Category: Transport

Gandalf the Vulture No Longer a Threat

Pilots flying in Scotland last week were treated to a novel warning from air controllers: watch out for a high flying vulture (high flying being a literal description).  Gandalf, a Ruppell’s Vulture “escaped” during an airshow called World of Wings.  The show was being held in Cumbernauld, which is near Glasgow, when Gandalf supposedly caught a warm thermal.  This propelled her high up into the skies, and she was not seen again – for a while.

The “loss” of Gandalf, who has been with World of Wings for six years, prompted civil aviation authorities to warn pilots.  Gandalf is originally from the African continent and has a wingspan of three meters.  This gives the bird lots of flying power.  Believe it or not, this kind of bird can actually fly up to 30,000 feet!  Indeed, this capacity makes the bird a potential threat to airplanes in flight.

There have been many incidents in the past of aircraft colliding with birds.  In many cases, these collisions have caused pilots to opt for an emergency landing.  Remember the commercial airplane that had to land on the Hudson River?

To make things worse, Gandalf’s kind can fly for very long distances, making it difficult to predict where he would end up.  The good news is that the bird has finally been found – at a Falkirk brickworks, interestingly enough.  Experts were worried that the bird might reach as far as the European continent, but their fears were alleviated when Gandalf was spotted.

So if you’re flying anywhere near the area – you’re safe from show vultures now. ;)

Photo credit: Birdfinders

Bad Driving: Blame It On DNA

dna_rgbDon’t you just hate it when other people on the road drive so badly? I am so bad at parking but I pretty much do a good job while on the road. Still, I haven’t driven in the longest time because of a traumatic “pulling out of the parking lot” experience years ago.

Anyhow, the next time that you find yourself on the brink of being a victim to road rage, bear this in mind: bad driving may be a result of the genetic make up of a person!

No, I am not pulling your leg. A team of researchers from the University of California Irvine conducted a study and found out that there is this gene variant present in people who drive badly as compared to the average person. They made people take a driving test, and those who had the gene variant performed 20% worse! The gene has something to do with proteins affecting memory, which is perhaps why bad drivers “forget” even the most basic of the road rules that everyone should know.

One shortcoming of the study is the fact that the researchers did not look any further than the driving test they used. For example, they did not take a look at other aspects such as car crashes. Also, the results are pretty much inconclusive – another example of potentially impractical information? Then again, if they conclusively identify this gene variant as a reason for bad driving, then perhaps something can be done about it in the future.

Photo courtesy of

Keep Safe On The Road With Chili

Detail view of a pile of chilis

Have you ever experienced going on a long drive and doing your darnedest best to stay awake and alert? We all know that one of the biggest – if not THE biggest – enemies of a motorist is sleep or fatigue. That is why we always hear of safety admonitions to get some rest before driving, and that if you feel tired while on the road, it would be better to stop and nap rather than to push on.

How about an alternative wake up call? In China, the police have found a way to wake their drivers up and keep them safe on the road while at it. This novel wake up technique does not make use of the traditional caffeine jolt. Neither does it involve encouraging motorists to nap and rest. Instead, the police are serving motorists with raw chili.

Yes, raw chili. According to Reuters, the police in the southwestern part of the country (Chongqing region) have made it their mission to keep drivers awake. Their main strategy is to offer loads of raw chili in highway service stations. This is also in keeping with the Chinese belief that people become sleepier during spring.

And what do the drivers have to say about this? Chen Jun, a van driver plying the southwestern route says that “It’s really good to have some hot peppers when you are tired from driving. They make you alert.”

If the chili is as strong as I think it is, then it would certainly keep you alert for hours.

Help! The Stewardess Just Landed The Plane!

It is every traveler’s nightmare. Imagine this. The pilot has a mental breakdown mid-air and the flight attendant has to make an emergency landing. No, its not a Naked Gun remake, its real life.

The bizarre and terrifying incident occurred on board an Air Canada flight bound for the UK. It began with the co-pilot speaking in “rambling and disjointed” conversation, according to air accident investigators. He was then forcibly removed by the crew (one of which suffered minor injuries!), and restrained. The captain then ordered the crew to find someone who could fly a plane, and luckily, a female flight attendant offered her services as she had a commercial pilot’s license (so what was she doing being a flight attendant?).

The plane in peril made a safe emergency landing in Ireland’s Shannon Airport, and the disturbed co-pilot was whisked away to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. According to the Telegraph newspaper:

“….The official report into the incident by the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) did not explicitly refer to the co-pilot’s medical condition.

But it recorded the views of two doctors onboard that he was in a “confused and disorientated state”.

The captain also reported that his senior colleague became uncharacteristically “belligerent and unco-operative” and was “effectively incapacitated”.

One passenger at the time reported seeing the distraught co-pilot yelling for God as he was being restrained.

The AAIU praised the actions of both the captain and crew in diverting to the nearest airport and removing the co-pilot from the controls.

“For his own well-being and the safety of the aircraft, the most appropriate course of action was to stand him down from duty and seek medical attention which was available on board,” said the report.

“The commander (captain) realising he was faced with a difficult and serious situation used tact and understanding and kept control of the situation at all times.

“The situation was dealt with in a professional manner… As such the commander and flight attendants should be commended for their professionalism in the handling of this event.”

There were no safety recommendations from the investigation.”

Twin Tragedies in Indonesia

Things couldn’t have been worse for Indonesia. Two events in the news from this part of the world shocked people for simultaneous tragedies, a rarity in this world but heartbreaking as well for loss of human lives without reason.

First was the earthquake which shook the country that claimed 52 lives last March 6, 2007 in Sumatra Islands Jakarta, Indonesia. Then there was the plane crash that followed that killed 23 people of a packed Indonesian jetliner which crashed and erupted in flames. Dozens of people, bloodied and severely injured were the sight that Indonesia had on this faithful day.

Plane Crash Indonesia 2007

Of the two tragedies, it is the plane crash coming from its original destination, Australia which has been put under close investigation, considering that it has now become a trend for commercial jetliners coming in the country. Similar incidents where a jet plunged into sea and killed 102 passengers on New Year’s Day also occurred. The Indonesian government has started to make probes to find out the actual causes and possible relations if any.




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