Proof that you can make money using my blog as an investment guide…

… just do the opposite of whatever I’m bullish about.

Me: Two-thirds full airline idea (12/23/2019)

Me: Coronavirus will breathe life into my two-thirds-full airline idea? (3/23/2020)

“What Delta’s Big Bet on Blocking Middle Seats Means for Flying” (Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2021):

The last U.S. airline with this policy has lost fliers to carriers with looser rules—here’s why Delta is holding out for now

The grand experiment of blocking the middle seat on airplanes has proved what we have known all along about air travel: More people care about a cheap fare than comfort, or even pandemic safety.

The bottom line for Delta during the pandemic has been bigger losses than rival airlines selling all their seats. Delta was the most profitable U.S. airline in the final six months of 2019. That flipped during the pandemic. In the last six months of 2020, Delta had the biggest losses, with a net loss of more than $6 billion, greater than United and Southwest combined.

Even with state governors telling people that coronavirus was so dangerous that we should close schools and have children stay home to get fat and stupid, close society and have adults stay home to get fat, drunk, opioid-addicted, and stupid, and imprison/fine people for breaking a variety of rules that were apparently in conflict with the First Amendment right to assemble, consumers decided that coronavirus was not dangerous enough to be avoided by paying a little more for an airline ticket (and getting a much more luxurious experience as well).

One of the harbors in Hilton Head, South Carolina where you can keep the yacht that you buy after acting (after reversing the sign) on my advice:

Full post, including comments

The Brave New World of Human-carrying Drones will have the same dashboard as the old world

“Joby Picks Garmin G3000 For eVTOL” (Avweb) suggests that the exciting new world of drones, which I hope will have enough software intelligence to prevent flying into obstacles (see New York helicopter crash: why not robot intelligence? and Aviation weather reports at the time of Kobe Bryant crash), will have the same dashboard as today’s business jets: a Garmin G3000 (seemingly way more complex than it needs to be).

I’m wondering if this will extend the life of traditional flight schools using traditional trainer airplanes and helicopters. If a lot of our skills translate into the Super Drone world (I’m hopeful that “eVTOL” is not the final term for this category of aircraft), perhaps folks with standard pilot certificates will still have a role to play.

Here’s what the G3000 looks like inside a Cirrus Vision Jet (three touch screens on the bottom that control the two non-touch screens on top):

Full post, including comments

Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet impressions

A beginner jet pilot owns a Cirrus SF50 G2 and this report is based on two flights with him.

Best news first: as on the SR22, the air conditioning is awesome! This is the ultimate machine for Florida and Texas.

The visibility is great from the front and back seats, much better than in a typical bizjet. The windows are huge and the panel is compact. Cirrus media photo:

On the other hand, it is almost impossible to take pictures out of the front with an iPhone due to the fact that the autofocus system gets confused by a coating inside the windows and thinks that the subject (at infinity) is just a few inches away. Here’s the multi-function display, one of two big screens. See if you can find, amidst the clutter, how much fuel is left!

Do you care about the amps going into each battery during normal operations in which both generators are running smoothly? How about fuel? Do you care how many gallons are in each tank? If you said “I care the same about battery amps and fuel” then the Garmin G3000 is the system for you! These items are presented at the same size in the same color with the same prominence.

The automation philosophy is like nothing one would ever find outside of aviation. For example, the probe heat is limited to 5 minutes on the ground. The aircraft knows whether it is flying and should be able to guess whether it is taxiing out to fly. Why can’t the probe heat come on automatically, maybe with an annunciator, when the airplane is getting close to the runway? And then turn itself off after landing?

The airplane is ripe for Asiana 214-style confusion about who is responsible for doing what. There is an autopilot. There is an autothrottle (confusion about which was a prime cause of the Asiana 214 crash). The panel looks more or less the same, however, in the following states: (1) pilot is doing everything, (2) pilot is being given a flight director suggestion about aircraft attitude, (3) autopilot is flying, but pilot is responsible for setting engine power, (4) autopilot is flying and the magic computer systems are responsible for setting engine power. There are, of course, subtle text and graphic cues to distinguish these four modes, but they’re not strong. In the picture above, for example, we were on autothrottle, but the percent thrust meter doesn’t say anything about that.

If I were going to design a similar system, I would make the stuff for which the computer was responsible turn gray (even the PFD would mostly be gray during autopilot ops!). The fuel state would be prominently displayed while the normal-operation engine/electrical gauges would be subdued/hidden.

Vibration is minimal compared to a piston-powered aircraft or a turboprop. Noise isn’t so bad in the front with noise-canceling headsets, but our rear passenger, a Cirrus SR22 renter, said that he was “surprised” as how noisy it was sitting right under the engine.

The slide-o-rama seats are awesome. If you’re used to yoga-class-for-the-old-and-fat, as in the PC-12 and all of the bizjets with pedestals, you’ll appreciate that the Vision Jet is by far the easiest jet for getting in and out of the pilot seats.

Rumor has it that a slightly heavier long-range version of the Vision Jet is in the works. At that point it is tough to understand why someone would want to buy a TBM (longer range, similar speed and altitude capability; higher price).

Full post, including comments

Kobe Bryant crash: NTSB says that it was all the pilot’s fault

From a year ago… Aviation weather reports at the time of Kobe Bryant crash:

Assuming that it was bad weather that led to this accident, the engineering question is “Why couldn’t the $10 million helicopter fly itself away from obstacles, the way that a $400 DJI drone can?”

A Sikorsky is equipped with multiple computer-readable attitude sources so that the onboard processors know whether the machine is pitched or banked. It has multiple GPS position sensors so it knows where it is. It has at least one terrain database so it knows where the obstacles are. It has autopilot servos capable of maneuvering the aircraft. Why doesn’t it have the intelligence to say “You’re about to hit something, would you like me to take over and fly away from these obstacles and park on the ramp at the Van Nuys Airtel so that we can all relax?”

From 2019… New York helicopter crash: why not robot intelligence?

Thus we have a machine with autopilot servos that can manipulate cyclic and collective. The machine came with a glass cockpit so it also should have at least two digital attitude sources (whether the helicopter is pitched up, banked left, etc.). Finally, it almost surely had a GPS receiver and a digital terrain database, which would have included the obstacles of Manhattan.

Media coverage centered on the pilot’s lack of an instrument rating (example: CNN). (In fact, being capable of instrument flight does not help that much unless one is actually planning an IFR flight from airport to airport with established procedures for departure and approach/landing.)

Nobody seems to have asked “If it had autopilot servos, attitude sources, and a GPS, why couldn’t a $10 million helicopter fly itself through the low clouds, away from the buildings, and to the destination? A DJI drone would have been able to do that.”

We expect so much of our phones and so little from our aircraft!

The NTSB issued “Pilot’s Poor Decision Making, Spatial Disorientation, Led to Fatal Helicopter Crash” yesterday:

“Unfortunately, we continue to see these same issues influence poor decision making among otherwise experienced pilots in aviation crashes,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “Had this pilot not succumbed to the pressures he placed on himself to continue the flight into adverse weather, it is likely this accident would not have happened. A robust safety management system can help operators like Island Express provide the support their pilots need to help them resist such very real pressures.”

The solution to the age-old problem of scud-running, in other words, is a bureaucrat with a safety management document, not a few lines of DJI-style code.

A 2006 photo from a Robinson R44 helicopter (picking it up at the factory and flying back to Boston). The LA freeways are easy to follow, but they climb up towards the clouds whenever there is a ridge.

Meanwhile, the “supersized DJI” world got a boost this week as United ordered eVTOL aircraft from “Archer” (not Piper Archers!).

Full post, including comments

COVID for the rich at Super Bowl LV?

The Super Bowl promises to be as jammed as ever. I recently received an email offering tickets starting at $5,500 per seat. (I explained this concept to the kids, noting that it would cost as much for our family to attend than to purchase a nice new car. The 5-year-old almost never is exposed to broadcast television, but still managed to respond “We could watch it on TV for free.”)

Isn’t there a risk of COVID spreading in the stadium, which holds between 65,618 and 75,000?

Looks as though climate change activist Bill Gates’s investment in Signature Flight Support (supplier of jet fuel for the world’s Gulfstream owners) will be secure. Even this year, the expectation is for half of the world’s private jets to converge on a few airports. Email from the FAA…

A reservation program to facilitate ground services at the following Tampa Bay area airports will be in effect Feb. 3 – 9, 2021. Pilots should contact the Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at their airport to obtain reservations and additional information.

  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
  • Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL)
  • St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)

Special air traffic procedures to minimize air traffic delays and enhance safety will be in effect for the following airports:

  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE)
  • Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL)
  • Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (SRQ)
  • Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport (BKV)
  • Tampa Executive Airport (VDF)
  • Clearwater Airpark (CLW)
  • Pilot Country Airport (X05)
  • Albert Whitted Airport (SPG)
  • Zephyrhills Municipal Airport (ZPH)
  • Peter O. Knight Airport (TPF)
  • Tampa North Aero Park (X39)
  • Plant City Airport (PCM)
  • Bartow Executive Airport (BOW)
  • Winter Haven Regional Airport (GIF)
  • South Lakeland Airport (X49)
  • Venice Municipal Airport (VNC)


Full post, including comments

Portsmouth, New Hampshire and home (coastal aerial photos)

Readers will be relieved to learn that this is the last in the series of New Hampshire and Maine coastal aerial photos. This batch goes from Portsmouth, New Hampshire over the rich kids’ Phillips Academy Andover and to our home base, East Coast Aero Club at Hanscom Field.

From our Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine trip in a Robinson R44 helicopter. Tony Cammarata was in back with a door removed and a Nikon D850. Instrument student Vince Dorow and I were flying.

Also available as a streaming 8K video.

Thanks to Rob Brigham and the ECAC maintenance crew for a squawk-free helicopter trip!

Full post, including comments

Know Your Audience: the masked helicopter pilot

A post in a helicopter pilots’ group: “Pandemic times” over the following photo.

Nobody came up with my preferred reaction (“You have to say global pandemic”). Sampling of the responses:

  • That is utterly retarded……
  • Whenever I see an aircraft several thousand feet above me, my first thought is always “wonder if they’re being good commies and effing wearing their slave costumes way up there by themselves…”
  • I get free IFR time whenever I have to fly with a mask and glasses
Full post, including comments

Aerial Photos of Portland, Maine

Portland again!

More importantly, after borrowing a car from the good folks at MAC Jets, lobster rolls downtown:

From our Boston to Bar Harbor, Maine trip in a Robinson R44 helicopter. Tony Cammarata was in back with a door removed and a Nikon D850. Instrument student Vince Dorow and I were flying.

Also available as a streaming 8K video.

Full post, including comments