Thursday, April 22, 2010

Color me surprised. Not.

The AP is reporting the new computer system required for the FAA's NexGen air traffic control system are having problems.

Two things:

1. I've yet to see an automated system perform as intended the first time out. So, this is neither a shock nor critical to its ultimate success.

2. The FAA has an abysmal track record with new computer systems for the ATC function. We haven't heard the end of this one.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


According to Steve Benen:

"...Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) announced that she will refuse to allow the Senate to even begin a debate on [...] reform. Collins met with [...] about the bill, but told reporters after the meeting that unless the bill is 'bipartisan,' she will reject an effort to begin consideration of the legislation on the Senate floor. What kind of substantive changes does Collins have in mind that would convince her to let the Senate at least start debating the bill? She hasn't said."

Haven't we seen this movie?

I guess I picked the wrong week to give up those mushrooms...


Monday, April 19, 2010

Aviation Journalism 101

Comes now this piece on the Fox Business Channel's Web site, discussing the wisdom of and policy regarding carrying a large proportion of an organization's management on one flight. This is in the aftermath of the April 10 crash outside Smolensk, Russia, which killed many top leaders in the Polish government.

Conspicuously absent from the piece is any comment from the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the organization serving that industry segment.

The NBAA has many well-defined, suggested policies its member companies may adopt, one of which addresses carrying top management on a single airplane. Too bad FBC couldn't be bothered to to track down the industry experts for comment.


(cross-posted to UCAP Fodder)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Under pressure

I've refrained from posting on the April 10, 2010, crash of a Tupolev Tu-154 outside Smolensk, Russia, killing all aboard including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife mainly because I've been busy with other stuff. Some thoughts:

1. The Russian investigation is continuing. The all-important data recorders have been formally turned over to Polish authorities.

2. Early word from, apparently, the cockpit voice recorder suggests there was no pressure from the passengers to get into the destination airport.

3. Air traffic control apparently warned the flightcrew about the weather.

4. The crash occurred on the flightcrew's fourth attempt to land. The Tu-154, a Soviet version of Boeing's venerable 727, contacted trees short of the runway and broke up.

This is a classic case of "getthereitis," a situation wherein there is pressure, real or imagined, to complete the flight to the preferred destination. While no one from the back of the plane may have told the cockpit to get into Smolensk, you can bet the crew felt some pressure to do so.

The airport at Smolensk reportedly does not have a precision instrument approach (ILS). Instead, the crew was flying an unspecified non-precision procedure, probably an NDB, given the location. Non-precision approaches are reliable when properly flown, but they're not designed nor intended to enable a landing when the airport is totally obscured by weather.

Lessons? None with which the aviation industry is not already familiar:

1. Don't succumb to pressure -- real or imagined -- to do something against your best judgment while in an airplane.

2. The time-honored practice of taking a look -- attempting an approach when the reported weather is below its minimum altitude, visibility or both -- is only a good choice if/when you have the discipline to fly the procedure and then evaluate the conditions you encountered and make an intelligent decision.

3. WRT to 2., no one knows at this time -- maybe the CVR/FDR readouts will shed light -- whether the crew saw enough of the airport environment to make additional attempts.

4. My rule of thumb: Taking a look is fine, as long as an honest evaluation of the results is made. If I screwed up the first approach and know what I did wrong and am positive I can fix it on the second attempt, I'll make a second attempt. If not, I'll go somewhere else. If I screw up the second attempt, I'll go somewhere else. Never are more than two bites at the apple appropriate.

There's simply no excuse for a professional flight crew -- which we have to assume this was, since it was flying seemingly the entire top echelon of the Polish government -- to make four attempts to land at this location.

A final thought: Never place all the important people on the same airplane at the same time.


Red Bull racer down

Red Bull rookie Adilson Kindlemann splashed his ride while practicing for the upcoming race in Perth, Australia. Minor injuries; the airplane's condition is unknown.

Everyone is crediting the unbelievably quick response by first responders with the favorable outcome.

According to the Red Bull Air Race Web site, Kindlemann's MXS-R contacted the water "with his wings level and tail first." Interesting...


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Grand unified theory of politics

First, read this:

"...who are you better than?"

Then, read this:


This concludes today's lesson...


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"I'll hit the brakes, he'll fly right by."

See, here's the problem: McCain's basic ability to understand new technological developments ended about the time he got shot down over North Vietnam (e.g., perhaps he never got a briefing on the enemy's anti-aircraft capabilities). Thus, he's missed the whole video "thing" and the fact some kinds of cameras can actually record moving pictures, along with audio. And the results can be played back repeatedly, and distributed widely.

Other than having cranked up the hackitude to 11, how else can this nonsense be explained?

Hopefully, J.D. Hayworth can put us out of our collective misery, but that would only lead to another six years of wingnut wholesomeness from Arizona.

Why this man even wants to go out in public by now is a mystery.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch...

BarbinMD links to a Matt Miller piece on how "seemingly well-adjusted Republicans have been driven insane by the passage of Obamacare." Putting aside the cognitive dissonance involving "well-adjusted Republicans," it's always interesting to see the innate bankruptcy of Rethuglican policies acknowledged in the WaPo.

Miller focuses on HCR's aftermath and how it supposedly is causing GOP introspection, disorientation and anger. Disorientation, perhaps (after all, they haven't lost a legislative battle this big in some time) as well as anger (I'd be pissed, too, if all my political beliefs were lies) but I don't see the introspection. Perhaps among some Rethuglicans, but I'd suggest those guilty of such aren't *really* in the GOP. Instead, they're most likely rightist indies who got there by refusing to embrace their inner Al Gore and still cling to the GOP's underpants gnome economic theories and policies.

Anyway, I don't for a minute think the GOP's current funk will result in anything a) long-term or, b) useful in confronting significant policy challenges. Would that they were jumping out of windows, though someone would be forced to clean up the mess.

It's always interesting when supposedly intelligent commentators lend Rethuglicans anthropomorphic qualities they simply don't possess.