“I turn right, toward Tokyo.”
May 16, 2015 2:42 PM   Subscribe

In Flight [New York Times] [Interactive] En route from London to Tokyo, a pilot’s-eye view of life in the sky.
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I love reading things like this because I'm afraid of flying. For you, it's a beautifully written description of the complex technicalities that enable the world of intercontinental air travel. For me, it's a Stephen King novel.
posted by Modest House at 3:55 PM on May 16, 2015

Being the pedantic dork I am, I was thrown by the description of the route being over Europe and Russia, since the great circle route from JFK is actually west over Canada and far northern Alaska. Then I went and checked FlightAware to see what the usual routing is, which confirmed my previous impression.

Only then did I reread the article and discover that the flight originated at Heathrow. Silly me. At least I can take comfort in knowing I wasn't wrong about JFK-NRT, though.
posted by wierdo at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2015

I really enjoyed this article, and sent it to my 9-year-old in hopes it will give him something to think about during our flight to vacation in a few weeks.
posted by jferg at 4:11 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, as a Kansas Citian, I enjoyed the note about the KC waypoints.
posted by jferg at 4:12 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mr Grumpy Editor sez: I wish the writing had been throttled back. Florid is too staid a word... First person narrative of a highly skilled task is powerful enough without dialling the prose up to eleven. No, twelve.
posted by Devonian at 4:34 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holy crow. Anyone who says there's no propaganda in the US need only be pointed to the DC waypoints listed in the graphic.
posted by nevercalm at 5:03 PM on May 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Do you have a link, nevercalm? The graphic you refer to doesn't seem to be there on mobile.
posted by wierdo at 5:40 PM on May 16, 2015

I had just read the previous link on Up Goer Five and could not help but read this in the same tone and voice. "An airplane typically navigates through sky countries..." felt funnily close to writing this article using only the most common thousand words in English. Good times.
posted by qwip at 6:01 PM on May 16, 2015

The graphic is built strangely, I can't seem to link to the whole thing. But there are two approaches:


posted by nevercalm at 6:13 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

After nearly ten seconds of googling, it appears that while there is in fact a US waypoint named BURMA, vaguely near Fairbanks AK, there is no waypoint SHAVE.

Evil. Pure and simple from the eighth dimension.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:37 PM on May 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I really enjoyed reading this.
posted by 4ster at 7:08 PM on May 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Oh the people! (Used for burning)", says the xkcd. Have I mentioned how I love XKCD? I was previously unaware that the Up Goer Five burned people. 🌠
posted by wierdo at 9:00 PM on May 16, 2015

The 'Oh the People!' thing is a reference to the Hindenberg disaster.

I liked the article. I seem to be in the mood to enjoy florid prose. Thanks for posting.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:20 AM on May 17, 2015

Oh Devonian, don't be so grumpy. I really enjoyed that, if only all technical/engineering types could write so well. I can only assume that your inner editor would have made it a much less enjoyable read.

Incidentally, on my iPhone 6+ some graphics do not appear in portrait orientation but do in landscape.
posted by epo at 3:37 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

For me, it's a Stephen King novel.

Fear is the mind killer ... no, really!

For me the thing that helped the most about getting (mostly) over my fear of flying was learning as much as I could about the aircraft, their systems, and how modern air traffic works. It's all very safe and understandable, and you just have to convince that more instinctual/animal part of your brain that everything is ooookay when you are bouncing around at FL350 :) I love flying now (especially if it means getting to somewhere interesting!) and I always get a window seat so that I can see what's going on.

Meanwhile, this beautiful article reminds me of a tension I've read about within the pilot community. Clearly this author LOVES flying and wouldn't dream of another career. And that's why some of his fellow pilots hate him. Many pilots feel that guys like this who love the job are part of the reason salaries are so low for them (especially the regional pilots). I've seen discussions where they accuse pilots like the author of being "willing to fly for free" if it keeps them in the air. So on the one hand you have pilots who are doing their dream job and loving it, while on the other you have pilots for whom "it's just a job".
posted by despues at 4:52 AM on May 17, 2015

Holy crow. Anyone who says there's no propaganda in the US need only be pointed to the DC waypoints listed in the graphic.

God, no kidding. First Congress bullies us into renaming DCA after Reagan (to me it will always be "National" or "DCA", end of story), and now this. Apparently the waypoints were renamed in 2012 and form two STARs (Standard Terminal Approach Routes) named, not surprisingly, FRDMM and TRUPS. As a former DC-area citizen (who's moving back to the area this fall), yeesh - enough already.
posted by photo guy at 7:02 AM on May 17, 2015

That aside, very interesting article - thanks for posting :) The bit about altimeters was particularly cool, I never realized the readings could vary like that.
posted by photo guy at 7:05 AM on May 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Why are pilots and pro golfers such self absorbed dicks.Discuss
posted by johnny7 at 5:21 AM on May 19, 2015

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