Thursday, June 21, 2007

Let's Get Ready To Rumble

THIS is a huge development in the fight to keep the Air Transport Association from taking defacto control of future air travel and our skies. It is now formally a battle between the dinosaurs and mammals.

Will the entrenched Airline/Airport/Bureaucracy Bloc be able to stem the free market tide and prevent disruptive technology from changing air travel, or will they be forced to adapt or die?

Should be interesting to follow the PR battles.

I'm betting on the most agile in the long run: be they among the most evolved dinosaurs or the strongest mammals.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Father's Day Dad

A Pic of My Dad (on the left) in 1958. This is one of the prototype (YH-40 #7) Iroquois "Hueys" on a layover at Bell Helicopter coming back from desert testing and on the way back to Fort Rucker. Dad flew on a lot of the exotic Army helos of the 'nifty-fifties', including all of the Huey prototypes, the U.S.'s first (a Boeing or Lockheed bird-I can't find the pic right now)[Correction 10/25/09- finally found the pic. it was a (should'a known)Sikorsky YH-39] and first U.S. production turbine helicopters (Kaman), and he even survived a hairy in-flight emergency on a prototype Cessna helicopter (I know, I had never heard of one either until he told me about it).

At the time of the photo, he was an 'old' Spec 2, having already done a hitch as a Navy 'plane captain' on PB-4Y anti-submarine warfare aircraft (a flying job in those days) over the Gulf of Mexico during the Korean War (looking for Russkie diesel subs, I guess-kidding! Corpus Christie was a training base) .
About two years after this photo Dad would be out of the Army (Spec 5 pay didn't cover the necessities of a family of 6-going-to-7) and shortly thereafter he would start a career as a "go-to" Tech Rep for Lycoming Gas Turbines: travelling the globe to keep food on the table for what would eventually become a family of eight. His travels included spending most of 1965-eve of '69 (my formative teen years) in Vietnam. He was home most of the time between 69-72 straightening me out. I'm sure his thumbprint is still on my back... and Thank God it is because Heaven knows I needed it.

I remember first seeing this picture a few years ago - right after my Dad passed away. As the oldest of six kids my mind's eye view of my parents is as they were when they were younger and this photo best captures how I will always remember Dad. He had two natural stances his whole life: this one and "Parade Rest".

I didn't think much about the other gentlemen in the photo until my Mom casually mentioned a month or so ago that Dad sure 'loved flying with that pilot'. Well, that got my attention fast. Dad was not too generous with praise when it came to pilots and there were very few he would ever say he 'loved' flying with, so I tried to find out more about the CWO pilot on the right.

The pilot's name is Cliff Turvey, and it was easy enough to find information about him. He was the Army Aviator of the Year in 1959 and was awarded the DFC for some of his flying on the Huey Test Program. He retired as a Major. I made contact with one of his sons, who wrote to tell me Maj. Turvey did one tour of Vietnam and was awarded a second DFC to boot. Like a lot of military pilots, after he retired, he never flew again.

I wonder now if Dad ran into him 'in-country'. I know, I know -- it was a big place and there were a lot of Helo pilots. But there were very few Lycoming Tech Reps, and Dad actually ran into a lot of guys from his early days in the Army. He was based out of wherever the biggest number of helos might be found, so he was usually living in a tent with the (and became "beloved" to him) First Air Cav, but travelled anywhere a helo powertrain might need some TLC.

IMHO, these guys are the 'original' Air Assault Troopers.


Happy Father's Day Dad!
(updated 7/19/07 to correct some poor sentence structure and clarify some points)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

An Open Letter to Trent Lott

Senator Lott,

Caught your
statements today on the Senate floor regarding the "Amnesty" bill.

You obviously care more about the harmony of your little "Club Senate" than perpetuating the Civilization that IS these United States.

I will be contributing to the election campaigns of only two Republicans for certain next time around. The beneficiaries will be John Cornyn and whoever runs against you in the primaries.

I will not be alone.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Windmill Advocates Tilting at Critics

AKA Bird Cuisinarts Part II (Part 1 Here)

Hat Tip: Instapundit

The numbers below, attributed to the National Research Council have been presented as representing the breakdown of major ‘anthropogenic causes’ of bird deaths, are now flying (no pun intended) around the World Wide Web:

Domestic cats: Hundreds of millions a year
Striking high-tension lines: 130 million - 1 billion a year
Striking buildings: 97 million to 976 million a year
Cars: 80 million a year
Toxic chemicals: 72 million
Striking communications towers: 4 to 50 million a year
Wind turbines: 20,000 to 37,000

How unfortunate.

Unfortunate, because at first look these numbers could be nothing more than, in a word, “crap”. It is particularly unfortunate because to realize they are crap, all one has to do is to simply cogitate for a moment on the numbers as they are presented:

Doesn’t the first number (‘Domestic Cats’) appear particularly vague to the reader? It looks very much like “somebody’s” obvious WAG (Wild A** Guess). Think about it. The expression used represents any number between 200,000,000 and 999,999,999 dead birds. Isn’t that a little ‘broad’ of a number to have come from any meaningful and conclusive research?

About the second, third, and sixth (Striking High-Tension Lines, Buildings, and Communications Towers) numbers : see anything perplexing about the ranges offered? Exactly what should one conclude about any estimate that spans an entire order of magnitude? Think about it - there is enough uncertainty in the numbers provided to consider the very high probability that whoever gathered this ‘information’ didn’t have enough data to actually determine the real numbers. Heck, they couldn’t even determine the scale of the deaths due to these causes.

The fourth ‘cause’ listed is suspect given the weapon (Cars) and the geographical size of the ‘crime scene’ (Roads). Accepting the 80 Million number as a convenient ‘round-off’, how was the data collected and estimate formed? There’s an awfully lot of cars to follow, with thousands and thousands of miles of roads cutting through untold numbers of different ecosystems and bird populations to factor into any estimate. Full Disclosure: I admit I may have been a little more skeptical than some concerning this number, due to my exposure to my Grandfather’s stirring tales of observing and auditing game bird population survey lunacies in Jackson County, Oregon.

Toxic Chemicals. Hmmph.
Nice number. 72 million. Not 70, not 75. Seventy Two.

Fairly specific for a causality :
1. that doesn’t always kill at the point of exposure,
2. with a victim that for what must be an overwhelmingly large, yet unquantifiable percentage of the time probably isn’t even found or subject to a post mortem,
3. with a verifiable sample population that has the cause of death assessed by someone who might be in their line of work due to their inspiration by Rachael Carlson. (my personal skepticism coming out here)

There's not enough evidence to throw out this number without further review by a long-shot I know, but it is definitely a number I would want to investigate before I accepted it much less repeated.

Wind Turbines. A realistic ‘appearing’ range anyway, but from my anecdotal experience it seems..ahem… low. Also given the ‘study’ purpose, might the research have just a 'slight' windmill bias?

Don’t Take My Word For It -- Take the Source's Word For It.
Well I know these numbers are crap, and normally I wouldn’t even bother to investigate how the crap was created in the first place. I would just take the position that if someone else thought I was wrong, then they could go try and prove it. But this information was easy enough get: it comes from the ‘study’ that provided it in the first place. From Pages 50 and 51:

The authors immediately after this admission attempt to make a case that the numbers are still meaningful, but their logic is severely undercut by their own later descriptions of what they see as needed for future research and by what is in their summary at the end. Also, if anyone bothers to read this report/study they should note the authors devote a lot of attention to the far less cute but no less threatened bats. For some reason, there is not just the same outcry over that equally important part of the ecosystem.

So, why don’t we just build us some nice clean nuclear power plants, instead of clogging up our landscapes and seascapes with these ugly windmills, hmmmm?

On a personal note:
1. I’m still waiting for somebody to do an in-depth analysis of the Wind Energy industry’s waste stream.
2. It chaps my cheeks to be on the same side as Teddy Kennedy on any subject, even if he’s on the right side for the wrong reasons.