Flyover Country is an app that makes the window seat worth it

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Smithsonian Magazine reviews a free smartphone app called Flyover Country that makes it more fun to be in the window seat. No Wi-Fi needed.

Flyover Country uses maps and data from various geological and paleontological databases to identify and give information on the landscape passing beneath a plane. The user will see features tagged on a map corresponding to the ground below. To explain the features in depth, the app relies on cached Wikipedia articles. Since it works solely with a phone’s GPS, there’s no need for a user to purchase in-flight wifi. Sitting in your window seat, you can peer down on natural features like glaciers and man-made features, such as mines, and read Wikipedia articles about them at the same time. If you're flying over an area where dinosaur bones have been discovered, you can read about that too. Curious about why the river below you bends the way it does? The app will tell you that as well.

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Blizzard shuts down Denver International Airport, impacting air traffic across country

pic: weathernationtv.com

Officials shut down Denver International Airport on Wednesday, canceling over 1,000 flights after a mega snowstorm temporarily knocked out power and created conditions unsafe for plane takeoffs and landings unsafe.

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Lithium batteries should be banned as cargo on passenger planes, says UN aviation watchdog

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Planes that carry passengers should be prohibited from carrying large quantities of lithium batteries in cargo, a United Nations aviation watchdog says.

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You think holiday air travel sucks? Try flying while disabled. On American Airlines.

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Air travel is degrading, stressful, and humiliating enough as it is, so imagine doing it when you can’t get up and walk off the plane.

United Airlines sorry they forced disabled man to crawl off plane to use bathroom

D'Arcee Neal (Facebook)

A man with physical disabilities was forced to crawled off a plane at Reagan National Airport in Arlington VA, when United Airlines failed to provide him with help disembarking.

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The Concorde will fly again! (maybe)

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Fans of the iconic supersonic Concorde aircraft hope to bring the plane back into the skies in the next few years. Club Concorde, a group of enthusiasts including pilots and frequent fliers, has more than $250 million they will use to buy one of the planes for display as a London tourist attraction and to purchase and restore another for air shows, special events, and private charter. The last flight of a Concorde was in 2003. From The Telegraph:

(Club Concorde president Paul) James will be well placed to cater to that demographic. During the aircraft’s heyday, he worked as a tour operator and chartered Concorde 19 times for luxury trips. A particularly extravagant excursion was a one-day visit to the pyramids in Cairo in 1982; priced at £780, it was marketed as the most expensive day trip in the world. He suggests that this future incarnation of the plane could be used, for example, to take groups from London to Monaco for the Grand Prix...

Jonathan Glancey, author of Concorde: the Rise and Fall of the Supersonic Airliner, believes the group could well succeed in their efforts. “So many people miss Concorde [and it] could certainly fly again given both financial and technical wings, while from a technical point of view there is nothing a team of expert and motivated engineers can’t tackle. For the moment, we should support it."

And of course, don't miss designer Lawrence Azerrad's Boing Boing feature about his love for this very special aircraft. Read the rest

Man charged with urinating on other flight passengers

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A 27-year-old man on a JetBlue flight allegedly stood up and "began urinating through the crack between the seats in front of him - and onto the passengers sitting there," according to AP. When the plane landed, Portland police came aboard and had to wake the man, who had fallen asleep, before arresting him. He was charged with criminal mischief and offensive littering, and released on his own recognizance.

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United rewards security researchers with air miles

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The BBC reports that after two "hackers" spotted security holes in its website, United rewarded them with a million miles each.

One security expert said the scheme was a big step forward for online security.

"Schemes like this reward hackers for finding and disclosing problems in the right way. That makes the internet safer for all of us," said security consultant Dr Jessica Barker.

"Bug bounties are common in tech companies as they tend to understand online security a bit more, but other industries are catching up," said Dr Barker.

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Anti-gadget flight attendants lose in court

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A lawsuit, filed by the Association of Flight Attendants claiming that the Federal Aviation Administration acted improperly in allowing passengers to use gadgets during takeoff and landing, was killed by a DC appeals court.

If it seems odd that flight attendants would hate passenger-mollifying entertainment boxes, Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar explains that it was really about how much leeway the FAA has to change fight rules without consultation. From the AFA's filing:

"When an agency proposes a controversial change in a rule that affects public safety, it must be made through the proper rule-making process, with the opportunity for public notice and comment. In this instance, Respondent circumvented the rule-making process and in doing so, failed to provide clear policyor guidance for securing and stowing [personal electronic devices] and failed to provide a study showing that PEDs held in hand or held in a seat back pocket would remain secure." Read the rest

Airline food's better days

In this clip from Smithsonian's "I Was A Jet Set Stewardess" feature, flight attendants from the 1960s reminisce about the multicourse meals during the golden age of jet setting. Read the rest

US to airlines: disclose all fees hidden in ticket prices to customers

The US Transportation Department today proposed air travelers be given detailed information on the fees they're being charged for each checked bag, advance seat assignments, and carry-on luggage. Read the rest

What's climate change ruining today?

Okay, sure, jet travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions (this is situation where a small percentage is actually a really big number, fyi). So this is maybe more ironic than tragic, but it turns out that some scientists think changing climates could have an effect on air turbulence. Specifically, one model suggests it will increase the ferocity and frequency of surprise areas of turbulence that pilots can't see coming. Read the rest

How safe is safe?

The precautionary principle comes up a lot when you're talking about the side effects of technology in the real world. When you don't have evidence that something is dangerous — but you suspect it might be — you could cite the precautionary principle as a reason to ban or limit the use of that thing. It's a messy idea, though, and I'm still not sure what to think about it. On the one hand, technology is often available before data on the wide-ranging effects of that technology are available. Do you use it or not is a legitimate question. On the other hand, following the precautionary principle in a blind sort of way can lead to things like this. Read the rest

JetBlue planning free in-flight Wi-Fi rollout in early 2013

The Verge reports that US-based airline JetBlue will "roll out high-speed wireless networking in the first quarter of 2013," and that the service will be free for passengers. Instead of GoGo, "which Jetblue derides as slow and unsatisfactory," the airline will use supplier ViaSat. Read the rest

Solar Impulse plane lands, completing world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun (photos)

Photo: REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

The Solar Impulse plane project president and pilot Bertrand Piccard lands after a 19-hour flight from Madrid at Rabat's International airport, June 5, 2012. The plane landed in Morocco on Tuesday, completing the world's first intercontinental flight powered by the sun to show the potential for pollution-free air travel.

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Solar-powered airplane "Solar Impulse" attempts transcontinental flight

Photo: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A Solar Impulse aircraft takes off at Payerne airport May 24, 2012, piloted by André Borschberg. The Solar Impulse HB-SIA prototype aircraft, which has 12,000 solar cells built into its jumbo-jet-sized wings (about 200 feet long), attempted its first intercontinental flight from Switzerland to Morocco with a few days for a technical stop and a change of pilot in Madrid. This flight will act as a final rehearsal for the 2014 round-the-world flight.

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Flying the Hello Kitty skies (photo)

Almost as much fun as the "Unicorn Chaser" plane Boing Boing named for Virgin America airlines! A passenger looks out of an Airbus A330-300 aircraft of Taiwan's Eva Airlines, decorated with Hello Kitty motifs, in Taoyuan International Airport, northern Taiwan, April 30, 2012. Taiwan's second-largest carrier, Eva Airlines, and Japan's comic company, Sanrio, which owns the Hello Kitty brand, collaborated on the second generation Hello Kitty-themed aircraft which was launched on October 2011. There are currently three Hello Kitty-themed Airbus A330-300 aircrafts flying between cities such as Taipei, Fukuoka, Narita, Sapporo, Incheon, Hong Kong and Guam. More photos here, and we've previously blogged about the earlier generation of the Hello Kitty planes on Eva. (REUTERS/Pichi Chuang) Read the rest

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