Miracle of Crossing the Pond

February 20, 2013 by Bruce Landsberg

130220leading-edgeThe red-eye trip eastbound across the Atlantic in the back of a Boeing 767 is always a bit tiring. I’m always envious of those who can sleep in coach, which economics always dictates. All of my destinations seem to require an early evening departure, and then one flies on the wrong side of the clock straight through until morning. I suspect it has to do with utilization of the aircraft and economics. How come everything ultimately revolves around economics?

I was on my way to address AOPA Switzerland at their annual safety seminar in Zurich. You’ll hear more about the adventure in the magazine, but I am always reminded that with as many rules and restrictions we have in the U.S., it’s much more challenging elsewhere!

The United cabin crew was very good and helped pass the time while we experienced the miracle of long distance flight. My first flight across the pond was on a Pan Am Boeing 707 in the golden age of aviation. One actually dressed for the occasion, people were civil to each other, and legroom was included in the ticket price. The employees were treated like the professionals they were.

Have coffee or a glass of wine in your shirt sleeves while exceeding 580 knots over the ocean with an outside air temperature of minus 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s been less than 100 years since Charles Lindbergh first crossed the Atlantic solo in 1927 and that we now do it routinely hundreds of times a month is nothing less than stunning. The airplanes usually make it routine, but as you’ll read in an upcoming landmark accident, this is not a totally benign environment.

I said goodbye to the big Boeing in Zurich which would make the trek back again in about 4 hours. That’s something a seasick passenger in a square rigged ship a little over a century ago could only dream about.

It’s been said, “Never underestimate the public’s ability to be bored with miracles!”  As pilots, we are so fortunate to enjoy them regularly and from an insider’s perspective. Be sure to share aviation with someone this month! Think about how it’s changed your life. Would you do it again? I would!

Join the AOPA Foundation as we share aviation with others. A donation to the Foundation helps fund our initiative to get more folks involved with aviation and in the cockpit.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Terry D. Welander

    Response to Landsberg article: Historic loss of Air France 447, AOPA
    Pilot March 2013 pg 75. Two critical facts did not come out and need to be broadcast everywhere. All trans continental airliners I believe have inertial navigation. It is probably critical for the inertial navigation system to be tied to or provide signal to the attitude indicator with triple redundancy as a back up check
    of attitude. In trans continental airliners, doppler radar should be in place to provide a groundspeed independent of any external airspeed source as a cross check of airspeed. With these two fundamental backups in place, control indications in Air France 447 probably would not have been lost; and the aircraft probably would not have been lost.