Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 26, 2009

Misinformed Media

I always shudder mentally when I see a media source commenting on an aviation accident. Generally they tend to be inaccurate, and at times flat-out wrong. It is also not uncommon for the media to over-sensationalize the event.  With the recent runway overrun accidents in Jamaica and Scotland, I figured it wouldn’t be long before I would have to clarify some information that is being pumped out by the media.

The Watertown Daily Times published a short article today, that on the surface seems to indicate that there is a major problem with runway overruns. Now I will be the first to say that every accident is one accident too many. However, it does aviation in general, and the airlines in particular, a disservice to provide data without context.

Using the Wall Street Journal figures quoted in the article, it may be fair to say that 30% of commercial aircraft accidents between 1995 and 2008 were the result of runway overruns. During that time period, the NTSB recorded 498 commercial aircraft accidents of all kinds, so the 30% figure provided by the WSJ would indicate there were approximately 149 runway overrun accidents. Unfortunately the Watertown Daily Times article does not provide a link to the WSJ article that mentions those figures, so it is difficult to determine how the WSJ arrived at those figures.

For the sake of argument however, we will go with the 30% figure. Now, 498 total commercial accidents and 149 runway overrun accidents seems like a lot, and it is. Keep in mind however, the number of aircraft that travel through the skies every day. As of right now (2151 EDT, 0251 GMT), FlightAware is currently tracking 3,149 aircraft in US airspace (including both commercial and GA aircraft). That means that in the air above our heads right now, there are at least that many aircraft. That does not include GA aircraft that are flying VFR, and therefore not required to file a flight plan or, in some cases, even be in contact with ATC. FlightAware also indicates that in the past 24 hours they tracked just over thirty-five thousand aircraft arrivals (again, including both commercial and GA aircraft).

Most flights that occur every day are commercial flights. However, for the sake of argument, let’s see what happens if we split that figure in half between commercial and GA flights. That would give us 17,500 commercial flights in the past 24 hours. A little on the light side perhaps, but that’s winter weather for you. Now if we use the 17,500 commercial flights as a daily average, that would give us 83,037,500 flights during the 13 year period during which 30% of commercial aircraft accidents were caused by runway overruns according to the WSJ. That means that 0.00018% of commercial flights resulted in a runway overrun. Is that a big problem? Yes, it’s a big problem, but perhaps not quite as big as the Watertown Daily Times would have you believe.

Yes, most runway overrun accidents are the result of contaminated runways. The accident in Scotland, for example, occurred when the aircraft had already slowed and was turning off of the runway. Initial reports indicate that one or more of the aircraft’s landing gear hit some black ice, causing the aircraft to slide off the runway into the grass. No one was hurt, and damage to the aircraft will most likely be minimal.

The Kingston accident was more extreme. The aircraft went off the end of the runway at a high-speed, through the airport fence, across a road, and ended up stopped next to a beach with the fuselage broken into several pieces. Several people were hurt, but there were no fatalities. It is too early to tell what happened to cause this result, so implying that pilot judgment is to blame is irresponsible.

Perhaps the best sentence in the Watertown Daily Times’ article is the last one. “It will be interesting to see what investigators find about the recent runway overrun in Jamaica.”

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Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 25, 2009

Invictus

I just had the opportunity to watch the movie Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. I have been looking forward to seeing the movie ever since it was released, since I spent several years living in Swaziland, right next door to South Africa, and I was there during the time the events of the movie were taking place.

To my shame, I did not pay much attention to what was going on in South Africa either politically or on the sports scene while I was living in that part of the world. I was young and preoccupied with school, but that really isn’t much of an excuse. So it was refreshing to see a movie that dealt with events that happened very close to home, so to speak.

The movie was well done, but I am not sure many American viewers will understand the portions of rugby that are portrayed in the movie. However, rugby is only part of the movie. There is a great deal of politics present in regards to what Mandela had to work through after becoming South Africa’s president, as well as some of Mandela’s personal history. Overall, a great story and a great movie.

It does make me wonder though, are there any sports that could bring the entire US together as rugby united South Africa in 1995? I rather doubt it.

Go Bokke!

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 19, 2009

Avatar

My brother treated me to the movie Avatar for my birthday. I will admit that I had not payed too much attention to the hype about the movie, so I wasn’t entirely too sure what to expect when it started. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

The basic story line is an old one: humans visit new world/continent/place, humans discover valuable ore/product/medicine, humans try to talk the natives/savages/indigenous people to provide it willingly, humans decide they can just take it when the natives/savages/indigenous people refuse, a small group of humans help the natives/savages/indigenous people fight back and kick the humans’ collective asses with vastly inferior weapons.

Avatar does bring some brand new ideas to the table, though. The biggest being the “avatars” that a small group of human scientists use to interact with the natives. These avatars are a hybrid blending of DNA from a native and a human, and while they look exactly like the natives on the planet, the avatar is actually controlled by the human who provided the DNA to create it through a piece of equipment that creates a mental link between the human and the avatar. The avatar has no consciousness of its own, and without the mental link between it and the human controlling it, it simply collapses like a puppet who’s strings have been cut.

Another interesting feature of the story, while not entirely unique, is the inclusion of a planet-wide “intelligence.” The natives are able to interact with some of the local flora and fauna on a “plug-and-play” level (you’ll understand that when you see the movie) that is rather interesting, and there is a “deity” worshiped by the natives that holds all of the memories of the preceding generations.

Even though the story is somewhat predictable, it flows well and there are enough twists and surprises to keep it worthwhile.

I saved the best part for last. If you come for the story, you have to stay for the visuals. From the equipment and weapons used by the humans, to the flora and fauna of the planet, to the simply breathtaking scenery dotted throughout the movie, I found very little to complain about in the visual effects department. With very few exceptions, all of the visuals were extremely well done.

My only real complaint, if you want to call it that, is that the natives were portrayed a little too human-like. Yes, it was quite obvious that they had originated on another planet, but their society and mentality could have come straight out of some of the early civilizations of Earth. Granted, Earth does not necessarily have a monopoly on societal structures, and if there really are other intelligent life-forms out there there is no reason why they couldn’t develop their own versions of, say Capitalism or Socialism, but you just expect something different from a race of people from another planet.

I would definitely recommend the movie. There are a few swear words, but overall the dialogue is fairly clean. Still, there are some sequences with violence, and though they are not graphic, it may not be suitable for younger audiences. I think the PG-13 rating is well deserved on this one.

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 16, 2009

First Blog Milestone

Sometime yesterday, this blog was viewed for the 1,000th time. That means that somewhere, out there, there are people actually reading what I write. I am both surprised and flattered. Still not getting much in the way of feedback, but I am sure that will come in time. So, how long until we hit 2,000 views?

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 16, 2009

Flyglobespan Ceases Operations, Enters Administration

BBC News announced today that Flyglobespan has canceled all flights and entered administration. This appears to be following the collapse earlier in the day of a financing deal the airline was negotiating with Halcyon Investments.

The biggest airline based in Scotland, Flyglobespan operated 12,000 flights in 2008, and carried over 1.5 million passengers. Unfortunately the airline posted a loss of £19 million in 2008, though earlier this year an announcement was made that an operating profit of £1.2 million had been achieved. That was insufficient to keep the company solvent however, and when the financing deal fell through there was apparently no alternative but to cease operations immediately.

The cessation of all flights has left approximately 4,500 people stranded outside of the UK. The CAA has stated that it will be able to help about 1,100 passengers to return home since their flights were purchased as part of a vacation package. However, the remaining passengers who purchased tickets directly through Flyglobespan’s website will most likely not be able to get a refund for their tickets, though the Department of Transport in the UK stated that they should be able to obtain a special “repatriation” fare from other airlines to return home.

Aside from passengers who suddenly find themselves stranded away from home, or with suddenly worthless tickets for future travel, there are now hundreds of Flyglobespan employees who find themselves jobless barely a week before Christmas. Flyglobespan’s website has been taken down and replaced with a page advising customers what their options are and whom to contact for assistance. Passengers with questions are advised to contact a helpline that has been set up. Passengers in the UK can call 0871 271 9000, and those outside the UK can reach the helpline at +44 141 332 3233. Please visit the webpage above for the hours the helpline is available.

As of now, there is no indication of whether Flyglobespan will resume operations at some point in the future.

Flyglobespan Boeing 737

Flyglobespan Boeing 737

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 15, 2009

787 Takes to the Sky

Boeing’s new 787 has taken to the sky for the first time. The first flight is expected to last around five hours, as long as no problems occur. Pictures and video should not be long in coming, but in the meantime you can track the flight on FlightAware.

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 15, 2009

Why My Stereo Sucks

So, CrunchGear wants to know why my current stereo system sucks, and why I think they should give me an Olive No. 4 Hi-Fi Digital Stereo.

My current sound system? Hmm, let me think.

There’s the alarm clock/radio that sits on my dresser. It constantly emits a low-pitched buzz that I have mentally tuned out (though now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I can hear it again. Thanks a lot!).

I also have a Koss stereo on the bookshelf. Don’t even know if Koss makes stereos anymore. Anyway, this one has a single CD tray (all my CDs were converted to digital and tossed long ago), dual cassette decks (you do remember cassette tapes, right?), and DBBS (surely you haven’t forgotten about Dynamic Base Boost Sound). Haven’t used it for ages, and the quarter-inch of dust on it proves that fact.

There’s also my iPod Nano for use in my car. I don’t have a dock for it, and the stereo doesn’t have an input jack so I can’t plug in there.

I don’t know if my PC counts as a music device, but that is pretty much the only thing I use to listen to music in the house.

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 14, 2009

Boeing 787 Taxi Videos

I was referred to some great pictures and videos of the 787 taxi tests found here and here. Definitely worth taking a look at.

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 14, 2009

Coca-Cola Holiday 2009 Bottle

I was just handed one of Coca-Cola‘s Holiday 2009 bottles, and I must admit I find it quite amusing. Quite possibly the funniest Coca-Cola bottle I have ever held in my hands. Now I am left with the all-important question: Do I drink it, or do I save it as a collectible? Perhaps a third option, drink it then hang it from the Christmas tree.

Posted by: Tim Lincoln | December 14, 2009

Boeing 787 First Flight Scheduled for Tomorrow

Boeing has scheduled the first flight of the new 787 aircraft to begin at 10:00am PST (18:00 GMT).  A live webcast and video is scheduled to begin at 9:40am PST (17:40 GMT). It will certainly be interesting to watch tomorrow as this new aircraft takes to the sky for the first time.

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