Seattle to Heathrow: Time Lapse

On my latest flight from Seattle to Heathrow I took a stab at making a time lapse.


We were scheduled to leave Seattle at 7:20pm1, so I was hoping capture the aurora borealis during the night portion of the flight since we would be flying at at a pretty high latitude, even dipping into the arctic circle for a bit.


Unfortunately I failed to account for the fact that during the summer darkness is at a premium which I should have remembered given my prior travels to high northern latitudes. So, we never reached night and I didn’t capture any auroras.


It was still a good test and I’ve learned some things to refine for next time2. I’ll be getting a larger SD card for sure and will probably use a slightly different mounting technique so I don’t have to shoot through the Go Pro case. I also want to figure out a window cover I can put over it so A) my reflection doesn’t show up; and B) I’m not blasting the entire cabin with light while everyone tries to sleep (sorry guys!).

Gear list:

  • GoPro HD HERO2 with BacPac
  • Generic suction cup mount w/ tripod mount
  • 8GB SD Card
  • Time Lapse Assembler for OSX

  1. we were delayed a half-hour because of a gauge issue on the potable water tank 

  2. tentatively early September 

So This Happened On My Flight Back

After my fight1 was delayed for two hours due to weather, we’re finally getting ready to push back from the gate when the purser2 calls over the intercom for doors to be disarmed. Not good.

The next ten minutes basically played out like latter parts of Gaylord Focker getting removed from the airplane, finally culminating with Philly PD escorting our character off the plane:

  1. Alaska Airlines 37, Philadelphia to Seattle 

  2. head flight attendant 

Flying Home

I’m flying home today. Right now, in fact. My plane is due to touch down in Seattle at 2:21pm local time.

Feel free to track my progress: United Airlines flight 945 from Frankfurt to Chicago (9 hours) and United Airlines flight 929 from Chicago to Seattle (4.5 hours).

And it all started here, Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport…

18.0 mm || 1/400 || f/8.0 || ISO640 || NIKON D70

…62 days ago.

See you on the flip side.

Charlie’s Airplane Excitment

I’m meeting Charlie in Istanbul today. However, he’s had a bit of excitement on his plane ride from the States…

6:30 PM PDT
SO…….I am in Halifax…….we had an emergency landing for a guy who had a heart attack. Didn’t empty enough fuel so the plane was too heavy and we blew out two tires (or so I hear). Probably not going to get in until at least 2pm, possibly three. Keep an eye out for me in case I decide to wait at the airport. What is your flight #?1

9:05 pm PDT
Now I’m going to get in at 3:30….hopefully. See you at the airport!

10:43 PDT
Possibily 6:30 now…….We are Delta flight 72 from New York. I’ll keep and eye out for you if you decide to hang around. See you in a few hours!

  1. I’m Aerosvit Airlines flight #265 

Finally, An Answer

Several years ago, I posted a problem describing a plane on a massive conveyor belt:

Imagine a plane is sitting on a massive conveyor belt, as wide and as long as a runway. The conveyer [sic] belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction. Can the plane take off?

Similar, but not exact, question was busted on Mythbusters:

An airplane cannot take off from a runway which is moving backwards (like a treadmill) at a speed equal to its normal ground speed during takeoff.

Every since that episode aired, I had serious doubts about the validity of the test; although I could never fully articulate those doubts, even to myself. The biggest issues I had was the speed at which the conveyor belt (or treadmill) was moving.

And that’s the rub. The first question posits that the “belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction,” while the second questions says “a speed equal to its normal ground speed“. These, my friends, are two entirely different questions.

I thought all hope had been lost, until Randall “xkcd” Munroe became my hero. He asks the version of question I originally posted a couple years ago. It’s actually almost the exact same wording, only he adds in a bit about it being a 747 and then provides an answer:


The practical answer is “yes”. A 747’s engines produce a quarter of a million pounds of thrust. That is, each engine is powerful enough to launch a brachiosaurus straight up (see diagram). With that kind of force, no matter what’s happening to the treadmill and wheels, the plane is going to move forward and take off.

But there’s a problem. Let’s take a look at the statement “The conveyor belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels”. What does that mean?

You think you have it all wrapped up in a nice little package, and then you get to the “But there’s a problem.” And you utter to yourself, “Crap.”

I’m not going to spoil Randal’s rather excellent explanation of the problem. However, he does do a pretty good job explaining it, and you really should read it.

I will, however, add a couple of footnotes:

  • A PID controller is a Proportional, Integral, Derivative controller, which is a type of feedback controller. For example, let’s say you’re running on a treadmill and you start running faster, a PID controller can measure the speed you’re running at and automatically increase the speed of the treadmill so that you don’t run off the end.
  • I’m not sure, but I believe the “‘JetBlue’ scenario” that Randall mentions may refer to the JetBlue Flight 292 incident of a few years ago.

If you also remember the discussion from last time, I think Chris Barnhart is the winner.

P.S. Mr. Munroe claims that xkcd doesn’t stand for anything. However, if you assign each letter a number (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc), X+K+C+D => 24+11+3+4 = 42. Check that out, you can’t make up that shit. And no, I didn’t figure that out all by myself.

Image Credit: Randall Munroe

Flight of the Puke

…with a Hat Tip to Adam for the find1.

Update: Video wasn’t mine, nor hosted on my account. I’ve found another copy of the video and linked to it above.

  1. Archived here, in case it ever disappears from YouTube.