Before an emergency landing took the Dreamliner out of the sky, Boeing had been lobbying regulators to approve the plane for longer, riskier flights over open water. Clive Irving reports.
Two high-profile battery meltdowns have sparked a nightmare for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, leaving the expensive fleet of next-generation jets grounded in the U.S. by order of the Federal Aviation Administration—and by its counterparts in Europe, Japan, India, and Chile.
A Boeing 787 takes off at Narita International Airport in Tokyo. (Itsuo Inouye/AP)
But just months before the incidents, Boeing was pressing the FAA to allow the plane to fly longer distances over water—routes in which the nearest airport in an emergency would be over five hours away.
The ability to travel these “long legs” is an essential part of the business model for the Dreamliner, but any new airplane must demonstrate a flawless safety record before it gets to fly such a route. Boeing, despite its use of relatively unproven technology in the new jet, appears to have been impatient to get such clearance, according to officials with knowledge of the certification process.
When airlines merge, who wins?
The mass cancellations of flights along the East Coast in the face of a ferocious blizzard earlier this month once again fixed travelers’ attentions on the chronic problems of airline customer service, and so it may not have been the best moment for American Airlines and US Airways to announce a merger, a move that will create the largest airline in the country—and possibly, the most-complained-about one.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg, via Getty
News of the agreement to combine the two carriers into a single, $11 billion company, operating under the American Airlines name, raises the question: is bigger really better? American is set to emerge from bankruptcy protection soon, and executives at US Airways have been desperate to acquire another airline since they led tiny America West’s takeover of US Airways in 2005. What remains to be seen now is if the combination of the two legacy carriers will be a win for customers.
“The merger was inevitable,” says Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, an airline consultant and frequent traveler based in Redmond, Washington. “But it was not desired.” O’Neil-Dunne says that’s especially true for passengers, who can’t seem to answer the question: what’s in it for us?
Da Chen on a city of infatuation.
Shanghai is an enigma. It was wrapped in gaunt beauty in 1979, when I visited the magical metropolis by the sea. I was a scrawny and bigheaded village boy who had never been anywhere outside my southern village, and the city was a broken giant languishing in its tattered costume, the vestige of her distant colonial past. The Bund stood guard at her Huangpu post, vigilantly looking to the sea. Nanjing Road stretched tiredly, welcoming its multitude of untiring shoppers journeying from far and near to glimpse the city’s faded glory and lament its bygone glitter.
Shanghai: Magical metropolis by the sea. (Aly Song/Reuters)
For three unforgettable days, I wandered amid a maze of winding streets and narrow alleys, marveling at the exotic foreign architecture in the city’s French Concession. I dreamed my own dreams of the city’s old grandeur and relished the sensation of touching the sacred ground of this majestic Paris of Asia.
The wonderment of a fast city life overwhelmed me, a country boy. Crowds of people bicycling to work in the morning light reminded me of flocks of autumn geese flying in the sky. Neatly trimmed trees lining the streets and hidden behind tall buildings, temples, and pagodas seemed to yearn for the sun. Its citizens appeared undaunted by the city’s magnitude as they wound their way through the bazaar-filled cityscape. Yet the most lasting memory, by far, was catching the rare and forbidden glimpses of the shapely legs of city girls in short skirts on fast bikes. The city of Shanghai mystified me so.
Become world’s largest airline.
The skies are about to become more united. US Airways and AMR, the parent company for American Airlines, have reportedly agreed to a $11 billion merger that will make the combined carrier the largest airline in the world. The new company will be called American Airlines, but will be headed by Doug Parker, the CEO of US Airways. In a statement to the media Thursday, Parker conveyed his hope for the future of the company. “The combined airline will have the scale, breadth, and capabilities to compete more effectively and profitably in the global marketplace,” he said. The merger gives 72 percent of ownership to AMR creditors, and US Airways shareholders will have the rest.
As thousands of Carnival passengers languish in the Gulf of Mexico, we revisit more tales of deprivation on the high seas, from an epic David Foster Wallace exposé to pirates and viruses.
The 3,143 passengers aboard the Carnival Triumph, which is currently drifting in the Gulf of Mexico after an engine fire left the ship without propulsion, are in a pretty miserable state. There have been reports of “sewage running down the walls and floors,” nonfunctioning toilets, water shortages, scarce electricity, and a depleting food supply.
But they aren’t the only ones whose cruise-ship vacations turned into disasters. From pirate attacks to vomit and diarrhea epidemics, more horror stories from the high seas.
David Foster Wallace, Harper’s magazine, January 1996
In a place steeped in religion, a drinker finds his faith.
At Le Bristol, as soon as I am alone and the lights have come up, I order a vodka martini shaken and chilled with a canned olive speared on a stick. I am resolutely solitary at the hotel bar at 10 past 6, and the international riffraff have not yet descended upon its stools. It is l’heure cocktail, and I am content. The birds are still loud on Rue Madame Curie and nearby Rue Al Hussein, and as yet there are no hookers strolling the carpets. I am alone, I think to myself, on my little lake of slightly gelatinous vodka. I am alone, and no one can touch me. I am haraam. In Arabic there are two words, often rendered as haram and haraam in English, that are etymologically related but distinct. The former refers to a sanctuary or holy place; the latter to that which is sinful or forbidden.
Booze is legal and widely consumed in Lebanon, where 40 percent of the population is Christian. (Guenter Standl/laif via Redux)
i like the Bristol, which lies so close to the Druze cemetery of Beirut; I occasionally wander there if no one has picked me up or a conversation has not dragged me down. The Druze drink alcohol, and no disrespect is possible. I also like the hour of 10 past 6. When I touch the rim of the night’s first glass, I feel like Alexander the Great, who speared his insolent friend Cleitus during a drinking party.
The Bristol’s bar is half hidden in that anxious lobby where men in dubious suits eat honeyed cakes all day long. It is an exercise in discretion. The businessmen who sit here late at night do so with tact, because not all of them are Christians. In Lebanon, which is still 40 percent Christian, alcohol is legal and enjoyed widely. I sit at the end of the bar, and my second vodka martini comes down to me on its paper serviette, with the olive bobbing on the side. Salty like cold seawater at the bottom of an oyster, the drink strikes you as sinister and cool and satisfying to the nerves, because it takes a certain nerve to drink it. Out in the street, beyond the revolving glass doors, a soldier stands with an automatic weapon staring at nothing.
‘Citizen scientists’ classify Africa’s animals.
After Ali Swanson, an ecology researcher from the University of Minnesota, set up 225 cameras over 400 square miles of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, she was hit by the curse of Big Data: how do you make sense of the head-spinning contents of more than a million photographs? Her cameras, triggered by sensors that measure heat and motion, were capturing an enormous number of images of prolific animals like wildebeest, stampeding through the park. Swanson was initially most interested in carnivore behavior, so she desperately needed help sifting through this tsunami of snapshots.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota set up cameras to help document 400 square miles in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. (Courtesy of SnapshotSerengeti.org)
So the research team applied to join Zooniverse, part of a larger suite of projects that allow the general public to sift through data—like searching for images of star clusters in the Andromeda Galaxy, for example—and help researchers with the taxonomy. A visitor to the resulting website, SnapshotSerengeti.org, is instructed in how to classify an animal and can then click through images, one at a time, labeling the contents of each one. It reveals an intimate look at a corner of Africa: a photo might clearly show a zebra, or it might be a trickier image, no more than an animal’s rump and tail, with grassland and sky in the background.
Perusing the site is like taking a virtual safari, an edition of National Geographic with no editing. Some photos offer a lovely glimpse of wildlife—a group of gazelle, with long curved, elegant horns, standing in a sunny field of grass—and others are humorously candid. The frame of one photograph is filled three quarters of the way with an extreme close-up of a zebra’s striped chest. In a nighttime shot, is that an elephant’s butt, bleached white by the camera’s flash?
What’s the greatest living Arctic explorer to do when his funding disappears?
The world’s greatest living explorer crumpled between the washing machine and the refrigerator, sweat dripping from his nose onto the kitchen floor. At that moment, Pen Hadow didn’t look like a polar hero. And as he recently announced his retirement, one wondered why he was still putting himself through such a punishing training regimen. “Old habits die hard,” he gasped between pants. I think it was more complicated. After all, when the body stops traveling, the spirit takes over the trek.
'Everything I did combined the spirits of adventure and science to get the important message out.' (Courtesy of Martin Hartley)
Fifty-year-old Hadow has more sea-ice time than anyone on the planet. Ten years ago he became the first person to trek solo, and without resupply, from the Canadian coast to the North Pole, an achievement likened to the first ascent of Everest without oxygen. The amiable Hadow has also led a score of expeditions to both polar regions, guiding parties of clients under the aegis of his own adventure travel company, and in addition, he has undertaken three multimillion-dollar scientific surveys of the Arctic Ocean sponsored by insurance giant Catlin.
Having spent seven months in the Antarctic myself, and almost as long in the Arctic, I know the conditions explorers face: pressure ridges 10 feet high, temperatures in the minus 60s Fahrenheit, disintegrating sea ice, and winds that don’t just knock you down, they send you flying. No amount of satellite phones, high-frequency radios, tracking beacons, or emergency transmitters will enable a support plane to reach you in an hour if you get peritonitis or carbon-monoxide poisoning, and a polar bear or thin ice could finish off a hero in a second. Imagine one of Hadow’s open-water swims between floes, when he towed his sledge like a boat—a tasty snack for a thousand-pound bear.
Tan Twan Eng reflects on a modern city with muddy roots.
Its name means “Estuary of Mud,” and it started life as a tin-mining frontier town in the 1850s. Perhaps that is why Kuala Lumpur has always been reinventing itself. Since independence in 1957, the capital of Malaysia has been striving to rise, like a lotus flower, above its murky, terrene origins. And it has succeeded. Today, one of the most spectacular sights in the city—or anywhere in the world—is the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers. Lit up at night, they glitter like a pair of diamond-encrusted ears of corn. But whenever I see them, I think also of Bok House, a mansion 10 minutes’ walk from the Twin Towers.
Chua Cheng Bok built the mansion in 1929. He started out poor, but became one of the richest men in the country and constructed his home in the Renaissance style, incorporating Chinese and Anglo-Indian elements into its design. In 1958 it was leased to a restaurant called Le Coq d’Or. In the early 1980s, when I was 10 or 11, my parents used to take my sister and me for dinner there once a month. Le Coq d’Or’s menu was Western: fish and chips, chicken chop, steak, but Malaysianized (the chicken chop came soaked in a mushroom gravy; the vegetables were steamed but still crunchy). The staff was Hainanese, of the kind much sought after as cooks by the English during colonial times.
On every visit I would wander around the poorly lit mansion. The lobby was tiled in squares of black and white. Italian marble statues covered in a skin of dust posed on heavy traditional Chinese blackwood furniture. A grand staircase with art nouveau cast-iron railings rose from the center of the lobby into the darkness of the closed-off second floor. The dining room smelled of starched tablecloths and stale frying butter. Oil paintings, murky with age, hung on the walls. Part of the thrill of exploring the house was my suspicion that it was haunted. Going to the washroom on one of my first visits, I turned down the wrong corridor and came to a room furnished with only an immense Chinese blackwood opium divan. The mother-of-pearl decorations on its headboard were elaborate and eerie, giving the divan a malevolent air.
Francesca Segal on finding tranquility in the British capital.
In economic terms as well as geographic, London’s black and beating heart has always been the River Thames, viscous with centuries of filth and secrets. Eventually, the Victorians laced the city with underground drains to spare Londoners the sight and stench of their own effluent, which had until then poured freely into the river; yet in my childhood it was, nonetheless, still famously dirty. The schools of used condoms that washed ashore on the litter-strewn, muddy banks were known as Thames Goldfish—a very London joke.
Hampstead Heath has been a refuge for Londoners and an inspiration for artists. (Homer Sykes/Network Photographers/Alamy)
The river slices the city in half, dividing us, suspicious and unforgiving rivals, into South London and North, or “saaf” and “norf” in the local diction. To go to the other side is to venture into unfamiliar and potentially hostile territory. The river is cleaner these days, but an ancient collective memory of its poison remains. Perhaps this is what makes us so reluctant, now, to cross it. We breathe sighs of relief, lungs cleared by the fierce wind off the water, as we cross back over the bridges and return to our rightful places. And so in truth, for 21st-century Londoners, the Thames is no longer a center but a boundary. If we’re crossing the river, we think, it better be bloody worth it.
For me, a lifelong northwest London girl, the Thames is merely my southern border, and the heart of my city is Hampstead Heath: 790 acres of dense woodlands and open meadow, and the odd corner of manicured and rolling lawn, all presided over by the twin peaks of Parliament and Primrose hills. The view east from these heights sweeps all the way across the city to St Paul’s Cathedral, to the slow-turning Ferris wheel of the London Eye, and now to the angular monstrosity of the Shard. When I was little, someone once told me that Parliament Hill would remain above the water as an island even if all the polar ice caps melted, and this immediately made it the center of my imagined world. The Heath is a place for solitude or for communion. It is a place for picnicking, for stargazing, for mushrooming, for watching birds and for collecting whichever blackberries hang high enough to have evaded the casual urination of passing canines. The Heath is where north Londoners walk the dog or the baby and where, in darker corners on certain nights, men look to one another for fleeting love, or something like it.
He’s a photographer who was lucky to grow up during Australia’s surf revolution. The pioneer talks to Josh Dzieza about his new book.
Kara Cutruzzula combs the beaches—and blackjack tables—of Puerto Rico for the meaning of ‘vacation.’
In ‘Mapping Manhattan,’ explore the city via 75 New Yorkers’ personal geographies. By Allison McNearney.
Travel writer Sara Wheeler, famous for her stories of polar expeditions, returns home to her city: Bristol.
Need to plan your next grand adventure? From Burma to Cuba, 12 places to see this year. By Nina Strochlic.
Say “no” to popular, overcrowded shores and head to an off-the-beaten-track waterfront... More