Friday, July 27, 2007

And the pilot-less jet will probably look like this.

Blended wing body concept - more efficient on a number of levels. It has less drag, so will require less thrust, and thus use less fuel. Because the fuselage intrudes into the wing, it will have more internal space, giving new meaning to the term 'wide-body.' With engines behind and above, it will be quieter to people onboard and on the ground.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

As much as I dream about owning a Javelin or a Replica Spitfire, I think I've finally found a fantastic aircraft I can nearly afford.

The Cessna 162 Skycatcher. Skycatcher? Sure, whatever. The 21st Century replacement for the Cessna 152, aviations equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle. I think almost every civilian pilot since 1960 has some time in a 150/152. Personally, I love the little things. A Texas Taildragger conversion of an Aerobat with long-range tanks and a 160HP engine is my idea of fun. But I think I can accommodate a C162 instead. The name has GOT to go, though.

Now, has anyone got a spare $110,000?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In Heaven:

* The police are British
* The cooks are French
* The engineers are German
* The administrators are Swiss
* The lovers are Italian

In Hell:

* The police are German
* The cooks are British
* The engineers are Italian
* The administrators are French
* The lovers are Swiss

Robot Air Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq

Essentially a bigger, badder, faster version of the Predator, unit price somewhere around $20 million, for aircraft, spares and ground equipment.

Hattip to Neptunus Lex.

But it got me thinking - how long before the human pilot is obsolete, before the profession of pilot is as firmly in the past as blacksmith or fletcher? The role of flight engineer has been automated, and an increasing percentage of aircraft accidents are being attributed to human error. How long before this is the justification for eliminating the human element altogether? I think we could safely say 100 years from now, airliners will fly from place to place without any human intervention, perhaps only the inclusion of a safety pilot standing by in case of systems failure. From speaking with those inside the aviation industry, the only phase of flight that computers have problems dealing with at the moment is taxying. Obviously, speaking with air traffic control is too difficult for a computer, but this too could be overcome if an ATC computer were to talk to and issue instructions to the aircraft computer directly via a datalink. They already issue clearances this way in some parts of the world, the crew merely acknowledging with the push of a button.

I think the technological issues will be overcome in my lifetime, and then the only impediment will be human issues, i.e., the pilots association being none too happy with losing their livelihoods, and passengers being unconvinced of the safety of aircraft flying without human intervention, most not realising is how much is already automated. Once computer control is accepted, an aircraft requiring a human pilot will be viewed as 'quaint,' like a horse drawn carriage, or a steam engine.

But I'm not looking forward to it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The information ages is truly a remarkable thing. It has certainly enriched my life in ways too numerable to mention here. But I never really grasped the impact that it has on modern life until the last couple of days.

I am preparing my documents prior to lodging my tax return. As I have a leased vehicle, there are certain documents associated with reportable fringe benefits tax which also need to be submitted. I found an error in mine, a small descrepancy in the mileage over the year. Ordinarily a difference of a couple of hundred kilometres of mileage is neither here nor there. This difference is slightly unusual, in that it means being either under or over a 25000km threshold. As it stands I am under, and subject to pay 20% tax. If the discrepancy is corrected I am only subject to 11%. You can understand that I might feel strongly that the error be put right.

The starting mileage held by my leasing company is 14434kms. The starting mileage according to my records is 14178kms. 256kms. Hardly worth bothering about? Those 256kms mean I have to pay an extra $2000 in tax. Still think it's hardly worth bothering about?

I would never have picked up this difference had I not scrupulously (some would unkindly say pedanticall and anally) kept meticulous records every time I filled up with petrol and retained the printed receipt. When I first began keeping records I was cruelly mocked and treated with no small amount of derision. In fact when I read the notice from my leasing company I was disheartened to see that I would have a large tax liability, all for the want of a measily 78kms. Or roughly 5 litres of fuel. From my home to the CBD and back twice. A trifling amount.

Luckily my fiance Kirrily (Hi Kirrily! Look! I am on teh intarwebs!!!!111elevnty) is not so easily dissuaded by these setbacks. She is very inventive about finding ways around procedures and policies. Some would say she is downright sneaky and deceitful. Not me though. Gosh no.

So Kirrily examined my records closely and discovered the discrepancy, and also the receipt proving it! Hurrah we are saved! Not quite, the receipt is printed on thermal paper and has faded badly. It is still legible with the naked eye, but refuses to show up in a scan or photocopy. Machines see right through it, like some kind of zombie. Or maybe vampire. Whatever, I have the physical evidence backing up my claim.

You would think correcting this error would be as simple as advising my leasing company, who advise my company HR, who fix up the statement and make sure I don't end up paying too much tax. After all, I have the receipt, printed with figures which came from me in the first place anyway. Not so.

Neither the leasing company nor my companys HR departments are contactable in person. They are only contactable electronically. Which means I can't show them the receipt. And there is no electronic evidence supporting my claim. Subsequently I am having a very difficult time proving my claim.

So - and this is my point here - they are valuing VIRTUAL evidence above PHYSICAL evidence. Evidence which exists solely and a series of 1's and 0's within a computer system are regarded as more correct than the actual piece of paper from which the figure was derived! And the living breathing human who provided it! Even the telephone is regarded as a piece of technology too firmly rooted in the meatspace to utilise as a medium for communications, EMAIL is the preferred method. And so half of our correspondence is consumed with correcting misunderstandings arising from previous emails!

I need to lie down for a little while. Catch some virtual ZZZZZ's.