I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of jokes and less funnier stories about lost bags, but this fine film should make you smile: a baggage car from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport gets lost like a tourist in Antwerp.
It’s an advertising stunt for Schiphol because “Schiphol, is closer than you think.” The baggage car is driving through the main square, attracting all kinds of attention. The Dutch driver goes around asking how to get to Schiphol. Some people were helpful with instructions like “drive along the Schelde”, the river that runs in Antwerp, and “keep on for two kilometres then ask again”.
The makers also claim that Antwerp is only an hour train ride way, but that’s with the expensive Thalys train, as there are no normal trains running between Antwerp and Schiphol, a well-known headache for years now. The normal train service between Brussels and Amsterdam that also includes Antwerp and Schiphol is not a direct service and is still a mess (dated article, but gives you an idea).
Then again, Brussels Airport, aka Zaventem, is closer, so why go to Schiphol I wonder, especially if your baggage gets lost in a foreign country.
Yesterday Schiphol Airport started tests with a robot to help passengers find their gates, which are often missed due to short transfer times, delayed flights, problems getting around the airport and language barriers.
Spencer the autonomous robot guide (see picture in the link) was designed by the University of Twente together with European partners from Sweden, France, Germany and Switzerland for KLM. The robot won’t drive into a group of travellers, but wait calmly until that group approaches it. “Spencer needs to be able to recognise group behaviour and obstacles, such as baggage trolleys as well as respond to unforeseen situations”. Tests are being carried out this week and won’t involve actual passengers just yet, something that will be done in March 2016 with a new and improved Spencer.
I happened to land at Schiphol yesterday on a day where it had closed down all but one runway due to very strong winds. On my flight, which left and hour and fifteen minutes behind schedule and had us in a turbulent holding pattern above Schiphol, many passengers had already missed their connections or had very short transfer times. I can imagine that when you’re in a rush to get the right answer, a robot may not be able to pick up on your stress, a bit like the photocopier that senses your panic and just won’t print. Then you’d want to talk to a human, as already postulated earlier this year by the University of Twente: “a social robot with an overly human appearance creates an unrealistic sense of expectation for most Dutch people”.
Dutch Rail has announced that on 14 December it will be changing the name of the train station Schiphol, the national airport station often pronounced ‘Skip-pole’, to Schiphol Airport which will help travellers identify it better as an airport, including a wee airplane pictogram to make it perfectly clear.
One wonders why Dutch Rail didn’t think of that ages ago, as Schiphol is more often than not referred to as Amsterdam Airport Schiphol just like it says on the building or Amsterdam Airport. After all the Netherlands has Eindhoven Airport and Rotterdam The Hague Airport, and many more with that formulation.
The history of the name Schiphol (literally ‘ship hole’ or ‘ship grave’) is interesting as it is unclear and based on theories. No ship wrecks were found when the land was reclaimed. The name could have possibly been related to the portaging of ships, dragging them from one body of water to another or having to do with a ‘hol’ that is a ‘low lying are of land’, as in ‘Holland’.
Using the name Schiphol for airplanes in Dutch is as amusing as using the word ‘shipping’ for sending parcels nowadays that doesn’t involve any ships.
In 2013 marketing geniuses in Amsterdam decided to call the coastal cities of IJmuiden, Bloemendaal and Zandvoort ‘Amsterdam Beach’, and nobody calls it that because it doesn’t make any sense, geographically or otherwise.
Another bunch of marketing geniuses are contemplating calling the historical beach of Scheveningen ‘The Hague Beach’ to attract more tourists, a change already implemented on the district’s English Wikipedia page. They argue that The Hague has 11 kilometres of beach that ‘nobody knows about’, as if pronouncing ‘Scheveningen’, admittedly not easy, was the problem. The Hague is really called ‘s-Gravenhage’ and was simplified in Dutch to Den Haag, but that hasn’t stopped anybody ever.
Not far from The Hague, but way closer to Rotterdam is Rotterdam The Hague Airport, which was historical called Zestienhoven because that’s where the airport actually is. It was later renamed Rotterdam Airport and finally Rotterdam The Hague Airport to give it more international appeal. Nobody cares.
According to AD.nl, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Ronal Plasterk, born and raised in Scheveningen said in a tweet: “Slippery slope: I was born in Scheveningen, not at The Hague Beach”, to which the city marketing spinners retorted that The Hague Beach is just what we’ll tell tourists, which is as condescending as sounds. Foreign nationals, historians and locals hate the idea. The city’s website still calls it The beach of Scheveningen, which almost sounds like painting by Adriaen van de Velde.
KLM and Delft University of Technology have presented designs for an aircraft that could transport passengers non-stop from Europe to Australia. It looks like a flying squirrel swallowed a hammerhead shark and then an Airbus or a Boeing, you choose.
This AHEAD (Advanced Hybrid Engine Aircraft Development) aircraft, would carry 300 passengers over 14,000 kilometres, about the distance from Amsterdam to Perth. Its design features two sets of wings – a small pair by the nose and a large set at the rear – that blend into the body. The team also proposes a hybrid engine to replace conventional turbofan engines.
KLM has previously worked with Dutch designers Hella Jongerius and Marcel Wanders to create cabin interiors and tableware.
Visual artist Paul de Kort was asked a few years ago to design the Buitenschot land art park, a huge 33-hectare park with a series of ribbed hedges and ditches surrounded by trees that form a noise-reduction green space right off Schiphol Airport’s biggest runway, the Polderbaan. Sadly, you can’t see the park from the air and that would partially explain why I’ve never noticed it before.
The airplane noise experienced by nearby residents is mostly low frequency ground noise that radiates backwards in an oblique fashion from planes during take-off, and De Kort’s aesthetic yet functional park of furrows was inspired by 17th century German acoustic techniques as well as local farming techniques.
Completed in October 2013 Buitenschot features small parks, bike paths and foot paths. De Kort also incorporated art pieces that drew on the history of the project, like the ‘Listening Ear,’ a parabolic dish on a small pyramid one can stand in that amplifies ambient sound, echoing the park’s noise reduction purpose and a diamond-shaped lake where visitors can create ripple patterns on the water surface while standing on a bridge equipped with a wave generating device.
Swedish marketing agency Universum has been polling Dutch students on who they want to work for after graduation.
A whopping 12,000 students from 32 universities and polytechnics were asked about their career preferences. Major Dutch companies such as Philips, Shell, KLM, Heineken and Endemol were named, but large American companies such as Google and Apple also made their appearance.
Both law and arts & humanities students named the national government as their preferred employer, followed by Google for the former and KLM for the latter. Business students like KLM and Google the best, engineering and physics students prefer Google, followed by Philips.
Compared to last year, TNO, Coca-Cola, IKEA and De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek failed to make the top 5 in any of the categories.
The Zeeman bargain items chain is recalling some 8,000 boxes of toy airplanes as they depict New York’s City destroyed Twin Towers. According to a spokesperson, the toys were made in China and had been properly tested, but the picture on the box got under the radar. The right wing of the Lufthansa plane seems to be missing as well.
The photo shows two airplanes, one imitating a Lufthansa airplane from Germany and the other flying way too low, too close to the Twin Towers and too close to another airplane to be just a casual stock photo on a box. If I were Lufthansa, I wouldn’t be too thrilled about being associated with a terrorist attack.
On 4 August, Eindhoven Airport decided to close for air traffic at 15:45 sharp and hold a ceremony for the C130 aircraft bringing back more bodies from flight MH17 shot down in Ukraine.
A Ryanair pilot on approach to the airport at 15:32 got turned away by air traffic control (ATC) and told there would be a one hour delay for landing, which eventually forced the plane to divert. The pilot told the tower that they planned to get in on time between 15:30 and 15:40, a flight plan that was approved beforehand. When refused landing, the pilot got upset. A former Dutch pilot recorded the verbal volley and a YouTube controversy was born.
The former pilot completely understands the Ryanair pilot’s frustration who did everything he could to land his plane on time before the airport closed. For the many people on the Internet who hate Ryanair, it would be too easy to say that the pilot had no respect for the dead, which Ryanair says is not the case, and why would it be. The pilot was very much on time and if we believe what we hear, ATC isn’t really giving them a good excuse as to why they couldn’t land before 15:45 besides letting us assume that the events were not very well coordinated, as echoed by the pilot.
Perhaps the pilot could have stopped arguing earlier and just diverted as instructed, but not trying to land the plane with an approved flight plan would have also made him and Ryanair look bad. I can imagine it was easier to try and convince ATC since they weren’t saying why they couldn’t land, which probably would have appeased the pilot and given him something to pass on to the passengers, so that they wouldn’t blame Ryanair. I don’t see why the tower didn’t say ‘sorry we messed up, please understand’ and get Ryanair to divert instead of stubbornly not giving the pilot a straight answer. The Airport could have also easily closed for more time than they needed considering the circumstances. Bad communication all around, with a distinct hint of cultural differences.
The Dutch Safety Board has detected a pattern of aircraft autopilot systems misinterpreting radio signals given by airport instrument landing system (ILS), which has led to minor incidents so far, but could lead to disaster if not addressed. And just like computer programmers trying to reproduce bugs to be able to identify a problem, the Dutch Safety Board ordered test flights and were able to reproduce the dangerous conditions that were unknown to the international aviation community until now.
On May 31, 2013 a Boeing 737-800 landing at Eindhoven airport was given instructions to land, and as usual, upon approach it switched on the autopilot for ILS landings, which uses radio signals: one type of signal says ‘pitch up’ and another says ‘pitch down’. Due to the steeper than usual approach of the Boeing, the autopilot went ‘pitch up’ instead of ‘pitch down’, while the plane already had the brakes on, the landing gear out and was decreasing its speed, a recipe for stalling the plane. The pilots took control of the plane, did a go-around, and safely landed the aircraft with the autopilot off.
In this case and other similar incidents elsewhere with different planes, the crew had a limited response time to disconnect the autopilot and recover the aircraft, a potentially dangerous situation according to the Dutch Safety Board. About 1,500 to 2,000 major runways worldwide use an ILS, while planes all around the world use an autopilot system that has this glitch.
Someone’s fear of flying just got real, but not mine though, I love flying.
If you want real details, watch this English-language video: