Back to where we started

By Erik Dolson

It took a few hours but Foxy is mostly ready to make the trip up the Strait of Juan de Fuca tomorrow. Leaving Victoria is melancholy, like having dinner alone in a favorite restaurant, but we’ll be back in a couple of weeks, a month, or later in the year. It’s hard to say, there are too many factors not under my control. I’m trying to focus on what I can control and adjust to outcomes that will be what they will.

I’d like to get out of here about 7 a.m., which means 8 a.m. and I have no clue why but that’s been the case for years when starting out. It’s weird, but I’m rarely late for an arrival. But if I’m going to beat what looks like pretty strong currents against us when we arrive at Guemas Channel, an early departure is a must.

Or I’ll lay over in Friday Harbor. It’s good to have a backup plan.

The tool bag is up in the cockpit, sails are uncovered, jib sheets run. No, I don’t plan on sailing and weather for tomorrow looks calm. But the sails are my back-up propulsion in case of engine failure.

My buddy Roy gave me a good lesson the day he signed me off as competent to be out there. He sent me forward to untie the sail cover when Foxy was heaving through pretty high chop. I learned it’s hard to hold on and at the same time use both hands to untie even simple knots. Some tasks are better wrapped up when it’s calm and Foxy’s tied to the dock.

Especially when single handing.

Even so, I’ve probably forgotten some things and made decisions that could come back to bite me. The dinghy motor is still on Foxy’s transom. Mounting it on the dinghy is a tough job by myself — I’ve done it, which is why I know. So, while I made sure the dinghy is inflated in case I need a life boat, I’ll depend on oars if I do. Which reminds me, I need to charge up the hand-held radio because using oars in the Strait of Juan de Fuca seems just ridiculous.

But jack lines are tight from bow to cockpit, my harness and life vest are on the cushions above along with my heavy weather coat. I’ll practice with the somewhat-new radar and the Automatic Identification System tonight, though I doubt the radar will be required. Still, better to have a handle on it.

It’s been five months since Foxy’s been off the dock. This is our first trip of 2020. It’s not far — we (that would be Foxy and me) are just headed back to friends at Marine Servicenter in Anacortes where she was recommissioned four years ago. Or was it five? She needs another couple coats of anti-foul paint on her hull, we’ll grease and check the Maxprop, enlarge a through-hull for a new water speed sensor. Maybe reroute some plumbing. Maintenance that can only be done on the hard.

Then we’ll splash and either head back to Victoria or maybe just to the buoy at Friday Harbor. Wherever we are on the water, that will be home for at least as long as we’re there.

Trump x 2 = 0

By Erik Dolson

Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Proving he is a loathesome creature (nut doesn’t fall far from the tree), a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. about Senator Mitt Romney’s vote to impeach Donald J. Trump Sr. shows junior’s complete lack of ethical or logical constraint.

Romney had carefully explained his religion-based decision in the Senate. No one can doubt that Romney is a man of faith. But DJTjr. chose instead to substitute his own explanation, that Romney was “bitter” that he would never be president. This is no less than saying a man is a liar about his relationship with God.

Of course, DJTjr. has no logical basis for believing he knows Sen. Romney’s intentions better than Sen. Romney, except a twisted Trumpian view of the world. But logic has never been a Trump family trait.

This classic Trump malignancy, like father like son, puts on display a vile moral emptiness that damages not the intended victim but the fabric of our society.

Of course, Romney did lose the election in 2012, but probably by a smaller margin than Trump if he’d had to run against Obama. Crowds at inauguration don’t lie.

Good God, Democrats

by Erik Dolson

Seriously? This is the best Democrats can do? Goddamnit.

Where in hell is the wicked smart, 50 to 60 something, experienced enough, visionary, charasmatic man or woman (I really don’t care) to lead my America into the next half century of challenges that face us all?

Hey DNC! Don’t you watch TV or the movies?! There’s your prototype. Find a Martin Sheen or Louis-Dreyfus! Look at the GOP! Their two most popular presidents were a “B” grade movie actor and a reality TV star! Can’t you figure it out?! Liberal bona fides don’t matter. The filters are too fine.

You have the most unpoular president in recent history, one who didn’t win the popular vote and hasn’t gathered many more supporters after three years in office. You have tremendous issues to run on, and, in Clinton and Obama, two of the best politicians to advise you. Why can’t you figure this out!?

You bumbling party incompetents are going to put up a candidate to lose against a man most people recognize as deranged, who is harming America, using the constitution to clean himself and to whom you will give another four years because you can’t find, across all this great land, a woman or a man who inspires, a leader around whom Americans can come together?

Then your system is broken. It is designed to fail in some fundemental way. Please, please, fix this before it is too late.

Boeing may need a hug

by Erik Dolson

Boeing has released information to airlines on how to convince customers and crew that the 737 Max planes are “safe” after two crashed, killing 346 people. One point made was that passengers are more emotional than rational:

“Every interaction with an anxious passenger, whether face-to-face or online, is an opportunity to demonstrate our care and concern,” the presentation said. “This is as simple as recognition of a passenger’s state of mind. Research shows that emotions drive decision-making, so a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” 

Perhaps Boeing should focus on fixing the planes and telling the truth, rather than manipulating emotions. 

Most aircraft fly in a “balance” of forces acting on wings and tail that rotate the plane around the “center of lift.” At any given speed through the air, wings push up with a certain force, and the tail pushes with a different force. Change the speed of air over wings and the balance will change, the plane will rotate up or down, finding a new equilibrium.

If the nose rises too far and the angle of the wing to the air flow (angle of attack) is too great, the wing will stop flying. This is called a “stall.” Usually, the main wing will stall before the tail, which will cause the nose to drop, the angle of attack to improve, airspeed to increase, and the wing (and plane) plane can start flying again.

Boeing put new engines on the 737 Max, but had to move them forward on the wing. Engine pods have their own lift. Being farther forward, there was more of a “lever arm” of lift from the engines, and this changed the balance between wing and tail, especially at high angles of attack.

It’s possible that the new configuration allowed the main wing to have more lift and not stall before the tail. If the main wing does not stall before the tail, neither wing nor tail can provide control. The airplane could fall out of the sky.

Or, it’s possible that at a certain angle of attack, lift from the engine pods might overwhelm the control of the tail surfaces, causing the nose to suddenly flip up.

In designing the plane, one solution would have been to change the wing. But a new wing would have required new certification, higher costs and delay. So Boeing installed the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) software that prevented the plane from approaching extremely high angles of attack.

In most planes, including the older 737s, if a plane’s nose drops one of the first things a pilot will do is pull back on controls to bring the nose up and increase power to gain more lift from the main wing. This appears to have happned in the two tragedies.

But changes Boeing made to the behavior of the new planes were not highlighted, nor were recovery procedures if the software was misbehaving. In those situations, pilots had to turn off the new software before they could regain control of their airplane because the software pushing the nose down was stronger than pilots.

It appears pilots of the two doomed 737 Max planes did not know this because Boeing did not want airlines to have to retrain pilots to fly the new Max. This would have increased airline costs and made the new plane less competitive, so Boeing downplayed the impact of the software and did what they could to avoid calling attention to this new characteristic, both with their airline customers and the FAA.

Boeing also included a single angle-of-attack sensor as standard equipment on the 737 Max, despite being required by military buyers to install three sensors. Airbus planes also have three sensors. The reason for three is that if two sensors disagree, which one is right? Boeing said the pilots themselves would be the “redundant” system, unless airlines wanted to spend the money on an additional sensor. Add-ons were a profit center for the plane maker.

One has to think that if Boeing, one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, could fix this issue with a software tweak that would have been done long ago, and 737 Max planes that were piling up before Boeing ended production a couple of weeks ago would be on their way to customers. Why hasn’t this happened?

One guess is that a software tweak won’t fix a fundamental problem with the plane and the placement of the new engines. Will it still fly if computer systems failed, the MACA system was not there to babysit, and the plane encountered a condition of extremely high angle of attack where lift of engine pods destabilized the plane to the point of loss of control?

Would a plane built to those specifications be allowed to fly passengers?

If not, remember that Boeing believes “a human connection will be more effective than rational appeals.” The company may need a hug.

(I welcome comments on this topic by professional pilots, especially test pilots and/or aeronautical engineers)

Boeing is still hiding something

By Erik Dolson

I’d been working on a blog saying that Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg had to go. Boeing beat me to it. Meulenberg was let go over the weekend before I could publish.

Muilenburg was clumsy through the crisis following the crash of two of its new 737 Max airplanes that killed 346 people. He applied political pressure and embarrassed the Federal Aviation Administration, which delayed grounding the airliner until many other nations had already done so. He repeated “Safety is our number one priority” long after that was obviously untrue. He failed to effectively communicate with his customers, the major airlines.

But it’s now critical for Boeing to accept that the tragedies resulted from deeper issues within the company that predate Muilenburg’s fraught leadership. Boeing has a cultural problem that has been stewing for decades. 

This is not a secret. Conversations with current and former Boeing employees uncover a uniform thread that runs all the way to the 737 Max: Boeing’s culture veered from making the best airliners in the world to profit and growth for its own sake.

It will not be easy nor quick for Boeing to recover. Huge damage has been done, not only to the reputation of the company but to internal resources. Good people whose primary goal was quality have been lost. Systems that provided feedback loops for safety have atrophied. Trust, within the company and in the company by customers around the world, has been squandered. It will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.

Boeing has been in denial about this cultural problem. Like an alcoholic who has been successful in business for years, Boeing has relied on presentation and powerful friends to hide core weakness. But Boeing lives in a world defined by physicis. Boeing’s attempt to fool the world has become unmanageable.

There’s a recipe for recovery that’s strangely appropriate. To paraphrase: “…Those who do not recover … are constitutionally incapable of grasping and developing … rigorous honesty… be fearless and thorough from the very start.” 

The 737 Max crisis reeks from lack of honesty. Boeing tried to pass a new engine configuration off as having the same characteristics as older 737s currently flying; said no additional pilot training was required; blamed pilots of the crashed planes; presented a fatuous power point to the FAA instead of a book of actual software changes. Boeing has been trying to buy time.

Boeing is still hiding something, despite Muilenburg’s “resignation.” If I had to guess, it’s the divergent flight characteristics caused by relocating the planes new engines further forward on the wing. Simply stated, a passenger plane is supposed to “converge” to straight and level flight at a certian throttle configuration. 

With “divergent “characteristics,” an abnormal situation will get worse, or “diverge” from straight and level, because of the abnormal condition. The new engine location causes the nose of the airplane to pitch up further when it’s already too high.

In the case of the two crashed airliners, a single (!) faulty sensor may have triggered an automated response in software designed to compensate for the divergent condition, and to make the plane seem to fly like older 737’s without the new engines. The software pushed the nose down, and the planes flew into the ground.

This may not be curable by software changes. Some regulators elsewhere in the world, and maybe even the FAA now that it seems to have found some spine when it comes to Boeing, may not approve a plane that has divergent flight characteristics. Airlines that purchased the plane may want their money back.

This could break the company.

Boeing may recover, but can no longer exist in denial. It will be fascinating to watch how the company deals with the crisis moving forward.

How history will remember them …

“… Equally important, senators acting as jurors in an impeachment trial must take a second oath as well, required by the Constitution: to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

And so senators—especially the Republicans—will face a choice that they should understand goes far beyond politics. They must choose whether to follow the facts, or to follow their fears; to uphold propriety, or to perpetuate partisanship; to champion the truth, or to legitimate lies; to defend the interests of the nation and its Constitution, or the personal interests of one vainglorious man. In short, whether to comply with their solemn oaths, or not.

Should they choose to violate their oaths, history will long remember them for having done so—not simply because of the insurmountable evidence of what Trump has already done, but also because Trump, by his nature, will assuredly do it all again.”

An excerpt of an article written by George Conway, a Republican, and lawyer working in New York City.

Read the whole article here.

 

Fires That Forge Us

by Erik Dolson

Thanksgiving. No reservations available, but there’s seating in the bar. The restaurant has run out of turkey, I decide duck will do. The dish is labeled “Canard Deux Façons,” so that’s what I order.

At first, there’s just the surprising way you toss “du rien” over your shoulder while walking away from the table after I say thank you; the speed with which you glide weightless from dining to bar and back, feet barely touching the floor; the way your laugh proves presence at every table you serve.

But standing there talking to me while holding an armful of heavy plates, you slip unimpeded into places I guard closely at heavy cost. You just returned from France, I lived and studied there decades ago. When your age, I waited tables in places just like this. You want to ask a question, maybe two. Will I be around?

Why are choices so hard? Why do you need to traverse the world? Why do you need to go, when you’ve finally created a life where you want to stay? Read more…

What are friends for?

By Erik Dolson

“Daddy!”

Donnie Boastful was at his desk in the Oval Office trying to solve the Tik Tok Toe game in the “Washington Times.” Normally he wouldn’t tolerate an interruption, but it was Ivanka, and, well …

“What can I do for you, you gloriously amazing most wonderful human (from my loins) who ever graced this planet earth in the history of time?”

“Daddy, they say I should give back my China trademarks that I got after our wonderful trip there last summer! Because that bad Biden boy had to quit his job on a China board of directors!”

“Ivanka, sweetest and most lovely creature who ever walked the world, what have I always told you since you were a tall, willowy young female of immense beauty?”

“That if I wasn’t your daughter…”

“Not that.”

“I know! I know! You said to never tell the truth! That it just confuses people!”

“That’s true, it does. But I was thinking of something else. It’s about ‘rules.’ “

“I know! Rules are for other people! We Trumps do what we want!”

“That’s right! So the bad Biden boy has to resign, but you and Don Jr., and that other boy in the family don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s just the way it works.”

“Oh, Daddy, thank you!” Ivanka ran over to his desk and took both his small hands in hers and held them tightly to his side while she gave Donnie Boastful a peck on the cheek.

“Oh, hi Uncle Rudy!” She sang out as she left and Rudy the Rat walked in.

“Hi, Ivanka,” Rudy said. “Boss, I think we got a problem, two of my men got busted as they were leaving the country.”

“What do you mean, Rat, ‘we got a problem?’  Didn’t you just say they were ‘your’ men?”

“Well, they gave a lot of money to your campaign.”

“A lot of people gave a lot of money to my campaign. I couldn’t possibly know all of them. Or any of them. By the way, now would be a good time to ask: Are you still my lawyer?”

“Of course! I just said so on TV!  Some wise guy reporter asked if I was working for the government in Ukraine, and I said, ‘No, I work for the President!’ ”

“You could have said yes, because I’m the President and working for me is working for America. Say, did you see Lou Dobbs? He said that I fulfilled yet another campaign promise getting us out of the Middle East, that pulling out was a brilliant, seventh level chess move.”

“I didn’t see the Dobbs show today, but I’m supposed to go on it tomorrow again. Sheesh, I think I’ve been on Fox 17 tines this month!”

“Rat, don’t start thinking you’re a star. I’m Prime Time Donnie, capiche?”

“I work for you, Mr. America.”

“Great answer. I’ve got a press conference in 20 minutes and have to pretend to slap that guy from Turkey around for roughing up the Kurds. I’m gonna say I’m thinking about destroying his economy, and that I’m going to have conversation on what to do about it. I might send a team over to Turkey. I’ll have them stay in the Trump Twin Towers. It’s the most spectacular hotel in Istanbul!”

“That’s brilliant, Boss. All those people whining about the Kurds. What do they know? What did the Kurds do for us? They’re just in the whey. We made the Kurds some promises … so what, promises are made to be broken, right? This is Trumpworld, right? Just ask them people who built your hotels in Atlantic City!”

“Yeah, didn’t the Kurds read my book? Hellooooo?! They been fighting for so many years over there, it’s easy for them!”

“Who really cares, Boss? Just those people who talk about honor like it’s something you can spend!”

“That’s right, Rat. And it got that impeachment hoax off TV for a whole week! That’s not the reason we’re clearing out of the Middle East, though. I wouldn’t do sumthin’ like that just to change the subject or nothing, right?! It’s because I promised my base!”

“And you keep your promises, Mr. President. Even if Lindsey Graham yesterday said kinda sorta not the nicest thing about what you did.”

“Lay Down Lindsey? He’s just providing a little cover for himself. He’ll fall in line. Vladimir told me he’s got dirt on Lindsey and if I have any trouble, I just need to give Vlad the word. Besides, so what if we pull out of the Middle East? What difference is it going to make? Let them solve their own problems over there! Maybe it’ll disappoint a couple of people, but who cares?”

The intercom on the desk in the Oval Office buzzed.

“Mr. President, the prime minister of Israel is on Line 1. He says it’s urgent.”

“Hey, Rat, would you mind using the back door as you leave? I’m not sure we want that a lot of people see you’re still around.

“Bibi! How you doin’? How’s things in Jerusalem? You know that’s one of my favorite places, right? I think you need a Trump Towers Jerusalem, Bibi, has a nice ring to it, don’t it? It should go right on the beach. Maybe we can do a deal. Hey, sorry I didn’t get back to sooner, it’s been a little hectic around here, maybe you heard … ”