Tag Archives: Planes

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.

Further reading/viewing:



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Siberian airspace during the USSR.

I thought an 11-hour, 6,000-mile flight from London to Tokyo was hell on earth, a suspended furnace of ghastly smells and even worse movies. On such claustrophobic ventures I do enjoy unearthing the laptop for a disaster-themed bonanza – Flight (2012) with the inimitable Denzel, Air Force One (1997), and an Air Crash Investigation bumper pack. If you’re going to reek worse than durian in a hobo’s socks, you’re going to be subjected to terrifying plane crash fun.

A wee peek into the Cold War glory days of grim and we find an 11-hour trip today the relative Shangri-La of a plane journey. For obvious reasons, the communist paradise of the Gulag restricted its airspace, with only Soviet planes allowed to fly above the Soviet Union. The solution was for Western airlines to traverse the Arctic, stop at Anchorage, and then proceed to Tokyo. This sub-zero town in Alaska was for a semi-epoch the transport hub for travel to Asia. With the fall of the Soviet Union it is now once again a backwater, the perfect milieu for the very bleak Christopher Nolan movie Insomnia (2002).

Today, Russia wields enormous power through its control over the Siberian flight corridor, and the country chooses which airlines have access (with great cost to the airline). Post World Cup this summer, one of the greatest fears of commercial airlines is that escalating tensions (some might say warfare, this proxy or cyber) between Russia and the West will usher in another airspace ban, with passengers once more forced to city-hop en route to their desired destination. The nineties and noughties – 9/11 aside – just might turn out to be the Golden Age of flying.

We don’t want shit like this happening again:



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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.

Further reading/viewing:





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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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