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Thoughts from on a plane travelling 504km/h

Air Canada, I have to say, has some snazzy planes. I have a live map of where I am in the flight, how long it will be til I get there, and to feed my OCD and need for more information than is actually necessary for any normal traveller, exactly how fast I’m travelling and at what altitude. All on an LCD panel that’s built into the seat in front of me. 1h 46 mins, touchdown at 10:02 am local Toronto time. This is definitely information overkill.

And my seat isn’t special, either. Every single seat in this plane has one of these. Only some people are playing movies, cartoons, or browsing through a selection of XM Radio channels. From here I can see The Smurfs, some cartoon I don’t recognize (maybe Iron Giant? I haven’t seen it yet), and something starring The Rock. I could put Planet of the Apes (the original) on if I so chose, but the map of our flight path is infinitely more interesting to me. What took an hour and a half to drive, I’ve already covered in the first five minutes of being in the air. I’ve traveled double that by now.

What’s more, my netbook is drawing power from a 110v power outlet, and I have the option to plug my phone in via a USB charger. That’s distinct from the power outlet, by the way — I could (and probably should) plug my phone in too.

All of this is forgetting the fact that I’m hurtling through the air in a big metal projectile.

I am more keenly aware of my first-world privilege right now than I have been in quite some time. While some struggle to eat, someone’s pushing a cart full of snacks down the aisle and I can (and will) refuse.

I’m over St. John, New Brunswick, now. Unreal. Uncanny.

Read for the rest of the flight, posting now that I’ve touched down in Toronto. It won’t be long til I’m back in MN.

Comments

  1. Vicki says

    Information overkill when it isn’t off by enough to be weird: a flight from Montreal to New York cheerfully telling me how long it will be until arrival in Montreal, while we waited on the tarmac at Dorval for LaGuardia to reopen after a storm. (That same flight was telling me I was at 980 meters while I could clearly make out individual buildings on the ground, when we did get to New York; some weird sort of delay.)

    I was, however, perhaps excessively amused that the bilingual display gave me metric when it was in French, and imperial units for distance in English. (Maybe they assume all Canadians can read at least that much French, and Americans need the old-fashioned units.)

  2. Leo says

    Do they really tell you your speed in km/hr? But then I suppose a layman wouldn’t necessarily understand knots.

    Also, I’ll have to ask my coworkers from the Cabin Electronics department if AirCanada is a customer of theirs. (I suspect not, but then I don’t really know who they serve at all.)

  3. Ysanne says

    You know what’s even more fun than just looking at that shiny little information display? When you recognize the wristwatch-shaped “wait, working…” cursor as a very classic Unix one. And it’s not just chance similarity: About 3 hours into my A380 flight a couple of weeks ago, all the inflight entertainment displays suddenly went black — and then they started re-booting Red Hat Linux! :-)
    Then again, I really hope the actual plane’s software is a little more stable than that.

  4. says

    Hah, nice Ysanne! I’ve seen a few embedded media players that were built with Linux, like the media displays at Tim Hortons’. Saw those reboot once while they were apparently putting up new videos last Hallowe’en or so. Then again, I’ve also seen a few with obviously-Windows error messages in a few other places — the checkout terminals at Sobeys and the PC Financial kiosks’ loan rates displays come to mind. I got a picture of the latter, too.

  5. Japheree says

    @ Ysanne 10:53

    Not to worry you but I work in drafting aeronautical charts and associated electronic data for aircraft flight planning systems. At our end at least this is all done using linux. Cant say what the airlines do with it once they get it though.

  6. anthonyallen says

    WestJet has the same thing, except instead of on-demand movies, they have a TV tuner that picks up local channels from whatever city they happen to be flying over.

    Still, though, I watched the map on the entire flight from Halifax to Calgary when I moved here.

  7. fastlane says

    504km/hr is kinda slow. Do you know what kind of plane you were on?

    I’ve worked VIP aircraft completions for almost a decade, and you wouldn’t believe some of the things we can put in a plane, if one has the money. (We’re talking showers, dance floors, jaccuzzis….)

    I’ve helped design/certify the interiors for quite a few famous people, and a few head of state aircraft as well. Talk about first world privilege….

  8. J says

    I flew Air Canada from Edmonton to Toronto and back a few weeks ago. I loved the touch screen, but they didn’t give out any snacks at all. At least West Jet gives you Bits and Bites or cookies.

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