Thursday, August 31, 2006

The A400M Program From a Vendor's Standpoint

There's a most interesting article on the A400M that surfaced in Mining Weekly, A South African trade publication. It details the program from the standpoint of local firms that are tasked with crafting some large subassemblies for the big Airbus airlifter. Presumably the plants got the work because of the SAAF air force orders for the A400M.

By far the most interesting part of the article is the description of how the components will be streamed into Germany for assembly into a fuselage which will then be transported to Spain for final assembly, nose join, wing join and completion.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pluto Gets the Boot From Big Heads in Nowheresville

It's been widely reported that the International Astronomic Union, meeting in Prague have taken a vote and decided that Pluto, formerly one of the nine planets, has now been relegated to the dustbin of history and kicked into the low rent district more or less, and out of the lexicon of millions of schoolkids.

The IAU has left thousands of puzzled toddlers shaking their heads in dismay over this contretemps. I mean, who ARE these people? Pluto has always been sort of a planetary outsider, alone on its 250 year orbit out there in the darkness, and does not depend on the IAU and the city of Prague for validation.

It is what it is, and if I want to declare Pluto a planet or the home of the best sweet corn this side of Alpha Centauri, I shall continue to do so. As will numerous other folks. I am a citizen of the solar system with rights coequal to any number of fuzzy headed savants who are not getting rid of Pluto that easily.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Famous Last Words From da Festung

It is reported today by the Times that Festung Airbus has ordered an audit of the A400M program just to make sure everything's absolutely plu perfect better than ever.

An EADS flatulizer (where do Boeing and Airbus get these kind of people? Is there someone at central casting I can call?) insisted that the A400M program is "fully funded and ring fenced and there is no question of resources being taken away from A400M to go to the A380 or A350."

There. The Festung has spoken. I'm sure everyone feels ever so much better.

I can just hear the A400M engineers and worker bees protesting as they're dragged away from their hideyholes to work on the A380 and A350 programs "s-s-sacre bleu, Sparky! We're ring fenced. This cannot go on!"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bad Moon Rising at Airbus?

It was widely reported today that theFrench Newspaper La Tribune has said that there may well be a delay of up to two years in the A400M military airlifter program. Festung Airbus of course, is saying "Bollocks! There's nothing to the reports."

We've heard that before with the Albatross. What this will all mean is undetermined, but when there's smoke around the Festung you can bet your last Confederate dollar that something's burning.

First flight is scheduled for January of 'o8, with deliveries to the French Government to start in the second half of 2009.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Is There a Full Moon or Something?

The Sapulpa Daily Herald of beautiful downtown metropolitan Sapulpa, Oklahoma reports that a former district court judge, Donald Thompson, was sentenced to four years in prison for exposing himself by using a mechanical device with while he was on the bench. His court reporter allegedly witnessed him exposing himself on at least fifteen occasions. The device was sort of noisy...

The rest of the article is just too barfadelic for words. I wonder how many appeals are going to emerge out of this?

Suspicions Confirmed: Moral Bankruptcy Is Contagious

It's reported this day that Andrew Young-you know, the outspoken civil rights mouthpiece and former U.N. Ambassador-is resigning as head of a Walmart sponsored anti union front organization because of his racially insensitive, rude, insulting and stupid remarks.

This isn't the first time Young made with the crack whore routine selling his image to anyone with a problem, as he was formerly a paid apologist for Nike's sweatshops and scab factories in Asia. I guess he figured that was OK by him because it didn't put any of "his people" out of jobs. I guess third world labor exploitation's just another coupon to be cashed in his mind.

In an interview yesterday in the Sentinel, he was asked about Walmart being the cause of a lot of small, main street stores getting run out of business. He opined that this had happened, it was a good thing that Walmart did it, and it got rid of stores owned by Jews, Koreans, and Arabs because black people didn't own the small stores in the main, and that they'd ripped off "our people" long enough.

Young, in a masterpiece of understatement said he'd caused a firestorm, and he shouldn't have said what he did.

Thanks, Andy. The clarification is important. You can pick up your final check at the front desk.

Walmart moved to distance themselves from Young's intemperate and offensive remarks.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Bozo Awards

For this week we have two candidates.

The prizewinner is Zulima Farber, attorney general of New Jersey until today, when she was forced to resign her post after seven months on the job. Seems that she appeared on the scene of a traffic stop in which her housemate was getting a hassle from the locals for not having a seatbelt, no license, etc etc. and although she did not do anything illegal, the ethics stench that arose forced her resignation...I wonder if her pal appreciates her losing her cushy job over a traffic ticket. Come to think of it, her driving record's not so good either as during her confirmation hearings seven months ago it was shown that she'd had at least 13 moving violations, 3 license suspensions, and two arrest warrants for failure to appear.

The other one's George Allen, the senatuh f'um Vuhginia, suh, who referred to an Asian campaign worker for the opposition as "machaca"...George says he didn't mean anything by it. Oh well.

Honorable mention goes to President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who declared this week that what had happened in Lebanon was more or less God's expression of solidarity with muslims the world over. Here's a quote from FARS, the national news agency of the Iranian brain trust.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in the north western province of Ardabil Tuesday afternoon, the President noted the recent victories of the Lebanese resistance movement and said Hezbollah's triumph had many good lessons for humanity.

"One of such lessons was manifestation of the very fact that God fulfills what He has promised," Ahmadinejad pointed out, reminding that on the scene of Lebanon, all political and economic power was concentrated on one side, while a group of energetic and faithful youth were standing on the other side.

"And God Almighty assisted the latter because it moved for God," he continued.

The chief executive official mentioned that the victory of the Lebanese nation opened the way of glory and honor for the whole humanity.

Sheesh....if that's how God fulfils his promises, I'll take my chances with the Dark One. Such a victory nobody needs more of.

Victory Hezbollah Style: Do the Math

It's widely reported today that this week's answer to "Who are the Three Stooges, really?" has got to be Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah and Assad.

They're widely proclaiming victory in the late unlamented mugging of Lebanon to anyone who will listen. Mr. Ahmadinejad is quoted as saying that God more or less had his way here.

So let's do the math.

Hezbollah operatives crossed the Lebaneseborder, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnaped two others, no doubt in a misguided effort to swing a prisoner exchange.

What they underestimated was the fury of the response that it would provoke. The war settled down on two parallel tracks. Israel systematically pounded the infrastructure of Lebanon into jelly. Apparently they took the notion of bombing them back into the stone age literally. In the process of reducing Hezbollah's host country to rubble, better than 1,000 civilians met their end.

At the same time, the Hezbollah rocketeers ran around south Lebanon lighting the fuses on a virtually endless supply of 122mm rockets provided by the Iranians and their lapdogs in Damascus. They'd light off a couple hundred a day with minimal results, because what the 122mm rocket is is an area weapon. It was designed to be launched by the thousands at fleeing, closely concentrated German divisions on the Russian Front.

Pinpoint it's not. They did manage to kill 100 or so Israeli citizens, and in one really stunning day, they lit off 250 at about $500 a copy and managed to kill one putz on a bicycle. They did have slightly better results with their few Silkworms and TOWs but the end result was not changed.

So how's this God given incredible victory stack up?

Lebanon's destroyed.

Hezbollah's been ground down pretty hard.

A lot of people in Lebanon are probably mad as hell because Hezbollah dragged them into this mess and offers nothing but more of the same, and they were too weak or otherwise occupied to take charge of matters in their own government.

The status quo ante is likely to prevail.

Nothing was resolved.

Northern Israel has a few singe marks and some busted cinderblocks but it more or less came through unscathed.

The Katyusha turned out to make great film, but was pretty much useless for anything else.

It shifted the focus from the Palestinian ruckus.

In the words of one historical figure, "One more victory like that and we are finished."

Great job, everyone.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Geared Fan Update: Pratt Steps Up To the Plate.

There's an interesting article in the Seattle Times about Pratt making a pitch to place its geared fan engine on whatever replaces the B737. I blogged about this very subject back in April, and the link to the Flight International article on the Pratt multi bajillion dollar effort to take geared fan technology and apply it to large engines is most informative.

As the price of oil spirals on upward, anything that promises a substantial fuel economy increase and a noise decrease will come with a built in set of selling points that the airframe people will find hard to resist, especially if the pressure's coming from the operator community.

The Times suggests that this could be a roll the dice, bet the limit, last chance at the brass ring opportunity for Pratt to regain its place in the commercial engine field that it lost when the CFM56 came along because it was doing so well with the JT8. Steve Heath, leading up the charge for Pratt, seems to be in agreement.

The interesting thing is that this is the same sort of blinkered philosophy that allowed Pratt to clean Curtiss Wright's clock. One day in 1948, C-W announced to all and sundry that it wasn't going to spend any money developing turbine engines for commercial applications because they were just plain inefficient, and they had these lovely R3350 Turbo Compounds that had a SFC of about 0.36, which is as good as it gets. My father was there and he, along with half the engineers in the place, took off for other places-one of which was Pratt and Whitney, who knew better.

One thing I can tell Steve is that it's a lot harder than it looks, but I am sure he knows that.

Honeywell, which used to be GTEC, developed the TFE731 starting in the sixties, and it too has a planetary fan reduction gear. When I went to work for Garrett in the early eighties, we were still doing service bulletins to extend the life of the planetary gearset, and it was around that time that they gearboxes started being bulletproof. It took Garrett twenty years and a lot of money to get to that point.

Likewise, Avco Lycoming thought it could put together a cheap geared fan engine in the ALF502, which almost took down Avco Lycoming, British Aerospace, and Canadair all in one fell swoop because it ain't as easy as it sounds.

The problems that bedeviled the Garrett fan gearbox were many and varied, but they stuck with it, spent the money, and came out of it with a fine engine that is quiet, efficient and reliable in the field. In fact, as I recall, one of the last things we were doing was installing a special spring washer in a groove on the sun gear to change the resonant frequency of said gear back in the early eighties. I still have the special tool, by the way.

So my hat's off to Pratt, because they're daring greatly. This is uncharted territory for anyone. Let us fervently hope it is a howling success.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Airbus Sends Wiring Work to India: Vote of No Confidence For Germany?

It's been reported that something called P3 India is getting tasked to develop a lot of the wiring engineering on the A380.

In the Times of India for today it was stated thatP3 has gotten the contract to develop the wiring for the A380, both versions, and that "the German portion of the wiring work on the A380F has been transferred to Bangalore."

It then goes on to say that "India and France will wire up the entire fuselage with each sharing 50 per cent of the work."

I don't know about you, but if this is the real deal and if I worked in Hamburg and I was involved in wiring on the A380 in ANY way, shape or form, I'd probably go out tonight and have a few beers because it's Friday.

But on Monday I'd start planning the rest of my life without Airbus in my future, I'd halt the discretionary spending, I'd start working all the overtime I could and paying down all my credit cards and I'd hope like hell I was wrong about all of it.

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire: Carcaillet "Speaks".

In comparison to the folks over at the A400M facility who are quietly going about their jobs without a lot of fanfare and bizarre stuff, the commercial side of Festung Airbus once again has opened its mouth and changed feet right on schedule.

It was reported in The Australian today that Richard Carcaillet of the Festung accuses Boeing of telling "big lies" about the ability of the A380 to achieve its efficiency goals. Once again, it seems that the Festung is putting out a lot of heat but no light, as far as we can see.

It comes down to the same old "Well, the 747 is an old design and we've got a new one", "The A380 is going to get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger when we stretch it", and the real meat of the meal, "The A380 is 50 per cent more productive through the combination of more capacity and more range".

Carcaillet further says that Boeing's estimates are erroneous and artificially inflated, and that this made the comparisons fall decidedly in Boeing's favor.

I could go on, but one thing is for damn sure: Airbus isn't giving out the numbers that would allow people like me to make a valid comparison.

Back in February of this year, we here at the Dougloid Papers did a more or less ad hoc weight analysis of the A380 based on figures that Airbus themselves published, and figures published by the FAA for passengers and baggage.

(see, Tuesday, February 28, 2006 Time to Talk: The A380 and Weight Projections )

What it revealed was that with the A380 you could have either passengers, cargo or fuel, but not all three in sufficient quantity at the same time to accomplish an all up mission. What you have, essentially is an aircraft that if fully fueled will not carry much in the way of passengers or cargo, and if the seats are filled it won't carry a lot of fuel or cargo. That was based on the figures that Airbus has published in the past. There's suspicion that their estimates of the weights of the interior fitments might be a little on the optimistic or hopeful side as well.

So here's the challenge, Mr. Carcaillet. Tell us what the Big Boy weighs, ready to go.

Give me the figures you guys read off the scale of the all up A380 with passenger interior fitted, and I'll be happy to redo the figures I came up with and proclaim it for all the world to see, and I'll even eat crow in public.

Until then, don't be calling people liars without more to back it up.

While you're at it, I'd like the center of gravity information to calculate some passenger and cargo loadings as well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More Good News From the Great White North

It is reported by the Globe and Mail that Viking Air, Ltd. in Canada now owns the rights to build the DHC Twin Otter and has announced plans to build more of them in the not too distant future, providing they can round up the worker bees with the chops to get the job done.

The Viking folks have also acquired the rights for the DHC Chipmunk, Beaver, Turbo Beaver, Otter, Caribou, Buffalo, and Dash 7.

There's always a startup aircraft company somewhere with a couple of good ideas and a headful of stars. Sadly, these ventures all too often go nowhere. Viking, on the other hand, appears to have some pretty deep pockets and paid Bombardier a hefty, but as yet undisclosed sum for the rights to build the Twin Otter.

We here at the Dougloid Papers wish them well on this venture-it is an airplane that is in a class by itself and one that's proved its worth again and again in the worst of environments.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Airbus A400M Progress Report

There is a certain amount of good news out of Festung Airbus as the military airlifter division is quietly getting on with the job of putting together the first A400M, far from the drama and comic opera performances over in the commercial division.

Design of cargo aircraft, unlike the civilian stuff, is an unromantic business that is concerned with things like "how much does it weigh? what's the footprint? how big is it?" rather than interior decor schemes...

The first set of wings is undergoing final assembly at the Airbus Filton plant in the UK, and the first fuselage is being set up for the integrated fuselage assembly process in a nice new facility in Bremen.

It was my view of Airbus manufacturing methods on a PBS Nova special back in 1990 that told me my beloved Douglas was doomed....from that day forward I started planning for a future without them. I had been called in to officiate at a fuselage section join. It was primitive and everything was done by hand and eye. The sections were on rails and they were pushed together and leveled by hand-by pounding on a screw jack with a hammer. The sighting tool was a laser deal, but they'd recently retired the old level and transit.

Boeing Oak Ridge Strikes: A Trip to See the Elephant?

It was reported by the Washington post today that 300 members of IAM local 2709 in Boeing's Oak Ridge Tennessee plant rejected a contract offer and went out on strike over free health care for the shirts that Boeing does not offer to the worker bees. The contract in question also would permit vendors to take over the logistics functions in plant.

Fellows, there was a phrase that the soldiers in the civil war used. One who had been in combat would say he'd "gone and seen the elephant". The folks in Oak Ridge, probably shoulda changed the name to Sleepy Hollow, because they are all slated for a trip to see the elephant before this is all over. I know, because I was there.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a day 25 or so years ago when I went to the emergency room with a persistent itch. I didn't even have my shirt all the way off when the doctor looked over at the new intern and said "This is a classic case of shingles" and to me as he wrote out the script for percodans "This is going to get worse before it gets better."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Floyd: Sabotage?

Everyone's more or less familiar with the case of Floyd Landis, who may be the first person to be stripped of his title in the Tour de France, professional cycling's answer to the question "What could possibly be worse than the Spanish Inquisition?"

At this point, what we know is that Floyd Landis, along with other riders in the Tour were regularly piss tested throughout the Tour. Of all the tests that Landis took, only one came back positive for a skewed testosterone/epitestosterone ratio.

We also know that taking a jolt of testosterone does not function as a pick me up-had Landis wanted that result and thrown caution to the winds he could have snorted a few lines of coke, for heaven's sake.

It has been stated by an unnamed New York Times 'source' that the test which determines whether the testosterone in question was artificial or naturally created came back positive.

The predictable results are appearing in the popular press, blogs, chatboards, and similar dubious sources. We have the curious spectacle of a person being led to the public guillotine by numerous 'sports fans' who probably would get out of breath pulling on their pants in the morning.

The collective thumbs down is coming from millions of otherwise meaningless idiots and lumpen proles who get, for one blazing moment, to feel themselves superior to someone who's rolling along in a modern day tumbril. They're swine of the lowest sort.

Well. I watched all of the Tour, and I can say with complete assurance that Floyd Landis rode the entire race-all 2,000 bloody, grinding, and agonizing miles of it. He was one of only 175 people in the entire world who was chosen to ride in the Tour, out of how many? Six billion or so? If there IS a bottle of testosterone somewhere, it couldn't move a millimeter under its own power.

One thing that nobody's considering here is, what about sabotage?

That's right. What about the possibility that someone slapped some of the stuff on the seat of the bike Floyd would be riding that day when nobody was around or drizzled a little inside his gloves? What about the possibility that someone sandbagged his test? What do all the other tests Floyd took say to the possibility he was cheating? The other tests say it didn't happen.

If people are inclined to cheat in pro cycling, how better to skew the results in your favor than to sandbag the top man with a squirt of a banned substance with a little DMSO while nobody's looking? Maybe one of those 'cycling fans' along the side of the road tossing 'water' at the riders, perhaps?

Unless you can eliminate that possibility, friends, you do NOT have a chain of evidence and you can NOT render a principled verdict of guilty as charged, because that's reasonable doubt.

Frankly, this is sounding more and more like a public crucifixion than anything else.

And, playing the Devil's Advocate, what if he did? What are we getting all moral about here, anyway? People cheat all the time-in their personal lives, they cheat on their tax returns, they lie to their spouses. NASCAR is the home of scientific cheating, it has an old and honorable tradition there, and the greatest crew chiefs were masters of the art. Nobody's lives were ruined, and the world went on its merry way.

The worst you can say is this: if the entire course of events played out conspires to strip Landis of his title and consign him to the dustbin of cycling history, so what? He dared greatly.

That's exactly what you heard me say-if it's all true, he risked it all on one throw of the dice.

Who among us has THAT kind of heart, let alone the legions of 'sports fans'? Maybe, with the results that the hip operation may have, his career would have ended this year and it was his last chance at the brass ring?

Here's what a notable American, Theodore Roosevelt, had to say on the subject.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

The absolute worst one can legitimately say at this remove is that Floyd Landis dared greatly and like Icarus before him, flew too close to the sun.

And that, finally, is a testimony to who he is: One of us.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated. Signed, Fidel Castro

As everyone now knows, including the guys under the polar icecap in charge of watching North Korea, Cuba's president was taken ill and handed over the reins of government to his brother, Raul.

Castro may not be dead yet but he is mighty long in the tooth at about 80. Guys who've lived a charmed life like he has sooner or later meet the end that all of us come to one way or another, and statistically, Fidel may not get too many more lucky breaks before his ticket's punched for good. He's dodged a lot of deviltry that was planned for him by scoundrels near and far, and he has outlived a fair number of said scoundrels, including more than one U.S. president.

The real question on everyone's mind is what's going to happen in Cuba after Castro.

Will the embargo survive in some form until the next government bends the knee to Washington, and will the exiles have any say in affairs there? How in the dickens are all these land claims going to be sorted out? Is there a reason to think that the folks who stayed home and stayed the course are going to roll out the red carpet (no pun intended) for those who cut and ran? Will it be like old times with some newly minted Fulgencio Batista in command of this informal American colony? What is to be done with the rather large and grumpy Cuban military?

All these are open questions. It's been my opinion that the alleged embargo was nothing but the yankee dog being wagged by the tail of some very loud and provocative groups of expats in south Florida who just never got over the fact that they were whupped and whupped soundly at the Bay of Pigs, and everything they tried thereafter made them out to be the bumbling poseurs that they are. There is no reason to think that they will be any more successful than they have been. Anyway, life's just too comfortable in Miami where you can sit around on your butt, drink coffee in the middle of the day when you should be out working, and no matter how low you are you can always piss on Fidel.

In being bitchy, they dragged the rest of us into their squalid mess, to the detriment of American farmers and business people of every sort. Cuba knows where it would push its grocery cart if it had its druthers, and that is in the States. The cost to the Cuban people has been substantial-the cost to the American farmer and his city counterpart has been incalculable. Now, we see that there's offshore oil to be had in the channel between Cuba and Key West, that we won't have a shot at because of the completely idiotic policy of the embargo.

If there ever was a valid reason for it, it's long since past. We have free trade with Viet Nam, where 50,000 of our boys died, and we have free trade with China, both of which are at least nominally Communist countries. President Nixon went to China-probably one of the few smart things he ever did, and it's been good for both countries. Trade is generally a good thing-so let's have the trade.

We here at the Dougloid Papers have reserved our bleacher seats for the coming festivities, although we think that most of the emigres will find things somewhat more complicated than they believe, when the victory parade's over and it's time to clean up the mess. We also will take our seats in the sure knowledge that they have been paid for a hundredfold by the idiotic and futile embargo that has punished the Cuban people and the American farmer long enough.

Engine Malfunction Caused Siberian Air Crash?

It's widely reported in the Russian press this day that it has been determined that the cause of the crash of an Airbus A310 at Irkutsk was that one of its engines went to takeoff power. all on its own. As best as we can figure out, the number 1 thrust reverser failed before landing, and when the aircraft landed the pilot deployed the number 2 thrust reverser. At that point the number one engine went to full tilt boogie.

Apparently this aircraft was equipped with Pratt & Whitney engines and fuel control computers. The spooks from East Hartford spiriteded the FCUs away for 'analysis'.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

This Time the Europeans Have Gone Too Far: Qaero, Anyone?

Folks, with all the heartache and madness raging around us these days, it's nice to find a news article that has us laughing until we're in stitches, but here goes. Just when you think the chips are down, really down, human nature rides to the rescue.

It was reported the other day that the Europeans, not to be outdone by the likes of Google and eBay are pooling their resources and $2.2 billion (yes, you read it right, that's B for billion) to launch an 'Airbus of the Web' to show the philistines of yankeedom, that's right, H.L. Mencken's yokels, how the internet is done, Euro-style. Good idea, but they're ten years behind the power curve in the place where the internet was invented-and not by Al Gore, either, but by those wise folks at DARPA.

What we are talking about, of course, is "Qaero"....the name of which has interesting pronunciation connotations for the backwoodsmen and frontier rustics of America who of course, have to be shown definitively how 'it' is done with style.

The rustic in me says that the article provides some measure of relief and clarifies things greatly. For a moment there I thought you said ....