Boing Boing 

Beautiful blimps

S a15 01010198

The Atlantic posted a slew of glorious photos of airships in history. Seen here, "The U.S. Navy's dirigible Los Angeles, upended after a turbulent wind from the Atlantic flipped the 700-foot airship on its nose at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1926. The ship slowly righted itself and there were no serious injuries to the crew of 25." In Focus: Airships

Phoenix TSA makes breast cancer survivors remove their prostheses

The Arizona Republic has found a large cohort of elderly and retired people who claim to have been abused by TSA staff at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport. The passengers claim that they were required to remove their prostheses (particularly prosthetic breasts worn by cancer survivors), and that their objections were met with threats and hostility.

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Nine-year-old hitches a ride on Delta from Minneapolis to Vegas

A nine-year-old boy with "behavioral problems" snuck onto a plane in Minneapolis and flew all the way to Las Vegas, though he was taken away by Child Protective Services on landing (a flight attendant noticed he wasn't on the roster). The kid travelled to the airport by light rail on two consecutive days, once to scope it out and once to fly. That kid is going places.

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TSA may allow in-flight marijuana

As more states pass medical marijuana laws, or legalize it outright, the TSA is heading for a don't-ask/don't-tell police on weed at airports. The official policy is to refer drug possession to local law, but where the law doesn't care, that's rather pointless.

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Soviet plane-spotting head-gear


Drakegoodman scanned this 1917-ish photo of Soviet planespotters in exotic headgear; according to a commenter, the binox are focused at infinity "so that when you found the source of the sound by turning your head, you could see the aircraft creating that sound."

WTF (via Bruce Sterling)

FBI: We know you're innocent, but you're not getting off the No-Fly list unless you rat out your friends

An ACLU report on the FBI called Unleashed and Unaccountable details how three ACLU clients were added to the no-fly list, and were told by FBI agents that though they were understood to be innocent of any wrongdoing, they would not be taken off the list unless they agreed to inform on their friends. In one case, the FBI waiting until their victim was in Yemen before sticking him on the no-fly list; they told him he would be stranded there until he agreed to act as an informant.

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Easyjet tells law professor he can't fly because he tweeted critical remarks about airline

Mark Leiser, a law professor who writes a tech law column for The Drum, says he was denied boarding on an Easyjet flight after he tweeted critical remarks about the airline (he said that a delayed flight had caused a soldier on his flight to miss a connection and that Easyjet had refused to help). According to Leiser, a member of staff told him, "You're not allowed to talk about Easyjet like that and then expect to get on a flight."

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Ryanair vows to reduce fewer customers to tears


Ryanair (officially "the worst of the 100 biggest brands serving the British market") is changing its culture because the board are sick of seeing people weeping in the departure lounge and being harangued at dinner-parties by friends and relatives who hate the airline and refuse to fly it. The airline's latest scandal: charging a neurosurgeon £160 to change his ticket home from Dublin to Leeds, after he explained that he was flying home in a rush because his wife and children had been killed in a housefire.

They've never been quite that horrible with me, but they were bad enough on a 2008 trip to Berlin that I have never flown them since.

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TSA continues to improve experience of rich people

More evidence that American travel is headed for a two-tier security theater that is reasonable and light for rich people and business travellers, and increasingly awful and invasive for everyone else: as Pre-Check expands, people who fly often enough to make it worth spending $85 will be able to keep shoes, jackets and belts on and avoid pornoscanners (including the new more radioactive versions). Us dirty foreigners, as well as people who save carefully for one trip every couple of years to see their families, will get the ever-expanding Grand Guignol treatment, especially since everyone with any clout or pull will be over there in Pre-Check land, getting smiles and high-fives from the TSA.

TSA is officially allowed to lie to you in order to cover its ass

The TSA is allowed to lie in its responses to Freedom of Information Requests. Its court-granted ability to lie to the public it nominally serves isn't limited to sensitive issues, either: they're allowed to pretend that they don't have CCTV footage of their own officers violating their own policies, even when they do.

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Burning Man drone rules

This year, the Burning Man Organization has set out rules for drone operation on the playa, developed in concert with drone-hobbyist/burners who attended a summit at BMOHQ on July 17. The rules include a common-sense safety code, parameters on where/when/who can be videoed; fire safety rules; spectrum management procedures; and guidance on elevation and wind.

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Dear airline execs: crowing about new fees and price hikes before your merger makes the DoJ mad

The DoJ has filed suit to block the merger of US Air and American Airlines, because they've noticed that while the airlines' executives publicly gave the reason for the merger as "synergies" and efficiency, they told the industry that the merger would allow them to jack up prices and charge more fees. Pictured to the right, Scott Kirby the US Air President who took to the podium at a conference to say it was "impossible to overstate the benefit" of the new fees he'd be able to charge after a merger.

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TSA screening about to get a lot worse

The major check against the unreasonable, horrible practices on the part of the TSA is that people who fly are wealthier, on average than people who don't -- and people who fly a lot are wealthier still. That meant that the worst stuff the TSA did was felt disproportionately by people who had a lot of political juice -- people who get listened to. Increasingly, though, rich people can opt out of the worst of TSA treatment by buying voluntary background checks and bypassing the rigmarole of the plebs. Now, the TSA is expanding its Pre-Check program, ensuring that pretty much everyone with any political clout will be spared the worst of it, letting the TSA's treatment for aviation's 99 percent spiral steadily downward, moving from mere Security Theater to Security Grand Guignol.

TSA orders airport valets to search parked cars

A woman who valet-parked her car at Rochester airport returned to find a notice informing her that the valet had searched her car, on orders from the TSA. The TSA does not search cars in the other garages, and they do not provide notice to valet parkers that their cars are subject to search. The TSA says it searches the parked cars because they are stored close enough to the terminal that a bomb could do serious damage.

John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”

News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.

We asked, “You're required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”

My prediction: the TSA will erect a sign at the valet drop-off saying, "By valet parking, you agree that we can search your car." And that will be the end of it. Because in the 21st century, posting a notice of your unreasonable conduct is the same as getting consent for it.

TSA searches valet parked car [Berkeley Brean/WHEC.com]

Human-powered helicopter takes the Sikorsky prize

The Sikorsky prize for human-powered helicopters has been claimed by a Kickstarter-funded startup called Aerovelo. Aerovelo's founders, Canadians Todd Reichert and Cameron Robertson, won the $250,000 purse for the 30-second flight of Atlas, a huge quadrotor with a bike in the middle whose flight is an absolute marvel to behold.

At that point, Reichert knew that the challenge was to keep supplying enough power through his legs to keep the craft from descending too quickly. On two previous flights in which he'd flirted with the three-meter mark, Reichert had descended too abruptly and fallen afoul of a phenomenon called vortex ring state, in which a helicopter essentially gets sucked down by its own downwash. Both times Atlas had been wrecked. This time, Reichert spent the balance of the flight easing the craft down gently to the ground. "You're so focused on having the body do a very precise thing," he told Pop Mech. "If you lay off the power even a little bit, or make any sharp control movement, you can crash."

Finally! A Human-Powered Helicopter Wins the $250,000 Sikorsky Prize [Jeff Wise/Popular Mechanics]

(via Kottke)

777 from Korea crash-lands at SFO

An Asiana Airlines 777 from Seoul, Korea crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport last night. Two were killed, ten were critically injured, 181 others were taken to hospital.

David Eun, whose Twitter biography includes "frequent flier," was aboard the plane and tweeted a photo of the wreck as he was evacuated.

This Reddit thread contains a lot of great, breaking information, including audio from the SFO air traffic control during and after the crash, and eyewitness accounts from SFO and from diverted fliers who were landed elsewhere (SFO is closed until further notice).

It's not clear what caused the crash. Forbes has some early analysis of the debris field based on aerial photos. A prominent theory cited in several news reports is that the tail of the 777 caught the seawall and ripped free (this also suggests that the two fatalities were flight attendants in the rear jumpseats). Update: An Asiana Airlines rep has confirmed that the two dead were passengers; specifically, teenagers from China.

TSA's new Instagram shows all the dangerous items that presented no danger

The TSA has launched an Instagram account, showing all the “dangerous items” they steal confiscate from air travellers. The message is clear: we are keeping you safe from in-flight danger.

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No-Fly list doesn't fly with judge

Things seem to be going well at the ACLU's day in court over the no-fly list. The judge is pretty skeptical at the idea that using secret criteria to secretly limit the ability of Americans to fly (or board an ocean-going vessel) is consistent with democratic principles. "To call it 'convenience' is marginalizing their argument." -Judge Anna J. Brown

America hates pornoscanners

Two and a half years after the TSA rolled out the nation's pornoscanners, they finally got around to fulfilling their legal obligation to ask Americans how they felt about them. 97% don't want them. Perhaps that's why they didn't want to ask. There were 4,321 responses.

TSA Denver tries to confiscate Chewbacca actor's light-saber cane

Peter Mayhew, the seven-foot-tall actor who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies, livetweeted his dustup with the TSA operatives at Denver airport as they attempted to confiscate his light-saber-themed cane, which he needs to walk. The TSA agents apparently objected to the cane because it was too long (Mayhew explains, "Giant man need giant cane.. small cane snap like toothpick.... besides.. my light saber cane is just cool.. I would miss it.."). The tweets came to the attention of American Airlines, with whom Mayhew is a million-mile flyer, and they intervened with the TSA to get him on his flight with his mobility aid.

Mayhew was returning to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport from an appearance at Denver Comic Con early this week when TSA agents refused to let Chewie board his plane with one of a kind cane.

Chewbacca Actor Battles TSA Over Light Saber Cane

TSA chickens out, won't allow items that don't threaten airplanes back on-board

The TSA has backed down from its moment of sanity in which it decided to allow golf-clubs, small knives and other items that pose no threat to airplanes back in the sky. The TSA's move had been a welcome effort to clarify that it was attempting to prevent terrorists from crashing airplanes, not prevent bodily harm to passengers (in order to do the latter, it would have had to also ban socks full of quarters, large booze-bottles from the duty-free, and innumerable other objects capable of harming crew and passengers). However, after hysterical criticism from flight crews, flier groups and cowardly congressmen, it changed its mind.

"After extensive engagement with the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, law enforcement officials, passenger advocates, and other important stakeholders, TSA will continue to enforce the current prohibited items list," Mr Pistole said.

TSA cancels proposal to allow knives on planes

Spirit Airlines is sure you'll enjoy its new 6% alcohol wine-in-a-can

Because "Your choices at 30,000 feet are pretty limited."

TWA's Idlewild lounge: Escher, eat your heart out


No, it's not a lost Escher print, it's a photo of Saarinen's long-lost TWA lounge at Idlewild, and you can buy it as a print:

Circa 1964. "Trans World Airlines Terminal. Idlewild Airport, Queens, New York." Acetate negative by Balthazar Korab (1926-2013), Hungarian-born architectural photographer who documented the work of Eero Saarinen.

TWA: 1964 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

TSA random secondary screening is trivial to dodge


An anonymous reader of Dave Farber's Interesting People list has discovered a glaring flaw in the TSA's protocol for secondary screening:

today at newark airport i used a paperless electronic boarding pass on my cell phone (as i usually do). i got through the id check, stripped down to my skivvies (almost), and as i was about to walk through the magnetometer (they still have those at united newark), they were yelling out that they were checking boarding passes, take them along through the mag.

i said, it's on my phone, you really want i should take my phone through the mag?

they said "no, only take your paper boarding passes".

huh? sure enough, if you said you used a mobile boarding pass, they believed you (anddidn't even look at it (of course, only another scanner could really verify its authenticity.)

so after a bit of conversation, i found out that they were checking the paper boardingpasses to check for the dreaded four esses, meaning "secondary screening". if you are randomly selected for secondary screening at checkin, they currently won't issue you an electronic boarding pass, you have to do a manual check-in.

so now they have created a situation where someone selected for secondary screening can get through the id check with their paper boarding pass showing the SSSS, and then, when they reach the mag where the screening would occur, simply lie, saying they are using an electronic boarding pass to avoid secondary screening.

the latest in TSA improved stupidity equips people to avoid a secondary search

(Image: ssss.JPG, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jcortell's photostream)

Canberra Skywhale: fanciful, breast-studded lighter-than-air cetacean


Here's a beautiful gallery of publicity shots of the Canberra Skywhale, a lighter-than-air sculpture created by Patricia Piccinini to celebrate the centenary of the capital city of Australia. The Skywhale is a fanciful, breast-studded creature from a contrafactual alternate history:

"My question is what if evolution went a different way and instead of going back into the sea, from which they came originally, they went into the air and we evolved a nature that could fly instead of swim. In fact coming from a place like Canberra where it's a planned city that's really tried to integrate and blend in with the natural environment, it makes a lot of sense to make this sort of huge, gigantic, but artificial and natural-looking creature".[8]

The Centenary of Canberra Skywhale (via JWZ)

How Congress flies

You know how aviation is a spiralling horror-show of discomfort and bad service? Well, not if you're in Congress:

At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, they have their own special parking spaces—right up close to the terminal—that they don’t even have to pay for. As Bloomberg Television’s Hans Nichols reports, this perk costs the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority $738,760 in foregone revenue. (The best part of this clip, though, is seeing Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky haul ass to get away from Bloomberg’s cameraman.)

Being a member of Congress also means never having to rush to catch a flight. The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights, so that if they are late or their flight is canceled, they’re guaranteed a spot on the next one. A few years ago, a prominent senator paused in the middle of a conversation with me to bark at an aide, “Book me on the 6, 7, and 8 p.m. shuttles!”

To members of our fly-in-Tuesday-fly-home-Thursday Congress, these perks are a big deal. Most fly a lot, and many fly first class

The Pampered World of Congressional Air Travel [Businessweek/Joshua Green]

(via Digg)

Musical comment on TSA pornoscanners

Jonathan Mann sez, "I saw Cory's post about the TSA accepting comments on the full body scanners and decided I'd give them a piece of my mind - in song."

My Comment To The TSA (Song A Day #1573) (Thanks, Jonathan!)

TSA finally seeks public comment on pornoscanners

From Slashdot submitter Trims: "The TSA is now in the public comment stage of its project to roll out Advanced Imaging Technology (i.e. full-body X-ray) scanners. The TSA wants your feedback as to whether or not this project should be continued or cancelled. Now is your chance to tell the TSA that this is a huge porkbarrel project and nothing more than Security Theater. You can comment at http:///www.regulations.gov and reference the docket ID TSA-2013-0004." You've got until Jun 24.

Book multi-city itineraries as one-ways and save

If you're booking a multi-city trip by air, you should really price it out as a series of one-way flights, rather than as a single ticket. As Mike Masnick discovered, the arcane airline ticketing rules require ticketing agencies to stick random, high-priced business-class tickets into multi-hop itineraries, which can double the cost of your trip. The ticketing websites -- Expedia, Travelocity, Hipmunk, Kayak, and Orbitz -- all either failed to show this information, produced suboptimal itineraries with unnecessary overnight layovers, or obscured the best flights in some other important way. Masnick got a spokesperson for Hipmunk to explain it all:

After going through all of this, I reached out to folks at Hipmunk, to see if they could explain the result. Hipmunk's Adam Goldstein kindly explained the basic situation, noting that airlines have all sorts of rules about what tickets can be combined with others. If you've never dealt with the insane details of fare classes (which go way beyond seating classes), you can spend way too much time online reading the crazy details. Given that, it seems that it is these kinds of "fare classes" that are the "culprit" -- and by "culprit" I mean the way in which the airlines force you into spending much, much, much more than you need to.

That said, Goldstein also argues that there are downsides to buying individual flights. He brings up, as we discussed above, the issue of connecting flights (and also having bags checked all the way through to destination) -- but as noted, that doesn't apply in this situation. He also points out that if you have to "change or cancel your whole trip, you have to pay separate change/cancel fees for each booking, instead of one for the whole thing." That's absolutely true, but is that "insurance" worth paying twice as much? I could rebook my entire trip with different times and dates... and basically pay the same total amount. So... that argument doesn't make much sense.

In the end, it really feels like a scammy way of making fliers pay a lot more than they need to, without them realizing it. What I do know, however, is that if you're looking for the best deals, do not assume that a multi-city search will turn up the cheapest prices -- and also recognize that the different search engines can give out extremely different answers. For example, if price was the only concern, and short flight times/non-stop flights were less important, then obviously that British Airways option at the end is by far the best price -- but it turns up on none of the other search engines. However, I'd imagine that most casual fliers have no idea, and I wonder if many people end up booking multi-city flight options, not realizing that they could save a ton by booking the exact same flights individually.

Flight Search Engines And The Multi-City Ripoff

Obama's regressive record makes Nixon look like Che

Redditor Federal Reservations has made a handy post enumerating all the regressive, authoritarian, corporatist policies enacted by the Obama administration in its one-and-a-bit terms. You know, for someone the right wing press likes to call a socialist, Obama sure makes Richard Nixon look like Che Guevara. And what's more, this is only a partial list, and excludes the parade of copyright horrors and bad Internet policy emanating from the White House, via Joe Biden's push for Six Strikes, the US Trade Rep's push for secret Internet censorship and surveillance treaties like TPP and ACTA and TAFTA; the DoJ's push to criminalize every Internet user by expanding the CFAA, and much, much more.

Obama extends Patriot Act without reform - [1]
http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-05-27/news/29610822_1_terrorist-groups-law-enforcement-secret-intelligence-surveillance

Signs NDAA 2011 (and 2012, and 2013) - [2]
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

Appeals the Federal Court decision that “indefinite detention” is unconstitutional - [3]
http://www.activistpost.com/2013/02/ndaa-hedges-v-obama-did-bill-of-rights.html

Double-taps a 16-year-old American-born US citizen living in Yemen, weeks after the boy's father was killed. Administration's rationale? He "should have [had] a far more responsible father" - [4]
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/anwar-al-awlakis-family-speaks-out-against-his-sons-deaths/2011/10/17/gIQA8kFssL_story.html

Continues to approve drone strikes that kill thousands of innocent civilians including women and children in Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries that do not want the US intervening; meanwhile, according to the Brookings Institute's Daniel Byman, we are killing 10 civilians for every one mid- to high- level Al Qaeda/Taliban operative. This is particularly disturbing, since now any military-aged male in a strike zone is now officially considered an enemy combatant - [5]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/7361630/One-in-three-killed-by-US-drones-in-Pakistan-is-a-civilian-report-claims.html

Protects Bush’s war crimes as State Secrets - [6] [7] [8]
http://www.salon.com/2010/09/08/obama_138/
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/04/obama-doj-worse-than-bush
http://washingtonindependent.com/33985/in-torture-cases-obama-toes-bush-line

Waives sections of a law meant to prevent the recruitment of child soldiers in Africa in order to deepen military relationship with countries that have poor human rights records -[9]
http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/10/26/why_is_obama_easing_restrictions_on_child_soldiers

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