Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2013 in Best prednisone price, What is neurontin, Viagra, Portfolio | Comments Off on Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Orville, Wilbur and Me

You too can fly a Wright aircraft.

  • By Phil Scott
replicaA replica is now available for flying just a few miles from where the Wrights experimented. Above: Our writer enjoys a few moments of stable flight.
It’s offered by

The Wright brothers never trudged up these dunes barefoot.Bruce Weaver, Andy Torrington, and I are struggling to carry a glider up a sandy winding trail in Nags Head, North Carolina. A near-exact reproduction of a 1902 Wright aircraft, the glider rests on a four-wheel dolly with balloon tires. Andy is pulling and steering, Bruce is pushing, and I’m trying to keep tree branches from snagging the flexing wings while tip-toeing on hot sand spiked with underbrush. Barefoot is the best way to get up a hill of sand, but as the sun torches the tops of my feet, I start to appreciate the Wrights’ formality. When they conducted their flying experiments a fewmiles north, they wore shoes (not to mention wool suits and ties).

The glider weighs around 120 pounds, but it feels heavier, and it’s bulky—302 square feet of yellowing cotton wings built just like the original: the same ash and spruce frame and weather-beaten, cross-stitched fabric. Constructed in 2003 by The Wright Experience, a group run by renowned Wright scholar/replica builder Ken Hyde, it’s the closest the team could get to the original. Sure, they used multiple twisted wires because the original single-strand hard wire breaks too quickly, and they added a harness rigged to hold you in when you hit the sand. You’re going to hit a lot of sand.

Complete accuracy is impossible: Of the original, only a wingtip bow exists. The brothers famously never left plans, only the patent drawings. (It was the glider, not the powered 1903 Flyer, that first achieved the three-axis control that the brothers patented.) “There are some sketches and notes in their papers, in their notebooks,” Hyde says, adding: “Luckily, the brothers took a lot of good photos.”

Hyde and The Wright Experience built this glider for the Discovery of Flight Foundation, which used it to train pilots for a flight planned in a replica Flyer for December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight. (That attempt failed.) Once the glider had served its mission, the foundation, like the Wright brothers, stashed the craft in a hangar.

Last year Paul Glenshaw, the executive director of the foundation, and his son visited Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which offers instruction in a variety of hang-gliders. Glenshaw sat down with the school’s manager, and along with The Wright Experience, they worked out an agreement in which the school would use the replica to teach gliding on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Glenshaw says he wanted people to connect with the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, and Hyde says Kitty Hawk Kites was the right group to show what the glider can do: “They know the winds and they know the weather.”

For $349, Kitty Hawk Kites offers a four-hour flight lesson in the glider, with up to five students per lesson. The company has started with one lesson a week. So far, 35 pilots have flown the Wright glider. (“Pilots” may be a misnomer: No experience in airplanes or gliders is necessary.)

When I first arrived at Jockey’s Ridge, Bruce, the clean-cut recreation manager, and assistant recreation manager Andy took me to the school’s hangar. The glider was up on a rack. “It looks fragile but it takes a beating,” Bruce said. “It flexes, it creaks, but it bounces back into shape. It’s tougher than it looks.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“I think it’s very safe,” said Bruce.

Well, no one died in the Wrights’ glider, I thought.

Bruce, Andy, and I made the long haul up Jockey’s Ridge. Andy, a happy guy with long, thinning red hair, was wearing the Kitty Hawk Kites uniform: bare feet, shorts, and a T-shirt.

Up on the Jockey’s Ridge peak, the wheat-color biplane got curious looks from nearby students in starter hang gliders. Bruce and Andy lifted the glider off the dolly and set to work connecting control wires to control surfaces. I put on the helmet that the two give fliers.

Bruce explained the canard—the forward elevator. It’s operated by twisting a one-by-four bar of ash that is mounted horizontally between the two skids, at about the pilot’s chest level. Its ends are wrapped in wax string, the duct tape of the day, to keep the wood from splintering. The bar is linked to the elevator with window sash chains that are routed around wooden pulleys bolted inside the frame. Bruce said it was my job to control pitch: “When flying it, try to make small movements. The canard may flutter—the springs dampen it. Don’t over-control it.”

To lift off, he said, “hop until your foot doesn’t touch the ground, then get it across the bar. On landing, just belly in and keep your feet up. The glider is built so when it comes in to land, it doesn’t want to nose up and stall. It wants to belly-land instead of dive into the ground—which is handy.”

In the open space in the lower wing, I got on my knees. Andy hooked my harness to the glider, had me lie prone in the cradle, and told me to hook the top part of one foot over a rectangular chunk of wood near the trailing edge. We were pointed directly in what little wind there was.

At Bruce’s signal we lifted the glider off the dune. In a 10- to 15-mph wind gust, it does weigh less, but not much. I gripped each end of the swiveling bar and held the elevator level, grinding my naked elbows onto the sandy skids.

The next gust lifted the glider; Bruce asked if I was ready.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

Bruce and Andy started hauling ass down the slope, holding the tow-lines that were attached to the ends of the wing. The glider tried to lift off, and it looked like we had enough speed to let me pull my other leg up and hook my toes over the bar.

It’s flying…. I’m flying…on my stomach behind that famous football-shaped elevator…

Without much altitude or warning, it nosed down. I rolled the ash bar back, which didn’t help the airspeed at all. The glider sort of slammed into the dune.

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked. He was sprawled out on the sand just beyond the wingtip.

“Yeah. Are you okay?” I said.

He leapt to his feet and showered me with positive reinforcement, then told me I’d violated the over-control rule. He and Andy lifted the glider, and Bruce told me to hold the elevator up to get the wings to sail us to the dune top.

Waiting for another weak gust, we sat in the wing’s shadow and guzzled the bottled water we’d packed. Bruce recounted that they’d gotten in some 300-foot glides. “The beauty of it is, if it rains, you get 25 percent more distance because that fabric shrinks up and it’s not nearly as porous. There’s a point where it gets too much, but rain is your friend with that glider.”

We launched again.

I’m flying…. I’m flying…. The left wing dipped, and reflexively I shoved my hip left. The tip stabbed the sand and the glider spiraled. The Wrights called it “well-digging.”

The wind changed direction and picked up to a steady 20 mph, so we hauled the glider from the dune’s relatively shallow east side to the south face’s deeper, wider sand valley. Bruce pointed to a weathered yellow house on the next ridge and told me to point the elevator there. We three lifted the glider—really, we just stopped holding it down—and I got situated: I slid my hips onto the cradle, using my bare feet to push against that aft horizontal bar, elbows clenching my ribcage and holding up my upper body in a sort of yoga pose, both hands gripping the ends of the elevator control bar. I felt like Orville, in the glass-plate photos I’ve seen of him in the glider.



They ran forward and played out a few feet of line while the glider instantly gripped the wind. I held the glider level, and the ground dropped away. I’m flying…I’m flying…I’m really flying this #*%& glider…

I held the elevator steady, kept the wings level, and glanced down. We were still flying straight and they were running down the white dune backward, maybe 20 feet below. While the Wrights had no altimeter on board, that was likely their average altitude as well—though their pal George Spratt estimated that on one glide, they reached 60 feet. While the glider soared, I tried to spot the yellow house. Mostly I allowed the glider to do what it wanted to do. Don’t over-control.

It plunged, spraying sand and jarring my teeth a little.

“Are you okay?”


The next flight started out as a repeat of the first, but this time, once I was airborne, the glider dipped left and I got busy sliding the cradle right, but over-corrected; now the right wing dipped, and I slid just a little to the left, all while concentrating on holding the elevator level. We were in no danger of well-digging—then, well, the remaining few seconds played out same as before, though the landing went smoother. We didn’t measure the distance, but I may have flown as far as 200 feet. The Wrights made it farther—between September and October 1902, they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, flying from 200 and 400 feet, though their longest flight was 622.5 feet.

On October 23, 1902, Orville Wright wrote to his sister Katharine: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second or about 30 miles per hour, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind a gliding machine was ever in, so that we now hold all the records! The largest machine we handled in any kind [of weather, made the longest dis]tance glide (American), the longest time in the air, the smallest angle of descent, and the highest wind!!!”

One hundred and ten years later, strapped to an identical aircraft on the same breezy dunes, I started feeling the excitement Orville had. “The sense of connection with the Wright brothers is the overriding sensation I get while flying the glider,” Andy said. “Knowing that the Wright brothers at one point felt exactly what I felt while flying the glider is pretty amazing.” I knew what he meant. After each landing I was torn between wanting to run to my backpack for a quick swig of water, and run back to prepare for the quickest takeoff possible. Each time I realized that my tongue was sticking to the top of my mouth, I thought: There will always be time for water later, when the wind dies down.


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Why Airports Are Tracking Your Smartphone Use While You Wait for Flights

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Portfolio, Depo provera side effects | Comments Off on Why Airports Are Tracking Your Smartphone Use While You Wait for Flights

Kevin  / Flickr

More airports are monitoring data from passengers’ cell phones use as part of the quest to improve operations.

Looking to get ‘smart’ about how they manage passenger flow, the airports in Toronto and Copenhagen, among others, track the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals on passengers’ smartphones as they move throughout the airport.

The data is valuable to airports for its potential to help eliminate passenger traffic bottlenecks and determine staffing needs.

But it also offers value to passengers, the providers say. The input will help to shorten their wait times, for one thing. And in the cases of airports like Copenhagen, which offers an app it developed in concert with its tracking program, the data will give travelers useful information about their own trips. WIth advance notice that security waits are extra long, for instance, a flyer can make the decision to forego a pre-flight coffee in favor of hustling to get in line.

Perhaps most important to airports’ financial interests, the results of passenger tracking will reveal where and how airport customers spend money amid the multi-billion dollar industry of airport concessions.

The programs could even help determine where those dollars are spent, as concessions companies advertise promotions through the apps that they develop alongside tracking programs.

The Burden of Fake Reviews

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Portfolio, Cymbalta high | Comments Off on The Burden of Fake Reviews


One of the quiet plagues of online commerce has been the shadowy firms that some businesses pay to write glowing reviews on sites like Yelp, Citysearch, Google and Yahoo. On Monday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced agreements with 19 of the bogus review companies to stop the practice and pay $350,000 in fines.

The issue is not unique to New York, however. Paid reviews manipulate shopping behavior across the Web. The question is whether any amount of fines and cease-and-desist agreements can put a dent in the problem.

“It’s a classic false advertising case. People who read online reviews reasonably assume that the reviews were written by actual customers,” says Jeff Rabkin, California’s special assistant attorney general for law and technology. “It’s an old-time fraud emerging in a new marketplace.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office is looking into the problem of fraudulent reviews, but a spokesman would not provide specifics.

The rise of customer reviews on sites like San Francisco-based Yelp has also given rise to a cottage industry of bogus reviewers, paid to write glowing copy about a product or service they may know next to nothing about. Some of the bogus review writers are located overseas in Asia or elsewhere. Some are single-person operations pounding away on a home computer.

Trusted advertising

Surveys paint a disconcerting picture of their impact. An April 2012 study from Nielsen found online reviews were the second most trusted form of advertising after word-of-mouth by family and friends. Yet the technology research firmGartner estimates that by 2014, some 15 percent of online reviews will be fake.And a 2011 study from Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating increased a restaurant’s revenue up to 9 percent.

Being tricked into buying a lousy sandwich is not the end of the world. But reviews of doctors, lawyers, mechanics and construction companies influence important transactions. Can the fake reviews be stopped?

The Federal Trade Commission released new guidelines in March trying to address all the new ways consumers get information about purchases. Under the guidelines, if someone is compensated for writing a review of a business, they must disclose the relationship.

Finding the fakes

Yelp tries to snuff out the phonies with clever algorithms that detect suspect testimonials by combing the language and the users’ habits as they submit reviews. Over 42 million reviews across tens of millions of businesses exist on Yelp, yet the company’s algorithms detect about 25 percent of them as bogus and don’t display them to consumers, according to Vince Sollitto, Yelp’s vice president of communications.

Sollitto says there’s a give and take, however. Sometimes Yelp’s algorithms will accidentally flag real reviews as fake and upset business owners.

“Ironically, we get some flak for that,” he says. “That’s the price we have to pay.”

Fraud detection is competitive and, accordingly, Yelp doesn’t share information about fraudulent users with other websites and services. That makes business sense. At the same time, if firms shared more data about fake reviewers, it might help everyone sniff them out.

Anonymity a problem

Indeed, the anonymity of the Web compounds the problem. While traditional reviewers like Zagat’s and Fodor’s may only consult on a few opinions when judging a business, they are brands people feel they can trust. Crowdsourced opinions employ thousands of reviews, most by unknown reviewers, leaving consumers struggling to weed out the phony ones.

Perhaps the easiest way to validate reviewers would be through social-network sign-ons. Fakers wanting to create false reviews would have to create real-looking profiles on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, complete with many friends, messages and photos — an arduous task.

Facebook has dabbled in these waters, offering a service that requires a Facebook log-in to comment on articles so people think twice about what they say.

But that isn’t a perfect solution. Not everyone is comfortable on Facebook, and others may still feel fine writing glowing phony reviews under their social network IDs.

For now, consumers can try taking the average sentiment of a dozen reviews, if not more. The fakers might still get through. But there are enough real voices out there to drown out the phonies if digital shoppers take the time to listen to them.

Iceland bares its secrets

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Accutane side effects, Antabuse, Side effects of lasix | Comments Off on Iceland bares its secrets

iceland horse

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – This week Iceland will launch a new tourism campaign to inspire travelers to seek out the country’s undiscovered treasures.

Share the Secret is a new campaign by Inspired by Iceland, the country’s tourism promotional effort. The campaign will draw on local knowledge to reveal some of the country’s hidden treasures by encouraging Icelanders to share their secrets and offer visitors the opportunity to discover unique experiences around the country.

The campaign will cover a wide variety of themes from Icelandic nature and culture, with secrets and insider tips from locals and Icelandic experts shared on food, design, music, shopping and adventure across all the Inspired by Iceland platforms. Icelanders will share personal favourites and travel tips with visitors online, via social media (#icelandsecret) and through experiential activity, offering a more intimate experience of their much beloved homeland to tourists. Using both physical and digital secrets the campaign will bring to life some of Iceland’s greatest wonders.

The campaign will encourage travellers to arrive with a spirit of adventure, to go further and do more, and will ask Icelanders and previous visitors to Iceland to share their best kept secrets of the country; be it their favourite record store, secret family recipe, or a spot by the lake with the very best view of the Northern Lights.

The website will become a hub for secrets, with Icelanders and tourists sharing secret places and activities on an interactive map and blog. Fans and visitors on social media will be encouraged to contribute their own secrets and experiences via Facebook and Twitter, which will be shared across all platforms.

Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director for Tourism & Creative Industries at Promote Iceland, comments, “This year we want to encourage Icelanders and visitors alike to share with others just what makes the country so magical. We want to highlight the undiscovered side of Iceland and show that Iceland is a place of adventure and discovery and we are hoping that travellers will be inspired to come and seek out the secrets of others and leave with their own to share.”

Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

Posted by on Oct 2, 2013 in Best prednisone price, Biaxin side effects, Paxil reviews, Cymbalta high, Buying ventolin | Comments Off on Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

kruger map sm

The Kruger National Park has installed flat screen television screens to enhance information dissemination to tourists in the park.

The screens have been installed and are already in use at the gate and camp receptions. Making use of text, images, audio and video, the screens will present visitors with content such as updates on the developments of the park, park rules and regulations, emergencies like road closures, park events and campaigns, scientific research and other projects, rare animal sightings and more.

“The expectations from the public are changing, they want the speed on access to information; they want prompt delivery of the answer, rather than guidance or instruction. We were looking at introducing the kind of communication and marketing tool which would afford us a chance to communicate in an interactive way with our tourists, when Anglo American responded positively,” indicated Mabasa.

The screens were donated by Anglo American and Phillip Fourie, Head of Safety and Sustainable Development, for Anglo American’s thermal coal business at Paul Kruger Gate, presented them to the park.

“Anglo American believes that the impact of mining should be positive and to the benefit of South Africa, its people and the environment. We look forward to a successful partnership with Kruger National Park,” he said.

“Like broadcast media, these TV screens will allow us to disseminate information on time; allowing tourists to respond by either making follow-ups with our front office staff or contacting the relevant park officials for more information,” concluded Mabasa.

Africa’s size in perspective

Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Cymbalta high | Comments Off on Africa’s size in perspective


Travellers to Africa are often surprised that many friends regard the Dark Continent as an homogenous destination, whereas you’ll be grilled for specifics if travelling to the US, or even Italy. This graphic by Kai Krause, a computer-graphics guru shows just how much of the world would fit into the huge African continent.

The Most – and Least – Honest Cities?

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Portfolio | Comments Off on The Most – and Least – Honest Cities?


Reader’s Digest conducted a global, social experiment to find out the relative honesty of several cities. The reporters “lost” 192 wallets in cities around the world. In each, they put a name with a cellphone number, a family photo, coupons, and business cards, plus the equivalent of $50. They “dropped” 12 wallets in each of the 16 cities  selected, leaving them in parks, near shopping malls, and on sidewalks.

The results:

Most honest: Helsinki, Finland. Wallets returned: 11 out of 12.

Mumbai, India. Wallets returned: 9 out of 12.

Budapest, Hungary. Wallets returned: 8 out of 12.

New York City, U.S.A.. Wallets returned: 8 out of 12.

Moscow, Russia. Wallets returned: 7 out of 12.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Wallets returned: 7 out of 12.

Berlin, Germany. Wallets returned: 6 out of 12.

Ljubljana, Slovenia. Wallets returned: 6 out of 12.

London, England. Wallets returned: 5 out of 12.

Warsaw, Poland. Wallets returned: 5 out of 12.

Bucharest, Romania. Wallets returned: 4 out of 12.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Wallets returned: 4 out of 12.

Zurich, Switzerland. Wallets returned: 4 out of 12.

Prague, Czech Republic. Wallets returned: 3 out of 12.

Madrid, Spain. Wallets returned: 2 out of 12.

Least honest: Lisbon, Portugal. Wallets returned: 1 out of 12. Oh, and the couple that returned the wallet were visiting from Holland.

Of the 192 wallets dropped, 90 were returned—47 percent. As we looked over our results we found that age is no predictor of whether a person is going to be honest or dishonest; young and old both kept or returned wallets; male and female were unpredictable; and comparative wealth seemed no guarantee of honesty. There are honest and dishonest people everywhere.

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Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Best prednisone price, What is neurontin, Depo provera side effects | Comments Off on Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Sir Bob Geldof as the first rock astronaut

Space Expedition Corporation has confirmed the news that singer, philanthropist and Nobel Price nominee Sir Bob Geldof has secured a seat in one of their upcoming space flights, officially becoming an astronaut. He follows in the space steps of  Guy Laliberté, Canadian co-founder and the current CEO of Cirque du Soleil who went into space in September 2009.

Geldof said, “Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honor but pretty mind-blowing. The first rock astronaut space rat! Elvis may have left the building but Bob Geldof will have left the Planet! Wild! Who would have thought it would be possible in my lifetime.”

SXC Founder Michiel Mol added, “We are so proud to have Mr. Geldof aboard. He is an icon of social responsibility and in projects like Live Aid, he proved that entertainment and meaningfulness can be a great combination. We share that vision by offering our astronauts a life changing experience, while at the same time, we are changing the concept of sustainable airline transportation all together; namely outside the earth’s atmosphere.”

Mr. Geldof will be undertaking his first step of training in the space flight simulator based in the Netherlands on September 26th 2013.

From 2014 on, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) will perform daily commercial flights into space. SXC offers participants a life-changing experience in viewing our planet Earth from 100 kilometers high. Plus, having been at that altitude, they can rightly be called astronauts. XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California, USA, designed and built the Lynx spacecraft, which will perform the space flights. SXC is proud to be the launching customer of the Lynx, which comfortably takes off and lands like a normal airplane, from regular airports. The flexibility of the Lynx spacecraft enables operation from almost any commercial airport. The operation has sold over 250 tickets so far.

However, Geldorf hasn’t taken the opportunity provided by a rival space voyage company that is promising the dark side of the moon – then perhaps we have either a Pink Floyd cover or a new Boomtown Rats song that, in fact, he does like Moondays.

Thailand’s Elephants – An Educated Appraisal

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Portfolio | Comments Off on Thailand’s Elephants – An Educated Appraisal

John Roberts Anantara's Conservation Director

Brave New World (or why you should support your local trekking camp)

By John Roberts
12 September 2013 04:25:00

This is a repeat of a blog written by John Roberts, the expert behind the elephant training program of Anantara Golden Triangle. The original can be found here:–or-why-you-should-support-your-local-trekking-camp-/


Ladies and gentlemen, I believe have seen a future for captive elephants in Thailand, at least the foreseeable future (I reckon that to be about 5 years) and I’m here to tell you that, unless we do something constructive, it is bleak.

The future, I believe, of the captive Thai elephant is to spend ten/twelve hours a day walking in a circle with three people on her back, without rest, without good fodder, without jungle time.  The future is to emulate a machine.

The reason for this is not, I believe, cruelty, the reason is ignorance.  Ignorance on the part of some new camp owners who have no idea about elephants, ignorance on the part of the guests who know nothing about elephants but want the experience of sitting on one as, as yet, they have no idea there are other ways to get close and, yes, ever forgiving no matter how many times they prove me wrong, ignorance on the part of the mahouts who have never actually worked, & I mean really worked, liked the old days in the forest or in the logging yards, their elephants so really don’t have an idea how much, or how little, elephants can stand.

The old style trekking camps are not, were never, like this.

So what has changed?  Well, exactly what we said would change.  Thailand has suddenly been discovered as a tourist destination by our very large, very populous neighbour to the North: China.

Every tourism operator worth the title businessman is configuring his business to welcome Chinese guests.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing for Thailand and for the globe, for wildlife in general – “the Chinese” are so often demonised as the cause of all wildlife and ecological ills, I’ve pointed out in these pages and on the web how I’ve not found this to be true in travels to my little part of that massive country, that the chance to actually engage guests that have traveled down the river to join us and explain our points of view have been enlightening and have fallen on fertile ground – despite what many would have you believe wildlife conservation is not an unknown concept in China and most of the folks I’ve had the pleasure of talking to have been keen to learn more, the wild elephants in Xishuangbanna & Pu’er are far more tolerated when they visit a village than they are in some other parts of Asia.

What does every guest, from wherever in the world, want to do when they come to Thailand? (well, yes, that too, oh, yes, and that as well – Thailand is popular for many reasons) but also ride an elephant.  It is kind of one of our trademarks.

I’ve told you before that riding an elephant, an elephant trek in the saddle, is not an inherently bad thing – anyone who tells you it is is either projecting their dislike (which I share) of having captive beasts onto your decision making (while ignoring the history involved and the fact that, until a month ago, an unridden elephant was an unfed elephant) or trying to push their own business agenda.

My point is that, when you welcome even .0001% of the Chinese traveling population to Thailand you are welcoming a lot of people, I’m not sure of the figures but as I travel around Bangkok and other tourist cities, a little empirical study shows me that it won’t be long before our Northern neighbours become the number one nationality to visit.

What’s more China is a boom country, these aren’t your dodgy backpackers grumbling about paying more than 20 baht for a bowl of phad thai, these are guys that are happy to pay a fair price for what they get.

Perfect guests and a lot of them.

So, if you’re a Thai businessman with no consideration that elephants can get tired, you have an unlimited supply of guests and a limited supply of elephants what are you going to do?  …and this is the future and I have seen it:

You get as many elephants as you can and you have them walk in circles for ten/twelve hours a day (the mahouts eat lunch on their eles) they can drop off one set of guests, walk fifteen ele paces unladen (though, obviously with the saddle and ropes still on) and pick up two new guests, follow the arse of the elephant in front of them for fifteen minutes along a well trod route until they get to the ‘off’ platform drop their guests, walk fifteen unladen paces….

Repeat until your legs give out.

From my perspective the guests may as well have paid to get on a merry go round, would at least be merrier – still, what you don’t know, you don’t know and everyone gets to say they’ve been on an elephant, gets a photo to take home.

Now, as I said above, trekking is not inherently bad, when it becomes bad is when it is overdone.  When the saddle is not removed between treks, when there are too many treks, where rubbed skin is not dealt with where – and this is important – the elephant HAS to work in order to make money/food.

That’s when mahouts push elephants to and then beyond their limits.

Interestingly (& we’re losing elephants to this phenomenon here but this is not what that’s about) despite the earnings promised to mahouts and owners for taking their elephants to these camps – it’s a good time to be a mahout if you just want to make money, the bust time is over, the money these camps are offering on a base salary + tip + ‘working minute’ bonus is huge – the old guys are resisting.

The old mahouts from Surin (some of our guys) and ‘other’ big elephant owning community from the mountains above Chiang Mai so far want no part of it, I think this is because they’ve all done hard work on their elephants, they’ve all seen mahouts work elephants too hard – back in the old days up in the forest when the work was truly hard – they know the damage that can be done.

Young guys without that experience and with the promise of a lot of ready cash, well, they’re off (in some case overruling the direct order of very respected elders).  What can we say?  The money’s huge.

So, what can we do?

Well, support your local Trekking Camp for one, I’m thinking the ones up in Chiang Mai, but in other places too, camps run by families that have, for generations, looked after elephants – be it in the logging or the tourism business – stuck by the eles in the hard times and, yes, made a profit in the good times.  Camps that employ vets, or work with the Government vets, camps that understand elephants, nutrition and workloads, places that know elephants need to rest.

Of course, it would be easier for me to give you the opposite advice – we are not a trekking camp, it would be easy for me to join the rising tide of voices calling for the abandonment of trekking, come ONLY to my camp, we’re the only ones doing it right!

But hey, we actually care about elephants, and that is bad advice.  An unridden elephant is no longer an unemployed elephant, in the current climate the owner or mahout will have no choice but to make an unridden elephant a violently overworked, undernourished elephant.

If you want to visit a camp with a no hooks, no chains message, that’s your right – but believe me every captive elephant/human interaction is a form of control, some camps really do not use hooks and chains but they use other control methods, some better, some worse day to day, all worse when things get out of control; most camps just use different control methods when you’re around and revert to hooks and chains when you’re not.

But do go if that’s what your conscience tells you to do.

However, please do not use your visit there as an excuse to push your opinion on others – I have been watching the “boycott trekking and let the industry collapse” campaigns (the “go only to the camp I went to” campaigns) for ten years now.

I’ve seen one or two informed reports and a thousand campaigning websites come and go for ten years and guess what?  The trekking industry is far, far stronger than I’ve ever seen it, the price to buy an elephant to take it trekking is now almost three times what it was ten years ago (partially thanks to people buying elephants to prevent them from trekking but mostly within the business).

This industry ain’t going to collapse any time soon – it’s growing and mopping up every able bodied elephant – the ONLY result of informed (and ‘informed’ is a funny concept; I’ve been living in elephant land for fifteen years now, have visited camps of all colours and messages by surprise and pre-announced, undercover and overt, spoken with, drunk whisky with, elders, mahouts, campaigners, camp owners, researchers, soul searchers, scientists and conservationists and I’ve seen no evidence of many of the ‘facts’ that turn up on campaigning websites, how folks who’ve spent far less time, traveled to far fewer places and not sat with as many people get their information with enough certainty to feel they can present it as factual is anyone’s guess).

Sorry, start that paragraph again the ONLY result of ‘informed’ guests (even the entire Thai traveling public of a single European nation) boycotting the camps that look after elephants properly is that the elephant owners will have no choice but to take a payrise and join the new camps that do not.

The trekking industry when controlled and limited by people who see their elephants as an asset and who understand the physical, and to a certain extent mental, needs of an elephant may not be perfect but it is neither demonic nor dangerous and it is currently the only sustainable answer for the majority of captive Thai elephants.

Rather than demonise these folks with spurious claims why not work with them as we have, to introduce positive reinforcement training, as the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre do to introduce the mahouts to basic health care and education, as we both do to offer veterinary support? – talk to them, in fact, you’ll probably find they understand these things far better than you gave them credit for and use these techniques far more commonly than you’ve been told.

In the meantime we’ll continue to happily welcome our Chinese guests, give them our points of view and, as we do with all guests, both sides of every argument, we’ll work (as we already do on ivory and conservation education issues) with media from our Northern neighbour and with Chinese language media within Thailand to ensure that a bigger picture is pushed out there – ensure that as many people as possible understand that 15 minutes on the back of an elephant walking in a circle is not the only elephant experience available and that elephants can get tired.

We’ll explain that trekking is not inherently a bad thing and that an informed choice of camp is essential and we’ll keep our attention on the English reading world too to continue to explain the same thing but may add the message that a demonising website based on lies and inaccuracies, or even an informed report based on anti-captivity prejudices (which, again, I share), will do nothing to help even the elephants in question and, if 100% successful, will make the lives of those elephants violently worse.

In short, check it out first and ensure it’s a good one but support your local trekking camp.

What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in What is neurontin, Seroquel, Cymbalta high | Comments Off on What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

From Bloomberg, By Alan Levin – Sep 6, 2013 2:00 PM ET

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land.

An Asian airline’s wide-body slams into a sea wall. A 737 with 150 people aboard hits the runway so hard its nose gear buckles. A cargo plane barely misses houses before plowing into a hillside short of the runway.

These recent accidents, marking the deadliest period for airlines in the U.S. since 2009, have something in common: had the pilots aborted their landings at the first sign of trouble – – a move known as a go-around — they might have avoided tragedy.

“They’d all be walking, talking and alive if they went around,” Patrick Veillette, a pilot who teaches and writes about aviation safety, said in an interview.

The three U.S. air crashes since July 6, which killed five people, spotlight the difficulty in getting pilots to abort touchdowns if they haven’t made safe approaches to the runway. It’s “the largest, lowest hanging piece of safety fruit” to make flying less hazardous, according to research sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Crashes that occur during approach or touchdown are the world’s leading category of aviation mishaps and deaths, according to data compiled by Chicago-based manufacturer Boeing Co. (BA) The biggest risk factor for such accidents is failing to approach a runway at the proper speed, altitude and heading, known as an unstabilized approach.

If safety regulators can persuade pilots to conduct more go-arounds, lives may be saved and costs to airlines in damaged equipment and liability may be lowered.

Non-Compliant Pilots

Computerized flight-track records and a survey of 2,340 pilots sponsored by the safety foundation found that crews have a long way to go to comply with airline requirements to abort landings if their approaches were unstable. Almost all pilots, or 97 percent, continued to land in spite of the rules that they climb away from the runway and circle around to try again, according to the research.

“That’s a risk factor that we really need to work on,” Rudy Quevedo, director of global programs at the foundation, said in an interview.

The issue isn’t simple or new, Quevedo and Veillette said.

“There isn’t a commercial pilot who can say, ‘Shame on you. You should have gone around,’” Veillette said. “We’ve all been in situations where in retrospect, we should have gone around and didn’t.”

In some cases, rules may be overly rigid, akin to imposing a highway speed limit that is so low drivers routinely exceed it, Quevedo said. Violating the rules has become so ingrained that airlines don’t enforce them and pilots don’t recognize when they are taking unnecessary risks, he said.

Safety Critical

Setting up a proper approach to a landing is critical to safety, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the aviation industry, and the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

“It’s really all physics,” Quevedo said. “You want to be centered on the runway on the correct trajectory, the correct descent rate and the right speed.”

If that happens, a plane will almost always cross the start of the runway at a height of about 50 feet (15 meters), which is optimal for a safe landing, he said.

Airlines typically require that a plane be stabilized at 1,000 feet above the runway in poor visibility and at 500 feet in clear weather. Pilots must also have performed required checklists, extended landing gear and configured the plane for landing, according to the foundation.

“If not — GO AROUND!” an FAA advisory to pilots and airlines says.

Low, Slow

While the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t said what caused the three recent crashes, information it has released shows evidence of the aircraft being unstable at points within a mile (1.6 kilometers) or two from the runway or of pilots perceiving they were off course.

Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560) Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land, according to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. The crash killed three passengers and injured dozens as the plane broke apart and slid to a stop.

One pilot told investigators the Asiana plane was below its optimal glide path at 500 feet, Hersman said July 9. Shortly after, the plane veered off the runway centerline, Hersman said.

The pilots told investigators they failed to notice other warning signs, including that their speed had slowed so much that the wings were in danger of losing lift. When they recognized what was happening, they attempted a go-around, adding power too late to avoid the accident, Hersman said.

Crash Landing

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) plane landed nose-first at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on July 22, breaking the landing gear and skidding across the runway.

The NTSB hasn’t said whether the Boeing 737-700 was on a stable approach. The captain took control of the plane from the first officer below 400 feet altitude, according to the NTSB. In previous NTSB cases, such shifts in control occurred after an emergency or because the captain thought the approach needed correcting.

Nine people suffered minor injuries, according to the NTSB.

The pilots of a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) freighter that crashed in Birmingham, Alabama, on Aug. 14 received a cockpit warning that they were descending too rapidly 7 seconds before they hit trees, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said last month.

Whether the pilots also knew they were too low for their approach, which should have triggered a go-around, hasn’t been released. The Airbus SAS A300-600F hit a dark hillside before dawn and broke apart, killing both pilots.

Dulled Sense

The NTSB has investigated at least 21 cases since 1999 in which pilots could have prevented accidents or incidents if they had aborted landings that ran afoul of airline rules, according to the agency’s case files.

In an attempt to discover why such accidents continue to occur, the Flight Safety Foundation hired Martin Smith, a former pilot and psychologist who operates Presage Group Inc. in Mississauga, Canada. Smith oversaw the survey of pilots that found many weren’t following airline rules.

The pilots who didn’t go-around after an unstable approach tended to have a dulled sense of the risks and didn’t communicate as much with fellow crew members, Smith said the survey showed. They also believed they wouldn’t be reprimanded for attempting to land in those cases. A similar survey of airline managers is under way to determine why the rule is so widely overlooked, he said.

Unrealistic Criteria

At the same time, some pilots said the criteria for a stabilized approach weren’t realistic, Smith said in an interview.

Researchers are attempting to design new standards that require aborting landings only in dangerous situations, improving safety without unnecessarily boosting go-arounds, which can create their own dangers, Quevedo said.

“We should expect that if we have a policy, the people should follow the policy,” he said. “But that being said, we need to make sure that the policy is good before we make people follow it. I don’t think we’re there yet.”


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