Order that Oshkosh 2020 T-shirt now

EAA Airventure (“Oshkosh”) is canceled (press release).

Is it time to buy the Oshkosh 2020 T-shirts? Unlike with Tokyo 2020, they won’t rename next year’s event, I don’t think.

Ordinarily I don’t like T-shirts that feature airplanes I am not qualified to fly, but if the event is fictional maybe it is not so bad to implicitly claim fictional flying skills, e.g., with this P-40 Oshkosh 2020 shirt:

Or use a magic marker to update “Cleared Direct” to “Cleared to Cower in Place”?

Admittedly, Covid-19 is targeting the general aviation demographic. Of the 316 people killed by the evil virus in Wisconsin, the largest cluster is among those 90+:

Ninety is unfortunately close to the median age of single-engine piston aircraft pilots and perhaps younger than the expected age at completion of a homebuilt project…

Related:

Full post, including comments

330 pages of coronavirus NOTAMs

ARINC (Collins Aerospace) is gathering up all of the COVID-19-related NOTAMs that it can find: https://direct.arinc.net/public/covid_19_notams.pdf. Right now the list is 330 pages long!

I wonder if this is a good way to determine the world’s level of coronapanic.

This is a great time to be claiming asylum. From Iceland, for example:

A0145/20 NOTAMR A0144/20
Q) BIRD/QAFXX/IV/NBO/E/000/999/6512N01832W
A) BIRD B) 2003241427 C) 2004162359
E) COVID-19: PASSENGER RESTRICTIONS.
ALL PASSENGERS ARE PROHIBITED TO ENTER ICELAND EXCEPT EU/EEA, EFTA
OR UK NATIONALS. THE FOLLOWING ARE EXEMPTED:

  1. FOREIGN NATIONALS WITH IMMIGRATION STATUS IN SCHENGEN STATES,
    OR THOSE WHO HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS IN THE SAME COUNTRIES.
  2. PASSENGERS IN TRANSIT.
  3. HEALTH AND CARE WORKERS ON PROFESSIONAL TRAVEL.
    4.TRANSPORTATION CREWS (AIRLINES AND FREIGHTERS).
  4. INDIVIDUALS REQUIRING INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION.
  5. INDIVIDUALS TRAVELLING BECAUSE OF ACUTE FAMILY INCIDENTS AND
    DIPLOMATS, INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS STAFF, MEMBERS OF ARMED
    FORCES TRAVELLING TO ICELAND FOR DUTY, OR HUMANITARIAN AID WORKERS.

What if you don’t want to say that you’re being oppressed? Tahiti!

A0164/20 NOTAMR A0153/20 Q) NTTT/QXXXX/IV/NBO/A/000/999/1315S13830W999 A) NTTT B) 2004130523 C) 2004300959 E) COVID-19: CREWS/PASSENGERS REQUIREMENTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH FRENCH POLYNESIA GOVERNMENT AIMING AT PREVENTING INTRODUCTION OR SPREAD OF INFECTIONS BY THE NEW CORONAVIRUS 2019:
I. THE PILOT ARRIVING IN FRENCH POLYNESIA MUST PROVIDE THE HEALTH PART OF THE AIRCRAFT GENERAL DECLARATION UPON LANDING AT TAHITI FAAA.
II. ALL TRAVELLERS ARRIVING IN FRENCH POLYNESIA INCLUDING AFTER A TECHNICAL STOP, MUST FILL IN THE PUBLIC HEALTH PASSENGER LOCATOR FORM (SEE ICAO ANNEX 9, APPENDIX 13 AND FRENCH ORDER OF 9 JULY 2014 CONCERNING PASSENGER LOCATOR FORMS).
III. THE PUBLIC HEALTH PASSENGER LOCATOR FORM MUST BE HANDED OUT TO PASSENGERS BY THE CREW, COMPLETED AND HANDED OVER BY THE AIR OPERATOR TO THE AERODROME OPERATOR AT THE DESTINATION AIRPORT.

More: Visit https://direct.arinc.net/public/covid_19_notams.pdf (note that this is organized by ICAO airport code, which is what a pilot would enter into an aircraft GPS, not by the IATA code that you might use to buy a commercial airline ticket)

Full post, including comments

The Boeing 737 MAX uses 16-bit computers

“The Ancient Computers in the Boeing 737 Max are Holding Up a Fix”:

A brand-new Boeing 737 Max gets built in just nine days. In that time, a team of 12,000 people turns a loose assemblage of parts into a finished $120 million airplane with some truly cutting-edge technology: winglets based on ones designed by NASA, engines that feature the world’s first one-piece carbon-fiber fan blades, and computers with the same processing power as, uh, the Super Nintendo.

The Max has been grounded since March 2019, after some badly written software caused two crashes that killed 346 people. And while Boeing has received plenty of scrutiny for its bad code, it’s the Max’s computing power — or lack thereof — that has kept it on the ground since then.

Boeing took [the ethos of proven tech] to heart for the Max, sticking with the Collins Aerospace FCC-730 series, first built in 1996. Each computer features a pair of single-core, 16-bit processors that run independently of each other, which reduces computing power but also keeps a faulty processor from taking down the entire system.

Even by late-’90s consumer tech standards, the FCC-730s were behind the curve. By the time they went to market, Nintendo had already replaced its 16-bit SNES console with the Nintendo 64 (the first game console to use — you guessed it — a 64-bit CPU), and IBM had created the world’s first dual-core processor.

In other words, your washing machine or dishwasher from 2006 may have a more powerful processor than the B737 MAX (“Fujitsu Introduces New 32-bit Microcontroller for Home Appliances”).

Full post, including comments

Towered airports reverting to uncontrolled fields

FAA Air Traffic Controllers have been there for us on Christmas, in the wee hours of boring weekdays, etc. Towers are shutting down, now, one by one, as coronaplague sweeps over the nation. Las Vegas, one of the world’s busiest airports (1500 operations per day), is no longer towered (US News). Here’s the NOTAM:

SVC TWR CLSD CTC LAS VEGAS APP CLR 125.9, CTAF 119.9 OR 725-600-7015. 19 MAR 17:44 2020 UNTIL 27 MAR 07:00 2020. CREATED: 19 MAR 17:44 2020

What happens when there is no control tower? That’s actually the normal condition at most U.S. airports, but not at airports where jets arrive on IFR flight plans every few minutes. AOPA publishes a good explanation of how pilots in radio-equipped aircraft (remember that some people fly antique airplanes with no electrical systems and no radios) are trained to do this. One key is broadcasting one’s intentions on the Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). However, it is kind of a lost art among airline pilots, accustomed to talking to ground controller, tower controller, departure controller, center controller, …, center controller, approach controller, tower controller, ground controller.

Listen to the Vegas airplanes at liveatc.net (“KLAS Tower (Both)” and perhaps also the ATIS to see how the tower closure is conveyed via audio). Note that the tower frequency generally reverts to a CTAF whenever the tower is closed.

Chicago Midway, 670 operations per day, is in the same situation: liveatc.net to hear the Southwest 737 pilots self-announcing. The NOTAM, through April 18(!).

SVC TWR CLSD CLASS C SERVICE NOT AVBL CTC CHICAGO APP FOR IFR CLR 847-289-1326/READY FOR TKOF FREQ 119.45/IFR CANCELLATION FREQ 119.45. 19 MAR 01:42 2020 UNTIL 18 APR 23:59 2020. CREATED: 19 MAR 01:42 2020

Uncontrolled airports can be pretty busy and can handle quite a few flights as pilots separate themselves. But this depends on (1) planes being light enough not to interfere with each other via wake turbulence, and (2) aircraft not coming in and departing under instrument flight rules (IFR) in which only one plane can use the airport at a time. (The Approach controllers can’t guarantee separation if they authorize one airplane to take off and one to arrive, for example.)

[I did this exactly once during my brief airline career, flying regional jets for Delta. We were delayed for hours out of JFK (also on the potential list for a tower shutdown) by thunderstorms and the usual JFK afternoon/evening “international push”. A heavy Airbus to Europe gets priority over a regional jet to Burlington, Vermont. Currently, KBTV Tower is open 5:30 am to midnight. I don’t remember exactly when we arrived, but it was after Tower was closed and therefore we had to turn on the runway and taxiway lights ourselves (5 clicks on the microphone to activate “pilot-controlled lighting”), announce our position to other traffic (a bizjet landed shortly before we did), fly the visual approach (maneuver the plane by looking out the window), and look out for anyone else who might be on the taxiways.]

Full post, including comments

Great time to be in the aircraft charter business?

My friends in the charter business are saying that demand is up at least 15 percent due to coronavirus paranoia (how many Americans need to be hospitalized before we say that it isn’t “paranoia,” but rather ordinary “fear”?). A private plane never looked better!

But, on the other hand, with a huge slate of activities and events being canceled, people won’t need transportation in the first place. Will we see a brief lift in charter and then a catastrophic collapse?

Related:

Full post, including comments

Instrument flying talk at MIT on Wednesday at 7 pm

If you’re interested in instrument flying, I’m giving a talk on Wednesday (March 4) at 7 pm, MIT Room 35-225. The topic is IFR and also planning for trips over the mountains, over water, etc. Same general idea as the videos linked from our ground school. It should be comprehensible to non-pilots, but it is designed for people who have studied at least some of the VFR topics and done at least a lesson or two.

Pizza will be served by the hosts (MIT Flying Club).

Full post, including comments

Integrate ADS-B and AIS information for safer overwater flights?

While flying between the Bahamas and Florida at 8,000′, we were mostly outside of gliding range from land. However, we were often within gliding range of a ship (but we wouldn’t have known this if we’d been flying in or over clouds). Since 2002, ships have been broadcasting their location via the Automatic identification system (AIS). Aviation caught up in 2020 with the similar ADS-B system. For safer overwater flights in light aircraft, why not combine these two? Given the AIS information, onboard avionics could plot a path that keeps the aircraft within gliding range of at least one ship whenever possible. Given the ADS-B information, augmented with a distress button (not built into the current system, sadly), a ship’s crew would know when to start a rescue effort.

What’s the best case for modern electronics and communications currently? The people in an aircraft would to make it out of the aircraft, get their hands on an EPIRB, activate the EPIRB. The centralized group of people looking at the EPIRB signal would have to find the closest ship via AIS, then succeed in contacting the ship, etc.

Would integrating AIS and ADS-B be a good idea? I can’t find anything on the Web to suggest that it has been done or contemplated.

Full post, including comments

Have we ever gotten an explanation for why the Boeing 737 MAX needed MCAS?

Has anyone ever seen an explanation of why Boeing couldn’t simply remove MCAS from the 737 MAX and tell pilots “you have to push forward on a go-around, just as you would in a Cessna 172 or Cirrus SR22”?

From FAR 25 (certification of airliners):

§25.145   Longitudinal control.

(a) It must be possible, at any point between the trim speed prescribed in §25.103(b)(6) and stall identification (as defined in §25.201(d)), to pitch the nose downward so that the acceleration to this selected trim speed is prompt with

(1) The airplane trimmed at the trim speed prescribed in §25.103(b)(6);

(2) The landing gear extended;

(3) The wing flaps (i) retracted and (ii) extended; and

(4) Power (i) off and (ii) at maximum continuous power on the engines.

(b) With the landing gear extended, no change in trim control, or exertion of more than 50 pounds control force (representative of the maximum short term force that can be applied readily by one hand) may be required for the following maneuvers:

(1) With power off, flaps retracted, and the airplane trimmed at 1.3 VSR1, extend the flaps as rapidly as possible while maintaining the airspeed at approximately 30 percent above the reference stall speed existing at each instant throughout the maneuver.

(2) Repeat paragraph (b)(1) except initially extend the flaps and then retract them as rapidly as possible.

(3) Repeat paragraph (b)(2), except at the go-around power or thrust setting.

(4) With power off, flaps retracted, and the airplane trimmed at 1.3 VSR1, rapidly set go-around power or thrust while maintaining the same airspeed.

(5) Repeat paragraph (b)(4) except with flaps extended.

(6) With power off, flaps extended, and the airplane trimmed at 1.3 VSR1, obtain and maintain airspeeds between VSW and either 1.6 VSR1 or VFE, whichever is lower.

In other words, an airliner meets certification standards unless it takes more than 50 pounds of push-forward on a go-around. I’m sure that there is some pitch-up moment on a 737 MAX, but it is tough to believe that a gradual trim-forward from MCAS would be sufficient if, in fact, more than 50 pounds of pushing on the yoke were required in the absence of any trimming.

The B737 already had a stick shaker for any time that it was getting near a stall (reminds pilots to push forward). So it should have been less likely to get into an elevator trim stall than a flight school Cessna 172.

Why couldn’t Boeing rip out MCAS, fire any of the coders and engineers involved in its design, tell airlines to give everyone an elevator trim stall demo in every recurrent sim session, and call the 737 MAX good?

(This is such an obvious and cheap fix that surely Boeing would have tried it if would work, so I assume that some rule would be violated, but which one?)

Related:

Full post, including comments

Boeing dispels rumors that the SLS rocket will be overpriced…

… with a $40 T-shirt celebrating the Space Launch System (SLS):

If the project comes in on budget, it will be nearly $1 billion per launch with roughly 15 percent more thrust than the 50-year-old Saturn V.

The entire program, including the Orion capsule, appears similar to Apollo and, in fact, is named “Artemis,” after Apollo’s twin sister. I asked an astronaut why NASA would do this, 60 years after Apollo. Why not just wait for Blue Origin to have their inexpensive rockets ready at roughly the same time? “It’s what they know how to do,” he responded. My mole inside the scientific side of NASA, responding to “Unless Blue Origin fails it seems as though they will be far cheaper per pound”:

That question has been the hot topic for the last two years or so. Congress keeps pushing SLS so until there is something flying that is obviously better value, SLS will keep going. It’s a jobs program that employs all the same people that Shuttle did. And NASA has a PR push about first woman on the moon for Artemis.

If taxpayers are concerned that the true cost will be more than the $1 billion/launch planned, would it make sense for Boeing to limit the shirt prices to $25? Also, if they’re going to spend $10+ billion on a new-ish rocket, shouldn’t they be able to come up with a more original name than “Space Launch System”?

Related:

  • in the early part of this century, NASA spent at least $9 billion on the Ares I and V rockets that proved to be a dead-en (NBC)
Full post, including comments