Weekly Roundup Friday 19 July 2013

Your writer, at the controls of a British Airways 777-200 simulator.  I landed it safely at SFO....
Your writer, at the controls of a British Airways 777-200 simulator. I landed it safely at SFO….

Good morning

We say farewell to Dr Amar Bose this week, who died at the age of 83.

The founder (in 1964), chairman and technical director of Bose Corp, and also a professor at MIT from 1956 – 2001, his products had a strong impact on the audio marketplace, and for many of us, none more so than the Bose QC15 Noise Cancelling headphones, the latest in a series of noise cancelling headphones from his company, and in my opinion, currently the best out there.

It is often said that most Bose audio products were as much overpriced hype as they were actual quality products – a claim I don’t entirely disagree with.  Some people were never sure where the science stopped and the snake oil started with some of his innovative designs and considerations about room acoustics as part of the total sound production system.

It is certainly true that the QC15 noise cancelling headphones probably cost little more than $30 of their $300 selling price to produce, with other products costing massively less and providing almost as good a quality (plus a few products costing way more, but not of any better quality).  But for those who want to have the best in noise cancelling headphones, the QC15 reign supreme, even now, some four years after their release.

Two years ago Dr Bose donated a majority of the shares in his company to MIT.  It is unclear what the value of the shares were, but because MIT can’t sell the shares (nor are they voting shares) but merely gets to enjoy the dividends from them, perhaps their notional capital value is of little relevance.  Some have speculated that they may have even been worth in excess of a billion dollars; which points to the huge success that his company is – a company which bootstrapped itself without ever requiring external financing.  An impressive achievement, indeed.

What else this week?  There’s a separate piece, attached, reporting on the preliminary findings (and not yet found) to do with the Ethiopian Airways 787 that spontaneously caught fire while parked, unattended, and with all systems apparently switched off, last Friday, as well as a tangential mention of a mysterious aborted 787 flight (the airline isn’t saying why).  Plus many more articles on :

  • A Nasty New Way to Buy Air Tickets
  • Two Safe Landings
  • Funny – or Offensive?
  • Some Damning Details of Korean Pilots and their Training
  • The Law Suits Start
  • The Law Suits End?
  • The Skylon Superfast Plane
  • And a Flying Acura Too
  • The Most Important Hotel Amenity
  • A Surprising Explanation for Bad Reviews
  • US to Beef Up its Border Security, but……
  • More on Dogs
  • Warning – Do Not Show Your Contempt of the TSA
  • Guantanamo Detainees Have More Rights than US Airline Passengers?
  • TSA Now Making Valet Parkers into Nosey Parkers
  • And Lastly This Week….

A Nasty New Way to Buy Air Tickets

Normally when you phone an airline to buy a ticket, the agent asks you where you want to travel, when, and whether you want coach or first class.  They then quote you a ‘take it or leave it’ price, and you either buy the ticket or end the call.

The airlines eagerly envision a future where, to get a price quote, you also have to tell them your age, marital status, the purpose of the trip, and way more details as well, all of which will be merged with other consumer databases so the airlines know almost as much about you as the NSA.

This is what they term their ‘New Distribution Capability’.  The airlines hope to use the new improved abilities of integrated consumer databases and behavioral profiling to amass people’s entire life stories onto computer, and use that knowledge to tailor fares to suit each person.  Will they be the lowest possible fares or the highest possible fares?  Do you really need to ask!

In this BBC article, the airlines try to make the safe sounding positive claim that it is simply their desire to create ‘an Amazon style shopping experience’ for their customers, including personalized ‘just for you’ fares.  We presume when they talk about an Amazon style shopping experience they are not talking about delivering paper tickets to us in brown cardboard boxes.

Do they not know that any time Amazon has been outed as varying the price it sells things for based on its guess as to how much the prospective purchaser will pay, the disclosure has created howls of outrage and embarrassed promises from Amazon that it was all a mistake and will never happen again?

Or do the airlines think that a public and regulatory environment that happily lets them merge and merge again will also happily allow them to now make use of their much greater market strength and much lower competitive pressures to really turn the screws on their pricing policies, without us even realizing?

Two Safe Landings

After the crash/landing of the Asiana 777 almost two weeks ago, it is nice to be able to report a couple of stories of planes landing unusually, but safely.

A light plane was forced to land on the US 321 highway near Granite Falls NC, at about 11pm, after running out of petrol.  The pilot found a space between two cars and made a perfect landing.  This is actually easier to do than you might first think, because light planes typically land at moderate freeway speeds, making it possible to thread their way into traffic.

The plane was subsequently towed to a nearby airport.  Details and pictures here.

The other safe landing is a great tale as told by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.  Two 737s were flying to Adelaide in South Australia when bad weather forced them to divert; unfortunately, the diversion airport also had bad weather (thick fog).  Even more unfortunately, one of the 737s was low on jet fuel, and the other was perilously low, but due to a misunderstanding between them, the 737 that was perilously low allowed the other 737, with more fuel on board, to land first.

When the second 737 came in, it first failed to land (due to the poor visibility) and after going around, has only enough remaining fuel for one more landing attempt, so had to land, whether they could see the runway or not.

Ben Sandilands does a good job of setting the scene then quotes the ‘interesting bit’ of the official report that makes for the exciting reading.  Amazingly, in Australia, planes aren’t required to fly with sufficient fuel to divert to an alternate airport in cases like this.

The story can be read here.

Funny – or Offensive?

If a report on television station KTVU was to believed, the four pilots on the Asiana flight that crashed at SFO were – well, you can see their names here.

Asiana threatened to sue, before cooler heads prevailed and the airline then accepted the tv station’s formal apology.

Perhaps that was a wise move on Asiana’s part; if I was that airline, I’d currently be trying to avoid any discussion to do with its pilots at all.  Discussion such as, for example, the commentary in the next section from a pilot which went viral last week.

Some Damning Details of Korean Pilots and their Training

Here’s an interesting article that politely tries to make the point that there seem to be some problems with Korean pilots and their skills.

Stating things more bluntly is a post from a US pilot who was a former pilot trainer in South Korea with both Asiana and Korean Air Lines.  He posted it on a Yahoo pilot group early last week, and it has gone viral – I’ve received half a dozen copies of it already through various different paths.

I’ve tried to explain some of the buzz-words he uses, but even if they mean nothing to you, the overall points he is making are starkly clear.

It continues to be beyond unthinkable that with four pilots, the Asiana crew were unable to safely land their plane in the middle of the day with clear skies and great weather.  As I mentioned above, I’ve even done it myself in a 777 simulator (thank you, British Airways).

Here’s what the training pilot has to say :

After I retired from UAL as a Standards Captain on the [747]–400, I got a job as a simulator instructor working for Alteon (a Boeing subsidiary) at Asiana. When I first got there, I was shocked and surprised by the lack of basic piloting skills shown by most of the pilots. It is not a normal situation with normal progression from new hire, right seat, left seat taking a decade or two.

One big difference is that ex-Military pilots are given super-seniority and progress to the left seat much faster. Compared to the US, they also upgrade fairly rapidly because of the phenomenal growth by all Asian air carriers. By the way, after about six months at Asiana, I was moved over to KAL and found them to be identical. The only difference was the color of the uniforms and airplanes.

I worked in Korea for 5 long years and although I found most of the people to be very pleasant, it’s a minefield of a work environment … for them and for us expats.

One of the first things I learned was that the pilots kept a web-site and reported on every training session. I don’t think this was officially sanctioned by the company, but after one or two simulator periods, a database was building on me (and everyone else) that told them exactly how I ran the sessions, what to expect on checks, and what to look out for.

For example; I used to open an aft cargo door at 100 knots to get them to initiate an RTO [rejected takeoff]  and I would brief them on it during the briefing. This was on the B-737 NG and many of the captains were coming off the 777 or B744 and they were used to the Master Caution System being inhibited at 80 kts. Well, for the first few days after I started that, EVERYONE rejected the takeoff. Then, all of a sudden they all “got it” and continued the takeoff (in accordance with their manuals). The word had gotten out. I figured it was an overall PLUS for the training program.

We expat instructors were forced upon them after the amount of fatal accidents (most of the them totally avoidable) over a decade began to be noticed by the outside world. They were basically given an ultimatum by the FAA, Transport Canada, and the EU to totally rebuild and rethink their training program or face being banned from the skies all over the world. They hired Boeing and Airbus to staff the training centers. KAL has one center and Asiana has another.

When I was there (2003-2008) we had about 60 expats conducting training KAL and about 40 at Asiana. Most instructors were from the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand with a few stuffed in from Europe and Asia. Boeing also operated training centers in Singapore and China so they did hire some instructors from there.

This solution has only been partially successful but still faces ingrained resistance from the Koreans. I lost track of the number of highly qualified instructors I worked with who were fired because they tried to enforce “normal” standards of performance. By normal standards, I would include being able to master basic tasks like successfully shoot a visual approach with 10 kt crosswind and the weather CAVOK [ceiling and visibility okay].

I am not kidding when I tell you that requiring them to shoot a visual approach [ie land the plane without auto pilot] struck fear in their hearts … with good reason.  Like this Asiana crew, it didn’t compute that you needed to be a 1000’ AGL [above ground level] at 3 miles and your sink rate should be 600-800 Ft/Min. But, after 5 years, they finally nailed me. I still had to sign my name to their training and sometimes if I just couldn’t pass someone on a check, I had no choice but to fail them.

I usually busted about 3-5 crews a year and the resistance against me built. I finally failed an extremely incompetent crew and it turned out he was the a high-ranking captain who was the Chief Line Check pilot on the fleet I was teaching on.  I found out on my next monthly trip home that KAL was not going to renew my Visa.  The crew I failed was given another check and continued a fly while talking about how unfair Captain Brown was.

Any of you Boeing glass-cockpit guys will know what I mean when I describe these events. I gave them a VOR [VHF omnidirectional radio range – a very basic type of radio navigation system] approach with an 15 mile arc from the IAF [initial approach fix – the point at where an instrument landing starts from].  By the way, KAL dictated the profiles for all sessions and we just administered them.

He requested two turns in holding at the IAF to get set up for the approach.  When he finally got his nerve up, he requested “Radar Vectors” to final. He could have just said he was ready for the approach and I would have cleared him to the IAF and then “Cleared for the approach” and he could have selected “Exit Hold” and been on his way. He was already in LNAV/VNAV PATH [full lateral and vertical navigation by autopilot]. So, I gave him vectors to final with a 30 degree intercept.

Of course, he failed to “Extend the FAF” [final approach fix] and he couldn’t understand why it would not intercept the LNAV magenta line [on the flight director display in the cockpit] when he punched LNAV and VNAV. He made three approaches and missed approaches before he figured out that his active waypoint was “Hold at XYZ.”  Every time he punched LNAV, it would try to go back to the IAF … just like it was supposed to do. Since it was a check, I was not allowed (by their own rules) to offer him any help. That was just one of about half dozen major errors I documented in his UNSAT paperwork. He also failed to put in ANY aileron on takeoff with a 30-knot direct crosswind (again, the weather was dictated by KAL).

This Asiana SFO accident makes me sick and while I am surprised there are not more, I expect that there will be many more of the same type accidents in the future unless some drastic steps are taken. They are already required to hire a certain percentage of expats to try to ingrain more flying expertise in them, but more likely, they will eventually be fired too.

One of the best trainees I ever had was a Korean/American (he grew up and went to school in the USA) who flew C-141’s in the USAF. When he got out, he moved back to Korea and got hired by KAL. I met him when I gave him some training and a check on the B-737 and of course, he breezed through the training. I give him annual PCs for a few years and he was always a good pilot.

Then, he got involved with trying to start a pilots union and when they tired to enforce some sort of duty rigs on international flights, he was fired after being arrested and JAILED!

The Koreans are very very bright and smart so I was puzzled by their inability to fly an airplane well. They would show up on Day 1 of training (an hour before the scheduled briefing time, in a 3-piece suit, and shined shoes) with the entire contents of the FCOM and Flight Manual totally memorized. But, putting that information to actual use was many times impossible. Crosswind landings are also an unsolvable puzzle for most of them.

I never did figure it out completely, but I think I did uncover a few clues. Here is my best guess. First off, their educational system emphasizes ROTE memorization from the first day of school as little kids. As you know, that is the lowest form of learning and they act like robots.

They are also taught to NEVER challenge authority and in spite of the flight training heavily emphasizing CRM/CLR, [cockpit resource management/command leadership resource – a key concept that encourages all pilots to participate in decision-making and to never hesitate to correct/query the captain] it still exists either on the surface or very subtly. You just can’t change 3000 years of culture.

The other thing that I think plays an important role is the fact that there is virtually NO civil aircraft flying in Korea. It’s actually illegal to own a Cessna-152 and just go learn to fly. Ultra-lights and Powered Hang Gliders are Ok. I guess they don’t trust the people to not start WW III by flying 35 miles north of Inchon into North Korea.  But, they don’t get the kids who grew up flying (and thinking for themselves) and hanging around airports.

They do recruit some kids from college and send then to the US or Australia and get them their tickets. Generally, I had better experience with them than with the ex-Military pilots. This was a surprise to me as I spent years as a Naval Aviator flying fighters after getting my private in light airplanes. I would get experienced F-4, F-5, F-15, and F-16 pilots who were actually terrible pilots if they had to hand fly the airplane. What a shock!

Finally, I’ll get off my box and talk about the total flight hours they claim. I do accept that there are a few talented and free-thinking pilots that I met and trained in Korea. Some are still in contact and I consider them friends. They were a joy! But, they were few and far between and certainly not the norm.

Actually, this is a worldwide problem involving automation and the auto-flight concept. Take one of these new first officers that got his ratings in the US or Australia and came to KAL or Asiana with 225 flight hours. After takeoff, in accordance with their SOP, he calls for the autopilot to be engaged at 250’ after takeoff.

How much actual flight time is that? Hardly one minute. Then he might fly for hours on the autopilot and finally disengage it (MAYBE?) below 800’ after the gear was down, flaps extended and on airspeed (autothrottle). Then he might bring it in to land

Again, how much real “flight time” or real experience did he get. Minutes! Of course, on the 777 or 747, it’s the same only they get more inflated logbooks.

So, when I hear that a 10,000 hour Korean captain was vectored in for a 17-mile final and cleared for a visual approach in CAVOK weather, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.

The Law Suits Start

A Chicago law firm has started the paperwork to sue Boeing over the Asiana crash, on behalf of 83 passengers.  Boeing?  That’s an interesting choice, but in these types of high-value actions, attorneys will sue anyone and everyone to start with.  Yes, they plan to add Asiana to the action too, as well as various other companies that made components of the airplane’s control systems.

They did well to so quickly collect 83 of the passengers as clients.  Federal law prohibits attorneys from soliciting victims of air crashes for 45 days after the crash, and in this case, the NTSB has been aggressively trying to enforce the law, even to the point of having police preventing known attorneys enter hotels where victims were staying.

Two other attorney firms are also filing claims, on behalf of two more passengers, each.

Details here.

Not quite so potentially lucky are non US resident passengers, because international air travel is covered under an international treaty (the 1999 Montreal Convention).  This specifies in which countries passengers can sue airlines – generally being the country of residence of the passenger suing, or possibly the country in which they purchased their tickets, or the country they were flying to as their final destination (on a roundtrip or multi-stop ticket, that would be the final flight, typically back home, not the place they were going to on their journey prior to returning).

One wonders about the status of the 83 + 2 + 2 passengers currently filing law suits.  There were 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, three Canadians, three Indians, one each Japanese, French and Vietnamese passengers on the plane as well as 64 Americans.

The Law Suits End?

It is almost twelve years since the 9/11/2001 events, but only now are we getting a lower court ruling on a claim by the owner of the former World Trade Center, who was asking up to $3.5 billion in damages from United and American, plus Boeing (poor old Boeing, on everyone’s lawsuit, it seems), airport security authorities and whoever else his attorneys could think of, seeking compensation for the destruction of the buildings.

There is one notable feature in the claim – the plaintiff has already received $4.9 billion in insurance payouts.  The defendants suggested to the judge that allowing the claim to succeed against them would be double-dipping, and – some five years after the case was first docketed – the judge has now ruled in favor of the defendants.

This was a lower court hearing, however.  With as much as $3.5 billion at stake, what do you think the chances are of an appeal on that ruling?

The Skylon Superfast Plane

We regularly point to futuristic promises of new super-fast planes and their quotes of New York to London in an hour or two, and try to convey a sense of eyeball-rolling as we do so.

Quite apart from their very insubstantial nature and uncertain future timeframe for development, the truth is that most of these developments have nothing to do with flying passengers across the Atlantic more quickly, and are all to do with replacing current subsonic slow cruise missiles with new fast missiles that can cross the world in three or four hours.

There’s one technology however which shows some promise – and it too is a dual or even triple purpose technology, being suited for military applications and low-earth orbit space missions as well as passenger jets.  This is the British Skylon space plane, and it received another £60 million (almost $100 million) in funding from the British government this week after a successful test of a key part of its unique new engine technology.

In passenger plane form, it is proposed to be a long slim and windowless plane that would carry 300 passengers at about five times the speed of sound (ie more than 3000 mph).  This makes anywhere in the world no more than four hours away from anywhere else.

All going well, and assuming continued funding of many billions of dollars/pounds is secured, the first test flights of an actual plane are expected in 2019.

There’s an interesting video on the company’s website home page where its founder talks about their engine technology and the promise it holds.  While I have absolutely no idea at all how the engine can transfer so much heat, so quickly, it appears it can, and I’m excited by it.

One thing’s for sure.  2019 will be here before we know it.  Hopefully we’ll be greeted then by a flying Skylon.

And a Flying Acura Too

Note quite so exotic, and also much closer in our future, will be what the president of Honda’s Aircraft Unit terms a ‘flying Acura’; a seven seater business jet due to get clearance from the FAA by next year.

It has been a very long project (this article first says it started 27 years ago, then subsequently ‘more than three decades’), and the plane’s release has been frequently delayed, but it seems it may now be about to get certification and become a reality.

One has wondered, for a long time, how long it would be until the Japanese became more actively involved in aircraft building.  However long it has been already, it seems it won’t be much longer now.

The Most Important Hotel Amenity

We’ve spoken about toothbrushes the last couple of weeks as a strangely omitted hotel amenity, and we’ve surveyed readers in the past about the free hotel amenities they most want (reported here – the most important being breakfast followed by shuttle service).  Now, a new survey this week reassures me it isn’t just me – the survey finds the most important hotel amenity for most travelers is internet connectivity.

You wouldn’t think it though when you wrestle with a hotel’s front desk over connectivity problems.  They treat you as if you’re from another planet, and show no comprehension why a guest in their hotel would want to spend time on the internet, and act as though you’re the only guest with problems (I’m remembering in particular a recent hotel stay where I went down to the hotel front desk and was talking to the receptionist, with her telling me that no-one else was having any problems with their internet when she interrupted me to take a call – from another guest also complaining about the internet!).

Those of you who, like me, consider internet connectivity essential will take heart from the survey results.  We’re the overwhelming majority of travelers, and it is normal to want internet access.

Talking about hotel amenities, have you ever wondered what to say when you’re booking a hotel online and a box pops up for ‘Special Requests’?  Do you say ‘Free upgrade to a suite, please’?  Or, more prosaically ‘a room on the 3rd – 5th floors, please’?

Have you also wondered if the hotels ever even read such requests.  Well, apparently, at least some hotels do, as evidenced by this amusing story.

A Surprising Explanation for Bad Reviews

We all know that reviewing sites such as TripAdvisor, and the review section of sites such as Amazon, are awash with fake reviews.  Some fake reviews are written by the owner of the thing being reviewed and all his friends, and are of course gushingly positive.  Other fake reviews are gushingly negative, and it has been common to assume the negative fake reviews come from competitors.

A new study suggests that many fake reviews actually come from loyal customers.   How’s that, you might wonder?  They are loyal customers, but are aggrieved by some element of the company’s (possibly new or changed) products or services, and so they create an online negative campaign to try to encourage the company to change, ‘for its own good’.  They are motivated by a positive spirit of trying to help a company see the error of its ways.

Here’s an interesting research paper that uncovered this, and if you’d prefer a more approachable summary, here’s an article in the NY Times that explains what it means in normal language.

US to Beef Up its Border Security, but……

Plans were announced for the US to add new high-tech sensor arrays to its border, enabling it to more efficiently detect and prevent drug smuggling and terrorist intrusions along the massive length of the border.

A great step forward, you might agree – drug smuggling is legion in vast quantities, and because we never catch or detect most people crossing the border illegally, we can only guess at the number of terrorists who choose to enter the country surreptitiously, rather than wait hours in line at an airport.

But – the border we’re talking about?  It isn’t our southern border.  Oh no, it is the much more serious and troubling northern border.

You couldn’t make this stuff up, could you.  We close our eyes to the Mexican border while focusing more resource on the border with our ally, Canada.  Details here.

More on Dogs

We’ve been talking about using dogs for security purposes the last two weeks.  Of course, the only sort of security dog most of us meet are the ones when we arrive into the country, the Customs dogs presumably sniffing for drugs and the Agriculture dogs presumably sniffing for illegally smuggled Alpo.

But if you arrive into an airport in Germany, the friendly dog sniffing at your suitcase may be looking for something entirely different.  Money.  Apparently money has a distinctive smell, and the dogs are trained to alert when they smell more than one thousand banknotes (either Euros or dollars, we’re not so sure about other currencies, hint hint) in a single concentrated location.

Hopefully money smugglers, after reading the helpful information about dogs alerting for 1,000 or more notes, won’t cheat and reduce the quantity of notes they bring with them down to 900.  And surely it won’t now occur to them to split the money into two packages, and place half in each of two suitcases.

More details here.

The largest Euro banknote is a €500 note (about $650).  So you could travel with close to $650,000 and escape detection….

Warning – Do Not Show Your Contempt of the TSA

CNN managed to obtain a list of 70 behavioral indicators the TSA use to determine ‘high risk’ passengers they should give extra screening to.

Among the indicators was being very arrogant and expressing contempt for airport passenger procedures.  But, on the other hand, some experts suggest terrorists are more likely to be non-confrontational and fawning.  So be careful not to be either too negative or too positive the next time you try to pass through screening unaccosted.

The TSA says that one of the 9/11 hijackers was arrogant and confrontational, and suggests this proves the correlation between arrogant behavior and evil intent.

My question to the TSA – how many of the 19 that weren’t detected were being fawning and non-confrontational?  Or just acting totally normally?

Gasp!  Could it be that the most powerful indicator of being a terrorist is acting perfectly normally?  Or, of course, acting not perfectly normally?  In fact, here’s a startling thought.  Every terrorist has one consistent giveaway characteristic.  They breathe – some through their nose and some through their mouth.  Maybe the TSA should single out anyone who breathes.

No wonder their entire Behavior Detection program is a farce and unable to show any sign of any success at all, notwithstanding its billions of dollars in costs and thousands of people (currently 3000+) tasked with carrying it out.

Recognizing that their BDO program has spectacularly failed, the TSA has now broadened its scope to claim it now seeks to find not only terrorists but ordinary criminals too (since when has that been part of the TSA’s mandate?).  That way, the small number of normal miscreants that by random chance get accosted by the TSA are now considered to be proof of the program’s success, although the TSA is careful not to track too closely what happens to people after they are referred to airport police, for fear that even those statistics too will come in lower than they hope.

Here’s another suggestion for the TSA.  If a program fails to work, don’t expand it.  Close it down.

Guantanamo Detainees Have More Rights than US Airline Passengers?

A judge has just ruled that Guantanamo detainees need not be intimately searched prior to meeting with their attorneys.  Instead, he says it should be sufficient to grasp the waistband of the detainee’s trousers and shake the pants to dislodge any contraband.  He said that more intimate searching (such as we get at the airport) was an ‘exaggerated response to security concerns’, and described it as ‘religiously and culturally abhorrent’.  Details here.

So, let me get this straight.  Known Muslim terrorists, in detention at Guantanamo, are protected from abhorrent searches that have been claimed to be necessary due to ‘exaggerated responses to security concerns’.

But law-abiding Christian Americans, trying to exercise their First Amendment right to free assembly and the travel necessary to do so, and hoping also to be protected by their Fourth Amendment right against intrusive search, have no such protection?

Oh – the government has appealed the judge’s ruling.

TSA Now Making Valet Parkers into Nosey Parkers

The latest bit of mission creep from the ever growing TSA is to require valet parkers at the airport in Rochester NY to search the cars they park.

It is an interesting assertion as to if the TSA has any rights at all in car parks, whether they be public or private, and even more an interesting assertion that the TSA can compel untrained and unpaid third parties such as valet parkers to search cars on their behalf.

But in their desire to make us as super-safe as they possibly can, the TSA is pressing ahead with this latest expansion of their claimed powers.  Details here.

And Lastly This Week….

I remember when the most desirable passport in the world to possess was unquestionably an American one.  I certainly spent many years coveting one before finally securing my own.

But our northern neighbors are trying their innovative best to make a Canadian passport much more desirable than a mere US one.

Although flight delays, by some measures, are supposedly down, they still occur all too often, and at the worst possible times.  As international travelers know, it isn’t just the US that suffers flight delays – many international airports have terrible problems too.  As does the entire country of China.

So what do you do when you’re desperate for your flight to depart on time?  These two Chinese flight attendants believe they have a special way of tipping the odds in their favor.

And truly lastly this week, here’s an interesting collection of outdated gadgets.  Some, like slide rules and typewriters do qualify for the title ‘outdated’ (although reportedly the Kremlin is buying in a new supply of typewriters so it can securely prepare highly confidential documents without the NSA snooping on them) but I feel a slight frisson of surprise and sadness at how quickly some of the other devices featured have become outdated.

How many do you have lying around?  Or – gulp – how many do you still use?

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels






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