Posts with «airline industry» label

Garmin fitness smartwatches are up to 33 percent off via Amazon

Garmin has been pumping out high-quality fitness-based smartwatches for years and now’s your chance to score one on the cheap. The company’s selling a bunch of its most popular models on Amazon at a steep discount of 25 to 33 percent, depending on which device you go with. For instance, this brings the price of the well-reviewed Garmin Forerunner 745 down from $400 to $300.

The sale extends from budget-friendly releases like the Garmin Approach S10 GPS golf watch, now $100 instead of $150, to flagship products like the Garmin Epix Gen 2, which costs $700 instead of $900. The deals even apply to off-the-beaten-path products like the Garmin GPSMAP 66i handheld communicator, which is basically a really fancy walkie-talkie.

Other watches involved in the sale include the Forerunner 945 and the Vivoactive 4S, among others, so you can take your pick from the company’s many offerings. Garmin has long been known as a manufacturer of well-regarded smartwatches that specialize in fitness tracking and data metrics. We praised the Forerunner 745, for instance, as having accurate distance tracking, advanced training feedback, integration with Garmin’s payment module, a long battery life and internal storage that can fit up to 500 songs.

There’s no telling when Garmin and Amazon will turn off the discount spigot, so you may want to act fast, as many of these discounts nearly match record low prices for the company’s line of smartwatches.

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Joby Aviation's first production air taxi cleared for flight tests

Joby Aviation has been cleared by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) to start flight tests on its first production prototype air taxi, the company wrote in a press release. It's a large step in the company's aim to start shipping the eVTOL aircraft (electric vertical takeoff and landing) to customers in 2024 and launch an air taxi service by 2025. 

"The aircraft will now undergo initial flight testing before being delivered to Edwards Air Force Base, California, where it will be used to demonstrate a range of potential logistics use cases," Joby wrote. 

The aircraft can take off and land like a helicopter, then tilt its six rotors horizontally and fly like an airplane at up to 200 MPH. It's designed to carry a pilot and four passengers over a distance up to 100 miles on a charge — enough range for most types of air taxi operations. At the same time, Joby claims it's nearly silent in cruise mode and 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Joby's first production prototype recently rolled off the company's assembly line in Marina, California. The plant was built in partnership with Toyota, Joby's largest investor with a $394 million stake. Cementing that relationship, Joby announced that it was appointing Toyota North America CEO Tetsuo (Ted) Ogawa to the board of directors.

With the the FAA's special airworthiness certificate in hand, Joby can perform flight tests of full production aircraft, following tests with full-scale prototypes that began in 2017. In May last year, the company received another crucial permit, the FAA's Part 135 air carrier certificate for commercial operations. It recently teamed with Delta Air Lines to offer travel to and from airports, and its website shows a scenario of flying from downtown NYC to JFK airport in just seven minutes compared to 49 minutes in a car.

Now, Joby must clear the largest hurdle with full FAA type and production certification in order to take paying passengers on commercial flights. That's likely about 18 months away, aerospace engineer and Vertical Flight Society director Mike Hirschberg told New Scientist. Its first customer would be the US Air Force, as part of a $131 million contract under the military's Agility Prime program, with deliveries set for 2024.

Alll that puts the company tantalizingly close to delivering a true air taxi service, something that has eluded numerous other manufacturers to date. Last year, the Kittyhawk aircraft backed by Larry Page shut down, and other companies like Ehang, Archer, Volocopter and even Airbus aren't as far along as Joby. "This first aircraft coming off our pilot manufacturing line is a really, really big deal for the company," Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt told TechCrunch

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United is putting 4K displays and Bluetooth on its planes

United Airlines has struck a deal with Panasonic Avionics that could make flying in economy more bearable. No, it will not magically make the seats wider or the leg room bigger, but it will distract you with a larger, sharper in-flight entertainment display and — some will perhaps find this even more exciting — Bluetooth. The airline has announced that it's installing almost 300,000 units of Panasonic Avionics' Astrova in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens on select new Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR aircraft. 

They're seatback displays that use 4K OLED technology, which promises sharper image quality and better contrast ratio than a lot of other IFE systems. The company says Astrova can also provide high fidelity 3D spatial audio through its latest Bluetooth technology. Yep, you won't need to use wired headphones anymore or bring one of those Bluetooth dongles just so you could use your wireless earbuds. Astrova also comes with USB-C ports capable of charging your phones and tablets with 100 watts of DC power. 

As Aviation Week notes, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A321XLR planes are part of United's international fleet, but the airline will reportedly equip its domestic planes with Astrova IFE systems, as well. The displays will be installed under the United Next program, which aims to put a seatback in-flight display at every seat. United plans to provide first class passengers access to 13-inch displays and passengers in economy with 10-inch IFE screens. 

In their announcement, the companies said their agreement will allow United to upgrade the Astrova displays over the coming years. The IFE system uses a modular architecture with a removable peripheral bar that makes it easy to add newer technologies and update its Bluetooth or charging stations. No upgrade will be happening anytime soon, though — the airline isn't scheduled to start installing the in-flight entertainment systems until 2025. 

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Electric airplane towing concept could mean longer zero-emission flights

Magpie Aviation announced a novel new approach to electric airplanes on Monday. Today’s battery technology (including CATL’s new, more efficient one) severely limits the practicality of zero-emission aircraft, leaving clean-energy innovators with two incomplete options: flying a plane full of batteries or one full of people — but not both. So the California-based startup wants to tie them together, extending the rear plane’s range by hundreds of miles.

Towing planes isn’t a new concept, with military use going back to World War II when aerial tows would pull smaller aircraft carrying troops and supplies. But applying it to the world of green transportation is new. Magpie Aviation’s concept uses one or more electric aircraft to act as a tractor plane towing a passenger (or cargo) aircraft using a long cable. The towed plane would have enough battery power for takeoff, landing and flying to alternate airports but not enough to fly the full distance on its own, as reported byAeroTime.

The lead plane would take on the bulk of the traction, and when its battery is depleted, it could hand off towing duties to another electric towing aircraft to extend the rear plane’s range. Magpie CEO Damon Vander Lind summarized toAviation Week, “You get towed until you’ve depleted down to your reserve in the lead aircraft, and then you swap in another tow aircraft.” Although it’s still a regional solution impractical for cross-country or international flights, Vander Lind says it could allow for a trip from San Francisco to Seattle — far beyond the sub-regional distances battery-powered passenger flights can travel on their own.

Magpie says it’s conducted successful small-scale tests using a synthetic fiber rope around 330 ft. long; the company envisions a later commercial version to use nearly mile-long cables. The startup plans to scale up its testing gradually and believes it could be implemented commercially by 2030. It expects advances in battery tech to allow it to tow single-aisle airliners eventually. Magpie suggests that the concept, mainly targeting electric planes, could also work with hybrid, hydrogen and standard aircraft in low-power modes. Additionally, the company says it’s working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with an eye toward certification.

“It sounds kind of crazy, but we kept coming back to it because we couldn’t find any reason why we couldn’t do it,” said Vander Lind. “While our modeling shows that there is an advantage to doing a custom tow aircraft like this, we get a big advantage because the more expensive and critical passenger- and cargo-carrying ‘main aircraft’ has similar requirements to today’s aircraft and so adapts well to existing in-operation and already-in-development platforms. Remember that if we want to hit a zero-carbon 2050 goal, an airliner has a 30-year life, so we’re already at the point where airlines have to think hard about the operating life of the assets that they are buying today.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Travelers used to catch helicopter taxis between Chicago airports

We’ve all been there: sitting in the back of a cab as it crawls through downtown traffic, the clock on the dash mocking you with its inexorable march towards a missed final boarding call and non-refundable ticket fees. Racing to make your flight is an experience nearly as old as commercial aviation itself — and one which has seen repeated solutions attempted throughout the years. Today, companies like Uber and Hyundai or United Airlines and Archer are working to get fleets of eVTOL aircraft to serve as short-hop air taxis, ferrying travelers from city centers to airports while avoiding the mess and hassle of ground-based traffic. In the ‘60s, companies like Chicago Helicopter Airways (CHA) just used a bunch of repurposed US Navy helicopters whose rotors almost never catastrophically failed. Almost.

Following WW2, the US government found itself with a massive surplus of military aircraft — we’re talking North of 150,000 individual planes, helicopters and sundry whirlybirds that all needed somewhere to go that wasn’t storage or a scrap yard. At the same time, an emergent middle class got the chicken in every pot and car in every driveway it was promised, along with all of the traffic and congestion that that particular American dream creates. So, in the early 1950s, the Federal government launched a series of grant programs to promote commuting via helicopter as an intra-city alternative to driving, simultaneously addressing both issues.

The CHA began its existence in post-war America 1948, as a regional mail delivery service operating in greater Chicagoland with a fleet of Sikorsky S-58C and H-34A Choctaw helicopters, but switched to carrying human passengers from 1956 to 1963. Its five-stop route moved between its home base in Winnetka, Illinois and O’Hare and Midway airports, the now defunct Meigs Field, and Gary, Indiana.

For $5 in 1962 money (or just under $50 today) travelers could get from Winnetka at the North end of the city to Terminal 3 at O’Hare, and do it in under ten minutes. Or for $11, sightseers could reserve space aboard a city-wide “Complete Triangle Flight” helicopter tour of Chicago. According to digitized pamphlets archived at TimetableImages, anyone flying to or from “Europe, South or Central America, Alaska or across the Pacific,” on Air France, BOAC Lufthansa, Mexicana, Northwest, PAA or TWA were entitled to a free helo-transfer between Midway and O’Hare.

At its peak in 1960, CHA operated 126 flights and carried 6,000 passengers daily. However, that success did not last long past the tragedy of Flight 698. On July 20th, 1960, 11 passengers and two crew members took off from O’Hare airport, headed for Midway under clear skies. Minutes into the journey, disaster struck when the main rotor failed and came apart. The crew attempted an emergency landing but were thwarted when the tail rotor subsequently broke off and the aircraft nose-dived into Forest Home Cemetery. It burst into flames, killing all 13 aboard.

Just three years later in 1963, CHA’s business had dropped off by half with just 3,000 people opting for helicopter rides to the airport. By 1966, the federal government’s grant programs had run their course and funding quickly dried up, effectively putting an end to CHA’s operations. The company attempted a comeback with limited service in 1969 but shuttered again for good in 1974. 

The CHA wasn't alone in its air commute aspirations. It was joined by similar services in Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC and the San Francisco Bay Area. European cities launched their own services as well including Paris, Brussels, Dooseldorf and between the UK's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

Clearly the issue was that the aircraft of the day only had a measly single rotor to provide lift and placed it at risk of major mechanical failure. That’s not an issue with modern VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft, such as the six-rotor Bell Nexus, which was to be used in Uber’s now defunct air taxi service, a similarly-specced offering from Volocopter, or the five-rotor version that Boeing tested in 2019.

However, finding reliable funding remains a challenge — even Larry Page’s pet VTOL project, Kitty Hawk, ceased operations in 2022 — which has resulted in much of the technology’s development concentrating amidst existing aerospace corporations. Airbus is working on a VTOL of its own, as is Honda, while United announced plans to buy 500 units outright from VTOL maker Eve Air Mobility to jumpstart its fleet. Joby Aviation, which purchased Uber’s air taxi business in 2020, just received significant investment from Delta as well.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

United and Archer will open an air taxi route to Chicago’s O’Hare airport in 2025

Archer Aviation and United Airlines announced a partnership today to launch a commercial air taxi route in Chicago. The companies plan to open the flight path between downtown and O’Hare International Airport in 2025.

Besides being United’s headquarters and largest hub, Chicago's airport commute makes it an ideal testbed for flying taxis. For example, the drive to or from O’Hare, in the western suburb of Rosemont, can take anywhere from 35 minutes to over an hour, depending on traffic; even in one of the city’s elevated trains, it can take around 45 minutes. But Archer estimates a flight in one of its air taxis will only take 10 minutes to travel from O’Hare to its destination at a downtown helipad. The program will initially be limited to the mainline O’Hare / downtown route, but the companies eventually plan to add smaller paths to surrounding communities.

Archer describes the upcoming route as “cost competitive” for passengers without going into specifics. But even if it’s initially limited to deep-pocketed business travelers, the program should be good for the environment. Archer’s air taxis use electric motors and batteries and don’t produce emissions. “This exciting new technology will further decarbonize our means of transportation, taking us another step forward in our fight against climate change,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “I’m pleased that Chicago residents will be among the first in the nation to experience this innovative, convenient form of travel.”

The partnership is the latest in United’s aggressive investments in flying taxis. Last year, the airline ordered at least 200 electric flying taxis from Eve Air Mobility; that followed a $10 million deposit it placed with Archer the month prior.

In addition to Chicago’s (ground-based) taxis and ride shares, the city has a robust public transportation system built around elevated trains and buses, the latter of which the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has committed to converting to electric by 2040. (The CTA already deploys 23 electric buses.) If all goes according to plan, the flight path will help decrease emissions and traffic congestion, something most Chi-town residents can get behind.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

US airports now have software to prevent aircraft from landing on taxiways by mistake

Pilots have to worry about more than just mid-flight crashes and bad weather — they also risk a collision if they land on the taxiway instead of the runway. Thankfully, they have now have a digital safeguard. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tellsAxios that 43 major US airports are now using ASDE-X Taxiway Arrival Prediction (ATAP), a software platform that warns air traffic controllers if an aircraft is lining up to land on a taxiway by mistake. An aviator shouldn't endanger lives on the ground simply because they're inexperienced or fatigued.

The system relies on standard radar along with other sensors. It also works regardless of aircraft size — it can flag small turboprops and large airliners. ATAP first saw use at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2018, and the FAA says it finished software upgrades at compatible airports last September. Some of the airports using the tech include Boston Logan, Chicago O'Hare and New York's JFK.

This is more than just a theoretical exercise. The FAA notes ATAP has caught over 50 potential taxiway landings since 2018, and there have been eight alerts so far in 2023. While accidental landings are far less common than crashes (and thus far less deadly), the software may still be helpful even if it prevents chaos from an aircraft disrupting the queue.

ATAP's rise comes as aircraft and airports increasingly rely on digital safety systems. Airbus, for instance, recently began testing a pilot assist that can automatically divert flights in emergencies, aid with taxiing and even land if the pilots are incapacitated. Full autonomy is still distant, but there may soon be many safeguards against everything from simple errors to an unconscious crew.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Boeing completes the last ever delivery of the iconic 747 jumbo jet

The last Boeing 747 to ever be built has changed hands in front of thousands of people who wanted to say goodbye to the iconic widebody plane. Customers, suppliers, celebrities, as well as current and former employees — including the original staff known ass the "Incredibles" who built the first 747 — gathered at the company's Everett factory to witness Boeing delivering the plane to Atlas Air Worldwide. The event marks the plane's end of production since it was first built in 1967. 

Boeing revealed back in 2020 that it was going to retire the model in a couple of years after it was done building the last orders for it. The 747 was one of the most famous four-engine widebody jets in the world and revolutionized air travel by doubling passenger capacity and thereby lowering the price of each seat. During the peak of its popularity in 1990, Boeing delivered 70 units in a single year. But like most older technologies, it eventually took a backseat to some of the company's newer jets, particularly its two-engine planes that can fly the same routes but can use fuel more efficiently. 

As Reuters notes, the company only delivered five 747s in 2022, though the whole program itself produced 1,574 jets. The last planes Boeing delivered, including this one, will be used to transport cargo in the years to come. Yes, we won't be seeing any new 747 anymore, but Bloomberg says the orders delivered for freighter use could be around until the 2050s. 

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said in a statement:

"This monumental day is a testament to the generations of Boeing employees who brought to life the airplane that 'shrank the world,' and revolutionized travel and air cargo as the first widebody. It is fitting to deliver this final 747-8 Freighter to the largest operator of the 747, Atlas Air, where the 'Queen' will continue to inspire and empower innovation in air cargo."

Kim Smith, Boeing's VP and general manager for the 747 and 767 programs, revealed that the model's production line shut down as workers finished building different parts for the last plane. Employees who worked on in the factory have now been transferred to other programs or have voluntarily retired. 

The best GPS running watches for 2023

Because I'm the editor of Engadget by day and a volunteer coach in my free time, I often get asked which GPS watch to buy. (People also ask what I'm wearing and the answer is: All of them. I am testing all of them.) For my part, the best running watches are quick to lock in a GPS signal, offer accurate distance and pace tracking, last a long time on a charge, are comfortable to wear and easy to use.

Advanced stats like VO2 Max, or maximum oxygen intake during workouts with increasing intensity, are also nice to have, along with training assessments to keep your workload in check and make sure you're getting in effective aerobic and anaerobic workouts. It's also a plus when a watch supports other sports, like cycling and swimming, which all of these do to varying extents. As for features like smartphone notifications and NFC payments, they’re not necessary for most people, especially considering they drive up the asking price.

Without further ado, I bring you capsule reviews of four running watches, each of which I ultimately recommend, none of which is perfect. And keep in mind, when it comes time to make a decision of your own, there are no wrong answers here: I like Apple and Garmin enough, for instance, that I switch back and forth between them in my own training.

The best running watch that’s also a smartwatch: Apple Watch

Pros: Stylish design; a great all-around smartwatch you'll want to use even when you're not exercising; automatic workout detection; heart-rate and blood oxygen monitoring; support for lots of third-party health platforms; auto-pause feels faster than on Garmin watches; zippy performance and fast re-charging; optional LTE is nice to have.

Cons: For iPhone users only; shorter battery life than the competition might concern endurance athletes; fewer performance metrics and settings than what you'd find on a purpose-built sports watch.

Don't think of the Apple Watch as a running watch. Think of it as a smartwatch that happens to have a running mode. Almost eight years after the original Watch made its debut, Apple has successfully transformed its wearable from an overpriced curiosity to an actually useful companion device for the masses. But being a gadget for the masses means that when it comes to running, the Apple Watch has never been as feature rich as competing devices built specifically for that purpose.

Before I get to that, a few words on why I like it. The Apple Watch is the only one of these watches I’d want to wear every day. (And I do: After reviewing Apple Watches for years, I finally purchased one in fall 2021.) The most recent model is stylish, or at least as stylish as a wrist-worn computer can be, and certainly more so than any running watch I've encountered. The aluminum, water-resistant body and neutral Sport band go with most outfits and will continue to look fresh after all your sweaty workouts and jaunts through the rain. And the always-on display is easy to read in direct sunlight.

The battery life is 18 hours, according to Apple. Indeed, I never have a problem making it through the day. I’m often able to put the watch back on after a night of forgetting to charge it and still have some juice left. If you do forget, even a few minutes of charging in the morning can go a long way, even more so now that the Watch supports even faster charging than before. Plus, the new low power mode in watchOS 9 can help you extend the life of your Watch on particularly long days.

That said, it’s worth noting that other running watches claim longer usage time — between 30 and 40 hours in some cases. When it comes to workouts specifically, Apple rates the battery life with GPS at up to seven hours. Given that, I would trust the Watch to last through a short run or even a half marathon, but I'm not sure how it would fare in one of my slow, five-hour-plus marathons. We haven't put the higher-end Apple Watch Ultra through such paces yet, but it's worth mentioning that it has the longest battery life of any Apple Watch with a promised 36 hours (and we got about three days worth of regular use during our testing).

The built-in Activity app is simple and addictive: I feel motivated to fill in my "move" (active calorie), exercise and stand rings each day. I enjoy earning award badges, even though they mean nothing. I'm grateful that the Apple Health app can pull in workouts from Garmin and every other brand featured here, and then count that toward my daily exercise and stand goals (but not my move goal, curiously).

My one complaint is that the sensors don’t always track standing time accurately. I have failed to receive credit when standing for long periods in front of a stove, but occasionally I’ve been rewarded for doing absolutely nothing.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

As for running specifically, you're getting the basics and not much else. You can see your distance, calorie burn, heart rate, average pace and also rolling pace, which is your pace over the past mile at any given moment. You can also set pace alerts — a warning that you're going faster than you meant to, for example. Like earlier Apple Watches, you can also stream music or podcasts, if you have the cellular-enabled LTE model.

Because the watch has a GPS sensor, you can leave your phone at home while running. Of course, no two brands of running watches will offer exactly the same distance readout on a run. That said, though Apple never explicitly claimed the Watch offers improved accurate distance tracking, the readouts here do feel more accurate than on earlier models. It’s possible that Apple is making ongoing improvements under the hood that have added up to more accurate tracking performance.

For indoor runners, the Apple watch integrates with some treadmills and other exercise equipment, thanks to a two-way pairing process that essentially trades notes between the device and gym gear, formulating a more accurate estimate of your distance and effort using that shared data. In my experience, the Watch usually agrees with the treadmill on how far I ran, which is not always the case with other wearables.

I also particularly appreciate that the Apple Watch automatically detects workouts after a certain period of time. I use this feature daily as I walk to and from the subway and around my neighborhood. After 10 minutes, the familiar vibrating tick, with a message asking if I want to record an outdoor walk. The answer is always yes, and the watch thankfully includes the previous 10 minutes in which I forgot to initiate a workout.

Regardless of the workout type, all of your stats are listed on a series of pages, which you swipe through from left to right. In my early days using the watch, it was tempting to use the Digital Crown as a stopwatch button, similar to how I use other running watches. This urge has mostly subsided as I've gotten more comfortable with the user interface.

Like many of its competitors, the Apple Watch has an auto-pause option, which I often use in start-and-stop workouts. I also found in side-by-side comparisons (one watch on each wrist), that auto-pause on the Watch reacts faster than on Garmin models.

Conveniently, the Apple Watch can export workouts to MyFitnessPal so you get credit for your calorie burn there. Of note, the Watch has all of the health features that the previous generation, including a built-in ECG test for cardiac arrhythmias, along with fall detection, a blood oxygen test, respiratory tracking, emergency calls and menstrual tracking. Also like previous models, there’s a built-in compass and international emergency calling.

Unfortunately, the stats themselves are fairly limited, without much room for customization. There's no mode for interval workouts, either by time or distance. There's also not much of an attempt to quantify your level of fitness, your progress or the strenuousness of your workouts or training load. None of this should be a dealbreaker for more casual runners.

For more detailed tracking, your best bet is to experiment with third-party running apps for the iPhone, like Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Nike Run Club and others. It's through trial and error that I finally found an app with Watch support and timed intervals. But at the end of the day, it's easier to wear a purpose-built running watch when I'm running outdoors, sync my data to Apple Health, get my exercise and standing-time credit, and then put the Apple Watch back on the first chance I get. But if you can only afford one smartwatch for training and life, there's a strong case for choosing this one.

The best for triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 745

Pros: Accurate distance tracking; long battery life; advanced fitness and training feedback; stores up to 500 songs; works with Garmin Pay.

Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s; more advanced features can sometimes mean the on-device UI is tricky to navigate; features like Garmin Pay drive up the price but may feel superfluous.

If the Apple Watch is for people who want a smartwatch that also has some workout features, the $500 Garmin Forerunner 745 is for athletes in training who want a purpose-built device to help prepare for races. The various sensors inside can track your heart rate, VO2 Max and blood oxygen (with the option to track all-day and in-sleep, as opposed to just spot checking). On the software side, you get daily workout suggestions, a rating that summarizes your performance condition, animated on screen workouts, a cycling power rating, a sleep score and menstruation tracking. You can also create round-trip courses as well as find popular routes though Garmin’s Trendline populating routing feature.

Like other Garmin watches, even the entry-level ones, you also get feedback on your training load and training status (unproductive, maintaining, productive, peaking, overreaching, detraining and recovery), a “Body Battery” energy rating, recommended recovery time, plus Garmin Coach and a race time predictor. And you can analyze “running dynamics” if you also have a compatible accessory.

The slight downside to having all of these features is that the settings menu can be trickier to navigate than on a simpler device like the entry-level Forerunner 45. Fortunately, at least, a home screen update released back in fall 2020 makes it so that you can see more data points on the 1.2-inch screen with less scrolling required.

Speaking of the screen, the watch, available in four colors, is easy to read in direct sunlight, and weighs a not-too-heavy 47g. That light weight, combined with the soft silicone band, makes it comfortable to wear for long stretches. Garmin rates the battery life at up to seven days, or up to 16 hours with GPS in use. (That figure drops to six hours when you combine GPS tracking with music playback.) In my testing, I was still at 88 percent after three hours of GPS usage. Most of my weekday runs are around 35 minutes and that, it turns out, only puts a roughly two- or three-percent dent in the battery capacity.

In practice, the watch also seemed quicker than my older Forerunner 645 Music to latch onto a GPS signal, even in notoriously difficult spots with trees and cover from tall buildings. As always, distance tracking is accurate, especially if you start out with a locked-in signal, which you always should. Like I said earlier, though, I did find in a side-by-side test, Garmin’s auto-pause feature seems sluggish compared to Apple’s.

Aside from some advanced running and cycling features, what makes the 745 one of the more expensive models in Garmin’s line are its smartwatch features. That includes Garmin Pay, the company’s contactless payments system, and the ability to store up to 500 music tracks on the device. You can also mirror your smartphone notifications and use calendar and weather widgets. Just know you can enjoy that even on Garmin’s entry-level model (more on that below).

I can see there being two schools of thought here: if someone plans to wear this watch for many hours a week working out, it may as well get as close as possible to a less sporty smartwatch. Then there’s my thinking: You’re probably better off stepping down to a model that’s nearly as capable on the fitness front, but that doesn’t pretend as hard to be a proper smartwatch.

For those people, there’s another mid-range model in Garmin’s Forerunner line that’s cheaper and serves many of the same people who will be looking at the 745. The Forerunner 245 offers many of the same training features. It also mostly matches the 745 on pool swimming, but you do appear to lose a bunch of cycling features, so you might want to pore over this comparison chart before buying if you’re a multisport athlete.

What you give is Garmin Pay; the option of all-day blood oxygen tracking; the sleep score; a gyroscope and barometric altimeter; floors climbed; heat and altitude acclimation; yoga and pilates workouts; training load focus; the Trendline feature; round-trip course creation, Garmin and Strava live segments; and lactate threshold tracking (and for this you would need an additional accessory amway).

At the opposite end of the spectrum (for people who actually wish the 745 could do more), there’s the Forerunner 945 LTE which, true to its name, adds built-in LTE connectivity. This model also holds 1,000 songs, up from 500 on the 745, and adds niceties like preloaded maps and a host of golfing features, if golf is also your jam.

The best for most people: Garmin Forerunner 45S

Pros: Accurate distance tracking, long battery life, heart rate monitoring and interval training at a reasonable price; lightweight design; offered in a variety of colors; smartphone notifications feel limited, but could be better than nothing.

Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s.

I purposefully tested the expensive Garmin Forerunner 745 first, so that I could start off with an understanding of the brand’s more advanced tech. Testing the Forerunner 45S, then, was an exercise in subtraction: If I pared down the feature set, would I miss the bells and whistles? And would other runners?

It turns out, mostly not. As an entry-level watch, the 45S offers everything beginners (and even some intermediate) runners could want, including distance tracking, basic fitness tracking (steps, calories), heart rate monitoring and a blood oxygen test. Also, as much as the 45S is aimed at new runners, you’ll also find modes for indoor and outdoor cycling, elliptical machines, stair climbers and yoga.

Coming from the 745, I was especially pleased to see that many of Garmin’s best training and recovery features carry down even to the base-level model. That includes training status, training load, training effect, Garmin Coach, Body Battery, stress tracking, a race time predictor and running dynamics analysis (again, an additional accessory is required). Like other Garmin watches, you can enable incident detection, with the caveat that you'll need your smartphone nearby for it to work.

It even functions as a perfunctory smartwatch, with smartphone notifications, music playback controls, calendar and weather widgets, and a duo of “find my phone” and “find my watch” features. Although I’ve criticized Garmin’s smartwatch features in the past for feeling like half-baked add-ons, I was still pleasantly surprised to find them on what’s marketed as a running watch for novices.

As for the hardware, the watch feels lightweight, at 32 grams for the 39mm model (36g for the 42mm). It’s available in five colors, slightly more than Garmin’s more serious models. The 1.04-inch screen was easy to glance at mid-workout, even in direct sunlight. The battery, which is rated for seven days (or 13 hours in GPS mode) does not need to be charged every day. In fact, if it really is beginners using this, their short runs should barely put a dent in the overall capacity. As with the Forerunner 745, my complaint is never with the battery life, just the fact that you have to use a proprietary charging cable.

And, while this watch wasn’t made for competitive swimmers, you can use it in the pool without breaking it. The 5 ATM water resistance rating means it can survive the equivalent of 50 meters of water pressure, which surely includes showering and shallow-water activities.

For what it’s worth, Garmin sells a slightly more expensive model, the Forerunner 55, which for adds respiration rate tracking, menstrual tracking, an updated recovery time advisor and pacing strategies.

The best under $100: Amazfit Bip S

Pros: Lightweight design; long battery life; accurate GPS tracking; built-in heart rate monitor; water resistant; basic smartwatch features.

Cons: Crude user interface; limited support for third-party apps; can’t customize how workout stats are displayed on the screen; pausing workouts feels labored (which is a shame because you’ll be doing it often).

I kept my expectations low when I began testing the Bip S. This $70 watch comes from Amazfit, a lesser known brand here in the US that seems to specialize in lower-priced gadgets. Although I didn’t know much about Amazfit or its parent company Huami, I was intrigued by the specs it offered at this price, most notably a built-in heart monitor — not something you typically see in a device this cheap.

As you might expect, a device this inexpensive has some trade-offs, and I’ll get to those in a minute. But there’s actually a lot to like. The watch itself is lightweight and water resistant, with a low-power color display that’s easy to read in direct sunlight. That low-power design also means the battery lasts a long time — up to 40 hours on a charge. Perhaps most importantly, it excels in the area that matters most: as a sports watch. In my testing the built-in GPS allowed for accurate distance and pace tracking. If you’re not a runner, or you just prefer a multi-sport life, the watch features nine other modes covering most common activities, including walking, yoga, cycling, pool and open-water swimming and free weights.

And did I mention the heart rate monitor? These readings are also seemingly accurate.

What you lose by settling for a watch this cheap is mainly the sort of polished user experience you’d get with a device from a tier-one company like Apple or even Garmin (not that Garmin’s app has ever been my favorite either). In my review, I noticed various goofs, including odd grammar and punctuation choices and a confusingly laid-out app.

I was also bummed to learn you could barely export your data to any third-party apps, other than Strava and Apple Health. You also can’t customize the way data is displayed on-screen during a workout, while your goals don't auto-adjust the way they might on other platforms. Fortunately, at least, these are all issues that can be addressed after the fact via software updates — hopefully sooner rather than later.

Hitting the Books: That time San Francisco's suburbs sued the airport for being too loud

San Francisco has long sought to square its deeply-held progressive ideals with the region's need for tangible, technological progress. SFO international airport, which opened for business in 1959 and has undergone significant expansion and modernization in the years since, is a microcosm of that struggle. On one hand, the Bay Area likely wouldn't be the commercial, technical, and cultural hub that it is today if not for connectivity the airport provides. On the other hand, its installation and operation has had very real consequences for the local environment and the region's populace. 

Dr. Eric Porter, Professor of History, History of Consciousness, and Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, examines how San Francisco International came to be and the challenges it will face in a climate changing 21st century in his latest work, A People's History of SFO: The Making of the Bay Area and an Airport. Porter's connection to the topic is a personal one. "My grandfather worked as a skycap there beginning in the 1940s," Porter wrote in a recent UC Press blog. "Carrying white people’s luggage and the racial baggage that came with it was servile but good-paying work." 

University of California Press

Excerpted from A People's History of SFO: The Making of the Bay Area and an Airport by Eric Porter, published by University of California Press

The Politics of Jet Noise

As Black skycaps protested changes to their working conditions during the spring and summer of 1970, a different group of activists, largely white and operating primarily as homeowners rather than as workers, were engaged in their own SFO-focused struggle. The issue was jet noise, a long-standing nuisance that had become more unbearable as the airport grew and as environmentalists and government agencies deemed it a form of pollution that could have detrimental effects on human well-being. That November, after months of unsuccessfully lobbying airport and government officials for changes to SFO flight operations, thirty-two property owners from South San Francisco, a then largely white working- and middle-class suburb located northwest of the airport, filed claims with the San Francisco Airport Commission seeking compensation for the disruptions caused by jets taking off over their neighborhoods. The commission denied the claims, so the following February the South San Franciscans filed a $320,000 lawsuit ($10,000 per plaintiff) against the City and County of San Francisco on the grounds that jet noise had “diminished and damaged” the “reasonable use and quiet enjoyment of their property.” Subsequently, ten individuals from the tonier suburbs of Woodside and Portola Valley, located southeast of the airport, filed their own lawsuit, requesting the same per-person damages caused by noise from aircraft on approach to SFO.

These lawsuits, ultimately settled by the Airport Commission’s promise to institute a $5 million noise mitigation program, were among the many antinoise actions undertaken by outraged SFO neighbors following the introduction of jet aircraft to the facility in 1959. Their communities had grown in symbiotic relationship with SFO in ways physical, social, political, and economic. Jet sounds helped to compose their soundscapes, or acoustic environments, offering their inhabitants references through which they conceptualized and lived their urban experiences. The sounds oriented local residents toward the sky, providing a generalized sense of being urban, while also defining their relationships to SFO through the horizontal positioning of homes, workplaces, recreation sites, schools, and other places they inhabited in relation to takeoff and landing vectors and the facility itself.

How people experienced this relationship to place via jet sounds — whether positive, negative, or ambivalent—was affected by people’s proximity to such sounds, the frequency and duration of them, their relative audibility in relation to other components of the soundscape, and the social and political meanings they were conditioned over time to hear in them. When Bay Area residents heard jet sounds as “noise,” it was often simply because they were loud and profoundly disruptive. But at other moments jet noise was a more subjective, socially determined “unwanted sound.” Such determination happened, in part, as anthropologist Marina Peterson’s work on LAX and its environs helps us understand, because of what these insistent sounds had come to symbolize as they catalyzed relationships among an expanding ensemble of individuals and community groups; government officials, agencies, and regulations; activists and their organizations; scientists and other researchers; the airport and its operations; and a broad set of social, political, and economic forces.

Some local residents were willing to tolerate the noise. It was an inconvenience to be put up with in exchange for the benefits of living, working, or doing business near the airport. Noise itself, and the impunity to make it, might have signified the financial and political interests of airlines, airport officials, and other powerful interests, but these entities offered something (jobs, construction contracts, airport employee spending, convenient travel, and so on) in return. For others, however, this loud component of the soundscape signified differently on the pros and cons of living near the airport as well as on the relationships in which they were immersed. Jet noise, in other words, could be heard as a manifestation of the forms of power that defined the regional colonial present, and it raised the question of how local residents would live out their attachments to them.

Anti–jet noise activism by individuals, homeowner associations, political figures, environmental groups, and others around SFO usually reflected their relative degrees of privilege and aspiration as mostly white beneficiaries of accumulated colonial power in the region. Yet their activism simultaneously articulated critiques, explicit and implicit, of the ways elements of the power—economic, legal, bureaucratic, and so on—that lay behind the noise had diminished human thriving in the region more generally. Airport and local government officials, labor unions, and others who opposed, deflected, or sought to incorporate strategically the goals of these activists also expressed or otherwise engaged multiple forms of social, economic, and bureaucratic power while seeking to advance or protect their own accumulated interests.

The activists had some successes. SFO and its surrounding communities eventually became less noisy because of changes in aircraft technology (especially engine technology) and also because the FAA, airport operators, civic leaders, and others eventually started to listen to anti-noise activists and made significant efforts to mitigate jet noise. But jets continued to generate noise at and near SFO, and some people are still complaining about the problem today. Still, the history of antinoise activism around SFO—the version in this chapter runs from the late 1950s into the 1980s — is still worth exploring because it makes audible some of the complex ways that challenging and reproducing power in the mid- and late twentieth-century regional colonial present occurred through the synergies, conflicts, and missed opportunities for cooperation among largely white homeowner, environmentalist, and worker movements when they collided with SFO as manifestation of broader economic transformations and modes of governmental infrastructure development and resource stewardship.

• • •

Aircraft noise had been the subject of intermittent complaints in the Bay Area going back to the early days of aviation. Concern that loud air planes might depress real estate prices was among the factors that led to the shuttering of San Francisco’s early civilian airstrip in the Marina District. Noise was initially not a problem around Mills Field. Aircraft of the 1920s and 1930s were not terribly loud, and there was little residential development nearby. That began to change after World War II as commercial air operations at what became SFO increased, aircraft grew in size and sound-generating capability, and residential neighborhoods encroached upon the airport. As was the case elsewhere in the United States, growing local concern about airport noise dovetailed with fears of aircraft crashing into homes or businesses below, as happened near the Newark and Idlewild airports in late 1951 and early 1952. Two pre–jet age incidents of aircraft developing engine trouble after taking off over South San Francisco increased the level of anxiety about that community’s proximity to SFO in particular. Complaints, emanating primarily from five surrounding cities, grew exponentially with the arrival of jet aircraft in April 1959. Residents of San Bruno, Daly City, and, most vocally, South San Francisco were primarily affected by aircraft departing to the northwest from runway 28, oriented to allow aircraft to take off into the wind through the “gap” between San Bruno Mountain and the Santa Cruz Mountains. South San Franciscans formed neighborhood jet noise committees, but their complaints were often channeled through city councilman and later mayor Leo Ryan and City attorney John Noonan. The two officials began a dialogue with airport representatives, pilots, airlines, and federal officials about the coming jet noise problem in 1957, commissioned an engineer’s report on the matter, and stepped up their efforts after the jets arrived.

As complaints from South San Francisco increased, and as technological advancements permitted more takeoffs in crosswinds or slight tail winds, flights were shifted to the intersecting, perpendicular runway 1 in an effort to redistribute aircraft noise. This made things more difficult for residents of Millbrae and northeastern Burlingame and especially for those living in Bayside Manor, a Millbrae neighborhood established in 1943, across the Bayshore Freeway from the end of the runway. Bayside Manor residents were primarily affected by the “jet blast” (i.e., noise, vibration, and fumes) from aircraft as they began their takeoffs just seven hundred feet away from the edge of the development. Residents organized primarily through the Bayside Manor Improvement Association, formed in 1948, which had for several years been fighting the placement of industrial facilities on undeveloped land near their subdivision.

Local residents experienced a variety of dramatic and disruptive effects from jet engine-produced sound waves. According to a Millbrae woman, “We thought the old planes were bad enough. But jets are terrible. The house shakes, light bulbs burn out from the vibration, and we can’t hear TV programs when the planes are taking off.” People also complained about frightened and crying children, sleepless nights, distractions in schools, disrupted church and funeral services, interrupted in-person and telephone conversations, jumping phonograph needles, the inability to entertain outside, and actual physical damage to their property from sonic vibrations: cracked walls, stucco, chimneys, fire places, gas lines, and windows, as well as dishes breaking after falling from shelves. They worried about falling home values and about their physical and mental well-being. Some were exhausted. Others complained of headaches, earaches, temporary hearing loss, and other ailments. According to one petition, some South San Franciscans were “in a constant state of anxiety and have had to undergo medical treatment for nervous conditions said to have been induced by the noises created by the jet aircraft and the anxiety due to the passage of jet aircraft over their homes.”