St. Helena Airport
> Your average flight from Washington, D.C. to St. Helena Island, located in one of the most remote parts of the world, would be a very arduous affair, a flight that would take nearly two full days, and at least three distinct layovers along the way—first in Ghana, then in Johannesburg, then a refueling stop in Namibia—before you got to your destination. If there’s a delay at any of the three stops, it might compromise the entire trip, because if you don’t make your connecting flight, you’re screwed. And once you’re there, you’re not leaving for a while. I’m endlessly fascinated by these far-off connections, these obscure airports that few people would ever think to travel to—and St. Helena is somehow more hopelessly obscure than the rest. But you’re going to know a lot about it by the time you finish reading today’s Tedium. Strap in—we’re talking about odd airports.
Grumman X-29: The impossible fighter jet with inverted wings
> There’s no airplane quite like the Grumman X-29. Its astonishing forward-swept wings were just one of its many bold innovations.
> Created at the height of the Cold War by a conglomerate of giants -- NASA, the US Air Force, the “men in black” at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and aerospace behemoth Grumman -- it first flew in 1984 as part of a quest to build the ultimate fighter jet.
What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known
> The X-15 was not the first rocket-powered aircraft, but it is probably the best one ever built and flown. Before the first X-15 took flight in the late 1950s, the fastest speed airplanes had reached was Mach 3. The X-15 doubled that. And, remarkably, it also went on to fly into space more than a dozen times.
Life Can Get Weird When You’re Married to The Middle Seat
> A guest columnist—who happens to be the regular columnist’s wife—ponders how his obsession with air travel benefits readers
The Roots of Boeing’s 737 Max Crisis: A Regulator Relaxes Its Oversight
> In the days after the first crash of Boeing’s 737 Max, engineers at the Federal Aviation Administration came to a troubling realization: They didn’t fully understand the automated system that helped send the plane into a nose-dive, killing everyone on board.
> Engineers at the agency scoured their files for information about the system designed to help avoid stalls. They didn’t find much. Regulators had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software known as MCAS when they approved the plane in 2017.
When it absolutely, positively has to be there for the product demo overnight
> The person responsible for getting the fancy computer to Hawaii talked with the shipping company about the situation. At the time, they were Microsoft’s exclusive provider of overnight delivery services, and from how this story unfolds, it’s clear that they were serious about maintaining that status.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Where Is It?
> The mystery surrounding MH370 has been a focus of continued investigation and a source of sometimes feverish public speculation.
Kelly’s Heroes: Lockheed’s five finest airplanes
> Roughly 110 years ago, one of the world’s greatest aircraft designers—Clarence “Kelly” Johnson—was born in Ishpeming, Michigan. And since we’re gigantic aviation nerds here at Ars Technica, the week of his birthday (February 27) is as good a reason as any to celebrate some of his legendary designs. Johnson spent 44 years working at Lockheed, where he was responsible for world-changing aircraft including the high-flying U-2, the “missile with a man in it” F-104 Starfighter, and the almost-otherworldly Blackbird family of jets.
Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system
> As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.
> But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.
> That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.
Virgin Galactic's Rocket Man
> The ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.
> Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre.
And a little note at the end, unrelated to the crash:
> As it turned out, there had been a glitch in the gyros’ software; the manufacturer had issued a patch, but hadn’t indicated that it fixed a major problem, so Virgin Galactic hadn’t installed it.
When Airline CEOs Try the Cheap Seats
> “Without a doubt, this is, by design, less space than you have in cabins for our customers who desire a different product.”
Tactic #5 for Avoiding Budget Airline Fees: Wear All of Your Clothes
> Jason Francisco of Camarillo, Calif., figured out that on airlines that charge for cold water, flight attendants often pour hot water from the onboard tea kettle at no cost. To help feed his family of six, Mr. Francisco—a logistics supervisor, no less—brings aboard budget flights several packets of instant miso soup, bowls of dry ramen noodles and reusable dinnerware.
Selling Airborne Opulence to the Upper Upper Upper Class
> Varsano, who says he has sold or helped to sell almost 300 aircraft over the course of his career, is a large, fit, exceptionally good looking and effortlessly agreeable self-made man of 61. He has an imposing head crowned with slicked-back pewter hair, piercing eyes of an Aegean blue, an imperial nose and the resplendent smile of a beloved crooner on a Caesars Palace pension. He wears suits made by the Ghanaian-British Savile Row designer Ozwald Boateng over worn Italian loafers, and carries a weathered gray Louis Vuitton briefcase with a heavy metal clasp. His business card is milled from galvanized metal. By his estimate, the total value of sales he has brokered exceeds $4 billion.
Airbus Pumps Out Record Number of Jets, Joins Boeing in Production Scramble
> Airbus said Monday it built 718 planes in 2017—a company record and a full 30 planes above the year before. Boeing said last week it produced 763 airliners, also a record.
> Airbus and Boeing have already struggled at times to get planes out the door because of a lack of seats, toilet doors, and even engines.
Toilet doors and jet engines, the pinnacle of modern engineering.
> Boeing and Airbus ended the year with a combined backlog of 13,129 planes, or almost nine years of production at current output levels.
I cannot imagine dealing with a backlog like that.
The Brief, Wondrous, High-Flying Era of Zeppelin Dining
> A trip from Brazil to Europe, for instance, took three days, and there was little to do except look out the window, read, socialize, eat, and drink. These last two, as one might expect, were taken quite seriously.
What life is like aboard America’s doomsday plane
> Reporting has taken me to many strange places. The oddest is the National Airborne Operations Centre, the doomsday plane that carries American defence secretaries around the globe. A specialised version of a Boeing 747, known as an E4-B, its white and blue hull is studded with odd bulges and domes, concealing the gadgets needed to run a nuclear war from the air.
Kansas City's Airport: A Dud Or A Gem, Depending On Who You Ask
> But the terminals were built more than 40 years ago, and many believe the decades have not been kind.
The new world of monopoly? What about flying?
> I frequently see airlines cited as an example where the American economy is obviously more monopolistic. By some metrics, yes, but what about the final deal?
The jet plane that shot itself down
Don’t aim at your future self.
United Wants to Sell Your Seat to Someone Else for More Money
Continuous markets in everything. All it’s missing is a little blockchain.