Aerial Combat over Mar-a-Lago


Keeping King Donald I safe from America’s geriatric Cessnas is turning out to be a full-time job for supersonic fighter pilots: “12 Aircraft Violated Restricted Airspace Around President Trump Over the Weekend”

The sclerotic processes of aircraft certification and updates to air traffic control have left us basically with the same systems of the 1950s in a world where there is a lot less trust. Even the F-15 pilots don’t have anywhere near the advanced software of a $1,000 Chinese-designed-and-built drone.

When does it all fall apart to the point that someone is willing to ask “How would we design air traffic control if every aircraft had GPS and a digital communications capability?” (of course, with ADS-B, in theory passenger-carrying aircraft by 2020 will have this, but most aircraft are drones and they aren’t required (or even encouraged) to have ADS-B; also there doesn’t seem to have been any fundamental re-thinking prompted by ADS-B. It is just layered on top of the 1930s and 1950s stuff)

R44 overhaul story: the helicopter lasted longer than the marriage


Maria Langer has published a helicopter overhaul story that also works as autobiography, a literary achievement that I don’t expect to see replicated any time soon. Worth reading if you’re interested in the world of Robinsons.

[The Practical Tips chapter of Real World Divorce contains a subhead of “For small business owners: get a regular W-2 job”; Langer’s story lends support to the idea of avoiding showing up in family court with anything more complex than a W-2 form:

It was around 2010 that I was able to start putting aside some of Flying M Air’s revenue for the overhaul. By 2012, I’d saved up $132K, which was pretty darn close to the $150K I should have had saved by then. Not bad, huh?

Of course, it was that $132K and the helicopter that my future wasband and the desperate old whore he moved in with had their eye on in divorce court. But my legal team was smart. We brought in a helicopter flight school owner who operates a fleet of R22 and R44 helicopters as an expert witness. He testified that the money I’d saved was to cover a deferred maintenance expense — which, of course, is what the overhaul is. Fortunately, the judge understood this and I was able to keep the money.

Sadly, a portion of it went to pay for divorce legal fees. [See this post on a Guardian article for how common is this experience in countries using Common law]

For aircraft-owning Americans who face any chance of being a family court litigant (i.e., “married Americans” under our no-fault system), it might save $100,000 in legal fees to subscribe to a by-the-hour maintenance program such as Pratt ESP. This might shortcut the above-described process of expert witnesses (which lead to reports and depositions in litigation-heavy jurisdictions such as California and Massachusetts) and lawyers trying to educate judges who have never operated or flown an aircraft.]

Note that we do these “overhauls” as regular maintenance at East Coast Aero Club because we burn through the 2200-hour life limits every four years or so. Thus what Robinson calls an “overhaul” is simply done by the team of mechanics who work on the helicopters every 100 hours.



Guardian tackles the subject of divorce profitability


“The biggest financial risk for women today? Embarking on a relationship” (Guardian) looks at divorce under U.K. family law, which is similar to what prevails in the winner-take-all U.S. states, e.g., New York, California, and Massachusetts. As in the U.S., the majority of divorce lawsuits are filed by women and, as in the U.S., plaintiffs express dissatisfaction with (a) how they were unable to extract as much cash as they had hoped from defendants, and (b) how the profitability of the divorce was impaired by transaction costs such as legal fees.

A principal point in the article seems to be that women who marry should continue to work and generate income, but they don’t look at what happens if the husband responds to this increase in household income by quitting his job or scaling back his career. As in the example in Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements, a woman who has a successful career can become the litigation target of a “dependent spouse” who traded her in on a 25-year-old from Craigslist. The U.K., like the U.S., has gender-neutral alimony laws.

The Guardian doesn’t have the bad taste to point out that the subject of the article would have been a lot better off financially if she’d had three out-of-wedlock children with three different high-income fathers than by being in a medium-term marriage with a medium-income partner (the unemployed guy (50+? The article doesn’t give his age) whom she was counting on to support her, post-marriage, had pension savings of only $282,500, likely comparable to the legal fees on both sides (we learn only about the woman’s bills, which were approximately $106,500 at current exchange rates)).

For your Christmas Wishlist: a personal Blackhawk


Check out the photo in “Heli-Expo 2017: Black Hawks flooding the market” of a Blackhawk helicopter with cow-themed paint. From the article:

According to Parsons, there is likely to be around 800 UH-60s to be divested by the US Army with the A models the first to go, followed by the Lima models. At the moment four UH-60As are being auctioned per month. … Since 2014, commercial operators have acquired approximately 140 UH-60A aircraft at auction from the General Services Administration.

Why do inequality-obsessed Californians want to feed at the federal trough?


A bunch of Facebook friends who (a) live in the Bay Area, and (b) are constantly harping on how income and wealth inequality are America’s most critical problems, have been expressing panic regarding articles such as “Congressional Republican threats to Caltrain funding could cripple Bay Area’s growth”:

Caltrain is seeking $647 million in federal funds, but the state’s entire Republican Congressional delegation sent Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao a letter demanding that she freeze funding until California did a new audit of high-speed rail.

I asked “The Bay Area isn’t sufficiently wealthy and productive to pay for its own trains? Why does a Walmart employee in Alabama have to pay for a Google or Apple executive’s train?” This led to the following exchange:

  • Inequality decrier: You have it reversed, California pays more in federal taxes than it gets back. California -today – is subsidizing Walmart’s employees in Alabama by paying for things like food stamps that a large fraction of Walmart employees get as benefits.
  • Me: Somehow the state is still rich. So if one of your concerns is income inequality wouldn’t you to want to see as much federal spending as possible directed to needier (more “vulnerable”) states?
  • Inequality decrier: The funds that are being withheld for this project are to upgrade commuter train service to SF – we have a huge problem with traffic, and investing in solutions is the smart thing to do. California (and Oregon) had the most robust economic growth of any state in 2016 and is the wealthiest state by far, there’s a reason for that: the State’s policies have led to world-beating industries over and over again. Consider branching out beyond the Murdoch’s Fox News for your views on California. [plus a bunch of stuff about how Kansas, having implemented Republican-proposed policies, is suffering an economic decline]
  • Me: All the more reason for wealthy California to pay for its own train and leave scarce federal funds to help the vulnerable in Kansas! Maybe there is some $600+ million project the Feds could find in Kansas that would boost their economy.
  • Inequality decrier: You’re saying that California should not receive federal highway funds even though we pay taxes for just that purpose? In what bizarre, delusional world does that make sense? And where have I heard the phrase ‘no taxation without representation’ before?
  • Me: If we can agree that inequality is a problem then none of the richer-than-average states should be favored with huge federally-funded infrastructure projects. (My own home of Massachusetts would be similarly excluded.) When equality has been achieved then the federal spigots can be turned back on!
  • Inequality decrier: Federal highway funds don’t exist to solve inequality. There are real investments that need to be made for our country to work. One of the reasons that California has done well is that we make infrastructure investments, this one serves silicon valley, one of the most productive regions in the world. Worse, using federal funding to settle political scores, which this pretty clear is, is destructive of the nation as a whole.
  • Me: As noted originally, if Silicon Valley is so productive, why can’t they pay for this train so that federal dollars are freed up to be spent in a struggling region of the U.S.? If inequality is not a concern, of course, we could go in the opposite direction. Give all of the money to New York, LA, SF, and DC because they are the richest and therefore most productive.
  • Inequality decrier #2: California pays more than their due, and red states take far more than their contributions. It is Californians that are subsidizing Red States, not vice versa, as you claim.

First, I’m not sure about these calculations that California is subsidizing other states. When Medicaid dollars are spent to buy pharmaceuticals in Alabama nearly all the money may find its way to a San Diego pharma company. However, let’s assume for the sake of argument that California is subsidizing these other states. If inequality remains, shouldn’t the subsidy be increased? If the individually wealthy should be hectored with demands that they pay their “fair share” why not collectively wealthy folks such as those in Silicon Valley?

Readers: Can the above Californians be considered logically consistent? How can they simultaneously decry inequality, think of themselves as tremendously financially successful, and try to maximize their share of federal handouts?

[At least some of my neighbors in Massachusetts express a similar desire to receive funding from less wealthy Americans. “Boston arts leaders signal alarm over possible federal cuts” (Boston Globe):

The heads of Boston’s largest art museums have joined a wave of local arts leaders arguing for the importance of federal funding after recent reports that the White House could be seeking to ax the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Meanwhile the New England Foundation for the Arts is lobbying on Capitol Hill and enlisting board members to speak with people close to the Trump administration.

“There is too much at stake here,” said Cathy Edwards, executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts. “The cultural sector is a major employer. Arts jobs are real jobs, and to pull back on this sector of the economy now just makes no sense.”

In Massachusetts, the NEA provided nearly $920,000 in fiscal year 2016 to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for grants and services. That’s in addition to the roughly $2.7 million the endowment made in direct grants to arts groups, and the roughly $1 million it provided the New England Foundation for the Arts.

Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, said NEA grants are essential to many of the estimated 62,000 Bay Staters who work in the arts for another reason, as well.

Any time that an insurance company (or Medicaid/Medicare) pays $200,000/year or $375,000/year for a drug made in Massachusetts (examples), there is a large wealth transfer from the rest of America. Why can’t we fund our own arts?]

Atlantic Magazine: Women developed computer science but men stole it


The folks at Atlantic Magazine who were smart enough not to study computer science have produced a video about how women developed computer science (but then men stole it). One interesting aspect to the video is the association of getting a bachelor’s in CS and working as a programmer with “developing computer science“. Also the heavy focus on feeble 1970s and 1980s consumer products from companies such as Microsoft and Apple. The Atlantic folks seem to think that the 1980s were a period of “revolutionary” progress in software. It was not that software ideas from the 1960s were practical to distribute more widely due to improvements in microprocessor performance (made possible by hardware engineers). It was that MS-DOS, Windows, and MacOS were breakthroughs in computer science.

Readers: What does this video tell you about how non-technical people see the tech world? If you are involved in hiring at a tech company, does it motivate you to hire women?


Sympathy for undocumented immigrants crowds out sympathy for neighbors?


A Hillary Clinton supporter here in Cambridge hosted a party for a friend who landed a new job. The Hillary supporter is in her 70s and rich and connected enough to have met Hillary on numerous occasions. At the party she expressed criticisms of Donald Trump, and her fellow citizens who had voted for him, pretty much nonstop. This was not out of hatred for the Mr. Trump so much as due to her bighearted sympathy for the vulnerable, most of whom she had never met and would never meet (Zillow estimates the value of her home, which is typical of the neighborhood, at $3.6 million).

She learned that an immigrant guest was heading out to Logan Airport to pick up a family member coming in with a visa obtained at a U.S. consulate (not in any of the countries that have been the subject of Donald Trump’s attempted executive orders restricting travel). She was effusive in her concern that the Trumpenfuhrer’s border thugs might obstruct this elderly traveler’s entry into the U.S.

Shortly after this discussion about a hypothetical problem we learned that a different guest was dealing with a real problem: her husband wanted to leave her and their two young children. The wife/mother said that she wanted to stay married and was trying everything within her power to persuade the husband to honor his promise. The kids were plainly at risk (see “Children, Mothers, and Fathers” for links to some of the research; plus, under Massachusetts family law they were sure to lose their college funds and inheritance to legal fees in the event of a typical non-mediated divorce). After the potential unwilling divorcee had left, the hostess was asked if she was concerned about the husband/father breaking his promise. She framed the issue entirely in terms of the man’s happiness: “Maybe he hadn’t found the right person [in the current wife].” The welfare of the children, who seemed to be solidly on track to losing their two-parent home, was not mentioned. Readers would be disappointed in me if I hadn’t asked “So you’re saying that if the guy found a 22-year-old off Craigslist you might not be able to support his decision, but if he has found two 22-year-olds and they are both super hot then, of course, he has no choice but to leave the wife and mother?” The Hillary supporter’s evaluation process turned out not to involve 22-year-old women, but it was essentially the same: she would approve of the husband’s decision to leave the wife/mother if he had found some way to make himself a lot happier. There were no circumstances under which the children’s welfare, suffering inflicted on the wife, or marriage vows would be a consideration.

Within our social circle, the folks who are not active opponents of Donald Trump and the Republicans (e.g., people who did not attend the Women’s March and who do not post virtuous and/or outraged political content on Facebook) are much more sympathetic to the wife/mother and are deeply concerned about the children.

Does it make sense to think of human sympathy and attention as a scarce resource? If so, can we infer that people who occupy their minds with concern regarding the ability of people they’ve never met to become undocumented immigrants will be therefore less sympathetic to suffering among people they encounter face-to-face?

Reason #89237 not to invest in aviation


What if you bought a fleet of $5 million Pilatus PC-12 airplanes and hoped to make a return on your investment? Then people who live near the San Carlos Airport, established during World War I (and therefore likely predating anyone who might be complaining about it), get together to shut you down. Here are some excerpts from “Proposed San Carlos Airport Ordinance Targets Surf Air, Excludes Ellison”:

Angered by noise from Pilatus PC-12s operated by Surf Air, residents of San Mateo county have taken a new tack in their fight to shut down the operation. A proposed curfew ordinance, drafted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, would limit any operator to one takeoff and one landing of a “noisy airplane” between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and prohibit all operations after 9 p.m. In a thinly veiled attempt to target Surf Air’s PC-12 specifically, the definition of “noisy airplane” is one whose FAA certificated noise level exceeds 74.5 dB. There are several PC-12 configurations, but the quietest one is rated at 74.6 dB.

The proposed San Carlos ordinance has an exclusion for jet aircraft and helicopters regardless of noise.

(The PC-12 is a turboprop rather than a pure jet, so it is noisier than some piston-powered airplanes but quieter than a lot of turbojets.)

New York Times complains that Donald Trump isn’t managing military operations


“Trump Shifting Authority Over Military Operations Back to Pentagon” (New York Times) is funny.

President Trump is shifting more authority over military operations to the Pentagon, according to White House officials, reversing what his aides and some generals say was a tendency by the Obama White House to micromanage issues better left to military commanders.

… it could raise questions about whether Mr. Trump, who has drawn heavily from current and former generals to fill key jobs in his administration, is exercising sufficient oversight.

But there is a risk if there is inadequate oversight and the president stops paying close attention.

This is the same paper that, less than a year ago, published “Why Donald Trump Should Not Be President.” The guy is incompetent in every conceivable area of human endeavor. He “has no experience in national security”. Yet now the journalists complain that this same person is not personally supervising the 2 million people (plus 800,000+ reservists) in our military? And they’re upset that a completely incompetent person is uninvolved in operations where lives are at risk?

Maglev analog turntable


What do Slovenians do when they’re not pushing forward the frontiers of light aircraft? Bring the technology of a Shanghai maglev train into your living room: a maglev turntable.

At just over $1,000 including tonearm and cartridge, this product is about 1/100th the price, adjusted for inflation, of the higher-end turntables of the 1980s (and see this 2007 WIRED for a $300,000 Swiss-made Goldmund).


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