My new obsession: Cockpit landing videos taken during approaches into technically challenging airports.
Yesterday, Phillip Bump posted a link on Twitter to a detailed rant, written by a pilot, about why pilots don't like to land at (or take off from) Washington DC's Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. That post is pretty interesting, especially if you've ever wondered—as I had, while waiting on the tarmac at National last fall—how large jets manage land and take off from that airport while simultaneously avoiding all the no-fly zones that are very, very close by. (Hint: It is difficult, and occasionally terrifying.) But the money shot is at the end, where you can watch a video that will show you the pilot's eye view of a National Airport landing approach.
Turns out, there is a whole, beautiful genre of YouTube videos devoted to this kind of thing. The video above is one of my favorites, showing the approach in to Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport. Closed in 1998, Kai Tak had one of the most challenging landing approaches in the world. It involved flying at heights of less than 1000 feet over the top of crowded neighborhoods and close to nearby skyscrapers, then executing a sharp right-hand turn, while continuing to lose elevation. Oh, and, the turn had to be done without the help of the Instrument Landing System. Instead, pilots made the turn based on a checkerboard marker painted on the side of a hill. And the runway ended in water. And the wind was often less than favorable to this kind of maneuvering. Fun!
The video above is a bit long, but if you fast forward to about 3:00 minutes in, you'll see the best parts. By that point, you can see the checkerboard marker off to the left and get a feel for just how low these planes had to be. Although, frankly, I'm having a hard time deciding which is freakier: What these landing looked like from the sky, or what they looked like from the ground.
Do you like trains? Do you have a lot of Continental Airlines OnePass miles? Until December 31st, you can turn those air miles into Amtrak GuestRewards points. There are certainly some people this wouldn't make sense for, but I know some of you will be interested, so I thought I'd post it. Call the Continental service center at 713-952-1630 to make the switch. (Thanks to my Twitter Train Buddy rstevens!)
Paleofuture features "If Today Were 1965!" -- a 1955 publication of the Reading Automobile Club Magazine, published a year before the Federal Freeway Highway Act. It's an interesting mix of humility and hubris, prescience and silliness, and is as sobering a memento mori for anyone thinking of getting into the prediction game as you could want.
Motorists now have a choice of fabulous stopping places. The newest accommodations have been built in two general types of locations: at service areas along the superhighways (which have grown up into attractive and complete communities) and at the outskirts of major cities. Certain of the urban centers, which had been thought to be doomed, have scored a surprising comeback as a result of striking new traffic developments such as depressed roadways and vast underground parking spaces. As a result, tourists are not repelled as once they were, but instead enjoy city sight-seeing.
The new overnight lodgings, built by large corporations at great expense, have combined features of the motel and hotel. The Sheraton chain, as you may recall, was one of the first major firms to enter this field, starting in 1955 with a $2,500,000 “highway inn” at Tarrytown, N.Y., followed by others at Binghamton, N.Y., Portland, Ore., and New Orleans, until it had completed a network of nearly 15 suburban hotels across the country.
I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but today on Twitter, several people who are attending the 2011 Accessibility Summit pointed out that traffic lights aren't, traditionally, accessible. Think about it. If you're colorblind, does red, yellow, green tell you as much information as you need, as easily and quickly as you need to know it?
Hamburg's Cabintaxi was an "over and under" monorail design that ran personal monorail cars in both directions, with counterclockwise traffic on one level and clockwise on the other. It looks like it never got deployed, but it's one sweet retrofuture design for urban transport:
The computer now takes over completely. It regulates our speed, senses the position of any car ahead to maintain a safe headway, and holds us at intermediate stations only if the track is temporarily occupied. We’re programmed for travel to the selected destination by the most direct path. Upon arrival, the car is released for immediate use by other travelers.
“Our over-and-under guideway is a big space-saver and cost-cutter,” MBB’s Gert von Lieres told me. “A two-level guideway can fit into narrow streets that couldn’t accommodate parallel rails, and there’s less clutter in the streets from support columns. Construction is simplified and thus relatively cheap.”
It’s also a quiet system; the cars glide at about 22 mph on rubber-tired wheels. And it shouldn’t be affected by weather; the base, suspension, and guidance tracks are fully enclosed within the beam. “This protects them from snow and ice,” von Lieres said, “while the lateral rollers eliminate any risk of derailment. They allow tight corners—a turn radius as small as 100 feet—meaning greater versatility in urban routing.”