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Comment: Re:These idiots are going to ruin it for everyone (Score 3, Informative) 132

by jbwolfe (#48379813) Attached to: Drone Sightings Near Other Aircraft Up Dramatically

At the speeds commercial aircraft are moving, yes, I could see a pilot mistaking a bird soaring for a RC airplane.

It has less to do with relative speed than relative speed vectors. The most difficult target to see, even when advised of its presence, is coming from a constant bearing decreasing range as there is little change in position with respect to field of vision. I have flown past, on three separate occasions, mylar balloons while at cruise flight levels (FL300-FL390) at 400-450 KTAS. The size and shape are arguably similar to drones, so distinguishing a drone from a bird while at drone operating altitudes should be equally trivial, assuming the event wasn't just a flash in the visual periphery.

Commercial aircraft are moving much faster, and the pilots are busy doing pesky things like preparing to land. Seeing a bird or drone is nothing more than a glance and a "I saw something".

My VMC scan at cruise is much less rigorous than while in a terminal environment. The flying pilot should be scanning outside (VMC), and leaving box work to the non-flying pilot. "See and avoid..."

All that said, I have not ever encountered a "drone" in my 15000 hours of flying, respecting the fact that I don't find myself in the environment (which most likely is not large commercial airports) in which drones operate. OTOH I usually have about 1 birdstrike per year, most of which I never see- only hear the impact.

Comment: Crime and punishment... (Score 1) 1198

by jbwolfe (#46881899) Attached to: Oklahoma Botched an Execution With Untested Lethal Injection Drugs
Not the Dostoyevsky kind but the real thing. As I've aged, I have softened on my stance on capital punishment. My moral side feels that some crimes deserve to be met with death, and my rational side see the flaws in the legal system: far too many errors, especially by "eyewitnesses", mandatory minimums, three strikes, unethical prosecutors. Between those two sides I see how many people we lock up (quite a few are innocent, some sentences don't fit the crimes), and wonder why we still have so much crime in comparison to countries less inclined to incarcerate criminals. I'm shocked at what can cost you your life in many places: drug convictions in Indonesia, blasphemy in Saudi Arabia (can't wait to visit!). Are we somehow a more "just" country because we reserve the death penalty for the most "heinous" of crimes? Is our system of justice meant to punish, deter, or both? The advent of execution by lethal injection allowed us to see it as neither cruel nor unusual. Hangings, beheadings, and firing squads are now too barbaric. But as bunny ("Platoon") says "The only worry you got is dying. And if that happens, you won't know about it anyway." Maybe the method of execution is more about the conscience of those asked to carry it out. As a means to deter crime, no one can say for sure whether a criminal has been stopped short of carrying out a crime because of a potential death sentence. It didn't stop Clayton D. Lockett, but that doesn't mean it's not a deterrent. I understand why his victim's family might support this sentence. When I add it all up, however, capital punishment is loosing its appeal (pun intended).

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 2) 75

by jbwolfe (#46795429) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

It does not use the term "mechanical". I did- because there was more to this incident than just human error.

It cites in that very first paragraph in 3.2 that the pitot tubes icing over is a failure. If you conclude that because it never says "mechanical" (my term as things that go wrong with the aircraft or its systems are referred to in this way) that there was not a aspect of systems being inop in the outcome, then you are using semantics to make your case.

You made the claim that the "pilots were the cause of the crash". I dispute that simplification of events as inaccurate and misleading. The mishap report concludes that in addition to pilot error, poor training, weather and the "total loss of airspeed information" caused by a (mechanical, sytems, or whatever term you prefer) failure of the Pitot tubes were components of this disaster. Pitot tubes were replaced wherever they were in use, including the aircraft that I am type rated in and have over 8000 hours experience in, as part of Airworthiness Directive that existed prior to this accident. Wonder why...

...perhaps because the Thales versions were prone to "fail" to perform as intended.

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 1) 75

by jbwolfe (#46794629) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

Take the Turkish Airlines that crashed in Amsterdam.

This incident has some similarities to the Asiana crash in SFO. In both cases, pilots failed to recognize FMA's (flight mode annunciation). In Schipol, the autothrust had changed to retard mode (used during the flare) which allows the airplane to slow below ref speed and land. In SFO, they may have disarmed the autothrust instead of disconnected it, the difference being that they bypassed the low speed wakeup function of the autothrust which prevents low energy conditions.

In both cases, pilots lacked understanding of the automation. However, in the first case the automation malfunctioned.

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 1) 75

by jbwolfe (#46794503) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

Autopilots often make things more difficult for a pilot because, in some circumstances, the autopilot simply adds a new workload layer that can sometimes interfere with operations.

That is exactly how we are trained with regard to the use of automation: If its increasing your workload, turn it off. We are encouraged to occasionally fly not only without the autopilot, but also without flight directors and autothrust off. The idea being to maintain proficiency.

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 2) 75

by jbwolfe (#46794467) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software
Bullshit! The cause of the crash was the product of poor decision making, poor training, and mechanical failure. Every mishap is the product of a chain of events, so to say "the pilots were the cause of the crash" is completely wrong and misleading.

The cause of the AF442 mishap is detailed here. And it says that the pilots flew into an area of weather that they knew about, lost air data, and entered a stall from which the did not recover. You're overemphasizing the pilots role, under emphasizing the mechanical failure and exaggerating the capability of automation.

Comment: Re:Pilots crash planes (Score 1) 75

by jbwolfe (#46794341) Attached to: DARPA Developing the Ultimate Auto-Pilot Software

If you know any pilots put this to them and watch the response ;)

WTF does that mean? Am I supposed to react with giddy agreement that my profession is pointless? Using your logic, humans need never do anything that can be automated- surgery, programming, procreation...

No artificial intelligence can replace the versatility of the human mind. Pilots are there for the ability to make decisions under widely varying conditions. The automation is there to lessen the work load.

The vast majority of heavy aircraft losses are due to pilots.

Yeah, and when your idea of the pilot-less cockpit is attained it will be "The vast majority of heavy aircraft losses are due to lack of pilots."

Comment: Airbus A320 (Score 1) 702

by jbwolfe (#46791271) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?
While it gets regular maintenance that includes depot level refurbishments, they fly an average of 10 hours per day. The oldest I've flown, that is still in operation, was delivered June of 1997. It is rare that they are taken out of service. The oldest of all aircraft I've flown still in operation is a P-3C delivered in 1985- soon to be retired. This model has seen a good deal of press coverage of late for the missions it has flown in search of MH370 in the Indian Ocean.

Comment: IBM 5150 (Score 1) 702

by jbwolfe (#46790825) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?
Not that it gets much use anymore...

Still working since the day it was acquired in fall of 1985. This despite having been immersed in water (covered the circuit board but left the floppy drives dry) after a basement flooding a year ago. Its a bit reluctant to boot sometimes but after a power cycle or two, loads up to DOS 3.1 or basic.

Comment: Re:General Aviation is dying, somthing needs to ch (Score 1) 269

As far as the commercial pilots saying this will fail, 1 You have a professional bias, get over it 2 FAA is under pressure to ensure that GA doesn't fail 3 If this is demonstrably "non-commercial" it should succeed

Citation needed...

As for statement number 1, don't confuse industrial expertise for "professional bias". After 20 years in the field I'd say it will draw unwanted attention from the FAA. I'd also say it's not economically feasible with Avgas at $6 a gallon.

Comment: Don't see much economic appeal... (Score 1) 269

Avgas is about $6 a gallon so unless you were going somewhere close enough to drive anyway, it would not likely be cheap. Further, a real airline ticket is still historically VERY cheap (just aggravating to use sometimes), and a great deal more safe compared to civil accident rates.

Comment: Re:A very plausible scenario from March 18 (Score 1) 491

by jbwolfe (#46567981) Attached to: How Satellite Company Inmarsat Tracked Down MH370
It was also said that the aircraft underwent several course changes as well as altitude changes (climbs and descents), though admittedly information has been unreliable thus far. This theory doesn't explain these changes and they can't be ignored. The aircraft had to remain at cruise altitude to transit the distance involved as fuel consumption would be too great at low altitudes. If they did experience an emergency and lost navigational ability over time, they still could have used the wet compass to determine that they were headed on a southerly course for hours.

Mediocrity finds safety in standardization. -- Frederick Crane