The Tale of a Fantastic Flight

Brussels - London Heathrow. The most exciting flight of my whole life! And I flew a lot.

The airline doesn't matter, as my experience has been of pure aviation. Leaving from Brussels we hear the captain's voice through the speaker: "...the outside temperature is +12°, we will be flying at 32.000 feet, and the weather is actually quit bad: we have very strong winds, and we'll go through heavy turbulence. Enjoy your flight, and thank you for choosing Virgin Express." He must have been a psychologist before being an aeroplane pilot...

I am not worried at all, as I feel quit comfortable into turbulence, as a pilot myself. I know that turbulence is not dangerous, and it's within the ordinary... actually on large airliners I fall asleep much easier when the plane shakes rather than when it goes smoothly.

In Great Britain the sky is "alive". Clouds move fast and beautifully. The sky never looks the same for too long, especially up in Scotland. It looks like clouds are dancing in all directions, composing incredible scenarios and playing with the light the sun offers.

Back to our flight, as we get closer to the "island" I decide to start looking outside, as a way of greeting the country on sight. Suddenly the pilot pulls back on the engines of the small Boeing 737, and we start descending with quit a drop, and the ears slightly clog. The sky is scattered, so I can see here and there, and I can spot Leigh-on-Sea, where my Granny lives. I love spotting places and things from the plane, it makes me feel like I am flying the plane myself.

We get through some clouds, and I can see more of what is below. I can spot a small airport at the horizon, but I don't know which one that is. The plane starts turning left and right here and there, suggesting that we entered the extra busy "class B" airspace of London Heathrow; one of the world's busiest airspace. It's late in the afternoon, and the sun is kind of low giving that great yellow/orange light over everything. I try to look what's underneath the plane, and with my great surprise and curiosity I see a big Boeing 747 flagged "Pakistan Airlines", flying in our same direction slightly slower, and at just 1000 feet below us. It's fantastic to see this kind of "life" in the sky. When flying on a big airliner, one has always the impression of being alone in the sky, because there are not that many chances of spotting other aircraft as a passenger. Seeing two big airliners flying in formation is one of the most exciting things I've ever seen. It's like seeing two buildings flying together. The 747 then banks to the left and I lose sight of it.

Meanwhile we arrived over London. The pilot slowly extends the flaps, that in an airliner look more like if a robot from a Japanese cartoon was transforming into a prehistoric beast in slow motion or vice versa. At this point I try my best to spot the places I know, convinced of the fact that the plane will never fly right over central London, and that if it ever did we would have had everything covered by clouds. Well, time goes by, and I suddenly spot the Themes. "Fantastic"! I said. Now I am looking for the City, then for Tower Bridge. Many bridges go by, but I can't see the one I am looking for. We are very low over the city, maybe 3000 feet. Everything is so clear, and the light is superb. There it is! Tower Bridge! Then after that as in a chain reaction, I immediately spot everything else. As I am scanning the ground with great interest, the pilot banks to the right (luckily my side) to enters a "360". This is what I had been waiting for, just over London, and I could have never imagined that it was going to happen. The "right 360" was probably ordered by "Heathrow Tower" for spacing to let the Pakistan Airlines 747 land before us. At this point I really begin to enjoy the view. While we turn, the light changes as if the sun was moving instead of us. Everything is so clear, and I can spot right away whatever I am looking for. Damn! I don't have my camera handy, this is really worth some shots. The sun reflected over the Thames river backlights the buildings, and the fast moving clouds that touch our wings and the once farther away, tell us that we are moving and not just looking at a postcard. It looks like a dream; I feel like Peter Pan flying over London in the famous Disney's cartoon.

Once we got back to the correct heading I see Richmond Park that from the sky, and with that particular light looked simply fantastic, followed by Richmond Golf Course. After that we can only see houses, and the view becomes more ordinary; sign that we are arriving at Heathrow airport.

Once talking to a British Military pilot, I asked him how it feels to fly around London, and he told me without thinking twice about it, that... "it can give pretty big headaches. You have to be fast and precise on the radio, because there is no room for mistakes... it's just too busy".

The plane gets lower on the ground, and the wind seams to be stronger, sign that our speed had decrease of a great deal. It's clear that as we get closer to the airport (judging from the altitude, probably at about 5 miles out) the pilot has a very hard time keeping the plane lined up with the centreline of the runway. Strong gusts of wind push the tail in one side moving the plane on the vertical axis; the pilot flies the plane bent in one side, to keep it from being pushed away. I can "feel" the wind shaking the aircraft: the plane moves everywhere, up and down, left and right, a guy behind me vomits his lunch in a bag, and I feel so excited about what I am experiencing. I don't feel sick at all, I am having the time of my life!

Since I was a student pilot I realised that the most beautiful moment of a flight is the landing. When you take off the plane mostly goes by itself; you just have to give full power and pull up on the yoke. During a flight it's even more boring. But the fun comes all at once when you have to bring the aircraft on the ground. The transition from air to ground gives you an incredible feeling of power over the aircraft, the power of controlling every single movement; nothing is left to chance as it could happen in a takeoff. Everything is strictly related: speed, altitude, rate of descent, bank angle, flaps, descent path, centreline, pitch, power, temperature. You have to physically control all of these elements, and when you see that as a result of a tiny action on the controls something important happens to the plane's attitude, then you gain control. Every tiny movement applied to the yoke and the pedals mean something major happening to the airplane's attitude in the air.

This is the reason why I am enjoying so much this landing. I can "feel" that in spite of the very strong winds, the pilot is keeping the plane right there where he wants it, on the imaginary straight line that ends at the beginning of the runway. No matter how strong the gusts of wind are, the pilot corrects immediately what nature sends, and the plane stays right there where it's supposed to be. It's a fantastic feeling that I believe only a pilot can fully appreciate. I am wondering if what I am writing here will ever mean something to non-pilots.

I spot three Concorde quietly lying down next to an hangar, probably full of more Concords... to bad they don't fly anymore... they really were something...

As the wind blows stronger than ever we get over the runway, and I suddenly got petrified remembering a very bad landing I once had done with a small Cessna 172 back in 1995. I was just scared that the same thing could have happened to the 737.

I was flying as pilot in command, taking some friends around California. Strong gusty winds were blowing over the small Santa Ynez airport (20 minutes flight distance from Santa Barbara), so I was descending at a slight higher speed. That Cessna was supposed to land at 55 Knots, and I was on "final" for landing at 500 feet out, at 70 Knots. I had in mind to get over the runway, and then decrease the speed once I was safely low, just in case the gusty wind would have suddenly stopped. It was the first time I flew as pilot in command on that type of aeroplane, and it was also the first (and last) time that a very good friend of mine flew with me. I brought the plane over the runway at 30 feet of altitude; speed 70 Knots, pitch OK, flaps fully extended at 40° as per manual. Everything looked fine, when suddenly several terrible things happened all at once: the needle of the speed dramatically drops from 70 to 40 Knots! I felt as if my heart stopped beating. The stall warning starts screaming, the nose of the plane begins dropping... I was crashing... and with three passengers on board. I knew that 30 feet of altitude were not enough to do anything at all, I could just try manoeuvring to crash better. Without thinking twice about it I applied full power to compensate for the great loss of speed and pull on the yoke, so that if we had to crash, at least we would have crashed flat on the wheels instead of nose down. Regardless of what would have happened, for me it was an aborted landing, and I was doing all I could to try to take off again, hoping not to crash on the runway.

The nose was dropping down more, when it suddenly stopped. The speed is back to 60 Knots... the wind just started blowing again. This absence of wind lasted no more than 2 or 3 seconds, but it seamed like a lifetime to me. Before I knew it the plane gently touched the runway, and I was still applying full power - the wind was very strong. As an immediate reaction to the problem I was still going to take off again, because it would have been safer to approach a new landing instead of adjusting a bad one; the plane just touched the ground, but the engine was still at full power, and nothing made me think it was over yet. But I realised that the runway I had left in front of me was not enough to take off again, and what if the wind kept playing with me? Short after the runway there are houses; I couldn't risk, so I pulled back on the power and firmly applied pressure on the brakes to stop the plane keeping a careful wind correction. The plane stopped in the middle of the runway, and for a moment I contemplated the just past horrifying 10 seconds. I didn't know who to thank for that day. While I was taxing the plane to the parking area, the stress showed all at once: my hands were shaking and sweating, my mind was stacked on those 10 seconds, and I was not paying enough attention to my wings that nearly hit another plane parked on the left. My friends were happy and joked over that "bumpy" landing... I was shocked, speechless, they just didn't know what almost happened to us. My passengers never knew anything, and they still don't know. To this day they think it was just a windy day.

Flying is a science, but there is a point where science must meet nature. I had been damn close to that point. From this experience I have learned that with gusty winds (on a Cessna 172) you should never use full flaps on landing; instead it would be much better not to exceed 30 degrees extension, even though the operations handbook says to deploy full flaps. Had I had only 30 degrees flap extension instead of 40, I would have recovered much better just by applying full power and instead I nearly crashed. The full flaps extended were not only acting as brakes, but they were also physically preventing me to climb. The operations handbook is written by engineers that do not fly; they solve mathematic problems at a desk in a logical way, while pilots do most of their training up in the air, where they can see with their own eyes the advantages of applying common sense.

Then back on the 737, I just hoped that nothing similar to that didn't happen again... I see the runway... power off... touchdown! The pilot brakes heavily with the engines, the airbrakes, and the wheel brakes all together, confirming he was as eager as I was to loose speed as soon as possible once on the ground, to get out of the danger of those strong and unpredictable winds.

Arriving at Heathrow is an incredible experience that summarises what London is all about: a big melting pot. There are hundreds of aeroplanes of all kind of airlines. They are so colourful... you name it, it's there. Most of them moving. You see colourful tails moving everywhere on the ground. I spot a huge tail moving behind a building as if it was a shark in the sea. I see the Pakistan Airline 747 that we "met" earlier in the sky, going to the terminal area. When the plane turns right to leave the runway and heading to the terminal, I see the long line of planes lined up in the sky for landing with their headlight on; even more of them lined up for takeoff.

I was reading on the magazine they gave us on the plane, that there is a Boeing 737 taking off somewhere in the world every 10 seconds, and that there are 700 of them flying at any one time of the day or night... and this refers only to one kind of plane. Imagine how many there are in total... think that every major airport in the world lets take off one airplane every 30 seconds. Considering the very limited number of plane crashes, flying is still the safest mean of transportation.

This flight is over, but I will never forget it (just like the one where I had nearly crashed) and I am looking forward to landing again at Heathrow.
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Oliver Purnell-NCAABB FanHouse

I know I did not see this one coming. Heck, I never even heard Oliver Purnell mentioned in relation to the DePaul search for a new coach.

There will be a 2:30 PM ET press conference by DePaul to announce the hiring of Oliver Purnell. After never having a chance big name successful coaches like UCLA's Ben Howland and Pitt's Jamie Dixon, and in the process missed a chance to nab Tony Barbee, DePaul had appeared to finally come back to reality. They had interviewed Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Reggie Theus. Dayton's Brian Gregory appeared to be a coach they were pursuing.

Purnell has built a reputation as a coach that can rebuild. He spent nearly a decade at Dayton, putting the foundation in place for Brian Gregory to build upon. At Clemson, the Tigers finished below .500 in the ACC for the six years prior to his arrival in 2003. After a rocky first couple of years, he has had Clemson get to competitive to upper-half of the ACC. In the last three years, Clemson has been in the NCAA Tournament.

Purnell has shown that he can win and recruit regardless of geography as shown at Dayton and then Clemson. He plays an aggressive, up-tempo game which the fans like.

The one knock on Purnell is that while he can build a team, and make them competitive. The one thing he can't do is win the bigger games. He is 0-6 in six NCAA appearances. Considering how low DePaul is at this point, worrying about winning NCAA Tournament games is getting way ahead of what is needed for the Blue Demons.

Purnell will be introduced at a 2:30 p.m. ET news conference Tuesday in Chicago, DePaul spokesperson Greg Greenwell confirmed.

"DePaul presents a great opportunity,'' Purnell told Tuesday morning.

[+] EnlargeOliver Purnell
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesOliver Purnell said the challenge of rebuilding DePaul attracted him to his new job.

The stunning hire -- culminated shortly after the Duke-Butler NCAA national championship game -- salvaged a search for a new coach that lasted nearly three months.

The Chicago Tribune and Web sites, both citing sources, first broke the story in the early morning hours Tuesday.

"It's a super job,'' Purnell said. "They are very, very committed to restoring a tradition and make DePaul Chicago's team.''

Purnell wasn't on any reported DePaul prospective hire lists throughout the winter. He said Tuesday he was contacted four or five days ago. DePaul had made overtures all over the country and few seemed to know where Blue Demons were headed.

DePaul interviewed Minnesota Timberwolves assistant and former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus late last week for the job.

Jerry Wainwright, who had two years left on his contract, was fired as coach on Jan. 11, with the Blue Demons at 7-8 overall, 0-3 in the Big East.

DePaul finished the season 8-23 overall and dead-last in the Big East at 1-17 under interim coach Tracy Webster.

DePaul went winless in the Big East in 2008-09 and finished 9-24 overall that season.

Meanwhile, Purnell took Clemson to the 2010 NCAA tournament with a 21-10 record (the Tigers lost to Missouri in the first round 86-78). Clemson was 9-7 in the ACC.

Purnell reached the NCAA tournament with the Tigers in three straight seasons, losing in the first round in each of those appearances. He was 138-90 in seven seasons at Clemson, but 50-62 in the ACC.

Prior to Clemson, Purnell resurrected Dayton in a nine-year run that ended with a 24-6 record and an NCAA appearance. He made two NCAA tournament appearances at Dayton.

He also coached at Old Dominion for three years (one NCAA appearance) and three seasons at Radford. Purnell has never won an NCAA game.

Purnell said the move was much more about the challenge at DePaul and had nothing negative to say about Clemson.

"I hope they feel we left the program in great shape,'' Purnell said. "I feel that way.''

DePaul athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto made it clear a few weeks ago that the school was ready to make a big splash, saying the next coach could be among the highest paid in a conference that Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, Bob Huggins and Jim Calhoun call home. She went with Purnell after interviewing former NBA star and Sacramento Kings coach Reggie Theus. Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, UCLA's Ben Howland and Chicago native Isiah Thomas also surfaced in reports.

Purnell's decision stunned the Tigers, who went 21-11 this season. He signed a two-year extension with Clemson in June and was making more than $1.3 million a year, but his buyout was only $250,000.

In a statement, Clemson athletic director Dr. Terry Don Phillips said Purnell "is one of the most respected coaches in college basketball and one of the most respected people on this campus and we hate to see him leave."

He joins a long line of Tigers coaches who have left what appeared to be a program on the rise for a challenge in a different league. Bill Foster, who led Clemson to the Elite Eight in 1980, left in 1984 to restart the basketball program at Miami. Cliff Ellis, the Tigers winningest coach, left in 1994 to go to Auburn, and Rick Barnes left for Texas in 1998 after leading Clemson to three straight NCAA tournaments.

DePaul has struggled in the 16-team Big East. "On paper, it looks very tough," Purnell said. "But once I evaluated this I saw that this was like a lot of the jobs I've had before Clemson. They were tough jobs as well."

DePaul presents a number of challenges. The Blue Demons are less talented than the rest of the Big East. They also have facility issues -- including having to play off-campus near O'Hare International Airport at the Allstate Arena -- as well as a relatively apathetic fan base in Chicago, which tends to be a town that follows its professional teams.

Clemson, meanwhile, is consistently one of the best and rowdiest home courts in the ACC.

Clemson loses seniors all-ACC forward Trevor Booker and wing David Potter but was expected to returned the rest of its team that reached the NCAA. Most experts figured the Tigers to challenge for an upper-division spot in the ACC.

Purnell's departure means there are now two coaching openings in the ACC. Boston College is looking to replace Al Skinner, who parted ways with the program last week. Cornell coach Steve Donahue is reportedly talking with school administrators about taking over the Eagles' program.
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Kendall Berry football Player

Shocking reports from FIU reveal that Kendall Berry a young running back of 22 years of age, was found dead off stabbing while on late Thursday night. The tragic news is confirmed by Mark B. Rosenberg the FIU President that explained “The entire university community is with the sad family over the tragic death of Kendall Berry.”

Mr. Mark B. Rosenberg further expressed his grief while speaking on behalf of the International University of Florida and stated that “Our prayers along with our thoughts remain with the devastated family of the deceased running back that appears to have been stabbed to death. We all are here with all kind of support for them.”

Police deputies are looking into the matter but till the last reports arrived, no arrest was made in connection with March 25, 2010 killing since they couldn’t determine whether whom they should suspect. The young footballer was killed at the University Campus known as Modesto A. Maidigue and according to the police; no immediate threat(s) there for the university community at this time.

Kendall Berry that has been identified as Haines City’s junior was discovered at the West Miami-Dade based Modesto campus while fatally wounded in the late evening hours of Thursday. According to preliminary investigations carried out by Miami-Dade police, there’re some eyewitnesses to the entire crime scene.

Javier Baez one of the spokesmen for Miami-Dade Police Department informed subsequently that the incident occurred at 9 p.m. and if the statements of witnesses are to be believed, two men were noticed involved in some altercation outside the recreation centre near campus. Later, one among them was seen stabbing the other one. Javier further detailed that though Berry was being carried to hospital but he couldn’t survive the injuries he sustained and died on the way.

The witnesses have been reportedly questioned though no arrests were made, as mentioned above. Mr. Derrick and Mellissicia Spillman the parents of victim were shocked when they were notified by the police about the tragedy. It has been learned through his school records that he used to put on No. 19.

Only hours after FIU running back Kendall Berry was stabbed to death on the school's Miami campus, the university president said in a video message that officials "will not rest" until his attacker is found.
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Sweet 16 Justin Combs

As the son of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Justin is hip-hop royalty. And when your dad is Diddy you can't have just any regular old cake and ice cream birthday party. Justin's royal themed bash is the talk of the town and expectations are high for him to have the hottest party. To ensure this, Justin wants to make sure his party is at the most popular club in New York City.

He wants to walk in with the hottest date and have the sickest performers to impress his friends. Despite having an over the top star studded party, Justin is not your typical celebrity kid, he wants to use his party for a good cause and raise money to help the relief effort in Haiti. If everything goes perfectly Justin is set to be crowned The Prince of New York, but he has some pretty big shoes to fill. Will he be able to prove to the world that he is a baller like his father?

Check out Puffy's son, Justin, and see how he puts together a sweet 16 that could only suit the prince of NYC.
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earthquake in central Japan

TOKYO — The quake registered a 5 on the Japanese scale, which measures intensity in specific locations and goes up to 7. Kyodo said that made it the strongest to hit the island since 1909.
A strong magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit off the eastern coast of Japan on Sunday, rattling buildings across a broad swath of the country, including the crowded capital.
There were no reports of casualties, with only light damage to structures near the epicenter, according to local officials.
The quake hit at 5:08 p.m. and was felt most strongly in central Fukushima prefecture about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.
"It was fairly strong, but didn't knock over anything in the office," said Ken Yoshida, a town official in Naraha, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said an earthen wall in town was partially toppled.
The earthquake was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the eastern coast at a depth of about 25 miles (40 kilometers), the meteorological agency said.
The government said there was no danger of a tsunami, although slight changes to ocean levels were a possibility in some areas.
It was strong enough to gently sway large buildings in Tokyo and was felt across a broad stretch of Japan's main Honshu and northern Hokkaido islands.
Japan's early warning system predicted the earthquake just before it hit, with public broadcaster NHK interrupting a sumo match to warn residents to take cover.
The country is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. In 1995, a magnitude-7.2 quake in the western port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.

The Meteorological Agency had initially predicted a tsunami up to 6 feet near the Okinawan coast and warned nearby residents to stay away from the coastline. The agency lifted the warning within two hours after observing only a small swelling of the tide.
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