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.
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.
The National Business Aviation Association convention draws aviation’s elite and honors a few each year. This time, heartfelt kudos were laid on Bob Hoover as NBAA presented him its Meritorious Service to Aviation Award, its highest honor. A five-minute video included tributes from Clay Lacy, Harrison Ford, astronaut Gene Cernan and many others to explain why.
Q: Regarding Narrow Deck and Wide Deck Lycoming engines, what would be the differences between a Narrow Deck O360 and IO360 heads, sump, and fuel pump? The cylinders appear the same.
BOB STOUGHTON, via email
The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention in Orlando Oct. 21-23 was termed a “massive success” by NBAA President Ed Bolen. Always is. Despite some down years, corporate aviation is booming (comparatively) and attention and spending follow the money. But there’s always more to NBAA than corporate jets.
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.
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.”
In 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.”
For 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.
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.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Business as usual in air traffic management won’t work, which is why the FAA Administrator is calling on the aviation industry to help in adapting and assuring the financing of new approaches. That was the message FAA Administrator Michael Huerta brought in a recent speech to the Aero Club of Washington.
Last week the U.S. and the world missed a story that was right there, front and center for all to see. But we missed it. Not a word was spoken about a story that should have been news, but was instead, virtually invisible in the public consciousness.
Granted, the ebola scare has most people distracted from their normal day-to-day thoughts. Who can focus on deciding between going with cable or switching to satellite service when the specter of imminent doom is right there on the front page of your newspaper?