Starting on July 4th, waiting on line at a security checkpoint at San Diego International Airport (SAN) will be a bit more entertaining.
The airport is rolling out a series of “info-tainment” videos featuring popular San Diego mascots offering tips to travelers about what can and cannot be taken through the checkpoints.
Look for the San Diego Zoo’s Bamboo Bear, Legoland’s Johnny Thunder, the San Diego Padres’ Friar, and Shamu from SeaWorld.
SAN isn’t the only airport to feature celebrity videos at the security checkpoints. In Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport partnered with the local Convention and Visitors Authority to create almost a dozen short videos featuring Las Vegas “luminaries” such as Wayne Newton, Rita Rudner, Carrot Top, magicians, aliens, and acrobats demonstrating the proper way to go through the security checkpoints. You don’t even need to be on line at the airport to see the videos: they’re on the airport’s website under Traveler Tips.
Last week yet another piece of legislation was introduced in an effort to improve airline service and insure relief for passengers left stranded at airports in the United States. HR 6355 – or the Air Service Improvement Act of 2008 – was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar and aviation subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello.
The bill would require airports and air carriers to create and file emergency contingency plans with the Secretary of Transportation.
Airport plans would need to include “a description of how the airport operator…will provide for the deplanement of passengers following excessive delays and will provide for the sharing of facilities and make gates available at the airport in an emergency.”
Airline plans would need to show how each carrier would allow passengers to deplane, share facilities in an emergency, and provide food, water, restroom facilities, cabin ventilation, and access to medical treatment for passengers on planes stuck on the ground for an extended period of time without access to the terminal.
You can read the full bill here.
Had a nice talk with Jesse Leavenworth, a reporter from the The Hartford Courant, a while back about my favorite topic – airports with great amenities – and see that his article has hit the paper.
I chatted with Leavenworth about some of my favorite airports to spend time in – including San Francisco International Airport - SFO (great art and food choices in the Int’l Terminal), Oregon’s Portland International Airport- PDX (great shops and no sales tax), and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (a casino, lots of art, on-site museum, and loads more).
Leavenworth was especially pleased to hear me praise Schiphol, because his paper’s hometown airport, Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (BDL) has a direct flight to Amsterdam. Oops.. not any more.. Northwest Airlines just announced that it is dropping that route as of October 2.
Bradley still has loads to offer, including a free parking coupon for folks who sign up for the airport’s frequent-parker program and free Wi-Fi for all.
Last time I went through BDL, they were still displaying something truly unusual: three patch-sized embroidered scenes created by Raymond Materson to honor the 1994 Special Olympics. Materson was in prison when he made the patches and unraveled his socks to get the colored thread to use in his artwork. Once out of prison, Materson kept sewing. His work is now highly prized and displayed in museums and in art galleries.
Materson is currently in his first major overseas exhibit at the Compton Verney Gallery in Warwkickshire, England. To celebrate, he made this portrait of Queen Victoria and was kind enough to let me share it with you.
Courtesy and copyright: Ray Materson
What a thrill it would have been to be at Niagara Falls on this day back in 1911. That’s when 150,000 people watched aviation daredevil Lincoln J Beachey fly his Curtiss pusher biplane over Horseshoe Falls, underneath the steel International Bridge, and down the Niagara River gorge.
It was the first time someone had “pierced the mists of the great cataract and flirted with the deadly currents in the Gorge,” The New York Times wrote. “Thrilling,” declared Beachey, the stuntman Orville Wright called “the greatest aviator of them all,” and who was the first to perform the “loop the loop,” the first to fly upside down, and the first to fly inside a building.
All while dressed in a business suit.
Courtesy: U.S. Air Force Museum Archives
Do higher fares, new baggage check fees, and the inevitable long lines at the security checkpoints have you dreading your next trip to the airport?
Maybe I can help: here’s a link to the Well-Mannered Traveler summer refresher course posted today on MSNBC.com. There’s even a chance to earn extra credit.
Column illustration by Duane Hoffman at MSNBC.com
OK, maybe you can’t get to the beach just yet, but Miami International Airport is bringing a bit of the beach to you.
An exhibition of 25 large-scale luminous photographs of sea-shells by Iran Issa-Khan is on display along the moving skywalk on the 3rd level between concourses D-F.
Coming this fall: an exhibition of ceremonial hammocks from South America.
Photo courtesy: Miami International Airport. Copyright:Iran Issa-Khan
Former Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart has a message for us:
Next Monday (June 30th) is the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska Event. On that day in 1908 an asteroid or maybe a comet – nobody really knows what – fell from the sky and devastated about 800 square miles of Siberian forest.
You can see photos and maps of the site and learn more about the ‘event’ here.
Can it happen again? You bet, says Schweickart. “Near-Earth objects have been impacting Earth episodically for the past 4.5 billion years. They don’t hit often, but when they do they are a serious threat to life and property. Ask the dinosaurs… they lost it all.”
Can the earth be saved? Schweickart is working on it. He’s the chair of the B612 Foundation, which plans to change the orbit of an asteroid by 2015 and prove that humankind can protect the Earth from future asteroid impacts.
It may sound like a Twilight Zone episode, but just in case, I’m heading over to Seattle’s Museum of Flight Saturday afternoon (June 28) to find out more. Schweickart will be there to talk about what astronauts, cosmonauts and experts from around the world are doing to make sure we are ready.
And while we’re talking about objects from outer space, earlier this week Dave Demerjian over at Wired’s Autopia wrote about the news that a police helicopter crew from Cardiff, Wales reported being chased recently by a “flying saucer-shaped vehicle.”
While airlines are having well-publicized financial woes, many airports are doing quite well. One reason: travelers spend money when they’re stuck at the airport. Another: both general aviation and commercial airports figured out long ago that they need to diversify their income.
Leases for farming, hotels, and golf courses on airport-owned land are popular. But while doing research for an article on this topic, I discovered that some airports are far more creative.
Some airports earn money from auctioning off surplus equipment (snowplows, trucks, computers, etc.) and stuff left behind at the security checkpoints. Others are getting big bucks for the oil and gas and mineral rights on airport land. And then there are these two intriguing examples:
Since the mid-1950′s, the Sebring International Raceway has been operating on land owned by the Sebring Regional Airport in Florida. The racetrack is used year-round, for everything from automobile and tire testing to racing schools, corporate events, and the well-known Sebring endurance race.
And in Missouri, the new Branson Airport is set to open next spring. But it probably won’t be called that on opening day. The country’s first privately financed airport has put the naming rights for the entire airport up for sale.
The folks at AASHTO, the American Assoc. of State Highway and Transportation Officials, remind us that on June 23, 1931, aviation pioneer Wiley Post and navigator Harold Gatty set out on a record-breaking flight.Traveling in Post’s single-engine monoplane, nicknamed Winnie Mae in honor of Post’s daughter, the daring duo left Roosevelt Field in New York and made a 15,474-mile trip around the world. They made 14 stops and ended up back in New York eight days and 16 hours later, setting a world record for air travel.
That record didn’t stand for long, though. In July, 1933 Post made a solo trip around the world in seven days and 19 hours.
Not content with just flying around this world, Post was thinking about supersonic transport and space travel. So in 1934, he designed a “Man from Mars” high-altitude pressure suit and tested it in an unofficial ascent to 49,000 feet.
Sadly, Post never did get to test his space suit on Mars. He died in an airplane takeoff crash with his friend Will Rogers near Point Barrow, Alaska, on August 15, 1935.
Now that summer travel is in full swing, I bet Gregg Rottler will be getting lots of e-mail.
Rottler gathers tales of air travel woe and posts them, neatly and without editorial comment, on his Web site: Flights from Hell.com.
He does it partly to give frustrated travelers someplace to share some truly outrageous stories, but he also offers readers lots of “Wow, I’m glad-it-wasn’t-me” entertainment.
Story categories run the gamut from animals and babies (separate topics) to odors, weird people, and the ever-popular ‘reclining seats.”
Looking to the future, Rottler recently posted a link to some of my recent MSNBC.com Well-Mannered Traveler columns about in-flight cell phone use: a topic that may someday earn a spot on the Flights from Hell top-ten list.