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.
London’s Heathrow airport is among the world’s busiest airports for passengers, with the total number of travelers passing through in the first half of 2012 topping out at over 46 Million. Think about that number for a moment and try to put it in context. It’s not easy, is it?
To give some sense of what a typical travel day looks like at this London transportation hub, watch the above video. This dizzying time-lapse of takeoffs and landings, with planes hovering mid-air like buzzing honeybees entering the hive, is a hypnotic visual reminder of just how much travel we’re all doing these days.
It’s interesting seeing the fluid dynamics of modern flight turned backwards on a stationary aircraft. Normally during takeoff, an airplane flies into the wind to create as much air movement as possible over the wings. It’s a mixture of the Bernoulli effect and a variety of other physical principles, but the end result is lift as a function of air speed.
And if the aircraft isn’t moving? Technically you can still get lift with enough air speed. Youtube user CaptainHarlock999 captured an amazing video this week in an aircraft boneyard outside of Los Angeles. With winds at the scrapyard reaching over 70MPH, enough lift was actually generated by a 747’s wings to actually pick the fuselage up off of the ground, bouncing the plane around as the back wheels stayed in place.
The Southern Air 747 in question was actually scheduled to be scrapped, so the engines and much of the interior were stripped off of the airframe. Because of that reduced weight the aircraft was able to lift off the ground — so don’t worry, it won’t happen to you on your next trip!
Comprehensive testing is at the core of any airframe development, and that means modeling and measuring the worst case scenario. Though likely to never happen in practice, engineers need to know how components will perform in an emergency situation — so they test them to their limits.
The aborted takeoff is one such test that Boeing uses to gauge the performance of a vehicle’s braking system and condition thereafter. At full load and under full take off power, a system is tested by suddenly slamming on the brakes with no reverse thrust. How quickly the aircraft stops and the condition of the landing gear is a reflection of how successful the test is.
In the above video you can see the results of a recent test at Boeing on their upcoming 747-8 freighter. In coming to a stop the brakes glow red hot and the landing gear begins to smoke, but that result is actually good — the fully loaded aircraft stops 700 feet short of the target distance, which means safer, more effective breaking.
Whether or not the passengers onboard have wet their pants is another question. You can read more about the test over at Boeing’s website.
Your eyes do not deceive you, that’s a bed in the cockpit of a commercial airliner. Or former commercial airliner, I should say. What you’re looking at is the top front room of Stockholm’s Jumbo Hostel, a converted Boeing 747 jumbo jet that’s been remodeled to form one of the most unique hostels in the entire planet.
Parked just off of the tarmac outside of Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, the Jumbo Hostel features a series of bunked rooms on either side of the “aisle” moving from the center to the back of the aircraft. A few rooms, including that pictured above and the one in the tail cone come with ensuite bathrooms, but in true hostel style, there are scattered, shared bathrooms throughout the craft.
At the nose of the airplane and in the aft of the second floor, the Jumbo Hostel features two common areas, the latter of which is adorned with actual seats from the first class cabin of an airliner. The common area in front also doubles as a place to sit down, grab a few snacks, have a drink and swap a few stories with the other bewildered residents.
As far as comfort, our room in the tail cone featured two narrow beds positioned near each other, a bed stand and a small television mounted to the wall – not lavish by any standards, but quite common and almost cozy for a hostel.
Rooms at the Jumbo start at about $60USD per night. Be forewarned that there aren’t a ton of food options near the property except for the local snacks and the Radisson Blu across the street, so if you’re going to need a meal then plan ahead. You can reach the hostel from Arlanda by taking the 14 bus from the public transit area.
Note, some logistical help in executing this trip came from the Sweden tourism board. Itineraries and adventures were our own creation.