Conde Nast Traveler

To LA With a Bullet: Antimissile Technology on Passenger Jets

Not a stowaway. It's JETEYE.

by Guy Martin

Today's "smart" antiaircraft munitions are sort of like the Hounds of Hell disguised as rockets: Once their nose-mounted infrared seekers lock on to the heat signature of the engine exhaust, it's damn near impossible to throw them off.   

Used to be, pilots would drop ultra-hot flares that would (occasionally) confuse the seekers. In the last decade, we developed the battlefield tech to track and blind the missile's infrared eye--in the few seconds of flight that the missile has to the jet--by zapping it with an extremely powerful laser. A ray gun, basically.   

Cool, no? It gets cooler:   

A sleek new iteration of the ray gun is now being tested under a $102 million R&D program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. The new wrinkle here is that the technology was developed for--and is being tested on--passenger liners, specifically, on three American Airlines Boeing 767s that ply the route between JFK and LAX.    

The system, called JETEYE, was conceived and manufactured by the Electronic Warfare Division of Nashua, New Hampshire's BAE Systems, a defense contractor that supplies the Army and the Air Force with similar technologies for the battlefield. 

As its battlefield cousins do, JETEYE senses the incoming missile's infrared tracking signal (with which the missile paints its target) and pulses a super-intense beam of light into the missile's reticle, or eye, scrambling its brains. Result: one really drunk missile.   

Continue reading "To LA With a Bullet: Antimissile Technology on Passenger Jets" »


When Things Go Wrong: Resources You Need

by Sallie Brady

As I digested the words "hotels," "hostages," "grenades," that accompanied the horrific images of Mumbai under siege Wednesday, November 26, I had a sickening feeling that the bubble of hotel safety and security had been forever pierced. I wondered if the Americans and Brits trapped in the hotels were attempting to be in touch with the U.S. embassy and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and if these government agencies, in turn, were sending out alerts, as they claim to do in times of crisis.

I had reported something similar following the Lebanon-Israeli conflict of July 2006 and discovered that the U.S. State Department had major failings, so I began a bit obsessively looking at the State Department's site, linking to the U.S. Embassy New Delhi site, where six hours after I saw the first horrible newsfeed from the burning Taj hotel, a picture of Tom Turkey and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was still the top item.

If you're a world traveler, more than ever these days you need to be armed with resources, which is why those of us contributing to Stop Press have already begun work on finding out everything you need to know about hotel security, technology in times of crisis, and what governments can do to help you. Look for our report in the February 2009 issue of Condé Nast Traveler.

For now, if you have travel plans, consider registering your trip for destination information and alerts with
1. U.S. State Department (
2. Britain's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (
3. Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
4. Canada's Consular Affairs Travel Updates (


In Mumbai, Life-Saving Hospitality in the Heat of Battle

The newly reopened Leopold Cafe, Monday, December 1, 2008.
Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP Photo

by Guy Martin

Terror attacks can be defined by the bits of war architecture that they're missing. The self-styled Deccan Mujahideen didn't bother to insinuate bombs onto mass transit or to hijack passenger jets. Instead, these were amphibious assault troops. For putatively insane Islamo-fascists, that's a new tactical niveau.

However. What will never get cut from the terror playbook is their commanders' selection of the hospitality industry--specifically, hotels and restaurants--as soft targets. The institutions of travel are, by definition, open. We travel for sustenance, for respite, for trade, for stimulation. Hospitality is the daily practice of sustaining the billions of us who are on the move. At its best, hospitality is the practice of grace.

As a locus of hospitality, Indian culture stands at the origins of human occupancy of the globe, so that, here in the cradle, the act of extending oneself to a guest has a well-burnished, ancient, unconquerable sort of calm. Specifically, during the 86 hours that Mumbai's restaurants, hospitals, and hotels were under siege from the assassins--as the army and police struggled to pull even with the ferocity of the multiple events--literally hundreds of hotel guests and restaurant-goers were saved by level-headed waiters, busboys, front desk personnel, and managers. It was divine generosity, or put another way, hospitality as the last wall of defense against the abyss.

Continue reading "In Mumbai, Life-Saving Hospitality in the Heat of Battle" »


When Flying, Please Remember to Board the Plane

Lost Luggage
Alright boys, who wants overtime?
AP Photo

by Guy Martin

Delta Flight 78, a nonstop between New York and Berlin, is an old Pan Am route left over from when only "allied" name carriers (British Airways, Air France, Pan American, and of course Aeroflot) were allowed to fly through the Soviet-approved air corridors over East Germany into the black heart of the Cold War. Americans on this flight usually feel the need to explain why they're going to Berlin. Most of the travelers are German and are headed home.   

My plane is well away from the gate in queue for takeoff. The flight attendants flurry up and down the aisles. The first odd thing is the recount, then the announcement: "Could passenger Katherine Harton please identify herself?" Then, more urgently: "If passenger Katherine Harton is aboard the aircraft, please identify yourself."      

Five minutes later, the plane peels out of the takeoff queue. "Ladies and Gentlemen," the captain says, "apologies for the inconvenience. We have a passenger who checked in but who didn't board. We can't fly with her bag, so we're returning to the gate, where the ground crew will take it off. Unfortunately, it's rush hour for nighttime departures here at JFK, so we've lost our position. We'll let you know what we're looking at in a delay. Again, apologies for the inconvenience." A gracious man.

Continue reading "When Flying, Please Remember to Board the Plane" »


Europe's Non-Border Border Patrol

Checkpoint Charlie
Checkpoint Charlie: Old school.
Photo: AP

by Guy Martin

The EuroCity 179 rolls through the hills of Saxony from Hamburg to Budapest. Next up, the Czech industrial town of Usti nad Labem, or Aussig an der Elbe, as the Sudeten Germans called it before they were all shoved out of Bohemia after World War II. We stop for a couple of minutes in Usti, then roll on toward Prague. As we come down out of the hills, there's the familiar border clatter down the gangway to the left of the compartments: a group of boots, the serial sliding of the compartment doors, and the slightly steely question in Czech and in German: Identity card or passport?

Thing is, we're well past the border, we're well past where these cops should be doing this, identity cards aren't really required for Europeans anymore, there's no dispensation of visas, and the two pairs of border police--one Czech, the other German--aren't really doing anything except monitoring who's on the train. Well, of course. They're armed with the daily watchlist of bad boys, court proceedings, and missing persons from the Schengen Information System in Strasbourg, France. Let's face it, it's interesting to cops all over who's moving through their jurisdiction.

This is Europe's new (since January 1) non-border border control. Schengen was the Belgian town in which the original countries, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, hammered out the original borderless agreement in the mid-1980s. There are several interesting facets to its current expansion over Eastern Europe. The first is, not many people are left to control the borders. That is simply shocking to people who lived through the Cold War and are accustomed to battalion-strength military, police, and customs people standing in serried ranks to inspect every aspect of their travel. 

Continue reading "Europe's Non-Border Border Patrol" »


The Shootist at 8,000 Feet

Heckler and Koch
Heckler & Koch USP Compact
"Law Enforcement Modification"
(LEM) model

The March 22 discharge of a semiautomatic pistol in the cockpit of US Airways Flight 1536 has put Conde Nast Traveler senior correspondent--and firearms enthusiast--Guy Martin on the story. Guy first reported on the Transportation Security Administration's firearms training program and the pilot's questionable weapons-handling skills in the Perrin Post. He's now taking his voluminous investigation to the Daily Traveler. 

by Guy Martin

Just gotta love German engineering.

The warriors of finance pack their country house driveways with the fine products of Freddy Porsche and Gottfried Daimler; our space program and ballistic missile silos are crammed with the descendants of the crazy-cool rocket engines first developed by Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of supersmart Nazi scientists. So! It's only fitting that armies, special operations units, and SWAT teams worldwide consider themselves especially well-equipped with Helmut Weldle's excellent sidearms.

Herr Weldle is a designer with Heckler & Koch and one of the prime architects of Heckler & Koch's celebrated Universelle Selbstladepistole, the Universal Self-loading Pistol, or USP.   

Selbstladepistole is the German for "semiautomatic," meaning a magazine-fed pistol that uses the power of its recoil to slide a fresh round into the chamber. It was introduced to the world in 1993, and, over the last 15 years, its adaptability and dependability have made it a favorite among law-enforcement and military shooters. This was the splendid German product that came into play aboard US Airways Flight 1536 on March 22, firing the shot that punched a hole through the port side of that aircraft's cockpit at a reported 8,000 feet about eight minutes out from its destination of Charlotte, North Carolina.  The aircraft was commanded by Captain James Langenhahn, who also wielded the gun and caused the shot to be fired.   

Continue reading "The Shootist at 8,000 Feet" »

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The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

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