Sunday, March 10, 2013

Musings Besides Pig Snouts

NOTE: this was the original conclusion to the previous post. But then I consulted my notes and saw that one more issue I’d like to tackle. Issue, fallacy… you call it.

I’d like to know about these things too, and I kind of like the way it is written. So here you have the semi-serious close to the previous entry, without a word on that most serious aspect of flying that I’ll get into… after you read what should have been my closing rant.

Was I delirious from all the flying or just wildly imaginative? Or just being my usual self? Have you seen such an oxygen mask? It is in fact shaped exactly like a pig snout, but that is not enough for me to make the comparison. Not only its shape but the two circles on the face of the mask that appear to depict nostrils lead me to believe those masks are specifically designed to look like pig snouts.

Have you seen such a mask up close and personal? Because they are sealed, there is in fact NO PURPOSE that I can determine for those circles on the front of the mask! If you know of one, please inform me/us. We’d love to know whether the airlines have our safety first in mind, or are they just trying to make us all look like yellow-snouted pigs.

I’d like to know about those curtains between first class and the rest of us travelers too. Seriously: do the powers that be who govern the airlines not think that those curtains are see-through? Are they supposed to prevent ‘commoner cooties’ from migrating into the airspace of those with socially elevated cooties?

Do they not know that we frequent and informed travelers are well aware of the perks of traveling first class? It is not like they don’t point those perks out when they offer to upgrade your seat for a nominal fee of $100 to $150. It is not going to hurt or offend us to witness those passengers getting a second alcoholic beverage for free, and we already know that the seats are roomier because we parade through first class on our way to the lowly coach section.   

What about being instructed to use the lavatory in our class of service? Will the plane somehow self-destruct if I, a lowly Zone 5’er pee in a rarified First Class toilet? What if someone in first class has a desperate need for a bathroom and the one unit in their class of service is occupied: do they have to hold it till they can use their own potty?

Why can’t we congregate in the aisle? We have to congregate in the aisle to get on the plane and back off the plane, why not mid-flight? What makes a midflight congregation raise TSA’s hackles so that that edict had to be introduced? What could happen mid-flight that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen at boarding or debarking?   

These are semi-serious musings that I wanted to close the last post with but, as usual ran out of room for. Now for the very serious issue of noise abatement.

Pilots are encouraged to use noise abatement procedures, which basically consist of cutting engine power by half upon takeoff, while steering ninety degrees from their scheduled flight path in order to keep the suburbanites living close to the airport from suffering traumatic damage to their hearing and nervous systems.

A bit of history. When air travel was in its infancy planes were nowhere near as digitized or computerized, and nowhere near as quiet and fuel efficient as they are today. Flying was considered a luxury, an amenity available only to the elite. Airports were built outside of urban areas and far away from what could possibly be considered viable encroachments of suburban life. However, with the proliferation of suburban housing developments and their ensuing popularity – again with those who had the financial means to live outside the city and commute to work, communities sprang up ever farther from city center, ultimately bordering lands projected as buffers between human life and the nuisance aspect of air travel.

The conundrum: those very people who could afford air travel also could afford suburban life. As they flocked by the thousands to ‘country castles’, developers made fortunes buying up unused land next to back lots of airports.

Next thing you know, people are living right next to airport runways. Babies could not sleep and everyone suffered from the constant barrage of noise and vibration as aircraft alternately landed and took off. Apparently no one thought to question or charge/indict the developers of those living communities; instead they successfully attacked airports and won the legal right to less noise… even though the airports were there first, and platoons of planners and civil engineers had studied this matter at length and made recommendations to not juxtapose housing to airplane runways.

Enter noise abatement procedures. Surely jet engines are powerful enough to bring a flying sarcophagus full of humanity aloft at half power. No need for them to take off at full power, roaring and disturbing babies and grownups alike. Furthermore, why observe a direct flight path over suburbia when they could just as well veer off by 90 degrees, count on the change of course to keep the bird aloft and then course correct later, when safely past where decent people are trying to live?

As I understand it, pilots the world over are still chagrined over this now global edict, which was first handed down in the late 1960’s. I can’t blame them. By no stretch do I claim an understanding of even simple physics, but even I can see that cutting engine power by half, when surely full acceleration must be needed is an exercise in folly. And, as one who traditionally sits over a wing or some other undesirable seat location within the plane, I can actually attest to hearing the diminishing roar as the pilot cuts back on power and banks his turn over the city.

No wonder every flight starts with the attendants intoning safety measures and then securely strapping him/herself in, as far as possible from a porthole. I’m guessing they don’t want to see the craft as it pummels, earthbound, either.

Most of this information I gleaned from the exceptionally well written Arthur Haley book titled Airport. While it is a somewhat dated tome, it accurately reflects the culture of its time, focusing on the nascent airline industry.                        

Mr. Haley wrote a string of one-word-titled novels between 1965 and 1979. His writing career spanned twice that length, but during this particular timeframe he excelled in weaving dramatic personal/fictional situations into America’s changing socio-economic climate. His trademark, besides one word titles, was deep research into his subject matter. He would spend on average a year researching his subject matter, another six months reviewing his notes and a year or two beyond that writing the book. Much of the research he undertook himself, rather than hiring a team of investigators. The public was spellbound. Nearly every one of his books made the bestseller list, and every one of his books depict a facet of (at the time) burgeoning commerce or industry. If you are looking for a good book or ten, I highly recommend anything he’s written.

Back in our airplane now. We’ve been briefed about our seats being flotation devices, how to buckle our seatbelts and where the emergency exits are. We are all strapped in, ready for take off. The plane taxis into position and pauses at the head of the runway. The engines roar, signaling our imminent ascent into the heavens. It is nighttime. My seatmate already had his eyes closed and his head back, priming to nap the flight away. I glance out the porthole he kindly (or inadvertently) made available to me by his intent to sleep. I like looking at the lights below, cities laid out like gridded jewels, amber in the night from arc-sodium lighting.  

Thank goodness we were instructed to keep the window shades up during takeoff and landing! Otherwise I might have missed the “Thank you for observing noise abatement procedures” sign.

Never thought I’d actually see such a sign.    

No comments:

Post a Comment