The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Good rundown on the 787

The Economist's Gulliver blog sums up the unfortunate problems with Boeing's biggest project:

The latest delay looks like the most serious yet. In May, routine bending tests in the workshop showed the wing structure to have separated from its skin ("delaminated") at 120%-130% of the load limit. To pass muster with the Federal Aviation Administration and other certification bodies, wings have to sustain at least 150% of the load limit without rupturing.

The problem...has been identified in the past and recognised as a problem. The issue has arisen on other composite airplanes. Indeed, the stress point at the end of the 787 stringers showed up as a 'hot spot' in Boeing’s computer models before the delamination in the wing bend test—but for some reason was never addressed.

It's worth a read, as are the articles Gulliver linked to.

The IM-SAFE checklist

Pilots will tell you they'd rather be down here wishing they were up there than up there wishing they were down here. (See also, "All takeoffs are optional; all landings are mandatory.") Most of the time it's an easy choice for private pilots whether to go for a flight, especially in Chicago where the weather, not to put too fine a point on it, often sucks.

Today, I had scheduled a flight, but I decided to stay on the ground after thinking really hard about it. Right now Chicago Executive reports scattered clouds at 3600 ft and a medium (9 kt) breeze; nothing I can't handle. However, the forecast calls for gusts to increase to 18 kt, thickening clouds, and the possibility of thunderstorms this afternoon.

Today's mission, though, was simply to fly up to Waukegan or Kenosha, shoot some landings, and return. Today's weather forecast ordinarily wouldn't stop the flight, because as the weather deteriorates, I only have to fly 15 minutes and be home. Not to mention, I'll never be more than 6 minutes from an airport, as the whole point of the flight is to practice landings.

So why stay on the ground? Because I decided I didn't meet the IM-SAFE checklist. Here's how it went: Illness, no; Medication that causes physical impairment, no; Stress, hmmm; Alcohol, no (nor its effects—the FAA considers "under the influence" to include a hangover, even with a zero blood-alcohol content); Fatigue, hmmm again; Emotion: not an issue.

See, today, I'm thinking about the stack of reading materials for Duke on top of a lot of client work due this week, and even though I got a good night's sleep, I feel like I could have gotten more. Am I safe to fly around the airport and practice landings feeling like this? Yes, I believe I would be—if the weather were perfect. But the winds and clouds are going to increase while I'm getting fatigued from all those landings, which means each landing will be much harder than the last one. That means I probably won't learn from them, I'll probably start to get frustrated, and then by the time I return to Chicago Executive I'll be cranky, tired, and fighting gusty crosswinds while trying to get an aluminum tube to fall 500 m out of the sky so gently that someone can use it again. Not to mention, it's an hour-long drive each way, two hours in which I could be writing for clients or reading for school.

So it's a very tough call, and I'd really like be up there today. Just not enough to risk wasting the trip.

Spotted in North Beach

Someone had time to have the sign made up, then had the inclination to stick it on the construction site. That's kind of sad:

There's a building in Chicago, at the corner of Wacker and Clark, that could use similar treatment. Someday, there will be funding again. Someday.

As long as we're in San Francisco, how about an iconic shot of a successful construction project? Here you go:

They're landing one of those at Oshkosh?

Airbus Industrie and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) have worked out how to get an A380 to the EAA show at Oshkosh next weekend:

The aircraft will do a seven-minute flight display before setting up for landing on Runway 36. In a web conference Friday, Airbus test pilot Terry Lutz said that while the 8,000X150 runway is plenty for the A380, there's only one taxiway that will accommodate the aircraft, although, happily, it's the one that leads to Aeroshell Square. That gives the crew about 5,500 feet before the turnoff, which Lutz said will be plenty, even with a 10-knot tailwind. The aircraft that's coming is a test plane and will land at about 720,000 lbs, about 60 percent of its maximum weight.

EAA had to bring in a tug from JFK in New York to pull the plane into place. The tug driver has one shot to get the plane positioned correctly. Lutz said the wingspan of the A380 is exactly one foot less than the width of the ramp.

More from EAA. And even more coolness (if you're a pilot geek), Airbus has an interactive cockpit tour that holds nothing back.

Oshkosh is only a 3-hour drive from Chicago...hmm...

Cool!

Usually, my July visits to my family in San Francisco allow me to get away from Chicago's oppressive heat. This year, both cities are about the same, San Francisco just a little warmer than usual, and Chicago...well, it's the coolest July of my life:

July has slipped to the coolest to date here in 42 years—its 68.7°F degree average temperature running nearly 5 degrees behind the long-term (138-year) average. Friday's 70°F high was the first time in 53 years a July 17 temperature failed to rise above 70—you'd have to travel back to a 64°F high 85 years ago to find a July 17 that was cooler.

The average high for July's first 17 days has been 77.5°F—the second coolest in the 50 years of O'Hare Airport weather records dating back to 1959. Only 1967's 76.2°F tally has been cooler.

Maybe Chicago will have a super-hot August this year. Like, when I'm in London....

Morning round-up

A few things of note happened while I was en route to San Francisco yesterday:

  • The Cubs continued winning, taking their second in a row after the All-Star break and moving up to second place, though only because they've beaten up the hapless (25-63) Nationals to do it.
  • Wisconsin officials announced a deal to buy new 320 km/h train sets for the Chicago to Milwaukee route. Initially plans call for allowing the trains to run at 176 km/h (40% faster than today) while a new, dedicated high-speed line is studied.
  • In San Francisco, BART, the light-rail agency, averted a strike that could cripple the area's transportation system. The agency's employees unanimously rejected management's last contract offer and walked away from negotiations, but the two sides have since resumed talks.
  • Finally, Walter Cronkite died last night at 92.

And that's the way it is.

Update: One more from my dad: a big weenie drove into a house in Wisconsin yesterday, no doubt because the driver was in mourning.