This being a Monday and all, no point in getting too serious yet about all the nonsense and foolishness around the world.
Instead, let’s talk about Airplanes and Ham Radio.
Far more interesting pastimes that simply trading stocks and making money. Besides, you can’t trade markets on the weekend.
The first note is about aircraft registration and licensing.
You remember Elaine and I sold our beloved N7912L back in February, right?
Well, the new owner STILL hasn’t received his signed off new certificate of registration from the FAA.
Well, after talking with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) I was advised that the registration branch up in Oklahoma City is totally buried.
In paperwork for airplane sales? Are things that brisk? Are people waking up to the Pilot Shortage?
Well, no. People are slow.
Turns out, we’re advised, that there is a horrible onslaught of drone registrations.
Thousands upon thousands are pouring in.
And that gets us to a comment sent in by our favorite liberal Jon, who was on the way to evolving some consensus that a Canadian-like not-for-profit air traffic system might be workable. I halfhearted agreed.
Until late last week, that is, when email from a long-term subscriber showed up…a fellow who retired as a “highly placed” official in FAA ATC (air traffic control) operations. His comments should weight heavily on all those who would get the FAA out of this part of slight safety…
“Damn!!! I’ve been quite busy lately with honey-do’s and some unexpected car stuff and missed the conversation a few days ago (June 6) about the proposal to privatize FAA ATC (in reality called the ATO). Odd thing though: with this issue alone, I agree with Jon – (the horror!) and sort of disagree with WarHammer. Up is down, left is right, in is out….
As a retired career ATC insider at all FAA levels (all except for the politically appointed SES level), all I’ll say in public is that even if the current proposal may have pure intentions, it doesn’t make sense from a “where the rubber meets the road” perspective. Nor does it make sense from a technological perspective (believe that or not).
Going quasi-private or fully private and expecting that to speed up implementation of NextGen or any other big change is a dream – it will take longer. Naturally the contractors that may stand to grab parts of a new contract won’t say that in public and will blitz public thought to push for it.
Expecting to take 17K plus ATC-ers and supes (likely more by now) into the private sector and still see the capacity we currently have is also a dream. Even if the government was able to convince NATCA (the controllers union) that their current workforce’s pay and benefits would remain the same, any new folks would not remain happy for long. Even in a mostly automated ATC environment, controllers have a huge impact upon system capacity with every aircraft to which they provide service. Not saying new controllers under this proposal would necessarily “sabotage” the system, but for many realistic reasons they would actually reduce capacity. That would NOT be totally as a result of politics or technology interface, but other more basic reasons too numerous to talk to here.
The reasons for both above are not immediately obvious to outsiders and I’m not sure they can be explained well enough for even someone with an IFR rating to appreciate, so I’m simply generalizing to the extreme here.
Also of note is that in the first year or two of Clinton’s term, there were 4 or 5 similar proposals that were all shot down (no pun intended) quickly and never recovered because the rationale for those bills were all unsound. The reasons they did not get past Committee remain valid to this day and this proposal is no different. I’m speaking from the perspective of someone involved with analyzing them at the proposal stage.
All that said, I’d be a fool to predict this will be shot down (due to the different political climate), and because some tweaked version might be successful. I truly hope not. Safety would not necessarily be impacted but capacity would without a doubt decrease or become static over time.
Iterative progress toward something other than the current technological and human asset paradigm is needed for the future, but something as simplistic as taking the ATO and changing its ownership is a flimsy solution to a myriad of issues that need addressing. Being able to tout a “space-based system” sounds sexy, but in reality it has just as many flaws and vulnerabilities as a ground based system – just different issues. Scale is important! I’d go as far to say that to do it right and to at least retain today’s safety and reliability issues, one needs both running in parallel – and without a US national budget level no company out there could keep that going, much less implement it.
So in the end, while no one knows what will become of this proposal, as far as the ATO portion of it, there is no real long term benefit in the proposal – and that comes from a life-long FAA manager and an Independent voter that leans to the right.=”
Where this LT subscriber (and a sterling fellow) and Jon might be able to find some common ground would be in rolling the ATC system over to a 95% artificial intelligence and automated system. But only to a point. Like nuclear weapons, there’s still a lot of merit in keeping humans in the loop.
Look at some of the benefits that a mix of SIVR (speaker-independent voice recognition) would have on a human-intensive project like IFR (instrument flight rule)_ clearance issuance and read-back. A lot of time, this is “approved as filed” but oftentimes not and then you’re talking humans.
With the advent of RVSM (reduced vertical separation minimums) the effective capacity of “the sky” was probably increased on the order of 75%, but that just means more loads on the controllers…
When an aircraft comes into a busy city like Seattle, as we’ve done on a number of trips up north, using VFR flight following (essentially IFR without a flight plan in some ways and definitely the only way to safely cross-country) the hand-off from the regional Center to Seattle Approach goes smooth as silk.
When we didn’t get onboard with ATC right after takeoff, like going down to drop my son off at Skydive Spaceland (southwest of Houston) you get into the drill of checking in at the 30-mile Mode C veil and then having to explain who you are (aircraft tail and type), set up a transponder code (“12 Lima squawk 5316…”) and then do the altimeter (“Houston altimeter 30.13” “12 Lima roger 30.13 on the meter…” This is best done right after takeoff from your first airport of the day before you get into Bravo (the grown-up busy) airspace.
Just handling a dozen or two light aircraft (did I say just?), a mix of helicopter traffic, and half a dozen business jets, plus the regular jet traffic in and outbound from the big commercial airports around Houston and wait…is everyone around the jump zone aware that Spaceland has jumpers-away in 3 minutes?
Yeah, the point about transitioning to a private contractor is YUGE…so yeah, expediting the transition to NextGen and then adding the AI layer – in initially as the “electronic supervisor backup” and then rolling more workload on as the software “learns” the airspace…that makes sense. It will also take 10-20 years.
It’s like Cat-IIIc landings. Under which properly equipped aircraft will be able to effectively self-land…But don’t get me wrong, Cat-IIIb with a runway visual range of 150 feet is damn near there now. I mean assuming you have an HGS equipped plane…and if you don’t already know that’s a Head-up Guidance System for flying the approach, just return to your seat, fasten your safety belt and we’ll get back to more plebian content shortly… Or you can go read in depth here about the different checklists by category…
Now that we have been schooled (and don’t look now, but I think our friend flying the C-17s is flying the .mil equivalent of Cat IIIb) I’m thinking deeper on the privatization problem and I’ll go with whatever the Center boss advises.
The old saying in aviation? Never argue with the tower…simply say “Unable” and await their next move.
“You Talk to Japan on That?”
Oh, sure. 740 feet of very smart wire:
Just wanted to point out to our friends at the local ham raddidio club that new thing on the bottom of the top balun is a line isolator from Maxcon Antennas. http://www.maxconus.com/maxcon_1_004.htm
For $40 bucks, it keeps all the RF off the feedline for me and works spiffy.
I will be ordering a second one for the other low band antenna shortly. Works perfect.
More as I have time to play with it. But at 8 AM (Texas time) last Thursday worked 7N1PRD/0 – a ham radio club in Japan on 20 meters and the massive longwire was as good as the beam on the tower…which is going a fair piece.
Other ham radio note: About to kick off the Hallicrafters restoration project. The manufacturer is set to deliver a new 4-16 henry swinging choke for the HV power supply in the HT-45 linear this week…so fingers crossed on that.
OK, time to hit and git…
You have to go to work, and I have to tune around the bottom end of the 20 meter band and see what’s coming in from Asia…
Write when you get rich,