Weekly Roundup, Friday 17 March, 2017

What did this to this passenger’s face on a recent flight? It’s a secret – see article below.

Good morning

My comments last week about California’s deliberate withholding of its Department of Public Health findings on cell phone dangers engendered a few comments and, quite understandably, a few concerns as well.  As a result, I have not one but two articles to offer this week.

The first is nice and short and simply addresses the question of the relative danger levels of cell phones, Bluetooth devices, and Wi-Fi.  Do we make things better or worse if we switch to using a Bluetooth headset?  And what about the ever-increasing number of Wi-Fi devices around our homes and offices – should they be a concern, too?

The second longer article tries to look at some of the technical issues associated with potential risks of cell phones and other radio frequency emitters, and starts by explaining that cell phones don’t actually emit ‘radiation’ as such.

Necessarily, however, the conclusion of the article is that we just don’t know enough to be sure what the dangers are; with a corollary being a wry observation that this situation is at odds with usual procedure.  Normally, the manufacturers of new things are required to show their safety; in the case of cell phones, the opposite is the case – they are assumed to be safe until their danger has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While writing this week’s roundup, what was intended to be a short and slightly humorous/facetious look at a truly ‘innovative’ concept ended up growing to a point of deserving its own article, too.  So a third article is attached, all about the idea of designing airports with circular rather than straight runways.  Good idea?  Or not?  Read on to find out.

These three pieces have resulted in a shorter remaining roundup this week, but hopefully, while the quantity may be diminished, the quality still blazes brightly.  Please continue reading for :

  • Boeing Gets a Little Closer to a 797
  • Thin-skinned FAs Sue AA
  • Alternate Theories – on Steroids
  • Inappropriate Secrets
  • Smart Watches Getting Nicer
  • And Lastly This Week….

Boeing Gets a Little Closer to a 797

Boeing continues to prevaricate while desperately needing to fill the gap in its product range between large 737s and small 787s, a gap largely created by the end of the 757 and 767 series of planes.  The 757 went out of production in 2004 – 13 years ago.  The 767 is still in production, but only as a freighter and as the Air Force’s new tanker (the KC-46).  So this is far from a new problem, but it has become more important with a relatively new Airbus plane, the A321LR, which went on sale in October 2014, proving to be a popular and successful solution.

Boeing’s largest 737, to be called the 737 MAX 10, is generally perceived in the marketplace as an insufficient solution, and so Boeing is now starting to think out loud about a potential new plane that it is terming a ‘Middle of the Market’ plane.  The 797 is not an official name/number, but it is probably an inevitable nomenclature that will follow if the concept moves forward.

One of the big uncertainties is if it would be a single or twin aisle – a single aisle plane would probably be slightly more fuel-efficient, a twin aisle plane would be a preferable customer experience.  At a recent conference last week, Boeing revealed some more of its current thinking, including a suggestion that it might be a twin aisle with 2-3-2 seating.  This is the same as the 767 had, whereas the 787 generally has 2-4-2 or 3-3-3 seating and the 777 has 3-3-3 or 3-4-3 seating.

The plane might carry about 220 people in a two class version and a larger model would carry 260-270 in a three class version.  It would be a twin-engined plane.

If Boeing actually decides to make the plane – a decision not expected to occur prior to next year, it might enter service in 2025, and have a development cost in the order of $10 – $15 billion.

More details here.

In the complicated game of chess that occurs between Boeing and Airbus, Boeing is currently at a disadvantage – both in terms of its present line-up of plane models, and for the future.  Boeing needs to design a completely new plane to fill the gap, Airbus doesn’t have a gap that needs filling, and any response that might be required if/when Boeing comes out with a new plane could probably be handled by tweaks to either its A320 or A330 line.

This means that if Boeing announces a very strong product next year, it is possible Airbus could respond with a similar plane, and have it actually in production, and at much less cost, sooner than the Boeing plane.

So Boeing is in a bit of a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation, which is why it has done nothing for a couple of years already, while glumly watching Airbus scooping up orders.  If this sounds familiar, it is all too similar to what happened with the 737/A320 planes.  Airbus announced its new A320neo planes and Boeing then did nothing for 8 1/2 months, while Airbus snatched up 1,000 orders for its A320neo planes, before inadequately responding with the 737MAX  planes.

Amazingly, I wrote about Boeing’s dilemma just over two years ago.  The company still hasn’t come up with an adequate response.

Thin-skinned AA FAs Sue Facebook

What do you do when someone posts something nasty – clearly untrue but grossly insulting – about you on Facebook?

Never mind the old adage ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me’.  These days, the modern solution is to sue your employer.

Apparently it is all AA’s fault that others of their employees have posted derogatory comments on Facebook about the two FA’s now suing them.  Does that mean that employers are responsible for their employee’s actions 24/7 – at home, at work, online, and everywhere?

I’m not entirely sure – as either an employer or an employee – I’d welcome that degree of control and oversight.  But this is clearly what Laura Medlin and Melissa Chinery believe.  They are two AA flight attendants, now suing AA for allowing nasty things to be said about them on Facebook.  Details here.

We are sure they will get the outcome they deserve.

Alternate Theories – on Steroids

We have several times touched on some of the wild, weird and wacky theories to do with the disappearance of MH 370, now three years ago.

But here’s an article which leaves us somewhat surprised in terms of the theory it propounds for the crash of the Egyptair Air A320 crash into the Mediterranean last May.

While it is true that the cause of the crash remains unexplained, it is also true that the article linked to above is not being given widespread credence.

Inappropriate Secrets

Last week, the inappropriate secret was the concerns about cell phones that the CA Dept of Public Health tried to suppress.

This week, the big secret relates to the ‘exploding’ headphones (see image, above).

We know that a lady had the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in her headphones ‘explode’ and burst into fire during a flight between Beijing and Melbourne.  She removed the headphones before suffering serious burns, and flight attendants poured a bucket of water on the burning headphones on the floor, extinguishing the fire.

But no-one is revealing the brand of headphones.  And – wait for it.  The reason why they’re not?  Because the batteries inside the headphones are very common and they don’t want to cause undue alarm.  They’re also not revealing the battery type, and as best we can tell, even the name of the airline is being withheld.

If the all-knowing authorities wish to experience true undue alarm, they might want to personally relive the experience suffered by this young lady.  Why is it there was a rush to vilify Samsung and its Galaxy Note 7 device after a very few similar problems last year and with a device that almost certainly had sold ten or 100 or even more units than these headphones have sold; but this time, when a similar battery ‘thermal runaway’ event occurs, no-one will disclose details of either the device or the batteries inside it?

Note that if you have regular noise cancelling headphones with regular single use alkaline batteries, or with Ni-MH or Ni-Cd (unlikely) batteries, you are not at risk.  But if you have headphones with any sort of Li-ion battery in them, who only knows what surprises may be in store for you.  If you’re listening to the 1812 overture and think that the cannons started firing a bit earlier than normal, maybe it is the battery blowing up instead.

No more details, alas, in any of the news stories, such as this one.

Smart Watches Getting Nicer

I’ve yet to feel the need to get an Apple or any other smart watch, and that seems to be true of most of us.

But a product I liked in its first generation model has just been re-released in its second generation form, and it is starting to look very appealing indeed.  A better screen with 20% better resolution and much clear/brighter display, and the latest version of the Android Wear 2.0 software that enables the watch to work with both Apple and Android phones, plus a beautiful and classical design – all very appealing.

I’m talking about the new TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45.  Alas, the price remains high – starts at $1450.  But we’re getting closer to the sort of watch that offers aesthetic appeal and ‘real world’ functionality.  Plus its modular design might possibly address one of the current problems of smart watches – their likely rapid technological obsolescence.  If you only have to replace one part of the complete ‘system’ to upgrade, that might help lessen the financial pain involved.

Details here.

And Lastly This Week….

We often come across lists of the best places in the world to visit.  Here’s a fairly good list of the ten worst places.

Spare a thought this week for the end of an era, earlier this week, when the last flight of a Goodyear blimp occurred.  But – fear not.  The blimp is being replaced by a semi-rigid dirigible that looks essentially the same.

What is the difference between a blimp and semi-rigid dirigible?  A blimp has no ‘skeleton’ – let the gas out and the structure collapses, whereas a semi-rigid dirigible has an internal framework.  However, Goodyear says, to avoid confusion (and to preserve its brand equity) it will continue to refer to the new craft as blimps.

The new craft are a bit larger, have three engines instead of two, making them also a bit faster (max speed 70 mph or thereabouts).  Details here.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels




Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top

Free Weekly Emailed Newsletter

Usually weekly, since 2001, we publish a roundup of travel and travel related technology developments, and often a feature article too.

You’ll stay up to date with the latest and greatest (and cautioned about the worst) developments.  You’ll get information to help you choose and become a better informed traveler and consumer, how to best use new technologies, and at times, will learn of things that might entertain, amuse, annoy or even outrage you.

We’re very politically incorrect and love to point out the unrebutted hypocrisies and unfairnesses out there.

This is all entirely free (but you’re welcome to voluntarily contribute!), and should you wish to, easy to cancel.

We’re not about to spam you any which way and as you can see, we don’t ask for any information except your email address and how often you want to receive our newsletters.

Newsletter Signup - Welcome!

Thanks for choosing to receive our newsletters.  We hope you’ll enjoy them and become a long-term reader, and maybe on occasion, add comments and thoughts of your own to the newsletters and articles we publish.

We’ll send you a confirmation email some time in the next few days to confirm your email address, and when you reply to that, you’ll then be on the list.

All the very best for now, and welcome to the growing “Travel Insider family”.