Staying Relevant as an Astronaut or Bus Driver

900px-Astronaut-EVAGlamor fades.  Whether it is the sun, radiation, or just the sum total of alcohol consumed by pilots, the trend is that we are on our way out.  And many of us don’t like such talk.  But this article on Sully and the Miracle on the Hudson really brought it home for me.  Learning years ago was harder since you had to do more of it yourself.  With a pen.  Or pencil.  And an E6B maybe.  Oh, and a watch.

The best quote from the article might have been: “Twenty-five years ago, we were a step below astronauts,” says one veteran pilot. “Now we’re a step above bus drivers. And the bus drivers have a better pension.” Continue reading Staying Relevant as an Astronaut or Bus Driver

Surfair Suffering from Convention

Pilatus_PC_12Revolution is tough without that disruptive nugget.  Not having that nugget has led Surfair to retreat into the conventional operation of what could have been a novel membership based system.  I’ve followed them since their birth since I’m no stranger to the concept of moving Pilatus PC-12s around with people in them whilst attempting to make money.  What was great about Surfair, is that they validated our own Grabajet aspirations that I had designed with my business partner.

Continue reading Surfair Suffering from Convention

The Way Flying Machines Should Look

X-48B_from_aboveAs a big fan of simplicity, biomimicry and a few other big words that designers and engineers throw around, I like to think of the reality of our current design paradigm as stuck.  Stuck with convention, regulation and conformity.  Leaving the herd makes it hard for us to imagine how things should move through the air if the herd weren’t so dogmatic about how an aircraft should look. But there’s good news.  Looking at what Boeing and NASA have done in the pure research realm of the X-48, you’ll notice a trend.  The cutting edge stuff (stealth bomber, etc.) is trending towards our friends the birds.

Continue reading The Way Flying Machines Should Look

Simulation for Management?

eddypilotLike Noam Chomsky, I’m not a huge fan of NPR, but when I do listen, I’m sure to put on my critical thinking hat in order to evaluate whether it’s leakage from mainstream media or something of actual value.  The news that the CEO of Yahoo was going to require all employees to come into work made me think of something odd about the dusty back corners of management in the global aviation industry.  It really is stuck in the 1950s. Continue reading Simulation for Management?

Rethinking Revenue

air-taxi-12One of the curses of private aviation start ups (the great air taxi revolution!) is the obvious – not enough utilization, not enough income and giant killer overhead. The dynamic between revenue and utilization is the simple reality that when both go up the fixed costs are less per flight, per hour, per passenger, etc. While this may be airplane economics 101 the landscape is littered with brave and smart people with vision who, in the words of someone in 2005, wanted to “darken the skies” with Eclipses. As we know, that didn’t happen, in large part because Dayjet, despite having the best minds and resources, didn’t happen. Continue reading Rethinking Revenue

Simulation is Risk Management

simulator_cae5000For those non-piloting / aviator readers, let me bring you into a little oddity about the FAA, and by extension the world in general. If the airplane you want to fly weighs more than 12,500 lbs. or has jet engines, you need to go to school for “it.”  Namely, your pilot licence has it “named” on your licence. It would be like your Maryland driver’s license saying “Toyota Camry – no restrictions.” (You can drive it alone!)  But, fear not, this is logical and a good thing, because when they get that big and complicated, you don’t want to be licensed on too many of them, at least not too many at once. Continue reading Simulation is Risk Management

Boeing’s 787, Batteries and Growing Up Fast

787-battery2-c-NTSBThe problem with new technology is that …. well… just so damn new all the time.  New, as in, you don’t recognize that battery running down the street.  Even though you thought you knew what a battery was, you actually don’t know enough about science stuff, like chemistry (and physics things, like ions) to realize you are using a new or dangerous battery that has little compartments (cells) that can actually fall off a potential energy cliff, set fire to their neighbors, and give you a fire, that, well… not even a certified aircraft can put out. Continue reading Boeing’s 787, Batteries and Growing Up Fast

Do Glass Cockpits Make Us Safer?

“Does glass make us safer?” is a nuanced question.  Yes and no you might say.  The subject caught my eye while reading this month’s BCA magazine.  (A related podcast here.) In the intelligence section there was a blurb on how the NTSB can’t correlate any improvement in safety stats with increased use of and prevalence of glass cockpits. This is a significant lesson for humans regarding our use of and approach to better technology: We are a greedy species.  We take, but find it hard to give. Continue reading Do Glass Cockpits Make Us Safer?