March 12, 2017
Autojournos salivated for years for a downfall of Lexus, and pronounced it "resting on its laurels" with Hyundai (now Genesis) always about to beat it, but never succeeding. Well, here it comes: Lexus ES is now cheaply made and falls apart after only 12,954 miles.
Power/Volume button's cap popped off.
Dash sags and allows to look under the windshield.
Stitching of the steering wheel cuts painfully into my index finger.
Someone could try to argue that 13k miles is a hard duty as a rental. But I only grant it in case of the volume control button that a renter could pop, but not the dash and not the stitching.
Lexus is in trouble.
October 16, 2016
I remember that during the last government shutdown, there was some wailing about FAA reducing the number of control towers at airports. Think of the children!! There was even a petition circulating about keeping those at Albuquerque Double Eagle (KAEG) and Santa Fe (KSAF). Although it happens over and over again, it never ceases to astonish me that public never seem to realize that traffic control facilities are not necessary at the most airports. We only have them through the sheer power of the ratchet.
The tower at Double Eagle was established in 2006 because Eclipse Aviation was going to have a large increase in traffic by its customers visiting the training facility. A few years later, Eclipse collapsed, the abandoned building of the said facility is an white elephant, but the tower continues operations and consumes money.
Today it's Santa Fe's turn. In a letter to all concerned, the airport management informs that:
Beginning December 15, 2016, Santa Fe Municipal Airport will be served by 70-seat commercial aircraft. As a result, the TSA regulations will require the following additional security measures [...].
Airlines come and go, the next one may decide to fly an EMB-145 again. Do you think the security measures are going to be reverted when that happens? Don't answer that, it was a rhetorical question.
October 05, 2016
I dabbed in gliders recently, and here's is a couple of observations that I don't see mentioned elsehwere.
It is often said that a winch launch in a glider is the closest thing to a cat shot that a civilian can experience. It turned not quite true. Although I haven't flown off a carrier, I would imagine that a catapult launch is notable for its acceleration. In addition, in modern aircraft the pilot does not even control it until clear of the boat: you can see that he holds special handles on the sides of the cockpit frame. A winch launch, by contrast, is not violent at all.
Where it gets exciting is the need to make prompt, even aggressive, yet correct and measured action if things go wrong. The control has to be correct when things go well too: rotation not too hard, and at the right moment, keeping the speed right in relation of the winch pull, release after going horizontal, and such. You aren't taking a relaxing ride while holding the grab handles.
But there is something that makes a glider pilot work like a fighter pilot, and that is flying in a crowd. A few games exist that make the player to look in directions other than straight ahead. They do it to be more realistic. Fighter pilots have to track positions of other aircraft, while maneuvering, and this is more difficult than it sounds. But pilots of civilian aircraft rarely engage into such activities. Most flying is done with a care for safe separation, and I knew people who would become nervous if another airplane approached closer than 500 ft. For a glider pilot, a several wingspan separation is routine, when gliders start hogging one thermal. And they have to keep head on a swivel just like figher jocks tangling it north of Nellis. Of course I would not want to mention it to them.
 See the safety video by British Gliding Association, Part 1. Here are related quotes:
- Cartwheel before takeoff: "... how quickly and catastrophically things can go completely out of hand. ... Releasing the cable after the wing has dropped will not stop a cartwheel that has already begun. ... Release before the wing touches the ground. "
- Stall and flick roll on rotation: " Maintain a shallow climb until adequate speed is seen, with continuous acceleration. Ensure that transition ... is controlled and progressive. "
- Launch failure and low altitude: "Minimizing the reaction time is crucial. You need to anticipate a power loss ... and be ready to lower the nose without delay."
- Later spin: " ... accidents of this type were the most common fatal winch accident. ... it is imperative to adopt a correct recovery attitude. Wait until a glider has attained an approach speed [before maneuvering]. "
September 22, 2016
And I learned quickly why it was refered by "Da Crapo" by Momotato in 2005 (page not online anymore). The art takes the worst of Kanon. Characters are borderline acceptable on each own, but they present an eclectic salad with no theme or reason togeher. The main heroine is apparently the sister. I only ran down Mako's path before I had enough. Here's a spoiler to give a sample of the plot: Mako is troubled by romantic attentions of a lesbian and recruits our hero to be her pretend boyfriend in order to shield herself. Naturally, they fall in love in the process... Which again, could be accepted, but the writing was unbearably poor. Things just happen with no development whatsoever. Okay, almost. The dude helps the poor thing to select a present for her brother once. Hardly enough for romantic feelings to develop.
It's not quite the worst $10 ever spent, because I picked a few kanji along the way, but it's quite close.
September 03, 2016
The good Professor's analysis is short:
Poor Lena. I think she hoped that, like a guy, she could parlay fame into sexual attractiveness. But that doesn’t work nearly as well for women, because men aren’t attracted to status to the degree that women are.
I suspect that one problem is, fame is not universal. If Lena Dunham were amazing at her job, she could be better admired. For example, I know about Leam Neeson. That guy is good. But all I know about Lena Dunham is that she impersonated Sarah Palin once. That's not very amazing. So, she may be famous among the Tumblr-and-pajamas set, but that's not enough to capture hearts outside of that demographic.
August 07, 2016
The previous speculative entry assumed without question the postulate that everyone in contact with the experiment subjects is going to forget them once the experiment is over. But actually, such outcome is impossible in the (known) world of ReLIFE, so it's not going to happen.
I say that because thus far, there was no ReLIFE technology shown that would affect people that are not a part of the experiment. So, there is no technical way to effect amnesia in a large number of unsuspecting people (unless we imagine something like a sleeping gas pumped into the whole school, at which point operatives of ReLIFE descend from black helicopters and administer memory-altering injections, LOL).
Instead, subjects are told that they are going to be forgotten, in order to control their behavior, even though they will not be. If they give themselves a moment to think, they can realize it too. All the necessary information is available in-world.
July 24, 2016
This is going to offer massive spoilers. Please make sure to read the manga before proceeding to tell me how wrong I am with the easy solution.
The main problem mangaka made characters to struggle with is as follows. Characters X and Y have secret identities X1 and Y1, for the period of the experiment. If they leak their identities, the experiment terminates in a failure, and everyone lose their memories of it. They also miss the success reward. But if they succeed in keeping the secret to the end, they capture the reward and keep the memories of the experiment (everyone else still lose theirs though). Seems simple enough, but the mangaka set it up so that X and Y would want to confirm their identities to each other. Is there way to do it without failing?
Note that it's completely all right for Y to know that X is X1. It's just not all right for X to leak X1 (however, if Y were to leak X1, it would be a failure too). So, a naive approach would be to X to march up to Y and say: "Please don't tell anyone, but actually I have a secret identity X1." That would be immediate failure, however, because both X and Y are under a blanket surveillance. They basically live in a fish tank. For that reason, I struggled for a while with a way to defeat the surveillance. If X were to send a steganographic message to Y, it would solve the problem. I went quite some ways down exploring this solution area, but it turned out to be too fragile. The risk of capture is too extreme.
But after exhausting the covert confirmation, I think I found an elegant solution. All X needs to do is to be patient until the end of the experiment, collect the reward, then re-establish contact with Y and confirm identities. The end of the experiment lifts the restrictions, does it not? The only issue here is that without the confirmation X1 and Y1 have trouble finding each other. But that is much easier to solve. X can tell Y: "I have a request for you. Do not ascent or reject, just register this: on date T1 in the future, come to the place L1. I'll be waiting." That is all.
BTW, it may be more practical and safer to put the request down in writing and arrange for Y to read it alone.
A request of this kind would be natural for X to make if they were innocent, so making it does not leak any information. Heck, X can confirm the legality of this move with the handlers beforehand. Looks like I solved it.
The remaining question is, if this is what the author is going to make X to do (or Y, they are symmetric). There may be another solution. An author has a unique command over the work. The author may yet arrange some kind of happenstance that allows a steganographic message to work, for example. Or the characters may fail. In Japan, there's no requirement for a happy ending. However, I think I have proven that at least one solution exists, and thus anything else would be lazy writing.
UPDATE: See also a prediction regarding the memory loss.
June 26, 2016
The EU of 1942 looked remarkably similar to the EU of today in this old postcard.
May 10, 2016
I write about GT86 every year, but I just don't have an excuse to buy one. Also, while I can fit inside reasonably well, I still can't do heel-and-toe (I can in a Wrangler). By this point I pretty much resigned myself to the reality that I'll never drive one. However, my better half was rather interested in MX-5. The ND model is very, very nice. I am even tempted to name it a car of they show. If only it came with a hardtop.
What I may have an excuse to buy is a Grand Cherokee (WK2). It's quite interesting, subject to my research into its 4x4. Many versions of it come without a two-speed transfer case (MP 3022). If that's the case, then Overland only gets a total or 1:16.2 (with the 845RE transmission and 3.45 final drive). Aside from the model and capability confusion, it's a great city SUV, and has enough headroom.
The new Ridgeline seems like same old, same old, just refreshed. At least they promise a massive improvement in the fuel economy.
One other intresting thing I examined at last was Flex. Man this thing is rad. And the tow rating is phenomenal. Just one more great car that I'll never buy. Another such article at the show was the Mercedes minivan.
Lexus products are going through a phase when interiors are unpleasant and the infotaiment is worse. It's too bad, because our 2009 IS was outstanding and we considered getting another one.
Mercedes was all over the place. The CLA was just terrible. They parked it right next to a C-class, and it left a big impression. The cars were so much alike, it was creepy. But in the same time, it was immediately obvious which one was good and which one was bad. The difference was even more prononunced from the inside. Frankly I cannot understand who in their right mind would even buy the CLA. You have to be really desperate for the roundel to decide to save money this way.
Some auto pundits were saying how the CLA, by taking over the duties of a junk Merc... er... the entry-level model, relieves the C-class from that role and permits it to improve. That certainly happened. I remember how C-class lost badly to 3-series a couple of years ago in this show. Not anymore. Coincidentially, BMW skipped the show this year.
In place of BMW, we finally had Nissan show up, so I sat in the Z. What can I say, it's about as tight as MX-5, which is tighter than GT86. No-go. BTW, that center compartment is just goofy.
May 05, 2016
Steven posted an essay on the topic of the unavoidable hyperinflation coming to the U.S., and I have little to disagree with his lead-in about the situation we're in. However, hyperinflation is not going to cause a societal collapse. Governments may fall, but they'll be replaced. There may be a civil war, but its sides will quickly organize. Look no further than the People's Republic of Donetsk that arose out from nothing in a month in 2014, and took over providing basic services - police, emergency medicine, even garbage disposal. Or what the heck, consider the Islamic State. In the U.S., we don't even need anything like that: every state in theory has a government that can take over on a short notice.
Now of course the above means that a government will preserve, old or new, but its subjects have no such guarantees. There's going to be a certain lawlessness for sure. I'm somewhat familiar with the "roaring 90s" in Russia that ended in the 1998 default. Based on that experience, I don't think stockpiling ammunition is the answer beyond basic 10,000 rounds or so, which you will need yourself. It's just not physically feasible: it's too bulky, too heavy. You need an easy access to good places to hide it, because houses are going to be broken in.
So, I have a different set of suggestions. First, move to a capital city. Citizens of it will have it easier than the rest, guaranteed. Yes, there will be lack of food and basic necessities, but worst comes to worst, the government will send foraging squads that will rob everyone else and bring the food into the city. Next, you have to be in the system somehow. Surviving on your own is pure fantasy, it's not possible when hordes of the hungry ransack your hiding place. People who think they can hide in a cabin delude themselves. You either need to work for a big corporation that is joined at the hip with the government, or work for the government itself. Being a LEO is not a bad lot, but a bureaucrat is okay too.
My grandmother survived The Siege of Leningrad by working for the police, NKVD. This is an interesting example, for those not familiar. People were dying left and right, yet there was no societal collapse. Okay, so the dead bodies were littering the streets, because nobody had calories left to dig graves, but only in the cold period. Government formed teams to collect bodies when it became warmer. When people resorted to cannibalism, the government found and caught them, then they were executed. The executioners then put their rifles on their shoulders and walked to their barraks, slowly, not wasting energy. Then some of them died. But the rest dragged the bodies into the frost in the winter, or into an open segment of the big grave trench, then went to get their orders to execute someone else.
My grandma wasn't executing anyone, just filing reports about executions, how much ammo was expended at executions, the available manpower for executions — basically the usual bureaucratic work. For that she was given her 250 grams of rye bread every day. That is how you survive, not by holing up in the woods with ammo and canned foods.
In our days, it wasn't even that dire. I even worked as a computer programmer, and was paid in U.S. dollars. There was a lot of crime. But a societal collapse? Hardly.
No matter where you look, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, people live through hyperinflation. There are lessons in that.
April 24, 2016
Gotta save this here (h/t Rob Finfrock):
KAEG 240455Z AUTO 25004KT 10SM CLR 12/M04 A2992 RMK AO2 T01231042
KAEG 240435Z AUTO 25006KT 10SM CLR 14/M04 A2991 RMK AO2 T01361044
KAEG 240415Z AUTO 26012KT 10SM CLR 16/M05 A2991 RMK AO2 T01601047
KAEG 240347Z 250218KT 10SM SKC 17/M07 A2989
KAEG 240247Z 21022KT 10SM SKC 18/M07 A2987
KAEG 240147Z 23020G29KT 10SM FEW080 SCT100 21/M02 A2983 RMK VIRGA NE-E
KAEG 240047Z 23025KT 10SM FEW090 BKN120 24/M02 A2981 RMK VIRGA NE-E
As you can see, the afternoon convection goes away and gives way to a fine quiet night. But the last cell hits right at the location of the weather station and here's the result. Shit like this is why you don't fly near cells.
March 15, 2016
Had an bizzare conversation with a friend from Belgium. He asked me to do everything in my power to make it so that Donald Trump wins elections and becomes the President. I had to ask a couple of questions about why he might want such an outcome. It turned out he's completely lost faith in the ability of his government to protect him from geopolitical risks, such as the massive invasion of Muslim "refugees", and started to believe that Trump would at least keep Europe from being destroyed, as Americans did in WWII, and Cold War. Sheer desperation, really.
One positive takeaway from this is, no matter how screwed up America has become — they have magazine capacity limits in Colorado now — someone has it worse. Like, for example, Europeans.
UPDATE: A strange new respect for Trump at Chizumatic.
UPDATE 2016-05-14: Now Roger L. Simon posts an article asking "Can Trump Save Mexico?" He is not as desperate as my Belgian friend, but:
The USA has for generations been the stopgap for this poverty, providing work for the Central American jobless, the millions of illegal aliens in our midst, who send remittances home from the storefronts we see across Los Angeles and other cities of our country. It's always been like that, with America, inadvertently or not, enabling this corrupt Mexican system, often for the advantage of America's corporations but not her people. I never thought it would be different.
Ironically, Donald Trump is Mexico's best friend right now, not of the officials, of course, or their extraordinarily large billionaire class, but of the Mexican people themselves. By actually bottling up the border and reducing the flow to legal immigration -- something that has not been done for decades, if ever -- Trump and his allies are forcing the Mexican government to deal with their own problems. That's not going to happen as long as El Norte is here to solve everything for them. It never happened while the border was open and will never happen until it's closed.
February 22, 2016
It has been more than 5 years since the day when I was driving by a dealership and thought: "today is a good day to buy a Jeep". It was the best car that I owned, by far.
The biggest thing I bought with it was the capability. It's drive anywhere in comfort. Not the comfort as isolation from road imperfections or noise: it is a real jeep with all the discomforts that implies. But it's a comfort of driving. With RAV4 I could get wherever I need to get, or nearly. Jeepers in my club were often surprised. But it took a continuous, grueling effort: watching your track at all times on the trail, plan every move ahead to put the wheels just right. It was exhausting. But the Rubicon just rolls over everything. So easy.
Aside from the big advantage of the capability, one minor thing that I learned to appreciate with the jeep is driving a convertible. Never been a fan of that previously: it's noisy and dusty. Really not a thing to do in town. But out in the desert it feels proper. Wrangler is designed with no regard for the ease of access to the back with the top on (it's a big reason why 4-door versions are so popular).
However, I had trouble fitting in. At my height, the roll bar intruded into the area where my head needed to be. If I were to be rear-ended, I would crack my skull upon the cage. So, I reworked the seat brackets to lower the driver seat. It was the biggest mod I did to the jeep, it even required cutting and welding. Other mods were fairly minor: things like a CB antenna and rails.
Initially I was apprehensive about reliability. And I even had a transmission leak. But the leak was fixed under warranty and the jeep was trouble-free since then. It's at 85k miles now.
BTW, it gets about 19 mpg in daily driving.
The only weak spot in the jeep is its lack of sportiness. It squats and sways too much, and rather slowly too. It's just not chuckable, even with traction control off. But that comes with the territory.
Pictured: Jeep at the Imogene pass, Colorado.
UPDATE: A few small good things:
- Pulling on a door handle of a locked door unlocks it. I'm not a fan of the design where occupands must unlock doors for handles to work. Scion xB was like that (in both generations) and it made me mad.
- Fog lights can be turned on in conjunction with parking lights only. On RAV4.3, headlights had to be on for fog lights, which pretty much defeated the purpose of the fog lights. Useful fog lights are designed to illuminate the road, but not the fog. If normal headlights are on, their light is reflected by the fog and obscures the road.
- Although headlights were often panned as dim, their plastic is tough and does not go yellow with age.
February 15, 2016
When China enters a market, the intention is to destroy indigenous competition. From American to Nigerian to Turkish textile jobs — all down 90 percent — local earning power is destroyed. Everywhere and in every area — again it’s steel, aluminum, solar panels, toys and electronics — China hollows out local production.
There was a time when I could take this sort of breathless propaganda seriously, but something happened recently: Mooney rolled out the M20V Ultra.
For those not in the know, Chinese were gobbing up the basement of the aviation industry in the U.S. for many years now, and they are quite brazen about it. One historic anecdote is that when they bought Cirrus and sent the occupation team in, workers put up a big banner "Welcome Our Chinese Partners!" The Chinese were outraged. We are OWNERS not partners, they said, and ordered the banner taken down immediately.
The Chinese purchase of Mooney was met with a large skepticism. Everyone knew that Mooney was done, over, finished. The product was too old, too expensive to make. The notional purchaser, Mr. Chen, was secretive about the source of his money. Everyone in the industry thought he was either clueless or a scammer. Then, the company rolled out the model M10 - a revolutionary airplane for them, but made in California, not Texas, and revealed in Zhuhai, China. Ah-ha, cried the skeptics. Now we know - Chen wants to take the American expertize and build airplanes in China! Well, 2016 comes in and Mooney in Texas announce a major renovation to the factory, a major advance for the M20 line with the M20V Ultra. It was not just the new door and the composite shell, but also the new electrics and electronics that comprise a large part of the cost.
In other words, a Chinese overlord rescued a storied American company that American investors bailed upon, made it make new and exciting products that are world class again. In addition, the new composite production in California helps along the traditional manufacturing in Texas. This was not what the narrative taught us.
Meanwhile in Minnesota and South Dakota they are getting ready to the imminent certification of Cirrus SF50 - an amazing personal jet, the likes of which the world has not seen. If that's what slaving under the yoke of Chinese is like, perhaps it's not that bad. I've seen worse coming from New York schuisters when they took over companies.
All that is quite far from "hollowing local production". Now, granted, the new Chinese owners may be incompetent; the investments are risky. Mooney, Cirrus, Teledyne/Continental, and any number of their other aviation ventures in the U.S. may yet fail — they have failed already on their own once or more. But at least we'll get a Mooney with the pilot's door, which is a net positive in my book.
UPDATE: First flight on June 6, 2016, by the Ovation Ultra version with Mike Miles at the controls.
January 30, 2016
January 24, 2016
Kimber originally asked me for input on what the "ideal” defensive/concealed carry revolver would look like. They didn’t want to make a hunting revolver or a competition revolver or a "tactical” revolver, but one that would actually be a useful defensive arm for those people considering a revolver for self defense. [...]
I suggested to them that a good self defense revolver would carry six rounds, have a great trigger and good sights. Of course there were a lot of other details that were important: it needs to fit and feel good in the hand, have rounded edges that were comfortable and didn’t chew up clothing, be of a concealed or enclosed hammer and double-action-only, have a rounded and smooth trigger face, be easily used by people with smaller hands, and of course be of high quality. In short, it wouldn’t be revolutionary but rather evolutionary: none of this stuff is really new, but it’s never been put together in one gun. The goal was to get everything into one package and get the details right.
Basically, if you could make a better J-frame, how would you go about it? Grant Cunningham pondered that question for 15 years, until Kimber came along, and this is the result.
January 15, 2016
Executive summary: Yaris is a terrific obsolete little car.
I am quite aware that it is not popular for ownership, and when I shopped in the category in 2013, Fit has beaten it easily. Fit's design is stronger inside and out, especially with the touches like the USB pigtail, all the cubbyholes, and of course the multi-function rear seats that are as famous as Caravan's hiding seats. Fit's internal volume is also larger, yet it's quite sporty even on the power of a 115 hp engine. Compared to Fit, Yaris is cute, but not as cute. It's fast, but not as fast. It's comfortable, but not as comfortable.
Still, as far as el-cheapo cars go, Yaris is quite nice. There's really nothig to complain about at the price. Okay, maybe finding a blade long enough for the Mercedes-style solitary wiper may be a chore. The seats are not thick, so they cannot comform to a wide variety of butts: you either fit great or not at all. But at least Yaris does not have the insufferable blue LEDs in the dash like Corolla. It actually uses a corporate round-corner radio that it borrows from Scions.
Another thing I like about Yaris is that it sticks to small wheels. I just cannot stand how constructors go for larger and larger wheels these days. Being a newly made holdover from a bygone era is sort of the theme in Yaris. In addition to sporting 14-inch wheels it has a CD player (with USB inputs, fortunately). It uses an obsolete drivetrain with naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder and a 4-speed conventional automatic. Although it returned about 30 mpg, I have to admit that the test included a lot of highway driving. But there's something endearing about the known and proven. Pretty soon cars like that will have 3-cylinder turbocharged mills and CVTs across the board. Just not yet.
Would I buy one? No, I bought Fit. But would I drive one? Totally.
November 07, 2015
Just saving it here in case (seen printed on paper).
After lots of trial and error, I discovered a method that helps prevent this and makes getting a solid grip much easier. When you reach into your pocket, angle your hand toward your ulna (the pinky-finger side of your forearm) and flag your thumb slightly so the thumb and fingers enter the pocket at the same time. As soon as they're in the mouth of the pocket, turn your hand around the axis of your forearm (for right handers, counterclockwise). This turn causes the thumb and fingers to spread the pocket mouth and aligns the web of the thumb with the backstrap of the pistol. Now, simply dive straight down and achieve a normal grip with a straight trigger finger. You are ready to draw.
Of course, the move needs to be practiced. My sensei says that as a rule of thumb, 3,000 repeatitions is a good place to aim for a basic profeciency, 10,000 for mastering it.
November 01, 2015
Another trip to Japan, another short hop in a glider, this time with the Soaring Club of Japan (glider.jp) out of Itakura. They are organized a little differently from Takikawa Skypark, where you show up, pay your fee, and get a ride. Instead, you become a member of the club for a day, theoretically speaking. Therefore, I had plenty of fun helping out with the club activities throughout the day: launching, recovering, parking.
October does not offer enough solar heating at our latitudes, but Itakura gets plenty of mountain wave action, and surprisingly low too. In Moriarty, the wave gets as low as perhaps 11,000 ft MSL or 5,000 AGL on a good day. So, you must catch a thermal first, then work your way up to the wave. In Itakura, the wave is felt as low as 2,000 ft (AGL and MSL are about the same there), and the launch tug can get you that far, even in October.
Unfortunately, it's still tricky, and most club members failed at it. But not all. More experienced pilots were able to catch the wave, sometimes with a little help from ridge soaring over a nearby hillock... er, mountain. Of course, I only logged 0.2. Although the glider is the same Grob G103 that I flew at Sundance, I was still too busy to feel the lift, and of course you have to catch it in the first couple of minutes after a release.
I had a better insight into the workings of the control center at Itakura, too. The JGC have a mobile center in a similar fashion that I noted at Takikawa. Its main function is to report the weather, for the lack of AWOS. Secondary function is to report runway condition and improve safety. Both of these are carried out by the flight manager. Finally, a dispatcher at the center runs the operations by assigning duties to launch and recover, with the attendant bureaucracy.
October 19, 2015
The executive summary is really simple: you must be > this < rich to travel by airplane.
It's not just the equipment costs. Looking at it from another angle, there are fundamental issues with the basic technology that prevents airplanes from being generally useful: a car delivers you door to door, while airplane delivers you airport to airport. So, unless you live in an airpark, you must drive to the airport, then fly, then rent a car at your destination. Therefore, in order to be accepted as transportation, the airplane must be so immensely useful to you, that you tolerate this giant handicap. This usually (although not exclusively) occurs when you are so rich, that the value of your time or your privacy is enough to pay for other people, such as chaffeurs and pilots. Or when you live in Alaska.
With that in mind, I'm going to run down the commonly available equipment options and group them into vague classes, so we have at least some numbers.
Category Zero: STOL airplanes
These are actually very useful for tranportation in remote areas and are often used in furterance of a business. Examples: Super Cub clones, Zenith 850, Cessna 182 Peterson & King Katmai, Cessna Caravan, De Haviland Otter. We're going to ignore them in this post.
Recreational aircraft that are useless for transportation
Aircraft in this category typically are too slow to compete with cars. Many are quite inexpensive - on the order of $10k..20k. This leads to their users to try and fly them to get somewhere all the time, but generally it's hopeless. Examples: Piper Cub, Cessna 150, Kolb Firestar, Icon A5. Cost: $15k to $230k to buy, $2k to 15k a year without hangar.
A plastic-fantastic Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA)
The speed of these airplanes is legally limited to 122 knots, 2 occupants, and 1320 lbs gross. As a rule of thumb they are about 2x the speed of a car. A flight of Remos GX from Santa Fe to Denver (FTG) takes about 2 hours 45 minutes, while a car ride takes about 6 hours (but you have a car at destination). Their payload and baggage space are very limited, to the extent that you must strip shopping bags from purchases you made in Denver before returning to Santa Fe. However, LSA may be flown without a medical certification, which may be crucial. Example: Flight Design CTLS. Cost: $70k to $200k to buy, $2k to $5k a year without hangar.
A basic single
These airplanes provided the bulk of personal transportation until the 1980s. They have enough range and payload to get you and your wife somewhere, just not in great comfort and not very quickly. The speed rate about 2x of a car (although it goes better in the East where roads are twisty and slow). For example, you can get from Albuquerque to Phoenix in 3 hours, or about as fast as in LSA. But unlike LSA, you can pack for overnight, even week-long trips. In addition, most of the light singles are equipped for light IMC under IFR, which is quite important out East. Examples: Piper PA-28, Cessna 172. Cost: $30k to $70k to buy (yes, they top where LSA just begin), $2k to $8k a year without hangar.
This is the first category that may be useful. We basically have 2 kinds of airplanes in this category: old like Bonanza and new like Cirrus. The Bo-like airplane is less expensive if used; a decent 1950s vintage can be had for as low as $28k (at one time I priced one of those with a swamp cooler - the pinnacle of 1956 luxury). The Cirrus-like airplane has modern amenities, such as air conditioner and emergency parachute; you can expect to pay $130k for a decent example. Either of them is $800k new, which is completely insane, but then you can cruise at 200 knots in them and even hit known icing! Realistically, however, the speed is about 3x to 4x of a car. This facilitates day use, such as being based in Dallas and visiting customers and partners across Texas and a bit beyond. Examples: Beechcraft Bonanza F33, Cirrus SR22. Cost: $40k to $150k to buy used, $12k to $20k a year without hangar (but you'll want one).
Twin and Turbine
These airplanes are used by people who made it in real American way. An owner of a construction company is a stereotypical example, although, frankly, nowadays it's commonly a political consultant, a junior financial executive, or a pro sports coach. I know that Dr. Antonio Elias, the chief designer of Orbital Pegasus flies a light twin between launch and production sites of his rockets. You may even meet a former astronaut tooling along in one of these between Houston and D.C.. They are easily 4x..6x speed of a car and all are equipped for IFR. Example: Beechcraft B58 Baron, Piper Cheyenne. Cost: $200k to $1m and up to buy, $20k to $50k a year. And and you need a 40ft hangar.
Cheap Corporate Transport
Before Pilatus PC-12 disrupted this category, Beechcraft King Air ruled the roost here. At this price point we're starting to see CEOs and even politicians using the airplanes, which come with toilet onboard and airstar. These airplanes are about half the speed of an airliner and allow you to get from Albuquerque to D.C. in about 5 hours, which may be acceptable for business. Most are still rated for single-pilot operation, but are not flown by owners, who are simply too busy. Many require type ratings to fly anyway. Example: King Air C90, Cessna Citation III. Cost: $1.5m to $20m to buy, $100k a year thereafter. You're not likely to rent a hangar, but will outsource the parking to professionals at Cutter Aviation or other such company.
Category Infinity: Everything Above You
There is a great deal of difference in capability between these airplanes, but they are so crazily expensive, that there's no point in talking about them. By the time you're this rich, you will not have the time to read obscure blogs such as this one anyway. Examples: Gulfstream 650, Boeing BBJ.
From the very rough numbers above, the tragedy of the private aviation in the U.S. is very easy to see. The middle class simply cannot afford to pay a note, maintenance, insurance, and hangar cost of a minimally acceptable airplane, e.g. Cirrus SR22, unless their business can somehow justify its use. We are talking about sinking $30k a year. I used to know a guy who was a middle level manager in IBM - a Director or such. He flew his Cirrus between his home in Florida and sites such as Houston. Something like that may work, but otherwise, it's plainly impossible.
Poor pilots on forums love to make claims about scraping by: caring and feeding for a Bonanza for $8k a year. I literally saw someone to post "I drive a junk car in order to afford this airplane". I respect the enthusiast's zeal, but it's not a way to have public at large to fly little airplanes.
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