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Don Piccard, a Pioneer Who Soared, Is Dead at 94



Don Piccard, a pioneer in the sport of hot-air ballooning and scion of a balloon family whose parents reached the stratosphere, died on Sept. 13 at a hospice center in St. Paul, Minn. He was 94.

His daughter Mary Louise confirmed his death but did not specify a cause.

In 1947, when he was just 21, Mr. Piccard made the front page of The New York Times, among many other newspapers, for his solo flight in a salvaged (and improved) Japanese Fu-Go balloon, floating aloft for two hours over Minneapolis. (Fu-Gos were enormous paper balloons loaded with explosives and sent across the Pacific by the Japanese during World War II in the hope that they would crash and burn along the California and Canadian coasts; the few that survived were salvaged by the U.S. military.)

But Mr. Piccard was already ballooning royalty. His scientist parents had flown a balloon to the stratosphere in 1934.

Mr. Piccard made headlines again in 1963, when he and Ed Yost, a former bush pilot and aeronautics engineer, crossed the English Channel in a balloon. Mr. Yost designed the modern hot-air balloon, with air heated by propane — as opposed to the more expensive and dangerous hydrogen- or helium-filled balloons first launched by French noblemen in 1783.

In an effort to land before the winds changed, Mr. Piccard and Mr. Yost made a rapid descent and crashed in a muddy field. Mr. Piccard said it was the closest he had come to being killed, while Mr. Yost, who died in 2007, said he was more frightened by the ride offered them by the French police to the ceremony in their honor.

Mr. Piccard had had close calls before. A decade earlier, he and his wife, Joan, and a crew had taken a writer and photographer for Sports Illustrated, Coles Phinizy, on a gas balloon flight from Valley Forge, Pa. At 4,200 feet, the fabric ripped and they began to plummet.

On the way down, Mr. Piccard, typically calm and coolheaded, had the crew practice bracing for the inevitable crash landing by holding tight to the basket’s edges. On the terrifying descent, as Mr. Phinizy wrote in his account for the magazine, the balloon missed power lines, hit an asparagus field and bounced into a field of barley. Ms. Piccard broke her leg and foot; Mr. Phinizy broke his toes.

When a state trooper arrived to make an accident report, brandishing his form, he asked, “Make or model?”

“It was a convertible,” a passer-by suggested.

Mr. Piccard once told an interviewer he preferred ballooning in the winter, because you don’t have to pay for crop damage.

Driven by concerns about safety, Mr. Piccard would go on to design and manufacture his own balloons, which were distinguished by their airy wicker baskets, undulating shape and reinforcing load tapes, a safety innovation that bolstered the fabric seams.

A Piccard balloon made pop-music history when a teenage Jimmy Webb, the hitmaking songwriter behind “Wichita Lineman” and “MacArthur Park,” took a ride in one at a radio station event in Colton, Calif.

“The experience was an epiphany, a delightful introduction to an ancient form of flight,” Mr. Webb recalled in an email. “That led to my writing later that week, in a practice room at San Bernardino College, ‘Up, Up and Away.’” It was, Mr. Webb said, the fastest he has ever written a song — it took him barely 30 minutes to compose.

“Up, Up and Away,” as recorded by the 5th Dimension, would reach the Billboard Top 10 and win multiple Grammys in 1968. It has since been recorded by numerous other artists.

Mr. Webb also said that Marc Gordon, the group’s manager, and Florence LaRue, one of the group’s singers, were married in Piccard balloon, with Mr. Piccard at the helm.

“Don was a slightly eccentric, lithe man with sparkling dark eyes and a fine Gallic nose,” Mr. Webb said, “and a busyness and enthusiasm about him.”

Donald Louis Piccard was born on Jan. 13, 1926, in Lausanne, Switzerland. His mother, Jeannette (Ridlon) Piccard, was a scientist and a high-altitude balloonist, and her 1934 flight with her husband made her the first woman to reach the stratosphere in a balloon. (In 1979, when she was 79, she would become an Episcopal priest, one of the first American women to be ordained.)

His father, Jean-Felix Piccard, a Swiss-born chemical engineer, had made his first flight in 1913 with his twin brother, Auguste, who went on to design underwater diving vessels. The twins were inspired by Jules Verne to imagine an enclosed balloon ship, and it was that design that sent first Auguste, in a record-breaking flight in Europe, and then Jean and Jeannette, who took off from Dearborn, Mich., to the stratosphere.

The Piccards had been teaching organic chemistry in Lausanne when Don was born; they moved to the United States when Jean-Felix Piccard was offered a job at M.I.T., and to Minneapolis in 1936 when he took a position teaching aeronautical engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Don Piccard attended the University of Minnesota and Swarthmore College. He served in the Navy as a balloon and airship rigger during World War II, and at a naval air station in New Jersey during the Korean War.

In the 1950s, he worked for G.T. Schjeldahl, a Minnesota plastics company that was developing Mylar communications balloons. Mary Louise Piccard recalled that on summer nights, from the dock of her family’s island on Lake Vermillion, her father would point out the Echo weather satellite, which he had worked on, passing overhead.

Flying was a family affair, Mary Louise Piccard described weekends working in her father’s balloon loft in Newport Beach, Calif., with her sisters, Elizabeth and Wendy, and their mother, Joan Piccard.

In the summer of 1967, the family traveled all over Europe flying the “Golden Bear,” a balloon designed in the colors of the state flag of California. That same year, Mr. Piccard appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” after having taken Mr. Carson for a ride.

“He was instrumental in keeping sport ballooning alive in the 1950s, and single-handedly created the modern sport of hot-air ballooning in the 1960s,” Richard M. Douglass, a balloon historian, wrote in the November-December issue of the magazine Ballooning. He envisioned the sport as being akin to yacht racing or polo, “with elegant balloons launched from the lawns of country estates, ” Mr. Douglass wrote.

In 1962, Mr. Piccard organized the country’s first hot-air balloon race, for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, launching from the solidly frozen White Bear Lake. In 2012, a half-century later, at the age of 86, he recreated that flight.

Mr. Piccard’s marriage to Joan Russell, who wrote a young-adult adventure novel about a balloonist, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughters, Mr. Piccard is survived by his wife, Wilma Piccard; a stepdaughter, Mary Eckmeier; two stepsons, Lyle Eckmeier and Chuck Eckmeier; and five grandchildren.

Mr. Piccard never lost his awe for the romance of ballooning, a sport in which you never knew where you were going or when you might get there. Whenever he was about to launch a balloon, someone would invariably ask where he was headed, and he would look at the sky before giving his usual answer: “Wherever the wind takes me.”

By: Penelope Green
Title: Don Piccard, a Pioneer Who Soared, Is Dead at 94
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Published Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2020 22:36:32 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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