The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Security theater, 8 years on

Patrick Smith ("Ask the Pilot") wonders why we still can't get airport security right:

[T]he primary threat to commercial planes is, was and shall remain explosive devices. The Sept. 11 skyjack scheme is today unworkable for a variety of reasons. Yet those who run airport security refuse to acknowledge this, wasting time and resources ransacking people's luggage for what are, in effect, harmless items. Has anybody at the Transportation Security Administration bothered to peruse the air crimes annals of the past 50 years? The agency, along with too many Americans in general, seems to exist in a world that did not begin until 2001, oblivious to the long record of terrorist sabotage against civilian airliners.

My ranting on this topic might be redundant, but remember there are hundreds of lives, and tens of billions of dollars, at stake. A bombing, or multiple bombings, would be devastating to the U.S. economy and possibly catastrophic for the airline business. In the past, airlines were able to pull through after incidents of sabotage. People recoiled in horror, but they didn't stop flying. Nowadays our mind-set is very different. We are, I'm afraid, more predisposed to panic and rash behavior.

The entire column is worth a read.

Meanwhile, back home (London residency day 7)

As sleep deprivation and other physical assaults continue here in London, and as we begin a five-day sprint through all of Financial Accounting, I pause to note one of the bigger news stories from back home in Chicago. No, not the Cubs sale to the Ricketts family or United's and American's shared panic; I mean the alligator in the Chicago river:

A 3-foot-long alligator was caught in the Chicago River last night and is en route to a more suitable home, according to a spokesman for the Chicago Commission on Animal Care and Control.

Animal Care and Control called the Chicago Herpetological Society, which sent two people in a canoe last night to set traps for the reptile.

All right. I can deal with that. Moving on...

London Residency, Day -2

I need to buy a smaller bag.

I learned this checking in at O'Hare a few minutes ago. It turns out, American Airlines has a 32-kilo limit on each checked bag. However, if your bag wieghs more than 22.7 kg, they charge you $50 for the overweight.

My bag weighed 33 kg until I removed my one-kilo Financial Accounting binder—just the binder, not the textbook, workbook, or CD—and rearranged my other two bags to distribute the weight better. The final score: Checked bag, 31.7 kg on the nose; carry-on bag, 7.7 kg; backpack, 8 kg; doctor visit co-pay, $10.

So, once I get to London and, a few hours later, recover from schlepping 48 kg of baggage up the steps of the Tower Hill Tube stop, I may pop 'round to Oxford Street and get a new bag. Because, see, the bag I have at home that would have perfectly fit the bill is inconveniently still at home.

Another thing: when did American start putting winglets on Boeing 767s? Look:

Quick follow-up to people who aren't pilots: This week's "Ask the Pilot" has an explanation of winglets. He also has a description of Princess Juliana Airport as well, which is the reason I visited Sint Maarten last winter.

Good flight yesterday

I did some landing practice yesterday morning: four at Waukegan and one at Chicago Executive. A quick review of my Google Earth track shows that my turns to final are getting much more consistent (within 350 m now) and my final approaches are right down the center line. I still need to work on squaring my turn from crosswind to downwind; I'm turning too early which makes the downwind leg slightly oblique. (By the time I'm abeam the numbers, though, I'm where I should be—about 1400 m from the touchdown point.)

It helped that yesterday's weather was glorious: clear, light winds, cool air, and unlimited visibility:

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...