Friday, September 24, 2010

Burning questions

While reminiscing about the good old days of flying not long ago (remember when they GAVE you food instead of selling it? When employee dress codes didn't allow jeans or shorts and required coats for men and hosiery for women in First Class? And my favorite- when United Air Lines used to give out those snazzy little blue triangle packets of macadamia nuts as snacks instead of dry salty pretzels?) I was reminded of the calculation challenge pilots would always give on flights to Hawaii.

Now this was back in the days before in-seat entertainment. Back when the flight attendants would pull down a big movie screen and turn on the overhead projector to show a grainy movie you couldn't really see because of all the seats in front of you. Before they had the instant navigation screens that showed you where you were on three different maps, how long you had been in the air and how long you had to go, in three different languages.

At the beginning of Hawaii flights, the pilots would always give the distance, airspeed, headwind/tailwind speed, altitude and some other data and whomever could calculate the halfway point of the flight (was it time or distance?) would win a bottle of champagne. Not that I'm going to Hawaii anytime soon, but I've always wondered- how do you solve that equation?

1 comment:

Chris Bird said...

Ha! So funny that you posted this. Was just telling a friend on her way to Maui next month about this contest. I actually won the champagne on my very first flight to Maui! I was on my way to visit my husband (boyfriend at the time) who flew puddle jumpers for a little airline there. Winning had absolutely nothing to do with dating a pilot - I've listened to him describe how all the data you mentioned effects flight arrival time, but really just made a lucky (but educated) guess!