Network World | The Federal Aviation Administration this week took a step closer to setting up a central hub for the development of key commercial space transportation technologies such as space launch and traffic management applications and setting orbital safety standards.
The hub, known as the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation would have a $1 million yearly budget and tie together universities, industry players and the government for cost-sharing research and development. The FAA expects the center to be up and running this year.
The new center would be an offshoot of other FAA Centers for Excellence that through myriad partnerships develop and set all manner of aviation standards from aircraft noise and emissions to airport systems. According to the FAA the center's purpose is to create a world-class consortium that will identify solutions for existing and anticipated commercial space transportation problems.
The stupidest idea to come along in ages looks to have gone down the drain, literally. Last week Michael O’Leary, ceo of the Irish budget carrier Ryanair, said he would install pay toilets for use on short-haul European flights, but the cockamamie scheme turned out to have been more than a piddling matter. A stream of invective followed the announcement in the press.
The latest news: Boeing, which built Ryanair’s fleet of 737-800s, has put the kibosh on the plan for safety reasons, leaving O’Leary up a yellow river without a paddle. In addition to charging one euro to use the facilities, O’Leary had planned to remove some of the existing toilets and replace them with additional seats. But the airline’s planes already are configured for 189 passengers, the most that can be carried safely. Because the planes were made in America, any reconfiguration by Boeing to increase the number of passengers would be subject to FAA approval, which would be unlikely.
Looking at old maps and cartograms seems particularly relevant in a time when we’re all thinking about how information is relayed and consumed. The map of the world now centers squarely on the user. Online mapping, via sites like Google Maps, MapQuest, and Yahoo Maps, GPS chips in our phones and cars, and all the smartphone mapping apps, have allowed us to create custom maps and overlay our personal histories on geographical charts. What’s next in our journey to measure and display the world around us? It surely won’t be a folded piece of paper, but what is it?
Here are three maps that don’t conform to the badly-folded-paper-jammed–in-the-glove-compartment variety and which have caught my attention recently:
- This illustration depicts a 19th-century Inuit carvings of the coast of Greenland. The carving served as a tactile map—you could canoe along the coastline and follow the undulations of the land with your finger. When you come to the end of the map, you flip it over and the portable coastline continues down the other side. It floats, it’s waterproof, and it doesn’t require literacy or even good light. Brilliant.
Spirit Airlines has hit a new low. Four hours ago I received an email from the airline announcing that it would begin charging as much as $45 fee for carry-on bags, the first U.S. airline to add that surcharge. This is only the latest move in the industry’s “unbundling” trend, in which airlines tack on fees for services and amenities that traditionally were included in your airfare. But Spirit’s move today marks the trend’s nadir. Perhaps the only surcharge that could surpass it for egregious gouging would be if an airline charged passengers to use the toilet—a day that certainly can’t be too far off.
Spirit will begin charging the carry-on fee for flights starting on August 1. Exceptions to the carry-on fee include medicine, food for immediate consumption, and assistive devices, presumably because it wouldn’t look right to have passengers going into convulsions for lack of meds or to charge someone for bringing crutches on board. The carry-on rule applies only to baggage placed in overhead bins. Personal items that can be placed under your seat—such as your wallet, your change purse, your ATM card, and loose cash—are free.
Euro Weekly News | A dozen stewardesses from bankrupt air line Air Comet have posed in the nude for a special calendar. The 1,200 copies of the saucy calendar is being sold over the internet for 15 euros. The calendar is the last resort of the 672 Air Comet stag which have been left unemployed after the air line went bust last December and many without pay for the past six months.
Air Comet had tried and failed to create a niche in the market by offering cheap flights to South America, but dropping demand due to the recession caused the airline to collapse leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports. It is calculated that Air Comet’s owes it creditors an estimated 160 million euros, five of which are thought to be unpaid staff wages.
Photo credit: Augusto Robert/Handout
American Airlines and JetBlue announced a new partnership today that will improve the flying experience for passengers of both airlines traveling into or out of the New York and Boston areas. Let’s say you want to fly from Nantucket to JFK on JetBlue, and then connect to Paris or London on American. Now it will be as if you’re flying on one airline—a seemless connection.
One ticket purchased, one check in, one bag check. Like flying on one airline.
Clark Mitchell is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.
The strike, set to last for four days, follows a three-day strike last weekend.
BA said Friday it will be able to fly more than 75 percent of customers booked to fly during the upcoming strike because so many staff are willing to cross the picket lines. Another 18 percent of passengers are booked to fly on other carriers or have changed their travel dates to avoid the strike, the airline said.
USA Today | Today's smartphones and PDAs could have a new use in the nation's airports: helping passengers avoid long lines at security checkpoints. The Transportation Security Administration is looking at installing devices in airports that home in and detect personal electronic equipment. The aim is to track how long people are stuck in security lines. Information about wait times could then be posted on websites and in airports across the country.
"This technology will produce valuable data that can be used in a variety of ways," TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches said, noting it could help prevent checkpoint snarls.
But civil-liberties experts worry that such a system enables the government to track people's whereabouts. "It's serious business when the government begins to get near people's personal-communication devices," said American Civil Liberties Union privacy expert Jay Stanley.
New York Times / Reuters | A three-day strike by British Airways cabin crew will go ahead from Saturday after talks with management collapsed, Britain’s Unite union said Friday.
The strike, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for thousands, presents a major headache for the ruling Labor party weeks before a general election because Unite is its biggest single financial backer.
“The strike that is planned for midnight tonight will go ahead as will the other strike we have announced,” Tony Woodley, Unite union joint general secretary, told reporters.
CNN | More air travelers may soon be scanning their smartphones instead of paper slips at airport gates.
United has become the latest airline to offer mobile boarding passes for customers equipped with Web-enabled mobile phones or devices, such as iPhones or BlackBerrys.
United passengers traveling within the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands can now log on to mobile.united.com to check in for their flights via their smartphones.