Rafe Needleman interviews Patrick Smith of Salon's Ask the Pilot, and Evan Konwiser of the new Flightcaster service, on how technology is changing commercial air travel, for the better and the worse.
This week on the Roundtable: air travel and technology. As we all get ready to spend lots of time in airplanes, and quite likely more time in airports waiting for airplanes, I thought it'd be appropriate to bring in experts on the topic of modern air travel. And we have two great guests for this show.
First, in the studio, Evan Konwiser of Flightcaster, a new service that will tell you if your flight is going to be delayed before the airline will tell you. I saw this product pitched at an Under the Radar start-up conference I moderated and it made me want to learn more about airline scheduling.
Second, via phone from Boston, we have Patrick Smith, author of one of my favorite lunchtime reads, the great Ask the Pilot column in Salon. Patrick has been a commercial pilot for nearly 20 years, and his column is a great read if you're at all curious about how the air transport industry works from the inside.
Reporters' Roundtable #12: Air travel tech
Show notes and talking points:
First, an overview. Patrick, what will this holiday travel season look like for the U.S. traveler? What's better or worse than last year? Why?
And from your own perspective, is being a pilot still an interesting job?
Evan, you run one of the many companies that deals in air travel data. Why do these companies exist? Why can't airlines just provide the necessary data to travelers directly?
Let's talk about technology in the flight deck. Patrick, it seems every time there's a major air travel incident, you write a column explaining how the general media got it wrong, and one of the biggest bugaboos you deal with is the concept that airplanes "fly themselves" these days and that pilots are there as airplane babysitters, just to monitor the machines. Here's you big chance to straighten us out.
And yet, in October, Northwest 188 overshot its destination by 120 miles due to, we're told, pilot distraction. So what goes on in there? In other words, what is it like to sit in the middle of all this technology, some of which needs you to watch it and some of which exists to watch or help you? What's the right balance?
Both: Let's talk about navigation and scheduling. Commercial flights still cross the country the same way they've been doing it for years: moving along proscribed flightpaths, getting handed off from control zone to zone. What are the benefits and downsides of this system?
How else could it be done? What's on the horizon?
Let's talk cabin tech. Why do we have to turn if off? No, really?
Best airlines for tech geeks? (UA - channel 9. Airlines with maps? Cockpit views?)
Discuss the "security theater" at airports.
Outlook for the next few years... Evan from the passenger perspective, Patrick from pilot's.