Shaesta Waiz at Oshkosh


Shaesta Waiz gave some talks in the Honeywell/BendixKing  booth at Oshkosh. While the company has been forcing most of its customers to convert to Garmin, e.g., by making transponders that do ADS-B OUT but not IN and by failing to come up with a replacement for the CRT-based EFIS systems that it sold through about 2008, Honeywell/BendixKing has done some work with Internet connectivity for aircraft and Ms. Waiz used their AeroWave system for her 145-day 22-country 182-hour round-the-world trip in a 2001 Bonanza. She began the flight with 750 hours of flying experience, which included 200 hours of Bonanza time and a lot of instruction by Fred Furgang, a Bonanza expert.

One of Waiz’s themes is that women need to be “empowered” and “inspired” to become pilots (so that they can join men in doing a worse job than the software in a DJI drone?). Her talk, though, suggested that women actually have an easier time accomplishing aviation projects than do men (certainly they can be hired by a U.S. major airline with much less experience; see “The purported airline pilot shortage“). She called up ICAO to tell them about her plan and the international bureaucrats there got national bureaucrats worldwide fired up to help out. Male round-the-world pilots had told Ms. Waiz to expect nightmares in Egypt regarding airspace access, airport access, and 100LL fuel access. When Ms. Waiz showed up, however, the Egyptians had assigned female air traffic controllers to every sector through which she traveled (i.e., without being inspired by Americans, Egyptian women have somehow gotten sufficiently into aviation to be able to work Center, Approach, Tower, and Ground!). When she landed, instead of being greeted by soldiers holding automatic rifles she was greeted by 11 officials from the Egyptian equivalent of the FAA.

How oppressed are women in Afghanistan, from which Waiz’s parents migrated as refugees (then reared six daughters in California, including Ms. Waiz herself)? No insurance company wanted to deal with the risk of a Bonanza in Kabul so Ms. Waiz flew there commercially from Dubai for a 2.5-day break. Cut to next slide: Waiz in a meeting with the President of Afghanistan. Would he have met with a male round-the-world pilot?

Waiz shows up to Christmas Island and finds that there are two residents with pilot certificates… both women. If more men than women are pilots in the U.S. and Europe, is this simply an example of “The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM” (Atlantic)?

Readers: Is airline promotion of more women going into aviation (example from United) a sign of righteous altruism or simply that they would like to pay lower wages as a result of larger labor supply? (like a Silicon Valley employer promoting immigration and #Resisting Trump!)

Some practical tips: Controllers outside of the U.S. and Europe aren’t accustomed to light aircraft having to deviate around weather. “Deviating right” will upset them. “Flying to Fix XYZ” is a better way to explain a decision to abandon a flight plan route. Those crazy long over-water legs are less plagued with bad weather and over-land routes. An exception is the inter-tropical convergence, a reliably horrible place to be flying due to convection (claimed the lives of those aboard Air France 447, for example, though mostly due to primitive flight control software plus pilot error).

Regardless of pilot gender ID, is flying around the world in a single-engine piston airplane a good way to inspire people regarding STEM? The engineers who created the Bonanza (first flight 1945) and its engine likely died at least 25 years ago. It is mechanics who enable continued flights in Bonanzas, not engineers or scientists. Also, isn’t flying long distances over water in a Bonanza actually ignoring what we’ve learned from engineering? Engineers have given us multi-engine and turbine-engine aircraft that render the journey much safer and more comfortable.

Washington Post discovers that bikers wear offensive clothing


“Trump poses with supporter with sexist patch at motorcyclist event” (Washington Post) leaves out some classics, e.g.,

  • “Honk if you’ve never seen a gun fired from a motorcycle”
  • “Better your sister in a whorehouse than your brother on a Honda”

but it is still kind of fun to see the Uber-riding media elite pondering the deep meaning embedded in every biker’s jacket.

Mining out Monsanto and Bayer for Roundup cancer


“Monsanto Has to Pay $289 Million in Damages in First Roundup Cancer Trial” (Fortune) sounds like mostly a bad day for Bayer AG shareholders (the German company acquired Monsanto just a couple of months ago and now they have their first gift from the U.S. legal system!).

But, assuming that Roundup does cause cancer, maybe this is actually a bad day for people with cancer?

Bayer is worth only about $86 billion. At $289 million per cancer-stricken person, fewer than 300 people can be compensated before all of the value in Bayer is consumed. But Roundup is one of the most widely used products in the world. So if it does cause cancer then tens or hundreds of thousands of people should be affected (anyone who hates poison ivy, for example!).

Readers: Why are folks on Facebook celebrating this? Don’t they see that at $289 million per victim the funds run out pretty quickly? The same folks are concerned about inequality and yet they don’t seemed tuned into a situation where the later litigants are on track to get nothing. If someone who has cancer today gets $289 million and someone who is not diagnosed with cancer until 2020 gets $0, how is that fair?


  • “The Cost of a Human Life, Statistically Speaking” (Globalist), which notes that “As of 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency set the value of a human life at $9.1 million. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration put it at $7.9 million — and the Department of Transportation figure was around $6 million.”

Euthanasia for aircraft engines


Mike Busch of Savvy Aviation was at Oshkosh talking about his new 500-page book. He described replacing a functional engine at TBO (usually around 2,000 hours of flight time) as “euthanizing an engine.” He points out that old age problems are less sudden and severe than new-engine problems.

For an IO-360-powered Cirrus SR20 is there a reasonable alternative to a new-in-the-box engine from Continental? Busch said good things about John Jewell in Memphis, TN and Zephyr Aircraft Engines in Florida.

What does he think about the Cirrus? He was skeptical at first about the parachute, but now “unlike the second engine that’s out there trying to kill you all the time, the CAPS system sits there quietly until you need it.”

Busch supervises maintenance for a lot of aircraft, including my dream family airplane, the original Piper Malibu with the four-blade MT Prop STC (reduces interior noise dramatically to the point that it measures as quiet inside as a Pilatus PC-12)? Based on his experience, Busch says that it is not crazy to own one and he likes the original TSIO-520 engine better than the -550 conversion that a lot of owners have done. Busch says that Continental has fixed all of the issues with this engine (maybe I’m just not following the news carefully, but I don’t hear about Malibus suffering engine failures anymore) and a Malibu operated primarily in the mid-teens should be a reliable mule. (Operating this plane right up to its 25,000′ service ceiling deprives the engine of cooling due to the prevailing thin air.)

Can it be that Busch is right and the engine manufacturers and the FAA are wrong? I know of at least one R22 that came out of the sky and into the water with a supposedly bulletproof Lycoming four-cylinder engine that was operated a few hundred hours past TBO. A friend limped to a runway on one cylinder with a 20-year-old low-powered engine that was still within the TBO hours but beyond the 12-year recommendation. Our new-in-the-box Continental engine has run more or less perfectly for 13 years and about 1950 flight hours. Why not another new-in-the-box Continental? (only $47,000 plus removal/reinstall)


Q400 aerobatics


Quite a few friends have been asking me about the Horizon Air Q400 that was appropriated by a suicidal ground crew member. Here are some things that I’ve told them…

Piston-powered airplanes have engines that would be familiar to the mechanic of a Model A Ford and, not coincidentally, an ignition key that would be familiar to the owner of said 1927 automobile. The key for the Cessna, Cirrus, or Piper can ground magnetos or activate the starter. Turbine-powered aircraft… have no key. If you can get in and press the start button you’re good to spin. In theory the door can be locked, but it is usually not practical in charter or airline operations to keep track of a door key. So the door is unlocked and the start button is there and the security is all about keeping the unauthorized out of the airport.

The big challenge in flying turbine-powered aircraft is starting. The Q400, however, is equipped with a FADEC. Starts should therefore be computer-controlled and as simple as starting up a Toyota Camry.

What about the aerobatics? Airliners are certified for only 2.5Gs, but if you aren’t worried about some cracks in various spars the airplane won’t come apart until considerably more force is applied. Can a Q400 match the capabilites of a GB1 GameBird? No, but remember that an empty airliner has a tremendous amount of extra power. It needs to be able to climb on one engine when fully loaded. If two engines are spinning and nobody is in the back it will deliver an exciting ride.

What about an aerodynamic stall in the event of a botched maneuver? The Q400 is equipped with a stick pusher that should make it very tough to stall, especially with a lot of power in. (Unfortunately, the captain of Colgan 3407 overpowered the pusher and did manage to stall a Q400; see Public TV figures out how to fly regional airliners and Time for a robot assistant up in the dome light of the cockpit?)

What about the transfer of skills from Windows-based simulators to a real airplane? Instructors at our flight school have commented on the superior stick-and-rudder skills of sim addicts that come in to fly real aircraft.

Not a great weekend for aviation, but I thought that readers might be interested in the above.

[Very sad about the loss of life, of course, but I don’t have a more informed perspective on that than anyone else might.]



What I learned about aircraft paint at Oshkosh


We attended an interesting talk by Craig Barnett of Scheme Designers at Oshkosh and learned more than we thought possible about aircraft paint. (See EAA Webinar version for the images.)

Other than working to develop new designs for manufacturers, why does his job exist? Why wouldn’t people just paint an old plane in the latest factory scheme? Barnett says that if there have been any changes in the airframe design people will look at it and perceive that someone is trying to tart up the old plane with lipstick.

Why paint any design at all? Why not paint the plane white and wrap it with plastic, the way that modern commercial vehicles are done? He said that AircraftWraps will do this for you but that the wraps don’t work as well on planes as they do on cars. Panels come off every year for inspection. Exhaust gets into the vinyl (the “tailpipe” of a plane is not at the tail). Sun exposure is bad, though solid vinyl stripes last longer than printed (Our 2005 Cirrus SR20 is all-white with some vinyl stripes from the factory and it still looks pretty good after a mostly-hangared 13 years.) Barnett’s choice for elaborate designs is to bring in an airbrush artist and put the design into paint. He does caution that any kind of paint scheme that involves a fade will be difficult to touch up if damaged.

Barnett recommended a dark color on the bottom of the plane (a “split base”) for a clean appearance (belly oil won’t show) and also for “more ramp presence” and 60-70 percent of his clients choose this. He is not a fan of the polished spinner: “painted spinners add length to the plane.” What if the whole aircraft is polished? Barnett was a fan of LoPresti Knot Wax as a sealant (I can’t find any source for this).

One of Barnett’s ideas was to consider adding a paint design to the top of the wing “so that you can enjoy it while flying.”

Wherever there is an aircraft owner wealthy enough to purchase a repaint there is a potential family court plaintiff and lawyer standing by. Barnett said “use the wife’s initials in the tail number” to reduce the risk of being sued for divorce. (The talk was in Wisconsin and therefore there was no limit on the profits that could have been earned via a casual sexual encounter during AirVenture. A litigator might want to set up shop at the adjacent BeerVenture, run by a landowner who has thus far rebuffed EAA’s attempts to buy him out; BeerVenture has a big sign promising “Bikini Bartenders”)

When it is smart to have a wild ugly paint scheme? He show ZS-OHK, a flight school’s plane in South Africa. They paint their Cessnas in crazy patterns and park them next to a road where customers are drawn in.

Barnett showed a lot of ugly and “not smart” designs. One bad idea is interrupting stripes to stick in a tail number. The tail number needs to be part of the design. Stripes should follow airflow. The tail has to balance the rest of the plane.

What about coming up with a design for a Cirrus? Barnett explained that the reason newer Cirruses are no longer simply white is that the factory worked with Sherwin-Williams (the “Jet Glo” folks) to develop paints of color (not “colored paints”!) that reflect sufficient light/heat to be used on a composite aircraft. But why are these schemes mostly so ugly? Barnett says that the challenge of designing a scheme for the Cirrus is that the plane is “pregnant” (let’s look to our own waistlines rather than blaming Duluth for this!). So a paint scheme has to distract the viewer’s eye from the fundamental shape of the airplane, unlike with, say, a TBM where the shape is inherently attractive.

Cirrus had brought some “Carbon Exterior” schemes to the show and we liked them better than any of the previous factory schemes. How to adapt this scheme to an older plane? Replace the “CARBON” on the tail with “NOT CARBON”?

Where to get all of this done? We heard good things about KD Aviation in Newburgh, New York, Flying Colors in Benton Harbor, Michigan (not to be confused with Flying Colours Corp., painters of Gulfstreams), and Corrigan in Hondo, Texas (they do Gulfstreams but somehow are also able to paint small planes at a reasonable cost).

Nobody could answer the question of why this labor-intensive craft of sanding down and refinishing airplanes has not migrated to Mexico. In fact, Mexican owners are flying their planes up to Texas for paint! Econ 101 would never have predicted that. Mexicans don’t come up to Colorado to find wood craftsmen to build stuff in their houses. Why can’t this skill be developed and practiced down in Mexico where labor is comparatively inexpensive?

[Based on my visits to U.S. paint shops, every person holding a sander up to a Gulfstream in a 100-degree hangar has identified as a man. So I had to refrain from asking when there would be a social justice movement to get Americans who identify as women into this career.]

My current dream: Strip off all of the factory stripes on the SR20. Buff the white paint. Apply wraps and decals that make the entire plane look like a golden retriever. By the time it reaches the 5-year point that Barnett says is the life of a vinyl-based job, the novelty will have worn off.


Boston prices 1975 to present


Boston Magazine has a sidebar on page 61 of its August 2018 issue.

A nurse in metro Boston earned $11,596 in 1975, about $54,500 in today’s dollars, adjusted via the official CPI. Today the nurse’s median earnings will be $97,136. So the nurse is way better off, right? That’s $42,635 extra.

Median annual rent in boston has supposedly gone from $675 ($3,173 in 2018 money) to $36,012. The 1975 number sounds too low, but there were a lot of slum areas of Boston back then. If we do believe the numbers, nearly all of the nurse’s advance in pay has been captured by a landlord. Professional sports can perhaps capture the rest? A grandstand seat at Fenway Park has gone from $3.75 ($17.63) to $83.

Perhaps explaining why our highways are so jammed, tolls on an example section of the Mass Pike have gone from 70 cents in 1972 ($4.53 today) to $1.20. The cost of a subway ride has gone up only slightly faster than official inflation, from 50 cents in 1975 ($2.35 today) to $2.75.

Transitioning to electric flight (lectures at Oshkosh)


I attended the EAA Innovation Forum at Oshkosh. Note the Piper Seminole, certified in 1978 with engines dating to 1955, parked in front of the adjacent “Innovation Showcase”:

Pat Anderson, a professor at Embry-Riddle, pointed out that the early jets were re-engined prop airframes. It took a few years before the wings and fuselage caught up to the new powerplant. Similarly, he thinks that electric propulsion will result in aircraft that bear little resemblance to today’s single-engine piston airplanes.

Mike Sennett, an executive at Boeing, proceeded to talk about how 800,000 new pilots will be needed to staff the 42,700 new airliners predicted for delivery over the next 20 years (the fleet will double from 2017-2037 with huge growth in Asia). Mr. Sennett noted that aviation went from being perceived as high risk in the 1920s and 1930s to being super safe now (40,000 car-related deaths per year in the U.S. versus 0 in a typical year from airliners). [One wag, noting all of the “WomenVenture” T-shirts that had been handed out to pilots identifying as female, said “Now that airline flying is risk-free they want to get women into these jobs.”] Sennett sees a lot of growth opportunity in air freight. Currently only 1 percent of freight goes by air (35 percent by value). Boeing’s big drives are autonomy, AI, and electric propulsion. Maybe those 800,000 new pilots will turn into 1 new computer program?

After the two gray-haired guys got off the stage, a bearded California hipster began speaking. Adam Warmoth, of Uber Elevate, looked to be about 25. He explained that, within 25 years (i.e., by the time he reaches “GA age”), 6 billion people will be living in cities. The result will be that transportation grinds to a halt. People will spend hours in traffic if they want to go somewhere that is not within walking distance. Uber is going to fix all of this, at least for customers that can spend about $100 per trip, with electric aircraft that can make 25-mile trips within monster cities such as Los Angeles. The goal is a 150 mph aircraft that can hold 4 paying customers. Uber is designing common reference models that manufacturers can grab and use. Their goal is to be up and running in LA by 2023(!).

Celebrating female authorship


A friend’s Facebook post:

We passed by Womrath, Bronxville’s bookshop, which still manages to stay in business despite Amazon. … I said to [the owners] that I appreciated that their window display featured mostly female authors. I had decided not to say anything, but then I figured that window dressing also deserved reinforcement. “That wasn’t intentional,” the woman proprietor responded. “We had no idea,” the man proprietor echoed.

Some things are getting better.

Is it obvious that things today are better? (Let’s assume that “more female” = “better”) I pointed out Hawthorne’s 1855 complaint:

America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash-and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed. What is the mystery of these innumerable editions of the ‘Lamplighter,’ and other books neither better nor worse?-worse they could not be, and better they need not be, when they sell by the 100,000.

If female authors were not featured by booksellers in 1855, why would Hawthorne have complained? And if bookstores are featuring certain authors, shouldn’t we assume that they are motivated by profits to feature books most likely to sell? Therefore it is really the customers who shape what goes into the window. Who are the customers? “The Most Likely Person to Read a Book? A College-Educated Black Woman” (Atlantic) says “Women read more books than men.” I said

This reminds me of a guy who complained to my friend about the gay-themed ads that he was seeing on Web pages. My friend had to gently inform him that ads were based on his browsing history…

Should we be patting ourselves on the back for being more enlightened than Americans of the dusty past? The Wikipedia page regarding The House of Mirth (1905):

Charles Scribner wrote [Edith] Wharton in November 1905 that the novel was showing “the most rapid sale of any book ever published by Scribner.”

A 1936 nytimes review of Gone with the Wind did not think the female gender ID of the author was worth highlighting. The book sold 30 million copies and won the Pulitzer Prize.

All of the Facebook authors’ commenting friends, most of whom are American humanities professors, agreed with the proposition that the featuring by a book merchant of female authors was an exciting new development. None expressed skepticism or asked for data.

Readers: What’s your theory about why these folks would be so interested in (a) devaluing the commercial achievements of female authors in the old days, (b) believing that commercial interest in the works of female authors is currently on the increase?

New York restrictions on Uber will increase inequality?


“New York City Caps Uber and Lyft Vehicles in a Crackdown” (nytimes):

New York became the first major American city on Wednesday to halt new vehicle licenses for ride-hail services, dealing a significant setback to Uber in its largest market in the United States.

The legislation passed overwhelmingly by the City Council will cap the number of for-hire vehicles for a year while the city studies the booming industry. The bills also allow New York to set a minimum pay rate for drivers.

This is being sold as a way to reduce inequality:

“More than 100,000 workers and their families will see an immediate benefit from this legislation,” Mr. de Blasio said, referring to the city’s army of for-hire drivers.

I wonder if the effect will actually be to increase inequality. There might be a small increase in income for Uber drivers. Presumably Uber itself will capture most of any increase, in the same way that taxi medallion owners capture all of the value of any taxi fare increase, with the drivers continuing to earn a (low) market-clearing wage. But if prices to consumers go up, the result will be kicking middle-class New Yorkers back to walking, waiting for the bus, being jammed into subway cars.

If, as promised, street congestion is reduced that will increase the mobility of a New Yorker wealthy enough to purchase a Bentley and hire a chauffeur. But the mobility of the non-rich, especially those who aren’t physically fit enough to walk long distances, stand for hours each day waiting for public transit, etc. will be reduced by higher prices:

Ride-hail apps have become a crucial backup option for New Yorkers swept up in the constant delays on the city’s sputtering subway, as happened on Wednesday when signal problems again snarled train lines across a large swath of the city. Ride-hail services have also grown in neighborhoods outside Manhattan where the subway does not reach.

Readers: What do you think? Is this “help the struggling Uber driver” regulation mostly going to help Uber shareholders and help the rich in New York distinguish themselves from the proletariat?

[An interesting data point from the article:

The taxi industry has also been decimated by Uber’s rise. The price of a taxi medallion, which is required to operate a taxi in New York, has plunged from more than $1 million to less than $200,000.


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