LA Times opines about Santa Monica Airport

We’ve been saying it for years. But it’s nice to hear the mainstream media pick up the argument. The Los Angeles Times editorial board said, with regard to Santa Monica Airport, “Open to private business and recreational aircraft, it relieves Los Angeles International Airport of some smaller plane traffic. Flight schools, airplane maintenance, charter jet businesses, and emergency and medical flight services all use it as a base.” The editorial goes on to address the safety concerns of neighbors with – are you ready for this – actual data. Well done LA Times.

GA advocates return to Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The mid-term election was a surprise to many people. Some it pleased. To others it caused discomfort. But to officials of general aviation advocacy groups who deal regularly with Congress, election results are neutral.

The associations deal with both political parties over the years and there is no desire to make a comment that could be filed away to remind a person or party that a particular association was not nice in what was said at any time.

Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), said “we know the value of the industry will continue to be recognized by members of both parties, as demonstrated by the large, bipartisan nature of the House and Senate GA Caucuses.”

He added the caucuses are about evenly divided along party lines. Lawmakers come from urban and rural districts, coastal areas and the middle of the country. In all these places business aviation is essential in creating jobs, helping companies of all sizes succeed, and providing an economic lifeline, he noted.

Officials at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) said they are encouraged as many key general aviation supporters kept their positions. Two of the incoming Republicans are also AOPA members — Barry Loudermilk of Georgia and former Governor Mike Rounds, elected to fill one of South Dakota’s Senate seats.

There will need to be some rebuilding in the House and Senate Caucuses. According to AOPA, the Senate Caucus will lose at least seven members; the House will need to seek new leadership after Rep. John Barrow (R-Ga.) was defeated.

Tom Cotton, a representative from Arkansas who co-sponsored the House’s General Aviation Protection Act, will be moving from the House to the Senate.

Even with all the changes, the House GA Caucus is still one of the largest in the Congress.

Santa Monica airport problems continue

Although not a Washington subject, the future of Santa Monica Airport (SMO) had a disappointing election result for GA advocates. Currently this important airport in the Los Angeles area is teetering on the edge. Developers want to build industrial sites and offices on the airport. Over recent years there have been exorbitant landing and rental fees and other attempts to strangle the airport.

A measure passed by the voters leaves the City Council in charge of the airport. AOPA worked over the years to keep the airport operating. The association supported an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would have required voter approval before the city could make any changes. This measure failed.

Airport advocates know the importance of an airport in the Los Angeles area to relieve Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and to provide the economic connection with the world that an airport brings.

Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airports, said that association will continue to work to keep the airport open.

Having flown into SMO on a few occasions on business, I recognize the value of the airport as a business asset.

Vanity Fair: The Human Factor

We typically steer clear of airline-related topics in General Aviation News. But for William Langewiesche’s feature – The Human Factor – on the Air France 447 in Vanity Fair, I’ll make an exception. As sophistication and automation in all aspects of aerospace has developed over the past few decades our role as pilots must be continuously evaluated. Langewiesche masterfully mixes re-telling the sequence of events that led up to the accident with airline industry analysis and inertia. As a pilot, the story wasn’t an easy read, but worth it. I hope you feel the same.

Progress comes at a cost

At this very moment there is a team of highly skilled professionals who are out of sight and largely out of mind, yet they have been tasked with solving an almost unimaginably difficult puzzle. They work for the NTSB and their charge is to figure out exactly what went wrong last week aboard SpaceShipTwo, the private sector launch system being developed by Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, and a collection of truly gifted engineers, technologists, craftsmen, and pilots.

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Plastic Fantastic P-51

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By any number of surveys, the P-51 Mustang is one of the most admired airplanes in the history of aviation. Even though that statement sounds bold — on the verge of exaggeration — most readers will surely agree.

Like most aviators, I’ve never flown in an original P-51, although I have flown in a light kit version called the 5151 and a closer-to-original-size S-51. The Loehle Aviation version was made entirely of wood and had a Rotax two-stroke engine. While it had the right basic shape, it was docile to fly … unlike the immensely powerful original, I’m told. The Stewart Aircraft iteration was bigger and bold, powered by a 450-horsepower Corvette engine.

However, while both were close-enough recreations of the original to be desirable, even a non-pilot could tell they were replicas. I see nothing wrong with that, but is it simply too challenging to make one that looks truly like the original? It turns out the answer is “no.” Someone finally did do so.

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Is Facebook changing how you consume news?

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Facebook. It’s social. It’s mobile. It’s ubiquitous. It’s free. What’s not to love about Facebook? [That’s sarcasm, by the way.]

Facebook “drives up to 20% of traffic to news sites,” reports Ravi Somaiya in a recent New York Times story.

On the General Aviation News website, since the start of 2014, we’ve seen just under 20% of our traffic come from Facebook. Since Aug. 1, however, the percentage soared to more than 35%.

On Jan. 1 we had just north of 26,000 “likes” on our Facebook page. As I write this on Oct. 27, we have more than 187,000 “likes.”

a4e3cabab20a65370bdca853f9ad426aIn the popularity contest that is Facebook, we’ve passed Plane & Pilot, Flying Magazine, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), and all the non-publication pages I found to track. Woo hoo…

There have been weeks that we’ve sent a ton of traffic to our own website, as well as those we link to. I have to admit, it is fun to receive a call from someone who thanks me for driving so much traffic to their website from a simple share on our Facebook page.

But Facebook is a fickle mistress. As quickly as she gives, she takes.

From the same New York Times story, “About 30% of adults in the United States get their news on Facebook, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.” And since the majority of people who read this aren’t in the news/media business, the second half of the paragraph is a throw-away, “The fortunes of a news site, in short, can rise or fall depending on how it performs in Facebook’s News Feed.” Or is it?

In isolation, the first part of the above quote isn’t particularly bothersome. However, there’s more: “Roughly once a week, Greg Marra, a Facebook engineer, and his team of about 16 adjust the complex computer code that decides what to show a user when he or she first logs on to Facebook. The code is based on ‘thousands and thousands’ of metrics, Mr. Marra said, including what device a user is on, how many comments or likes a story has received, and how long readers spend on an article.”

1e8246950a74b4eaed3388ca222a3de7For those of us with a Facebook Page, we can immediately impact a user’s news feed, if we’re willing to open our wallets. All any of us have to do is click the blue “Boost Post” button to reach more people. Disclosure I: We have not boosted any posts. Disclosure II: As a business owner, in the media business, the “Boost Post” button make absolute sense to me.

So, if you are one of the 30%-ers who get their news from Facebook, and don’t want to subject yourself to the whims of 16 Facebook engineers for said news, I suggest you sign up for a few subscriptions to the human-edited publications you enjoy and trust. [Yeah, I know that is a self-serving suggestion.] Whether it is General Aviation News, or BoldMethod, or EAA, or AOPA, or Flying, or Plane & Pilot, or The New York Times or [insert publication here] matters not.

Come to think of it, I found the New York Times story that inspired this column from a human edited newsletter called, Next Draft [tagline: The Day’s Most Fascinating News from Dave Pell.] May I suggest you subscribe.

What have you done for me lately?

Like it or not, aviation enthusiasts are often classified by non-aviation enthusiasts as “those people.” As a card carrying member of the “those people” fan club, I’m often interested in how we’re perceived and routinely blamed for the ills of society by those who don’t understand us. In general, we’re neither loved or admired. Frequently we’re assumed to be outrageously wealthy, aloof, and selfish.

Rather than blame those who blame us, I did a little daydreaming about how this relationship came to be so dysfunctional. I was also curious how we might go about reversing the trend. Given enough time I’m sure I could have come up with a solution too, but a handful of proactive pilots in Paso Robles, California, beat me to it.

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