June 1st, 2014
David Owen writes for The New Yorker about the designers behind business class – or, more specifically, the designers behind the design of the seating since airlines reintroduced seats-that-doubled-as-beds in the 1990s:
"A good seat doesn't show you everything it's got in the first ten minutes," he said. "It surprises you during the flight, and lets you discover things you weren't expecting."
My favourite part of this story isn't about the amazing attention to detail that goes into the curve of a seat or the placement of a switch, or even about how saving a few centimetres per row can mean the difference between a flight breaking even and making a loss. It's the bit about how pretty much everything anyone wants to install inside an airliner's cabin has to go through a process of "delethalization", making it both marginally safer in the event that the airliner undergoes rapid deceleration and vastly more expensive than consumer-grade kit.
November 11th, 2013
This video of a Piper Super Cub landing on a windy mountain top is marvelous.
Even when you know what's about to happen, you're watching the film and thinking "OK, in a minute he's going to bank sharply and the runway will swing into the camera's field of vision and this'll be relatively straightforward." Then the pilot banks sharply and puts the aeroplane down on a rough piece of land clinging to the side of the mountain. One where he's going uphill!
After which he goes out, takes a few pictures, observes that it's really cold, and takes off with just as little fuss. Great stuff.
October 27th, 2013
I wish the this slideshow of the story of the Concorde supersonic airliner didn't feature a succession of shots of partly disassembled airframes being shipped off to museums around the world towards the end. Such a graceful aircraft deserved to be remembered in flight.
October 24th, 2013
A Royal Navy Lynx helicopter from the destroyer HMS Dragon fires infrared missile defence flares above the ship during an exercise in the eastern Mediterranean:
[Via the inside of my brain]
October 26th, 2012
London Heathrow Approach Time-Lapse.
I love the oddly jittery motion as the airliners bob around in the crosswind, lining up their final approach. It's strangely soothing.
September 18th, 2012
A week in the life of an airline pilot.
I get that at one level it's little different than driving a bus. Except for all the many ways in which it just isn't.
March 4th, 2012
One obstacle the organisers of this year's London Olympic Games haven't had to face (as far as we know) is having to clear up airplane graveyards so that tourists can come and watch the games:
Getting Brazil's overcrowded airports ready to play host to soccer's 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games has run into an unexpected obstacle: airplane cemeteries on the tarmac.
At airfields from the muggy Amazon to bustling São Paulo, weather-stained aircraft missing doors, engines and even the odd nose cone rust away in plain sight. The failed fleet includes everything from weather-beaten Boeing 737s in Rio de Janeiro to a World War II-era Douglas C-47 cargo prop idled in the Amazonian outpost of Tabatinga. It has been sitting there for 16 years. [...]
[Via The Morning News]
December 5th, 2011
Lower than a Snake's Belly in a Wagon Rut, or Flying Low is Fun! Some amazing photographs of pilots indulging themselves (and unnerving those of us stuck at ground level.)
The last two get extra marks from me because in the 1970s and 1980s I saw those types at umpteen air displays; they seemed like they'd flown in from a Century 21 production. The Vulcan, in particular, looked like an aircraft from fifty years into the future. In fact, it was designed in the late 1950s and had long since abandoned the role it was designed to fulfil, i.e. carrying Britain's nuclear deterrent.
October 31st, 2011
From the BBC News Magazine's obituaries page:
If it had not been for Annie Penrose, RAF pilots might have found themselves piloting Shrews rather than Spitfires in the Battle of Britain. Her father, Sir Robert McLean, was chairman of Vickers between the wars and worked closely with R J Mitchell who was designing a new single-seater fighter. Mitchell had wanted to call the new plane the Shrew but McLean insisted it was called the Spitfire, the nickname he had bestowed on his somewhat headstrong daughter. After opposition from the Air Ministry he finally got his way. Annie, who was born in India, went on to marry the actor Robert Newton before his drinking and womanising led to divorce. She later married Beakus Penrose and became the chatelaine of the Killiow Estate in Cornwall which she ran well into her 80s.
The Supermarine Shrew just doesn't feel right, somehow.
June 18th, 2011
Long exposure pictures of San Francisco International Airport at night, overlaid to frame scenes of order and (relative) chaos.
[Via Flowing Data]
September 29th, 2010
A lovely Astronomy Picture Of the Day today: An Airplane in Front of the Moon.
September 9th, 2010
July 8th, 2010
The hazards of keeping a solar-powered aircraft aloft for 26 hours:
Just 17 hours after takeoff, a blog on the project's Web site reported, "André says he's feeling great up there."
It continued: "His only complaints involve little things like a slightly sore back as well as a 10-hour period during which it was minus 20 degrees Celsius in the cockpit."
"That made his drinking water system freeze up and worse of all his iPod batteries die."
[Via James Fallows]
May 13th, 2010
Even 55 years on, the Lockheed U-2 still looks like a strikingly modern aircraft.
[Via Daring Fireball]
April 18th, 2010
Alain de Botton pictures a world without planes:
The wise elders would explain that inside the aircraft, passengers, who had only paid the price of a few books for the privilege, would impatiently and ungratefully shut their window blinds to the views, would sit in silence next to strangers while watching films about love and friendship – and would complain that the food in miniature plastic beakers before them was not quite as tasty as the sort they could prepare in their own kitchens.
At Heathrow, now turned into a museum, one would be able to walk unhurriedly across the two main runways and even give in to the temptation to sit cross-legged on their centrelines, a gesture with some of the same sublime thrill as touching a disconnected high-voltage electricity cable, running one's fingers along the teeth of an anaesthetised shark or having a wash in a fallen dictator's marble bathroom.
June 17th, 2009
April 25th, 2009
Once again, the internet brings me an answer to a question I'd never thought to ask: how do they test the arresting cables and barricades used on aircraft carriers to bring landing aircraft to a sharp stop?
The photo above shows an F/A-18 airframe sitting on a sled. On the back of that sled are 4 jet engines which, when fired up, will produce 42,000lbs of thrust and ultimately send the jet down the 2.8km track at a speed of 460km/h, into an arresting cable or barricade. If the plane stops: great. If not, the plane usually ends up in the clearing behind the track or amongst the trees. Either way, an enormous, expensive amount of fun.
I'd dearly love to see film footage from those testing sessions.
December 20th, 2008
The finest slice of airliner pr0n I've seen in quite a while.
[Via pjern, posting to MetaFilter]