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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shanghai to Chicago

A painting of a WW2 scene of B-24 Liberator bombers & PBY Catalinas at Amchitka AAF.
An airliner traveling from Shanghai to Chicago encountered a problem the other day and diverted to Cold Bay, Alaska. Cold Bay is a hamlet out in the Aleutian Islands. Why is there this giant, jet capable runway in this out of the way spot? WW2, of course. Looking for more information I came across Paul Freeman's Abandoned & Little-Know Airfields, which has a page devoted to the Alaska, which is where I found the picture. Several airfields listed on the Alaska page are in the Aleutian Islands, and most of those were built during the early part of WW2.

Reading about the airliner incident brought a couple of questions to mind. The first one was why was a giant airliner carrying only a hundred people? Every plane I've been on recently has been packed to the gills. And then I plot the trajectories on a map, and I wonder why are they diverted to Cold Bay. Cold Bay is way south of the Great Circle route from Shanghai to Chicago. I smell a conspiracy! The CIA is probably up no good, and this engine malfunction story is just part of the coverup.

Then I do a little more checking. Seems airlines sometimes need to stage a plane to be ready to pick up a full load of passengers, but there just aren't enough people where the aircraft is, who want to go where the airplane is going, but the plane has a schedule to keep so it goes anyway, which means that sometimes they are darn near empty. Wish I could find one of those flights when I need one.

Shanghai to Chicago
Looking at the Great Circle route again I notice that it goes over North Korea and we don't want to be flying over North Korea. They might not be able to hit the broadside of a barn with a bowling ball, but let's not tempt fate, eh? The route also goes over the Kamchatka Peninsula, which is part of Russia. These days I am pretty sure airlines are allowed to fly over Russia, but maybe they need permission, and you know, maybe we ought not go there either. Plug those allowances into the route and Cold Bay looks like a more likely solution.

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