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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

ABU HELL - Flight FZ001

Early morning. A very well known aerospace hub. February. Already 27 degrees Celsius.

The immense, shining-new, world-record-breaker airliner is taxing towards the runway for its very first flight with passengers. It's a historical day for the company. And for aviation.

Three thousand passengers distributed on 3 decks. There's no economy class. There is a lower class but it's not called economy. It's either Silver, Gold, or Platinum.
And to accommodate the changes and underline even more the already apparent will to separate this beast from the other aircrafts of the company, a new sub-company's flag is on it. "FAZL". Strange name. Apparently a possible transcription of Arabic for "grace, generosity".
Some strange marketing decision, along the one of painting the whole aircraft red, leaving only tail and part of the wings white. Some said it looked cheap, others appreciated the pioneering vision of it.

The aircraft seems too big even for the airport, literally. It towers over the terminals. A new one is in construction, but making the first flight was a priority. Insiders opinions are divided. Some say things were rushed, others say an unprecedented amount of work and care has been put into the whole thing.

The aircraft is not only just big. It's the first stratospheric airliner. It doesn't break the wall of sound, although it would be capable of doing so, but its stratospheric flight allows to save both time and, so they say, fuel. Making it greener. Looking at the whole mass of the thing and its engines, it's difficult to think of it as a green thing, but I did my homework, and read the specs. Taking in consideration the number of passengers moved, it is in fact greener by a considerable margin. Assuming of course you can fill it with the nominal 3000 pax load. Something I doubt will always be possible. However, the first flight was vastly overbooked. The numbers came out, and they are so big that I don't even remember. Something like more than twenty times the capacity in bookings. Good job. Chapeau.

I've been in the company for a quite a few years, and I was even offered a ticket at a very, very discounted price. Normally, I'm what is called an early user when it comes to tech. But I always had something against very large crowds. And the fact there's not going to be an appropriate terminal for this thing in the next year, means that for now, disembarking from row 199 will take AGES. In the middle of a 1900 people crowd, the ones in Silver class, where I would have traveled. So I decided to wait until an inevitably less-crowded flight will come up. I will be following the flight from remote video on the inside anyway, along with many in the world. Many paying customers. Another good marketing decision, this time coming from a non-marketing department: mine.

Safety was a truly major focus of the campaign for the "HueJumbo", as it was dubbed. Truth is, many of the technologies that preceded the ones adopted here were never tested in real emergency situations, so I saw it a bit pointless to have a "new generation" of technologies, if the previous ones still didn't have any (positive) use-case. But again, marketing got in the way, and internally, the word is that customers still choose flights based on the notions they have about their safety, whether they come from well-informed opinions or gut feelings.

Here we are, the airliner is ready for take-off. Special, brightly red-colored, ink-like fireworks are exploding in the air, an experimental type that should make an impression even in day-light. They were supposed to be accurately programmed to draw the symbol of the company in the sky. A not so common strong wind leaves no quarter to the artistic intents, and little more than a cloud of red, liquid-like smoke shapes up above.
Will I be the only one seeing that as an ominous sign? Heck, it looks like a blood-stain in the sky. No I'm not the only one: at the cafe here, many people's lips are corrugating in a slight, quickly hidden expression of disgust. Cheering and applause don't stop.

The engines hit 100%. The sound is really loud. It may be green, but acoustic pollution will be an issue. Well, the world will hear an edited version, I'm sure. After a long, long take-off roll, the giant takes flight. Screens showing the live video feed picture passengers smiling and cheering, except for those near the wings and engines. Some bad feedback will come about the noise, after all. Also when going through the red smoke cloud, I'm not the only one noticing some pretty worried faces among certain passengers. Kids crying. Well, kids cry all the time. But there must have been a bit of turbulence in that dense colored smoke. Or is it only hysteria given by the color? Are symbols so powerful? I hope not, because the internet has been particularly abuzz over this aircraft, and symbolism was under the spotlight in some regions of the net. Normally I devour that kind of "fiction" with interest, but being inside those roiling waters myself this time around, I decided to ignore the buzz. What I never could ignore, due to my fantasy fiction and gaming background, is the sound of names. "FAZL" in particular has always stricken me. But I could never pinpoint why exactly. Or could I..? For some reason, I was beginning only now, seeing the red beast in the skies, to feel the urge of discovering what was it about that name that pulled the wrong strings in my head. I broke out my smartphone from my pocket. The only one not taking pictures with it.

One hour later, my office, silence, loneliness.
Everybody is following the live feed from the atrium and the auditorium. I'm knee deep in my googling, doing what I refrained to do for many months. I can't seem to find anything. Damn, I've always been good searching for things, what's wrong with me? Maybe there's nothing to find? Hell no, there's always something. Suddenly I remember that when I was giving quick looks to the buzzwords, avoiding to research deeply, I saw talks of censorship. Apparently, even in normally overlooked places such as gaming forums I used to write in, some posts were moderated when things apparently got ugly. I started thinking about censorship, and the big talk it became in the years of the datagate scandals. I fired up my darknet software. Nobody censors darknets, especially not a distributed, decentralized one such as I2P. It appears very few people here is aware of these things. Even from the company-controlled network, I have no difficulties gaining access to the darknet. They simply didn't consider it a threat, because they probably didn't know about it.
Even with access to it, some obvious limitations to bandwith and peer-to-peer networking make me wait for long until I'm able to look at some relevant EEP sites. Relevant? I'm in the dark, actually. For some technical reasons, there's no such thing as a Google in this darknet. I have an incomplete index of the sites, but it will be more luck than anything, finding one that talks about the things I want to see.
My eyes are getting tired of scrolling through the microblogging updates when I see a simil-tweet of only two words, separated by an arrow. It's an... Association of words... Hence the arrow. I swallow... difficultly. One is FAZL. The other is... Oh my God... Why? Why did I want to see this?