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5 Unbelievable Airplane Seat Patents

Any air traveler knows there's always room for improvement in the friendly skies, and while we're all for forward-thinking innovations, these recent seat ideas might be better left at the patent office. 

1. STACKED SEATING

Earlier this month, Airbus filed a patent for a style of airplane seating best described as stackable—though they also like to (euphemistically) call it “mezzanine seating.” The reaction was, well, not great. In the patent filing, Airbus said it’s “important from an economic point of view to make optimum use of the available space in a passenger cabin.” We say we hope it never happens. The company files about 600 patents a year—so thankfully, it probably won't. 

2. “GLORIFIED BIKE SEATS”

Airbus is a repeat offender in the arena of strange seat patents. This one has only a small seat and backrest, and narrow armrests—basically creating more room in the cabin for more passengers by scaling down the size of the seats. Fast Company gets the credit for the apt dubbing.

3. THE HEXAGONAL GRID


Here’s another one that did not thrill the frequent-flying masses. Zodiac Seats France recently patented a setup called “Economy Class Cabin Hexagon” which flips the middle seat to face backward.

4. THE FORWARD-LEANING SLEEPER

For most, falling asleep on a plane ranges from tough to impossible, but Boeing might have a way to fix that. They patented an “upright sleep support system” that looks sort of like a massage chair. It’s supposedly a more natural approach than the airplane neck pillow, though it does seem susceptible to public drooling issues.  

5. “FLYING DOUGHNUTS”

Airbus does more than dream big about seating—they’ve also patented ideas on how to transform the airplane itself. What The Financial Times called a “flying doughnut” is actually an aircraft with amphitheater-style seating as part of a design to help distribute cabin pressure in a more efficient way.

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Live Smarter
This Travel Site Factors in Baggage Fees to Show You the True Cost of Your Flight
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If you're looking to find the best deal on airfare, there are more tools out there to help you than ever before. Travel sites allow users to compare ticket prices based on airlines and the dates of their trip, but the numbers they show don't always paint the full picture. Additional fees for baggage can make a flight that seemed like a steal at booking suddenly a lot less convenient. Fortunately for frugal flyers, KAYAK has found a way to work this factor into their equations, Travel + Leisure reports.

To use the fare search engine's new baggage fee feature, start by entering the information for your flight like you normally would. Flying from New York to Chicago and back the first week of May? KAYAK recommends taking Spirit Airlines if you're looking to pay as little as possible.

But let's say you plan on checking two bags on your flight—different airlines charge different baggage fees, so Spirit may no longer be the cheapest option. If that's the case, KAYAK includes a Fee Assistant bar right above the search results. After entering the number of carry-on and checked bags you'll be traveling with, the results will automatically update to show the true cost of your fare. Ticket prices for New York to Chicago rise across the board with the addition of two checked bags, and Delta now becomes the best deal if you're looking to book through one airline.

The new baggage fee assistant is one way for travelers to make savvier purchases when booking online. But even with the added fees included, you'll need to do some extra research to determine the true value you get from each ticket price that pops up. Wi-Fi, legroom, and in-flight meal quality are all factors that could make a slightly more expensive airline worth it once you board.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Forensic Analysis Suggests Bones Discovered on a Pacific Island May Belong to Amelia Earhart
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In 1937, the most famous female pilot of the day became the center of one of the most enduring aviation mysteries of all time. Amelia Earhart, best known for being the first woman to complete a solo flight across the Atlantic, vanished while attempting to circumnavigate the globe with her navigator Fred Noonan. Eighty years later, potential clues regarding her fate are still being considered. The latest is a forensic analysis that has one scientist claiming he's identified the bones of Amelia Earhart, The Washington Post reports.

The 13 bones were recovered from the island of Nikumaroro in the South Pacific in 1940. A British expedition surveying the island for settlement came across the remains, along with a bottle of an herbal liqueur, a box designed to hold a Brandis Navy surveying sextant (a navigation instrument), and a woman's shoe. All pieces are items that would have plausibly been on board if Earhart had crashed her Lockheed plane in the area.

A popular theory about Earhart's disappearance around that time was that she had died a castaway on a remote Pacific island similar to that one. Experts suspected that the bones may have belonged to the lost pilot, but the researcher who conducted an analysis in 1941 concluded they belonged to a man.

Forensic osteology, the study of bones, was in its infancy at the time of the analysis. With this in mind, University of Tennessee anthropologist Richard L. Jantz recently revisited the potential evidence that had been ignored by Earhart researchers for decades, a process he describes in a new study published in the journal Forensic Anthropology.

He used more sophisticated methods than were available in 1941: A computer program he helped design called Fordisc allowed him to estimate the sex, ancestry, and stature of the specimen from bone measurements. He then compared this data to the estimated size of Amelia Earhart's skeleton based on what we know about her height, weight, and overall proportions. From this research, he found that the Nikumaroro bones are more similar to Earhart's physique than 99 percent of the individuals he looked at in a reference sample.

The castaway theory is just one of many explanations experts have given for Amelia Earhart's disappearance. Other possibilities suggest that she crashed and died at sea, that she crashed in Papua New Guinea, or that she was captured by Japanese forces and died a prisoner. Since her disappearance, many of these theories have been validated by new evidence and then discredited when that evidence turned out to be either fabricated or blown out of proportion. But if the claims of this new study hold up to scrutiny, they could change the way the story is told going forward.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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