Monday, April 26, 2010

Worshiping the Golden Cow

Having read the April 2010 EAA Sport Aviation Magazine, I wish to thank you, Mr. Melvill, for your editorial about EAA Oshkosh. Unfortunately, I fear success has blinded you to reality. Yes, EAA contributed to your success. And yes EAA contributed to Burt's success. But what amazes me is the willingness of those who have succeeded, like you, to abandon those attempting to do the same. Your blind cheerleading for the modern day EAA Airventure Oshkosh is one such example.

If you're unsure about what it is I'm speaking of, let me explain.  In paragraph five of your editorial ironically titled "Opportunity", you clearly state that your purchase of a set of plans from Burt, at Oshkosh, led to your 31 years of success, which includes the first manned private space flight.  Your career is undeniably amazing.  Yet what struck me as odd and perhaps disappointing was the lack of reflection about what really led to your success.  As you yourself said, with little emphasis, in the same paragraph, "He (Burt) was selling plans out of his plane on the flightline."  It is here that you mistakenly identified the subject, Oshkosh, instead of the spirit, grass roots members, as the launching point of your career.  But I believe it was that spirit, the one that supported designers selling plans from their planes on the flightline that led to your career.  And in case you've been too busy to notice, a person attempting to sell kits from their planes today gets a club to the head and an invitation from a foot soldier to pay up.

Knowing several people who know you personally and who've spoken well of you, I was surprised to see you abandon an opportunity to cheerlead for the little guys in aviation that you were once a part of.  Instead, you filled another Sport Aviation page with more of the same blind cheerleading for a once great organization that is now little more than the world's largest aviation event.  By this I am very perplexed.

Perhaps it was a bout of overwhelming sentimental reminiscing that allowed you to miss the true meaning of such an obvious milestone in your career.  If so, I hope in the future you will use your celebrity and influence to cheerlead for those people who may someday invent the future equivalent of Spaceship One, but today cannot afford the cost of opportunity at the event that changed your life.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mars Needs Engines

This is amazing.  While real, piloted aircraft folk complain and make excuses why things can't be done, modelers are building aircraft quality items and making a profit.  For years, pilots and builders have been saying we need something to take the place of Warner radials.  But I think we need new Warners built strictly for experimental use.  As time moves forward, I also believe more and more people are going to realize what I've been saying for years; that to keep old planes flying they will have to go experimental.  Shown here for evidence to support my argument, and to show the benefits of such a move is this video of this neat little forty some horsepower experimental engine produced for large scale models and sold for under ten grand.  This is proof that an engine like a Warner, built for the experimental market, could be manufactured and sold for under twenty grand.

Yeah, I know there will be nay-sayers, but the reality is that Warners are proven engines, we know where they need to be beefed up, and to build them for the experimental market would fill a terribly large void in the vintage and experimental powerplant market.  The fact that the type certificate holders continue to look for ways to build certified versions is sad.  If you're listening, get to building experimentals.  And for the rest of you, here's an example of what some folks are doing with this engine.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Relic From the Past

Lee Bottom Flying Field has been many things to many people through the years.  Be it barnstormer camp, crop duster field, salvage operation, or lumber mill, along the way every role managed to leave its mark.  Visit here enough and you'll eventually see that each reveals itself at a different time of the year.

When Summer is really hot and dry, the outline of the old cropduster barn on the south end of the field shows through as a lighter color green.   During winter, the location of the lumber mill sawdust pile that was here when Fritz moved in can be seen on the west side of the runway as a patch of thin brown grass.  There are many such things that you can see here, yet perhaps the most obvious is the evidence of the field's salvage yard history.

Each year, when Winter is over and Spring is just beginning, normal people change smoke detector batteries and change the time on their clocks.  We take evening walks to inspect the runway.  Inevitably though, these lead us to one area of the runway out of sight to most visitors.  There, before the vines retake the untraveled parts of the field, rusty bent aircraft parts from the past pierce the surface.  Used as landfill when the runway was widened, just about every kind of airplane you can imagine lies beneath.  Ever so often another part of a Waco, Stinson, Aeronca, or other aircraft shows itself.  This year, while on one of those walks, we found a nearly complete fuselage, twisted and broken, starting to show itself.  For the heck of it, we tugged and pulled until we got enough parts for the photos you see here.

Do you know what it is?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

UPS Seeking Unique Ways to Reduce Pilots

Fewer Pilots & More Flying                                                             
April 1, 2010
Commercial pilots have long known of UPS's affinity for hiring Air Force pilots.  Business leaders have long known of UPS's ability to cut costs to the bone.  Now though, a convergence of issues has UPS scrambling to keep its preference for the Air Force while at the same time reducing costs.  Their proposed solution is something long predicted but ignored by the masses.

When, as an airline, you find yourself running out of your favorite pilot candidates, you have two options; find a new group from which to hire or figure out a way to reduce the numbers you need.  Surprisingly though, the solution to this problem actually comes from the Air Force itself.

Recently, one of UPS's star management pilots, a previous Air Force officer, noticed an interesting trend while studying the same.  It seems the Air Force, in an effort to reduce costs and liability while maintaining the same number of airborne sorties, stumbled upon an unconventional solution.  Now, after only one year of campaigning for the implementation his idea, UPS has agreed to move forward with the plan.  What is it?

Well, sources have it that next year UPS will be the first large operator of commercial  aircraft to install the necessary systems required to operate its fleet of Airbus aircraft remotely.   Initially, remote "piloting" stations, enough to fly five Airbuses, will be installed and based in Louisville, KY.  With one year of operational experience under their belts, UPS will then offer the current pilot group a chance to take a reduction in pay or leave the company.

Insiders claim UPS has determined pilots not coming from the Air Force hiring pipeline would be the first to leave.  This would free up slots the company could fill with Air Force pilots who are known  to have an affinity for procedure and willingness to follow even the most foolish orders.  This would thus increase UPS's ability to further decrease costs.

The Mayor of Fritzville, a community close to UPS's Louisville headquarters, said when asked about the proposed solution "It will be great for our community. UPS has promised this will place five entry level and ten management positions on the community tax roles and we welcome them with open arms."

We think it's safe to say that commercial airline executives around the planet will be watching closely.  We also think that the First Day of the Fourth Month contributed heavily to this speculative article.