The photo below, shot over Turkey, provides enlightenment to anyone unfamiliar with meteorology.
This is a classic anvil head Cumulonimbus, better known as a thunderhead. If you have ever been caught in a thunder storm (on the ground, of course, because if you have been in an aircraft, you would be alive to read this fine prose), this is what the sky above your head looks like, unless of course it’s an imbedded thunderstorm, which is impossible to photograph (because it’s imbedded).
This is the type of cloud formation feared, and rightly so, by all pilots. These seething giants can toss about and tear apart even to largest and heaviest aircraft. None is immune from its power and ferociousness. There is no better example of how nature always wins in fight, because the fight is never fair and there is nothing humans can do about that lack of fairness and always losing. One can only remain at a safe distance, admire the beauty, and take photographs.
Emirates Airline does an excellent job at aspects of a trip that they control. Sadly, they must rely on others for services at airports outside Dubai. They offer an excellent chauffeur service, check-in, and lounge for first and business classes, but these privileged passengers must fight the crowds at boarding pass check, passport control, and security screening. Even priority lanes, if at all provided, do not always ease the way.
We spent over twenty minutes in a sea of humanity (many representing the unwashed masses according to doors reaching my nose) struggling to get through the single open gate for boarding pass control. All automatic gates were closed and a single harried clerk attempted to cross-check boarding pass and passport, which would allow an individual to stand in line once again at immigration control. I glanced at the departure board and noticed that I was surrounded by people heading to such lovely spots as Ulan Bator, Kiev, Moscow (three airports), Vietnam, China, and so on. I even spotted thuggish Slavic-looking characters in Russian-style camouflage suits, but could not discern if they were headed to Moscow or Kiev. Fortunately, no scuffles occurred.
Once again, I was reminded that the main virtue/benefit of first or business class is space, either in or on the way to the aircraft. Catering is secondary.
For anyone that flies or has flown on commercial airlines, below is an interesting and entertaining piece from the Guardian.
I have known this for years, which is why I avoid US carriers and most European ones.There was a saying, I believe used by cruise ships a long time ago, that said “Getting there is half the fun”. Of course, that ended long ago, but current travel in first class of the best airlines is not bad and a begin to any vacation. And, first class of the top carriers bears no resemblance to first class on a US carrier, except that both get you from point A to point B.
Don’t take my word. You can read an article from Vanity Fair on Emirates and the Dubai Airport. Notice the photo of the baggage claim area and compare it to ones you know in the United States…or Heathrow.
I check rather often, among others, two websites: wind map (http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind) and flight radar (http://www.flightradar24.com). Both show aspects of real life as they are happening.
Today, I had an interesting realisation. I noticed the monsoon winds that blow from Africa to India. I had read about these as motors of trade in past centuries. One can also see the trade winds in various latitudes. You can also see hurricanes/typhoons spinning their way across the seas and buffeting land.
At the same time, I noticed flight patterns across the North Atlantic. During the day, all aircraft are heading west. The pattern reverses at night, when all flights head to Europe.
These two patterns, one natural and the other manmade are very similar. I’m sure no one else cares…
I have a new hobby: Flightradar24.com. I can play with a few times of day, to see what planes fly what routes.
I became interested after the Malaysian plane was shot down and routes over war zones became an issue. Airlines are free to choose their routes, and economics usually the key determining factor is the decision. Fuel is one of the many variables in an airlines cost structure.
I have a few flights planned in the months to come, whose route passes over Iraq. Some people seem to think that folks on the ground have the means and the desire to shoot down an airplane. Some airlines have announced that they will re-route flights to avoid Iraqi airspace, even if this means higher fuel costs; others have announced no change.
Fortunately, Emirates is one of the airlines that will avoid Iraq and fly over Iran. I have been able to confirm this by checking the routes flown on Flightradar. I also like to see routes I have flown in the past, usually seen on the Airshow in the plane. I also can check the progress of Number One Son, as he pings back and forth across Europe on his bus routes.
I had looked at flight tracking programs in the past, but none were as good as this one. I can even see planes taxiing, rolling down the runway for takeoff, or on final approach. This is more enjoyable than a video game, because I can relate to the experience.
Air travellers should be forgiven if they are confused. For years, people have been instructed to turn off all electronic devices during flight. Now, they will not be permitted to board an aircraft if a device is not able to be turned on.
Anyone interested in aviation or in where they flew on that flight over the |Atlantic to or from Europe should enjoy the attached video. The North Atlantic route is, I believe, the busiest in the world. Inside an aircraft, one does not notice, even with a window seat. Despite countless flights across those waters and much time staring out the window, I have very rarely spotted another airplane.
In earlier times, airplanes were required to fly within a few hours of land. You can see that some now simply head off across the middle of the ocean, having complete confidence in the reliability of modern engines and their ability to calculate fuel requirements.
Have a nice trip in your imagination...
Most people sit in a airplane and have no idea what’s happening outside the aircraft--especially in front. Few passengers with window seats check out the view for long, if at all. I try to book a window seat and spend much time looking out the window, even at the vast emptiness of open sky. Either the landscape or clouds are fascinating and usually better than the movies on offer.
On my recent Emirates flight from Dubai to Frankfurt, the entertainment system offered an Airshow to document flight route and progress and two cameras: one to the front and one looking downwards. On the ground, you get an excellent view of concrete or can see what’s happening in front of the plane as it taxis and takes off.
On the way to the active runway, I noticed the above scene on the screen, something that no pilot ever wants to see in the air. Fortunately, the plane turned off to head for the runway, taking off before us.
The German word for today is Geier, which is a vulture. This word also refers to a person that is overly greedy and preying upon weak or stupid people for their own benefit.
This word came to mind, when I noticed an article about a Chicago law firm plane planning to file a class action suit against Boeing and Malaysian Airline. They want to represent as many families of victims as possible and will claim mechanical failure. Of course, they do not care that the plane has not been found or that any evidence of the cause will not be available for a long time, if ever. The main thing is to file suit.
But, as you probably know, some lawyers are all-seeing, all-knowing deities, so facts are irrelevant.
Which calls for some humor...
An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing.
A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled in and ready.
"All set back here, Captain," came the reply, "except the lawyers are still going around passing out business cards."
Avid followers of my travel reports will have discerned my tendency to watch the Air Show on the in-flight entertainment system. This has two reasons: interest and lack of any film worth watching.
On Emirates flights, the information alternates between English and Arabic languages.
On my latest flight from Dubai to Frankfurt, I had a strange thought. (Many of my thoughts seem to be strange!) When the Arabic names are on the screen, the plane appears to be flying through clouds...or flocks of snow geese...or....
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.