Tag Archives: Air travel

Tenzing–Hillary Airport.



An (alleged) airport a snail-crawling 25 miles from Mount Everest, with no radar system and entirely comprising a single 500-metre runway built into a cliff, I read that Sir Edmund Hillary himself oversaw its construction and that locals were ploughed with liquor (no one will reveal what kind) and asked to perform a ‘foot-stomping dance’ to flatten the soil and make it suitable for landing. I can picture the whole endeavour as a garish episode lifted from a peak Werner Herzog movie, with a Klaus Kinski Svengali lording over the ‘indigenous’, the martinet a grizzly Bavarian launching battered shoes and Jägermeister at them. This shockingly isn’t an apocryphal story, and the airport, a.k.a. ‘It’s a Trap’, was only paved in 2001.

It’s an appropriate precursor to an attempted scaling of Everest. The danger aspect would overwhelm this fat bastard and inject hubris into proceedings – “If I survive this landing the worst is over and I can surely surmount the beastly mountain.”

The list of accidents on the Wikipedia entry is a most disconcerting read, and I wouldn’t recommend watching one of the many bumpy landings should an upcoming flight be on the cards. Fuck knows how a plastered Denzel would have coped. As a passenger, I’d be stammering out of my mind on crystal meth birthed from Walter White’s RV just to endure the experience.

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The Ultra Long Range A350 XWB.


The cutting-edge Beast is here, and will soon smash records and traverse the 9,521 miles between Singapore and New York with Singapore Airlines. To think that commercial air travel isn’t even one hundred years old yet; this is only the beginning.

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The Boeing 314 Clipper.


Look at this madness. A bygone age, passengers on Boeing’s 314 Clipper were graced with sleeping compartments, lounges, changing rooms, and a bridal suite (De Lux Compartment) for trans-Atlantic travel. Some of the images of the time (1930s and ’40s) appear ‘pre-history’, as if this is how all air travel should be; we were denied it by economics and the rather vexing religious cuckoo.

The Emirates A380 business class experience is the closest parallel to that luxury flying boat; think Patrick Bateman from Dubai to Sydney with all the mod cons. What’s missing, however, is … well, look at that photo of the Clipper interior – it’s pure shameless decadence at 13,000 feet, but without the sandals and hoodies. Every Master of the Universe is suited and booted.


When I make my millions from pulling off the most daring robbery (don’t tell anyone) since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, I’ll be flying from airport to airport on one of these Emirates bad boys, a bottle of £20,000 champagne and the Mighty Ducks movies to accompany my victory laps. I won’t be visiting places; the airports will suffice.

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Air New Zealand Flight 901.

Statistically, so I keep hearing, the odds of dying in a commercial plane crash are one in 29.4 million, and the odds of being in a plane crash are one in 11 million. The ‘safest mode of transport’ it may be, but it’s human fuck-ups at 30,000 feet that terrify me more than the failure of cutting-edge machinery, and with pilot error at 53% I shudder at the thought of one off his game. Moreover, when the company men on the ground are fucking up, too, your odds have shortened.

Air New Zealand Flight 901 in 1979 is your tragic archetypal case of total miscommunication. This was the last of Air New Zealand’s Antarctic sightseeing tours which departed from and returned to Auckland on the same day, a 5,000-mile return trip.


The night before the disaster, a correction was made to the flight path co-ordinates, the flight crew not informed of this change. Subsequently, the plane was directed not down McMurdo Sound but straight into Mount Erebus. The effects of sector whiteout phenomenon – the blending of clouds with the volcano – meant the crew were completely unaware of the outside topography. The fatal flight would claim 257 lives.


Peter Mahon QC’s Commission of Inquiry is an absolute must for anyone captivated by the tragedy.


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Air travel #throwbackSundays.

A Braniff airliner in the 1960s.

It’s something out of Mad Men.00-00-braniff-airliner-in-the-1960s

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