Last year I spent a lot of time flying between Baltimore and Tampa on Southwest Airlines. So much that I was an A-List member, which sadly I no longer am, although that is a different story…
I found myself often flying back from Tampa just as the sun was setting to the West, I saw some amazing sunsets, many through the broken clouds of a summer thunderstorm. At some point, I started bringing my Canon SD870 IS along and snapping some pictures out the window. Even with the Plexiglas, I was able to get some surprisingly good shots. Here are a couple of my favorites.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Southwest 737 on final approach to Tampa
Great view while landing today at Tampa International Airport. As we came in, we had another plane join us on approach. While this friend looked like he was right next to us, it was not as close as it seemed. However, it got me thinking on what the requirements for plane separation actually are now.
After some research, I found the following information for lateral separation, airplanes that are en route between airports must have at least 5 nautical miles between them. When the airplanes enter the approach controller’s airspace, that requirement goes down to 3 nautical miles. When the airplane is finally in the control of an airport’s tower controller, planes can be spaced much closer if that controller has visual contact with the airplanes or if at least one pilot reports they have the other aircraft in sight.
This visual separation doesn’t apply when airplanes are in the clouds, in which case the controllers keep airplanes spaced about 2 and a half nautical miles apart, more if the preceding aircraft is a heavy (over 250,000 pounds, which would be a 757 or larger) and the following aircraft is not. This limitation is a function of the wake turbulence generated by larger airplanes.
However, because of some technology improvements to corporate jets and airliners, most of the world has adopted the Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) standards. This allows aircraft flying above 29,000 feet to be spaced at 1,000 foot intervals. In the past, that number was 2,000 feet apart.
The pioneers called it Hog Island, but it became Honeymoon Isle in 1939 when a New York developer built 50 palm-thatched bungalows for honeymooners. Romantically inclined North Americans were introduced to Honeymoon Island in the early 1940s when magazine ads declared it to be an “undiscovered paradise for newlyweds”.
Today, visitors can drive across Dunedin Causeway to enjoy the sun-drenched Gulf beaches, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats. Nature lovers will find osprey nests, a wide variety of shorebirds, and one of the few remaining virgin slash pine forests in South Florida. The park boasts several nature trails and bird observation areas. Visitors can swim, fish, and snorkel in the warm waters of the Gulf or picnic while they enjoy the beautiful scenery. Shelling is particularly good here, as the Gulf currents deposit an incredible variety of seashells on the shore. Honeymoon Island’s subtropical climate and balmy breeze welcome visitors to relish the native mangrove swamps, salt marshes and sand dunes. With more than 200 species of rare plants, resident osprey and various other endangered shorebirds, this is an ideal eco-tourist escape.
I am one of the unfortunate many who’s name is in the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database, also known as the Terrorist Watch List. What this means is that when I travel, my name is flagged and I have to be properly identified before I am allowed to get a boarding pass. In addition, I also am more likely to be singled out for random screening during the normal screening process as you go through security. When traveling with others, like my family or business associates, they are also more likely to be randomly searched, and often require additional identification at the check-in counter.
Am I a terrorist you ask? No, I just have the bad luck of having a very common name. Someone with the same name as me is apparently wanted by the FBI, and I get flagged since our names match.
The Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) maintains the consolidated database of the names for all known or suspected terrorists, which is known as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). The Terrorist Screening Center was created on Dec 1, 2003 by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6 which directed that a center be established to consolidate the government’s approach to terrorism screening and to provide for the appropriate and lawful use of terrorist information in screening processes. At this time, over 400,00 names are contained in the database, with 5-6% of that number being US Citizens.
Am I upset? Not really, usually this only causes a short delay (5-10 minutes) when checking-in, and at most airports, the random screening is often faster than waiting in the long security line. In general, I respect what the government is trying to do, and I subscribe to the motto, better safe than sorry. I have recently heard that registering with a slightly different variation of your name, like using full middle name, can help prevent getting flagged. I am going to try that the next time I fly and will comment if it is successful.
Has anyone else found that they are on the list? What are your experiences, and are you upset you are on the list?