In-flight entertainment

They say that travel broadens the mind. However, these days, you’ve got to be careful that travelling by air doesn’t broaden someone else’s mind too – especially if you are prone to using a personal computer to catch up on a little work while you are travelling in the clouds.

It’s a problem that John Smith (not his real name) might have lost his job over, if the chap sitting across the aisle from him on the cheap flight to Italy (not the real destination of the flight) had been a little less inebriated.

You see, Smith’s trouble was that he had an important presentation to give in Rome (not the real city) and, rather than read through the material once securely ensconced in his hotel room, he decided to review it while surrounded by what he believed were no more than a bunch of loud-mouthed holiday makers from Essex.

Unfortunately, one of the passengers − and one that was sitting directly opposite Smith in the rear of the aircraft − was a hard-drinking journalist from one of the less reputable national newspapers − the sort that entertains its readers with scandal, scantily dressed ladies and stories about the antics of Wagner (not the German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, of course).

So, blissfully unaware of the profession of the occupant of the nearby seat, Smith took it upon himself to flip open his laptop and take a look at a variety of work-related documents. Naturally enough, the journalist sitting across the aisle from him was intrigued and, from time to time, took more than a few glances at Smith’s work.

From those furtive looks, the nosey journalist was intrigued to discover that Smith was producing a document detailing the reliability of the transponders and interrogators that are commonly found on military aircraft to inform a pilot whether an aircraft seen visually, or on radar, is friendly or poses a threat.

It all made for some very interesting reading indeed and the journalist felt that his readers would find it most interesting too. With that in mind, he made his way to the back of the aircraft, where he secreted himself in the lavatory to jot down a few notes based on his observations. Paperwork completed, he returned to his seat beaming, intent on enjoying his week’s holiday with an exclusive that would undoubtedly impress his boss when he returned home.

You’ll be pleased to hear that John Smith hasn’t lost his job over the in-flight affair − all because the hapless journalist had downed one too many gin and tonics on that flight before making his notes and was unable to make much sense of them when he returned to work.

But while it might be bad news for the journalist and the exclusive-loving newspaper, it’s undoubtedly good news for national security. After all, think of how terribly embarrassed the military folks would have been if the story had ever made it into print and the information on the precise reliability of the transponders and interrogators used in their aircraft had fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Best wishes,

Dave Wilson
Editor, Electronicstalk

Dave’s comments form part of the weekly Electronicstalk newsletter, which also includes a round-up of the latest electronic products and services for engineers. To subscribe click here