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Comment Re:Yes still a dream (Score 1) 148

Little nit, the FAA doesn't (usually) require scheduled overhauls at "TBO" (time before overhaul) for part 91 (basically, private aviation) operations. And an engine overhaul is more like $15,000-$20,000 (for an IO-360). (There's a reason pilots/aircraft owners joke about the AMU - aviation maintenance unit - or $1,000. Basically nothing costs under that.)

The real killer will be the multi-thousand-dollar annual inspections required of every certified aircraft - not to mention airworthiness directives.

Comment I work on a volunteer ambulance and am a ham (Score 4, Informative) 57

I'm ICS 100, 200, 300, and NIMS 700 certified, so I definitely buy the need for coordination - but this is a lot of the same stuff that people have been talking about forever, and they've been trying to throw money at the problem with absolutely no success. And our agency actually responded (before I joined) to the staging area at Jersey City on 9/11/2011. (There were effectively no injuries - everyone was fine and dusty, or dead...)

We mostly use a UHF system on a spare frequency the police already had a repeater set up for. It's a huge upgrade from our low-band VHF system (46MHz) that was unrepeated, though we still use that for dispatch because we can't afford to buy UHF pagers for everyone. We have no shortage of frequencies, and can mostly talk to the people we need to talk to, but it's not easy. On our UHF radio we can talk to our police, ourselves, one of the two neighboring towns' police departments - the other one is on a trunking system we can't access, so we have their fire department programmed in (which doesn't do us any good except at a fire standby).

We have a VHF radio for exactly this sort of cross-agency collaboration, but it's hardly simple. There's 4 different state police frequencies, there's something called JEMS which has 5(?) frequencies, some of which are used for normal operations by some city's paramedic team, and several other tactical (VTAC) frequencies as well. (We don't have access to UTAC, I don't think.) Basically we assume the next time "the big one" happens, we'll show up and ought to have the frequencies programmed in that they tell us to use, but we don't know what those are and we don't really expect any coordination to work very well. Radio protocol is shit even (especially?) by the pros, and between range and availability concerns we're not really convinced. I'm really the only one who knows how to use it, and maybe a few of the emergency management wonks who are planning to make a living in public safety. With the main radio being in the ambulance, coordination with folks in the field is difficult and likely to happen on agency frequencies. The state gave us one or two VHF handheld radios with most of the same frequencies, but that doesn't really help. Mostly we use our VHF gear for calling the hospitals and I sometimes put up the NOAA weather or medic dispatch frequency, but that's just me.

It sounds like what they're proposing is sort of uber-trunking-system, which would be pretty cool if it actually worked - basically you mostly live on your agency's and other commonly used talkgroups like today's programmed frequencies, but then when you need to, just type in some nationwide ID and everyone's radio can talk to everyone else's.

Simple enough, right? The problem is:
- The existing tech is mostly proprietary.
- It doesn't scale to this level.
- Trunking radio has a nasty fallback mode when the coordinator(name?) fails - basically the radios revert to normal analog operation. That's obviously not acceptable for any nationwide effort, so it really can't fail. But it can't be like a cellphone base station either, where it turns into a brick if the base is down.
- Public safety radios are hilariously expensive - think >$800 per (basic!) handheld, far more for a mobile or base station, and then labor for programming and setup - so if you want people to actually switch you're gonna need to drop a lot of cash. If we were to upgrade everyone's radio this year it would cost more than our entire annual expenditures on *everything else*. (Mind you, they are worth the money - they are virtually indestructible and it's not something you want to fail at a bad time.)

I also don't like how they play up the data aspect. Data is occasionally useful for computer-aided dispatch purposes (which we have, technically, because our dispatcher isn't using pen and paper - except they do, mostly) but it's overhyped. Big cities make more effective use, where multiple units can be coordinated more automatically than with voice, but even there that's more about efficiency than operational ability - the frequency would just be a bit noisier. And when you get out of the truck, if you're bringing a laptop or tablet in with you, it's not for communication - it's for recording patient information, and mostly you leave it in the rig and use a notepad or clipboard instead. ALS units can send EKG strips to hospitals, which is pretty cool, but that has worked for 10 years with Bluetooth and dumb flip-phones. A far as I'm concerned, data is just more expensive stuff to give every small agency like ours, since we can't afford to buy it. And in a public safety environment, shit happens - someone will eventually run your expensive radio or laptop over with a 14,000 pound ambulance and it doesn't matter how durable it was, so you have to budget for that.

I guess $6.5 billion dollars goes a long way, though, assuming any of that money actually gets used for equipment instead of lining someone's pockets.

Comment Re:Calm down... (Score 1) 44

Any of those operating in class-B airspace are required to be in communication with and complying with ATC instructions. If I want to fly over Newark Airport, which I've done, I have to follow the rules - and they're quite precise. (They want you to fly directly over the runway numbers, since the only place at an airport where's no planes is directly above the runway.)

You need explicit clearance to enter class-B airspace and usually a transponder code so they can track you specifically. If you deviate from their instructions you can expect FAA enforcement action.

Comment Re:Probably not LAX (Score 1) 288

Never heard of such a thing. The large airports I've flown into generally have markings on the pavement denoting the secure area, and you don't cross it unless you felt like having some very awkward conversations with people with large guns. Which makes sense as the real danger (to the extent there is any) comes from being within the aircraft with a bunch of people at your mercy (or vice-versa, as seems more common) or being able to somehow compromise the aircraft itself while in flight - neither of which are served particularly well from a Cessna on the ramp, or even taxiing before or after the jet. Sure you could load up with explosives and it would mess up the jet but it's doubtful you'd do much damage to a lot of people inside.

Comment Re:He bought the wrong jet (Score 1) 288

That's a 5,000 foot runway: That's quite long actually - for comparison, LaGuardia in NYC only has 7,000 foot runways. 5kft isn't enough for a hundred-person passenger jet (well maybe, if you're light) but lots of private jets are just fine.

Most of the numbers that are immediately available are max takeoff weight (MTOW), you'd have to go into the POH to get the numbers for lower weights. The bigger private jets may need to not take off with full fuel, but they won't normally do that anyway except in rare circumstances - you'd generally only carry enough fuel for the flight and legal reserve, plus a generous safety margin on top, since it costs fuel and speed to carry excess fuel. You'd want full fuel if you were going somewhere far away but that's only a factor if your destination was makeable safely with full fuel, but not makeable without - otherwise you have to land somewhere in the middle anyway and it doesn't matter how much fuel you have as long as you can make it midway (and you'd probably not carry too much extra beyond midway fuel for the above reasons).

Comment Re:Why is this a problem? (Score 0) 50

No. Fake news is news that's been deliberately fabricated, often to make its purveyors money, and doesn't attempt to relate to the truth. For instance, "child sex ring in some Washington pizza shop" - there's just no relationship to the truth and whatever their reasons for publishing such nonsense, it wasn't an attempt to inform anyone of anything that could plausibly have been said to have been real. Real news may be inaccurate or flat-out wrong, but real news is intended to be based on some sort of truth. Now whether and how often a particular source succeeds could be a question of some debate, but even the most partisan news sources are - if they're real news - based on some event that actually occurred.

The deliberate confusion of "fake news" with "news I don't like" is actually a very postmodern idea. There's no such thing as fact, it's just your perception that matters.

Comment Re:I think civility is going to go out the window (Score 1) 1560

The only time I can think of where Obama attacked some specific, average guy just doing his job, he realized he fucked up and invited him to the White House for beers and things ended amicably. Trump did it unapologetically before even taking office and the guy hadn't even wronged anyone but Trump.

Presidents need to be bigger than that.

Comment Re:Way to drive away your most loyal customers (Score 1) 58

This times a thousand. I've had my AT&T number since they were Cingular in 2005, and that was on my parents' account that had been AT&T since the early nineties - their first phone was AMPS, and I remember at age 6 or so them complaining about the new digital (D-AMPS) service's coverage range. I signed up for unlimited data for $20/mo on a Razr with HSDPA back in 2005 that I modded to have push IMAP and other smartphone-like capability years before the iPhone came out. AT&T is more expensive than others, but the service is quite good and very fast, and their network uses international standards. I primarily have the unlimited data because I just don't want to think about my use of cellular data - and until the recent price hikes you didn't save any money switching to a metered tier ($30 for unlimited, or $30 for 2GB? What do you think?).

I may not walk right away, but eventually they will succeed in getting me off unlimited data. What I can tell you is they won't be steering me to one of their metered plans, they'll be steering me to T-Mobile where I can get comparable service for half the price, and even though I'd be allowed less full-speed data I wouldn't have any bill concerns which is all I ever wanted.

Comment Re:If you want to know when adulthood really start (Score 1) 261

That's something you'll need to backup with facts. In the past 10 years where I've lived various governments have caved under pressure to let kids get their L plates at an earlier and earlier age.

With the reference to L plates, perhaps you're British? Here is a Guardian article with some statistics in the first paragraph about decline in licensure among 17-to-20 year olds, as well as 21-29. Here's a similar set of statistics for the US.

That would have a lot to do with very little information being passed onto them and people complaining about it everytime they do. How they would love to know how many hours you spend behind the wheel, as you already alluded to :-)

So we're in agreement - without that data they can't do much more than average across the population. But that unfairly (for some definition of "fair") benefits some people while punishing others, assuming you believe in some notion of the intrinsic safety of a driver

Not only did it count for me, the insurance company promoted the classes and I was able to claim back the cost of the class from the insurance company.

This wasn't a class the public could take - it was a class about emergency driving, with lights and siren. It did involve going on a skid pad and learning how to drive through a loss of traction, as well as slalom and reverse-slalom as well as general situational awareness (there's no rear window so you have to track where nearby cars are). Most useful to me was learning driver "psychology" as it were, learning how people in aggregate respond to unusual situations and seeing lots of examples of the ways drivers can screw up given a surprising event means I'm rarely surprised by what someone on the road does. I've had to take evasive action several times to avoid an imminent crash and it's certainly helped to know the limits of the vehicle performance, the road surface, and what the other driver(s) are likely to do given the circumstances.

I don't expect the insurance company to promote or pay for such a class, and in fact they would have no business doing so, but if they took it into consideration it would be a sign that they were willing to individualize their notion of driver risk. But they aren't interested.

Really to be fair, flying a plane is a very different skill set than driving a car. It is a much more refined skill with a metric shitload of inference based on information provided by instrumentation. Where looking out the window becomes important a lot of information is incredibly subtle (at height the landscape can appear almost unmoving) By comparison one of the biggest problems with new drivers is they spend too much time looking at instruments in a scenario where pretty much anything can jump out infront of their windscreen at any moment. It's a very different kind of situational awareness, and personally I don't believe that being a pilot would make you a better (or worse) driver on the road but I would be happy to see some stats to correct me.

The biggest problem with new pilots is that they spend too much time looking at instruments, too. Most private flying is done visually and "seat of the pants", and a flight instructor will commonly cover up all the instruments if a new student is fixating on something (usually the artificial horizon) to try to fly the plane without a "feel" for it. We don't typically fly high enough for the landscape to seem still; it's typical for me to fly at 3500' or 5500' and I spent a lot of time lower than 2500'.

I never said that they were exactly the same skillset, and I don't have any data, but becoming a pilot forces you to become very very good at multitasking, risk management, planning ahead (both before you get in the plane and figuring out what you can do in spare time to keep ahead of the situation), and monitoring the environment.

Let me give you an example: if the weather is good enough (which it is, if you're flying visually) it's on each pilot to "see and avoid" other airplanes. But in controlled airspace, it's a good idea (and sometimes required) to be monitoring the appropriate radio frequency where air traffic controllers are communicating with other airplanes sharing the same few-thousand square mile sector as you. Similarly at an untowered airport there's an advisory frequency that pilots are supposed to self-announce their position and intentions. So you get very good at building a mental model of the airspace around you and where everybody is in 3D space and where they're likely to go, since building this model makes it easier to spot them and make sure you don't fly into each other. Even at a towered airport, where the control tower is helping you find everyone you're flying around with (e.g. if you're practicing landings there might be 5 or more planes "in the pattern"), you have to keep track of where everyone is and make sure there's enough space.

How does this relate to driving? Well, this is about a hundred times harder than keeping track of the cars in front, behind, and in the adjoining lanes and making sure you don't change lanes into a car in your blind spot. And it's very good practice for that subconscious "map of the world" stuff. There are serious differences, in particular that during flying you overwhelmingly can get away with a few seconds of not looking out the window or touching the controls, and in fact it's expected, whereas such a mistake would be frequently costly while driving. But I can't think of a way that learning to fly would make you less safe of a driver (except perhaps by cockiness, which is pretty frowned upon in the aviation community), and considering that there are several areas of overlap that learning to fly improves your skills, I'd say it would make you safer. I certainly feel a lot more "on top of" the situation while I'm driving, and see close calls coming from further away, and am better-prepared to respond sensibly.

Totally agreed on the driver training aspect. Frankly people on the road scare me, and I've seen the aftermath of hundreds of crashes. I see no particular reason to trust the average US driver, and defensive driving only gets you so far. Nine years and two states ago I spent 10 minutes showing a guy (who spent the entire time filling out paperwork) that I could drive, and nobody's questioned me since - or will again for a very long time. But it's totally legal to have a license for 20 years and have driven about 10 hours total, and none in the past 5 years, and then to rent a car and go on the highway opposite direction to you at 70 miles an hour. If that's not an argument for raising the bar for initial licensure, I don't know what is.

Comment Re:What an idiotic professor (Score 1) 261

A bit offtopic, but I'd like to see any data suggesting that 16 or 18 year olds have substantially harder times with self-control than people in their 30s or older. I suspect the biggest factor is that you stop getting in "trouble" for it (aside from ending up broke or pregnant/a dad or with a shit life or alcoholism or something) or that being underage puts you in position where similarly-stupid behavior has bigger consequences. Certainly I knew plenty of kids who did stupid things, but I know plenty of older adults who also do similar kinds of stupid things and I know of no data to refute the idea that some people just are bad at self-control and we just hold it against young people as a class instead of adults where we're willing to localize it to the individual.

Most of the times people come out with data from brain scans (not sufficient, the brain is too complex to be reduced to size comparisons, as a recent study about brain-size changes as a result of pregnancy) or things like drunk-driving accidents. How many of those were a result of being unable to drink legally at the bar or picking up some liquor at the store for consumption at home? Personally I've never driven drunk, but all the times it would have solved a problem for me were before I was 21. You also tend to drink more if you're not - and can't - pay for it, between it being someone else's opportunity and the relative rarity of any alcohol promoting bingeing when it is available. Once you turn 21 it's usually a hit to your own wallet, which tends to put a damper on things. And my behavior personally changed quite a bit when I got a friend who was 21 and I could just keep beer in my fridge as a result - I started drinking better beer less frequently and stopped going to parties for the sole purpose of having alcohol.

Comment Re:If you want to know when adulthood really start (Score 1) 261

Now that people are learning to drive later in life, insurance companies are starting to move away from age as a risk factor for precisely the reason that the GP states. Someone who learns to drive at 25 is not particularly safer after 5 years (at 30) than someone who started driving at 16 after 5 years (at 21). States' "graduated drivers' licenses" are needing adjustment as well. When I got licensed in NJ starting at 16, I had to take a 6-hour road course with a school (after passing the written test of course), then I could drive with parents until 17, then I could drive by myself and one non-family member (and nowadays a red sticker) until 18 when I got a full license. So by 18 I'd already done hundreds of hours of accident- and ticket-free driving, but they still wanted a fortune for insurance. Meanwhile someone I know got licensed in NJ at 22, and they pretty much turned him loose after filling out some paperwork, 3 months of "supervised driving" (which he didn't actually do for more than a few hours, being out of the country for most of it), and passing the "road test" which consists of driving around a parking lot - and his insurance starting out was cheaper than mine after 2 years of driving despite having spent about 10 hours in the drivers' seat.

In general, car insurance companies are not particularly good at estimating individual risk. My insurance rates were unaffected by becoming a certified emergency vehicle operator (for my town's volunteer ambulance agency) on my 18th birthday, which requires special training. For some reason the computer goes "ding" if you have a good high school report card (which I did), but spending a day of classroom and on-the-road training in how to handle vehicles and other drivers while operating radios and sirens doesn't count. Becoming a pilot didn't count either, despite extensive training and practice in high-stakes multitasking, situational awareness, and "thinking ahead of the vehicle" that you can feel working on every drive. But getting a high-paying job in a city where I don't drive at all (and thus lose practice)? Sure, lower rates.

For flying, your insurance has to do with the value of the airplane modulated by your experience as a pilot (in number of hours) as well as any advanced ratings on your certificate. For instance an instrument rating dramatically lowers what you pay. For driving they have their tables based on age and length of license, but those are aggregate statistics. Even if you kept a logbook of every drive and its duration and special skills required on that drive (analogous to the one pilots keep for flying), they wouldn't be interested. This is why the insurance companies are so interested in those ODB plugs with cell modems to report on your driving skill, to actually get that info.

Comment Re:FICA (Score 1) 261

I'm still pretty damn liberal, and I paid in excess of $80,000 in tax last year and have the W2 to prove it. I'm not making enough to get out of paying any of it, either. (I reduced my AMT by about $800 because I made a retroactive contribution to a HSA, but that's it.) Most people in this country don't make as much income as I pay in tax (the median income is something like $50k?). They certainly don't pay as high an high overall rate, especially if they get to deduct mortgage interest (I pay rent in an apartment) or aren't subject to AMT.

I look at what the federal, state, and local governments do with my tax money and figure they should do even more. Sure they ought to be more efficient, which is true for everything, but that would let them do more stuff without having to raise taxes.

But then again I can see that government services - like universal healthcare - are frequently a way to reduce my out-of-pocket expenses. There's also the tiny problem that if things get bad enough, people will rise up and attack - and I don't have the kind of money to buy an island or private army or something.

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