Two 747’s Almost Crash Over Scotland — And That’s Not The Scariest Part

747
Flickr photo by Ramón Cutanda

On a course headed for what might have been the worst disaster in aviation history, two Boeing 747 aircraft came within 100 feet of each other in a near-miss event over Scotland.

It happened in June of this year but the report is just now being released by by the UK Airprox Board, which examines near misses in UK airspace. The planes were 30 miles north of Glasgow when an air traffic controller noticed they were moving closer together. Ordered to fly in different directions, cockpit crews apparently got the instructions reversed and wound up flying towards each other.

“It was apparent that both crews had taken each others’ instructions, and the board found it hard to determine why this had occurred,” noted the Airprox report, a reported in a SkyNews article.Odds are all four pilots in the two aircraft probably were not paying a lot of attention to ground control, already having received clearance to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Compounding the problem: both planes had been ordered by air traffic control to fly at 34,000 feet.

The really scary part: A crash was only prevented because two pilots on each aircraft saw each other. Taking evasive action avoided collision with one plane climbing and the other diving.

Crazy Stunt With a Jumbo 747 in Bucharest!

Coming Soon: Wider Airline Seats For Wider Air Travelers

Airline seats
Flickr/ Derrick Coetzee

Airline seats continue to be a hot issue with air travelers. Instead of cramming into a smaller space with less legroom, some of us pay extra for a premium coach seat. Airlines like that idea and have offered a number of profit-boosting options, bundling early boarding, a prime location and more as part of the deal. Now Airbus has a plan to replace a row of three 18-inch-wide seats with a 20-inch seat on the aisle and 17-inch seats for the middle and window locations.

“The wider seats may be offered at a premium for those who require more room or as a reward for frequent flyers,” says an ExecutiveTravelMagazine article, noting that a number of airlines are indeed interested in the new seat configuration.

The Airbus option comes at a time when airlines are taking a serious look at seating in both existing and new aircraft on order. United began featuring slimmer seats that grant more legroom on its Airbus fleet in May. Those proved so popular that United will roll out the change to all of its Airbus planes eventually.Comfort is apparently not all about room either. Delta has dozens of new Boeing jets with highly-requested power outlets at seats throughout the plane.

How to Get the Best Airline Seats

It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, It’s Hello Kitty!

Hello Kitty Plane
Jackal Lin, Flickr

You’ll either be purring in content or scratching your head at this one, but get ready because Hello Kitty themed aircraft are set to debut in the United States.

EVA Air has announced it will begin flying a Boeing 777 featuring the popular cartoon character on its Taoyuan-Los Angeles route, immersing travelers in all things Hello Kitty during the 13-hour journey.

The Taiwan-based airline has been flying jets outfitted with Hello Kitty themed décor in Asian countries for a number of years, but it’s the first time such aircraft will be flown in the U.S.

The airline is still putting the finishing touches on the interior of the plane, but they have released a few details about what passengers can expect. Aircraft bathrooms will feature Hello Kitty branded soaps and lotions and cabin crew will wear pink Hello Kitty aprons featuring a large 3D bow and an image of the famous feline.

If the planes are anything like the ones operating in Japan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere, we can also expect to see Hello Kitty adorning the headrests, pillows, boarding passes, and luggage tags. But the most incredible part has to be the Hello Kitty themed meals, which feature intricately carved desserts and morsels of food shaped like the cartoon character herself.

The first Hello Kitty flight will debut in the US on September 18.

Hello Kitty Food
leesean, Flickr

Flight Turbulence: Just How Dangerous Is It Anyway?

flight turbulenceThe jury is still out on a recent study that says a result of climate change could take fliers on a bumpy ride. Scientists think passengers on transatlantic vectors could experience more unexpected ups and downs, the leading cause of in-flight injury, but agree that more study is needed. But just how dangerous is flight turbulence anyway?

Unexpected turbulence, called “clear air turbulence,” can be surprising when it hits an aircraft before the “fasten seat belt” sign lights up. But aircraft are built to take it and some even know what to do with it.

“Aircraft are built to withstand a 2.5g force load without even any minor damage and, as it is rare for a storm to generate a force that exceeds 1g load on an aircraft, there is no risk,” write the editors of TravelMole pulling from interviews they had with Boeing and the British Airline Pilots Association.

Still, whether caused by invisible air currents that flow over mountains or a natural part of the jet stream, experts agree that the particular aircraft flown can make a big difference when turbulence strikes.

“To ensure the most comfortable ride, it’s best to fly on the largest, most modern aircraft as these are designed to lessen the impact of turbulence on passengers,” concluded TravelMole.When Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner gets back in the air, it may be the aircraft to be on. Like other new aircraft, the 787 is equipped with a system to read the air in front of it, compensating for anticipated turbulence for a smoother ride.

Want to know more about that study? This video breaks it down:




[Photo credit - Flickr user mstephens7]

United Rolls Out Wi-Fi On Overseas Flights

It used to be that one of the few places you couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal was at 30,000 feet, but soon there will be no excuse for being out of touch (or not getting work done) as airlines implement a dramatic expansion of onboard Wi-Fi services.

More than half of the planes flown by U.S. carriers currently offer Wi-Fi onboard, but United and other airlines are planning to up the ante by offering satellite-based Internet service en route. This not only means faster speeds, but the ability to get online during overseas flights – something not previously possible using ground-based technology.However, installing the satellite technology onto existing aircraft is no mean feat, with airlines forced to ground a plane for 15 days to get the system up and running. Engineers also have to run a series of tests to make sure passengers can get the signal strength they’re paying for. Since the shape and composition of a plane can cause Wi-Fi signals to bounce all over the place, experts have had their hands full making sure you can get can online no matter where on the plane you’re sitting.

And then there’s the cost. Installing Wi-Fi on a single aircraft sets the airline back more than $200,000 – and that’s not counting the revenue lost from taking the aircraft out of service for so long. Of course, airlines will more than make the money back in the long run thanks to the charges for using the Wi-Fi, which will range from around $4 to $23 depending on the flight.

Twenty of United’s planes are already equipped with the new Wi-Fi technology, with plans to bring that number up to 300 by the end of the year.

Check out the video below to learn more about United’s Wi-Fi expansion plans.




[Photo credit: Flickr user Robert Raines]