Straight & Level 18 March

Spotting returns to Heathrow
Many a plane spotter’s heart was broken when Heathrow’s Queen’s Building was demolished in 2009 as part of the terminal 2 redevelopment.
The building had been home to a rooftop viewing gallery – for many years out of use – and forums at the time were full of nostalgia for the days when you could turn up with flask, binoculars and notebook and happily while away a Sunday.
But it wasn’t just for aviation nuts. Thousands of screaming Beatles fans gathered there in 1964 to welcome the Fab Four back from their first US tour.
Now Heathrow is opening a new viewing gallery, this time at T4. It has a 270˚ view of the southern runway and control tower. Fixed iPads will show live flight radars to help identify aircraft movements.
The catch? “View Heathrow” will be airside – by gates 15 and 16 in a former lounge. Fine for a bit of pre-flight spotting, but out of bounds to the many aviation enthusiasts who only sometimes or never get to fly.

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The Shuttle saga
The Space Shuttle still seemed ahead of its time when Atlantis flew the last of the programme’s 135 missions in 2011. That final touchdown at the Kennedy Space Center on 21 July 2011 resigned reusable spaceplanes to the history books – for the moment at least.
Rick Houston’s Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, 1986-2011 (RRP £22.32/Amazon.com £19.30) celebrates the programme’s achievements.
Houston speaks to key personalities – astronauts and officials – to provide warts-and-all insight into both the Shuttle’s fantastic achievements as well as some of its darker moments.
The latter includes the difficult period after the Challenger accident and the build-up to Discovery’s 1988 return-to-flight mission, as well as the sadness and guilt that surrounded the tragic loss of Columbia in 2003.
The book is a fascinating, entertaining and at times moving read that is a must for all wannabe astronauts and space geeks alike.

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Behind you
Pictured is the front of Hybrid Air Vehicles’ Airlander 10 – a UK-based modern airship project backed by Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. However, you wouldn’t be the first to mistake it for a rear. And, no, it’s not an arseship either.

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Brandenburgate
Germany’s reputation for efficiency has been challenged by the haphazard non-progress of Berlin’s Brandenburg airport, which missed a much-trumpeted deadline to open in June 2012, and remains without a confirmed date for starting operations. Now, the beleaguered project is putting the lie to the myth our Germanic cousins lack humour.
Take Air Berlin’s (admittedly Austrian) boss Wolfgang Prock-Schauer. As the carrier waits endlessly for a shiny new hub to replace creaky Tegel, Prock-Schauer offered a tongue-in-cheek understatement: the situation was, he said, “far from ideal”. But he was outdone by airport chief Hartmut Mehdorn, who admitted work has been progressing “in some areas not as quickly as we would like”.
He sadly failed to add: “I am just going outside and may be some time…”

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