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Vocapedia > Transport > Aviation > Airplanes / Aircraft, Air travel




Now! World's finest Stratocruisers offer New Luxury Flights to Hawaii on United!

Collection: Ad*Access

Company: United Air Lines

Product: Hawaii

Publication: New Yorker

Publication Type: Magazine

Year: 1950

Number of Pages: 1

Description: image is cutaway for plane,

showing the different areas

such as the stateroom, area for dressing rooms, etc.

Subject: Transportation--Airlines


Item Number: T2207

Duke University



















By an unknown photographer,

September 1908.

Wright Aeroplane, Ft. Myer, VA. Orville Wright in plane.

Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.



Picturing the Century:

One Hundred Years of Photography from the National Archives

Eight Portfolios from Part II


















TITLE: Clifford B. Harmon. Seated in airplane.

REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-ggbain-08193 (digital file from original neg.)

MEDIUM: 1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in. or smaller.

CREATED/PUBLISHED: [no date recorded on caption card]

CREATOR: Bain News Service, publisher.

NOTES: Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Title from unverified data provided

by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards.

General information about the Bain Collection is available at http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.ggbain 

FORMAT: Glass negatives.

REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print

DIGITAL ID: (digital file from original neg.) ggbain 08193 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ggbain.08193

TIFF > JPEG: Anglonautes























air travel        UK










National Air and Space Museum        USA












aviation        USA










Federal Aviation Administration    F.A.A.        USA






















plane        UK










airplane        USA












the world's largest plane        USA










small plane        USA







private plane        USA






the plane's nose        USA






air taxi





planespotters        UK






airplane industry





33 Airline Posters From Flying’s Golden Age        USA






aircraft        UK







Comet        UK






hot-air balloon aircraft        USA
















airline        USA










airline industry








airline industry        USA










megacarriers > United and Delta        USA










United Airlines        USA










Pan America / Pan Am        UK










Ryanair > Europe's biggest budget airline        UK        2006










Virgin Atlantic        USA










airliner        UK










The world's biggest passenger airliner,

the 555-seater Airbus A380        UK        2006



























jet        USA






mid-size jetliner





supersonic aircraft > Concorde        UK


 the world’s first supersonic passenger plane









supersonic passenger plane





commercial airliner / passenger jet





long-haul passenger jet





the world's longest-range commercial aircraft





twin-engine airplane





jet engine





engine        USA






engine thrust





115,000 pounds of thrust





fuel tank





be capable of flying 9,420 nautical miles










fuel efficiency        USA






fuel leak        USA






1st synthetic fuel for jets        USA
















solar-powered plane        UK












solar plane        UK














solar plane        USA












sun-powered airplane        USA










hydrogen-powered planes        USA

















helicopter        UK
















safe        USA






safety        USA









safety scare        UK






safety check        USA






National Transportation Safety Board        NTSB        USA






faults        UK






cracks        UK






drone colliding with a passenger aircraft        USA
















take off





break the sound barrier





the speed of sound





fly at twice the speed of sound        USA






at high altitude










air turbulence        USA

























land        UK






landing        UK






emergency landing        UK





make an emergency landing        USA



















Frank Whittle        1907-1996


British Royal Air Force (RAF)

engineer officer.


He is credited

with independently inventing

the turbojet engine

(some years earlier

than Germany's Dr. Hans von Ohain)

and is regarded by many

as the father of jet propulsion.



opinion/story/0,12981,1229751,00.html - 2004


















pilot        UK







in the pilot’s seat





test pilot / "the right stuff"        USA






Evelyn Bryan Johnson / Evelyn Stone        USA        1908-2012


In 2002,

Mrs. Johnson, then 92,

was the oldest flight instructor

in the world,

according to the Aircraft Owners

and Pilots Association.


She continued teaching

for three more years.


Born just six years

after the Wright brothers’

first flight in 1903,

she flew 5.5 million miles,

equal to 23 trips to the moon.





















From its humble beginning

as a refueling stop for travelers

with no desire to linger

in an inhospitable corner

of the Arabian Peninsula,

Dubai’s airport

has recently overtaken

Heathrow Airport in London

as the world’s busiest international air travel hub.        USA        2014






passenger        USA






air passengers        USA






unruly passenger        USA






air rage        UK






air rage        USA






loutish behaviour        UK






stowaway        UK






on board















luggage > carry-on bag        USA











flying        USA
























fear of flying        UK / USA

















be afraid to fly        UK




















U.S. Set to Test Missile Defenses Aboard Airlines

By ERIC LIPTON        NYT        Published: May 29, 2005

















Are budget airlines bad for us? - five-minute debate        G        3 September 2013




Are budget airlines bad for us? - five-minute debate        Video        G        3 September 2013


Mark Smith of Seat61.com,

an advocate for train and ferry travel,

debates budget air travel

with Guardian transport correspondent

Gwyn Topham.


Does it take the joy out of journeys?


Or is the opening up of foreign travel

to millions of people on modest incomes

a great social good?


















airspace        UK






airport        UK






airport lounge        USA






departure gate        UK






taxiway        UK






airport runway        UK / USA












skid off






tarmac        USA


















cancelled        UK
























Transportation Security Administration    TSA        USA








facial scanning        USA






airport scanner        USA






bomb-sniffing dogs        USA
















air traffic controller / air controller        UK








congestion at Heathrow










airline industry










flight        UK






flight        USA






on a United Express flight

from Chicago to Louisville, Ky.        USA






in flight        USA






In flight:

see the planes in the sky right now – interactive        UK        21 January 2014


To mark 100 years of passenger air travel,

our stunning interactive uses live data to show

every one of the thousands

of commercial planes currently in the air,

charts the history of aviation since 1914,

and asks what comes next for the industry






flights > pollution        UK






transatlantic flight





flight attendants        USA








Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland

on the first solo transatlantic flight by a woman        20 May 1932
















no-frills carrier > Europe's largest no-frills carrier > Ryanair        2008






low-fare airline




















supersonic jet





private jet





seven seater





at nearly 40,000 feet above















Charles Lindbergh's

nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic        May 20-21, 1927






Wilbur and Orville Wright

make the world's first sustained,

powered, and controlled flight

in a heavier-than-air flying machine,

thereby realizing one of mankind's

oldest and most persistent aspirations

-- human flight.        December 17, 1903

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/wb-home.html - broken URL





















Scott Crossfield

sits in a centrifuge machine

which duplicates the stress of extreme acceleration

encountered by jet pilots at high altitudes,

in this Feb. 28, 1958, file photo.



the first person to fly at twice the speed of sound,

was found dead in the wreckage of a single-engine plane

in the mountains of northern Georgia.


Photograph: AP


Test pilot Scott Crossfield killed in crash

By Daniel Yee, The Associated Press        USA Today

Posted 4/20/2006    6:51 PM ET
















giant passenger airship > the Hindenburg        USA

















Corpus of news articles


Transport > Aviation >


Airplanes / Aircraft, Air travel




63 Years Flying,

From Glamour to Days of Gray


March 17, 2012

The New York Times



DENVER — As the crush of passengers boarded United Flight 618 to Hawaii here last month, they passed by a silver-haired flight attendant in bifocals who greeted them with an “Aloha, welcome aboard.”

Most of them appeared more focused on finding their seats than sizing up the flight crew, but this flight attendant, Ron Akana, stood out, not least because of the 11 sparkling rhinestones on the wings pinned to his lapel. The first one was to commemorate his 10-year anniversary as a flight attendant, and he was given another for every subsequent five years of flying.

Yes, Mr. Akana has worked as a flight attendant for 63 years, clocking some 20 million miles along the way, the equivalent of circling the globe about 800 times or flying roughly 40 times to the moon and back. Though no one tracks seniority across all airlines, he is widely believed to hold the title of longest-serving flight attendant in the United States.

“People keep on telling me to apply to the Guinness Book of Records,” he said. “I’ll let somebody else do that."

Mr. Akana, 83, has just about seen it all. In his early years, impeccably dressed passengers were served seafood salad and congregated at the cocktail bar on board. But he is also the face of a profession that has gone from glamorous to gray, as more flight attendants work longer than they ever imagined.

More than 40 percent of the roughly 110,000 flight attendants in the United States are 50 or older, according to an analysis of 2010 census data by Rogelio Saenz, a sociologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio, who has studied the changing demographics of flight attendants. Less than 18 percent are 34 or younger.

While the overall American work force has aged because of demographic shifts, the ranks of flight attendants have aged faster as they have held on to their jobs.

After all, seniority pays off for flight attendants, because the longest-serving ones get first dibs on flying schedules, and typically choose long-haul routes that fill up their required hours each month much faster than short hops. With a battered airline industry instituting furloughs and pay cuts, many workers have delayed their retirement plans.

Mr. Akana cannot lay claim to all bragging rights — he is not the oldest working flight attendant in the United States, for example. By many accounts, that distinction belongs to 87-year-old Robert Reardon of Delta Airlines. Mr. Reardon began his career flying for Northwest in 1951, two years after Mr. Akana took to the skies as one of the first male “stewards” hired by United in 1949 for flights between the mainland and Hawaii.

Mr. Akana has held the No. 1 spot at United for the past five years, since Iris Peterson retired after 60 years of service at the age of 85.

While many of his older colleagues are still flying because they have to, Mr. Akana said he does not work for the paycheck alone. At one time, just after he turned 70, Mr. Akana was among the highest-paid flight attendants at the airline, earning $106,000 a year through a combination of pay, pension and Social Security — a situation that has earned him a “triple dipper” label by younger colleagues and airline bookkeepers.

“When I fly, it’s vacation money,” Mr. Akana likes to joke. But after flying for so many years, the idea of hanging up his sparkling wings is hard for him to fathom. He added that he would miss the people he works with, the passengers he meets and the routine he goes through for every trip, laying out his uniform and packing the night before.

“I just always felt that it’s just too much a part of my life,” he said.

Decades ago, hiring policies ensured that the ranks of flight attendants remained young. Stewardesses faced mandatory retirement by 32. If they married or became pregnant, they were out. In 1966, a New York Times classified ad for stewardesses at Eastern Airlines listed these requirements: “A high school graduate, single (widows and divorcees with no children considered), 20 years of age (girls 19 1/2 may apply for future consideration). 5’2” but no more than 5’9,” weight 105 to 135 in proportion to height and have at least 20/40 vision without glasses.”

Stewards like Mr. Akana were not subject to quite as strict regulations. In 1963, he married a fellow flight attendant, Elizabeth Ann Ebersole. They met on Waikiki Beach six months earlier when a colleague played matchmaker. He continued to fly. She promptly quit.

“In those days, you had to,” she said. “There was no way I could be sneaky about it.”

The next year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, but it was not until years later, after numerous lawsuits against airlines’ discriminatory practices, that such rules fell away and what had been a transient job for primarily young women turned into a longtime career. Mr. Akana’s daughter, Jean, born that same year, is now a 22-year veteran flight attendant for United.

Her colleagues will not let her forget that she has a father who is famous at United. “The minute they hear my name, they go, ‘Wait, are you related to that Ron?’ ” she said.

As No. 1 on the list at newly merged United-Continental, Mr. Akana always gets the schedule he wants. Lately that means three three-day trips a month from Denver to Kauai or Maui. He spends one night on the island, squeezing in lunch with old friends or perhaps a round of golf before heading back home to Boulder, Colo.

He has the rest of the month off, giving him time to work on his golf game, hop in his RV to visit a national park with his wife or take advantage of his United travel benefits to fly someplace new if seats are available.

Over the years Mr. Akana has taken his wife and two children all over the world free, including vacations to Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Hong Kong. There were also weekend jaunts to Chicago so the children could try deep-dish pizza.

Mr. Akana was a fresh-faced 21-year-old when he — along with 400 others — applied in 1949 for one of eight steward positions United wanted to fill to represent each of the eight major Hawaiian Islands.

“For a local Hawaiian boy, it was so exciting to get to the mainland,” said Mr. Akana, who was born and raised in Honolulu. “I looked around and thought, ‘I’ll never get this job.’ There were 400 other guys; half of them had coats and ties. All I had was an aloha shirt.”

But after the first cut, he began calling the hiring manager weekly to check in. His persistence paid off, and he was soon taking off on his first flight to the mainland.

Back then, the Boeing Stratocruiser, a long-range propeller plane powered by four piston engines, was state of the art, making the trip between the islands and the mainland in about 10 hours, roughly double the time it takes today.

Seats were all first class, with four bunk beds up front and a private stateroom in the back with its own beds and bathroom. A circular staircase led to a lower-deck cocktail lounge, and flight attendants prepared hot meals for the 52 to 54 people on board.

Passengers dressed up to fly. “All the men had suits and ties on. The ladies were always showcases of fashion,” Mr. Akana recalled. “There was no such thing as walking on a plane with slippers.”

Celebrity sightings were common, too. “I brought the whole cast of ‘From Here to Eternity’ to Hawaii,” he said, rattling off the list of stars that included Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift and Deborah Kerr. “I made her bed in the stateroom. That was exciting,” he added. “Burt Lancaster had 12 or 13 martinis, then came and bartended with me as if he hadn’t had one.”

Bill Clinton, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr. and Red Skelton were among the notable passengers he has served. Mr. Skelton, sitting in the seat next to where Mr. Akana delivered the life vest demonstration, mimicked the entire routine. “It was hard enough for me to project my voice throughout the whole cabin without this guy, with his cigar unlit of course, carrying on. Oh, it was just so much fun,” Mr. Akana said, grinning from ear to ear.

It was not all enchanting, of course. In the early days, Mr. Akana recalls, cigarette smoke filled the cabin as passengers lighted up after takeoff. And between flights, the aircraft was sprayed with pesticide while flight attendants were still on board. He has lived through decades of deregulation and the turbulent industry economics, including bankruptcies and cuts that stripped flights of most services.

As a result, he said, the job has fundamentally changed and service is no longer as important as it was when he started 63 years ago. “The focus is more on the safety things that you have to know, which is what we claim is the most important thing,” he said on a recent morning on the way to the airport.

All along Mr. Akana has remained a loyal company man, but he is beginning to think about retirement. After so many years of flying, he and his wife want to see the country by RV and perhaps take a cruise.

Mr. Akana acknowledges that he is starting to slow down a bit. “We get an average of four or five wheelchairs a trip,” said Mr. Akana, who underwent knee replacement surgery last year. “I know our bones fail; I’m beginning to feel it myself. Most of the people I help, I’m older than them.”

63 Years Flying, From Glamour to Days of Gray,






Reach for the Skies


January 31, 2011
The New York Times


IN his State of the Union speech last week, President Obama talked about why things like high-speed rail and faster Internet connections were critical to American prosperity. But he left out the fastest, safest mode of transportation available: aviation.

It may be hard to imagine flying as anything other than a nightmare of packed planes, crumbling airports, canceled flights and increasingly invasive security. But these are all signs of how far our system has fallen. In fact, of all the transportation options available, aviation is the one with the greatest potential to improve the economy and Americans’ well-being — though it will take major new investments to get there.

From 1975 to 2005, while global gross domestic product rose 154 percent and world trade grew 355 percent, the value of air cargo climbed 1,395 percent. Today, more than one-third of all goods by value, some $3 trillion, is carried in the bellies of planes. These goods are the high-tech, high-value products that Americans want to make — clean-energy technology, electronics and biomedical devices — and they are key to the president’s goals of doubling exports and revitalizing our economy.

What’s more, air travel remains ever more vital to American workers. The transportation analysts Kenneth Button and Roger Stough found that the presence of an airline hub in a city increased the local high-tech work force by an average of 12,000. Another study concluded that each flight from Los Angeles to Europe or Asia created 3,126 jobs, totaling $156 million in wages.

True, there’s always telecommuting. But high-speed Internet hasn’t diminished the need for highly skilled workers to fly, because meeting face-to-face matters more than ever when the products are ideas and the employees are spread across international borders.

Of course, some analysts predict that a return to $140-a-barrel oil would put a crimp on the airline industry, if not ground it altogether. But aviation growth doesn’t correlate to rising oil prices. Rather, it’s about expanding economies: oil prices have tripled in nominal terms since the start of the Iraq war, yet the annual number of passengers worldwide has risen 43 percent since 2003. In the global economy, speed trumps costs.

The problem is that aviation in America is slowing down. For decades, even as demand grew, we failed to expand runways, upgrade technology and build larger terminals. New York‘s three airports, which suffer some of the worst delays in the country, cost travelers $1.7 billion annually in lost time alone. Similar stories abound across the country.

America may not see the advantage to such investments, but China and India do. Both are experiencing annual aviation growth rates as high as 20 percent as their growing middle classes take to the skies. And they are building hundreds of new airports to connect their once-obscure, now-booming cities to each other and their neighbors, not to us.

Indeed, the rest of the world is interacting via air like never before. The number of visitors to China from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America quintupled from 2000 to 2007; not coincidentally, China’s exports to the Arab world soared to $60 billion from $6 billion. America is, in other words, getting cut out.

We need to do three things to improve air travel and forge new links overseas.

The first step is to upgrade our air-traffic-control system, which dates back to the 1930s. The government must finally switch from radar to the G.P.S.-based system known as NextGen, which lets planes fly via satellite signal instead of following radar beacons, saving time and fuel, which in turn increases airport capacity.

According to Alaska Airlines, which demonstrated the technology last year at its Seattle hub, a G.P.S.-enabled system could save 2.1 million gallons of fuel at an airport annually and cut carbon emissions by 35 percent.

We also need to treat our airports as strategic federal investments, rather than local spending efforts. O’Hare International Airport, for decades the largest in the world, is a primary reason that today Chicago has a higher G.D.P. than South Africa. But O’Hare, like many American airports, desperately needs more and longer runways. Unfortunately, there is not enough federal commitment to ensure they are built, leading to time-consuming political and legal battles. Earlier this month United and American Airlines sued Chicago to stop a $3.4 billion expansion at O’Hare, fearful they would be stuck with some of the bill.

So far, though, we’ve made only tentative steps in the right direction. Last fall President Obama pledged to repair 150 miles of runways around the country. He must follow through on that, but he must also ensure that aviation receives its fair share from the proposed national investment bank.

Finally, to help protect airlines from oil price spikes (and potentially crushing carbon taxes later on), we need to make investments in high-grade biofuels. The technology exists — a California company called Solazyme has already sold jet fuel refined from algae to the Navy — but low-cost, high-volume production does not. As in other areas of green technology, federal involvement is critical to get the market moving.

President Obama is absolutely correct when he says that exports are vital to American prosperity. But without significant new investments, the exports of the future — from innovative ideas to high-end electronics — will be left sitting at the departure gate.

Greg Lindsay is a co-author of the forthcoming

“Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.”

    Reach for the Skies, NYT, 31.1.2011,






Robert M. White,

Who Broke Limits in Flight,

Dies at 85


March 22, 2010
The New York Times


Robert M. White, who played an important role in the development of manned spaceflight as the first pilot to fly a winged craft into outer space, died Wednesday in Orlando, Fla. He was 85.

His death was announced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

In the early 1960s, Major White, an Air Force pilot, was among those who pushed the envelopes of speed and altitude flying above the California desert out of Edwards Air Force Base, the fliers profiled by Tom Wolfe in “The Right Stuff.”

On July 17, 1962, he flew the rocket-powered X-15 plane to an altitude of 314,750 feet, or 59.6 miles, almost 10 miles above Earth’s atmosphere. “This gets better all the time,” United Press International quoted him as saying as he neared the end of his flight. “It’s a fantastic view.”

Major White was awarded the Collier Trophy for aviation from President John F. Kennedy, and he was recognized by the Air Force as a winged astronaut.

He never achieved the enduring celebrity status of the Mercury 7 astronauts or of Chuck Yeager, who broke the sound barrier in 1947, but he was the Air Force’s prime pilot for the X-15 program, which studied the effects of heat on aircraft surfaces at extremely high speeds and altitudes, and the physiological impact on fliers. Those X-15 flights helped propel NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions as well as the space shuttle program.

He was also the first flier to pilot a winged aircraft at four, five and then six times the speed of sound, exceeding that final milestone on Nov. 9, 1961, when he flew his X-15 at 4,093 miles an hour.

Major White hardly personified the image of the cocky test pilot.

“He was the eternally correct and reserved Air Force blue-suiter,” Mr. Wolfe wrote in “The Right Stuff.”

“He didn’t drink. He exercised like a college athlete in training. He was an usher in the Roman Catholic chapel of the base and never, but never, missed Mass,” Mr. Wolfe wrote. “He was slender, black-haired, handsome, intelligent — even cultivated, if the truth were known. And he was terribly serious.”

Robert Michael White was born in New York City on July 6, 1924, and entered military service in 1942. He flew more than 50 fighter missions during World War II before he was shot down over Germany in February 1945 and taken prisoner.

After leaving military service in December 1945, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from New York University. Re-called during the Korean War, he served with a fighter squadron based in Japan, and in the mid-1950s he was assigned to Edwards.

Returning to combat in the Vietnam War, he flew 70 missions over North Vietnam and received the Air Force Cross, the service’s highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor, for leading an August 1967 attack on an important railway and highway bridge in the Hanoi area. He retired from military service in 1981 as a major general.

General White is survived by his sons Greg, of Orlando, and Dennis, of Sarasota, Fla.; his daughters Pamela White, of Pelham, Ala., and Maureen McFillin, of Hoover, Ala.; his brother, Albert, of Eastchester, N.Y.; and four grandchildren. His wife, Chris, died before him.

After his flight into outer space, the major was featured on the cover of Life magazine next to the quote, “Boy, That Was a Ride.”

His persona, however, was unchanged.

“White had not unbent as much as one inch for the occasion,” Mr. Wolfe wrote. “You could see them straining to manufacture one of those ‘personality profiles’ about White, and all he would give them was the Blue Suit and a straight arrow. That was Bob White.”

    Robert M. White, Who Broke Limits in Flight, Dies at 85,
    NYT, 22.3.2010,






The Cost of High Anxiety About Flying


January 1, 2010
The New York Times


Everyone knows that flying in a plane is potentially dangerous — just as everyone knows that climbing Mount Everest is dangerous. What goes up must come down; and if you put yourself at a great height, you put yourself at risk of falling, though the odds of perishing in a plane crash are one in ten million, whereas for every ten Everest climbers who reach the peak, one dies ... a far less comfortable margin.

One reason that airports have bars, and that flight attendants ply passengers with beer, wine and cocktails, is that flight industry higher-ups are well aware that a drink or two can calm the nerves of timorous fliers, and that indeed most of their customers fear air travel to some degree. If you doubt the truth of this, take a look at your seatmates the next time a plane you’re on hits an air pocket and drops before righting itself. You’ll see your fellow passengers (some of them, anyhow) praying — hoping divine intervention will keep the magical container aloft. Regina Spektor wove this thought into her album, “Far” last June, in the song “Laughing With,” which goes, “No one laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake.” It’s the 21st century, but that doesn’t keep flying from remaining, on one level, an act of faith.

Nearly all of the millions of flights that take off and land each year proceed safely, without incident. Any number of accidents can (but rarely do) put a flight in jeopardy: from engine failure, to the sudden apparition of a flock of geese, to electrical storms, to ice, to air pockets. But in the last decade, beginning with the 9/11 attacks, the greatest assault on faith in air travel has come not from accidents but from intentional acts of sabotage by a handful of homicidal malefactors. Statistically, their criminal actions barely register. But the ripple effect of public panic at the notion that any passenger on any plane could be a human time bomb has rattled the airline industry and compromised the freedom of travel that the world’s citizens previously enjoyed.

We understand other countries and other peoples best by seeing them; to see them, we must travel; to travel, in any concision of time, we must fly. Last week, one man with a grievance and exploding underpants boarded a plane for Detroit. This week, the nation’s attention and travel plans in the new year are held captive, as the battered American airline industry reels — this after a few months in which airline stocks had finally climbed out of a deep hole, anticipating the possibility of increased air travel in 2010.

The risk of a terrorist disruption of a flight is infinitesimal, but public perception of that risk can be outsize and emotional ... understandably so. Terrorists, like bogeymen, are frightening even when they don’t exist; and when they do appear in broad daylight, citizens who learn that the government failed to shield them from menace feel vulnerable and outraged.

In the wake of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempted sabotage, government and air travel officials are scrambling to reassure the citizenry — investigating information-sharing deficits, suggesting rapid deployment of full-body magnetic resonance scans (a controversial and expensive measure) and adding blankets and bathroom visits to the perks that air travelers may no longer expect in the age of high anxiety.

And yet, from the point of view of the individual traveler, a risk-free flight has never existed; nor has a risk-free car trip; nor a risk-free ocean liner voyage; nor a risk-free bike ride. To be alive is to face risks.

When I was a child in Indiana, about to head to France to live with a French family for a month — my first foreign trip — something happened that nearly kept that journey from taking place. On May 25, 1979, a few weeks before my plane was to leave Chicago for Paris, a DC-10 took off from O’Hare, then crashed and exploded, killing all 271 people on board and 2 more on the ground.

I didn’t know this at the time, but my grandmother was horrified that my parents went ahead with my trip after the accident. She told them they were sending a little girl to her death (I was just out of elementary school); and though my mother wept with guilt in secret, she protected me from their discord, determined that I have the experience I’d anticipated for two years, a reward for assiduous language study. That summer abroad was the single most formative experience of my young life. I can’t count the number of foreign and domestic flights I made in the ensuing two decades. Including, in 1995, a KLM flight from Africa to America via Amsterdam — Mr. Abdulmutallab’s itinerary, more or less.

Since 9/11/2001, or since 12/22/2001 (when Richard Reid attempted to blow up a Boeing 767 between Paris and Miami by detonating his sneakers), how many grandmothers, how many parents, how many people of whatever age, sex, or familial connection, have avoided air travel out of fear, or cautioned their friends and relatives against it? The risks of air travel continue to be minuscule, even during the War on Terror era, while the advantages of exploring other countries remain precious and inarguable.

Still, a fortress mentality settles in each time a new instance of attempted airborne thuggery hits the airwaves. In the wake of alarming headlines, an obstacle course of cumbersome but laudable security precautions unrolls at airports, leading many of the earth’s seven-billion-odd inhabitants to resolve to remain earthbound as much as possible. One goal of terrorists is to make ordinary people afraid to leave their homes and interact with the wider world. Attacks on individual courage may leave no scars, but that does not mean they do no damage.

In this last decade, nobody can tally the number of flights not taken, adventures not dared, countries not visited, because of the public’s anxieties about air travel. In 2005, rebelling against my own fears of traveling to sections of the globe that had come to seem perilous, I booked a flight to Syria and Lebanon to visit journalist friends who were living there. Days before my flight left Kennedy Airport, Syria revealed it had halted military and intelligence cooperation with the United States. My adrenalin racing, I packed, in anticipation mingled with dread. In the waiting room at the plane’s gate, as I sat amid women in hijab and children with stuffed animals and pink backpacks, I took half an Ambien to dim my worries. My companion, meanwhile, was watching “24” on a laptop; and as Kiefer Sutherland blew away one Arab “bad guy” after another, a family moved a few seats away from us, because we were so scary.

I’m grateful that I overcame my cowardice and traveled to Damascus — the most fascinating, culturally diverse city I’ve ever visited — and to Baalbek, in Lebanon, which Alexander the Great called Heliopolis and which is now home to the ruins of great temples the Romans erected beginning in the first century B.C.

Baalbek, also a stronghold for Hezbollah, is admittedly not the most welcoming destination. All the same, how can such a monument go unseen? It’s hard to assess the cost of the sacrifices an uneasy populace makes to the great idol Safety — sacrifices that have no sure reward.

Steps are already being taken to shore up air security in the aftermath of last week’s breach. But when will the skies again be truly friendly? When will Americans again be free to be curious, flight-miles-earning world citizens? Maybe we already are — as long as we’re willing to get to the airport a few hours early to run the ever-lengthening security gauntlet. In 2010, potential dangers will attach to every flight, just as they did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago and before. Does that mean everyone should just stay put? For more than three years, the Department of Homeland Security has ranked the threat risk of domestic and international flights at “Code Orange”— high. But staying in your own house still puts you at “Code Yellow” — elevated risk.

How, then, to proceed? Perhaps there’s only ever been one trick to keeping one’s cool in challenging circumstances, the same one the British adventurer T. E. Lawrence offers for dealing with pain in David Lean’s film “Lawrence of Arabia,” set a century ago, in another war. The trick, he says, “is not minding.”

    The Cost of High Anxiety About Flying, NYT, 3.1.2010,






In the Temple of the Wild Blue Yonder


October 31, 2008
The New York Times


THE first thing visitors encounter in the main display area of the Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles airport in the Virginia countryside, is a huge black spy plane.

It’s an SR-71A Blackbird, the ultimate hot-rod aircraft, one of about 30 built at the Lockheed Skunk Works in California in the 1960s. This one last flew in 1990, traveling the 2,300 miles between Los Angeles and Washington in 1 hour 4 minutes 20 seconds — a transcontinental blur.

But now it’s at a standstill, giving visitors the chance to appreciate its outrageousness. There are the two massive engines on short, stubby wings; the tiny cockpit where the two-man crew was shoehorned in wearing bulky pressure suits; and the sweeping titanium fuselage that was built so loosely, to allow for expansion in the heat of supersonic flight, that the fuel tanks that made up the bulk of the plane routinely leaked, losing as much as 600 pounds of fuel taxiing to the runway.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., is about air and space, yes, but as the Blackbird shows, it’s also about frozen time. More than 150 aircraft and spacecraft that in their day were among the swiftest or slowest, most graceful or ungainly, most useful or useless, sit on the floor and hang among the catwalks of this giant hangar of a museum as if plucked from the sky.

For Washington visitors whose encounters with the Air and Space Museum have been limited to the original 1976 building some 30 miles away on the National Mall, the Udvar-Hazy Center, which opened in 2003 and is named for a major donor, an aviation industry executive, can be quite a different experience. There are fewer “name” aircraft like the Spirit of St. Louis to gawk at, no moon rocks to touch, and while as in the Mall building there can be hordes of schoolchildren, their noise tends to dissipate in the cavernous arched structure. Over all, with more than twice the exhibition space and about one-fifth the visitors, the Virginia museum has a quieter, more worshipful feel.

“There’s no frou-frou here,” said Janet Baltas, one of the museum’s nearly 200 volunteer docents, who can become so absorbed in describing the planes that their free tours often continue beyond the scheduled two hours.

IN truth, there is a little frou-frou — an Imax movie theater, a few simulator rides and a tower that, while it offers the chance to observe what passes for aviation today in the comings and goings at Dulles, has an exhibition about air-traffic control that seems like a promotion for the Federal Aviation Administration.

But the Udvar-Hazy Center is really about aircraft — and more aircraft. There are some of the earliest, including a replica of a Wright Flyer (the only nonoriginal plane in the place) and some of the latest, including the military’s Joint Strike Fighter. There are small propeller-driven acrobats, commercial behemoths, carrier jets, pontoon planes, flying wings, helicopters and gliders. All the major World War II fighters are here, as are several German and Japanese warplanes of the same era, including the Aichi M6AI Seiran, which was intended to be carried inside a huge Japanese submarine but was never used in that way.

Visitors can gaze down into the glass-enclosed cockpit of one of the center’s few celebrity aircraft, the Enola Gay, the mammoth B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima; study a landing gear of an Airbus 330 that sits like a giant turkey leg on the exhibition floor; or examine the patched exterior of a Huey helicopter, testament to its service with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion in Vietnam. There’s a Bellanca CF, a prototype of the earliest passenger planes, with mahogany plywood panels and bench seating, a Grumman Goose “air yacht” and a Boeing 307 Clipper, the first pressurized passenger liner, its gleaming aluminum fuselage attached to wings and a tail section adapted from the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Over in the space gallery, the main attraction is the shuttle Enterprise, which was designed solely for flight testing in the atmosphere and will eventually be replaced by one of the spaceworthy shuttles when they are retired. The Enterprise proved its value many times over, most recently after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry in 2003. Investigators used wing panels from the Enterprise in tests that helped prove that the impact of pieces of insulating foam during launching doomed the Columbia. The testing scars are visible on the Enterprise’s left wing.

The space gallery holds some of the more unusual items. There are rocket engines with exquisitely tooled ductwork and bell-shaped nozzles and an old Univac 1232 computer, used by the Air Force to control satellites for more than two decades (and originally equipped with a paltry 120 kilobytes of memory). Hanging from the ceiling is a replica of a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, a sprawling piece of hardware with solar panels and a couple of what appear to be giant mesh umbrellas. Odder still is the wheel-less Airstream trailer with the olive-drab interior, which the Apollo 11 astronauts stayed in for three days after their return from the moon out of concern they might have picked up an alien bug. NASA called this trailer, one of four, a “Mobile Quarantine Facility.”

That bureaucratic love of euphemism is also on display in a nearby glass case, where an astronaut diaper is described as a “Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk.” There’s space food as well, including borscht and cottage cheese for Russian cosmonauts that look like old tubes of Brylcreem, and probably didn’t taste much better.

The enormity of the collection can prove overwhelming, docents say, as can the vastness of the building (which has huge sliding doors to allow new additions in, towed or taxied up from the runways at Dulles).

Rodney L. Wright, a docent who is helping build a database of information about the museum, said that many visitors, most often men, spend hours wandering from airplane to airplane, like kids in a candy store. Family members who lack the patience or interest to keep up have been known to retreat to the museum’s restaurant or gift shop, or down the road a couple of miles to the Sully Plantation, an antebellum historic site that makes a good change of pace.

Gary Dietz, from upstate New York, was one visitor who had been wandering from plane to plane — accompanied by his wife, Connie, who showed no signs of wanting to bail out.

“You really learn a lot by coming here and seeing things,” said Mr. Dietz, who had been looking at what docents call the “wind chime,” a collection of early satellites suspended from the ceiling. “You’ve really got to admire what we were able to accomplish.”

Like the other docents, Mr. Wright has long had an interest in aviation, though his career was elsewhere — he’s a retired Army officer. Some of the other docents have pilot experience, and a few even flew some of the models on display, like the B-29 and F-4. All the docents go through training before they can give talks, and they know a lot about the planes — including what the insides look like, which is helpful as none of the aircraft are open for viewing the interiors. (At the Mall building, visitors can walk through several of the planes, including the nose of a 747.) The center does have computer kiosks that display the cockpits of all the planes.

For the more mechanically inclined there is a collection of aircraft engines tucked away in a corner of the main exhibition hall. Among these are the tiny Heath-Henderson B-4, a 30-horsepower motorcycle engine that was converted for use in a small plane, the Parasol, which was sold in the 1920s and 30s.

At the other end of the scale is the Lycoming XR-7755, a 36-cylinder, 5,000-horsepower, 6,000-pound monster designed in 1944 for use in a heavy bomber that was never built. Unlike almost everything else at the Udvar-Hazy Center, that engine never reached the sky.

Where the Grumman Goose Roosts

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, a part of the Smithsonian Institution, is near Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Va., about 30 miles from central Washington. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Dec. 25. Admission is free, but there is a $12 charge for parking. More information is at www.nasm.si.edu/museum/udvarhazy.

The best way to travel to the museum is by car, though the trip can be made by public transportation with this route: From the West Falls Church Station on the Washington Metro’s orange line, Washington Flyer buses travel to Dulles for $18 round trip; travel time is 15 to 20 minutes. From there, the Virginia Regional Transportation Association has regular service to the museum for a 50-cent fare on the Dulles to Dulles bus. The trip takes about 5 minutes.

Another option is to take a taxi from Dulles; cab fare to the museum is $8 to $12.

The museum’s only restaurant is a McDonald’s that includes a cafe section offering wraps, salads, pastries and espresso drinks.

Sully Plantation, a few miles from the museum just across Route 28, is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Tuesdays and some holidays. The plantation’s main house was built in 1799 by Richard Bland Lee, Robert E. Lee’s uncle; guided tours are offered. The surrounding park includes original outbuildings and a modern reproduction of a slave quarters. There’s a film and other information about colonial and slave life. More information is at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/Sully .

    In the Temple of the Wild Blue Yonder, NYT, 31.10.2008,






British transport system

unable to cope with Christmas getaway


Published: 21 December 2007
The Independent
By Cahal Milmo and Mark Hughes


Millions of Britons taking to the air, railways and roads over the festive period face an unprecedented level of delays, cancellations and disruption – including the threatened closure of all major airports – as the nation's creaking transport infrastructure suffers the effects of a seasonal flurry of engineering works and industrial action.

Union leaders last night raised the prospect of bringing Heathrow, the world's busiest airport, and six other key airports including Gatwick and Stansted to a grinding halt over the new year with a strike over a move by the Spanish-owned British Airports Authority (BAA) to close its final salary pension fund to new employees.

Unite, the recently-merged super union, and two other unions are expected to announce today that 5,000 members employed by BAA, including large numbers of vital security and maintenance staff, have voted to go on strike. The unions claimed that the loss of so many security screening staff as well as key personnel including firefighters and administrative staff would force the closure of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in London as well as the airports at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Southampton and Aberdeen.

Up to three million Britons are due to fly abroad for the festive season and the first stoppage could come as soon as 29 or 30 December. A spokeswoman for the Transport and General Workers Union section of Unite said: "You simply cannot run an airport without, for example, security staff."

The threat of major disruption at airports is just one element of a potentially chaotic Christmas and new year across the transport network, with two major rail arteries closed for at least part of the next 10 days, creating misery for passengers and also for 18 million motorists.

A strike at Heathrow and the other London airports would lead to the cancellation of hundreds of flights and spell financial disaster for BAA, which last year made a £607m profit but is saddled with debt following its £10bn takeover by Grupo Ferrovial. BAA declined to comment, saying only that it considered the actions "unnecessary".

In a separate dispute, 3,000 cabin crew with Virgin announced two 48-hour stoppages on 9 and 16 January after voting to strike over a rejected pay deal. The action will almost certainly result in cancellations of flights.

The turmoil in the aviation industry will offer little solace to rail passengers seeking alternative means of travel due to heavy delays and disruption caused by a programme of engineering works which will see the partial closure of both the west coast and east coast main lines, as well as the 10-day closure of Liverpool Street station in London.

Passenger watchdogs expressed their dismay after Network Rail, the company in charge of rail infrastructure, announced that its works from 27 to 30 December on the west coast main line will overrun by a day.

Virgin, the rail company, said the extension to New Year's Eve of the closure at Rugby, which will add an hour to passengers' journeys by requiring them to take a bus between Birmingham International and Northampton, would affect at least 50,000 people. Under the terms of its contract, Network Rail is obliged to give at least 12 weeks' notice of line closures but it only revealed the 24-hour extension on Wednesday. Anthony Smith, chief executive of the rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said: "This is unbelievable. Thousands of people have booked or planned new year travel in good faith."

Rail industry sources confirmed that the quantity of engineering work was "substantially above" what is normal. Up to four million people are expected to use trains today and Saturday as the festive getaway begins, with a further 18 million taking to the roads. Most of the railway closures begin on Sunday, thus causing massive disruption to passengers trying to travel on Christmas Eve.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) described as "completely baseless" claims that its members were restricting the number of discounted tickets to maximise their profits. The TSSA rail union claimed cheaper deals make up only 10 per cent of sales on busy routes and were often snapped up weeks in advance of travel during peak periods.

Network Rail defended its decision to close large sections of the railway by saying it expected most people to travel before Sunday and had deliberately chosen the festive season because – beyond pressure points this weekend and around the new year – it was one of the quietest periods of the year.

Despite a move by the Highways Agency to alleviate traffic jams by completing or suspending two-thirds of its road works on motorways and A roads in England by today, motoring organisations warned of congestion throughout the weekend at hot spots including the M25 and parts of the M1, M6 and M62.

Transport campaigners said the seasonal travel misery was a symptom of the pressure being put on Britain's stretched infrastructure by chronic under-investment. Jason Torrance, of the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "We are seeing our infrastructure going in the wrong direction from what is necessary. Over the last decade we have seen road traffic increase and a diminishment of government funding going into our rail infrastructure which will result in people paying more for their rail fares."




They do things differently on the Continent



More than 1.5 million people will leave Paris railway stations over the next three days but scores of extra trains have been scheduled and no delays are expected.

The threat of a renewed French railway strike has been averted. The state-owned railway company, the SNCF, will run 1,787 trains from Paris stations before Monday evening. The most popular Christmas destinations are the Alps, for the start of the ski season, and the Mediterranean coast.

A strike by ground staff forced the cancellation of 40 Air France domestic flights at Orly airport south of Paris yesterday. But it is notexpected to disrupt flights over the Christmas weekend.

John Lichfield



Italy is bracing for the mother of all holiday jams as the motoring organisations predict that 15 million cars will be piling on to the motorways between today and Boxing Day. The most critical days are predicted to be today and tomorrow, with Sunday not far behind.

Recent strikes involving every form of transport from Airbuses to articulated lorries and hearses have acclimatised Italians to travelling misery, but with the highest per capita car ownership in the world behind the US, vast holiday jams are as traditional at Christmas as panettone and ravioli. Nor do train travellers escape: the high-speed network will soon span the whole country, but in the meantime poor maintenance and other problems routinely cause massive delays to supposedly high-speed journeys.

Peter Popham



Spaniards were expected to make up to 18 million journeys during the Christmas holidays from today to 7 January. With heavy rains expected to lash parts of the country and many people attending parties or returning to see relatives, drivers were warned to take extra care. More than 8,000 extra police will be deployed, some working in helicopters, and 990 speed cameras will keep an eye on anyone putting their foot down. Last year, 114 people were killed on the roads. In an effort to cut this year's death toll, a television advertising campaign warned drivers: "In your car you can live it all or lose it all. You decide." Major airports including Madrid Barajas, Barcelona, Malaga and Tenerife were expected to be very busy with travellers asked to turn up in plenty of time.

Graham Keeley



Christmas and New Year travel in Germany is likely to be chaotic on the roads as schools in nearly all 16 federal states break up today. There will be more traffic jams on autobahns on the weekend of 5-6 January with school starting again on Monday 7 January.

Extra trains and buses run on New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day, but commuters face no services after 7 January if Germany's train drivers go ahead with their threatened pay strike . Several airlines, including British Airways and easyJet, are offering no services to Germany on Christmas Day.

Tony Paterson

    British transport system unable to cope with Christmas getaway,
    I, 21.12.2007,






Solar Plane

Flies Longer Than Any Other


September 10, 2007
Filed at 10:47 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LONDON (AP) -- An unmanned solar-powered aircraft that soared for 54 hours more than 50,000 feet above New Mexico may hold the record for unmanned flight, defense research company QinetiQ announced Monday.

The record is currently 30 hours, 24 minutes in a flight on July 23, the company said.

QinetiQ's trapezoid-shaped, ultra-thin ''Zephyr'' plane may not hold onto the record because the flight at the White Sands Missile Range in the New Mexico desert was not witnessed by officials from the World Air Sports Federation, which keeps and certifies records, the company said.

Built from carbon fibers, the aircraft has a 59-foot wingspan and weighs about 66 pounds -- light enough to be launched, by hand, by a team of three. It uses paper-thin silicon panels to draw on the sun's power and stores the surplus in lithium-sulphur batteries, which power it through the night.

QinetiQ said Britain's Ministry of Defense had contributed several million pounds to the project, but the company declined to say how much it cost.

Zephyr could be used for surveillance and communications, the company said.


On the Net: http://www.qinetiq.com

(This version CORRECTS that plane has 59-foot wingspan, is not 59 feet long.)

    Solar Plane Flies Longer Than Any Other, NYT, 10.9.2007,






New X - Plane Flies at Calif. Air Base


July 27, 2007
Filed at 12:34 a.m. ET
The New York Times


EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AP) -- An experimental jet that resembles a flying wing successfully flew for the first time in a program that could lead to more fuel-efficient, quieter and higher-capacity aircraft, NASA said Thursday.

The remotely controlled, 500-pound, three-engine jet with a 21-foot wingspan took off July 20, climbed to an altitude of 7,500 feet and landed about a half-hour later, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center said.

The X-48B Blended Wing Body aircraft was controlled by a pilot at a ground station. NASA and Boeing said data from the flight are already being compared with data from wind tunnel tests.

The aircraft and a duplicate were designed by Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works in cooperation with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Built by Cranfield Aerospace Ltd. in Bedford, England, they are 8.5 percent-scale versions of a future full-size design.

The X-48B resembles a flying wing, but the wing blends into a wide, flat and tailless fuselage, NASA and Boeing said.

The design is intended to provide more lift with less drag compared with the cylindrical fuselage of a traditional aircraft, reducing fuel consumption while cruising.

The engines are located high on the back of the aircraft, which should mean it is quieter inside and less noise reaches the ground during flights.

The planes are initially flying at low speeds to gather information about the stability and flight-control characteristics of the design, particularly during takeoff and landing.

Another X-48B used for wind tunnel testing is available as a backup for flight tests.


On the Net:


    New X - Plane Flies at Calif. Air Base, NYT, 27.7.2007,






Body Found in Jetliner's Wheel Well


July 20, 2007
Filed at 5:26 a.m. ET
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A man who died while traveling from China in the wheel well of a jetliner likely fell victim to asphyxiation or hypothermia during the 11-hour flight, officials said.

The body of the apparent stowaway on a United Airlines Boeing 747 that arrived at San Francisco International Airport from Shanghai on Thursday was found in the nose gear wheel well during a routine post-flight inspection, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.

The man, who appeared to be Asian and in his 50s, had few obvious injuries, said San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault, who planned an autopsy for Friday.

But officials said the man -- like many others who try to hitch rides in a plane's underbelly -- probably died from a lack of oxygen or hypothermia in minus-40 degree temperatures for most of the flight. He was wearing several layers of clothing, including two jackets, Foucrault said.

Most stowaway attempts end unsuccessfully. Counting the most recent victim, the Federal Aviation Administration has tallied 75 similar stowaway attempts on 65 flights worldwide since 1947, and 59 of them ended in death, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

''People think they can make it into a country by hiding in a wheel well,'' he said. ''Almost invariably they get crushed to death, freeze to death or fall to death.''

There is little U.S. regulators can do to prevent the practice on international flights, Gregor said. ''The security issue is with the origin airport,'' he said.

The last time someone was found alive after a stowaway flight to the United States was in 2004, when a survivor made it to Miami on a plane from the Dominican Republic, Gregor said.

Stowaways who survive are usually sent back to their country of origin. That was the case with Fidel Maruhi, who survived an ascent of 38,000 feet inside the wheel well of a Los Angeles-bound Air France flight originating in Tahiti in 2000.

Sometimes stowaways are allowed to stay after flying illegally into a country.

Victor Alvarez Molina got refugee status in Canada after enduring a four-hour flight from Cuba. He told reporters he clung to a picture of his daughter and hot air pipes in the wheel well to survive a temperature that aviation experts calculated would have been minus 40 Fahrenheit or colder.


Associated Press writer Scott Lindlaw

contributed to this report.

    Body Found in Jetliner's Wheel Well, NYT, 20.7.2007,






TB on a Plane? Sign of the Times


May 31, 2007
Filed at 3:34 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ATLANTA (AP) -- SARS on a plane. Mumps on a plane. And now a rare and deadly form of tuberculosis, on at least two planes.

Commercial air travel's potential for spreading infection continues to cause handwringing among public health officials, as Tuesday's news of a jet-setting man with a rare and deadly form of TB demonstrates.

''We always think of planes as a vehicle for spreading disease,'' said Dr. Doug Hardy, an infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

In the latest incident, reported by health officials on Tuesday, a Georgia man with extensively drug-resistant TB ignored doctors' advice and took two trans-Atlantic flights, leading to the first U.S. government-ordered quarantine since 1963.

The man, who officials did not identify, is at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital in respiratory isolation. He was not considered highly contagious, and there are no confirmed reports that the illness spread to other passengers.

But his case illustrates ongoing concerns about the public health perils of plane travel, as well as the continuing problem of Typhoid Mary-like individuals who can almost be counted on to do the wrong thing.

The man decided to proceed with a long-planned wedding trip despite being advised not to fly.

''There's always going to be situations where there is a lack of understanding and appreciation of responsibility to the community in a situation like this,'' said Dr. John Ho, an infectious diseases specialist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The incident also points out weaknesses in the system: The man was able to re-enter the United States, even though he said he had been warned by federal officials that his passport was being flagged and he was being placed on a no-fly list.

CDC officials said they contacted the Department of Homeland Security to put the man on a no-fly list, but it doesn't appear he was added by the time he flew from Prague to Montreal and drove across the border from Canada.

A Transportation Security Administration spokesman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Challenges in coordinating with airlines and in communicating with the media also have emerged, said Glen Nowak, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

''This clearly is going to have some relevance to our pandemic influenza preparedness,'' Nowak said.

There have been several prominent disease-on-a-plane incidents in recent years.

Perhaps best known is severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, which erupted in Asia in 2003. Over three months, CDC workers delayed on the tarmac 12,000 airplanes carrying 3 million passengers arriving from SARS-affected countries, isolating people with SARS symptoms.

Last year, CDC officials worked with airlines and state health departments to track two infected airline passengers who may have helped spread a mumps epidemic throughout the Midwest.

And in March, a flight from Hong Kong was held at Newark International Airport for two hours because some on board reported feeling ill from a flu-like illness. They were released when it became clear they had seasonal flu, and not an avian variety.

Medical experts say TB is significantly less contagious than flu, SARS and other maladies that have led to airport alerts.

''This is not as easily transmissible as what we're concerned about with a flu pandemic,'' said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

A more contagious bug, carried by a stubborn or evasive passenger, could be much more problematic, experts said.

It's remarkable how rarely serious contagions are on planes, Ho noted.

''If you count the number of international flights there are on a daily basis, this is really a minuscule event'' in terms of rate of occurrence, he said.

''However, this underscores the interrelatedness of the global community. We can no longer escape things considered foreign'' in this age of jet-travel, Ho said.


Associated Press writer Malcolm Ritter

in New York contributed to this report.

    TB on a Plane? Sign of the Times, NYT, 31.5.2007,






Frustration Grows at Carousel

as More Baggage Goes Astray


November 12, 2006
The New York Times


ATLANTA, Nov. 6 — Since Aug. 10, when a ban on most carry-on liquids sent the amount of checked luggage soaring, airlines have been misplacing many more bags, and the fumbling could well escalate during the busy holiday travel season.

The Transportation Department reported that 107,731 more fliers had their bags go missing in August than they did a year earlier, a 33 percent increase. It got worse in September, with 183,234 more passengers suffering mishandled bags than a year earlier, up 92 percent.

Globally, about 30 million bags are mishandled each year, according to SITA, a company that sells software to airlines and airports for baggage and other systems. Airlines spend about $2.5 billion to find those bags and deliver them to waiting, often angry, passengers.

All but about 200,000 bags are eventually reunited with their owners each year — a number that sounds pretty high on its own, but that represents less than 1 percent of the billions of bags that are checked annually.

Efforts are under way to fix two of the worst baggage operations in the United States — at US Airways in Philadelphia and at Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which operates as Delta Connection here. Both airlines had scrimped on workers and equipment at these airports. But it is far from certain whether these hubs will be running smoothly by Thanksgiving.

Because of the relatively primitive technology used by airlines to track baggage, passengers typically only learn that their luggage missed their flight after a futile wait at the carousel. Then, travelers must hunt down baggage agents, fill out forms, and wait for hours or even days for someone, often unannounced, to deliver their bags.

Rhoda Frank of Chicago took her 12-year-old granddaughter, Bronwyn, to Manitoba last month for a vacation in which they hoped to see polar bears. Bronwyn flew on United Airlines from Raleigh, N.C., to meet her grandmother in Chicago, but her bag stayed behind.

The flight to Manitoba was not until the next morning, and United told Mrs. Frank the bag would be delivered by midnight. “It didn’t come,” she said. They flew north anyway, without Bronwyn’s long underwear or down jacket. The bag finally arrived, just before it was time to come home. In the meantime, “I scrounged for clothing,” Mrs. Frank said.

Airlines were generally misplacing slightly fewer bags this year until Aug. 10, when authorities in London foiled a plot to blow up airliners using liquid explosives mixed onboard. The liquids ban led to a roughly 25 percent increase in checked bags, which stressed some baggage operations.

Many of the bag-handling problems are because of the industry’s cost-cutting.

US Airways, twice in bankruptcy since Sept. 11, 2001, and then merged a year ago with America West Airlines, had a baggage meltdown at its Philadelphia hub around Christmas of 2004. Executives said they had known they needed to add people and equipment there. Some of that occurred. And through July of this year, fewer bags were going missing.

But with the surge of checked bags in August, the hub’s bag-handling performance began “backsliding,” said J. Scott Kirby, president of the airline. “A lot of balls in the air with the merger,” he said. “This one didn’t get done as well as it should have.”

Crews at Philadelphia, for instance, were short of equipment and fighting over the tractors — known as tugs — that they use to pull baggage carts.

“There’s a real lack of organization on the ramp in Philadelphia,” he added, where three-to-four times as many bags are misplaced as at other US Airways hubs.

US Airways is hiring 190 additional workers and 60 managers to fix the bag mess. The company is also buying more tractors, but is still about 40 short of its needs.

“We’re not going to fix the thing overnight,” Mr. Kirby said.

Regional carriers have been the fastest-growing part of the airline business in recent years, as they started flying some of the short routes abandoned by big carriers like Delta Air Lines. For example, Atlantic Southeast — which Delta sold last year to SkyWest, but which still operates as Delta Connection — carried twice as many passengers in 2005, 12 million, as in 2000.

When it was owned by Delta, which is operating under bankruptcy court protection, Southeast was denied the tractors, carts, computers and people it needed to keep up with its baggage — in Atlanta 30,000 pieces a day now. “When Delta sold us Atlantic Southeast, part of the reason was for us to fix some things,” said Jerry C. Atkin, SkyWest’s chief executive.

But over the last year, Atlantic Southeast has showed only modest improvement, remaining the worst bag handler in the Transportation Department’s rankings. And then in August its performance deteriorated again. Delta began complaining directly to Mr. Atkin, who installed new managers and agreed to hire 300 more ground workers and double Atlantic Southeast’s fleet of carts to carry baggage, among other equipment purchases.

“I got tired of being embarrassed by the numbers,” Mr. Atkin said. Now, he added, “there are some good people who have put their jobs on the line to fix things.”

One of them is Walt Kaurin, the new baggage performance manager, whose leathery skin shows his 24 years working outside on the ramp for Atlantic Southeast. Told of Mr. Atkin’s remark, Mr. Kaurin grimaced, explained his initial reluctance to become a manager, then, adopting a smile, said, “I was pretty confident we could fix it.”

It will take time. October mishandled bag numbers, not yet released by the Transportation Department, will again be poor for Atlantic Southeast, said Joe Kolshak, an executive vice president at Delta, whose own bag performance is highly dependent on the regional carrier.

Getting those 300 new hires up to speed will not be easy. “They’re minimum wage in many cases,” Mr. Kolshak said. “And there’s high turnover.”

Financial problems have slowed industry investment in technology that could improve bag handling. Radio frequency identification tags, in wide use among retailers to track inventory, would allow airlines to easily know if a bag did not make a flight. Then, the passenger could be warned via text messaging not to waste time at the carousel, and to call to arrange a delivery.

Not waiting for airlines, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is installing radio frequency readers and tagging all outgoing luggage. The tags cost about 20 cents each, but are worth it to a city that relies so heavily on tourists.

“If they have a bad travel experience, they’ll look at each other and say, ‘Wow, we don’t want to do that again,’ ” said Samuel Ingalls, assistant director of aviation.

Meanwhile, airlines can hope more travelers adopt the Zen thinking of Pamela Ingram, a Binghamton, N.Y., consultant who travels five days a week. She checks her bags, fearlessly. In the rare instances — once this year — of a tardy bag, she happily makes do.

“I got to go to my meeting in jeans,” Ms. Ingram said. “You can’t travel this much and expect everything to go right.”

    Frustration Grows at Carousel as More Baggage Goes Astray,
    NYT, 12.11.2006,













The U.S.S. Macon,

a dirigible longer than three 747’s,

crashed off Big Sur, Calif., in February 1935.

Wiley Collection, Monterey Maritime and History Museum


Studying a Navy Relic, Undisturbed for Nearly 60 Years

NYT        3.10.2006










Studying a Navy Relic,

Undisturbed for Nearly 60 Years


October 3, 2006
The New York Times


MOSS LANDING, Calif. — It was the largest aircraft ever built in the United States when it was launched by the Navy in 1933.

Larger than three 747’s parked nose to tail, almost four times as long as than Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose and just a few feet short of the Titanic, the U.S.S. Macon was the high-tech wonder of its day.

A rigid, lighter-than-air dirigible used by the Navy to extend the scouting range of its fleet, the Macon weighed over 200 tons and had an aluminum alloy skeleton underneath its canvas skin. It was kept aloft by 12 helium-filled gas cells, which, though not flammable and therefore safer than hydrogen, were also more costly and less efficient.

The Macon was also the last of its kind when it crashed off California’s Big Sur coast in February 1935. Severe weather caused a massive structural failure in the Macon’s tail section, shearing off its dorsal fin and puncturing two of its helium gas cells. Two members of its crew of 83 died in the crash.

The Macon struggled for almost an hour before it hit the ocean and sank in approximately 1,500 feet of water. It lay on the bottom undisturbed and undiscovered for nearly 60 years.

Several high-tech searches were launched during the 1980’s to find the Macon, but it wasn’t until June 1990 that it was located, by Chris Grech, deputy director of marine operations for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, working with the Navy.

Earlier this month, Mr. Grech, co-principal investigator for the expedition, and a group of scientists including two biologists, a maritime historian, a marine archaeologist and the director of the Aerospace Robotics Lab at Stanford University, returned to the Macon’s wreck site as part of a five-day research expedition.

The aquarium institute, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Stanford were among the institutions working together on the project. One goal was to survey the Macon’s debris fields using new, high-definition cameras and to assemble a photo mosaic of the site. Another was to inventory and categorize the wreck’s deterioration and to gather the documentation necessary to have the Macon entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

Finally, many expedition members were quietly hoping to discover the Macon’s missing tail section, to better understand the factors behind the crash.

The expedition spent five days off the coast of Big Sur using a remotely operated, deep-sea rover to accumulate 44 hours of surveillance of the wreck site.

The Macon broke up on the surface as it sank. As a result, the ocean bottom looks like a giant erector set after a child’s tantrum. Perhaps the best preserved artifacts are the Macon’s four Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk aircraft that were housed in its belly. All four planes sit upright looking undisturbed on the ocean floor, and two are almost nose to nose.

“The planes don’t look damaged,” said Mr. Grech, in large part because each biplane’s wings are intact and their bright yellow color and blue and white Navy star are visible.

In addition to the planes, five of the Macon’s giant Maybach engines can be clearly seen, as can part of its galley and stove, its officer quarters and an aluminum chair. A metal cabinet, a table, and a set of drawers are also clearly visible, as well as numerous fuel tanks, which were thrown overboard to lighten the ship and imploded as they sank.

Nevertheless, Mr. Grech has noticed differences in the site since his last visit.

“A lot of the wreck is covered up,” Mr. Grech said. “It’s easy for sediment to build up over time, and some large objects have moved.”

Records show that the Macon crashed three miles from the Point Sur lighthouse, but the exact location has been kept secret to protect the site, which lies within a marine sanctuary, from relic collectors.

It is too deep for scuba diving, but the site can be easily reached by a submersible or drag nets.

The Macon is also a Navy gravesite, so the expedition was careful not to disturb any artifacts.

Though the bodies of the two crewmen were never recovered, Bruce Terrell, a marine historian at the oceanic agency and a co-principal investigator on the expedition, was careful to note that the researchers “had not seen any indication of human remains.”

The Macon crash was later determined by a Naval Court of Inquiry to be the result of inadequate repairs to its air frame after a previous structural failure over Texas. The total loss of the ship, combined with the high cost of the program (the Macon was also the most expensive aircraft ever built at the time), put an end to the Navy’s 20-year lighter-than-air program.

Mr. Grech estimates that only two-thirds of the wreck has been found. The Macon’s tail section, which was the first section of the great ship to sink, is still missing.

“It’s either buried under sediment or in one of the canyons,” Mr. Grech speculated. And it’s likely he will be back to search for it.

    Studying a Navy Relic, Undisturbed for Nearly 60 Years, NYT, 3.10.2006,


















Rough Summer Is on the Way for Air Travel        NYT        21 May 2006
















Rough Summer

Is on the Way for Air Travel


May 21, 2006

The New York Times



CHICAGO, May 20 — Brace yourself for a summer of miserable air travel.

Planes are expected to be packed fuller than at anytime since World War II, when the airlines helped transport troops. Fares are rising. Service frills are disappearing.

Logjams at airport security checkpoints loom as the federal government strains to keep screener jobs filled. The usual violent summer storms are expected to send the air traffic control system into chaos at times, with flight delays and cancellations cascading across the country.

And many airline employees, after years of pay cuts and added work, say they are dreading the season ahead. Those workers — and there are about 70,000 fewer of them than in 2002 — will be handling more than 100 million more passengers this year than they did four years ago.

The friendly skies, indeed.

"Everybody's stressed. Everybody's feeling it," said Bryan Hutchinson, a former baggage handler at United Airlines who now works in a joint airline-union program to counsel workers suffering from stress or other emotional problems.

Above gate B-22 at Denver International Airport, with smells from the Quiznos sandwich stand below filling his office, Mr. Hutchinson receives a steady stream of burned-out looking United employees.

Easy days are rare. An arriving plane is delayed. United shifts an outbound flight to a smaller plane. Thirty passengers are bumped. Some become irate.

And at the end of the shift, a gate agent "shows up in my office and says, 'I'm whacked out,' " Mr. Hutchinson said. He refers some workers to mental health professionals, and offers others strategies for coping: Take a couple of deep breaths; go vent to a co-worker.

Passengers feel the stress, too. For some, the best coping strategy is to avoid flying. Randy McCroskey, a consultant who lives in Maryville, Tenn., grew weary of sliding his 6-foot-4, 300-pound body into the seats of the smaller regional jets that increasingly serve Knoxville's airport.

He says that he now drives to see clients as far away as 500 miles. His former limit was 100 miles. That cuts his air travel by more than half.

"Rather than fight through security, not know if I'll get a seat on a flight, get bumped, it's easier to just get in my car," Mr. McCroskey said. "When I pull into rest stops, I see the same guys in the bathroom I'd see at hub airports."

But the airports are still busier, as traffic has risen along with the stronger economy and the recovery from the sharp downturn that followed the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. About 207 million passengers are expected this summer, the Air Transport Association said, roughly 2 million more than a year ago.

And the effects of that seemingly modest 1 percent jump are magnified by the fact that there will be 4 percent fewer flights this summer, according to American Express.

Domestic flights are running at about 80 percent full, and that means that flights on popular routes are often fully booked. Tim Winship, publisher of FrequentFlier.com, said that advanced bookings suggest that planes, on average, should be close to 90 percent full this summer.

"It means flights will be sold out," he said. "They're downgrading aircraft types, from wide to narrow bodies, narrow bodies to regional jets."

Airline executives say they try to prepare for the always-busy summer season. "Look, load factors are higher than they've ever been, and thunderstorms occur," said Peter D. McDonald, executive vice president and chief operating officer at United. But United has spread out arrivals more evenly to avoid logjams, he said, and more flight crews will be standing by on reserve in the summer to handle scheduling mishaps.

Mr. McDonald said that despite the many sacrifices employees at United have made to keep the airline in business, including steep pay cuts, "there's no reason to believe they've lost focus here."

After 9/11, airlines parked hundreds of planes to cut costs. Financial problems mounted, leading several major airlines to file for bankruptcy-court protection. They laid off workers, cut frills and switched to smaller planes on many routes.

Six big airlines cut their fleets by about 700 planes, or close to 20 percent, since the peak in June 2001, the Air Transport Association said.

Airlines also shifted larger planes from domestic to international routes. With scant competition from low-cost competitors internationally, airlines can charge higher fares on such routes.

Last summer, for instance, Delta Air Lines operated four big Boeing 767 jets, with 252 seats each, on routes across the country.

This July, those four 767's, reconfigured with 204 seats — including business class seats with elaborate entertainment systems — are flying to Edinburgh; Düsseldorf, Germany; Kiev, Ukraine; and Budapest.

Replacing the 767's on domestic routes are smaller 757's, seating 183 each. And that draws still smaller planes onto routes once flown by the 757's.

Over all, Delta will have 81,692 fewer domestic seats to sell each day this July compared to the same month in 2005. That represents a drop of about 18 percent. But while the airlines were shrinking their fleets, business came roaring back, resulting in packed planes. "Travelers longing for an empty middle seat are recommended to buy one," said Jamie Baker, an analyst at J.P. Morgan Securities.

Airlines, still struggling because of high fuel prices, have been able to raise fares because of the tight capacity. David Strine, an analyst at Bear Stearns, said that he expected fares to rise about 8 percent this year. Fares are still not as high as they were in the late-1990's, though.

Free rides are increasingly hard to come by. "Using frequent-flier mileage is virtually impossible today," said Julius Maldutis, an industry consultant.

Indeed, Mr. McCroskey, the Tennessee consultant, recently gave in and bought two $600 tickets for a Las Vegas vacation with his wife, leaving his pile of Delta frequent-flier miles untouched. "You can't use them," he said. "August was the first thing they were showing."

As air traffic increases, the security screening system becomes taxed, too, and those jobs become more stressful. The Transportation Security Administration is hustling to fill screener jobs for the summer crunch. Turnover runs about 20 percent a year.

Los Angeles International Airport's screening staff is about 10 percent below a target of roughly 2,000 screeners. The New York area's three big airports have an aggregate screener crew of about 3,800, but even fully staffed that is "inadequate" to handle traffic, said Marc Lavorgna, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "They do a good job," he said, "with what they have."

Still, Kip Hawley, the security agency's administrator, said in an interview that, approaching summer, "we are going to be ready in terms of our work force." Local managers have hiring authority to speed the staff buildup.

New procedures are likely to slow some travelers. The agency says it plans to conduct more secondary screenings to check for traces of explosives.

Last month, at Atlanta's airport, a computer-generated image suggesting an explosive— not from an actual bag being screened — was flashed to test a screener's alertness.

The screener, after identifying the threat, is supposed to be told it was only a test. This time, that didn't happen, and a frantic search ensued for a bag that did not exist.

The terminal was shut down for about two hours, Mr. Hawley said, and the bomb squad was called. The glitch that caused the panic has been fixed, he said.

"We do recognize the economic damage" of shutting a terminal down, he added. "That won't happen again."

It's impossible to measure air rage accurately, but most experts think there is more of it these days. Joyce A. Hunter, a former Delta marketing official who is now an assistant professor at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, started researching air rage in 2001 with the hypothesis that it is caused by poor customer service, such as a lack of communication about delays and other problems. While that contributes to it, she said, she has concluded that alcohol is the main culprit.

Bars, of course, line airport terminals and drinks aloft can potentially send an already angry flier into a fit.

Front-line workers — flight attendants and gate agents — usually bear the brunt of problems. Sara Nelson Dela Cruz, a United flight attendant and union official, said a lot of senior flight attendants schedule vacations "so they don't have to work the summer crowds."

Onboard this summer, people are likely to feel "kind of like sardines," said Reenie Prine, a customer service supervisor for Southwest Airlines at Midway Airport in Chicago. Angry passengers are just part of the job, she said. "I don't let it get to me," she explained. "An apology goes a long way: 'I'm so sorry for your difficulty.' "

With airlines generally not expanding and traffic rising, is "fully loaded" the new normal in a business that for decades flew planes at 60 to 70 percent capacity? The ability to compare fares easily on the Internet has driven down ticket costs but also helped airlines to sell the very last seat.

For now, it seems that only rising prices could dampen demand. Some travelers, particularly business managers who are not paying for the seats out of their own pockets, may even find it a relief to be charged more if it would lead to less-crowded planes.

"The thing that's starting to bother travelers more than anything else is the comfort factor, not the fare factor," said Kevin Maguire, the in-house travel manager for Applied Materials, a technology company based in Santa Clara, Calif. "The airlines, federal government, general public need to sit down collectively and find a way to get the transportation system back in order," he said. "I've never seen it this bad."


Jane L. Levere

contributed reporting from New York for this article.

    Rough Summer Is on the Way for Air Travel, NYT, 21.5.2006,






Revealed: The real cost of air travel


28 May 2005
The Independent
By Michael McCarthy,
Marie Woolf and Michael Harrison


It might be cheap, but it's going to cost the earth. The cut-price airline ticket is fuelling a boom that will make countering global warming impossible.

The tens of thousands of Britons jetting off on cheap flights this weekend have been given graphic reminders by leading green groups that the huge surge in mass air travel is becoming one of the biggest causes of climate change.

Unless the boom in cheap flights is halted, say Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, Britain and other countries will simply not be able to meet targets for cutting back on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that are causing the atmosphere to warm, with potentially disastrous consequences. In spelling out what is for most people - and for many politicians - a very uncomfortable truth, they are echoing the warnings of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

The scientists of the former and the MPs of the latter have set out in detail how the soaring growth in CO2 emissions from aircraft that the cheap flights bonanza is promoting will do terrible damage to the atmosphere and make a nonsense of global warming targets, such as Britain's stated aim of cutting CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.

British emissions of C02 from aircraft, expressed in millions of tons of carbon, shot up from 4.6 million tons in 1990 to 8.8 million tons in 2000. But based on predicted air passenger transport growth figures - from 180 million passengers per year today to 476 million passengers per year by 2030 - they are expected to rise to 17.7 million tons in 2030.

Aircraft emissions that go directly into the stratosphere have more than twice the global warming effect of emissions from cars and power stations at ground level and, based on the Government's own calculations, the effect of the 2030 emissions will be equivalent to 44.3 million tons of carbon - 45 per cent of Britain's expected emissions total at that date.

That growth alone, the environmental audit committee says, will make Britain's 60 per cent CO2 reduction target "meaningless and unachievable". The clash of interests cannot be ducked any more, say the green groups. "The convenience we enjoy in covering huge distances in a short time is one of the fast-growing threats to life on earth," said Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth.

"Aviation is an increasing source of climate-changing pollution and we must take steps to curb it now. Planes pump out eight times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a train. A return flight to Australia will release as much carbon dioxide as all the heating, light and cooking for a house for a year."

Blake Lee-Harwood, campaigns director for Greenpeace, said: "The simple fact is the boom in cheap air travel cannot be reconciled with the survival of those things we most value about the planet, and will ultimately kill millions of people.

"The only way to stop the problem is to reduce our flying. We just have to accept public transport and highly efficient cars are the only kinds of routine transport we can sensibly use, and air travel is just for special occasions. We may not like that hard truth but we don't have a choice." The green groups feel the only solution is to cut back on demand by forcing prices up, especially as commercial aviation has long benefited from a very easy tax regime. In other words, people will have to be "priced off planes" and the cheap flights bonanza will have to end.

Bizarrely, the Government is facing in two directions at once. In the 2003 energy White Paper, it committed itself to tackling climate change and announced its 60 per cent CO2 target. But in the aviation White Paper later that year, it promised to facilitate the expected mass increase in air traffic, if necessary by providing several new runways to cope with increased demand

There is no sign of the two positions being reconciled by Tony Blair. Yesterday, it appeared the leaders of the G8 group of nations, set to put climate change at the top of the agenda at this summer's G8 meeting in Scotland which Tony Blair will chair, are also flunking the issue. A leaked draft of a climate change communiqué showed they were promising more research into the effects of aircraft emissions, but shying away from any commitment to raise ticket prices.

One of the leading advocates of an emissions trading scheme for airlines is among a group of UK business leaders who wrote to Tony Blair yesterday calling for a "step change" in efforts to tackle climate change. Mike Clasper, the chief executive of BAA, has been the aviation industry's most outspoken supporter of the idea of forcing airlines to pay for excessive carbon emissions, even though it could be financially damaging to many of his customers. Mr Clasper and 12 other senior businessmen say companies are deterred from investing in low carbon technologies because of the lack of long-term government policies and concern that their international competitiveness will be harmed.

Other signatories to the letter include the chairman of HSBC bank, Sir John Bond, the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, Sir Stuart Hampson and the chief executive of Scottish Power, Ian Russell.




The facts about flying

* Air travel produces 19 times the greenhouse gas emissions of trains; and 190 times that of a ship.

* Aviation could contribute 15 per cent of greenhouse gases each year if unchecked.

* Greenhouse gas emissions caused by UK air travel have doubled in the past 13 years, from 20.1m tons in 1990 to 39.5m tons in 2004.

* During the same period emissions from UK cars rose by 8m tons, to 67.8m tons.

* One return flight to Florida produces the equivalent CO2 of a year's average motoring.

* Emissions at altitude have 2.7 times the environmental impact of those on the ground.

* Air travel is growing at UK airports at an average of 4.25 per cent. In 1970, 32 million flew from UK airports; in 2002, 189 million. By 2030 some 500 million passengers may pass through UK airports.

* Cargo transportation is growing by 7 per cent a year. In 1970, 580,000 tons of freight were moved by plane; in 2002, 2.2 million tons. It is forecast to reach 5 million tons in 2010.

* 50 per cent of the UK population flew at least once in 2001.

* Flying 1kg of asparagus from California to the UK uses 900 times more energy than the home-grown equivalent.

     Full text, I, 28.5.2005,






On This Day - March 3, 1969


From The Times Archive


Concorde, the first supersonic airliner,
completed its maiden flight


THE Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner took off on its maiden flight from Toulouse today. It was in the air for 27 minutes, and the flight was described as faultless. The test flight reached 10,000ft, but the Concorde’s speed never rose above 300 mph — eventually it will fly at more than 1,300 mph. The pilot decided to return to the airport because of worsening weather conditions.

Beaming with pleasure on his return to the airport, M. Andre Turcat, the 47-year-old Sud Aviation chief test pilot, who was the controls, said: “Finally the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well.”

M. Turcat, wuth his cew of co-pilot and two flight engineers watching over 12 tons of test equipment, had taken Concorde up to 10,000ft, made a practice landing approach at high altitude, and then brought the revolutionary aircraft straight back to the runway without any further tests. The flight had been postponed on two successive days.

After a 20-minute technical delay in the starting of the first of four engines, Concorde taxied sedately and deliberately to the end of the runway. A cloud of black smoke billowed upwards as the jets were run up. Then, laden with 6,500 gallons of fuel and weighing 110 tons, she began to roll. As the speed built up, Concorde lifted her tail stalk of a nosewheel leg off the ground. Balanced on her main landing bogies, and with her long nose surmounted by the “snoot” angled down at 12 degrees to give the pilot better vision, she looked like a great white bird of prey.

As the aircraft reached and flashed past the press stand, all wheels now off the ground, their was a spontaneous burst of applause, immediately drowned out by the thundering backwash of the quartet of Olympus 593 engines.

    On this day, The Times, 3.5.2005,






October 4 1930


By airship to India


By Major F. A. De V. Robertson


From The Guardian archive


To-morrow evening the airship R 101 will start from Cardington for Ismailia, en route for Karachi. The Air Minister, Lord Thomson, and the Director of Civil Aviation, Sir Sefton Brancker, will be on board, but no private passengers or journalists.

This flight is a greater and more interesting experiment than the flight of R 100 to Canada. R 101 embodies more experimental features than R 100, and this flight will take an airship into tropical climes. So far as I can remember only twice before have airships flown into the tropics.

Major G. H. Scott, our great airship officer, holds strongly that petrol must not be carried on a commercial airship in the tropics. R 101 has five Diesel engines which run on heavy oil. That is one of the novelties about this airship from which great results are expected.

These engines are still experimental and they are much heavier in proportion to their power than an aero engine ought to be. Therefore R 101 cannot carry as many passsengers as was hoped.

That is a handle for the enemies of the airship experiment, but this criticism is a damp squib. We cannot believe it is beyond engineers to producer a lighter and more powerful Diesel engine.

The design of the metal wings and girders is another novel feature. It is absolutely unlike Zeppelin methods, and is undoubtedly beautiful engineering. She is now 777 feet long and has a gas capacity of 5,500,000 cubic feet. Of course the lengthening has altered her proportions. We are feeling our way toward the perfect airship, and do not profess to have got there.

We know other points where improvement is desirable. The gasbags of goldbeater's skin are too expensive, but it would have been folly to hold back the flying experiments while the chemists work. Then again, R 101 does actually carry a little petrol, stored in the engine cars. The auxiliary engines use petrol. Still there is no petrol in the hull, and the fire-proof smoking room, below the large saloon, will probably be well patronised during the flight. On no other airship in the world has smoking before been possible.

This flight to India has cost more than the flight of R 100. The shed at Karachi is bigger than those at Cardington. The whole of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square would go inside it.

There seems a [future] prospect that passengers to India and Australia will go by airship, but for the present we must be content to learn what R 101 can teach us by her maiden flight to Karachi.

   By airship to India, from The Guardian archive,
    by Major F. A. De V. Robertson, G, October 4 1930,
    republished 4.10.2007, p. 34,






May 23 1927


Lindbergh alone across the Atlantic


From The Guardian archive


May 23 1927
The Guardian


Captain Lindbergh, the young United States airman, reached Paris at 10.22 on Saturday night on his non-stop flight from New York. He is the first pilot to have crossed the Atlantic by himself, the first to fly from America to France, and the first to make an uninterrupted flight of 3,600 miles. The journey took 33 hours.

Early yesterday evening it became known that Lindbergh was approaching the French coast. Orders were at once given to put the wonderful air-lighting system of Northern France into action. The vertical projectors along the coast were turned on and the well-marked London-Paris routes illuminated.

Thus, when the young flying man arrived at half-past eight over Cherbourg he found himself helped by the nightfall, for his route was marked out for him. In the Seine estuary he caught his first glimpse of St. Valerien twinkling in and out. Thirty miles from Paris the revolving flare of Le Bourget began to flash its welcome.

Shortly after ten o'clock he perceived the red rockets that flashed constantly up from the famous air station, and shortly before a quarter-past ten he was high above the light-flooded aviation field itself at Le Bourget. Despite his thirty-three hours' strain since leaving New York this astonishing youth, instead of coming down, spent nearly ten minutes circling over Paris, for the illuminated pillar of the Eiffel Tower had caught his attention.

At length the roar of his propeller was heard by the vast crowd estimated at 100,000. A silver speck swam into the probing finger of a searchlight, and a few seconds later the glistening monoplane was bounding lightly upon the vast enclosed field. It was a perfect landing, delicately and skilfully done.

At such moments mass emotion becomes uncontrollable, even dangerous. A surge began among the crowd, and instantly the barriers were down, the line of guarding troops was swept aside, and thousands of men, carried away by enthusiasm, were racing through the darkness towards the distant, now immobile monoplane still glistening under the searchlight. When the crowd reached it it still remained in all its brand newness just as it had emerged from the factory, without a speck or a stain of oil or dust. A moment later it began to crumble into splinters under the penknives of souvenir-hunters. The "Marseillaise" alternated with roars of "Vive l'Amerique."

A young fair-haired face thrust itself from the pilot's window, a light Middle West voice inquired "Where am I?" — "Just as if he had descended from Mars or some other world" — and an astonishingly long, lithe body began to extricate itself from the machine.

    From The Guardian archive > May 23 1927 >
    Lindbergh alone across the Atlantic, G,
    republished 23.5.2007, p. 34,






August 3, 1909


Aircraft are

'not capable of great results'


From the Guardian archive


Tuesday August 3, 1909



A holiday subject for a holiday mood - such was the spirit in which members to-night came to the consideration of the great airship problem.

In vain for Mr. Arthur Lee to try and make our flesh creep with stories of the squadrons of Zeppelins at Germany's command, of France's aerial navy, and of the aeroplanes with which the brothers Wright are again darkening their native skies.

"Until Bleriot flew across the Channel the other day," said Mr. Cecil Harmsworth, "people in this country regarded the airship as a mere scientific toy, a sort of flip-flap, such as you see at Shepherd's Bush."

The Government, and even members generally were in advance of that belated view, though the latter, to be sure, have not yet got beyond the stage of perceiving something ridiculous in certain aeronautical terms.

"We have also ordered a gas-bag of very considerable size," solemnly announced Mr. Haldane to-night, and without rhyme or reason members broke into shouts of laughter.

Apparently it is as risky to talk of gas-bags in Parliament as it is to mention a rope in the house of a criminal.

"What progress have we made?" asked Mr. Haldane, "Not very much, I am afraid."

But Mr. Haldane felt confident that not very rapid progress was being made anywhere. For naval purposes the rigid dirigible has been discovered to be the only machine of value, while for the army the best is declared to be the non-rigid.

The aeroplane may become capable of great results," but from the war point of view," observed Mr. Haldane, "it is not so at present."

Mr. Haldane felt no concern that we have not made the same initial progress as Germany, France, or the US. At one time that was true of submarines, "and to-day we are at the head of the world in submarines."

Moreover, it was equally true at the outset of our motor-car industry, which is now as flourishing as any.

"Ah," was Mr. Arthur Lee's dark comment, "that is all very well; but some day something will be invented with which we will unable to catch up before war breaks out, and then where shall we be?"

Where indeed? But perhaps we may be the inventors; it would be just like us. Whereas last year we spent only £5,000 on aeronautics, in the coming year we are to spend £78,000. For this amount we are to have an equipment of dirigibles and non-dirigibles, "with the prospect of two new aeroplanes".

"The use of these instruments at present is not very great," explained the War Minister.

From the Guardian archive > August 3, 1909 >
Aircraft are 'not capable of great results', G,
Republished 3.8.2006,






July 26, 1909


The tricolour flies for M Bleriot


From the Guardian archive


Monday July 26, 1909



The feat of flying across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine - a thing which had never before been done - was accomplished yesterday morning by M. Louis Bleriot in a monoplane of his own construction.

It was done, moreover, in the short period of 33 minutes, the start being made at 4.35 a.m. and the descent at 5.08 a.m.

The distance traversed was 26 miles or more, the bee-line distance being 22 miles, whilst a parallel run along the coast, from St Margaret's to Dover, would be four to five miles.

It was nearly half-past four yesterday morning when the news reached Dover that M. Bleriot contemplated making the flight, and a few minutes later came a wireless message stating that he was actually on his way across the French coast, having ascended at Baraques, a village two miles to the west of Calais. The monoplane travelled with great rapidity, and its motor made such a din that it was heard when it must have been six or seven miles from Dover.

Dover had intended making a suitable demonstration when the Channel was first crossed on a flying machine, but as events turned out there was no time to do anything whatever.

M. Bleriot's great bird-like machine was first sighted over the Channel to the east ward of Dover, heading for St Margaret's Bay, a little resort about five miles along the cliffs between Dover and Deal.

When off St Margaret's it suddenly came round with a fine sweep to the westward, still at a high rate of speed. Strange as it may seem, the monoplane, now that it was heading westward, was travelling against a fresh south-west twenty-mile-an-hour breeze, but this appeared to cause no diminution in the rate of travel.

When about a mile out at sea the monoplane was judged to be flying at a height of about 309 feet. It came over the naval harbour, passing above the battleships of the Atlantic Fleet, and making a course for the opening in the cliffs behind the castle.

On the cliffs M. Fontaine, a friend of Bleriot's, had taken up position with a large French tricolour which he waved vigorously as the monoplane came over the harbour.

M.Bleriot was looking for this to guide him to the place where he wanted to come down. He steered the monoplane for the opening in the cliffs with as much ease as if it were a motor-car.

He came at slightly reduced speed over the wire fence which divided the Northfall Meadow from the cliff path, and was directed at an easily sloping bank.

From the Guardian archive,
July 26, 1909,
The tricolour flies for M Bleriot,
Republished 26.7.2006,










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