Coping: With Aviation, Weakly

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.

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,

21 thoughts on “Coping: With Aviation, Weakly”

  1. OT, but…

    We went to a new experimental movie theater this weekend. There were only about 50 seats in their setup, but they were very padded, electrical reclining mechanisms. Kinda cool.

    There was a bar in the lobby. There were ‘wait staff’ asking for our orders before the screen went active, and they brought popcorn, etc.

    The movie featured a LOT of subsonics – as in you felt the boom of explosions and impacts. The seats also vibrated somewhat, but this was actually more effective when used in subtle parts of the movie.

    What was creepy is that when there was whispered dialog, it was directional. And the direction shifted depending on where you were sitting in the theater. It was only audible to the people directly adjacent to you, not those on the other side of the row or in front or back. And each whispered line was different, depending on the location you were in. The whispers were supposed to be the thoughts of the character on the screen.

    Anyway, this got me thinking about people hearing voices – because that is exactly what it sounded like – someone whispering in my ear. So I googled it and found this:

    One could use this on people who are kind of unstable and willing to believe they were hearing voices – because that is exactly what this system sounds like. And this is the commercial version – who knows what the spooks have.

    Just thought it was creepy enough that I will stick with the old way of watching movies. This felt terribly intrusive to me, like the movie was edging into the space between my ears.

    • There was a story by Dean Ing, “Silent Thunder” where the Nazi’s had invented a sonic device that made any public speaker very persuasive indeed. From there it becomes a political thriller type book, a decent read.

      But it certainly makes one wonder. My understanding is that high frame rate video is indistinguishable to the brain from reality, although how they determine that I can’t say.

      Certainly propagandists have refined their art, they don’t need technical assistance.

    • Aren’t the spooks putting enplants in the brain that do the same thing. Can’t remember the movie.

    • People have already complained of hearing voices and being driven crazy, so no, not so far fetched. If we only knew what they really have and what they can do. If Jon is any indication of what they have and what they can do, we’ll survive.

    • That’s just creepy O2! I’ve used a “bone mic” before (more accurately a bone speaker) when flying and even though I knew where the sounds originated, it still sounded uncomfortable, and like the voice was originating from the exact center of my skull. Imagine being able to transmit something that can vibrate the jaw and skull bones in a way that the brain inside interprets it as a voice that originates from within, all without any equipment worn by the receiver and silent to someone sitting a few feet away. Makes me wonder if Antifa and other nut jobs have been exposed to something like it. Probably not, but it’s humorous to envision.

  2. I couldn’t have been the only one who thought the launch of “infrastructure week” was addressing a yuge problem for Trump’s real political base by working to cut the landing time for private jets. Daily job commute hassles, time and expense for working Joes, not quite as important.

  3. I’m surprised you haven’t clued-in to common-mode chokes on your antenna before this. Everybody is selling an ‘appliance’ for this now, which is basically a ferrite tube sleeve on the coax. The spec says yours is good for 600 ohms common mode impedance.
    My homebrew one made from a #31 ferrite core and bifilar wound #14 THHN is good for….
    5000 ohms common mode impedance. It reduces noise on the antenna line also, which improves your receive signal.
    is the definitive manual for all this. DIY stuff and charts around page 34.

    • For now, I have a 50′ longwire end fed with a 9:1 UNUN oriented 290 true on a z-11 tuner with my old Yaesu FT-100 rig. Bands are lousy, but I hear mainland on occasion. Gotta get a tower up for more wire supports and antennas. Busting up lava rock for a tower foundation is the big job.

    • LOL, well, with resonant antennas, such common mode stuff is less of an ish…
      But I am happy with how the hugely long 746′ long wire is working. Nice 379 out of IZ4DLR (Italy) this weekend on 100 watts of cw… Not going to take down the tower just yet, though…

    • The Wireman sells the #833 which is 50 #73 ferrite beads and a 3 foot length of RG303U for $11.95. Based on the W2DU 1:1 current unun. Same thing as a line isolator and works great. I slapped a UHF male on one end and a UHF female on the other and use it for portable dipoles in the field. Works great! Also recommend the book “Reflections III” by SK Walt Maxwell, W2DU. Great Book. 73

  4. Perhaps the tooth implant tech is why Mrs Clintoon did as well as she did in the debates.

    • Lit up dash boards and ear pieces plus “don’tknow brazille” giving her the debate questions ahead of time; another great example of CNN – Clinton News Network doing the crime but not doing the time.

  5. The airline industry has picked up the slack from our non-existent high-speed rail system and our lack of any public transportation to many smaller towns. After seeing what China and Japan have done with HS rail, it’s truly sad that we have no such thing. For trips of 1000 miles or less, I’ve found it far more efficient to drive rather than fly. Due to TSA, I won’t consider flying unless it’s beyond CONUS. China built the Tibet railway in only SIX YEARS, and it was a point of national pride. We couldn’t even get permits to do SF/LA in that time. It’s well past time to get a true rail infrastructure that’s affordable and has sleepers everywhere. We’re clogging up our airspace with commercial flights that take as long or longer than driving, due to scheduling, TSA, weather and other delays.

    I’d consider HS rail on par with the National Defense Highway System as a national priority. If the rails were operated as a utility for qualified train operators, it could create a new competitive business market for both freight and passenger operations.

    • Except, of course, the left would sue at every turn and they would win with leftover Obama judges determined to scuttle all things Trump.

      Jon – our resident leftiest supporter – will have a hissy if an American jetliner is taken down by terrorism and it’s a bomb and from oh, one of those countries which Trump wants to super-vet. Headline like “Democrats kill first planeload…” ought to get his blood pressure into the flight levels.

      But your exactly right with HS rail, Mike…

    • Back in 1993, I was in Paris, so was the then mayor of Dallas with her entourage. She was there to discuss Japanese high-speed rail between Dallas/Austin/Houston/Dallas. Plenty of room in those days to buy all the land, and it would have been GREAT. But nope, they all got a nice fancy trip out of the taxpayers and we got nothing. When it comes up every few years, I just laugh. Ain’t no way HSR is coming to Texas until there are BILLIONS to be made by a foreign investment firm. Then, Texas will sell itself out and all its residents for it. That’s my prediction. Same as the foreign owned toll road operators. Seems to me, Texas should have been able to allow Texas residents to invest in the toll roads, raise the capital and reap the dividends/tolls. Yeah, I like dreaming. Oh, did I tell you about this dream? I saw a major airline with all of its planes grounded in trees, on the ground, in the fields, etc., all headed one way, but one was faced in the opposite direction in a tree.

  6. First No, I do not live in an HOA here at the house in town and down at El Rancho de Chaos well the name says it all. The really neat antennas are down there.

    Saw your line isolator. Here in town I have my 20/40m dipole suspended from a tree and it really more resembles a Z to fit into the 5000 sg ft lot through my homebuilt balun that I don’t think is all that ugly myself. I have had a couple neighbors ask what that “contraption” is hanging from my tree and knowing my propensity towards interesting and eclectic pastimes have accepted my explanation as just another odd thing that goes on here. Until this last week when the back neighbor apparently decided to call city codes enforcement on me. I came home from the office Friday to find a letter from codes enforcement attached to my front door asking if I would call and set a time that a representative could come out to inquire about the wires hanging from the tree in my backyard. Funny they did not want to ask about the Hustler vertical back there. This same neighbor called a couple years ago about my small hoop house in the back that were he/she apparently was confusing my tomato plants for wacky weed.

    Anyway the letter went directly to the round file.

  7. As usual,Re ATC,when the gov’t expert comments, nobody except the gov’t can possibly change anything or perform safely or technically. The FAA has supposedly been modernizing, updating and/or enhancing the ATC system since Reagan when he fired all of them for cause. How many millions have been wasted down the rathole on various modernizations ? The hard working controllers are still using round oscilloscope monitors from the 50’s. I’m surprised that we have no mid-air collisions.
    The various space companies are gearing up to take mankind to Mars and beyond and yet only gov’t can monitor and control air traffic in our skies?
    What a bunch of Horse Squeeze !!

    • Bill – round oscilloscope monitors? My friend, you’ve gotten some bad info. Having been in aviation for some time, I’ve been in a few ATC facilities “up close and personal” and I have no idea what you’re referring to. I even know some current and recently retired FAA ATCers – and what you describe is just not what exists. I guess someone that left the profession in, oh, let’s say 1981 might have that view though.

      In FAA AT facilities I think only a handful of very very low traffic density approach controls at airports with just a handful of commercial flights a day might still have a few old radar scopes (if that’s what you’re referring to). Military ATC facilities MIGHT have a few still out there but that’s mainly for military ops. All 20 CONUS ARTCCs have large square digital displays that show computer generated maps, aircraft locations, and other overlays that far exceed what was available before the year 2000. Along side those square things are other smaller digital square things that provide a level of AI about conflicting routes, proposed route modelling, active and proposed flights, reminders, advisories, and other critical data. That’s just the tip of the non-classified iceburg. Large and medium sized approach controls have displays and systems that were just dreams 15 years ago.

      Methinks someone might be a bit too heavily influenced by someone else that has an agenda and talking points. Or maybe someone that was unable to certify in a large AT facility and wound up being given an opportunity to make a living in a low density facility and has a bit of anger about it all. There are other possibilities but in the interest of good website citizenship I’ll leave those alone.

      I’m not trying to start an ad-hominem war here my friend, and I apologize if my comment offends, but your info is over 40 years old at least. Could also be something seen on a bad TV show or movie that saved costs by not bothering to hire a technical advisor. It’s always obvious to those that are even passingly familiar with a modern flight deck or control room floor when a movie hasn’t bothered to hire an aviation consultant.

  8. Has it really been 40 years ago that I was so active in Ham Radio. Back then I experimented a bit with shunt fed sloper antennas for 80 meters with some ground radials. Was able to make some contact with Asian and European stations.

Comments are closed.