Thursday, March 30, 2006

No More "Illegals"

Will Be Discussed Here For a While...

Instead, I'm going to cool my jets on illegals and immigration and just soak up this series. Looks like they will be 'must reads'.
Hat Tip: Powerline

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Rabble Roused, Spanish-Language Film at 11

Or “There Oughta Be a Law

I have zero knowledge of this area of law, so I have to ask: Is there a clause (or something) in the requirements to have an FCC license concerning a broadcaster’s responsibilities to operate in the public good? What about a clause concerning political activism? – Any ‘equal time’ provisions for issues like those for political candidates?

I don’t believe there is a clause in either case, but surely it is illegal for broadcasters to promote subversion of federal laws? Is ‘contributing to the delinquency of a minor’ only a crime when it involves one minor? If not, what is the penalty for contributing to the delinquency of thousands of minors?

What are the broadcasters’ and schools’ civil liabilities when minors experience harm after being urged into committing truancy?

The school systems won’t support the civil disobedience after they wake up and see they’re losing their federal AIS (A** in Seat) funds every day the seats are empty. But what is the motivation for a broadcaster to stop attempting subversion?

Carrot or Stick – It doesn’t matter, but there needs to be something that requires operators to behave in a civilized manner as a condition of their broadcast license.

And if it’s not too much trouble, we obviously need to increase the minimum school requirements and budget for civics and government classes. These poor kids need help!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration: Walls, Processes and Defense in Depth

I think that Arnold Kling, with whom I generally agree with and defer to on most things economic, doesn’t quite get the point, economic or otherwise, on the illegal immigration issue. Either that or he wrote his TCS Daily article yesterday in fit of passion and untypical haste. He wrote a particularly wandering paragraph (second one):
I believe that illegal immigrants bring relatively little economic benefit and cause relatively little economic harm.

Well, to the best of my research and knowledge, we don’t have any real data (only ideas , indications, extrapolations, and suspicions), so I don’t think we have a good enough handle on the true scale and/or impact of the issue to state categorically either way. After this whiff, he then quite aptly zeroes in 'right on target' in the next few sentences:
I believe that there are substitutes readily available for the work done by illegal immigrants. Legal residents could do some of the work. Other labor could be replaced by capital or by alternative production techniques.
Which is pretty consistent with my (and others) belief that ‘doing the jobs Americans won’t’ is a canard. But he then closes the paragraph way 'out there' with:
By the same token, because there are many substitutes available for unskilled labor, the salvation of American workers does not lie in immigration restrictions.
From my perspective, there’s couple of key things wrong with this statement.

First, the economic issue isn’t about ‘the salvation of American workers’ so much as extracting maximum efficiency out of the economy, AKA that ‘labor could be replaced by capital or by alternative production techniques’ thing he mentioned earlier.

Second, characterizing control of immigration as ‘immigration restrictions’ is a very negative and oversimplified caricature of the objective: to diminish or eliminate ILLEGAL and therefore UNCONTROLLED entry of aliens into this country. No sane adherents to the ‘anti-illegals’ side of the debate that I have spoken with, read about, or even heard of, wants to eliminate or restrict LEGAL immigration, so the ‘restrictions’ in Dr. Kling’s sentence can only mean ‘illegal immigration’ (man, I hate that term – immigration by definition is a process with legal and citizenship implications, otherwise you’re just ‘traveling around’).

Of course, beside the control our borders for economic security that provides us with more economic ‘certainty’, there is an equal or superior reason to do so for national security purposes at any time. In a time of war, the security aspect of controlling the borders should be paramount.

Dr. Kling presents an argument against controlling the border by hammering on the idea of a border fence:
A strong border would provide, at best, a false sense of security. We could have a perfect fence along the border with Mexico and still suffer a major terror attack, even from legal citizensI am not saying that the security benefit of a fence would be zero. However, the benefit would be very low, and a reasonable guess is that the benefit would be far below the "opportunity cost" of deploying those resources on other security measures..

If this was all that we would do: build a wall and go home, Dr. Kling and some equally wrong bloggers would be very correct: it would be a “fixed fortifications are man’s monument….” example.

But this is not the case. Since building a ‘continuous’ wall is only one option, and since building some sort of actual wall is not the only thing we would do, Dr. Kling’s ‘fence’ (in whatever form it takes) would be part of a system of measures that would control the threat in a defense in depth. Marry the physical deterrents of a fence and related measures with those Dr. Kling proposes and others, and you are talking real security.

And the Number One Reason to Increase Control of the Borders is....
Probably the nail in the coffin for any argument against controlling the illegals coming into the country that doesn’t involve increased control of the borders is this: it’s been tried for years and it hasn’t worked so far. Let’s start immigration reform by controlling the borders, we can finish it using any tool Dr. Kling suggests.

A personal nit: Dr. Kling’s statement “We could have a perfect fence along the border with Mexico and still suffer a major terror attack, even from legal citizens” is akin to saying “I won’t get accidental death insurance because I might die from a disease”. For years, I would go ‘rounds’ with people on security measures (no questions concerning what we were protecting please, they won’t be answered) that were designed to comply with various classification requirements. Some measures were put in place to protect against inadvertent disclosures to John Q. Public. Some measures were to ensure the smallest possible dissemination of minor operational details so people working ‘near’ the activity but not briefed on the activity could not learn anything meaningful about that activity over time. Some were designed to prevent an ‘adversary’ from gaining information through direct, active, means. Dilettantes would always challenge me, “Why do we do this? It doesn’t protect against that!” To which I would have to respond with ‘Yes, but this third thing over here protects against that and this protects against that other thing.

It’s amazing how many people have a hard time grasping that in security, like a lot of other things, it takes more than one tool to do the whole job.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Stated More Seriously.....

This is a fair summary of my opinion concerning immigration. I have been privileged to have known and served with many who have come “here in good faith”.

"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."
Theodore Roosevelt
3 January, 1919, in a letter just before his death

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Well, We Know Where We Should Start Checking for Green Cards


Honestly, I don't care where you come from or what you look like. But I do care if you are here legally or not.

If you're here legally, WELCOME!

Now just learn and speak English, walk and drive on 'the right', set an example for the dumb natives by using your turn indicators, don't jaywalk, and accept the basic idea that everybody has a right to do whatever they want as long as they don't impose on anyone else....and we'll get along just fine!

If you're here illegally, or knowingly hire illegals: turn yourself in to the authorities! Then we can afford to increase the rate we can accept more law-abiding immigrants(the kind we need and want) into our country.

One More Reason I Avoid Flying on Airbus Aircraft

Yesterday, the NTSB issued a letter (PDF file here) recommending inspection of all Airbus A-300 series aircraft, because during an investigation into a maintenance event where a FedEx Airbus was damaged, they also "found a substantial area of disbonding between the inner skin of the composite rudder surface and the honeycomb core".

This is alarming given what happened in a precursor ‘Air Transat’ event also described in the letter. Airbus had already responded to the earlier event by issuing ‘mandatory’ (non-regulatory, but required to maintain warranty compliance) inspection requirements to all Airbus operators. After this FedEx incident, Airbus issued more of this type of inspection requirements in the form of All Operator Telexes (AOTs).

Aircraft manufacturers and regulatory agencies work very hard to keep air transportation safe, and these kind of actions that require operators to look at their fleets are quite common. What distresses me in this case is the NTSB’s unhappiness with certain aspects of Airbus’ course of action (bold emphasis mine).
Although the Safety Board concurs with the procedures outlined in AOTs A300-55A6042, A310-55A2043, A330-55A3036, and A340-55A403 dated March 2, 2006, it is concerned that allowing an undetected hydraulic-fluid-induced disbond to exist for 500 flights, without supporting analysis or tests to better understand the safety risks, is unacceptable.
The NTSB thus recommends to the FAA that they:
Require that all operators of Airbus A-300 series airplanes immediately comply, with Airbus All Operators Telexes (AOT) A300-55A6042, A310-55A2043, A330-55A3036, and A340-55A403 dated March 2, 2006. Any disbonding to the rudder skins that occurs in the presence of hydraulic fluid contamination should be repaired or the rudder should be replaced as soon as possible, well before the 2,500 flights specified in the AOTs. (A-06-27) Urgent[.]

Establish a repetitive inspection interval for Airbus premodification 8827 rudders until a terminating action is developed. The interval should be well below 2,500 flights. (A-06-28).
If this was an isolated problem, I wouldn’t be too concerned. However, Airbus' attitudes towards their history of composites failures (the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 587 is referenced anecdotally in the NTSB letter, and IMHO there are still unanswered design questions related to the vertical stabilizer shearing off), and Airbus’ PR machine minimizing the importance of last month’s load test failure of their new jumbo A380 wing, speaks volumes about their design, manufacture, and business culture.
The possibility that Airbus might not have what I would call the 'proper' commercial aircraft design culture first popped up on my radar in 1988 when, during an air show, a software vs. test pilot conflict turned an airliner into an enormous hedge clipper. There were a lot of irregularities surrounding the event including powerful evidence that cockpit recorders were tampered with by Airbus, possibly with direct government support. Events since then have only reinforced my opinion that Airbus does not have a mature commercial aviation culture that can reliably design, much less produce the kind of airplanes I want to fly in.
Bottom Line: Composites are a relatively new (compared to sheetmetal) technology that is still evolving rapidly: they require extra caution in determining safety, NOT less. And I want a Human Brain Release 1.0, with a Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeball making the final decisions in the cockpit, because that person has the same stake in the outcome as I do as a passenger. Let computers assist, not argue with the pilot.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Press Still Looking for a Quagmire!

As it has been mentioned elsewhere, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld gave the press a zinger yesterday:
"If you believe everything you read in Maureen Dowd, you better get a life."
But that wasn’t the best part of the press conference as far as I was concerned. It started when Secretary Rumsfeld had this to say about our ongoing military operations:

They're doing that. And as they continue to take on more and more responsibility, the United States will be able to reduce its troops.
No…He wasn’t talking about Iraq or Afghanistan. Here’s the comment with more meat around it:
Well, you're correct, the South Korean government has raised the question as to when might it be appropriate to transfer responsibility to the Korean command. And that is something that gets discussed. And no time has been set. Everyone agrees that 55 years after the war, it's reasonable that the South Korean forces would increasingly take on more and more responsibility. They're doing that. And as they continue to take on more and more responsibility, the United States will be able to reduce its troops. And one would hope that we -- we, the United States and the South Korean government, would do what we do at a pace and in a manner that would not inject an instability into the Korean peninsula. And I'm confident we will not inject an instability into the peninsula.
The very next exchange was (sadly) predictable:
Q: So within this year you will be able to start?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no. I don't at all.

Q: South Korean President Roh wants to --

SEC. RUMSFELD: I don't think that's correct. I could be wrong. I haven't read everything he's said. But my impression is that the discussions I've had with the Korean minister, and the cable traffic I've seen, is that they want the subject raised, which we do too; we think that's just fine, and then we'd set about a path to see that the South Korean military evolves into a position where it would be appropriate for them to have that control.

And you know, how many -- what period of time that might be is not something that's been determined, because it's partly a function of the pace at which the South Korean government is going to be able to investments and increase their capabilities in a way that they could assume that responsibility. But it's something we both agree is desirable.
So…the concept of ‘no timetable’ isn’t just a mental block that members of the press have when it comes to Iraq and the War on Terror: They are just too dense to even grasp the general concept.

Secretary Rumsfeld has the patience of Job.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Military Deaths: Ops Tempo NOT Force Size is the Driver

Visiting Instapundit after work, I came across an item that I couldn’t pass up without adding my two cents. Glenn Reynolds picked up a story at Redstate (Lies, Damn Lies, and (MSM) Statistics) that pointed out how small the differences were between total military deaths during President Bush’s first term and those that occurred during various administrations when there was relative peace. Instapundit later updated the post with a comment from a reader that pointed out the relative size of the services has changed so a direct number comparison was inappropriate.

But I submit the real driver is not either numbers or necessarily ‘war’, although war would be considered a subset of the real driver: Ops Tempo. Another subset is ‘training’ which is mentioned in the Red State piece. But there are other aspects to Ops Tempo: it is all the things that add up to the rate at which the military ‘does its job’. Just going to work for a lot of specialties is extremely hazardous, either due to the environment or the tasks required. One would be hard pressed to find a career Airman in either of my old specialties (both involving explosives and flight test) that could not cite a specific event during their service where someone died in the line of duty. Most could relate a close experience of their own when asked.

We have a smaller, leaner, and meaner military, but when used at a higher Ops Tempo we break things and wear them out faster. Those ‘things’ include people.
If I have a fleet of cars, but never drive them I’ll never get in a wreck. If I have 2000 paratroopers, but they never jump out of airplanes I’ll never lose any in a jump.If I have 20 paratroopers that jump every day, none of them could buy life insurance at any price.

All other things being equal, when one has a smaller military doing now the same amount of work as a larger military once did, one should have at least as many death-producing situations in the smaller military: it just means any single individual runs a higher probability of being one of the casualties when the pool is smaller. If we are using the new smaller military MORE than the old larger military (and we are), I would expect to see much higher raw numbers of deaths than we see in the data.

We are riding the military, both Active and Reserve, hard and putting them away wet at this necessary Ops Tempo, and for that you can thank the Clinton Administration: especially Les Aspin and his “Bottom Up Review” that drew down the military to dangerously low levels given our national security needs and commitments.

I know this sounds cold-blooded discussing the topic this way, and stats makes most people go catatonic, but somebody has to think about these things.

To eliminate some confusion (my fault no doubt), please note that I stated "...war would be considered a subset of the real driver: Ops Tempo." My point is that whatever the military is engaged in, if they are operating at a high Ops Tempo, the risks are greater than those at a low Ops Tempo. Given the nature of the activities now, the relatively low casualty (killed and wounded) numbers is better than I would have expected to find. The ratio of wounded to killed is higher than in years past for a lot of reasons, the most obvious being better medical protocols and capabilities. But the total number is still remarkably low, though the MSM and professional dissenters would have you think differently.

The unspoken (so far) dynamic is the effect of the enemy's Ops Tempo. Does anyone think they wouldn't hit us harder than they have been if they could step up operations against us? They would (and will if we let them). Right now, I think if we added people to the theater, the number of non-combat deaths would go up faster than the number of combat deaths. We'd be giving the enemy more targets to select from, but they can (and do) only hit so many at a given time.

This only scratches the surface of the dynamics involved, but let's move on to happier topics. I have too many friends and loved ones still subject to getting CENTCOM assignments to dwell on this stuff for very long.

Blogging, ‘Off Line’

…..and behind the scenes as it were

I’ve been blogging light this week for two reasons. First, I’m working very long days and my Daughter’s High School Soccer Team is in the playoffs (Huzzah!) so work and family take priority. Second, I’m dissecting Cobra II (the book NOT the car) by Michael R. Gordon and retired Marine Lt Gen Bernard E. Trainor (Authors of The General’s War) and hope to provide comment on the book, the book launch at CSIS, and what may be some of the driving forces behind the publication very soon. Let’s just say that while there appeared to be no real political agenda that drove The General’s War, it looks like there’s a few characters out there that have uses for Cobra II beyond its recording of military history.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Stupid Pirate Tricks Part II

Well the Navy released the first of the photos from the USS Cape St George's and USS Gonzalez' run-in with Somali pirates. I know they're still calling them 'suspected' pirates, but tell me this: what use are these to fishermen 25 miles out from land?

Now, I favor heavy a heavy line with a medium tippet and fly when I go fishing. I wonder how far those 'fishermen' could cast using one of these? Maybe they would surround the fish in their skiffs and lob RPGs into balled schools and kind of shock them like Uncle Bubba Al-Salaam used to do in the old days with dynamite and carbide bombs?

Naw.... I don't buy into any of that 'fishermen' crap. And from the looks of things, the Navy didn't either.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Stupid Pirate Tricks

Remember the pirate attack on the Seabourn Spirit? After the event made world headlines the UN asked all navies operating near Somalia to aggressively work against piracy in the area.

According to this AP report , at about dawn today the USS Cape St. George and the USS Gonzalez intercepted a 30-foot fishing vessel towing several smaller craft about 25 miles off the coast of Somalia and attempted a ‘routine’ boarding. The ‘fishing vessel’ seemed to take exception to the effort and opened up with gunfire on the US ships. This was...a bad idea. If even the smallest of the two US warships accidentaly ran over a 30-foot boat, they might not even notice it. The graphic below illustrates the relative size of the Gonzalez and the 'fishing' boat (that little red spot).

The pirates, including several wounded, were taken into custody. There were no US casualties.

If pictures are forthcoming from the Navy, I’ll link to them in an update.

Well Done Cape St George and Gonzalez!

I would be remiss if I did not at least point out in passing that the Somalian piracy problem is just another legacy of the Clinton Administration's cut-and-run action after the 'Black Hawk Down' travesty.

A side note of interest. The Serbian propaganda machine claimed the Serbs had sunk the USS Gonzalez during the Kosovo crisis (incredibly, a link is still available here). I wonder how they explained it when the Gonzalez made port there in 1993(

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FAA Changes Improve Air Taxi Prospects

An article from yesterday includes the following:

...“WAAS-equipped commercial operators will gain access to Category 1 equivalent approach services at qualifying airports where there are no instrument landing systems. This will result in improved safety, including enhanced approach and landing operations in marginal weather.”
WAAS was originally intended to provide Cat 1 precision approach capability and a 200ft decision height. Current WAAS procedures support approaches down to 250ft

As noted in an earlier post, the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) and Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) initiatives are part of a broad effort to expand the utility of underutilized airports. This latest WAAS development is one more step to opening up those airports for future Air Taxi (and other) purposes.

Iconic Shorthand

To save time and space, and more importantly, to stop having to repeat the same dry information in front of regulars while I bring new visitors up to speed, I’m going to implement a little shorthand. I’ll be using icons at the start of each post to quickly identify which (if any) Elements of National Power are most relevant. If someone wants to question the reference in a comment, that’s OK, I just don’t want to have to go through the whys and wherefores every single time.

BTW: At this moment, I have no idea if this blog has received any browsers that are not either a friend, invited reviewer, or a relative. I’ve asked some of my friends and relatives to give me their comments offline and am tweaking my approach to ‘doing’ this site largely based upon their inputs.

Here are the Elements of Power icons:

Military: I picked the B-2 because the AK-47 with bayonet doesn’t shrink down very well at web resolutions .

Economic: Symbol of my currency of choice: the Dollar. I would have liked to also have included symbols for the Yen and British Pound, but that made the icon too busy.

Cultural: This was toughest to decide upon, because all the really good stuff doesn’t shrink down very well. But I settled on using a Celtic Knot as a good representation of a culture, and since I’m of mostly Celtic descent, I figured "why (k)not?".

People silhouettes. Self explanatory.

Organizational: The ‘Org’ chart (What Else?)

Geographical: Easy one: a map.

UPDATE: I had to modify this post to cut down the number of graphics- Blogger seems to limit me somewhat in this area.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Debbie Stabenow: Your "Unhinged Dem o' the Day"

Dang! Tim Chapman over at beat me to it....

Alternative Caption: "Let's see Feingold Top This Bonehead Move!

First question that came to my mind was: Is there a viable challenger or something?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Lunatic Hunting (Camera Safari Style-no Violence)

I admit it.

I have a secret (no more) Internet hobby.

Whenever I find someone on the web that is so outrageous, so over the top, so gone over the edge...I want to know more about them. What are they like when they aren't blowing up over some perceived injustice? Are they descended from Hippies or Communists? What do they do for a living, that lets them crap out a comments area in response to posts on our favorite blogs, when most of us are at work and don't have time to screw around 9-5? Where do they live that is so far away from the corner of Reality and Rational that they can't even find it on a map?

I found another one today. You see, Power Line got a love letter from a Mr. Henry Lowe of Michigan:

You are a traitor of the highest order, and should be tried and executed.
You hate freedom and democracy, the concept of open government and a free press.
And it goes downhill from there.

Hmmmm…... Henry Lowe.....
That kind of vituperative bile isn’t built in a day AND it usually means a good spoor trail, so....Shhhh!...
Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m moonbat hunting… ha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a

Aaannnnd…my Google-powered BDS detector comes through again. Mr. Lowe appears to be a multi-faceted individual (if my forensic writing skills are holding up). This might not be the same guy...but I doubt it. What are the chances of having two like-minded self-revealing idiots with the same name and fixations in one place...even in Michigan?

1. He seems to be a 'Patriot'!

You sons-of-bitches are traitors to this country and real soldiers everywhere. John Kerry served his country in Vietnam and that bitch George w. Bush hid in Texas drinking, doping and partying yet you support him. Kiss all of my entire *** you dumb assed right wing cult members!!!

2. A Communicator!
American sign language is a foreign language," Lowe said. "You don't take the speaker's words verbatim and turn them into signals. ... It has its own system of syntax and structure."
Facial expressions and body language are an integral part.
"You want to be as visual as possible," he said.
Outside the school, Lowe has signed for musicals at the Fisher Theatre in Detroit, concerts by groups such as The Temptations and The Righteous Brothers, and speeches by Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

3. An Activist!
Fort Gratiot resident Henry Lowe, a high school instructor, told the crowd the Bush administration was "hyper-aggressive," secretive and hypocritical. He said that wasn't what the United States was about.

"Our America fights only when provoked," he said
4. and a Newspaperman!
[He seems to have been (at least until recently) part of the Port Huron TimesHerald Editorial Board.]

If one followed the Power Line link to Mr Lowe's letter, the similarities in language, tone, and obsessions between what Power Line received and some of the other links would certainly support my case that I have located my objective.

Now I usually file the knowledge away,let it go, and move on afterwards: but the post he left on the Vietnam Vets Against Kerry site compels me to issue forth some choice words for Mr Lowe:

First-From the accompanying photos at the link in #2, it is obvious there aren't any lips in the world big enough to kiss all of your "entire ***" as you request in #1. However my size 10 combat boots would be willing to dance on it upon request. Shouldn't take more than 2-3 days to get it all.

Second- As to the 'fights only when provoked' comment. How much provocation do you need? After all we were still in a state of war with Saddam. You may have heard about it, y'see there were these things called no-fly zones.....

Third-Is the school district you work for aware of your anger-management problems?

VLJs and Air Taxis: The Contenders

While the net number of platforms seems to be growing on the list of contenders, I’ll focus on only what I see as the three most viable at this time: The Eclipse 500, the Cessna Mustang, and the Adam 700. Some of the other possibilities could warrant more consideration very soon.

This post will compare aircraft design and performance, and acquisition costs. Sometime later, posts will explore some of the less glamorous but no less important aspects of the designs: often referred to as the ‘ilities’ and in still later posts I plan on giving an appraisal of the major “players” as well as some high-level observations concerning possible Air Taxi operational concepts.

The Aircraft: Eclipse, Cessna & Adam

Assuming that all the designs ‘fly right’ and there are no handling abberations associated with any of the aircraft, there are three ‘most important’ VLJ contender performance design elements to evaluate: structure, propulsion, and avionics.

Structure. An evaluation of the contenders from Eclipse, Cessna and Adam pretty much cover all the salient factors (‘Marketeer’ hair-splitting aside) that would apply to any other contenders, as these three manufacturers’ offerings represent all the key discriminating technical approaches in areas of airframe, propulsion, and avionics.

The Eclipse 500 and Cessna Citation Mustang are both conventional wing-body-tail configurations, while the Adam 700 is a twin-boom design (see graphic). The Eclipse and the Cessna are optimized designs tailored for their target range/payload specifications, while the Adam is a follow-on design optimized for maximum commonality with another version of otherwise basically the same aircraft, the Adam 500. The Adam’s planform was originally designed as a twin propeller-driven aircraft with one engine in front and another at the back of the center fuselage, commonly called a ‘push-pull’ arrangement. The primary advantage to the Adam’s planform in the prop version is there are no asymmetrical thrust or adverse yaw problems encountered in single engine-out scenarios.

The Adam is (by a nose) the largest (dimensionally) of the three designs and is of all-composite construction. The Cessna and the Eclipse are of primarily sheet-metal construction, although the Eclipse makes use of new technology that greatly reduces labor-intensive rivet construction techniques. The weights for the Adam and the Cessna are not yet ‘published’ from what I can determine, but the Cessna is supposed to be approaching 8000 lbs gross weight and the Adam 700 should be the same or heavier than the Adam 500’s 6500 lbs. The smaller Eclipse 500’s much lighter maximum takeoff weight is now expected to come in at family’ as the Cessna Mustang’s engines, although rated at a slightly lower thrust than the Cessna’s. This might also indicate a slightly better reliability for the Eclipse engines, if the major differences between the two thrust ratings boil down to how hard P&WC works the same components: differences in operating temperatures and associated stresses can cause different failure rates and modes.

The Adam 700 uses a Williams FJ33 engine. The FJ33 is not closely related to the Williams FJ22 engine that was a setback for Eclipse, but the FJ33 design is closely related to the well-respected Williams FJ44 engines now flying on many other aircraft including larger Cessna business jets.

Avionics. All three aircraft use the latest generation of avionics. Adam is teamed with Avidyne and utilizes their most advanced system available. Cessna uses a Garmin avionics suite, with one of the best display configurations I’ve seen in any non-military aircraft. Eclipse is employing a highly-integrated system from Avio.

While I cannot tell from the material available how integrated the systems are on the Cessna or the Adam, the Eclipse’s “Avio” system reaches far beyond traditional avionics capabilities. This is not at all surprising, since one of the three key tech goals of the Eclipse has all along been to field just such a system that takes a lot of the workload off the pilot/crew and enhances aircraft safety. The “Avio” is the product of a partnership involving Avidyne, BAE Systems and General Dynamics that:

“ designed to replace nearly 30 individual boxes with 4 identical chassis units. Its major components are the electric power distribution system and the aircraft integrated electronics unit (AIEU) with dual FADEC channels, dual 3-axis autopilot and autothrottles."

The level of integration in Eclipse’s approach is getting into the territory more common to advanced fighter avionics design than people-haulers.

It is no secret that aircraft companies tend to obscure or highlight their performance data to put on their best face for potential customers. This is not necessarily deviousness on the part of manufacturers, but it is at least partially due to the fungible nature of aircraft performance. That is to say, unless two aircraft were designed to meet exactly the same specifications, one really can’t compare the two and state objectively if one is better than the other. Each is different with different strengths. Combine this fact with the reality that the customer rarely knows exactly what they need or what would be best for their operation and you get statements of performance data couched in vague enough terms and in various different ways, as to make most direct comparisons impossible. For example, aircraft range will be specified without all-important supporting information, such as with how many ‘people on board’ or what the total payload weight was or without the “fuel consumed” data. Unreal planning factors such as an average passenger weight of 150 lbs, accompanied by a trivial amount of baggage, or something equally un-“real world” may be given in the marketing pitches.

Eclipse is a remarkable exception to the rule in that not only has it been famously transparent in their development progress, but also in characterizing their claimed and forecasted performance data. Adam Aircraft I would gauge as the second most transparent: they present some data; probably a reasonable amount, given the ambiguities they still have to resolve in their final design and test stages. I would assess Cessna the least transparent of all, as they require interested parties to contact their staff if they are doing some comparison shopping.

Since all of the jets use latest generation technology optimized to some degree for the same flight regimes, some basic assumptions about performance can be made with relatively low risk of significant error. In their respective and equivalent design-optimized cruise altitudes, the lighter jet will generally have the lowest fuel consumption and highest cruise speeds. This would seem to give an edge to the Eclipse, and indeed, the cruise speed at altitude for the Eclipse is significantly higher (375Kts) versus approximately 340Kts for the other two aircraft.

In the Eclipse’s payload ‘sweetspot’ (pilot plus three passengers) it appears the Eclipse also has longer range and better fuel economy than the others. Economically, the Adam 700 may have some significant advantage at shorter ranges with higher passenger load factors.

This is an easy topic, because one thing aircraft manufacturers will usually tell you eventually is the price. [The hard part to figure out later is: what is the ‘Life-Cycle Cost’ vs. Utility that yields the ‘Value’ – the real bottom line.]

Straight out of the box, the Eclipse is the least expensive plane to acquire. in ‘June 2006’ dollars, the Cessna is projected to cost $2.623M, the Adam 700: $2.284M, and the Eclipse: $1.495M.

If the Eclipse 500 meets a buyer’s overall needs, it would take a lot of comparative savings in recurring costs for the other two aircraft to overtake the Eclipse’s substantial edge in acquisistion costs, to be competitive in a total life cycle cost comparison. But that is another post for another time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Air Taxis -- The Players

As one might surmise, this topic grew to what will now be three total follow-on postings. I am working on the (hopefully) last installment that will highlight some of the major players among both the VLJ manufacturers and contenders among the Air Taxi Operators, as well as some speculation on my part as to what yet may happen in the chaos that the new market for both will generate.

~Sigh~ After reading this post, I'll probably have to do this in at least two more installments.

In my OJT in blogging here, I'm learning a lot of different things. One of them is don't predict how many posts it will take to cover a subject. The other is, just because you know something very well, it doesn't mean you can quickly find all the references you need to have to backup what you write. Learning IS a lifelong endeavor after all!

The Air Taxi: Disruptive Innovation Part B

Continuing with the Air Taxi Discussion...

Next-generation Air Taxi operators will be using VLJs with significantly lower acquisition and operating costs. If the kind of sales volume appears as predicted by optimists, the acquisition costs will be even lower. At published estimate numbers (now cached), the range of direct operating costs per aircraft flight mile vary (depending on how and what one calculates) from approximately $.60 to $1.10 per mile. At these rates, an Air Taxi could charge 4 passengers each the equivalent of a government rate for using a personal car and make between 60% to almost 200% gross profit per trip.

One “Per Seat On Demand” business model uses the assumption that the prices for a seat on an Air Taxi would be only slightly higher than equivalent coach fares, and when total costs of an overnight stay in a hotel and additional car rental charges are factored into the equation, the total trip cost would be less than using the airlines – if they were even available for the same trip segment. If one has to take a longer commercial flight due to airline system route design, the Air Taxi flights might become cheaper no matter how they are weighted.

At the forecasted cost of ownership levels, the Air Taxi’s biggest competition might be from more companies creating their own flight operations activities that would both compete for production output from the VLJ manufacturers and take passengers away from the market.

Factors Working Against Air Taxi Success
In every business sector, entrenched interests have a stake in maintaining the status quo, and to operate within the known business rules and environment. When disruptive innovations introduce new ‘unknowns’ into the environment, these unknowns add perceived risk (real or not) that the established players tend to reflexively react to, in an effort to protect their established interests. Their first instinct is almost always to protect the status quo, instead of evaluating the innovation for exploitation. The Air Taxi concept appears to have triggered such a reaction within the air transport industry.

There has been an ongoing effort for some time by the Air Transport Association (ATA) – think “Airlines” - to offload some of their costs onto the General Aviation community, under the false flag of ‘fairness’, and that effort seems to have been redoubled as the VLJs and Air Taxi concepts move toward reality. The ATA and others can be expected to use many false rationales (safety is a good scary one) and sound an increasingly shrill alarm, but I could write many pages and not do as good of a job exploding the vested interests arguments as this article here. I can only expand upon Mr. Rayburn’s last comment:

The airlines will not recognise that we offer a tremendous opportunity for them to grow. We are not going to take passengers away; we are going to create passengers who will fly to get to the airlines. We are about the best thing that could happen to them.

Airlines: Adapt or Die
The airlines are at a point in their existence where they have to ask the same kind of questions that the railroads in this country had to ask themselves a few years ago. The railroads thought they were in the ‘railroad business’ like the airlines think they are in the ‘airline business’… and the railroads were going out of business (sound familiar?)

What the railroads finally figured out is that they were in the ‘transportation business’ and then they worked hard to integrate themselves with the other modes of transportation where it made sense and gave up markets where they couldn’t make money. This is why you now see many trains completely composed of engines pulling rail cars specifically designed to carry stand alone or semi-trailer container systems; container systems that had been bypassing them on the highways and had been driving them out of business. Embracing the change and competition saved the railroads. How long will it take for the airlines to also divine that they are in the ‘transportation business’?

While the ATA seems to be firing the first shots at the Air Taxi industry, I believe it is only a matter of time before the major labor groups and hub airport operators become more vocal on the subject.

The Air Taxi: Disruptive Innovation

The emerging Air Taxi transport concept has the potential to revolutionize the air transportation industry. This revolution will be driven by highly-disruptive innovations that leverage new technologies that make new operating concepts feasible. While some existing Air Taxi operators are positioning themselves to be market players in the new paradigm, to compete against more agile entrants they may be forced to reinvent themselves to ensure their continued existence.

A Solution for the National Transportation System Aerospace Element
The National Transportation System (NTS) includes Airfields and Airways, roads and highways, as well as waterborne, and railway transportation. It even includes pipelines. In short, any means or method to move goods and services from one point to another is part of the NTS. The roots of the emergent Air Taxi concept is found in results of studies conducted in the 1990’s, which revealed a need to add capacity to the existing Air Transport System element of the NTS to support continuing national objectives (economic growth, improved distribution of goods and services).

Current Air Transport Capability Woefully Underutilized
The studies found there was underutilization of smaller regional and community airports that were already part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems. These studies also showed that there was huge untapped potential for using the existing airspace and airports beyond the current paradigm relying on commercial airline hub-and-spoke operations for the near total movement of passengers. The hub-and-spoke system is designed to make things as efficient as possible for the airlines to move aircraft from place to place, and is not the most efficient way to move the passengers riding those planes from their starting point to their ‘final destinations’.

While nearly all Americans live within 20 miles of more than 3000 airports that are part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, only about 600 of those airports have scheduled commercial air service, and 70% of all air travel involves just 31 ‘hub’ airports. Thus, most trips are not point-to-point under the current system. Unless your travel is a single direct flight, you are traveling farther than you really need to go, and taking longer to get there than absolutely necessary.

1. the time it takes to get to or from one of the relatively few airports with scheduled commercial flights,
2. extended layovers (think Chicago’s O’Hare in January) or
3. impacts to the national system when a critical hub is closed for some reason affecting flight dispatches a thousand miles away,
and the equation for the best travel method can change dramatically.

[As an egregious example of the last point, I have personally sat at a gate in sunny Burbank, California waiting for flights to clear out of Salt Lake City, Utah that were waiting for flights to depart O’Hare, that were waiting for Northeast airports to open up after a snowstorm the night before.]

While as one might suspect the choice of transport method for taking trips is based upon individual traveler’s value judgment, the choice of ‘fly or drive’ tends to fall towards flying as the distance between departure and arrival points grows. Since September 11, 2001, and the subsequent changes to airport and airline procedures, the equation seems to be shifting to driving even longer distances instead of taking a scheduled flight. The Air Transport Association (subscription required link here) notes that:

…the U.S. Inspector General's January 2004 report shows that turboprop flights to small airports declined 41% between December 2000 and December 2003. McElroy cited another factor: "We continue to see reduced travel on 300-mi. routes and believe it's due to a change in the 'fly versus drive' equation. Due to security procedures and corporate travel budget changes, many people are driving when they could be, and used to be, flying.

The creation and implementation of the Air Taxi market, whereby hundreds or thousands of VLJs carry one to ‘a few’ passengers point-to-point between thousands of airports is to air transportation, what building more interstate highways and adding lanes to all existing interstates would be to motor vehicle transportation.

Factors Working for Air Taxi Success
Success of the Air Taxi concept rests in their ability to make travel more efficient and economical. This ability will depend upon several technology developments, some of which have already been accomplished or have had critical breakthroughs

As an outgrowth from the original studies, NASA and other agencies started a series of initiatives to make increased use of smaller aircraft and smaller airports feasible. One of these initiatives was the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) which focused on maturing needed technologies: on-board computing, advanced flight controls, improved “Highway-in-the-Sky” displays for improved operator situational awareness, and automated air traffic separation and sequencing. The SATS proof-of-concept program concluded with a successful demonstration in June, 2005, but other initiatives are moving forward as part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) and are part of the overall long-range strategic planning by the Department of Transportation.

Continued next post....

Like I Said: Oscar Ratings

I wonder how bad it would have been without a new MC?

From Reuters:

Sunday night's broadcast, hosted for the first time by comedian Jon Stewart, drew an average household rating of 27.1 percent, which would be the lowest percentage of homes that has tuned into the Academy Awards since 2003, according to data Nielsen collected in the 55 largest U.S. TV markets

Yeah, I know: wasn't much of a stretch. But when I figure out what makes women tick, you will all bow down to me! (Insert evil laugh here)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Hollywood Self-Love: Oscar Who?

Hollywood's Assault On Culture will Tank

Here's a prediction that I don't think is too much of a stretch: The Oscar ratings will be lousy. The ratings won't be as bad as they could have been since they have some new blood this time around in Jon Stewart, but they will still stink.

The lack of blockbusters this year, and the apparent requirement to promote alternative lifestyles, demonize the West, or otherwise thumb a metaphorical nose at American culture just to be nominated these days, has generate little positive buzz and even less revenue.

MSN has a list of 'ten reasons' to watch the Acadamy Awards. Notice none of them is "to see which popular movie that took America by storm wins Best Picture".

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Eclipse Starts Production

Talk about a dynamic environment! Here's some news to chew on until I finish my more complete posting on the subject: Yesterday, Eclipse Aviation began the first production version of the Eclipse 500. See the article here.

Note the skepticism of the 'Aviation consultant' concerning Air Taxis. It reveals a fairly typical point-of-view of many in the established aerospace industry. One of the posts I'm working on now will provide quite a bit of evidence that such skepticism is, while understandable given history to-date, it is unfounded given the forces that are shaping the future.