Airlines That Never Reached Their Cruising Altitude

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.

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

North America: East or West Coast?


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