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

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.

The Concorde will fly again! (maybe)


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

Snake actually on a plane

Reuters: "The three meter-long (9.1 foot) non-poisonous Amethystine python appeared about an hour into the Qantas flight between Cairns in northern Queensland and the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby on Thursday." 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

Composited, time-accelerated video of airport traffic

Filmmaker Cy Kuckenbaker composited four and a half hours of San Diego International Airport traffic into 25 seconds.

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.

Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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

Gorgeous photos of jets flying too close to the beach

Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) on St. Maarten has an extremely short runway (7152 feet) that forces jets to get mighty close to people at Maho Beach. 

Photographer Josef Hoflehner has taken some amazing shots of this phenomenon.  Read the rest

FAA to review in-flight gadget policies, maybe, eventually

The US Federal Aviation Administration today announced it is exploring ways to make it easier for airlines to allow travelers to use connected gadgets like phones, iPads, and tablet PCs during plane takeoff and landing.

A statement released today says the FAA is “exploring ways to bring together all of the key stakeholders involved” (airlines, plane manufacturers, consumer electronics producers, and unions representing flight attendants) to discuss the possibility of testing devices to determine if they are safe for passengers to use during the most critical phases of flight.

“No changes will be made until we are certain they will not impact safety and security," read the statement. FAA rules currently require fliers to shut down their electronic devices when the plane's altitude is below 10,000 feet.

Snip from Nick Bilton at the NYT's Bits blog:

Abby Lunardini, vice president of corporate communications at Virgin America, explained that the current guidelines require that an airline must test each version of a single device before it can be approved by the F.A.A. For example, if the airline wanted to get approval for the iPad, it would have to test the first iPad, iPad 2 and the new iPad, each on a separate flight, with no passengers on the plane.

It would have to do the same for every version of the Kindle. It would have to do it for every different model of plane in its fleet. And American, JetBlue, United, Air Wisconsin, etc., would have to do the same thing.

Read the rest

Soviet Union announces F-22

Photos: Sukhoi; U.S. Air Force photo by Scott Wolf

Russia's new Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighter (right) may remind you of something else. [via Metafilter] Read the rest

3 things you need to know about biofuels

Why care about liquid fuel?

There’s a reason we use different forms of energy to do different jobs, and it’s not because we’re all just that fickle. Instead, we’ve made these decisions based on some combination of what has (historically, anyway) given us the best results, what is safest, what is most efficient, and what costs us the least money.

In a nutshell, that’s why liquid fuel is so valuable. So far, it’s the clear winner when we need energy for transportation—especially air transportation and heavy, long-distance shipping—because it allows you to stuff a lot of energy into relatively small amount of storage space, and easily refill on the go. There are other options, of course, like electricity. And that can work quite well, depending on what you’re trying to do. Eventually, we may find ourselves in a world where liquid fuel is no longer the best option. But we aren’t there yet. And for those forms of transport that take us into the air or move our belongings very long distances, we aren't likely to get there for a good long time.

That's why I care about liquid fuel, and why I'm interested in the future of biofuels. Yes, biofuels do have a future. But what that future will be depends on whether we can control for some very messy variables. Here, in three points, are the big things you need to know about biofuel.

1. Corn ethanol really is flawed. But maybe not as much as you think.

Biofuel is a nice, round word encompassing a lot of tricky, little, oddly shaped dots. Read the rest

NC teen stowaway breaches US airport security, hides in plane wheel well, dies, falls in Boston

The mangled body of a 16-year-old boy from North Carolina mysteriously dropped from the sky down to a Boston suburb last month. Authorities now believe the teen breached airport security, and managed to hide himself inside the wheel well of a US Airways Boeing 737. He is believed to have then fallen to his death as the plane lowered its landing gear on approach to Boston's Logan Airport.

The corpse of Delvonte Tisdale, 16, was found in a quiet neighborhood in Milton, Mass., Nov. 15, below a flight path to Logan.

"It appears more likely than not that Mr. Tisdale was able to breach airport security and hide in the wheel well of a commercial jet airliner without being detected by airport security," Norfolk County District Attorney William R. Keating said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Mr. Keating said he alerted federal authorities and the Charlotte Airport that the teenager was able to breach airport security and get onto the plane. While the case is a tragedy, Mr. Keating said, it also underscores fears that someone with malicious intention could do the same thing.

At the risk of pointing out what is very much apparent: all the TSA's invasive body-scanning and crotch-groping failed to prevent this. What if this kid was a suicide bomber stowaway, strapped with explosives? How did this happen?

Read the rest

Will recent "parcelbomb" threat block inflight WiFi and cellphone use?

[Image: Bricked Sky, submitted to the Boing Boing Flickr Pool by Cameron Russell]

Over at New Scientist, Paul Marks speculates that "the long-awaited ability to use a cellphone or Wi-Fi connection on an aircraft might become a casualty of the latest aviation security threat."

It is not yet known whether the cellphones in the printer bombs were intended to be triggered remotely. They may have been intended simply as timers, as in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. But future devices could take advantage of wireless communication.

In-flight Wi-Fi "gives a bomber lots of options for contacting a device on an aircraft", Alford says. Even if ordinary cellphone connections are blocked, it would allow a voice-over-internet connection to reach a handset.

"If it were to be possible to transmit directly from the ground to a plane over the sea, that would be scary," says Alford's colleague, company founder Sidney Alford. "Or if a passenger could use a cellphone to transmit to the hold of the aeroplane he is in, he could become a very effective suicide bomber."

Aircraft bomb finds may spell end for in-flight Wi-Fi (New Scientist)

Read the rest