Technology lost: A very real possibility


Modern society exists in its present form, all over the world, because humans have developed, deployed, and adapted to technologies that make our lives easier, more pleasant, and longer than ever before.

Every phase of life is improved to some degree by the availability of technologies we use without the slightest thought. These technologies are convenient, relatively inexpensive, and widely available even to the least fortunate among us. Microwave ovens, wide-screen televisions, airplanes, helicopters, GPS navigation in our cars and on our phones, computerized cash register/scanners, and compact florescent light bulbs are all available to us, more or less all the time.

I wonder if that will be the case 100 years from now. Or 200 years out from today. Perhaps not. [Read more…]

Why does GA get no respect?

The Wright Flyer

Regular readers will remember that my last few columns have been on concerns with the proposed new unleaded avgas. Well I am done venting on that subject for now, so I am getting off that bully pulpit until the alphabet groups and the federal agencies produce some more column fodder.

And I am getting on my soap box: Recently I was driving across the state and was listening to talk radio. The subject of the discussion was David McCullough’s new book on the Wright brothers.

The thing that got to me was not that the book described the Wrights as geniuses, but that the announcers seemed surprised at this assessment. [Read more…]

The magic number is 30 — for now

Benefactor James Ray at the grand opening of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy in 2011.

The number of pilots in the United States is decreasing. Pretty much anyone who flies is aware of this unfortunate fact. Consider the irony: Although aviation is more ubiquitous than ever and the overall population of the nation is increasing, the number of us who have a valid pilot’s certificate is actually diminishing.

In my little corner of the world, and by corner of the world I mean, this big ol’ sandbar that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Atlantic Ocean, there is a program intended to reverse that trend. I’m particulary enamored of and tremendously excited about the mission they’ve set themselves on, as well as the success they’re having.

Yes, actual success. They really are making a profound difference that extends well past the cockpit. [Read more…]

Do something

Photo courtesy AOPA

Frederick, Maryland, has an amenity often missing in my home town: Sidewalks.

Where I live they’re spotty at best. Hence, it’s common for walkers to get into a gasoline powered vehicle which they drive to a place where they can walk without undue risk of being hit by a car, or a truck, or perhaps finding a territorial alligator in their path. [Read more…]

What’s fueling higher engine temps?

Q: I own a factory overhauled O-360 A4A, which I’ve owned since it left the factory. I’ve flown behind it for 600 hours. I recently had a prop strike and the engine was stripped and reassembled with no damage found. All they replaced were the exhaust valve guides and piston rings. (And all the rest as per shock load spec.)

The plane has been put together exactly as before and performs almost better than before. I have 10 years of multi probe engine monitor data to compare. [Read more…]

The great migration of 1940

In the winter of 1940 over 600 light planes flew from around the United States to Florida. This image from the June 1938 cover of Air Trails shows the variety of new aircraft being offered for sale. (Source: Air Trails June 1938)

January 1940 saw a mass migration of light planes from throughout the United States to Florida. Held in conjunction with the Miami All-American Air Maneuver Air Races, the group flights of personal planes was known as the Light Airplane Cavalcade. [Read more…]

Limiting our freedom of speech

Photo courtesy Sporty's

The founders of this great nation — I refer to the United States of America, of course — did an amazing thing when they debated and passed a Bill of Rights. These 10 amendments to a Constitution so new the ink was still wet on the page set out specific areas of freedom for individuals and, more importantly, limits for government, that continue to guide us today. First among those amendments is the freedom of speech.

What a remarkable idea. Especially when compared and contrasted with other nations of that period.

In the U.S., an individual can speak their mind. You can say what you wish, whether it’s a cogent thought or an idiotic ramble. If you feel it, you may say it. And this freedom extends beyond the citizenry of our nation. It falls to anyone who stands within our borders. Speak freely, we say. Discuss. Debate. Explore the ramblings of your mind at will.

Of course, there are limits. [Read more…]

Changing lives one flight at a time

Ladies Who Lunch

Taking someone for their first flight in a small aircraft is always rewarding, but making the flight to an airport I’ve never visited makes the reward even sweeter.

I had the chance to fly two of my new co-workers to a private airstrip on a golf course in Wisconsin, and it was another great reminder of the cool factor that being a pilot embodies, as well as the intense impact one short flight can have. [Read more…]