Saturday, November 18, 2006

Blogs I read

November is my least favourite month. It's grey, cool and rainy. The glorious fall colours are done, the crisp clean snow has not yet fallen, and sunset is way too early.

So there is no flying after work. Because of the weather there may be no flying on the weekend.

But ground school has started (more on that later). And I read the blogs of others who are flying.

The first blog I found was Cockpit Conversation. I was googling for some information, found her blog, started reading, and went to bed at 4am. Not only is she is an excellent writer, she writes about diverse experiences, cultural encounters, and the technical aspects of flying. Very discreet of her Real Person, she writes of her experiences, not of herself. Like Pavlov's dog, I check her blog every day, and she rewards her readers pretty much each day. It was because of her blog that I decided to write of my experience in getting my own ticket. So blame it all on her, or give her the credit.

Blogs are inter-linked, so once I was hooked on this form of typographical voyeurism, I chased the links until I settled into a routine.

Sulako is a FO flying charter jets, based on Toronto. His experiences are about flying, technology, some cultural experiences, and a smattering of stories of his early days as a commercial pilot. Since he flies jets he can cover a great deal of geography in a short period of time, which gives rise to diverse and interesting stories. He also has one babe of a girlfriend, Lisa, who he wants to marry while dressed as a furry mammal (any woman who is willing to tolerate that idea is a keeper).

Sam, who blogs at Flight Level 250 (25,000 feet ASL) is a commercial pilot hailing from Washington State. More stories from a different geography. That he is a US-based pilot adds another dimension to my reading. He's at a smaller airline, so the flying involves much more up&down, which adds to the variety of the stories.

Land and Hold Short is a blog by another Ottawa-area pilot. Not a daily poster, he does share a number of stories about flying in the Ottawa area, and Ontario in general. Good fix for me, since he does discuss topics which are applicable to me (weather, local airports, Canadian aviation, and so forth).

Krista, another Pilot-in-Training, tells of her stories as she is working her way through the initial stages of getting her ticket. A very well-organized writer, and frequent poster. What she writes about is what I am going through.

Finally, I do read a good number of other blogs from time to time -- too many to mention here. Often, I'll go through the reader's comments on another's blog, see that a commentor's name is a hyperlink, and click on it to start an expedition down link-chasing alley (a sure way to consume a few hours).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Set Rant On

After the crash or Cory Lidle's plane in NYC, the usual yahoos, who thrive when they get their name in the press even if they have nothing intelligent to say, started to rant about restricting general aviation flights over major cities. The primary reason cited has been "to protect against terrorists", not "they may fall out of the sky and hurt someone".

Of course, the majority of the uninformed I-must-be-seen-to be-a leader-and-say-intelligent-things corps are politicians - who have some amazing networking skills but otherwise are generally accepted to not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, not be aviation experts, or any more trustworthy than used car salesmen (with apologies to the used car salesmen of the world).

It seems that virtually anything can be proposed, and considered, as long as you tag it with the threat of terrorism. One wonders if these guys check under their beds for terrorists before going to sleep at night.

When I was in a software sales job in February 1993, one of my hot prospects went cold, because his offices were way up high in the WTC, and terrorists exploded a bomb in the parking garage, carried into the building using a panel truck. Well, if they want to ban a light aircraft which can carry perhaps 300 pounds of explosives (if you have no passenger), why not ban panel trucks? Or cube trucks? Or gasoline tanker trucks?

Or even mini-vans, which can carry a thousand pounds of a nasty substance, and are not tracked on radar? Whoops. Banning mini-vans from our cities would upset the soccer moms, and there are too many of them for a politican to risk upsetting, even if the proposal would make more sense.

Similarly, if the politicians wanted to improve the air security around Washington DC then they would close National Airport. But it would take them much longer to get to Dulles or BWI to fly home on Thursday, so there is no chance of that happenning. A politican will sacrifice your cow, but his are all sacred.

I never wrote my rant. Didn't need to. Read the following, from the AOPA website.



Mayor Daley's latest rants have sent me over the edge. He used the accident in New York to once again demand a no-fly zone over downtown Chicago for general aviation aircraft.

It was expected, of course. He has an irrational hatred for piston-engine aircraft, as evidenced by his illogical tirade this week. "They should not jeopardize, through intentionally or by accident, a single- or two-engine plane flying over our city [sic]," the Meigs Field destroyer exploded at a press conference. (I don't think he was including Boeing 737s, 757s, and 767s in his list of twin-engine aircraft.) "Remember: a single- or two-engine plane can kill as many people as possible if they want to."

And if it were just Daley, I'd ignore his ravings, just as the folks in the federal government in charge of security and airspace do.

But it's not just him. Other politicians (with the spectacular and notable exception of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and self-appointed "experts" are jumping on the tragic accident — repeat, accident — in New York to sound off again about the "danger" of light aircraft, and how they must be regulated, restricted, banned.

OK, for all of those ranting about "threats" from GA aircraft, we'll believe that you're really serious about controlling "threats" when you call for:

  • Banning all vans within cities. A small panel van was used in the first World Trade Center attack. The bomb, which weighed 1,500 pounds, killed six and injured 1,042.
  • Banning all box trucks from cities. Timothy McVeigh's rented Ryder truck carried a 5,000-pound bomb that killed 168 in Oklahoma City.
  • Banning all semi-trailer trucks. They can carry bombs weighing more than 50,000 pounds.
  • Banning newspapers on subways. That's how the terrorists hid packages of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. They killed 12.
  • Banning backpacks on all buses and subways. That's how the terrorists got the bombs into the London subway system. They killed 52.
  • Banning all cell phones on trains. That's how they detonated the bombs in backpacks placed on commuter trains in Madrid. They killed 191.
  • Banning all small pleasure boats on public waterways. That's how terrorists attacked the USS Cole, killing 17.
  • Banning all heavy or bulky clothing in all public places. That's how suicide bombers hide their murderous charges. Thousands killed.

Number of people killed by a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft? Zero.

Number of people injured by a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft? Zero.

Property damage from a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft? None.

So Mr. Mayor (and Mr. Governor, Ms. Senator, Mr. Congressman, and Mr. "Expert"), if you're truly serious about "protecting" the public, advocate all of the bans I've listed above. Using the "logic" you apply to general aviation aircraft, you're forced to conclude that newspapers, winter coats, cell phones, backpacks, trucks, and boats all pose much greater risks to the public.

So be consistent in your logic. If you are dead set on restricting a personal transportation system that carries more passengers than any single airline, reaches more American cities than all the airlines combined, provides employment for 1.3 million American citizens and $160 billion in business "to protect the public," then restrict or control every other transportation system that the terrorists have demonstrated they can use to kill.

If you're not willing to be consistent, then we might think that you're pandering to uninformed public fears, posturing from the soapbox of demagoguery, screaming security for your own political ends.