Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Crazy Airports - Crazy Theories

Three links today, and my comments on them, with no segues connecting them.

Canada has lots of land, so lots of room for airports. Not all places that need airports are so fortunate. The airport in Gibraltar appears to be competing with surface traffic for a very small amount of flat real estate. The choices they made when painting the lines interest me. I suppose there were four possibilities: leave the intersection unpainted; paint it as a roadway; paint it as a runway; or paint it as both, with overlapping markings, like a highschool gym that is used for multiple sports. I would have chosen runway, both, neither, road, but the Gibraltar department of public works took my last choice. I'm still not entirely sure it's not photoshopped. Send me a picture of a runway that goes through a children's playground.

Commercial passenger air transport turns a hundred, dating back to the first paying passengers on zeppelins. If it hadn't been for the Hindenburg fire, I wonder how long the service would have persisted.

Humans are astoundingly good at pattern finding. We find patterns without realizing that we are finding them. We find patterns that aren't even there. And curiously, the less sense the world around us makes, the harder we look for patterns, and the more we find them, whether they are there, or even if they aren't. Every time I see a flash in my peripheral vision and identify an airplane, or a just a part of a runway and identify an airport, I'm doing this. Same with all the times I react to a half dozen birds or a wisp of cloud as if they were an airplane. False positives on detecting something that can kill you are pretty cheap.

That's it, just three links with nothing to do with one another. Unless you can see a pattern.

23 comments:

FloBilli said...

The last "looking for patterns" item reminds me of the book "Passage" by Connie Willis. Not her best book, but still and intriguing story line and concept.

j said...

The Gibraltar runway is on Google Maps here.

Sarah said...

FloBilli, that's a great book ( albeit a little disturbing ) but I don't see the connection.

apophenia, pareidolia now that's fun. We're wired to see things - especially faces. This probably explains ghost stories.

Traveller said...

@j: you beat me to it.

That road just about bisects the runway.

Aviatrix said...

If you zoom out a little and click over into terrain view you can see why there was nowhere else to put the runway. I also like how a good chunk of the runway is on created land out into the sea.

Michael5000 said...

OK, everybody beat me to Google Maps, but it was still worth the trip. I didn't realize Gibralter was so, so tiny.

Did you notice the mostly-retraction at the end of the NYT article?

Aviatrix said...

Ah, no I didn't notice the retraction. I'm working more than a week ahead right now and didn't recheck the link before autoposting.

So that means that although Gibraltar turned out not to be photoshopped, another link was wrong instead.

Maybe there's a pattern in THAT.

FloBilli said...

@Sarah re: Passage (spoiler alert!) - As I recall the premise - the Near Death Experience is a metahphor fabricated by a mind struggling to find sense in the random neural firings of death.

Which raises the concept that perhaps this is also what our sense of reality consists of - a mind struggling with a much larger universe than it can comprehend - and so forms a metaphor - which we call reality.

I relates to our need to see patterns - no?

(Ignore the man behind the curtain!)

Luis Figueiredo said...

I've driven tru Gibraltar Airfield last year. The pictures are accurate. It's a fun experience, but the air traffic seems to be low which can explain the paint choice.

Geekzilla said...

Gibraltar looks like a happenin' place! I bet it would be fun to sit on a yacht by the marina and watch the traffic all day!

(Yeah, I'm easily amused.)

Flasher T said...

About the Gibraltar airport - don't jet engines have very strict requirements about the cleanliness of the runway? What if someone throws a penny out of a car window?

John said...

On Google Earth, there appears to be a cannon on the south side of the runway, to the left of the road.

Penny throwers, beware!

Also of interest, the international border crossing into Spain just to the north of the runway.

Anonymous said...

If it all goes horribly wrong, the burying ground is right next door.

Flasher, they pick up bay doors and engine cowlings off runways, but litter blows everywhere in urban areas. If it's a danger to aircraft better tell someone and maybe it'll get cleaned up!

Sarah said...

@FloBilli: .. Experience is a metaphor fabricated by a mind struggling to find sense...

Ok, now I'm with you in Plato's cave. That's one of the ideas I loved in the book... but not just NDE but daily life is a creation of our minds. I'm fascinated by crazy theories about consciousness and thought.

Anonymous said...

Re the Gibraltar airport pic - I'm surprised no one has mentioned the RAF Tornado parked on the runway surrounded by fire trucks - until now .

dpierce said...

A road (that connects one side of the base to the other) runs through the overrun at Yokota AFB in Japan. While not as exciting as running though the runway-proper, it's good for inducing the clenching of various body parts when driving visitors "through the runway". Also great fodder for "Hey, who has the right of way here?" jokes.

Flying Kites Mom said...

Loved the pictures of Gib- that's a GB Airways (subsiderary of British Airways)A320 ex London Gatwick (usually)- my daughter was cabin crew for this great little airline and has fond memories of her flight trip when it was her position to open the door after landing and coming face to face with a very big rock! Don't think she had realized the size of it! LS-P

Flying Kites Mom said...

Sorry- obvious correction to my previous post! Referring to my daughters "FIRST" trip to Gib. LS-P

Rhonda said...

Actually, painting the road/runway the way they did makes good sense when you think about it in terms of who is using the space and how.

To an airplane, a 4-6 lane highway is a blip along the length of the runway. They can see the far side and their paint resuming, and they just have to keep themselves centred with no other traffic to worry about.

To a car, an airport runway is REALLY FREAKING WIDE and the chances of people straying from the lanes they're supposed to be in and ending up cutting somebody off or going onto the wrong side of the road are high, without lines. Think about it. A lot of big intersections have dotted lines painted right across them to make sure cars exit the intersection in the same lane they entered in - and people *still* drift across lanes and cut other people off.

Mario in PY said...

Even though others have beat me to Google Maps, nobody has posted a link to the Gibraltar Airport-Highway crossing on WikkiMapia yet.

Richard said...

A public road crossing a runway as at Gibraltar is rare - RAF Ballykelly's 14,200 ft runway had a railway crossing it - trouble was that passengers enjoyed the happy sound of glass smashing on concrete, so used to throw their bottles out as they crossed. After every train passed SATCO had to send a couple of LACs down with a brush and pan to clear it up! With Shakleton's taking off with a full Long Range Operational Flying Exercise fuel load of AVGAS on board, they weren't taking chances on a puncture.

Cirrocumulus said...

Marking the road makes sense because it helps keep car drivers from wandering onto the runway.
Car drivers even turn onto railway lines, which really can't be mistaken for motor roads:

Driver blames GPS

The Canterbury Tail said...

Yeah, the canon is there for a reason. Gibraltar Rock is one of the more heavily fortified places in Europe.