The Dangers of Speculation

The dangers of speculation by nelson lewisLet’s just say that a Presidential candidate you dislike is rumored to have done or said something unsavory.  And even if it’s not true, taken out of context or easily rebutted, people still believe it.  Regardless of your political affiliation, this is something that we all experienced throughout 2016.  And it serves as an example as to why speculation following events can be dangerous, irresponsible and counterproductive.  Whether something is true, false or implied, simply because it’s said people will believe it.  If you go on social media after any big event, it will be abuzz with all sorts of speculation.  I recently read an article about the dangers that said speculation holds, especially when speculating in the aftermath of airline crashes.

Everything is seen on social media.  Often times, the news will pick up a random story that will spread a message, not often true, that will mislead plenty of readers.  Let’s just say there’s a crash, and immediately afterwards somebody online speculates that it “might be due to the weather”.  Yeah, that’s always a possibility, but that’s just one possibility.  With that in readers’ minds, suddenly they’re terrified of flying.  On social media, it’s upsettingly easy for misinformation to spread, while accurate information about how safe aviation is gets drowned out.  

Another example of the dangers of speculation involves tiger sharks in Hawaii.  Sharks are pretty scary, and amazingly efficient predators, and tiger sharks are among the biggest and scariest of them all.  Along with the bull shark and great white, they’re known to attack humans, but it’s actually pretty rare.  In Hawaii, three to four shark bites happen a year, but compare that to the untold hundreds of thousands of times that humans swim, dive and surf in Hawaii every day.  Speculation about the danger they could pose to tourism in Hawaii, nearly 5,000 tiger sharks were culled.  While this damaged the shark population, it did nothing to decrease the number of interactions between humans and sharks.  

Ultimately, speculation is a basic human reaction to events, and I’d be lying if I told you I never speculated.  Speculation involves both reasoned and completely irrational ideas, which people use to form opinions.  But it’s important to keep it for the right audience, otherwise it could snowball in a game of telephone.  

Snakes on a Plane (But Actually)

Snakes on a plane (But actually) by Nelson Lewis10 years ago, the film “Snakes on a Plane” was released.  Many ridiculed the film, as the concept, as well as the title, seemed pretty outlandish.  Yet sometimes life is even stranger than fiction.  Yesterday passengers on an Aeromexico commercial flight were treated to a venomous green viper, roughly five feet long, which slithered into the cabin.  Passengers watched in horror as the snake uncurled from the ceiling and fell onto the floor.  Since we live in the information age and love a good social media post, of course one particularly brave passenger took the time to film the incident, and posted it online.  Funnily enough, even if the prospect of a snake on a plane is pretty terrifying (of course once you get beyond the fact that

Flight 231 makes the two-hour trip from Torreon to Mexico City every day, although this is the first time this has ever happened.  In the video, you can see the snake slowly slithering down the side of the plane before falling onto seats.  What’s particularly interesting to me is that even if the prospect of being trapped 30,000 feet in the air with a venomous snake is pretty terrifying, nobody in the video seems to be screaming or running away.  Concerned?  Absolutely.  But nobody Since this occurred mid-flight, the plane was given priority landing at its destination.  The pilot immediately began organizing an emergency landing, and the slithery stowaway was caught by some passengers who improvised with a blanket and some magazines before emergency personnel were able to collect the reptile.  It’s as of yet unclear as to how the snake made its way onto the plane, although a spokesperson for the airline has stated that they’re looking to get to the bottom of the issue and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.  

You can check out the video below:

10 Most Famous Aircraft in the World

When picking through the rich history of aviation, it can be difficult to select from just ten aircraft that have played the biggest roles.  However, I recently came across an article from that presents a top 10 rundown of the world’s most famous aircraft:

Wright Brothers plane

The Wright Flyer: As the plane that performed the world’s first-ever powered flight back in 1903, it’s no surprise that this plane would make the list.  It was built with spruce wood, with the engine and other parts all made by hand.  To fly the plane, Wilbur Wright had to lay on his stomach on the lower wing to reduce drag, with the steering controlled with a hip cradle that pulled wires to warp the wings.

Concorde airplane

Concorde: Widely recognized as one of the most significant aircrafts in aviation history, this supersonic airliner, the first of its kind in world history, allowed passengers to travel across the Atlantic in just 3 ½ hours.  It entered service in 1976, and continued commercial operations for British Airways and Air France until 2003.  The Concorde featured a pointed, adjustable nose that allowed it to achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency in flight while also allowing the flight crew a full view during take-off and landing.

Air Force One plane

Air Force One: While it’s been immortalized as a symbol of American power, the Air Force One isn’t any specific aircraft, but rather an air traffic control call sign most often used by the private aircraft designated to transport the President.  However, this call sign can be used by any US Air Force aircraft while the President is on board.  The term was first developed in 1953 after a security glitch occurred when Eisenhower’s plane entered the same airspace as a commercial airliner with the same call sign.  Several different aircraft have been used as Air Force One since, with Boeing now the exclusive manufacturer of choice.

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire: Designed by RJ Mitchell of meet the RAF’s need for a new fighter aircraft, this is arguably one of the most universally respected and loved aircraft in the world.  It first flew in 1936, and was produced in greater numbers than any British aircraft before it.  It’s most famous for its role in securing British air superiority in World War II, winning the hearts of the British public.

Airbus A380

Airbus A380: Nicknamed the “Superjumbo”, this is currently the largest passenger airliner in the world, that can carry up to 853 passengers in a double-deck seating configuration.  Designed by manufacturer Airbus to challenge Boeing’s monopoly, it entered commercial service in October 2007.  Its huge size meant that specially-designed ships, barges and roads had to be built for surface transportation.  The A380 features highly innovative passenger provisions and pilot technology, along with an avionics suite based on that of advanced military aircraft.

Charles Lindbergh Spirit of St Louis

Spirit of St. Louis: When he made the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Charles Lindbergh made this plane famous.  One of the most fuel-efficient and aerodynamic designs of its time, the aircraft was designed by Ryan Airlines and named after Lindbergh’s hometown of St. Louis.  The fuel tanks were at the front of the plane to improve safety and balance, although this meant that there couldn’t be a front windshield in the tiny cockpit, so a periscope was needed to provide front visibility.

Amelia Earhart Lockheed 5B

Lockheed Vega 5b: When Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly non-stop across the Atlantic, she made the six-seater monoplane famous.  At the time, that specific design was a popular choice for record attempts due to its long-range and rugged design.

Gulfstream GIV plane

Gulfstream GIV: As the first truly global business jet, the Gulfstream IV has a special place in the hearts of all aviation enthusiasts.  After its 1987 launch, it became a firm favorite, with an unmatched range that allowed private jet passengers to travel anywhere in the world with just one fuel stop.

Cessna Citation XL

Cessna Citation XL: Since its first flight in early 1996, the Citation XL revolutionized the private aircraft market by offering a cost-effective competitor to the twin turboprop aircraft.  It quickly won the hearts of private jet passengers and aircraft operators due to its speed, high passenger capacity and relative low cost in comparison to its competitors.


SpaceShipTwo: With its open cabin and large viewing windows, this suborbital spacecraft is a leader in the race to take commercial air passengers into space.  It might still be in testing, and if the October 2014 crash is to be believed, still has some kinks to work out, but the thought of taking a flight into outer space is exciting indeed.

Bangkok Bombings

Earlier today, a bomb exploded close to the Erawan Shrine, a major tourist attraction in the center of Bangkok, killing at least 19 people and injuring over 120.  Many foreigners, including some Chinese, are among the casualties in the attack; so far 10 Thai citizens, as well as one Chinese and one Filipino, have been confirmed dead.  As of yet, nobody has come forth to admit if they were involved in the attack.  According to Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, the bombers targeted foreigners in an effort “to damage tourism and the economy”.  Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was quoted as saying that government was planning to set up a “war room” to coordinate the proper response to this bombing.Bangkok bombings at Erawan shrine

Thai police have said that 123 people have been injured, with the government in Hong Kong saying that the numbers of wounded included three of its citizens.  The police said that 3kg of TNT had been stuffed in a pipe inside the shrine, which was set off by an electronic circuit.  While the police have checked the area for other devices, no further bombs appear to have been found.  Many people around the shrine were hit by the full force of the blast, and witnesses have described a wildly graphic and chaotic scene with body parts scattered everywhere.

The Erawan Shrine is dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma, although it also visited by thousands of Buddhists every day.  There are also three major shopping centers nearby.  The explosion took place on the Ratchaprasong intersection, which in recent years was at the center of political demonstrations.  The culprit of this bombing remains a mystery, partially because bombings in Bangkok are so rare.  While there has been a Muslim insurgency, this has mostly been confined to the south of the country, with attacks rarely taking place anywhere else.  However, Bangkok has also seen a decade of occasionally rivalry between different political factions, which has been known to turn violent.  Following months of unrest, the military took over the country last May, and the capital has been mostly calm since then.  Although with today’s incident, one can’t help but wonder if that calm is going to last forever.

5 Ways to Celebrate National Aviation Day

Two days from now marks National Aviation Day.  A presidential proclamation made in 1939 invites people to observe this day with “appropriate exercises to further stimulate interest in aviation”.  Nowadays, when you can simply go to Travelocity and pick up a ticket from Atlanta to New York City, it’s easy to take aviation for granted, and forget how much a miracle it seemed when the Wright Brothers first flew some 112 years ago.  Aviation has gone leaps and bounds since that fabled first flight in Kitty Hawk; a record number of more than 3.3 billion people got on a plane last year alone.  Of course, aviation is far from perfect, but the future for planes looks bright, with many airliners on their way to serving travelers around the world in cool, sophisticated ways.  I recently came across an article with some ideas for celebrating Aviation Day, listed below:

Clipper flying cloud

1. Air and Space Museum: While the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has got plenty to offer to celebrate National Aviation Day, their companion facility outside DC pays homage to one of history’s groundbreaking airliners: the last surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner and the first successful commercial airliner with a pressurized cabin, the Clipper Flying Cloud.  The plane’s pressurized cabin virtually “eradicated” passenger sickness, allowing airline passengers to fly above bad weather and make the ride much smoother.

Lockheed Connie

2. Fly the “Connie”: Lockheed’s L-1049 Super Constellation, known to aviation enthusiasts as “Connie”, is a 50 year-old icon that you can still fly on.  However, the price for flying on this piece of aircraft history is a bit steep; to get on the plane, all passengers need to first join the Super Constellation Flyers Association for about $120, then purchase tickets starting at $230.  From May through autumn, the plane hosts pleasure flights to European destinations such as Germany, Belgium and Switzerland, and aviation enthusiasts will travel around the world in the Connie just for the experience.

Brown bird airplane

3. Fly a two-seater: For a $100 membership, you can experience the sensation of flying aboard the two-seater “Brown Bird”, just like the Wright Brothers.  It isn’t the most efficient way to travel; it burns 20 gallons of fuel an hour, and flies slow and low, yet it’s a great historical experience as you get to fly just like the Wright Brothers did.

Flying a glider

4. Glider flights: When talking about their first glider flights, people tend to use such words as “spectacular”, “breathtaking” and “sensational”.  This might be due to the fact that the only thing between you and the sky is an eighth of an inch of plexiglass, giving the user the feeling that they’re actually flying without an airplane.  In some instances, you might even find yourself flying with eagles.

flying lesson

5. Take a flying lesson: This is reserved for the more enthusiastic of aviation enthusiasts.  Research flight schools, and sign up for an hour-long introductory flight in a small plane with a certified flight instructor.  The annual number of active pilots in the US with FAA student certificates has been rising for the past four years, with thousands of new student pilots getting into the cockpit every year.  And getting a pilot’s license might be easier than you think, thanks to a 2004 FAA rule that allows wannabe fliers to earn pilot certificates in less time, albeit with more limitations.

Kawasaki P-1

Nelson Lewis Kawasaki P1

The Kawasaki P-1

In preparation for the Royal International Air Tattoo, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) arrived at RAF Fairford in England today, where they showed their first flying display rehearsal of the fascinating Kawasaki P-1.  The two aircraft landed at Fairford yesterday after a 4-day voyage from Atsugi, Japan through the US.  From NAS Oceana in Virginia, it made the non-stop flight across the Atlantic to the UK.

The display of the Kawasaki was simple yet effective, with a couple of low passes that included one with the aircraft’s weapons bay open.  The aircraft, which resembled a Douglas DC-8 that’s been through a hot wash, is an impressive performer, airborne in about 4-5,000 feet of runway.  As the aircraft maneuvered back toward the airfield, there were also a few hints of some impressive agility.  Without a doubt, this is one of the most intriguing and exciting aircrafts to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo in the past 15 years.  Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much coverage about the development of this mysterious ocean patroller, especially when compared to Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon or the BAe Nimrod.  At the current show, engineers have been parking the P-1 next to the P-8, allowing visitors the chance to make comparisons between the two submarine hunters.

Japan seems hopeful that they’ll get the chance to export the P-1.  And with the UK expected to release a potential requirement for a maritime patrol aircraft in the upcoming Strategic Defense and Security Review later this year, it’s possible that this aircraft could be making a lot more appearances in the near future.  If you want to check out the aircraft yourself and have the time and resources for a last-minute plane ticket to the UK, then the Air Tattoo will be taking place this weekend, from July 17-19.

Breitling Jet Team in Times Square

Nelson Lewis BreitlingRecently, the Breitling Jet Team brought a full-size L-39C Albatros Jet to New York City, in the place where it would most likely cause the biggest stir: New York’s own Times Square.  This marks the team’s first ever North American tour to New York City.  In addition to the Jet Team, VIPs in attendance will include friends of the Breitling brand, amateur pilot/professional golfer Morgan Hoffmann, football legend Boomer Esiason and golfer Suzann Pettersen, who is in town for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.

For those who don’t know, the Breitling Jet Team is an aerobatics team, made up of seven L-39 Albatros jets that can reach speeds of up to 565 mph.  The Breitling Jet Team, founded by the Breitling company, is the world’s largest professional civilian flight team that performs on jets.  The team is known for their wild, flamboyant aerobatic displays, which require an inordinate amount of precision, speed and audacity to perform.  Every year, the Breitling Jet Team performs around fifty demonstrations across Europe at various air shows, Formula 1 Grand Prix races and sports events, but this marks one of the first times that they’ve made it out to the US.

Over Memorial Day Weekend, Breitling performed at New York’s Bethpage Airshow at Jones Beach, and flew around some of New York’s most well-known landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center.  For their North American tour, the Breitling Jet Team will be continuing their North American tour in Ocean City, Maryland, and the Vectren Dayton Airshow in Dayton, Ohio.  Through October of this year, the Breitling Jet Team American Tour will perform at nearly 20 airshows across the US and Canada.  To find out what their schedule looks like, you can visit their website, The Breitling Jet Team.  Who knows?  They could be coming to a city near you!

British Air Force Fights ISIS

According to analysis from the British newspaper The Guardian, British aircraft and unmanned drones have been attacking ISIS targets in Iraq with over 200 bombs and missiles in largely-ignored military operations.  The air strikes, which started back in autumn, have been undertaken by the RAF’s oldest bombers, Tornado GR4s, as well as its newest weapon, the remotely-piloted Reaper.  Tornados have dropped at least 87 Paveway IV bombs, and fired at least 47 Brimstone missiles, while Reapers have Nelson Lewis RAFfired more than 80 Hellfire missiles.  Reapers, which are controlled via satellite in RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, have fired more than 80 Hellfire missiles.

ISIS targets attacked by the RAF include 20 buildings, 65 trucks and at least two containers.  In at least 90 separate attacks, groups of what the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has called “terrorists” have been targeted.  Nonetheless, British operations remain a fraction of those carried out by the US.  American aircraft have attacked more than 6,000 ISIS targets as part of “Operation Inherent Resolve”, including around 2,000 buildings, 3,000 US Humvees and 80 tanks over Iraq and Syria.  A House of Commons motion passed back in September excluded UK air strikes in Syria, and any decision to extend operations would require a separate vote in parliament.  The cost of British weapons used against ISIS so far amounts to over 13 million pounds sterling, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of fuelling and maintaining the aircraft, including RAF Sentry command and control planes, Sentinel surveillance aircraft and Hercules transport planes.

The MoD describes Paveway IV bombs and Brimstone missiles, used to target ISIS, as “precision weapons”.  In one attack back in March, a Tornado was said to have struck an armored personnel carrier positioned under a bridge.  And earlier, a Reaper is said to have spotted an ISIS checkpoint, which they then attacked with a Hellfire missile.  The Cyprus-based Tornados rely on Voyager air-to-air refueling tanker aircraft to sustain long-distance air patrols.  In addition, a British military team has been deployed to northern Iraq, where they’re responsible for teaching infantry and first-aid skills to Kurdish Peshmerga volunteers, as well as how to combat improvised explosive devices (IED), which ISIS fighters have been using with increasing frequency as Iraqi forces drive them back.


How to Not Get Kicked Off an Airplane

Earlier this week, a cancer victim made headlines after she was kicked off of Alaska Airlines for not having a doctor’s note.  After the story went viral, the airline had to apologize and reimbursed her and her family the money for tickets and accommodation.  Nowadays, cabin crews are under pressure to police the skies, and it isn’t always clear what constitutes a security threat or what could be offensive to others.  If you travel enough, you’re bound to see a passenger get kicked off the aircraft; sometimes before the plane is fully boarded, but also when the plane is getting ready to push back from the gate.  I recently came across an article that shared some tips for not getting kicked off a plane.

Nelson Lewis hijack

Don’t joke around: Making jokes about hijackings, weapons or bombs while going through security or boarding a plane is more than just not funny, it will also get you arrested.  And people who threaten or assault a crew member, damage the aircraft or make any threatening statements are also removed.

Nelson Lewis swearing

Don’t swear: Back in 2011, Gawker published a story about a passenger who turned to his seatmate and dropped an F-bomb while asking why it took so long to close the overhead compartments.  Not long afterwards, after the aircraft took off, the pilot turned the plane around and the police removed the passenger from the plane for being “disruptive”.  Even if this is pretty extreme, it’s a good idea to be safe rather than sorry.

Nelson Lewis t-shirt

Don’t wear offensive clothing: Airlines have something known as a “contract of carriage”, which you agree on when purchasing a seat on a plane.  These contracts vary by airline, but Southwest Airlines has clearly stated that they can “refuse to transport or remove” passengers for all kinds of violations, including those “whose clothing is lewd, obscene or patently offensive”.  Last month, a passenger was removed from a flight at Denver International Airport for wearing a T-shirt that read “Broad F%#@ing City”, in promotion of the Comedy Central show “Broad City”.  After the passenger refused to remove the shirt, he was denied passage by the airline.

Nelson Lewis stinky

Don’t stink: Airlines reserve the right to remove you from the plane if you emanate what they define as an “offensive odor”.  Even if you think you smell fine, others around you might speak up, and you’ll be left back at the gate.  Such an occurrence is unusual, but it’s happened before.

Hacktivists Fight ISIS

Nelson Lewis Anonymous

The hacktivist group “Anonymous” is known to keep their identities secret by wearing Guy Fawkes masks, made popular by the film “V For Vendetta”.

It looks like hackers across the world have decided to take the fight against ISIS to the next level: three major “hacktivist” groups, Anonymous, GhostSec and Crtlsec have collaborated to release the names of around 9,200 account names associated with ISIS.  This comes as part of the #opisis, an effort to draw attention to the growing presence of ISIS online, as well as a chance to track individuals associated with the terrorist group.  This is an historic event in the digital world, as it’s the first time that these three hacktivist groups have ever come together for something like this.  Usually, these groups are very closed off, and seldom willing to work outside of their circles.  Yet ISIS, as well as their firm control of social media, have become a large enough problem that they were willing to form an alliance to fight them.

The 9,200 accounts are all active, and in one way or another related to ISIS.  However, due to the size of this list, it’s been difficult to verify all of them.  Anonymous launched the #opisis campaign earlier this year, which they claim has already disrupted nearly one thousand websites, email accounts and VPN connections related to ISIS.  They claim that they would treat the group like a virus, and that they were the cure.  The hacktivists have been calling on the public to spread the word about these accounts, so that they can get suspended.

ISIS has extensively used social media, particularly Twitter, as a platform to spread propaganda to a worldwide audience and gain sympathizers and supporters for their vision of an “Islamic Caliphate”.  Twitter has already suspended certain ISIS-related accounts, although it hasn’t yet been effective at preventing ISIS from using the service in this manner.  ISIS used “swarm accounts” to stay active despite Twitter’s suspensions.  According to Anonymous, they create a multitude of accounts and them use them to cross-promote each other, which in turn creates a hydra-like platform.

Other sites apart from Twitter have been used to spread information, including Justpaste for text, Sendvid for videos and for retrieving propaganda content that’s been deleted by an Internet service provider.  However, Twitter serves as the system’s linchpin, since it allows the sites to keep content alive an easily accessible.  Without Twitter working as its central hub, ISIS wouldn’t be able to move around their content.  This ongoing issue of ISIS using social media to spread propaganda and gain support has recently led a US defense policy researcher to call on the US government to support Anonymous in disrupting ISIS’ accounts.