Now that most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, people have started travelling again. The robust return to travel brings with it reminders of the many airline rules and regulations that impact the safe and efficient movement of passengers and cargo.
The Travel Security Association’s (TSA) liquid restrictions remain unchanged. You’ll need to get out those little 3.4 ounces bottles that you tucked away in the bottom of your suitcase. And airlines continue to impose weight limits and dimensions on our luggage, too. Yet they don’t weigh us. Why is this?
I thought I would easily find a chart of specific passenger weight limits based on the physics of gravity and thrust needed to get an airplane off the tarmac, keep it in the sky and land it safely. I discovered though that currently, there isn’t any federal regulation with exact passenger weight limits on an aircraft.
However, what I did find was a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Advisory Circular from May, 2019, which is the closest thing that carries the authority of a regulation. It stressed the importance that airline protocols accurately reflect revised "average passenger weights", and even included an option of weighing passengers at the gate. FAA standard for the average adult passenger and carry-on bag weight to 190 pounds in the summer and 195 pounds in the winter.
This FAA advisory demonstrated the need to tweak its standards to reflect more accurately the changes to the average weight of Americans over the last several decades, considering the nation’s widening waistlines. These changes were a result of the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2008 National Health Statistics Report which determined that the mean average weight is now 194.7 pounds for male adults over age 20 and 164.7 pounds for women over the age of 20. Mean average weighs inched up even further between 2015 - 2018 to 199.8 for men and 170.8 for women.
I learned that most of an aircraft’s weight is fuel. But that weight is a given. Passenger weight (and luggage), on the other hand, is variable. How might passenger weight impact the world of commercial aviation?
Samoa Air, a small island-hopping airline, might provide some insight. It’s the world’s first air carrier to charge passengers by their weight and that of their luggage rather than per seat. American Samoa has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. In the early 2000s, the adult overweight and obesity rate in the territory was nearly universal, at 93 percent, while the rate for children was close to 45 percent. Samoa Air defends its plan as the fairest way to fly in some cases actually ending up cheaper than conventional tickets.
It has begun charging passengers by weight. Passengers pay a fixed price per kilogram (2.2 pounds) which varies depending on the route length. The cost is .93 cents to $1.06 per kilogram (2.2 pounds).
It seems that for now Samoa Air will continue to be an aviation outlier. Presently, the only other air carriers that actually weigh individual passengers on each flight are the ones operating extremely small aircraft and helicopters which has always been the case.
Deceasing airline profitability, skyrocketing fuel costs with increased safety concerns could perhaps one day push the concept of at gate weigh-ins in the future. For now, I suspect weighed averages will prevail since I don’t think passengers will be agreeable to be subjected to yet another indignity at the airport.
So are you ready to jump on the scale?
Smith, Patrick. Cockpit confidential : everything you need to know about air travel : questions, answers & reflections. Sourcebooks, 2018.
Veken, Jan van der. Planes : from the Wright Brothers to the supersonic jet. London, New York, Prestel Publishing, 2020 .
The Ballpoint Pen
Cheap, reliable, and portable; ballpoint pens today are used daily by millions worldwide. But that wasn’t always the case. Fountain pens dominated the marketplace until the aftermath of World War II.
The earliest US patent was granted to John J. Loud, an American leather tanner, in 1888. His patent improved the fountain pen’s ability to mark up leather before it was cut, whereas previously pencils were unable to do the job, fountain pens proved too messy. The distinct features of his patent were small rotating metal balls at the base of the pen held in place by a socket, similar to a roll-on deodorant stick.
While Loud’s patent did improve the fountain pen’s ability to mark on rough surfaces, it was too rough to use on paper, and didn’t address the ink leakage and smudges. The patent solved his particular problem while working with leather, but its use was limited, and the patent eventually lapsed.
Then in the late 1920s, Laszlo Jozsef Biro, a Hungarian newspaper editor whose own frustration with fountain pens led him along with his brother, Gyorgy, a dentist and chemist, to design a new writing instrument based on John J. Loud’s 1888 patent. The key to their success was a new, thicker ink which dried quickly and smaller metal balls at the pen tip. Their modern-day ballpoint pen premiered at the 1931 Budapest International Fair.
Its prospects were moved forward by a chance encounter while Laszlo Biro was on vacation, where it met with the approval of a fellow vacationer, Agustin Justo, the then Argentinian president. Justo invited the Biro brothers to set up a plant in his country. Initially, they declined. However, as Jews, the gathering clouds of the European war in 1939 made them reconsider Justo’s offer. In 1941, the Biros’ brother emigrated to Argentina. There, they and their friend, Juan Jorge Meyne, filed for a patent and started Biro Pens of Argentina. Birome was the name given to their pen, a combination of Biro and Meyne names. It debuted in 1943.
In Argentina, the trio met Henry Martin, an English accountant, who thought the pen would be of interest to the British Air Ministry. He knew that at high altitudes the ordinary nib-type fountain pen tended to leak due to pressure changes and was unsuitable for Royal Air Force air crews who had to make up their logs while in flight.
The British didn’t immediately take Martin’s suggestion. Eventually, though, 30,000 pens were manufactured in England by Miles Aircraft for the R.A.F (Royal Air Force). The ballpoint pen’s popularity didn’t spread to North America until 1945. Two companies spent $500,000 to license it for the US market, but they were beaten to the punch by a savvy American businessman, Milton Reynolds. While visiting Argentina, he bought some Biromes, returned to the US, immediately set up the Reynolds International Pen Company, then tweaked the Biro patent.
Within four months, he began selling them. He called it "Reynolds Rocket". It was heavily marketed with the promise that it would only need refilling every two years. It debuted in October, 1945 at Gimbels Department store in New York City. It was an immediate success. Priced at $12.50/ea ($199.66 in 2022 $$), Gimbels ordered 50,000 units and sold 30,000 by the end of the first week.
In the rush to market it, Reynolds gave priority to the promotional aspects of the pen and blatantly ignored flaws in
the pen functionality. Consumers soon became disenchanted with the ballpoint pen which didn’t live up to the hype. Many returned to fountain pens. In 1954, Parker Pens introduced its first ballpoint pen, the “Jotter”. It wrote five times longer than the “Rocket”, had multiple tip sizes, and large-capacity ink refills. It worked and the public embraced it. Parker sold 3.5 million Jotters at prices that ranged from $2.95/ea ($31.71 2022 $$) to $8.75/ea ($94.04 2022 $$) in less than a year.
Then along came Marcel Bich, an Italian-born French industrialist who created a new French company, Societe Bic. He dropped the “h” in his name and began selling pens called BICs in 1950, mass producing them at low cost. It was a revolutionary turn in the evolution of the ballpoint pen.
In 1958 Bich brought the pen to the American market. The Bic pen was soon selling at 29 cents ($2.89 2022 $$) with the slogan "writes the first time, every time!" The BIC pen ushered in the real beginning of the broad use of ballpoint by ordinary people in their daily lives. Its reach over time extended to other areas of life as individuals and organizations began to experiment. The ballpoint pen's portability allowed doodling and sketching to reach new heights and have been used by astronauts in outer space.
Ballpoint pens have even proven to be a versatile art medium for professionals known as “ballpoint pen artists”.
Explore the work of James Mylne https://www.jamesmylne.co.uk/, Il Lee https://artprojects.com/il-lee/il-lee-ballpoint-pen-on-paper/and Jonathan Brechignac https://bit.ly/3LQZ9fO in this genre.
The Museum of Modern Art recognized the Bic Cristal's industrial design by introducing it into the museum's permanent collection https://www.moma.org/collection/works/82141
Ballpoint pens have also made their way to the halls of power in Washington, DC. Presidents sign legislation with pens, and each
has had his own favorite brand. President Kennedy preferred a Parker pen; more recent presidents: Bush, Obama, and Biden have favored Cross pens; and Trump used a Sharpie permanent marker.
I’m sure you have your own favorite. My current pen of choice is a CVS Caliber Retractable Ball Pen 1.0 mm tip (medium tip), black ink. A four pack costs $5.49 or $1.37 each.
Schneider, Stuart, and George Fischler. Illustrated guide to antique writing instruments. 3rd ed.,
Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2000.
Gostony, Henry, and Stuart Schneider. The incredible ballpoint pen : a comprehensive history & price guide.
Atglen, PA, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1998.
Rota, Matt. The art of the ball point: experimentation, exploration, and techniquest in ink.
Beverly, MA, Rockport Publishing, 2016.
Brown, Sunni. The doodle revolution: unlock the power to think differently. New York, Portfolio / Penguin, 2014.
Websites and Blog Posts:
Rebecca, Maksel. "If you like ballpoint pens, thank the R.A.F. ." , Smithsonian : Air & Space Magazine , 10 June 2015, www.smithsonianmag.com/air-space-magazine/ballpoint-pens-RAF-180955537/. Accessed 26 May 2022.
Dowling, Stephen. "The cheap pen that changed writing forever ." , 29 Oct. 2020, www.bbc.com/future/article/20201028-history-of-the-ballpoint-pen. Accessed 26 May 2022.
O, Catherine. "The inventor behind the modern ballpoint pen." , Undated , www.pens.com/blog/the-inventor-behind-the-modern-ballpoint-pen/.
Société Bic / BIC Corporate US
Lotteries: the luck of the draw
Two New Jersey scratch-off lottery tickets were tucked in a birthday card. I knew I didn’t win but I became intrigued by the concept of lotteries.
I discovered they have a long history traceable to ancient times.
According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NA, a type of lottery funded the building of the Great Wall in China.
In the Old Testament, in the book of Numbers (26: 55 – 56) Moses takes a census of the people of Israel and divides the land among them by lot.
Emperors Nero and Augustus had lotteries to give away property and slaves during Roman festivals and holidays.
Burgundy and Flanders in the 15th century held some of the first European lotteries. The funds were used for defense or aid to poor.
Ventura, considered to be the first European lottery to award monetary prizes, was held in the Italian city-state of Modern in 1476.
However, the lottery that came to serve as the model for modern lotteries was the Genoese Lottery named for the game which originated in the Italian city of Genoa in the 17th century. It quickly spread to other Italian cities and elsewhere.
Italy’s first national lottery was created in 1863 providing income for the unified Italian nation.
In 1566, England’s Queen Elizabeth l needed to raise money for repairing harbors and other public projects. She had two choices: levy a new tax on her citizens or hold a lottery. Elizabeth I established England’s first state lottery. The cost was high, limited pool of 400,000 and included other goods. To sweeten the pot, all participants would be granted immunity from arrest, felonies or treason.
The Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstakes, commonly known as the “Irish Sweepstakes” begun in the 1930s was established to fund hospitals. A state lottery replaced it in 1987.
The Sydney Opera House in Australia was another large-scale project underwritten with lottery funds.
Lotteries found their way to our shores in 1621 to help finance the Jamestown settlement.
Then again in 1776 when the Continental Congress established a lottery to raise funds for the American Revolution.
Even though that lottery was jettisoned, over time other localized private lotteries were created.
One example was the lottery that raised money to rebuild Boston’s Faneuil Hall after a devastating fire in 1761.
Proceeds from other public lotteries aided in the building of many colleges. In 1814, the Queen’s College (now Rutgers University)
in New Brunswick, NJ was a beneficiary of lottery proceeds.
The popularity of lotteries has ebbed and flowed marred by corruption, scandals and shifting public sentiment.
Louisiana’s lottery was enormously successful over its 25-year run from 1869 – 1894 in all states. In 1890, President Harrison and the Congress condemned lotteries as “swindling and demoralizing” and prohibited the interstate transportation of lottery tickets.
These actions had a chilling effect and Louisiana was the last U.S. state lottery until 1964 when New Hampshire launched its own sweepstakes on March 12, 1964.
The New Jersey State Lottery was launched In November, 1969.
New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that called for the establishment of a State Lottery as part of the general election. The 81.5 percent majority in favor of a Lottery was one of the largest in New Jersey political history.
On December 16, 1970, the first lottery ticket was sold to Gov. William T. Cahill.
Net proceeds of the lottery are constitutionally dedicated to benefit state institutions and state aid for education.
The lottery generates approximately $1 billion dollars annually in net proceeds.
However, beginning in 2018, the Lottery's net proceeds for a 30-year term will used to bolster New Jersey's critically underfunded public employee pension system for teachers, police and fire personnel and other public employees in conformance through the Lottery Enterprise Contribution Act, P.L. 2017, c.98 passed on July 4, 2017.
At the end of this 30-year contribution term, the state pension plans are expected to be 90 percent funded. In year thirty-one, the lottery enterprise reverts back to the state.
There are only five US states currently without a state lottery: Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Utah and Nevada.
The absence of the lottery in Alabama, Hawaii and Utah reflect the potential implications of gambling.
However, Alaska’s abundant oil resources provide extra state funds. Nevada sources additional state funding through casino gambling profits.
Click on this link for the North American State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) to see how the remaining 45 states with lotteries use their lottery net proceeds.
Please note that the information on the NASPL website reflects data collected for the fiscal year 2016.
Lewis, Danny. "Queen Elizabeth I held England’s first official lottery 450 years ago." Smithsonian Magazine , 13 Jan. 2016, Accessed 29 https://bit.ly/3NtWJWR Mar. 2022.
Herman, Robert D. and Glimne, Dan. "lottery". Encyclopedia Britannica, 5 Mar. 2013, https://www.britannica.com/topic/lottery. Accessed 29 March 2022.
"Interesting facts about the Sydney Opera House 15 pieces of useful trivia about the beloved building." Sydney Opera House , www.sydneyoperahouse.com/our-story/sydney-opera-house-facts.html. Accessed 29 Mar. 2022.
"History: giving dreams a chance since 1970." New Jersey State Lottery , www.njlottery.com/en-us/aboutus/history.html.
Accessed 29 Mar. 2022.
Petrecca, Steven M. "The Lottery Enterprise Contribution Act - Why it is important ." New Jersey Department of the Treasury, The Bond Buyer , 25 July 2017, https://bit.ly/3qIOLiL. Accessed 29 Mar. 2022.
LegiScan, legiscan.com/NJ/S3312/2016. Accessed 29 Mar 2022
"Where does the money go?" North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, www.naspl.org/wherethemoneygoes/. Accessed 29 Mar. 2022.
Curiosity Corner writer & contributor:
Helen Beckert, Reference Librarian at the Glen Ridge Public Library