Demystifying flying: What is an air pocket?


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If you’ve been a passenger in an airplane, it’s likely that you have felt an “air pocket,” or what feels like a quick drop in the air. 
"Air pocket" is merely another term for ordinary turbulence. You might feel as if you're falling from the sky, but rest assured, if you flying commercially, you rarely gain or lose more than about twenty feet, especially if the plane is on autopilot.
The term "air pocket" comes from early aviation, a time when pilots flying open-cockpit biplanes took adventurous locals on a rides in their “flying machines.” These planes, with two wings one above the other, flew at relatively slow speeds. When the plane entered air that, instead of simply sitting there, was flowing slightly upward or slightly downward, the plane's path was altered slightly upward or slightly downward.  Air pockets do not technically exist, yet it's an expression that has caught on and is still misused today.
So what happens when you experience a bumpy ride that rattles glasses and turns some knuckles white?
The first thing you need to understand is a basic rule of flying: the earth has different surface temperatures that impacts flight as the aircraft passes through.  For example, the surface of a lake is cooler than the surrounding earth, or plowed fields have a different surface temperature than those that are unplowed.  Warm air is lighter than cool air. Warmed air rises. Cooled air descends. When a plane encounters varying airflow, we can feel what we call an “air pocket” today.
The idea of an "air pocket" might seem reassuring from a pilot's point of view, for a pocket is something you slip your hand into. When you do, your hand can only go so far. But, over the years, the phrase has come to be thought of as an area where there is no air. With no air, what is going to hold the plane up? 

End of seat wars? Legroom adjustable seat can be shifted for passenger size


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The airline legroom wars may finally be coming to an end.
Engineering firm B/E Aerospace has filed a patent for a “legroom adjustable” seat design that allows flight attendants to move a seat forward or back depending on the size of a passenger, reports the Telegraph.
The seats, which all have moveable wheels, sit on rail tracks lining the aircraft floor. If a taller man or woman is seated in front of a child, for example, the cabin crew will have the ability to move an occupant’s seat several inches back via smartphone or tablet, allowing for extra legroom.
But the new invention may lead to complications of its own. Passengers would be required to inform airlines of their height at check-in meaning some may fudge the numbers to secure more seat space.
Still the designers believe this configuration could revolutionize the current “one size fits all” model for modern air travel, which they see as outdated.
“While passengers come in many sizes, children, adolescents, adults, men, women and with large height differentials within these categories, seat spacing in the main cabin of passenger aircraft is generally uniform except at exit rows,” the designers stated in their patent application, submitted in November. 
“The one size fits all seating arrangement can cause discomfort for tall passengers, while a child or relatively small adult may be seated in an identical seat at the seat pitch, with more than ample leg room and in relative comfort.”
A controversial device called the Knee Defender-- a set of detachable rubber grips that prevent passengers from reclining into the space of the user behind them-- caused a serious inflight incident that led to the grounding of a United Airlines flight in 2014. Several major U.S. carriers including Delta, United and American Airlines prohibit use of the device.
The legroom adjustable seat, however, leaves the final spatial arrangement to the discretion of crewmembers, not individual passengers.
“Even a relatively small incremental increase in seat spacing for the tall passengers can provide additional comfort with no loss of comfort to the much smaller passengers seated in front of the tall passengers,” B/E Aerospace said.

Dollywood to open world's fastest wooden roller coaster in 2016


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Dollywood has announced a new $22 million ride that the theme park says will be the world's fastest wooden roller coaster.
The eastern Tennessee park says the Lightning Rod, themed after a 1950s-era hot rod, should be ready for visitors in March 2016.
The Lighting Rod will launch riders up 20 stories from a standstill to 45 mph and riders will get 20 seconds of airtime along the 3,800-foot track. The park says the coaster will hit a top speed of 73 mph on a 165-foot drop.
The $22 million price tag marks the largest single investment in the Dollywood Co.'s history.
Entertainer Dolly Parton opened Dollywood in 1986 in Pigeon Forge near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Few railroads likely to meet deadline for installing safety technology


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Only a handful of railroads are close to meeting a deadline this year to install safety technology that can prevent many crashes, including derailments due to excessive speed like the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia in May, according to a government report released Friday.

Only three railroads have submitted safety plans to government, a necessary step before they can put the technology — positive train control, or PTC — into operation, the Federal Railroad Administration report said. They are BNSF Railway, the nation's second largest freight railroad, and two commuter railroads — Metrolink in the Los Angeles area, and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in the Philadelphia area.

Amtrak hasn't submitted a plan yet, but railroad officials have said they expect to have PTC in operation in the railroad's busy Northeast Corridor by the Dec. 31 deadline.
Some railroads are lagging far behind. Union Pacific, the nation's largest freight railroad, hasn't equipped any of its 6,532 locomotives with the technology, according to the report. None of Norfolk Southern's 3,400 locomotives are equipped, either.
The type of PTC being put into place by most railroads relies on GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor train position and automatically stop or slow trains that are in danger of derailing because they're traveling too fast, are about to collide with another train or are about to enter an area where crews are working on tracks.
A rail safety law passed by Congress in 2008 gave railroads seven years to install the technology. PTC is expensive, and many railroads were late getting started. Freight railroads often host commuter railroad operations on their tracks, and they also frequently use the tracks of their competitors. Developing PTC systems that can be used by multiple railroads has added a layer of complexity to the effort. Many railroads also ran into unanticipated difficulties acquiring the radio spectrum necessary to make the technology work, and getting government permission to erect thousands of antennas along tracks.
Railroads have been urging Congress to delay the deadline. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., introduced a bill earlier this year that would have provided railroads another five to seven years to put PTC into operation.
The railroad industry said the challenge of developing the technology from scratch is unprecedented. "Reaching deadlines is important, but even more important is that when PTC is turned on, it is fully operational and enhancing safety," said Edward Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads.
Support for a lengthy extension diminished after accident investigators said the May 12 Amtrak crash, which killed eight people and injured about 200 others, could have been prevented if PTC had been in operation. A sweeping transportation bill passed by the Senate last month contains provisions sponsored by Thune that would give railroads another three years to install the technology, but leaves open when they must have their PTC systems certified by the government, a necessary step before the systems can be put into operation.
The bill also provides $200 million to help commuter railroads install the technology.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been urging railroads to install PTC or precursor train control technologies for more than four decades. The board has said that over that time it has investigated 145 PTC-preventable accidents in which more than 300 people were killed and 6,700 injured.

Popular landmarks that ban selfie sticks and social media


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In the age of social media ubiquity, some popular destinations are instituting selfie (or, more specifically, selfie stick) bans.
  • 1. Disney

    All Disney parks have banned selfie sticks on their grounds as of July 1, 2015. Previously, Disney had banned the sticks in rides where they were the most dangerous, but after complaints from visitors and employees alike they extended the ban. "We strive to provide a great experience for the entire family, and unfortunately selfie-sticks have become a growing safety concern for both our guests and cast," a rep for The Mouse told the Washington Post.
  • 2. Lollapalooza

    Courtesy Lollapalooza
    The annual summer music festival in Chicago (this year it's happening from July 31-August 2) is the first major music festival to ban selfie sticks and other similar devices. The festival organizers have added these sticks to the list of banned items, which also includes skateboards, aerosol cans, and illegal drugs.
  • 3. Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The Sistine Chapel has banned photography, including snapping shots of its famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo. This rule has nothing to do with overcrowding or trying to move people along more quickly, though. The ban dates to 1980, when the Vatican raised $3 million in necessary renovation funds from Japan’s Nippon Television Network in exchange for exclusive photo and video rights to the art within. Though the ban is still technically in place, enforcement isn’t very strict and plenty of tourists have been able to snap pictures.

  • 4. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

    Staff at Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, are asking visitors not to take pictures of bears, especially selfies that have them turning their backs to said bears. A recent uptick in the number of selfies with bears in the background are “presenting a safety issue,” according to a spokesperson for the park. It’s possible that they’re thinking about a 2013 incident where a couple on safari were gored by rhinos after their guide suggested they get closer to the animals for a better photo.
  • 5. The Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

    AP File Photo
    Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum has a contentious relationship with social media and photography. The institution had a photography ban, repealed it in May 2013, then re-instituted the ban in March 2014. The museum said that photography there, one of Amsterdam’s most popular tourist sites, “caused tension between those wishing to photograph and those wishing to view the paintings.”
  • 6. Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    The hajj, a trip to the holy city of Mecca, is one of the most important requirements in Islam. But the rise of technology is causing conflict as younger Muslims use social media to document their pilgrimages. Several prominent clerics and scholars have asked people to refrain from posting selfies, especially of them visiting or touching holy sites, claiming that such photos go against Islamic principles of modesty.

Legoland first theme park to have own currency listed on exchange board


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Legoland Florida Resort has made history all while making guests' experience more authentic.
The theme park announced Wednesday that it has entered a partnership with independent foreign exchange business Travelex to list its official currency, Legoland Dollars, on the company's exchange boards at dozens of locations.
The partnership makes Legoland Florida Resort the first theme park to have its official money listed on a currency exchange board.
"Everything at Legoland Florida Resort is created for kids, including the currency. By using Legoland Dollars with a playful design, it builds on the immersive experience for young guests," said Legoland Florida Resort general manager Adrian Jones in a statement. "Although we accept U.S. currency, only Legoland Dollars will get you an additional $39.25 in added value."
The exchange rate to the U.S. dollar is 1:1, but guests who exchange $50 will receive $50 in Legoland Dollars as well as other exclusive benefits, including free parking and an upgrade to the Legoland Water Park, among others.
Most importantly, possessing the unique currency will provide added convenience for guests, with Legoland Florida Resort's restaurants, concessions and shops accepting Legoland Dollars.
Keep in mind that Legoland Dollars — available for a limited time but through the 2015 summer season — can only be purchased with U.S. currency and the minimum exchange guests can make is $5. Legoland Dollars aren't redeemable for cash and are nonrefundable, states Travelex's official website.
Travelers can purchase Legoland Dollars at one of 55 different Travelex locations, including locations at Tampa International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Forget Instagram: Study reveals health risks of frequent travel


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By now you probably know how to spot frequent travelers on your social feed: they Instagram pictures with a different location tag every week, constantly check in to airports on Facebook, and have international geofilters on their Snapchat stories.
But according to a new study, those people who engage in frequent travel – known as “hypermobility” – may experience adverse psychological, emotional, and physical effects. 
Though it seems fun online, research shows that kind of jet setting has a hidden “dark side.”
“Social media encourages competition between travelers to ‘check-in’ and share content from far-flung destinations,” said study co-author Dr. Scott Cohen. “The reality is that most people who are required to engage in frequent travel suffer high levels of stress, loneliness, and long-term health problems.”
Some other consequences include: jet lag, sleep deprivation, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots), and radiation exposure. Cohen also mentions environmental risks of higher greenhouse gas emissions. The study was conducted by the Universities of Surrey, U.K. and Lund, Sweden.
This information comes at a fitting time, as travel bloggers and Instagrammers are in their heyday.
Take Murad Osmann, for example, whose #FollowMeTo photos – where his wife leads him with an outstretched arm towards a picturesque destination ahead – went viral on Instagram and beyond. He currently has 3.2 million followers.
But there are negatives to this glamorized version of travel that you see on your screen – which really only occurs among the elite and upper class. Besides jet lag, there’s fatigue and an increased exposure to germs and radiation. People who travel more than 85,000 miles per year (like flying from New York to Seattle round-trip every three weeks) exceed the safe limit for human radiation exposure. The risk of cancer is also higher in-flight than on the ground.
On the emotional and social front, hypermobility can create “travel disorientation,” which comes from a combination of a constant change of place and the stress of planning trips (and anticipating how many emails you’ll have to read when you return).
The study also mentions that frequent travel, mostly for business, is done solo and causes loneliness, weakened friendships, and “a reduced ability to participate in family life.”
“Society needs to recognize that the jet-set lifestyle is not all it’s made out to be,” Dr. Cohen added. “By striving to travel far, wide, and frequently we are damaging the environment, ourselves, and potentially our closest loved ones.”

Country singer Jake Owen's favorite water sports


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Country music sensation Jake Owen is not only known for his summertime hits, such as "Beachin" and "Summer Jam", but his love of water sports.
Owen, who grew up on the coastal town of Vero Beach, Florida, always finds time to get on the water.  An avid wakesurfer, boater and fisherman, he says water is how he unwinds. 
Owen’s love of boating is captured in “Stories of Discovery,” a documentary series developed by Discover Boating, a campaign by the North American recreational boating industry to promote water sports.  They've hit the road with Owen to inspire fans to discover life on the water and share their boating stories.
So what water sports get Owen's engine running? 
--Wakeboarding and wakesurfing are something Owen regularly does during his time off.  The difference between the two sports is that in wakeboarding you get towed by the boat, while wakesurfing, you use the boat to get you up and then you're on your own to surf. Owen's favorite spot for this is on Center Hill Lake in Middle Tennessee, about 60 miles from his Nashville home. 
--Stand-up paddle boarding is great exercise and a good activity to do with your friends or family. “I do that when I’m back home in Florida a lot with my mom, my family, and my little girl.”

10 emerging collector vehicles


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Some short-sighted prognosticators in the classic car world have gone on record as saying that nothing built post-1972 will ever be collectible, but the unmistakable popularity of 1980s and 1990s cars in the market has illustrated the fallacy of that statement. Here are 10 up-and-comers to consider:
  • 1. 1984-89 Toyota 4Runner

    Legend has it that the first-generation Toyota 4Runner came about as a way to avoid the infamous “chicken tax” that levied a 25 percent duty on all imported goods, from brandy to light trucks. Put a shell over the bed of a Toyota light pickup, install some seats in the bed and voila — a passenger vehicle. These days, the quirky 4Runner seems to be the off-road Toyota of choice for entry-level collectors now that they’re priced out of the FJ40 Land Cruiser market.

  • 2. 1990-96 Nissan 300ZX

  • Trolls will continuously spout the nonsense that the rot irretrievably set in for Nissan sports cars the day the last S30 (280/260/280Z) rolled off the line. And while Z-cars did get progressively more luxurious as time went on and Turbo models of the 280ZX and Z31 300ZX had some merit, the Z32 model that was introduced in the U.S. in 1990 was a brilliant car. Two-seater, 2+2 or convertible, they were all gorgeous and handled well. They’re still a great deal, but likely not for long.
  • 3. 1992-95 Porsche 968

    Those looking for up-and-comers in the air-cooled Porsche world will find little. The train has left the station for the 911, 912 and 914, so it’s the water-cooled cars that savvy buyers are looking hard at now. The 968 is the much more scarce successor to the 944. With a massive 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine and variable valve timing, the 968 was no slouch in a straight line and one of the best balanced and sweetest handling Porsches of all time. Fewer than 13,000 were built with just under 4,700 coming to the U.S.

  • 4. 1992-2001 Mercedes SL600

    The R129 SL had the unenviable task of replacing the much-loved R107 series, which ran from 1971-89. At least Mercedes didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight. The 6.0-liter V-12 model was added to the range in its third model year. With just shy of 400 hp, it was light years ahead of any previous SL performance-wise. R129 SLs are now showing up at auctions, a sure sign that they’re hitting the radar of collectors.
  • 5. 1995-99 BMW M3

    The E36 M3 spelled the end for the edgy four-cylinder M3. The smooth BMW straight-six in the new M3 put out just shy of 250 hp in U.S. spec and was a wonderfully balanced handler. E36 M3s were offered in coupe, sedan and convertible body styles. Bright throwback colors like Techno Violet, Dakar Yellow and Estoril Blue are particularly sought-after but prices have yet to skyrocket for any but the rare 1995 lightweight model.

  • 6. 1981-93 Ferrari Mondial

    The Mondial has been the perennial underdog Ferrari along with the V-12 400i/412. Both are having the last laugh, but Mondial prices in particular have been climbing. Offered in 2+2 coupe and convertible body styles, the Mondial shares the revvy 308/328 flat-plane crank V-8 with all of the visceral thrills that entails. Striking Pininfarina looks, decent reliability, Ferrari sounds and room in back for the kids? What’s not to like?
  • 7. 1992-95 Volkswagen Corrado VR6

    Looking a bit like a grown-up MK I Scirocco, the Corrado VR6 was regarded as a legitimate cult classic before it even left production. While a front-driver, its handling can’t be faulted and the narrow-angle V-6 addresses the shortcomings of every sporting VW that came before it. Good ones are rare indeed and worth keeping.

  • 8. 1998-2006 Audi TT MKI

    The first-generation TT is a sure-fire emerging classic. With unmistakable styling courtesy of Freeman Thomas, it’s reminiscent of a 1950s Porsche 356 in some ways. The Bauhaus-like interior is a design freak’s dream as is the optional baseball glove interior. Now is the time to snap up a V-6 Quattro coupe.

  • 9. 1971-76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

    Chalk this one up to the perennial favorite status of Martin Scorsese films, but the full-size Cadillac de Ville of the early to mid-1970s is gaining in popularity with Gen-Xers in both the U.S. and of all places, Sweden.

  • 10. 1982-92 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

    “Smokey and the Bandit”-era T/As are now sought-after collectibles. Waiting in the wings are the “Knight Rider”-era third-generation cars. With the generation who grew up glued to the TV to see what the Hoff and KITT were up to now coming in to some disposable income, it’s only a matter of time before these cars see a serious increase in value.

SeaWorld discounts fail to boost declining park attendance


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SeaWorld says its theme park attendance is still falling as animal activists protest the company's treatment of whales, but the company says some of its parks are doing better as it prepares to launch a pair of new roller coasters.
The company also maintained its annual outlook, and its shares rose more than 4 percent.
SeaWorld has been trying to recover from the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish" that suggested its treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. Park attendance dropped after the release of the documentary and the company's stock has fallen 50 percent over the last two years.
The company says attendance at the original Sea World, in San Diego, is still hurting. Legislators in California have proposed banning performances featuring orcas, which has kept criticism of SeaWorld in the news. The company says business in its Florida parks was better in the second quarter and says the biggest problem at those locations is tough competition, not fallout from "Blackfish." Its overall attendance fell about 2 percent.
New President and CEO Joel Manby said in May that competing theme parks in Orlando have done a better job of adding exciting attractions. The company is preparing a shark-themed roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando and an Egypt-themed coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa. Both are scheduled to open in 2016.
A year ago the company also said it will build new, larger orca environments at its parks. The first such tank will be in San Diego and it will open to the public in 2018.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. runs 11 theme parks, including three SeaWorld locations and two Busch Gardens parks. Its second-quarter profit and revenue both fell short of expectations. On top of the hit to its reputation, SeaWorld said heavy rain in Texas and earlier Spring Break vacations hurt attendance at its parks.