In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Sliding airline seat the secret to boarding a plane faster?
Imagine not having to wait behind other passengers as they struggle down the aisle and slowly load their over-stuffed carry-on bags into the overhead lockers.
Well, a new airline seat design is taking on one of the most annoying parts of air travel by aiming to make boarding quicker and easier.
US company Molon Labe Design, which is led by retired Australian Navy test pilot Kevin Van Liere, claims its Side-Slip Seat could cut boarding times in half.
How? It’s an aisle seat that slides on top of the middle seat, expanding the aisle space from 48 centimetres to 109cm so passengers are more easily able to walk around others.
It is returned to its normal position once boarding is over.
However if airlines end up adopting the design they may want to offer passengers assigned to those seats a discount – they will be light on cushioning and… the deal-breaker for many: non-reclinable.
“I’m not going to tell you it’s a comfortable seat,” Hank Scott, founder of the company, said. “It’s a quick, turn-around seat.”
Ryanair criticised over retrospective charges
Ryanair has been criticised by a consumer watchdog for collecting thousands of pound from customers’ bank accounts – after they had returned from holiday.
Passengers who flew with the no-frills airline from Barcelona or Madrid in July, who booked their flights in June or before, were hit with retrospective charges of up to £7.20 per person, following the Spanish government’s decision to raise airport taxes.
The magazine Which? said that the majority of airlines – including BA, Easyjet, Flybe, Jet2, Thomson and Monarch – had absorbed the charges, and suggested that Ryanair may be in breach of its own terms and conditions.
While it is permitted to pass on additional taxes to passengers after booking, these should be paid “prior to departure”. Which? found that some passengers – including one of its own researchers – were charged after they had returned home.
A Ryanair spokesman said it was “obliged to collect taxes and charges and pass them to the Spanish government on behalf of passengers”.
Meanwhile, a Ryanair advert offering cheap flights to Malmo has been ruled misleading by the Advertising Standards Agency.
Future planes could fly on sawdust, straw
Passenger jets could be chomping on straw or flying on fuel extracted from sawdust in coming years as the search widens for cleaner alternatives to kerosene, French scientists say.
The “ProBio3” project, started in early July and co-financed by a French government economic stimulus programme, aims to use traditional horse-bedding materials to develop a new kind of biofuel that can be used in a 50/50 blend alongside kerosene.
“Tomorrow, planes will fly using agricultural and forest waste,” said Carole Molina-Jouve, a professor at Toulouse’s National Institute of Applied Sciences (Insa), who is coordinating the ProBio3 project.
“We already know how to set up a basic production line but we must move towards an industrial line,” she said. “We need to translate what is done in laboratories to the real environment while improving its profitability and efficiency.”
The move to use straw-based materials or wood shavings as a source of fuel is the latest in a series of biofuel ventures aimed at cutting fuel bills and pollution.
So far most attempts have been based on crop-based products, raising concerns over food shortages following recent drought.
But European planemaker Airbus, one of the programme’s backers, believes woodchips and agricultural waste could be alternative fuel sources of the future.
With a budget of 24.6 million euros over eight years, ProBio3 aims to set up a profitable production chain for hydroprocessed oils, a type of biofuel which has been certified by international standards organisation ASTM as useable for aviation in combination with kerosene.
Fuel made from wood and straw may seem at odds with some of the most extreme man-made conditions inside a modern jet engine, where temperatures can reach 1,600 degrees Celsius. But scientists say they already know the basics of the process.
Children! Manchester needs your teeth
The city’s science festival plans a palace built out of them, as part of an exhibition on stem cell research. Then scamper outside and start counting sunflower head spirals.
Chidren may be a bit tetchy just now with all the challenges of going back to school, so here are two things you can get them to think about doing.
Both come courtesy of Manchester Science Festival which is going to fill the city with wonders between 27 October and 4 November, with a tasterManchester Weekender on October 11-14.
Here’s the first: donate a milk tooth to help an artist, Gina Czarnecki, build a four-foot-high magical fairytale palace out of resin encrusted with these unusual contributions. Why? (The first question all children ask). Well, it’s partly art, darling, and partly to highlight some scientific issues which may not engage little ones – though they could trigger a torrent of further questions – but are interesting for the rest of us.
Here’s what the festival organisers say:
Palaces will be exhibited at the Manchester Science Festival and is one of several pieces in the exhibition, which aims to explore the issue of waste body parts, such as fat from liposuction or bones from joint replacements, and how these could be used for stem cell regeneration. As more people donate their teeth, the Palace will grow over time like a coral reef, to form a stalagmite-like structure of crystal resin, encrusted in barnacle formations using baby teeth donated by children in the UK and around the world. To donate your milk teeth go online here.