Random Thoughts, July 6

Here is another in our occasional stream of random thoughts.

Bill Virgin and Manufacturing Alert

Bill Virgin, a former columnist with The Seattle PI, was zapped when the print edition shut down and it became a web-only publication. He’s launched his own newsletter, Manufacturing Alert, which covers a variety of industries and issues in Washington State. The modestly-priced subscription-only newsletter may be found here. His June 22 issue notes there are now at least five aerospace groups in Washington dedicated to keeping Boeing here and encouraging aerospace in the state. These are the following groups (with our additional comment describing the mission of each):

  • Aerospace Futures Alliance: The AFA is funded primarily by Boeing. AFA tracks legislative issues and lobbies the Legislature.
  • Washington Aerospace Partnership: WAP’s primary mission at the moment is to advance an award to Boeing for the USAF tanker.
  • The Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance: PNAA is an independent group promoting aerospace, including holding regular breakfast meetings and two major events each year.
  • The Prosperity Partnership Aerospace Cluster Strategy Development Working Group: Whew. The acronym is PPACSDWG, if one is used. Perhaps P-PAC might suffice. The Prosperity Partnership unites the four-county interests to promote business and development in the greater Puget Sound area.
  • Washington Council on Aerospace: The WCA is a new group appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and is the successor to the Governor’s Council on Aerospace, which did a year-long study ending in October 2008. The GCA made certain recommendations, working closely with the AFA, and the WCA has many of the same members as the GCA. Why the governor didn’t simply extend the GCA for a seamless continuation of its work is a mystery, but there it is.

Getting back to Virgin’s recent newsletter, he wonders how many aerospace groups are really necessary and it’s a good point. Some civic leaders wonder the same thing. Some of these leaders complain that there are too many groups all trying to do the same thing and nobody is coordinating among them.

But for those who live here in Washington State, we know that we love to have committees. That they often duplicate effort is inconvenient, so it’s pretty much ignored.

We’ve added a link (“Bill Virgin”) to our Aviation News section even though Bill writes about other things, too.

A350 Funding

Reuters had this report over the weekend that Britain may participate in providing money to launch the Airbus A350–but in a conventional loan instead of the usual reimbursable launch aid. That-away, UK–this is the way to go.

Standing room only

Ryanair apparently joined with China’s Spring Airlines in exploring standing seating (an oxymoron if there ever was one). In an article in the aptly named Cheapflights, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary–always on the hunt to increase revenue–likes Spring’s plan of using stand-up seats, a concept first explored by Airbus in 2006.

We don’t even like unassigned seats.

Going to South Carolina?

The Seattle Times’ Brier Dudley has an interesting and somewhat contrarian view of the prospect Boeing might put Line 2 for 787 production in South Carolina.

Unwanted Jumbos

British Airways became the latest A380 customer to defer the super-jumbo. This reminds us of when the Boeing 747-100 went into service, right at the start of a recession in the 1970s. Of course, Boeing’s near-brush with bankruptcy brought on by the combination of 747 development costs and the recession is well known. What is forgotten is that many airlines that took delivery of the plane parked them in the desert until the recession was over. Other carriers put lounges in the aircraft–notably the piano bar of American Airlines–during the time they were unable to fill the seats.

As the great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, “It’s deju vu all over again.”

Air France 447

The mystery deepens. The French authorities said the Airbus A330-200 hit the water intact, belly-flopping into the Atlantic vertically–but “at speed.”

What the heck does this mean?

With four minutes of error messages from the airplane to the airline via ACARS, is France’s BEA suggesting the airplane fell from cruising altitude in a flat trejectory at what would be nearly 9,000 feet a minute?

Or is BEA suggesting there was a vertical dive, with the pilots leveling out just before impact?

Or could the pilots have been so distracted by the pitot tube anomolies that they lost situational awareness and flew into the water? (Something like this happened decades ago with Eastern Airlines 401; the pilots became distracted by a failed nose gear light and flew gently into the Everglades, destroying the L-1011 and killing most on board.)

AF447 becomes more and more unclear.

3 Comments on “Random Thoughts, July 6

  1. “What the heck does this mean?”
    They have provided the conclusions by looking at the damage of the recovered debris. They have not provided a scenario, which leads to this, in the abscence of any more evidence, including the DVDRs. I think people are expecting too much, with too little information at hand, in too short time.
    Your guess is as good as theirs.

  2. Bill Virgin:
    The only one at the P.I. who REALLY knew what he was talking about.

    A-350 UK loans:
    Fine by me, if they are at market rates and contain no extraordinary features.

    Standing up for M.O.L.
    Is there an irish term for free advertising?
    He’s had better ideas:

    Brier Dudley:
    Geez. Someone who actually understands (and is willing to talk about) Boeing’s game gets labled “somewhat contrarian”?

    A-380 was a bad idea. So was Concorde.
    I’d rather have a bad idea that flys than a good one that doesn’t.

    You want to know what the main problem is here? Everyone is putting too much emphasis on the Airbus ACARS system, and the fault messages it sent.

    A secondary problem is everybody ASSUMES that the aircraft departed controlled flight at cruise altitude.

    A tertiary problem is having the French leading the way on the investigation . Try telling a Frenchman he is wrong on anything and see what you get.

  3. onemancrew – As the Anglo-Saxons have discovered, you are not European unless you buy, eat, and speak French, m’sieur…
    But let’s give the BEA investigators the benefit of the doubt and expect them to be thoroughly professional, yes?

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