Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Iranian Bomb: We're Watching You and Now You Know It

Smarter than I thought, huh?

The Jerusalem Post has a story today about EROS-B, a satellite designed, among other things, to track the Iranian nuclear national suicide machine in progress. The eye in the sky was launched from Russia the other day.

EROS-B has an advertised resolution capability of about 27-1/2 inches, and it can also side scann 310 miles to either side of its path.

In view of the role that Russia is playing in trying to mediate a resolution to the Iranian penchant for self destructive hubris, it's comforting to know that they're also willing to make sure that the people most likely on the receiving end have a birds eye view of what's going on in Iran.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Ulrich Laderner on the Iranian Bomb-an American Perspective

There's an interesting interview with Ulrich Laderner in Der Spiegel that is, for the most part, a sober assessment of the interface between the Iranian nuke program, the Iranian missile program, and the state of politics in Iran.

It's an interesting piece, complete with-now make a note of this-a picture of the Shahab-3 missile which has a range of between 1,300 and 1,900 km and a circular error probability of either several thousand meters or less than 200 meters, depending on who you believe. CEP is the size of the ten ring on your target.

The Iranians allege that they have developed an inertial navigation system for the Shahab 3 as well-all of which puts it in the realm of the Thor we developed back in the 1950s here in the U.S.. Of course, the Shahab has to be pretty much an open book technologically speaking, because before Colonel Ghaddafi got a case of common sense he was interested enough to be entertaining some Iranians with Shahab technology to sell. There's nothing cutting edge in reinventing a 1956 Rambler in camouflage paint-particularly a 1956 Rambler developed in North Korea and built in Iranian factories.

The Shahab 3 is an outgrowth of the North Korean No Dong (gotta like that name) project. The No Dong borrowed heavily from Soviet SCUD technology, which itself borrowed heavily from the 1944 vintage German V2.

The advisability of depending on the Hermit Kingdom for critical parts and technology is a dicey proposition, but hey-all you gotta do is score one hit somewhere near Tel Aviv, right? Doesn't matter that you'll kill a fair number of your coreligionists, either.

Mr. Laderner is interested primarily in Iran's efforts to develop a bomb and he says that the Russians are holding the only viable card for defusing the growing threat of Iranian nukes and missiles getting bolted together. In that he may be right.

Of course, he also details an extremely turbulent political situation in Iran which may produce some thinking people who do not see national suicide and nuclear holocaust as a life affirming strategy.

At present, he sees the Iranian military industrial saber rattling as a way of getting support for an unpopular regime by telling the man in the street it's time to draw straws and choose up sides-them or us. That may be true as well-Ahmadinejad's crew would not be the first regime that manufactured an external threat to shift peoples' attention away from the real problem-perhaps the Iranians learned that from the North Koreans as well .

If I'm right about all this, you can bet your last shekel that the Israelis are not sitting still on the knowledge. And I'd guess that satellite space over Iran is getting very crowded these days.

Laderner then makes a very puzzling reference to us here in the states. He says that the Russian option is the only one that is viable, and that "Sooner or later the US will have to face reality."

Now. Here's the commentary part. First, refer to the discussion about the launch vehicle and its range and circular error probability.

Next. Ask yourself who's within range. Would that be everyone in the middle east that Iran doesn't like? Of course, and that is not limited to Jews, who Ahmadinejad is using as his whipping boy for the moment. The Iranians are no fans of Arabs generally and the Saudi royal house in particular. It also includes Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, and a number of other smaller states up Armenia way.

That geography does not include the U.S. It does include some of our friends in the region. And it's worth noting that the principle of Mutually Assured Destruction is just as valid for small states as it is for large ones.

So, maybe, just maybe, it is the Europeans who will have to face reality, because this mess is right on their doorstep, and they sat on their asses and watched it develop. Perhaps they should have considered this when they were selling Mercedes Benz transport vehicles to the Iranians to parade their Shahabs around.

Memo to Rumsfeld and Bush: Go to the Library

....and check out a copy of The Great Boer War by Allen Lane, circa 1976. Go to page 379. Start reading.

"Britons and Boers both inhabited the veld, playing the same deadly game; the same sun and the same rain fell on both, but life was not the same for the hunted as the hunters. The British had bases to draw upon, inexhaustible supplies, overwhelming force; the Boers' sources of men and supplies steadily dwindled. In one sense time was on the side of the British for the Boers could not continue indefinitely. Yet, in another sense, time was on the side of the Boers, for the nature of guerilla warfare makes the objectives of the war different for the two contestants. In order to win, the British had either to kill or capture all their foes or force them to capitulate; the Boers on the other hand needed only to exist, they needed only to stay alive on the veld to deny the British their victory. They could not win, but they could keep the British from winning. The guerilla phase was a war of wills, an endurance contest. Each week that the Boers prolonged the struggle added to Britain's embarrassment, for while eacy minor victory of the Boers was a humiliation for their enemy, British victories, using crushing force on small bands of exhausted burghers, were without glory and added no credit to the army or the Empire."

Now. Are we clear?

Friday, April 28, 2006

ClustrMaps Rocks

I just installed a ClustrMap on this blog back on the 16th and I've gotten some hits from some out of the way person logged in from Iraq, another in India. and someone so far up in Norway the sun's out for three minutes a day.

Plus folks from all over.

Well, welcome to you all. Hopefully you will find things of interest here that cause you to question authority and otherwise think hard.

I remember back in 1993, trying to figure out this internet thang on the college's Digital Vax, whether it was ever going to amount to anything-who would have thought I'd be making a living on it and talking to people in the global village every day?

It's astounding, is what it is. And it makes all this possible. The only thing I can think of that even comes close is the development of commercial radio in the early 1920s.

Silicon Hutong Feller Gets it Right Once Again

In his Silicon Hutong blog, David Wolf comments on a story from Reuters in which the folks from Big Blue, a/k/a IBM, you know, the folks who used to make computers?

Well, it seems that the European director of the IBM Institute for Business Value (sounds like a bullshit job right there, no?) says that there is a level playing field developing in terms of connectivity vis a vis the 'developed' world and China.

David correctly states that this happens to be horse pucky. He points out that maybe if you're talking about the major cities it might be so, but that is the sort of off the cuff judgment that foreigners who are not China hands tend to make regularly.

China, he points out, is underdeveloped. Less than nine per cent of the populace have regular internet access, there is only one home computer for every fifty people (still a lot of computers, though) and few people can reach the internet thru their cell phones (I can't myself here in Iowa).

David notes that this makes China appear more developed than it is, and exaggerates the level of development and thereby competitive threat to knowledge and creativity based industries in the developed world.

He says that the average American truckstop likely has more connectivity than the average Chinese village. I don't know from Chinese villages, but one of my students works from a booth in a truckstop in Idaho because there's free wifi.

What this all leads up to is speculation-speculation as to why anyone would do business with a group of people so out of it as IBM seems to be. A good question.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

From the Frauds and Scalawags Department: An Update

Something about the precocious Harvard sophomore with the dubious novel and the big honkin' contract rang a bell back in the cluttered warehouse of my subconsciousness and I knew I'd heard of something like it before. You know, the one we talked about the other day?

Remember Rosie Ruiz? She was the woman who came out of nowhere to win the New York Marathon, only to have it found out that she did most of the race on the subway.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Great Ideas From Toulouse I: The A380 Straphanger

I must have been the last person in the world except for three guys in Greenland to hear about this story. Airbus is busily denying it ever happened, but the way things are going in the Toulouse Crackhouse these days, it only means that the particular publicity flack who is speaking hasn't heard about it, not that it didn't happen.

The way the story goes, Airbus is pitching a high density interior that will have passengers stacked up like cordwood or packed in like rolls of roofing paper.

Needless to say the blog world erupted in satire, gales of helpless laughter, outrage, and all points in between, all of which lightened up the atmosphere around here.

Nobody had a kind thing to say about the idea. Of course, it makes sense in a way. If you take and toss the seats from the A380, why, you may actually stand a chance of getting a few more people on board before you peg out on zero fuel weight, as we discussed last month. Then again you might not. And pitching the idea to the Japanese seems culturally insensitive as only the French know how to do culturally insensitive-which we've talked about here as well.

But only I know where the inspiration for this idea came from. It's simple really. The folks at the Airbus marketing department were, like me, watching Speed TV the other night and saw The Getaway, a nice chase/escape flick from 1972 which starred Steve McQueen and my heartthrob Ali McGraw. Our protagonists escape from the cops by getting packed into a trash truck courtesy of the fine folks at Waste Management.

Update 5/5/06: Michael Boyd, the aviation savant, has stated that the NYT article that started this whole thread was composed largely of wolf cookies. He may well be right. It does seem to be pretty tenuous in the source verification mode. Nonetheless, I stand firmly on the notion that this idea came from watching The Getaway.

From the "That Explains Everything" Department

It was reported in the Globe that the debut novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life by one Kaavya Viswanathan, the precocious Harvard sophomore, contains significant amounts of plagiarized material. Viswanathan, it will be recalled, received a two book contract worth $500,000 in connection with her efforts.

In a masterpiece of understatement, Viswanathan said that she may have unconsciously "internalized" passages from a couple of books written by Megan McCafferty.

Her agent opined that she may have read the books as a teenager, absorbed what she read, and "became her own unintentionally, she assumed they rightly belonged to her in her own mind."

It's the first time I've heard osmosis and digestion used as an excuse for putting a dollar in the collection plate and taking change for a five, metaphorically speaking. But I am sure we'll hear more of this.

Well. A professor at the law school I attended was run out of town on a rail for something similar when, assuming the most innocuous interpretation of the affair, he "internalized" a bit of an unpublished manuscript that had been obtained at a cocktail party some years previously. When I told my father about this, the Old Man said "Listen. When you write, especially when you write for an audience of interested people in the same field, you can be absolutely sure that your words will be read very very carefully by your professional colleagues and compared with all that has gone before."

In a similar occurrence, a person who graduated from the University of Iowa law school had passed the Michigan bar and gone to work for a law firm. Then, it was discovered that he had plagiarized a law review article. Then, every scrap of paper he'd ever written was examined, and then, all the other stuff was found. The result? He had is degree revoked, lost his law license, and is now living in a dumpster somewhere for all we know.

The point of this diversion is simple. Kaayva might do well to batten down the hatches and secure for heavy weather-this is going to get much worse before it gets any better.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Where were you, Senator Feinstein? Say it ain't so, Senator Boxer?

The last MD95 a/k/a B717 has left the Douglas works and is headed across the ramp to be delivered to Air Tran next month, according to The Washington Post. Senator Feinstein, in a trenchant observation which needs no contradiction, said "We live in a time of uncertainty" during a recent trip to the C17 facility on the north side of Long Beach.

Let me be frank and uncompromising like Garrison. I will not retreat an inch. Whether I'll be heard is another story.

Everyone's looking at the deconstruction of Douglas and the larger aerospace industry in the area like it's some sort of misty eyed Hollywood production, complete with nostalgia, retrospective history books, a lot of stiff upper lip "buck up there, Joe" scenes.

People, this is not some sad scene in a movie somewhere. It's an economic disaster of massive proportions that's been taking shape ever since Douglas went on the block in the early nineties. It's a disaster, in a word, that was engineered by Boeing. And while the portents were flying thick and fast and the layoffs were raging, what were the legislators who are the subject of this rant doing? Why, probably sitting on their asses in Washington or other places-certainly they were not paying attention and listening to the Dougloids. And they might have been the only people who had the horsepower to do something about it.

Instead of it being their first priority, it was no priority at all. And that means that you, the citizens of Long Beach and southern California, sat on your asses as well and let it happen.

Friday, April 21, 2006

From the Silicon Hutong Blog: The Real Deal on Airbus in China

I've been reading a most interesting blog lately that is called Silicon Hutong, written by a guy named David Wolf.

It is one of the best sources of interesting reading on affairs of business in the People's Republic of China that I've seen. Although it focuses primarily on the information technology trade, the author writes on the subject of aviation, and when he does it's trenchant, witty and incisive. The writer is an Original Thinker who does not Run With The Pack.

Anyway, he's got an article from March 20, 2006 entitled "The Airbus Gambit, or The Beginning of the End of Civil Aviation As We Know It." It's an answer to a question that a lot of people have been struggling with, and that is "Why in the hell does Airbus want to build a plant in China to make airplanes when they've already got plenty of productive capacity in Europe?"

In short, the folks from the Toulouse Crackhouse have decided that they're going to plunk down a factory in one of four cities in China and start cranking out the A320. David asks the question we're all dying to know the answer to, and that is "Why?!"

He takes five general reasons why someone might be convinced to invest a large amount of dough in China and Chinese markets and quickly discards 1) customer pull (airlines already like the European product) 2) attractive market (they've already got a good market presence) 3) competitive threat (the market's already sliced up between Airbus and Boeing) and 4) competitive economies (the Chinese plant will never be as efficient as the ones in Europe, given the folded in cost of schlepping parts to China and paying for expat engineers to live it up on TDY, and the large costs involved in training).

So there's stakeholder push or policymaker pull as the driving factor. It means that if the economics of the project don't pencil out, there's someone at company HQ who thinks it is a good thing to do, or there's someone in government who wants it to happen for reasons of national pride-in this case, so that the French can give the finger to zees dev'lish Americains.

David states that it is entirely possible that the Chinese government could pass a law favoring local content and thus Airbus might have an edge in the domestic Chinese market. Because China has failed to develop an indigenous commercial airliner manufacturing capacity, and because this is something China wants to do, China will invite the foreigners in, learn their trade, and take it from them. He points to computers and automobiles and warns that it will happen if the plan goes through.

Then, David poses this question, which deserves its own line:

If this is such a great deal, why isn't Boeing interested? What do they know that Airbus doesn't?

It's a question worth asking. Particularly when we consider that the A380 is six months behind, overweight and payload limited as we detailed earlier in this blog (something nobody seems willing to discuss openly) and that people who know the commercial aviation business are saying that the A350 is the wrong plane, there should be a lot more people asking questions in Toulouse than there are. It's just too damned important.

From the "Why do they do this?" Department: Angela Baillie

It was reported by The Scotsman that Angela Baillie, a lawyer in Scotland, was sentenced to a term in prison for smuggling heroin and diazepam tablets into the Barlinnie prison in Glagow. It was revealed that she had smuggled a couple thousand dollars or more worth of dope into the prison over a period of time, and as is customary, was betrayed by an informant.

The cops aren't done with Baillie, either. It's noted that they are seeking to confiscate better than sixty thousand dollars under the 'Proceeds of Crime' Act-akin to our civil forfeiture statutes.

Of course, her career at the bar of justice is over-she has asked that her name be removed from the roll of solicitors.

All of this goes against one of the canons of the legal trade, and that is never to get involved in your clients' dealings or problems. The other canon of the trade that Baillie chose to disregard is that you can tell when a criminal defendant is lying by whether his lips are moving or not.

I know, I know. This isn't an aviation matter-but it IS a legal matter and thus our interest in this tale.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pratt & Whitney Geared Fan Update.

I just completed a piece on Pratt's interest in geared fan technology and some of the snags I'd personally witnessed in the execution of the same, albeit on a smaller level.

As it happens, I got on this subject via an article in Air Transport World which may have been spurred by the Flight International article I've linked to.

In the article, Steve Heath, el Presidente of the commercial engine division of Pratt & Whitney, talks up his company's plans to develop geared fan technology and launch a technology demonstrator engine next year. P&W, you will recall, dropped a bundle on the stillborn PW8000 and its gearset. The picture of the revised gearset shown at the Asian Aerospace fandango is proof that there's been a pretty significant rethink, heading more toward what Garrett was doing thirty years ago when faced with the same set of problems.

It remains to be seen whether geared fan technology can be successfully applied to engines in the 24,000 to 40,000 pound thrust area. One of the more significant considerations here will be the diameter of the fan itself, and how that applies to the airframes that the project is aimed at. We've already seen that the engine nacelle on the latest B737s that use the GE-Snecma CFM56 is a curious looking thing in close proximity to mother Earth.

However, given ongoing developments in the price of oil, any engine technology that promises a significant increase in fuel efficiency is one that will gain a lot of attention in the market.

The Good News is Things Are Better Than Ever: The Bad News is You're Fired.

It was reported in Flight International today that the first quarter of the year has been smashing for Boeing, with a hefty backlog of orders to work through and more to come. Things couldn't get much better at the head offices of the aerospace giant.

However, don't break out the champagne just yet. For those who work for Boeing in Wichita the news was "Celebrate all you want. We hear the unemployment compensation's good this time of year". It was reported in the Chicago Tribune that Boeing plans to lay off 900 in Wichita, cutting the workforce there by a quarter. The RIFs just announced were in addition to 334 jobs lost at Wichita since last November.,1,7800785.story?coll=chi-business-hed

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Short Life and Untimely Demise of the PW8000

When I started in the Garrett engine shop back around 1980, Garrett was coming to the end of a long hard development slog, getting the gearbox right on the TFE731 turbofan. There had been numerous failures, service bulletins and planetary reworks, and every engine in the field had gone through the rework program. As I recall I was given a special tool for removing a large anti rattle washer on the sun gear, which was one of the last big service bulletins. The whole mess cost Garrett a lot of money, downtime, and ill will.

All of which made it more interesting when Avco Lycoming tried more or less the same thing on the ALF502-which also had significant teething problems and nearly sunk the Canadair Challenger program. The ALF502 was supposed to be a quick and dirty spinoff of the T53 military turboshaft engine-but it took a lot of engineering to make it serviceable.

The handwriting was and is on the wall-gear reduction fan drives in turbine aircraft engines are damned difficult to bring off. They're expensive, quirky, and beset with problems not easily fixed, and the development dollars mount rapidly.

So when I heard that Pratt & Whitney was working on geared fans, my ears perked up and I wondered whether the boffins at East Hartford were smarter than everyone else or just didn't bother reading the newspapers.

The PW8000 was supposed to be a geared fan section on a PW6000 power core, and the article in the SAE journal archives is most interesting. The engine was scheduled for certification two years on, which would have put the release date about 2001. There is also a very nice article in Flug Review which described the history and construction of the PW8000.

But the PW8000 never went anywhere despite ten years of research and $350 million in development money.

The latest iteration of the geared fan concept from Pratt is their GTF Demonstration program which they are currently working on at this writing. It is a PW6000 core with a revised planetary gearbox that is alleged to save weight and be more efficient than the stillborn PW8000. Time will tell whether the market will reward P&W's devotion to the geared turbofan concept, or whether it is a technological blind alley for them.

The news about planetary reduction gearboxes in aircraft engines is not new. The old man once told me about looking for photographs of busted planets that he could use in a report after yet another reduction gear failure at Wright Aeronautical in the 1940s. He said they had a broken gearset for any occasion. I am sure that any of the engineers and technicians at Garrett that sweated bullets making the TFE731 a going proposition could have told the folks in East Hartford as much.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thinking Big: The Wartsila-Sulzer RTA-96C

From the folks at Wartsila in Sweden comes the RTA-96C for marine service.

Some interesting specifications: each cylinder displaces 1,820 liters and can produce 7,780 hp. The big fella is available in up to fourteen cylinders. delivering 108,920 shp at 102 rpm. If that isn't enough overkill, this gets done at a SFC of .278-economy to spare.

A straight-14? Outrageous! I want one!

Photo credits:

Notoriety at Last.

I did a topical search here a few minutes ago on, the folks who host this forum for folks like myself. The search turns up about five items in a page. As it happens I was searching for blogs mentioning Boeing, and this blog and Randy's Blog were on the same search page.

Talk about rubbing elbows with the higher-ups. The closest I ever got to John McDonnell at my beloved Douglas was seeing him go by on a golf cart one time.

Maybe what this really says is that we're all equal in blogdom, which is good news indeed. It's time that the rest of the world knew that there are people out here with something to say, and that we're not insignificant because we don't own a printing press or kiss the right patoot.

Thanks, Blogger and Google-you're the folks who provide the forum.

RAF Doctor Sentenced for Refusal to Serve in Iraq

It was reported on Friday by The Scotsman that Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a serving officer in the Royal Air Force was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment and what amounts to the equivalent of a dishonorable discharge from the service. Dr. Kendall-Smith was ordered to Iraq but refused on the premise that the war was an illegal action comparable to Nazi aggression. In addition, Dr. Kendall-Smith was also assessed twenty thousand pounds to defray the cost of his defense.

In a stinging slap, the Court, Mr. Judge Advocate Bayliss presiding, told Kendall-Smith that he sought to make a martyr of himself and showed "amazing arrogance". Well, he got what he asked for. The cost of resistance to military orders is high, as the significant number of Americans in Scandinavia who are deserters from the Vietnam war can attest.

One wonders what was really at issue in this case. Surely, a physician's first duty is to heal, and I am quite sure that any doctor who finds himself in Iraq will find plenty of opportunity to practice the healing arts on soldiers who have need of his care, and on civilians who find themselves in the midst of a fire fight. There is a great need for physicians in Iraq, military or otherwise, as the state of public health is dismal.

In short, there was little to prevent Kendall-Smith from speaking his mind, serving his country, and healing the sick all at the same time, yet he sought to sit the dance out. Britain is remarkably tolerant of dissent and remains a bastion for freethinkers of every stripe.

However, the situation in Iraq demands the very best of everyone serving, particularly those with skills besides killing.

Prisoner of conscience or coward?

The End of Douglas-No Bang, Lots of Whimpering

It is reported by a gentleman in the country of unimpeachable credibility that the last MD95 a/k/a Boeing 717 is in the delivery center at Long Beach, soon to be turned over to AirTran. And that will put finis to commercial aircraft production in an area that was once the epicenter of commercial aircraft manufacture-hell, ALL aircraft manufacture in the known world. Southern California was to aircraft construction what Pittsburgh was to steel and what Lourdes was to holy water.

What it signifies to me is the demise of the only credible domestic competitor that Boeing had in the country. Remember this when you're reading the ever upbeat always positive and sometimes informative Randys' Blog, that because of this a hell of a lot of people lost their jobs.

This IS the end, and the goal was always to drive a stake through the heart of the hated competitor. It's always seemed that there was something a bit personal in all of it. I'd like to have been the fly on the wall in the places where the decision was made.

This kind of thing is common enough in business, but it's rare to see it on such a scale. When one firm in a limited field buys a competitor and idles its plant, there are two effects. First, a competing center of knowledge and expertise is dispersed to the four winds. Second, it raises the bar for potential competitors looking to enter the business to a point that for most of them, it becomes impractical. We see that here in the midwest, as the larger meat packers buy up and idle productive capacity. When some local folks start thinking maybe they could make some money in the cattle business, the large firms start making ominous rumblings about restarting idled plant-that's usually enough to scotch any plans to compete.As a matter of fact, one of my clients used this tactic to good advantage. He's in the industrial electroplating business, and when a large firm failed, he bought the equipment for a song and idled it. It's high dollar to buy, useless to anyone not in the trade, and it raises the bar to potential entrants.

When Boeing bought the place, it let the MD11 bleed to death, and the only thing that kept the smaller line going was the fact that what they had was a damned good product, priced right. People insisted on ordering it despite Boeing's best efforts to kill it.What's the net effect? No center of expertise and human resources in the field outside of Washington state or Toulouse, and if you want a commercial jet made in the states it only comes in one flavor.

Now.....had there been a concerted effort to utilize what was there, I have no doubt that they'd be happily cranking out MD11 freighters for ready cash, the KC11 would be a fact of life, and maybe something else useful would be on the horizon. But they let the whole thing die.

Talk about big mistakes. For a while the Taiwanese were seriously interested in buying the commercial operations, but in the end, I think it was just too much for them to tackle, particularly with Taiwan's curious political situation vis a vis China. There was some talk about cooperative projects with Airbus but those were just rumors and wishful thinking.What position would Airbus have been in today if they'd bought the place?What's the upshot? I'd like to see China buy the type certificate and the tooling. They're bargain hunters. Would Boeing sell?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

More Airborne Stuff You Didn't Want to Hear About

It is reported in the Scotsman today that pet owners in the area of West Lothian in the heart of Scotland are advised to keep a close eye on their pets because of the escape of a very large predatory owl from captivity.

It seems that Fergus, as his owner calls him, is a European eagle owl, and he has a five foot wingspan and no love for humankind that we can discern. His owner reports he has been known to attack housepets in the past, with a special emphasis on Staffordshire bull terriers. And Fergus has not eaten in the last two days-as far as anyone knows.

Unlike our more common and loquacious barn owls seen here in the midwest, Fergus does not engage in long late-night soliloquies or discussions with his fellows back in the timber while looking to pick off the occasional rabbit out for a nighttime stroll. Rather, when threatened, Fergus is likely to emit a bark or a growl.

I think it most interesting that someone actually thinks he can own a creature like Fergus. He's like the coyote-the wild is part of his DNA, and he cannot be tamed.

Monday, April 10, 2006

From the "Things You Didn't Want To Hear" Department

I unaccountable forgot to add this interesting story to the mix when it first crossed my desk.

It was reported on March 18 in Ireland On-line that a motorcyclist had his throat slit while riding through a bazaar in Rawalpindi. The instrument of Nauman Nazir's untimely demise was a kite string, which Pakistanis often coat with ground glass for kite fighting. Nazir was transported to a hospital but he bled to death.

Kite strings, it seems, are dangerous, and at least ten people have been killed in the three weeks prior to the article ahead of the annual kite flying festival-which was banned but which also met with widspread civil disobedience and large numbers of arrests.

I'm not sure what this story suggests, although one of my friends, Walt Grebis, told me about riding a motorcycle down the street in one of the less tasty areas of New Brunswick. Some kids on the porch with a fishing pole and a big bass plug cast it across his path. he reached forward and lifted the line over his head before anything worse happened.

Maybe it's an argument for wearing leathers with a tall collar. I dunno.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Filmmaker's Family Demands Extradition: Jurisdiction A Problem

It is reported in today's Jerusalem Post that, a St. Pancras coroner's jury having returned a verdict of unlawful killing, the family of Michael Miller, late filmmaker has demanded that the British government seek extradition of the soldier who shot Miller.

It will be remembered that Miller was in the process of filming in Rafah in the Gaza Strip after dark when he was shot under circumstances that are murky and take a political twist depending on who you talk to. Depending on your point of view Miller was a casualty in a dangerous part of the world, or yet another martyr to Israeli aggression and lawlessness.

Let's dispose of the jurisdictional question first. It's a local matter, and Israeli military authorities did not find sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.

In simple terms, the St. Pancras coroner's jury finding of homicide and two bits'll get you a cup of coffee. The writ of a coroner's jury in law abiding, civilized Britain does not reach very far into the mean streets of Gaza and the pressures soldiers are under.

Miller's lawyer remarked that there was a "culture of impunity" in the region and cited the death of ISM activists Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall as examples.

Hurndall, also on the mean streets of Rafah, ran out into the middle of a firefight to do who knows what and got shot for his trouble. As a practical matter, the person who shot Hurndall did not go unpunished-I do not think eight years in an Israeli slammer and a dishonorable discharge from the service would be considered impunity in anyone's language.

The case of Rachel Corrie is a little different. Corrie was killed trying to face down a heavily armored IDF bulldozer also on the mean streets of Rafah, and, as in the case of Hurndall, she died of her injuries when struck, either by the blade of the bulldozer or by the rubble it was moving. Depending on your point of view, she's either a martyr for the Palestinian cause-as if they need any more martyrs-or she was a misguided fool.

There's no middle ground here. Either you subscribe 100 per cent to one point of view or the polar opposite.

One thing's for sure. Rafah is a dangerous place to be, and it doesn't matter who you are.

What Hurndall, Corrie, Joe Carr and the rest of the apologists for every excess of Palestinian violence and hatred can't seem to get through their thick heads is that it IS a dangerous place to be, and street theater in the midst of armed soldiers used to being shot at is a recipe for disaster.

The only question left unanswered is why Corrie and Hurndall lasted as long as they did.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Certification Snag for Airbus Wingset

An interesting article today in the Telegraph. It's ostensibly a discussion of a couple of Airbus stockholders thinking about selling off their shares. Not altogether a bad deal, as Lagardiere and Daimler Chrysler stand to make some money on the sale.

But wait.

The article makes the connection with the test wing failure below the 1.50 ultimate load figure mandated by regulatory authorities. You remember how the wing failed at 1.45 of ultimate load and the Airbus PR machine told us not to worry, alles in ordnung and all that, it's be taken care of.

Well, according to this report it wasn't. That's bad.

What's worse is the fact that this wingset was a pair that were heavier prototype assemblies that were around before Airbus, knowing what we here at The Dougloid Papers have previously figured out on paper using published sources about the weight problems facing the A380, decided it was time to cut some weight out of the production wings-one per cent, to be exact.

Whether this affects the outcome of the ultimate load tests yet to be accomplished is unknown but it certainly cannot be classified as unalloyed good news. Airbus has responded by saying that the wingset was a test article that had already been through a lot. That could well be. If so, all the more reason to retest with a production wingset.

Airbus has three choices here.

Bite the bullet, beef up the wingset, and retest, with all the heartache and delay that will bring.

Show by substantiation that the production article will meet the requirement.

Reduce the allowable weights on the wingsets that are through build, and by a combination of substantiation and service bulletins, bring the earlier aircraft into compliance.

Anyway it is sliced, it's a piece of bad news of the kind that Airbus doesn't need more of just now with the A380 program.

McDonnell Douglas had to try it twice before they got the C17 Globemaster wings through the test-it isn't the end of the world for Airbus, but the risk is that the customers may think it is. The problem with the C17 wingset was not, however, in the design, but in the execution. The test items were just not well built enough to meet the design objectives, and there were a lot of fastener holes that were not straight and normal to the material. That was cured and things went along swimmingly after that.

I saw the C17 test rig, and it was a ferocious setup that took up all of a large building. I was informed that when the first set let go, it was with the sound of a moderately sized field gun going off-it shook windows in nearby offices. One can only speculate what the ultimate load test sounded like on the A380 wingset was like.

Smarter Than I Thought: The Parts ID System

It is reported today by Flight International that Boeing is instituting a 'smart' parts tracking system with RF identification labels to be attached to aircraft parts on the 787, the better to trace them. A worthy effort and I applaud them. They are also working on a passive tracking system with Fedex on one of their DC10 freighters.

However. I suggested that such technologies were cheap and readily available back in 1996 when I published a law review article entitled Flying Underground:The Trade in Bootleg Aircraft Parts in the Journal of Air Law and Commerce at Southern Methodist University.

I opined at the time that if the UPS man who brings a package of sneakers to my door had the man-portable technology to scan and track my package from the point of origination to the point of departure, there was no principled reason why we should not be doing the same thing with traceable and life limited aircraft parts, in view of the risks involved from counterfeit and bogus parts.

The technology has only gotten better and cheaper in the intervening years. If we're able to track a 69 cent can of wax beans from the cannery through the distributor and supermarket to the point of sale. it's high time someone did something like Boeing, only cheaper and with a lot less self aggrandizing chest thumping.

There. I have spoken.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Memo to Brian Doyle: You're Giving Criminals a Bad Name

It is reported this morning that Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security and now on special assignment, was popped for attempting to seduce what he thought was a fourteen year old girl he met in an internet chatroom, who turned out to be a Florida sheriff's deputy.

There was also the small matter of transmitting pornography over the internet-a mere bagatelle, no doubt. I am sure a fine reception is being planned for Doyle at whatever thought reform and reeducation facility he ends up in down in Florida. I mean, heck-self respecting criminals have standards, and families for that matter. Should they have to put up with louts of this kind?

Well. I thought I'd heard everything. But this is really astounding. There have been stories in the news about this sort of thing, and Dateline did a sting where they set some of these cretins up. One guy actually disrobed as instructed and walked into the sting buck naked, on cue, and another was a freaking rabbi-make that FORMER rabbi.

Le Big Slippage

It is being widely reported this morning that delivery of the first Emirates A380 will be pushed back two or three months because of unspecified problems with the Engine Alliance a/k/a GE-P&W-Snecma GP7200 engine installation.
Airbus disputes the report but it originated with Le Figaro, something of an icon in the French press.
Whether it proves to be true is as yet unknown, but it's certainly negative publicity that Airbus does not need and cannot afford a whole lot more of. If the connection exists between the engine and the delay, look for more hysterical finger pointing to come out of this story as the folks in Toulouse frantically look around for a scapegoat to toss to the wolves at Emirates, already unhappy with the performance of the A340. Emirates, as you recall, has already kicked their A340 orders forward into the wild blue future until certain unspecified preformance improvements are instituted.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sinn Fein Spy Assumes Room Temperature: Why am I Not Surprised

It is reported in Reuters today that a former Sinn Fein member named Denis Donaldson unaccountably turned up dead and mutilated. Donaldson, after a career in which he was convicted of bombings and spent time in prison with one Gerry Adams, admitted recently that he had been a deep cover double agent for British security forces for many years.

This story brings up two points of information that it is always wise to keep in mind. First, casting aside any motivational or moral issues, Donaldson was a rat, and people do not like rats, even though they may use them from time to time. Second, those who are ratted out rarely forgive and never forget.

In a statement that is sure to induce hearty guffaws of laughter in the public houses and low places where the allegedly nonexistent and nonviolent Irish Republican Army gathers, the nonexistent and nonviolent Army issued a statement saying it had nothing to do with Donaldson's unaccountably early demise.