Aviation vs. Weather

flightawaremapYesterday we were in Melbourne. Then we flew to Sydney, got some sleep, and caught flights to Auckland, Los Angeles and Newark.

Except, we’re not in Newark. A storm there delayed things, and we’re on the ground getting re-fueled at Dulles, near D.C. This kind of thing happens with aviation and weather. That planes fly at all is a kind of miracle. That flying has become as mundane as bus travel — and far safer — would also be miraculous if it weren’t so routine. Except for times like this.

See the line of red dots over there on the right? Those are the airports with delays caused by storms that were beautiful to watch as our eastbound United 757 flew past them to the south. I got some pictures, but they aren’t very good.

Now, here on the ground, I’m watching Flightaware and Intellicast to see what’s up with aviation and weather. Flightaware is an amazing site. If you have any interest in aviation, or just need to know what’s currently screwed up with air travel, it’s the best of its breed. Intellicast has great maps, which project into the future while also running through the recent past. Right now I see by Flightaware’s map below that flights are getting in and out of Newark as the current storm (the green blotch) passes.

I also see by Intellicast that the line of storms I observed south of the Great Lakes and across Pennsylvania will arrive in New York in a few hours. So our window of opportunity isn’t large there.

It would be nice if Intellicast has links to maps, but they don’t, or I’d link to the one for New York. The good thing about Intellicast is that it is somewhat less crufty with promotional jive than Weather.com and some other weather sites.

Another passenger is grumbling about United’s flight operations. “Worst in the business,” he says. I don’t agree. After well over a million miles with United, I have no evidence that their flight operations is anything other than fine. And, given the size of the fleet they manage, that’s a compliment.

And hey, while I’d love to be in New York now, I’d rather be safe than any of the many kinds of sorry I can imagine.

Postscript: We got to Newark eventually, and then took another few hours to await a bus and a delayed subway before arriving at our place around 7:30am. This was close to 40 hours after departing Sydney. Got a little sleep, and now we’re ready to go again. :-)

3 comments

  1. Patrick’s avatar

    Your headlline is an example of our arrogance and narcisism. We alwasy exist within the natural parameters. Yet we continually pose it as a battle or game that we might someday win. We can only succeed when we accept the fact that all of our effort pales in the face of natural forces. It’s Aviation and Weather. Using natural forces is how we get in the air, and our growth in understanding them informs all of the ways in which we have grown as a species to where our success is at the root of most of our problems today. Keeping the big picture in mind always improves the small one.

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Good points, Patrick. I’ve often been critical myself of news stories that pose as Vs. what should be posed as And. FWIW, I wrote this piece in a rush, and on almost no sleep after flying 13k miles on three planes. What I also don’t say (because I wrote it in advance), the last leg of the trip — getting from Newark Airport to our apartment in New York — took longer, and was far less pleasant (slow baggage, no bus, very late subway), than the trip from Los Angles to Newark in a plane.

    And, less than 24 hours later, I flew to San Francisco, where I am now. And I fly back to Newark tonight — where, once again, thunderbooms are expected. But after that I expect to stay put.

  3. Patrick’s avatar

    Travel has become like a game of golf- it is the short strokes that are most critical, in time, money, discomfort.
    As for your travel, I am sure the value of your live in person perspective is worth the carbon cost of moving you around so often!
    When we keep our attention on others, we are generally served well.

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