On The Wrong Side Of The Plane

Yesterday I flew to New Orleans through Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. As we landed at Dulles, the pilot announced that on the left side of the plane we would pass the space shuttle, still atop the special plane that carried it, piggyback, to D.C. so it can be displayed at the Smithsonian. Pretty cool!

Of course, I was on the right side of the plane. So, as the people on the left side of the plane oohed and aahed and took pictures with their phones, blocking their windows in the process, people on the right side of the plane craned their necks to get a crappy look at the shuttle.

This happens to me all the time. Whenever the pilot announces that my plane is passing something interesting — the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Grand Canyon, the mother ship of an approaching alien invasion — I’m always on the other side of the plane. Always! I never get to look out my window and enjoy the life-defining sight.

What’s the appropriate etiquette in that situation? Elbowing your way across the passengers on the other side of the plane to get a better view? Asking the lucky folks to talk a picture with your phone to dimly capture the moment? Insist that the pilot loop the plane around so that, for once, you can see the landmark from your side of the plane? My choice is always to sit in grim-faced silence, cursing my luck — and then hoping that the pilot stops being a tour guide and gets back to the job of getting to the destination and putting the plane safely back on the ground.

Dayton Dissed

Dayton has not had an easy time of it lately, and today the folks in the Gem City got some bad news:  NASA denied the bid of Dayton’s National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to be one of the locations where the three active space shuttles, and one experimental model, will be housed after they are retired. Rather than Dayton (and other disappointed cities) the shuttles will be housed at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, the National Aeronautics and Space Museum in Washington D.C., the California Science Center in Los Angeles, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

You can’t really argue with the selection of the Kennedy Space Center or the National Air and Space Museum — one has housed and launched the shuttles for decades, and the other is probably the premier American museum of its kind.  It probably also makes sense to have one of the shuttles on the west coast, and California is a logical location because Edwards Air Force Base was the landing site for some shuttle flights.  But New York City?  Does The Big Apple really need another tourist attraction?  And what is the connection between Gotham and the space program, really?  Proponents of other disappointed sites like Houston, where the Johnson Space Center and mission control are found, think politics played a role.

Dayton would have been a very good choice.  It would be nice to have a shuttle somewhere in flyover country, and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is an excellent facility that had terrific, well-funded plans for their proposed shuttle display.  Ohio, too, would have been a good site.  The two most famous American astronauts — John Glenn and Neil Armstrong — both hail from the Buckeye State, and Ohio also is home to the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

And it would have been nice to see Dayton get a break.