Very long haul
Innovation and translation. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Very devoted, long-time readers of Understandably will recall that back in December 2019, I wrote a story about a retired general who let slip that the U.S. military might be this close to developing technology that could “deliver any human being from any place on planet Earth to any other place in less than an hour.”
Less than an hour, the man said. New York to Australia for lunch, and then back.
(Honestly, I'd be thrilled and amazed if any reader remembers that far back.)
Today is the 101st birthday of the Australian airline, Qantas. And while they're not suggesting they can go from Brooklyn to Bondi Beach in an hour (sorry, I just wanted some alliteration there), the airline is working on a nonstop NYC to Sydney flight.
They call the idea Project Sunrise. It was sidelined because of the pandemic (you guys remember that, right?), but ultra long haul flights look like they’re back on.
Australia’s national carrier confirmed an order for 12 Airbus A350-1000s, which they'll apparently use starting in 2025 for direct flights (also going from Australia to London, I just realized).
There already is a NYC to Aukland direct flight on Air New Zealand; after years of delays (again, largely due to COVID), ANZ launched in September: a 15 hour 5 minute flight that basically tests the limits of human endurance.
Also, Singapore Airlines has the world's longest flight: a 9,527-mile, 18 hours, 50 minute nonstop journey from New York to Singapore.
One of the things I like about this whole story are the innovations airlines are forced to come up with when faced with the notion of hundreds of passengers spending 15 or more hours stuck in a pressurized metal tube.
Pre-pandemic, for example, Qantas ran a survey of about 12,000 passengers, asking them what kinds of on-board facilities they'd like to see for such a long flight, understanding that doing so would mean using parts of the plane that normally hold cargo for other purposes. Among the options:
an onboard exercise room
an airborne pub
curtained-off lay-flat bunks, so that economy class passengers could better sleep
"an on-board crèche."
I'm sorry, most Americans said when we saw this last option: a “crèche?”
As in, "the Christian religious display that we see in homes and public places around Christmas?" Doesn't that seem a bit seasonal and religious for an airline?
A quick Google search later, of course, and I realized that the same word, crèche, is used in British and Australian English to refer to "a nursery where babies and young children are cared for during the working day."
Okay, that makes a lot more sense—on many levels.
Anyway, I don't know when I'll get to go to Australia, even though there's a free drink waiting for us all there, thanks to an earlier article, so maybe we'll just end by saying happy birthday to Qantas—the airline that as a result of Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, many people around the world believe has never had a crash or loss of life despite more than a century of commercial flight.
We'll see you in an hour. Someday!
Sneak preview: Next month we'll mark the 81st anniversary of one of the most impressive aviation adventure milestones that people seem to have completely forgotten, (understandably :-). Can anyone guess what I'm talking about?
7 other things worth knowing today
Good news: Poland’s president Andrzej Duda has said the missile that landed in his country and killed two people appears to be an “unfortunate accident,” and that it was “highly probable” that the rocket, which was Russian-made, was used by the Ukrainian air defense. (The Guardian)
This is nice, and honestly these numbers are much higher than I would have thought: Youth sports participation has finally climbed back to pre-pandemic levels, per the Aspen Institute's annual State of Play report, which surveys youth sports parents. Children ages 5 to 18 are spending 16.6 hours playing sports each week, the most since before the outbreak of COVID-19. (Axios)
Vandals freed thousands of mink at a rural northwest Ohio farm, leaving an estimated 10,000 of the small carnivorous mammals unaccounted for Tuesday evening, the local sheriff said. A farm manager said someone left a spray-painted message of the letters “ALF” and the phrase “we’ll be back.” A group known as the Animal Liberation Front had previously claimed credit for releasing a much smaller number of mink at the farm in a previous incident years ago. (Fortune)
Celebrities who promoted troubled crypto exchange FTX are facing a class action lawsuit. Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen, Steph Curry and Larry David are among the stars named in the lawsuit, which comes days after FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in Delaware. Former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who stepped down from the company last week, is also named in the suit. (The Block)
The producers of AMC Networks’ “The Walking Dead” have filed a new $200-million lawsuit in their latest effort to recover profits from the hit show and its spinoffs. (LA Times)
I'd wanted to share this yesterday, but it didn't actually happen until almost 2 a.m.: Following a successful launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, the agency’s Orion spacecraft is on its way to the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Carrying an uncrewed Orion, SLS lifted off for its flight test debut at 1:47 a.m. EST Wednesday from Launch Pad 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA)
Pretty wild: A webpage with 8 billion little "person symbols," representing all the people alive on the planet, and adding one new "person" every .3 seconds or so to illustrate the speed at which the population keeps growing. (World-o-Meters)