Monthly Archives: January 2013

THE “SWITCHBLADE”–AUTO, AIRPLANE, OR BOTH?

Ace and Sam with their favorite air machines

Ace and Sam Bousfield with their favorite air machines

The concept of an automobile that can be transformed into an airplane (or vice versa) has run rampant through the dreams of creative engineers for more than a half century. A few of them got airborne (briefly) but any attempt to mass-market these crossbreed contraptions was unsuccessful. However, the creative and entrepreneurial spirit is once again taking off. The Switchblade flying car is being designed by Samson Motors.
I was selling and signing copies of the The Rogue Aviator at last weekend’s US Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, Florida when I noticed a large crowd gathering at a neighboring vendor. When I wandered over to the area I soon learned about this innovative, revolutionary ground or air transportation device called the Switchblade. It is very simply, a space-age, rocket ship look-alike that can be driven as an automobile and flown as an airplane. The vendor, Samson Motors, owned and operated by Samson Bousfield was hosting media folks and the entire area was abuzz with gawking aviation enthusiasts. Pilots who are anxious to fly/drive this unique air machine were at the controls of the Switchblade simulator.
It was a joyous festive atmosphere as the crowd embraced the beautiful design of this multifaceted transportation device while the Switchblade marketing experts drummed up enthusiasm for customers to place a deposit for their own air/road machine. The Switchblade is a kit design, but it does not require advanced mechanical or engineering skills to complete. The projected cost of the kit is $60,000. A nominal deposit of $2,000 will get you into the rapidly-growing que for ownership of a Switchblade.
The basic operating parameters are as follows: the maximum airborne speed is 190 miles an hour; normal cruise is 160 mph. In the road-mode it can accelerate to 100 miles an hour. As a two passenger airplane its maximum range is 400 miles. For additional information, the company website is http://www.samsonmotorworks.com/switchblade and Wikipedia also provides a factual discussion of this projected revolutionary transportation device. Along with its versatility it displays stunningly sensual design lines— its aesthetic appeal alone justifies having one parked in your driveway.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott, a retired commercial pilot and author of two books, The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead tired: Pilot Fatigue-Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com).

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BOEING 787–DREAMLINER OR NIGHTMARE AIR MACHINE?

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been plagued with recent turbulence. The airplane that was supposed to be the best thing since retractable landing gear appears to be a big black eye for the Boeing engineers. While it is true that most new high-tech devices will have preliminary bugs, it seems that the Dreamliner is burdened with a plethora of them. The ongoing growing pains that frequently erupt are usually related to the lithium ion batteries. They are a relatively recently developed type of battery that appears to have not been given the appropriate quality control evaluation.
While United Airlines has had a few recent Boeing 787 Dreamliner incidents, Japan Airlines (JAL) has had numerous incidents, including a recent fire in the cargo compartment, likely caused by the lithium ion batteries. Luckily the airplane was on the ramp at Boston’s Logan Airport. Another aircraft operated by JAL had a windshield shatter. Most of the recent rash of problems has been related to electrical smoke and fire caused by the lithium-ion batteries.
The most recent incident involved the All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight that departed Western Japan and had to make an emergency landing in Takamatsu airport where the passengers disembarked, utilizing the emergency escape slide system. There were, as always, a few injuries during this evacuation procedure. ANA and JAL operate one half (24) of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft that are currently operational. Both airlines have elected to ground all of their 787 Dreamliners until the Boeing tech reps and engineers can provide a solution. An interesting and ironic side note is that the Boeing engineers union (SPEEA) is threatening to go on strike.
United Airlines is the only US carrier operating the 787 aircraft and both Ray LaHood, the director of the NTSB, and Michael Huerta, the FAA administrator stated they would not hesitate to ride on the aircraft. {{ “Should travelers be worried? No, says Charles “Les” Westbrooks, Associate Professor of Aeronautical Science at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. “In aviation we have learned that accidents are caused by a series of events rather than any one catastrophic event. Because of this we have ‘safety stand downs’ when events are happening in succession so as to break the chain of events which could lead to an accident.”}} (Extracted from Forbes Lifestyle by Andrew Bender/ 1:37 pm EDT, Jan 16, 2012
This blog is prepared by aviation author, Allen Morris/a.k.a. Ace Abbott, (www.therogueaviator.com) and (www.deadtiredpilots.com).

DRUNKEN PILOTS! “SAY IT’S NOT SO”

American Eagle pilot accosted by the airport authorities:

The recent interception of a potentially drunk pilot by airport authorities is one more black mark on American Eagle Airlines. American Eagle is renowned for engaging in maximum exploitation of their pilots. Or, as the Harvard business school mantra of the mid-70s stated: “Maximum utilization of human resources.” Perhaps the draconian work conditions and a meager salary led this pilot “to drink.” Perhaps the layover in Minneapolis, St. Paul in the middle of a cold, depressing winter left him in the clinically acknowledged state referred to as “SAD” and a few hot toddies was needed to help them avoid deep depression.
The vast majority of today’s airline pilots are extremely conscientious and very few of them ever report for work, even a little bit hung over. The obsolete FAA regulations still say, “eight hours between the bottle and the throttle,” but most airlines have a 12 hour window from alcohol consumption to climbing into the cockpit. Delta has a 24-hour policy, which probably should be adopted by all airlines— perhaps with the caveat of one glass of wine or a beer with dinner. The “glory days” of the airline culture that involved “fast-lane partying” are in the dustbin of aviation history. Pilots and flight attendants on layovers rarely engage in excessive consumption of alcohol.
Perhaps this pilot, and/or his fellow flight crew members were influenced by the relative success of “Whip Whittaker” a.k.a Denzel Washington in the movie Flight as he landed his crippled airplane under the influence of alcohol, marijuana in cocaine. This aviation themed movie was actually an in-depth look at the nuances of substance abuse of a free-spirited pilot. The poignant scenarios throughout the movie, has very possibly resulted in abstinence for many people who were once substance abusers. Unfortunately, the American Eagle pilot, Captain Kristiansen, is now caught up in pathos and emotional turmoil, as his aviation career is likely to be permanently derailed.
While there are many reasons and explanations for a pilot reporting to duty in a state other than perfectly sober, there are no acceptable excuses. A professional pilot must dedicate himself to being prepared at the highest level possible for every flight.
This blog is prepared by Allen Morris, a.k.a. Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator: In the Back Alleys of Aviation (www.therogueaviator.com) and Dead Tired: Pilot Fatigue- Aviation’s Insidious Killer (www.deadtiredpilots.com)