Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

20 January 2012

Boeing versus Airbus

It is interesting to watch the competition between Boeing and Airbus.

On one hand, Boeing has always been the supplier of air-to-air refueling planes for the military (e.g. the KC-135 which is in reality derived from the old model 707). Airbus wanted a piece of that action, and when the contract came up for bid the European company aggressively pitched a version of its own to be built a few miles west of here in Mobile, Alabama. Initially, Airbus won. Boeing appealed, and the Pentagon called for a do-over. Airbus, disgusted with the whole process, declined to participate. Now the entire gulf coast is pissed at Boeing.

In the civilian sector, Airbus designed their huge, double-decker, four-engine A380 to compete with the stalwart Boeing 747. Airbus makes a very big deal about their lower seat/mile costs compared to Boeing, but Boeing counters that their new 747-8 burns even less fuel, resulting in lower seat/mile costs than the A380. Blah blah blah. It’s probably only important to executives who think they can make a profit running an airline. Hah!

Anyway, this guy John Leahy who is “chief operating officer for customers” (whatever that is) for Airbus has publically called the 747 “a dog.” This statement (read it here) made big news in aviation circles. I don’t know whether the 747-8 is “a dog” or not. I do know that Boeing has been building big, solid airplanes since…well, forever.

And now it turns out that the brand-new, super-high-tech Airbus A380 is developing cracks in the wings. (Details here.) Airbus is downplaying these cracks, of course, calling them “tiny.” Airbus says that the cracks are occurring in a non-critical part of the wing. Which causes us to ask: Are there any non-critical parts of an airplane wing? Aren’t they all critical? They know about them; they’re watching and fixing them, Airbus says.

The FAA hasn’t made too big a deal about this, since no domestic U.S. operators are flying the A-380 at this time. But leave it to the news media to dig up somebody who’ll offer a pithy quote. In this case we have a guy named Stephen Purvinas, who is the Federal Secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association. Don’t think that the ALAEA is a federal agency, it’s not. Their website describes themselves as, “…a federally registered Australian organization that represents the industrial, technical and professional interests of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (“mechanics” in the U.S.)

Anyway, Purvinas is concerned about these “tiny” cracks. He says,

“They (Airbus) have described these as tiny cracks, but every crack starts off as a tiny crack and they can grow very quickly."
Point taken! Purvinas goes on, warming up to the subject.

“Put it this way, I wouldn't put my family on an A380 at the moment ,"

Strong words!

Airbus has an…“interesting” history when it comes to building airliners. You may recall an A300 that crashed just after takeoff from JFK airport not long after 9/11. The NTSB investigated and determined that in response to an encounter with wake turbulence, the copilot (who was flying) got a little too aggressive on the rudder pedals and caused the vertical fin (the big tail piece to which the rudder is attached) to snap clean off! Most of us didn’t believe it was actually possible. But on an Airbus, which has a vertical fin made of composite materials (not metal and rivets like on a Boeing) it most definitely is possible that the fin can snap off like that of a model airplane.

And in the case of American Airlines flight 587, one did just that. When the vertical fin snapped from the fuselage, the airplane yawed so violently that both engines were torn from their wing mounts and flung off to the sides. What a fun ride that must have been.

There is a saying amongst airline people: “If it aint Boeing, I aint going.” It’s moot to me because I do not fly on the airlines anymore. But if I did, I’d probably opt for a Boeing product over something made by Airbus. Just sayin’.

14 January 2012

Quitting...and Unquitting

That’s not an old picture of me with the Bell 206 I used to fly. Nope, it was taken today, Saturday, January 12th. Your assumption is therefore correct: I’m back at my old job.

Generally I believe that when you quit a job you should stay quit. But you know how the universe is: It sometimes doesn’t care what we think.

The pilot who took my place (let’s call him “R,” for replacement) was let go. Just didn’t work out. The boss listed a bunch of reasons, but they weren’t anything he hadn’t bitched at me about when I was there. I think the actual reason was simply that the boss and R just didn’t “click.” I sort of sensed it as I was bringing R up to speed before I left, but I hoped that they would get along okay as they got to know each other. They didn’t. The chemistry just wasn’t right.

Originally, I was just going to do a couple of days of part-time helicopter flying while R was off flying the jet. That went okay, but afterward the boss called and said he had to let R go (right at Christmas time, naturally). He asked if I’d continue on a more regular part-time situation, and I agreed. But I quickly saw that it would be better all around if I were just on the payroll. The good thing about this time is that both the boss and I know that I can walk away at any time. Not saying I will or even that I would, but I can. It’s a nice feeling.

The reason I decided to go back on full-time status is that there is a lot to do. The helicopter is coming up on its Annual Inspection soon, and we have some components that need to be replaced and overhauled. If I’m going to coordinate all of this stuff I might as well get paid for it. Nevertheless I am only back until spring. In May I am going back up to Brewster, Washington to dry cherries again, which I do more for the fun than the money. What my boss in Alabama will do with N206TH while I’m gone is not my concern.

Things have always been weird with me…so unpredictable. I cannot explain it. I will work for my old boss for the next couple of months, and then go up to Washington for a couple of months. After that…who knows? I have learned over the years to not ask too many questions, but rather to just go with the flow.

03 January 2012

God's Will (Part I)

My friend Jacob is distraught over the breakup with his latest girlfriend. He’s going through a rough time. Alvhild (don’t ask me where the name comes from) was the third or fourth “she’s the one” girl with whom Jacob would spend the rest of his life, raise a family, blah blah blah.

Jacob tends to get a little obsessive about these relationships, and he takes their inevitable endings pretty hard - harder each time as he gets closer and closer to age thirty. I say “inevitable endings” and it might seem unkind. I mean, he’s certainly entitled to have a loving, productive, long-lasting relationship, right? Right. And yet the intensity he pours into these relationships simply cannot be sustained – at least, not to this casual observer.

It is his religion that encourages (pressures?) its members to marry young and multiply. The religion is all about family. The insufferable cynic in me thinks it’s just a little self-serving. Get married and have a bunch of kids who become church members…who grow up and get married and have a bunch of kids who become… You get the picture.

Either way, the church’s influence is such that young men like Jacob feel they are somehow inferior or inadequate if they do not live up to the expectations. They are taught to want to have a family, whether they actually want one or not. Religion has a way of doing that to you. Little room for individual or independent thinking. (There’s that cynic in me coming out again.)

So Jacob is up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he moved to be near Alvhild while she attends the University of Alabama. She has a plan for her life: She wants to be a nurse. After graduation, she plans on moving out to Utah to go through BYU’s nursing school. Her plans apparently don’t include him. (Then again she’s 19; her “plans” change on a daily or weekly basis.)

But Jacob isn’t taking this breakup lying down. He plans on also moving to Utah, just to be near her should she have an epiphany and reconsider her love for him. I know what you’re thinking – I’ve said it to him as well: The girl may consider a move like that to be, well, stalking. With such statements Jacob gets defensive. And huffy.

“People tell me that it’s probably God’s Will that we’re not supposed to be together,”
he says. “But what if it’s God’s Will that we’re supposed to be together? And what if He wants me to not just give up, but to move out there and keep pursuing her?”

Ahh, how do you argue with such logic?

He may be right, I suppose. But I prefer to think of it this way: If some company from Utah called out of the blue and offered Jacob a high-paying job as a phlebotomist (the field in which he is trained), then I would say go for it! The Universe/God would be sending him a clear message. Otherwise, I wouldn't risk the Temporary Restraining Order that's sure to come.

We cannot presuppose to know God’s Will. All we can do is simply have faith, live our lives, and go where He puts us. We can’t force the issue. We cannot tell Him which road to take us down, or which exit to select.

Nor should we.