Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Power8 Quality Moment Brought to You by Tom and Louis

A Power8 Quality Time Moment Brought to You By the Tom and Louis Big Show
There's two old geezers sitting on a park bench and one says to the other "I had my 75th wedding anniversary last week. So me and the wife went to Niagara Falls just like we did on our honeymoon, we had the same steak dinner, and we stayed in the same honeymoon suite. Only one thing was different."
The other geezer says "So what was different?"
The first one says "This time it was me in the bathroom crying."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Forest Fire

Back in the summer of 1966, I was working at a summer camp in upstate New York. It was a dry year and there were some fires buring back in the woods a few miles. It was reasonably well known that you might get asked to work for the state a few days and you might not have a whole lot of choice in the matter.

So Paul, Nicky and I were leaving a cafe on the south side of Indian Lake when the local forest ranger showed up, reached in the back of his jeep, pulled out three packs of Pall Malls and handed one to each of us and said "You guys got anything you need to do for a few days?"
Of course we said "No" and we knew he'd probably called Florence Hayes, the lady we worked for and had her assent. We headed back down to a turnoff, parked and then climbed into the back of an ancient one ton Power Wagon. We went back in the woods about ten miles on a logging road and decamped at a supply dump. The ranger said "Load up, fellows and don't forget to grab a rake."

So load up we did, and we hiked up about four miles to where a small but very hot fire was buring on top of a mountain. We stationed ourselves around the periphery and every time something fell from the top and started the five foot thick carpet of pine needles and leaf mulch on fire, we'd knock it back with the rakes. That's it, just rakes.
The area of the fire is the high ground in the picture as best I remember it.

About the second night I'd run out of cigarettes. I was crawling around on my hands and knees in the pitch dark, and, would you believe it? My right hand landed right on top of a full pack of Pall Malls that someone had dropped. Right then and there I knew there was a G-d, and She was looking out for me.

After three days, the state had run a water line up the back side of the mountain and pretty well put things out, so we were released to go back to Twin Coves, looking like a bunch of barbecued squirrels.

I forgot all about the three days I'd spent up there, and then, in the winter of 1967, there was an envelope in my mailbox at Franconia College from the State of New York. Inside it was a check for about $55, with a short note of thanks.

Mr. Sarkozy Brings Home Some of the Bacon

The New York Times reports today that France has landed a couple of big orders for Airbus, the nominally pan European aircraft company, and Areva, bes' li'l ole nuclear reactor company in France.

The Airbus order was not entirely unexpected , but what's interesting is the vote of no confidence in the A350 and A380 wide bodied aircraft programs. The Chinese ordered 110 A320s and 50 A330s which are both proven, in production bread and butter types that are not particularly advanced but will serve China's needs well. These are also aircraft that Airbus can make money on-lots of money, if they didn't give away the keys to the ranch to run up the order book as they have been known to do.

At this point, it is unknown how many of the A320s will be assembled at the Airbus assembly plant now building in Tianjin, but that's likely to be part of the equation. Also unknown at this point is the engine selection or avionics choice but whether it's the CFM56 or the IAE V2500, and if the avionics come from Rockwell Collins, the order's a win for American companies as well. It's likely that further dollar zone pressures may up the American content significantly as well.

The Areva project for two advanced nuclear reactors and a fuel supply contract is interesting, but one wonders how much technology transfer is involved.

The Chinese are known for leveraging domestic technology improvements as the price of admission to their admittedly huge domestic market, as we learned in the construction of the electrical plant at the Three Gorges Dam. There, the price of admission for Alstom, ABB and the others was showing the Chinese how to fabricate large hydroelectric generation plants.

Time will tell, but for now, there's likely to be a few drinks poured in Toulouse.

Photo credit Air France

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Junk Economics and the Time Machine

Pondering this whole question further, it does look as if this entire contretemps was predictable for the last few years.

In fact, there's a very interesting article by George Selgin entitled "World Monetary Policy After the Euro" dated 2000 that seems to indicate that the central bankers of europe had the choice to make as to whether the euro would become a true international currency or whether they would take the temptation to inflate the value of the currency.

It seems that that policy shift may at least be partially to blame for the overvaluation of the euro. http://www.cato...1/cj20n1-12.pdf

Unsustainable trade deficits and current accounts deficits, deficit spending gone mad, a war budget scarfing up every available dollar on the market, and a housing market built on quicksand are all driving the decline of the value of the dollar.

All of these have been predictable, in fact, inevitable outcomes.

But sitting home in Europe, and not looking at what Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, and Kawasaki have been happily doing the last twenty years in the states beggars the imagination. It's an oversight that is, in retrospect, astounding.

In classic terms, Airbus has been caught with their pants down and is busy trying to shift the focus away from its management, who, if the european taxpayer had any sense at all, should have all been sent to St. Helena to commune with Napoleon's ghost, there to receive a lecture about hubris and its consequences.

What seems funny to me is that back when I was working for Douglas and they were trying to sell the place to Taiwan, there was a brief flirtation with Airbus, nothing really, a glance across a crowded room, two ships passing in the night....it came to nothing.

Had Airbus invested in the dollar zone at that time and picked up Douglas commercial operations, they would have had a fully equipped and staffed turnkey plant in the center of the greatest collection of aerospace production and engineering expertise the world has ever seen.

They would also be the proud owners of the largest horizontal spar milling machines west of the Mississippi River which would now be busily churning out spars for every conceivable Airbus product.

There would now be no question as to what the future air force tanker would look like either and no need for a Potemkin Village fig leaf of a plant in Alabama to inartfully conceal their nakedness. In all likelihood American Airlines, Delta, United, Northwest, and the others large and small would be lining up and signing up.

And their high cost structure in the euro zone?

They'd be immune from that whole problem.

Incentives, you say? They'd have so many incentives being handed to them from places like counties in Kansas and Nebraska that they'd be busy for years adding them up and figuring out all the free acreage and industrial buildings that were thrown at them.

The entire WTO case would evaporate in the twinkling of an eye. Instead of an audience, people'd be telling Boeing to STFU.

Mr. Enders and Mr. Gallois would have to rent a tank truck to haul home all the free drinks that people would buy them, and they'd be lionized from one end of this country to the other by appreciative county supervisors, workers and engineers.

And I'd still have a job.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dollars, Euros and Junk Economics part deux

There are discussions raging on fleetbuzz and on airliners.net on the subject we talked about below.

One of the folks over at a.net posted this interesting information which sheds some light on the current dollar-euro contretmps, and it seems to suggest that inflating the euro was one way for Europe to pay down its foreign debt on the cheap.

It turns out that the writer of this post is a fellow named Perry Holzman, he's a nuclear engineer, and in all respects a thoughtful fellow. It wasn't too long ago that nuclear engineers were as scarce as passenger pigeons and in real danger of going the way of the dodo, but Perry survived, and it looks as if his field of expertise is undergoing a bit of a revival because of that dang climate change thing.

"I am short time this morning; but for those who are interested in how debt service relates to currency valuation I provide the following summarized information:

Due to the shortness of time I will not post links to the easiest to find information

First some comparisons between the US and the European Union (numbers are rounded):

GDP - Gross Domestic Production (Purchasing Power Parity):US $13.1 Trillion (2006)EU $13.1 Trillion (2006)Essentially the same

Population:US 300 MillionEU 490 MillionEU has 1.63 times the population

Oil Data: (Not sure of date - may be from a couple of years ago; but this site list all numbers for the same date: http://www.marktaw.com/culture_and_media/politics/GlobalOil.html Consumption & import information buried in notes between charts.Oil ConsumptionUS 19.7 bbl/day (Billions of barrels per day)EU 14.5 bbl/day

Oil Imports: US 11.6 bbl/dayEU 11.2 bbl/dayEssentially the same

Natural Gas Imports: http://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2182rank.htmlUS 118 bcm/year Billion Cubic Meters/yearEU 362 bcm/year EU imports more than twice the natural gas as the US

Land Area:EU is about 1/2 the size of the US.

Total Debt Service owed to outside of country (Government and Private debt):

The following chart is based on individual nations and really interesting:

I do not have time to add it up today (and have not found an equivalent chart for the entire EU at this time).www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_deb_ext-economy-debt-external

The US total external debt: $10 Trillion (GDP of $13.1 Trillion)

United Kingdom (England): $8.3 Trillion (GDP of $1.9 Trillion)

Germany: $3.9 Trillion (GDP of $2.6 Trillion)

France: $3.5 Trillion (GDP of $1.9 Trillion)

Italy: $2 Trillion (GDP of $1.8 Trillion)

Netherlands: $1.9 Trillion (GDP of $0.5 Trillion)

Spain: $1.6 Trillion (GDP of $1.1 Trillion)

Ireland: $1.4 Trillion (GDP of $0.2 Trillion)

Switzerland: $1.1 Trillion (GDP of $0.3 Trillion)

Belgium: $ 1.1 Trillion (GDP of $0.3 Trillion)

Total outside of country debt service for the world is about $44 Trillion: (So much for a gold standard if there is only several $Trillion of gold, or so, in the entire world).

Overall: The nations of the European Union are far more in debt (public and private) than the US. While I am sure that some of that will be debt between each other.

I suspect that a lot of it will not be due to the fact that the EU imports about the same amount of oil as the US - and has a smaller per capita income.

Each of the EU countries I listed data on above owes more debt outside their borders than their annual GDP (with an average of several times their GDP).

The US owes less than its GDP (about 76% of its GDP).

Might I suggest that one of the values of having a high Euro value is that EU countries could make substantial payments on their international debts (should any country decide to do so).

Long term the easiest way to pay off international debt is to have a highly valued currency. I suspect that this is one of the reasons their was a substantial effort to raise the value of the Euro.

While the current sub prime bank issues are affecting the value of the US currency. The argument that the primary cause of the lowered value of the US dollar is the US debt service does not hold up.

The EU has a far greater debt service compared to their economic activity level.

Values of currencies are due to many "intangibles." Despite their debt service the EU was able to raise the value of the Euro substantially with a multi-year effort on those intangibles.

The US has recently been working to lower its value. Are there other blips (such as the recent more sudden drop of the US currency due to the sub-prime mess; yes).

But there are many other issues at play.

I will also agree that while it is true that the economists have projected that the Euro would go higher compared to other currencies, and that the Dollar would go down somewhat - due to efforts of both governments.

No one can predict the blips and other intangibles involved. Thus the full extent of the shift in the Euro to Dollar ratio was not predictable."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dollars, Euros and Junk Economics

There's a lot of talk these days about exchange rates, and da Festung is making a lot of noise about such things, but as always, this infernal palaver is more about soundbites and garnering the sympathy of fools than about facts.
I mean, it's ever so much easier to have Uncle to use as a punching bag than to lay the blame where it rightfully belongs, right? If it's German and French workers that have to lose their jobs, it's far better to blame the dollar and by inference the evil Americans than to look like one is biting the hand that feeds.
So. Is this an excuse to cut the fat and shuck the blame for it off on the yanquis? It has the potential to be sure, but labor in Europe is not the laydown, pussywhipped, watered down, thin blooded kind of thing that it's become here in the states.
So if that's the idea it'll probably fail.
And monetary policy is so dang dreary....it is a branch of economics, which everyone knows is the dismal science.

Bloomberg has got a pretty well thought out article today that sheds a little light on the subject today.
It seems that Airbus is whinging that it may have to cut its $3 billion research budget because of the decline of the dollar as part of an effort to cut costs, according to Tom Enders. One of the other Talking Heads at Airbus (oh, where ARE you, Barbara Kracht, you were SO good at this) Rainer Ohler says that the dollar decline "poses a threat to the Airbus business model", so that they've got to think about measures to control spending, and that includes the research and development budget.
Talk about shifting the blame.
A few points come to mind. There are two or three distinct threats to the Airbus business model that I know about.
First there IS the declining value of the dollar, but that may well be a mirror reflection of the overvaluation of the euro, which is being driven by excessively conservative european monetary policy coming from the european banks that wear the pants in that marriage. None of this is to say that unsustainable U.S. trade imbalances and deficit spending are not heavily implicated in this calculus.
As we here in the States are painfully aware these days, monetary policy (and for that matter, trade and credit policy) has painful consequences for someone, right on the ground, and that someone can be you, or your neighbor who's out of a job.
But to put european monetary policy in perspective that even fools can understand, you can't price yourself above the market and then complain about the competition undercutting you.
Such a conclusion is the kind of thing that would leave a group of three year old toddlers shaking their little heads in dismay.
The threat to the Airbus business model (to use Herr Ohler's words) is Airbus, and its willingness to spend like a drunken sailor and toss the taxpayers' money down the chute like there was no tomorrow and the gravy train would never end.
Some say the development budget for the A380 has topped $20 billion, the A400M is turning into a money pit, and nobody knows what in heck it's going to cost to develop the A350 around Boeing's near monopoly of big airplane carbon fiber technology.
And there's that pesky problem of actually delivering the product. If one was to assume without deciding that developing the A350 and the A400M are going to cost, say, $10 billion each, Airbus has a $40 billion nut to crack before they ever get to profitability, and right now they don't have an order book that says they can do it.
As that great American sage Pogo once observed, "We have met the Enemy, and He is Us."
Mark it well, Mr. Enders.
By the by, there's an interesting thread on this very subject over at Fleetbuzz (bes' li'l ole blog in the U.K., doncha know, because it's got Soul Power, can'tcha see?) and it's well worth a peek.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's baaaaaack, and I don't like it at all.

First dusting of the year, this photo was taken about five minutes after 10:00 CST. Can you imagine that Monday it was 70 degrees?

Reports Of Its Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Flight International informs us this day that Mr. Tim Clark, el Presidente and Chief Expositor of Emirates (bes' li'l ole airline in the Gulf) is urging Boeing to go forward with a product improved 777-300ER incorporating 787 technology improvements.

Tim, not one to spare the superlatives, says it would be a "world beater". I'm inclined to think he's right. One of the reasons that the A350-1000 variant from Festung Airbus has created such interest in the aviation world is its place in the sweet spot that the 777 now occupies.

I promise, when I get my 777-A350 comparo chart completed and annotated it'll go up here, but just looking at it this morning indicates that there's a pretty good gap in the lineup that a product improved 777-300ER would slide right into.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New adventures in journalism UPDATE 1

This is going to be the first instance that we've ever used confidential source material here. That's where these photos came from.
Truly frightening and we're anticipating a preliminary report from the people who know what happened.
UPDATE 1: The fine folks at Hemscott tell us that BEA, the French aeronautical authority has released a preliminary report that does not indicate there was any brake or engine malfunction. The report states that the aircraft was unchocked and was pulling full power on all four engines for three minutes before it began to move and went into the barrier 13 seconds later.
Well, you might ask why such a test was undertaken. It's simple. The brake system has to be able to hold the aircraft immobile under the stress of full engine power.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Idle Speculation Reigns Supreme At BBC

Last night's news had a couple items that were laughable if sobering for the level that supposedly respectable media's fallen to these days.

First was that "hundreds of thousands of Americans took refuge in Canada during the Viet Nam War." statement. Even wikipedia tells us that according to Canadian immigration authorities 20 to 30,000 draft eligible Americans hid out in Canada during the war, and at the same time as many as 30,000 Canadians served in the US Armed forces during the same conflict.

Sounds like a wash to me.

The second item of interest was in predicting an implosion/recession in the US economy because Jay Z, retardo rapper deluxe, has made his latest video "Blue Magic" clutching a fistful of Euros rather than dollars. This, it was theorized, is something of a bellwether.

BBC, are ya listening? Here's your new eeeeeeeeconomic guru.

Personal life

Criminal charges
Jay-Z was accused of stabbing record executive Lance "Un" Riviera for what he perceived was Riviera's bootlegging of Vol 3...Life and Times of S. Carter. The stabbing allegedly occurred at the record release party for Q-Tip's debut solo album Amplified at the Kit Kat Klub, a now defunct night club in Times Square, New York City, on December 9, 1999. Jay-Z's associates at the party were accused of causing a commotion within the club, which Jay-Z allegedly used as cover when he supposedly stabbed Riviera in the stomach with a five-inch blade.[12]

Jay-Z initially denied the incident and pleaded not guilty when a grand jury returned the indictment. Jay-Z and his lawyers contended he was nowhere around Riviera during the incident and they had witnesses and videotape evidence from the club that showed Jay-Z's whereabouts during the disturbance. Nevertheless, he later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge which resulted in a sentence of three years probation. The New York Post reported that Jay-Z had bought out Riviera for $600,000 to cease his cooperation with prosecutors, and without the cooperation of the victim, prosecutors had to cut a plea deal that would not interfere with Jay-Z's touring plans. Riviera also dropped a civil suit, where he asked for $40 million.[13]

Jay-Z makes reference to the trial and incident on his songs "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)", off The Blueprint, "Threat," off The Black Album and "Dear Summer", which was included in Memphis Bleek's 2005 release 534.

Rival rapper Cam'ron has since claimed on his song "You Gotta Love It" that Jay-Z had actually "stabbed Him over Charli Baltimore".

You're welcome to him at Bush House, y'all.

Uhhhhhh, hello? Is this Etihad? There's been a slight delay.

The International Herald Tribune informs us today that there was a slight contretemps when doing a full power runup of one of Etihad's brand spanking new A340-600s.
This one went right through the blast fence and is a total writeoff, or at least is going to need some bondo and a paint job.
Already there are serious differences in le story depending on who's doing the talking. According to Airbus seven contractors working for Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies were aboard and were among the ten injured.
I think what's important will be who was at the throttles, where the aircraft was positioned, and why nobody was able to chop power when the ship started to roll or slide.
My experience with engine runs suggests that there was no clear chain of command in this aircraft. In every engine run I was ever part of, if the aircraft couldn't be moved to a remote area of the airfield with plenty of room it was securely chocked with observers on the ground and on the intercom. In addition, there was always somebody in the cockpit with sense and authority enough to chop the power if necessary-which happened every once in a while.
One time Roger and I were running up a Volpar that I'd redone the gearboxes on. There was ever so slight a momentary tremor in one engine and Roger chopped the power so fast that we were back to idle before I had time enough to ask "What was THAT?" What it was, was the aircraft running out of fuel. At Douglas, full power runs were never done nose to the fence.
At least it ain't me that has to take that long walk back to the office with the bad news.
UPDATE: Somehow or other we got on the subject of ANA and MD87s. As it turned out a savvy reader pointed this contretemps out to me and I had to do my research. It was Japan Air System, and they had MD90s, but the engine run and what happened thereafter is correct.
Thanks, George-you da man.
Photo credit The Sun.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dubai '07 Tale of the Tape

Here's the word from CNN business today.

Emirates AirlineFrom: AirbusFor: $34.9 billion (The largest-ever aircraft order in civil aviation and beating the total for the whole of 2005 event by US $13.6 billion)Of: 120 A350s, 11 A380s, 12 Boeing 777-300E (total order includes 93 aircraft on firm order and 50 on option. The first A350 will be delivered 2014)

DAE Capital (off-shoot of DAE)From: AirbusFor: $13.5 billion dollarsOf: 70 Airbus A320 and 30 A350 planes

Qatar AirwaysFrom: BoeingFor: $6.1 billionOf: 30 787 Dreamliners and five 777 Freighters (will be first Middle East Airline to operate both the 777 and 787)

Air ArabiaFrom: AirbusFor: $3.5 billionOf: 50 Airbus A320 planes

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE)From: GE Commercial Aviation ServicesFor: $1billion acquisitionOf: 20-aircraft deal, Boeing 737 next generation series and Airbus A320 series

LCALFrom: BoeingFor: $972 millionOf: 6 787-8 Dreamliners

Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE)From: Emirates Airline in a split purchase and leaseback deal that markedFor: $500 millionOf: 8 Airbus wide body Airbus A330-200s

NASFrom: EmbraerFor: $348 millionOf: 5 Embraer 190 jets

Al Jaber GroupFrom: EmbraerFor: $300 million (Single largest order for Embraer from the region)Of: 5 Lineage 1000 and 2 Legacy 600

Al Jaber AviationAirbusNo exact figure BUT catalog prices of the two A318s would together be worth more than $110 million. The A380 sells for about $320 million apiece. 2 A318 Elite corporate jets, 2 A380 superjumbos

Wallan Aviation (KSA)CessnaOver $110 million11 Citation business jets and 14 single engine aircraft

Wallan Aviation (KSA)From: Smart Aviation (Egypt)For: $80 millionOf: 5 Citation Sovereign aircraft

YemeniaFrom: AirbusOf: 10 Airbus A350 XWBs

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Big Score for Toulouse at Dubai UPDATE 3

In a move that was not entirely unexpected at the Dubai Air Show, Emirates ordered 50 Airbus A350-900, 20 A350-1000, and optioned another 50 A350-900 IWannaBeLikeMikeliners.

They also confirmed 8 A380 PotemkinLiners previously optioned and ordered 3 more.

Boeing wasn't entirely left out of the joy, as Emirates ordered 12 B777-300ERs, which sounds like an ever so slight hedging of the bets against Airbus' penchant for schedule slipping delays.

Qatar ordered 30 B787 GretaGarboLiners and 5 B777F freighters, but these have already been announced in the order book earlier in the year.

There's more to come so stay tuned. But for now, the joy's all Airbus.


The Wall Street Journal tells us today that Dubai Aerospace Enterprise has ordered 70 B787 GretaGarboLiners (I know, I know....read on)and 30 other Boeing widebodies, although the type wasn't clear from the article, could be 787s, 777s or 747s. In addition, Saudia ordered 22 A320s and NAS ordered 20 A320s. It is rumored that there are more orders to come, but nothing on the scale of what we've seen so far.

HERE'S THE CLARIFICATION PART: Flight Global tells us that DAE also ordered 70 A320s and 30 A350s and that the Boeing part of the order included 70 B737s, 5 747-8Fs, 10 777-300ERs and 15 B787 GretaGarboLiners. So maybe the WSJ got its numbers a little mixed up but nevermind.

It would seem that both da Festung and The Prussian Airplane Company both are now heavily invested in Dubai. I sure hope those fellers know what they're going to do with the airplanes when they start getting delivered.

UPDATE 3. Tuesday.

As expected Yemenia ordered 10 A350 IWannaBeLikeMikeLiners and a handful of A320s today, according to the International Herald Tribune.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Power8 and Other Notable Frauds and Hoaxes

Ever since it was announced almost a year ago, the much ballyhooed Power8 cost realignment and restructuring program over at Festung Airbus has been all show and no go. Of course we can expect that any day now the big heads at da Festung will discover that, after all, it was the fault of the mean old Americans and their funky ass, deadbeat dollar exchange rate.
Doug MacVitie of Arran Aerospace, whom I erroneously identified as Hugh (sorry Doug, it was a senior moment) has this to say:
"Hedging is difficult anyway," said Doug McVitie, head of consultancy firm Arran Aerospace. "The issue of the exchange rate doesn't in any way affect the fact that there are serious in-house managerial and engineering issues that have to be resolved."
According to McVitie, Airbus has failed to successfully implement the vital restructuring program, allowing unions to take control and demand that the seven plants to be sold should be unloaded according to their time frame; all in one go or not at all.

"Power8? I've got more power in my hair-dryer," said McVitie

Power8 is the biggest fraud since Piltdown Man, the Cardiff Giant, or the Pogue carburetor that would let you get 200 mpg but the oil companies had the inventor assassinated. Where are the pink slips? You can't cut jobs unless you, well, cut jobs. Fire the sonsabitches. Cut 'em loose. Get 'em gone.

10,000 job cuts? Sheeeeeeyyit, man, when I got laid off at Douglas 3,400 went out on the same day. The way you cut jobs is you cut them, instead of jabbering about it and blaming the mean nasty ole dollar.
Still no sale with the factories. That's a joke too.

"Look. We don't want these factories. They're overstaffed with bloated payrolls and they're horribly inefficient too and they can't cut the mustard or else we'd be keeping them, mind you. But you can't change the product lineup and you can't cut staff, and maybe we'll throw some production work at you in six or seven years if we ever get around to building some airplanes instead of all this infernal palaver."
How's THAT for a sales pitch?

Salon.com Writer Blacklisted By Airbus? Style Counts

Salon's Patrick Smith informs us this day that he's been blacklisted from Airbus media events because he's been calling the A380 PotemkinLiner .....well, phugly.

The most hideous airliner ever conceived
The worst-looking piece of major industrial design of the past 50 years
A huge steroidal porpoise
The ponderous, beluga-headed Airbus
Oversized, homely and decadent.

Patrick relates the following:

"The jet is shamelessly, needlessly ugly.

Most of that ugliness is the fault of the plane's bulging forehead, a trait that resulted from an engineering decision to place the cockpit below the upper deck. It is useful to think of a jetliner as a sort of horizontal skyscraper. To recall the words of architecture critic Paul Goldberger, writing in a 2005 issue of the New Yorker: "Most architects who design skyscrapers focus on two aesthetic problems. How to meet the ground and how to meet the sky -- the top and the bottom, in other words." With airplanes, as with office towers, the observer's gaze is drawn instinctively to their extremities, and their attractiveness, or lack thereof, is personified through the sculpting of the nose and tail sections. Not that the A380's tail is anything special either, but it's hard to get past that forehead.

"Perhaps in ten to fifteen years," offered Geoffrey Thomas in last month's issue of Air Transport World, "the A380 will be described with the same passion and affection as the Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower, two of many global icons that were bedeviled by controversy during their early years." Not this time.

Did it need to be this way? Is it true, to cite a quote attributed to an Airbus engineer some years ago, that "Air does not yield to style"? Jet age romantics recall the provocative curves of machines like the Caravelle; the urbane, needle-nosed superiority of Concorde; the Gothic surety of the 727. You're telling us that planes need to be boring, or worse, in the name of efficiency and economy.

No, they don't.

Compare the A380's resultant profile with that of its chief rival, the Boeing 747. The 747 is often derided as "bubble-topped" or "humpbacked." In truth, the upper-deck annex, fronted by the flight deck, provides the plane with its most recognizable feature and is smoothly integral to the fuselage, tapering forward -- the pilots' windscreens anthropomorphizing as eyebrows -- to a stately and confident prow. Front to back, the 747 looks less like an airliner than it does an ocean liner. (For the record, the tail is pretty sexy too -- svelte like the foresail of a schooner.) The airplane is giant, but it doesn't necessarily seem that way. There's an organic flow to its silhouette. For all its square footage and power, it maintains a graceful, understated elegance."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pickup Truck Nation: Perspectives on the American Project

I'm alright
Don't nobody worry 'bout me
You got to gimme a fight
Why don't you just let me be

I'm alright
Nobody worry 'bout me
Why you got to gimme a fight?
Can't you just let it be?

I'm alright
I'm alright
Just let me be

-Kenny Loggins

Every once in a while you make an excuse to go attend to some business in the far reaches of the world, and a sovereign way to do that is to set out, turn off the radio and the mobile phone, and give yourself time to think about more than immediate matters. Today was one of those days. I was on my way to Harlan, Iowa for a meeting that I could have done over the phone, but quiet time is rare-even when it's inside a pickup truck and it's not very quiet.
It is fall here on the prairie, and harvest is a time for summing up where we are, what we've managed to get done, and where we're going. That is something I never did much of in Los Angeles, but it is part of the cyclical rhythym that all folks who live in rural, agricultural areas find themselves doing.

There's a super sized helping of bad news lately.

The economy's off its axis, the cost of energy is going to make this winter hell for poor folks, the dollar's in free fall, we're in the fourth year of a war which seems like it'll never end, housing and credit are in freefall, and we're on the defensive from every smart aleck euroblogger who thinks he understands what makes us tick and what it is we need to get ourselves straight-even if the place he hails from wouldn't rate a stoplight and a Casey's in this part of the world.

To add to that, there's plenty of self doubt about the rightness of our principles and what we stand for, if anything. The test of our character as people, individually or collectively, is how we resolve these matters, if at all. It's to be remembered that we're still part of the rest of the world and the human race whether we like it or not. We're remarkably ordinary folk.

The solution to the energy problem is a technical, economic and social construct. We will find other ways to produce energy, it'll cost us some money, and we'll learn to live within our means, energy wise. That's not what I'm worried about.

Adam Smith opined that the source of wealth was in the combination of labor and resources that yields production. People planted a garden on the commons, or grazed cattle, and because of their labor they gained the produce of the garden or the increase from their cattle. It stands to reason that you can either add wealth or shuffle it around or waste it.
There are limits. It seems very obvious that we can't continue to squander our substance in rioutous living as the Book said the Prodigal Son did. The wallet's empty, the checking account's overdrawn and the credit card's maxed out. Flip This House nation is not sustainable.
But learning, understanding, measuring and squaring, metalworking, building, mending, and charity-these are sustainable, and these we have.
So why am I so optimistic about this land, and why do I think that reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated? Simply that we're a serious and purposeful people, if not particularly stylish and the butt of numerous jokes. Sooner or later we'll get it.
A lot like the much lampooned pickup trucks everyone drives here. They're there for a purpose, and that purpose is to shoulder the load. Show us where the load is, and where it is to be moved to, and we will do it.
And there is only one way to see this country-and that is from the cab of a pickup truck.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Show in Dubai

Next week's the Dubai Air Show, starting Sunday the 11th. It's eagerly awaited by the folks like us in the cheap seats, although one might suppose that the deals that matter are already pretty much done.

Still, there's the random factor that makes these events interesting, even if they are stage managed by the players involved. Everyone loves a circus even if the moves are all planned out well in advance.

What's of interest to us here at the Dougloid Papers, of course, is the rumored commercial orders that will come out of the show. A large order for the A350 IWannaBeLikeMikeLiner may move that program forward, and the A380 PotemkinLiner may garner some orders. John Leahy, boy savant and huckster extraordinaire for Festung Airbus is on record as saying that the A380 was going to land 20 new orders and two new customers this year and he's on track so far with his predictions.
Boeing, for its part, will be offering the product improved but commonly perceived as outdated B747-8i and -8f, B777s in all shapes and sizes, and the B787 GretaGarboLiner. Whether the 747-8i is going to land some orders, or whether an up-powered 787-10 is going to be announced is something we'll have to wait and see about.

I haven't mentioned the A320 and the B737 UnsungHeroLiners, because lots of them are going to be sold now and in the future. They do the dirty work in the air travel business every day, day in and day out, schlepping folks on the redeye from Cleveland to Milwaukee and Hamburg to Paris and Delhi to Bangalore. They also pay the bills for Toulouse and Renton, they keep people busy spinning wrenches and bashing rivets and slopping PR1422 all over everything, and that's good.
Whether there are significant military orders in the offing is not known to me, although it's interesting to contemplate whether there will be new orders for the C130 Hercules, the C17 Globemaster II and the A400M military airlifter from Airbus.
With respect to combat aircraft, the efforts of the Russians and maybe the Chinese may make for interesting reading. They're both eager to sell, and the Russians have some very good, modestly priced hardware from Sukhoi and MiG as well as some serious heavylift rotorcraft. China, as we have seen, is capable of making anything, doing a good job, and delivering on time.

Dubai, the bes' li'l ole emirate in the Persian Gulf, is a study in contrasts. Awash in a rising tide of oil money, Dubai is spending it like the proverbial drunken sailor, as evidenced by the massive terraforming going on-Palm Islands I and II and the collection of 300 man made islands to the east. It's a classic bubble economy on a grand scale, all built on the world's raging thirst for petroleum.
Along with the massive terraforming going on, Dubai's also got the largest indoor ski slope in the world and is building Burj Dubai, which will be the tallest chunk of real estate in the world and likely the most expensive to boot. The hubris in all this is so thick you can cut it with a knife, and it doesn't have to be very sharp either. A common butter knife will do.
On the other hand, it's quite evident from scanning Google Earth that when you get to the edge of town, the place is a howling wilderness of sand, and every last glass of water and plate of food must be hauled in from somewhere else, that somewhere else being a long way off. That bears hard study, I think, before we declare that the New Millenium has arrived in Dubai.
Every finger that is lifted in Dubai is lifted by expatriates who will never be part of Dubai no matter how long they and their progeny reside therein. They'll always be hewers of wood and drawers of water without a stake in the project and no rights a Dubai citizen is bound to respect, and that goes a long way to underscore the fundamental injustice of such a construct.
Whether it can be maintained into the long term future is as yet undecided. But for now, it makes for interesting watching from the bleachers.
Photo credit Google Earth.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Elderly Man Dies In A350 Crash

....that caught your eye, didn't it?

Turns out that the A350's a highway in Britain. It seems that the elderly driver died in a solo car accident as his Ford Focus left the bend in the road near the LaFarge cement works. It's easy to find on Google Earth and when blogger permits I shall upload the image.

And here you thought....well, I don't know what you thought.