medallions that express wishes and prayers for health or a home or recovery. Pinned to his robe was a black and white image from someone’s sonogram, a man’s driver’s license, color photos of people.

There is nothing virtual here. This is faith and prayer made physical and visible, pinning ones hopes, quite literally, to the robes of a wooden statue of a beloved saint.

Roxana and I ate frybread, made fresh under the shade of a nearby shelter by native women, and sat in the sun for a while. We were so still that a roadrunner hopped up the hill to our very feet, then hopped away again.

We drove to the Pima Air & Space Museum, with four hangars and more than 300 different aircraft spread out under the desert sky over 80 acres. If, like me, you love airplanes and the whiff of jet fuel, this is geek heaven. Seven Migs, a B-377SG Guppy, the weirdest thing you will ever see with wings — used by NASA to transport Saturn V parts, the astonishingly sleek SR-71 “Blackbird”, capable of Mach3+, and a  B-29 Superfortress with a 141-foot wingspan.

There were planes so enormous and heavy you could not imagine them ever leaving the ground. As we strolled and patted the gleaming riveted hulls, we heard F-16s roaring overhead, training from the nearby base.

It’s hard to understand war until you see, this close, how men worked and sat or crunched themselves into tiny frigid cabins in these battered old bombers and fighters. One of the most chilling artifacts were the hand-written paper tags, Kobe City, Nagasaki, tagged to the bombs rained down on Japan, now preserved in a glass case.

An afternoon of wings — of angels and aluminum. Heaven.

His California Garage Is A First-Class Airplane Cabin. Really.

In business, travel on October 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm
Pan Am logo, as used by Pan Am Systems (former...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re under, maybe 30, flying has become a nightmare. Those of us with a few decades of air travel hold treasured memories of what it was like to go on an airplane trip. People dressed well, even dressed up. Real meals were served on china and glass with metal cutlery — only available now to first-pass passengers on most flights. Flight attendants (aka stewardesses) smiled and were friendly.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great story about Anthony Toth, who has built a precise replica of a first-class cabin from a Pan Am Worldways 747 — in the garage of his two-bedroom condo in Redondo Beach, CA. Toth, a 42-year-old global sales director for United Airlines, has spent 20 years and $50,000 on the project. I get it. If you really enjoy traveling, it’s easy to miss the days when getting there was as lovely as arriving.

The closest I’ve come to commercial aviation heaven recently was our flight to Paris in October 2008 on Open Skies, an offshoot of British Airways. (We paid full price, $1,000 apiece, so there’s no other reason for me to rave except it was fantastic.) It began at JFK where the check-in desk had an enormous vase of fresh flowers. “Happy birthday,” the agent said to my sweetie, whose birthday it was (evident from his passport.) The leather seats — only 84 of them on a 757-200 — were so deep and wide my feet didn’t touch the floor and I could tuck one leg beneath another. The food was great and, halfway through the flight, a handsome, silver-haired man moved through the cabin asking each of us — like a chef moving through his restaurant — how we were enjoying our flight. The captain. Everyone was stunned with pleasure.

I hated to leave the aircraft and am counting the minutes until we have the cash to do it again.

Flying, fun? Imagine.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,061 other followers