Lesson 2) It's Time for Me to Fly
Hello students, and welcome back! We have more regulatory conversations to have today, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy taking a look at how things tick. Plus, there is important information here for those of you that might want to get various licenses or permissions to do with magical air travel. To spice things up, we will be taking a slight field trip. No, not to the Ministry itself! I’m not sure there’s a salary high enough that would convince me to bring a flock of flighty First Years into the Ministry and supervise them! But I think we can do the next best thing. I won’t say exactly how. Let’s just say with a little help from the magic inherent in Hogwarts’ castle I can mimic what these various parts of the Ministry look like as we talk about them.
To do so, we’ll need to take a trip to the seventh floor. Hop to it everyone, we’ve got plenty of stairs and no time to waste! What do you mean you’ve just climbed down all those stairs to get here, Mr. Lornesse? Exercise is nothing to complain about!
Nothing like a bit of physical activity to get the blood pumping, hm? Now that we’re here, everyone file in, and we’ll get to our visual tour of the Ministry. Of course, we won’t be stopping in the atrium or perusing the Department of Mysteries today. We’ll be focusing our attention on the Department of Magical Transportation, which is a much larger department than some might guess. It is broken down into five different offices, divisions, or sub-departments. At the risk of getting too repetitive (as we’ll cover these all in detail shortly), these subgroups are the Apparition Test Centre, Broom Regulatory Control, the Floo Network Authority, the Office of Magical Motors, and the Portkey Office.
Each of these divisions has its own head, organizational system, and day-to-day functions, but the entire Department of Magical Transportation also has a head (and some additional staff) to help coordinate between the many groups. After all, if someone’s Apparition license has been suspended for reasons of forcible Side-Along Splinching, and they have been cited twice for attempting to make unauthorized Portkeys, this might have some bearing on whether or not they should be permitted to hook their house up to the Floo Network! The present Head of the Department of Magical Transportation is Wilda Prodd, who has called for some interesting modernifications and modifications in the last decade or so that she has been working here. Ah, but that will come up later. For now, let’s get down to business, shall we?
Apparition Test Centre
Now, we’re starting off with a bit of an exciting one. I imagine many of you wait with bated breath for the day that you’ll be able to get your Apparition License! Maybe some of you have older siblings who have already passed their tests. But for those of you who aren’t even sure what Apparition is, we’ll take a quick look at definitions. Apparition is the ability to disappear from one place and appear in another instantaneously using your magical ability. It’s something that will be covered in the mirror to this course that you’ll take as Seventh Years. And this is where the magic happens.
Well, I suppose not all of it happens here. This is more of the central hub of things. Normally, if we were in the real thing, this would be quite the bustling office as it would be full of examiners coming and going. While many examiners partner with accredited locations (like our very own Hogwarts) to perform tests and award licenses on site, one can go straight to the Ministry to get their Apparition license as well. For example, if one were to fail their first Apparition test, or wanted to get it earlier and not wait for the course at Hogwarts (and instead take it immediately upon coming of age), they would come here to take their test.
If you ever find yourself in that position, though, I recommend setting aside the whole day! The Apparition Test Centre often sees a hundred people in a day. And, as the tests are so involved and can only be performed one-on-one, each visit takes time. When you account for various license renewals, new licenses, and other related business, their (and your) day can be quickly taken up. The head of this particular department, Charity Dippet, is in charge of all this hubbub, and is fortunately quite a kind and patient person. At least in my day working in the Dept. of Magical Transportation, she was known to step in to help on busy days and buy a round of butterbeers for the occasional tea break.
Floo Network Authority
Next, if you look over here, we have the Floo Network Authority, which is the largest office. This is mainly because of the thousands upon thousands of fireplaces that, at any given time, may need to be connected, regulated, inspected, disconnected, or in some way serviced. This office deals primarily with requests to set up new fireplaces with the network (or reconnect old ones) and sees countless request forms daily. These forms take into account the location’s type (residence, business, millennia old magical institution, etc.) as well as what kind of area it’s in, the people that use the building, the number of fireplaces in said building already connected to the Floo Network, and that sort of thing.
But let’s not get bogged down in paperwork! I never preferred to, personally. Another key job here is that of the various maintenance workers. These persons are almost always in the field, responding to reports of faulty connections, or requests to test their service. You don’t want to be anywhere near here on a full Moon, students, I can assure you of that. On one particular time, I remember Mercury was also in retrograde… it was quite the mess. Dropped connections, accidental connections to non-established fireplaces, incidents where someone who meant to Floo to Kensington, but ended up in Kalamazoo! Everyone was working overtime for weeks afterward to get everything reconnected correctly! The head at the time (and to this day) is Vlad Harpis, who I’m positive aged ten years in those few weeks.
Only three more to go! Time just flies by, doesn’t it? If you all come over here, we’ll see the castle’s representation of the Portkey Office. It’s a rather small office, but don’t let its size fool you; a lot goes on here! It is the job of those here to set up, approve, and monitor Portkey creation and use.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of requests for Portkey creation in any given year. These range from private use (which are much harder to get approved) to Portkeys used in coordinating transportation to international events. Government-requested Portkeys are not as difficult to get approved, but all who would like to legally create a Portkey must fill out several pages of forms and wait for permission before doing so (or, more likely, asking the Portkey specialists to create one for them). Ah, I see some sidelong glances there. I hope no one is thinking of attempting to make their own, homemade (and unapproved) Portkeys! Not only is it dreadfully dangerous should you muck things up, but the Portkey Office has a monitoring system to rival even the Hit Wizards of MACUSA! If spells similar to those involved in creating a Portkey are used, they’ll know who, what, where, and what you were wearing in about two seconds flat. Understandably, they will not be terribly pleased with you either and you’ll almost certainly face some consequences (such as a fine, wand restrictions, or even some time in confinement) depending on your record, age, and other factors. The person in charge of running this well-oiled machine is Evanora Peregrine, and she does not mess about with matters of her department, I assure you
The Office of Magical Motors
Second-to-last we have the smallest, newest, and most confusing office. Still, it’s a very necessary one as I’m sure you will all agree once we’re done. This department was created just a short while ago in 2015, at the insistence of the department head, Wilda Prodd. Many agree that this addition to the Department of Magical Transportation was well overdue. As you may be able to guess, this office deals with any forms of wizarding transportation that bridge the gap between magical and Muggle. This includes the fleet of company cars the Ministry boasts, the Hogwarts Express, and any other privately-owned magical methods of transportation with motors.
While magical cars haven’t been terribly popular with the mainstream witch or wizard, the convenience of the automobile has proven difficult to ignore, and wizardkind is slowly latching onto the idea of making their own improvements to the machine. Other than monitoring (and, in some cases, maintaining) the motor-having transport, this office has one main function: approving the development of magical motorized transport. Any persons wanting to create a magical vehicle with a motor must be sure to file the appropriate paperwork here to obtain a permit. As you can imagine, they work quite closely with the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office for obvious reasons. While I’m not very familiar with this sub-department, as it was instituted after my time, I have heard that recently a permit has been given out to Flyte and Barker, a racing broom company, to begin preliminary development of a magical airplane! Can you imagine?
Broom Regulatory Control
Finally we come to a very familiar sight for me… though it looks much emptier without its staff! This is Broom Regulatory Control. This is the main stop of our journey today, as it is the office that, obviously, is in charge of brooms and their riders. Though, truthfully, all flying devices are technically regulated through this department, not just brooms. Magical creatures like Thestrals or Aethonans overlap with the Department for the Care and Regulation of Magical Creatures, and flying carpets (or other unlawfully enchanted items) also go through the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, but generally speaking, this department serves as the catch-all for all enchanted flight. So, rules apply whether you’ve (unwisely) enchanted a stick in your backyard, if you’ve got a magicked toboggan, or whether you’re flying a top-of-the-line Nimbus.
So, what exactly does this office regulate? Quite a few things, actually. It’s in charge of the production of brooms by magical corporations, the sale and distribution of brooms by various vendors, and (most importantly to us today), the regulation of broom flight by the average citizen of the United Kingdom. But just what about your flying adventures do they regulate, you might be wondering. While some believe we should have speed restrictions (what with the top speed of average family brooms climbing ever higher), up until this point it hasn’t been necessary, as few people take their Thunderbolts out to the shops to pick up some leech juice.
Instead, we have height limits. No, not a rule that says we can’t go too high, but a rule that we can’t go too low. If you plan to do any recreational flying in non-magical or mixed areas, you’ll need to learn to eyeball heights. In magical areas (regardless of how heavily populated) there is no regulation, as long as you are not doing anything unsafe. This can be as small as your own personal property (as long as it’s not bordered by Muggle homes in a certain radius), or as large as the entire wizarding village of Hogsmeade.
Once we introduce Muggles into the mix, it gets more complicated. In lightly populated areas that are not all-magical, the general rule of thumb is to fly at least 300 meters above the ground. In more densely populated areas, particularly large cities, this height is increased to a range of 500 to 550 meters above ground. No, city-dwelling Muggles don’t have better eyesight. Perhaps some of you should take Muggle Studies when it’s offered! The reason for this change in elevation is because of the height that many city buildings (specifically skyscrapers) can reach. The average skyscraper is about 250 meters tall, which means persons on the top floors of these buildings would be able to see broom-goers with little trouble. If the change in heights confuses you, think of it more simply, you want to be about 300 meters up from the tallest Muggle. Of course, flying over large cities is more problematic in general and is usually discouraged unless an alternate route is unrealistic or impossible due to weather, geography, or extenuating circumstances.
If you are spotted by Muggles while flying, Broom Regulatory Control will issue your family (as you are currently minors) a ticket for low flying and any other necessary warnings. Multiple tickets or infractions may necessitate a broom ban (and more fines, of course), but I’m sure none of your parents would ever let things get so bad in their households! Other things can earn you tickets as well, such as flying into a creature sanctuary without permission, loading more than the approved number of riders onto a broom, and reckless flying, but low flying is by far the most common infraction.
Phew, that ends our “tour” of the Department of Magical Transportation today! I hope it was a good mix of interesting and informative -- and I certainly hope I don’t hear of any of my students committing infractions! I still have many contacts in Broom Regulatory Control and I assure you, you don’t want to be on my naughty list. If you’ve forgotten, I hold the key to all the spare brooms at Hogwarts, officiate all Quidditch matches, and have the memory of an Augurey!
Ah, but enough of that! I’m sure all of you are well on the way to being safe fliers. To review what we covered this week, we’ll have a quick quiz as well as an assignment (which will not apply to everyone) that gives you the opportunity to come clean about any flying tickets you (or your family on your behalf) have already received. Next week, we’ll get to look at the development of brooms and various models both past and present. We’ll even have some props to look at. If you play your cards right, you may just get to hold an actual Thunderbolt!