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Airlines That Never Reached Their Cruising Altitude

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PEOPLExpress Airlines (1981-1987). Here's how Homer Simpson put it: "It all happened during the magical summer of 1985. A maturing Joe Piscopo left Saturday Night Live to conquer Hollywood; PEOPLExpress introduced a generation of hicks to plane travel; and I was in a barbershop quartet."

A no-frills carrier, PEOPLExpress charged you $3.00 per checked bag and catered to the masses. That is, until they'd taken on so much debt they couldn't survive on what the masses were willing to pay. By 1985, through many mergers, PEOPLExpress was the United States' fifth-largest airline, and even offered a flight to Brussels. A First Class cabin was added, a frequent-flyer program was started, and a more traditional pricing model was adopted. This didn't work out. Continental absorbed PEOPLExpress operations on February 1, 1987.

Freelandia Air Travel Club (1973-74). The brainchild of Ken Moss, a 31-year-old Syracuse dropout, Freelandia enticed passengers with promises of low-cost travel, natural food, an in-flight waterbed, and a hopeful slogan ("Not-For-Profit").

For an initial membership fee of $50, you were eligible for too-good-to-be-true fares. After Moss appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, membership quadrupled, to 8,000. The members grew frustrated by Freelandia's staggering performance record: 85% of flights were canceled. And they only ever had two planes. The Air Travel Club was grounded for good before its first birthday.

trump1.jpgTrump Shuttle (1989-1992). In 1988, Eastern Airlines sold its northeastern routes to Donald Trump for $365 million. Trump did as Trump does -- classed up the place with fancy chrome seatbelt latches and gold bathroom fixtures. They offered laptop rentals to passengers and were among the first to allow self-service check-in at kiosks.

But this was not a great time to be in the airline business. The run-up to the first Gulf War sent fuel costs soaring, and the U.S. was in the midst of a recession. Trump Shuttle could never turn a profit, defaulted on its loans, and ceased to exist in April 1992. Its routes were served by USAir Shuttle, whose parent company purchased a 40% stake in what was left.

Other airlines I learned about while writing this post: U-Land Airways (Taiwan), Wizz Air (Hungary), Flybaboo (Switzerland), and Buddha Air (Nepal). If you've got a story about a defunct or oddly named airline, I'd love to hear it.

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla Ice Cream?
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While you’re browsing the ice cream aisle, you may find yourself wondering, “What’s so French about French vanilla?” The name may sound a little fancier than just plain ol’ “vanilla,” but it has nothing to do with the origin of the vanilla itself. (Vanilla is a tropical plant that grows near the equator.)

The difference comes down to eggs, as The Kitchn explains. You may have already noticed that French vanilla ice cream tends to have a slightly yellow coloring, while plain vanilla ice cream is more white. That’s because the base of French vanilla ice cream has egg yolks added to it.

The eggs give French vanilla ice cream both a smoother consistency and that subtle yellow color. The taste is a little richer and a little more complex than a regular vanilla, which is made with just milk and cream and is sometimes called “Philadelphia-style vanilla” ice cream.

In an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered in 2010—when Baskin-Robbins decided to eliminate French Vanilla from its ice cream lineup—ice cream industry consultant Bruce Tharp noted that French vanilla ice cream may date back to at least colonial times, when Thomas Jefferson and George Washington both used ice cream recipes that included egg yolks.

Jefferson likely acquired his taste for ice cream during the time he spent in France, and served it to his White House guests several times. His family’s ice cream recipe—which calls for six egg yolks per quart of cream—seems to have originated with his French butler.

But everyone already knew to trust the French with their dairy products, right?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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science
Belly Flop Physics 101: The Science Behind the Sting
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Belly flops are the least-dignified—yet most painful—way of making a serious splash at the pool. Rarely do they result in serious physical injury, but if you’re wondering why an elegant swan dive feels better for your body than falling stomach-first into the water, you can learn the laws of physics that turn your soft torso a tender pink by watching the SciShow’s video below.

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