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A New Book Looks at the History of Airline Crashes and Aviation

In "The Crash Detectives," journalist Christine Negroni examines some of history's landmark airline disasters and what we can learn from them

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Speculations on crop circles, what went on in Roswell that night in 1964, and where Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earhart vanished to still occupy the collective mind all these decades later. Arguably one of the greatest mysteries of our present moment is whatever happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the airliner that fell into the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. Terrorism? Technical malfunction?

Since then, those questions have dogged Christine Negroni, a longtime aviation reporter for media outlets ranging from ABC News and the New York Times to Air & Space magazine. So she decided to head to the trenches and investigate. She weaves the findings of her intense inquiry and study together in the “The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters,” which was released by Penguin this week. 

Part of what makes the book such a thrilling read is that it broaches technical engineering factors, but not too technically; she takes you into the quick-thinking minds of pilots and investigators, but not in a cheap-thrills way; she details high-profile disasters, but not in a sensational ways; she takes a probing look at conspiracy theories and gives them rational consideration without, for lack of a better term, coming across as paranoid.

We caught up with Negroni to talk about air travel, investigative reporting, government agencies, conspiracy theories, and what it’s like to experience oxygen deprivation.   

BUDGET TRAVEL: One of the things that makes this such a gripping read is that in addition to giving us the nitty gritty details of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 incident, you essentially chronicle a whole evolution of aviation engineering and progress. Was that your intention?

CHRISTINE NEGRONI: I thought the book would be focused on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, but my editor wanted more. As I wrote it, various arms would go out to other and other things. MH370 inspired larger questions, it raised all these conspiracy theories. In the process, in some cases, there are legitimate alternative theories. That was eye-opening for me. I’ve been an aviation safety writer for 20 years.

BT: Can you tell me an example of something that was particularly eye-opening that you learned?

CN: I think it was about the National Transportation Safety Board, for one. They’re the geeks who show up and solve the mystery. The more I looked at other crashes, they were subject to the same political and economic pressure as other bureaucrat. They’re not always the heroes, they might manipulate the facts. That’s surprising and disappointing. It felt like, “Christine, smell the coffee! Why should the NTSP be different from anyone else?”

BT: In this day and age, emotions can run pretty high when it comes to air travel. People who’ve never feared flying might be worried to get on a plane given all the threats. And the stress around all the rigamarole of checking in and going though security doesn’t help. When people hear about a book on airline crashes, it might unnerve them, but “Crash Detectives” has plenty of positive takeaway. Can you explain the beneficial takeaway of the book?

CN: The point is you can learn from each accident. If you don’t learn, what’s the point? A disaster is really a lesson, we learn from them, that’s why investigate in the first place. What near-accidents show us, like the Sully and the "miracle on the Hudson," is people can save the day, do what machines cannot do. Can do something novel and be innovative and save the day. Sully is just one of many who’ve done this in dramatic ways, or subtle ways that even they don’t know. The end of the book is sort of a testament to learning from mistakes so we can excel.

BT: One thing that intrigued me while reading is how there's an actual clear-cut taxonomy of airline accidents. Can you talk about these basic classifications?

CN: In AH370 and the “miracle on Hudson,” the accidents are opposite, In AH370—if my scenario is accurate and the crew did in fact suffer hypoxia and became unable to make decisions--there was no man to control a plane that could fly. Sully had a plane that couldn't fly, so this was a case of humans stepping in with intellect to save the day.

BT: One of the interesting things to me about covering aviation versus another hard news realm, like technology or politics or the economy, is that it’s a huge industry, but each and every individual flight can physically affect each person differently, and in some cases that’s what accounts for an accident. You’ve made an effort to do really immersive research. Can you talk about some of your experiences?

CN: I went to flight school with German pilots and did pilot training with Lufthansa cadets. I did flight training at a private air school in New Zealand and went through flight attendant training in Dubai. And with Eva Air I did hypoxia training--altitude training at 2500 feet to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of hypoxia, oxygen starvation. They said it's the "happy death." It makes you feel a little drunk.  

BT: When I board a plane, it feels like I’m putting all my trust in the hands of the captain. I’m completely people board a plane, it feels like you’re putting all A lot of people board an airplane and feel really helpless

CN: Every time there's an accident and people on TV talk about it, there's so much misinformation. It’s a joke, if not air disaster, it’d be laughable. Pilots and lawyers good at this. Pilots say something, but they don’t know safety necessarily. The point is there are very common sense things travelers can do. I don’t think they actually recognize their own role in safety--the most super-powered executives get on the plane then surrenders, it’s like their wills have been beaten out of them. Whatever happens, the dynamic is that everyone is a baby, they’re not sure what to do or how to act. But you’ve gotta own your own safety, you’ve gotta be able to respond if something happens. Listen to what the flight attendants tell you, count the number of seats there are to an exit, and don’t leave things on the floor so that the person next to you won’t trip if they have to get out in an emergency.

BT: Despite all the horrific details of the headline-making disasters, it’s still pretty incredible to think about the many thousands of flights that take off and land around the planet every day. It’s never ceases to amaze me that we can travel halfway around planet Earth 14 or 16 hours.

CN: The fact is that there's more risk riding a bicycle in New York City than flying to New Zealand. There are 10,000 flights a day worldwide. Flying is amazing. I wish people would look out the window and see the stars and the moon. The other day I took picture of a sunset from a plane—I almost cried. People climb mountains to see that kind of sunset. People get on a plane and they have their devices and movies and whatever, but they aren't enjoying that special gift that is flying. 

Taste Dairy Farm Life At Ocheesee Creamery In Grand Ridge

Visitors to the Ocheese Creamery in Grand Ridge get the chance to meet the families who run the dairy farm, and interact with the stars: The cows. It is a chance to watch a variety of products being made, and get a farm-fresh sample of the milk, and especially the ice cream.

Conquering Florida: Zipline Adventure in Ocala

In this episode of Conquering Florida, motocross champion Ricky Carmichael and his manager, J.H. Leale, conquer the canyons of Ocala. Over bridges and though the trees, they climb higher and higher to take in the beautiful bird’s-eye views. To make things interesting, each takes a turn trying to hit a target — from 160 feet above and soaring at 60 mph.

Sweet Story Of Tupelo Honey In Wewahitchka

Watch the real story of Tupelo honey that is gathered from the Tupelo trees in the Dead Lakes area of the Panhandle, just east of Panama City. The swampy region is ideal for the trees to grow and the bees to do their work. Locals use the honey in a variety of recipes such as Bee Sting Shrimp at the Shipwreck Bar and ice cream treats.

Calendar of Events for SeaWorld Orlando

NOTE: All events, festivals and concerts are included in park admission. 

Credit: SeaWorld Orlando

Halloween Spooktacular – October 1-30

SeaWorld Orlando’s Halloween Spooktacular immerses families in an underwater "fantasea" filled with trick-or-treating, whimsical characters, sea-themed activities and up-close animal encounters that could only come from SeaWorld.

Credit: SeaWorld Orlando

Christmas Celebration – November 25 - December 31

Waves of holiday spirit splash over SeaWorld Orlando during its Christmas Celebration, where guests can make holiday memories by enjoying live shows, festive shopping and delicious food. Beloved Christmas character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends, including Clarice, Bumble, the Abominable Snow Monster and Yukon Cornelius, and Rudolph themed attractions will be making their debut as part of the 2016 Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld Orlando.

2017 Events

Praise Wave January 14 - 28

With the return of Praise Wave, guests can celebrate Christian fellowship and fun at SeaWorld Orlando. Uplifting, live concerts from the hottest names in faith-based music will light up the stage at Nautilus Theater.

Seven Seas Food Festival – Saturdays, Februrary 11 - May 13

SeaWorld Orlando’s popular music and food events will expand to a total of 14 weekends in 2017 as part of the Seven Seas Festival.  Inspired by street food from Asia, the Caribbean, South America and the Mediterranean, this expanded festival will bring new culinary offerings to guests throughout the park. Plus, guests will be able to indulge in a variety of international, local and seasonal craft brews on tap giving their taste buds a worldly delight.

Electric OceanSummer 2017

Electric Ocean will debut next summer at SeaWorld Orlando as a brand new, end-of-day spectacle event. As the sun goes down, the lights and energy go up, offering guests a different kind of fun after dark. The ocean comes to life with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder.  

For more details and to purchase tickets, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com. Follow SeaWorld on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for the latest news. Join the conversation with #SeaWorld.

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Summer Nights presents Summer of Mako – Every night, June 18 - August 7 As the summer sun goes down, the fun heats up at SeaWorld Orlando. Summer Nights gives families and friends the chance to stay in the park for more thrills and laughs. Nightly festivities feature a high-energy Shamu show, awe-inspiring celebrations and late-night thrills on everyone's favorite coasters.  Summer Nights presents Summer of Mako – Every night, June 18 - August 7 As the summer sun goes down, the fun heats up at SeaWorld Orlando. Summer Nights gives families and friends the chance to stay in the park for more thrills and laughs. Nightly festivities feature a high-energy Shamu show, awe-inspiring celebrations and late-night thrills on everyone's favorite coasters. 

Conquering Florida: Ricky Carmichael Tackles Florida Triathlon

Ricky Carmichael takes on the challenge of a Florida triathlon in Everglades National Park that combines kayaking, a hike through swamp land, and a bicycle ride.

Conquering Florida: Ricky Carmichael Soars Over Ocala Canyons

Motocross champ Ricky Carmichael and his racing manager J.H. Leale fly over the Ocala Canyons while ziplining, and test their water balloon target skills on the big run: 1,600 feet at 60 mph.

Conquering Florida: Ricky Carmichael At Busch Gardens

Watch as Ricky Carmichael and his buddy experience all that Busch Gardens has to offer. They start on the 60 mph Cheetah Hunt roller coaster. Then their blindfold challenges are riding the SheiKra roller coaster and getting to know some of the park's flamingoes.

Florida Craft Beer: Big Storm Brewing Company

Florida is no stranger to summer showers, afternoons where dark clouds roll in from the Gulf of Mexico, a deluge drops from the skies and, seemingly moments later, the sun comes out and your sunglasses come back on. But sometimes a storm lingers, brewing into something bigger.

“I remember standing in the garage as a kid and watching lightning storms pass by and I always thought there was something awesome and destructive about it all, but that there was also something fun and creative,” said Mike Bishop, owner of Big Storm Brewing Company in Clearwater and Odessa. “Fresh beginnings are something a storm produces. I was leaving the corporate world and starting fresh - like after a storm.”

Started by Bishop in 2012, Big Storm Brewing Company has grown from a cramped brewery/tap room jammed into the corner of a Pasco County industrial park into two distinct facilities in neighboring counties - think tropical storm to hurricane strength in just four years.

The 16,000 square foot Clearwater facility is Big Storm’s landmark brewery

Credit: VisitStPeteClearwater.com

“I was always fascinated by beer,” said Bishop. “By the craft, the culture, the drink, the different flavors and the people involved with it.”

During his time at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Bishop spent a lot of time learning about beer at the nearby Yuengling brewery and volunteering at Dunedin Brewery. After USF, Bishop moved to Pasco County and found that it reminded him of his childhood.

 

“I just fell in love with the community, very blue collar and hardworking,” said Bishop. “We found a niche for ourselves here since there were no other breweries in the area, but we knew it would be a challenge. We bought into the community and said, hey, let’s go for it.”

New look, new locations. Big Storm Brewing Company has come a long way since 2012

Credit: Stephen Kubiak for VISIT FLORIDA

 

Every square inch of the original Pasco facility was utilized. The taproom seemingly spilled out into the brewery, and sandwiched between the walk-in cooler and fermentation tanks, a single canning line spat out cans of Wavemaker Amber Ale and Arcus IPA. Big Storm swiftly outgrew itself, like a hurricane spinning up from a Category 1 to a Category 4.

 

A 16,000-square-foot facility in Clearwater was built to handle the bulk of Big Storm’s production. Separated by a wall of glass, patrons can relax in the spacious taproom and watch the brewing take place. The expansion also brought with it new beers, like the Helicity Pilsner and Oats in Hose Oatmeal Stout, for year-round brews and a wide range of seasonal and limited run beers.

Tap handles at Big Storm Brewing Company's Clearwater taproom

Credit: VisitStPeteClearwater.com

 

“Clearwater is bigger tanks, bigger canning line, bigger equipment and our main hub for shipping,” said Bishop about the growth into Pinellas County. “Also, being more centrally located in Tampa Bay helped raise awareness about the brewery.”

 

Branching out from its roots, a new Pasco taproom is just around the corner from the original brewery and focuses on more experimental brews.

 

“The original brewery had to become a Wavemaker/Arcus facility and it hindered our creativity,” said Bishop. “The Pasco taproom allows us to get back to the original passion.”

 

While Big Storm is known for its Wavemaker Amber Ale, the nearby Gulf waters don’t generate the barrel and curl-generating waves surfers long for. But there’s a spot on Clearwater Beach that’s making its own waves.

Surf Style, a beach and surfing megastore, overlooks the turquoise waters of Clearwater Beach. In the heart of the store, encased in a 20-by-12-foot glass box, the FlowRider, an indoor surfing machine, generates a sheet of water along a surface for guests’ surfing pleasure.

A guest surfs on the FlowRider at Surf Style in Clearwater Beach   

Credit: VisitStPeteClearwater.com

The jets of water, moving at a brisk 30 mph, continually simulate waves rushing underneath riders using either a flow board or body board. When a wipe-out occurs, instead of falling into the sea, the powerful FlowRider jets shoot guests up to the crest of the machine - making it easy for surfers to perfect their moves.

 

If You Go

What: Big Storm Pasco

Where: 2330 Success Dr. Odessa, FL 33556

Phone: 727-376-2890

Web:http://www.bigstormbrewery.com/tap-rooms/pasco-tap-room/

 

What: Big Storm Pinellas

Where: 12707 49th Street N, Clearwater, FL 33762

Phone: 727-201-4186

Web:http://www.bigstormbrewery.com/tap-rooms/clearwater-tap-room/

 

What: Surf Style

Where: 315 South Gulfview Blvd. Clearwater, FL 33767

Phone: 888-787-3789

Web:http://flowrider.surfstyle.com/

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Conquering Florida: Ricky Carmichael Soars Over Ocala Canyons

Motocross champ Ricky Carmichael and his racing manager J.H. Leale fly over the Ocala Canyons while ziplining, and test their water balloon target skills on the big run: 1,600 feet at 60 mph.

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