"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Flight School

Notes on Flight School, Scottsdale, following PCForum
David (Isenberg) asked about it, prodded me to make post notes (and I decided to post date to make them fit better chronologically)

Night before George Butler previewed IMAX film on Mars (rovers etc)

AM - on private aviation

Focus seemed to be mostly on systems for organizing private flight and scheduling.
Had some good talks with one of the presenters the night before so started to "tune out" on the panel. We had talked some about optimization issues. Some may apply to his company “Corporate Clipper” which will essentially rent space on other’s private craft.
How do you maximize use of airtime, minimize ground time?

Essentially, was on moving "high value" staffers in timely matter between points where there are not great connections

Say you need to get a techie to Tulsa or Tupelo or from Tulsa to Tupelo, or Terra Haute for that matter.

My experience (from negotiations some years ago with retired head of Raytheon) that they build a bunch of planes in Wichita, but you can't fly there (easily). Note that negotiations were mundane (food company stuff not high tech).

Lead speaker was FAA, snore
I really didn’t need to know history of flight safety, rules and regs. etc, but I’m not in that business.

Basically, if you have an aircraft, you can fly friends and family, but you can’t sell tickets. BTW friend just bought his own Piper fixed gear high wing single engine plane.
Interesting comparisons with auto industry. Point that planes don’t change, they are constantly refurbished. Cars are used and junked, planes aren’t (oversimplification).

Somewhere along the line there was some discussion, which I only really “got” later, about advances in avionics, and use of such developments as GPS to give you a similar sense of “where are you” to driving a car. Being able to know, to within a few feet, you are greatly refines flying.
Also on avionics – the demand for uptime.
Can’t have Windows in the cockpit (as MuSoft Windows and the blue screen of death – could really be death, not just you but those in the schoolyard below you).

Back to systems, Ed Iacobucci seemed to be really into scheduling issues.

A session on new aircraft.
Someone, maybe David Isenberg referred to them as Million dollar SUV’s

Not my league.
But sometimes I’d like to be able to afford a flight on someone’s Private Craft (another “PCForum”?)

My ears did prick up with thoughts of private flights coming down to “commercial” rates (suspect it means full price 1st class)
Note that I fly 1st class but by using my miles to upgrade after buying coach.

George Dyson put up great clip of Startrek the TV series with “Dyson Sphere” segment.
Personal chuckle was when Esther slipped Freeman in buffet line ahead of me and we chatted – “the crew couldn’t see the sphere on their sensors, but your point was that they would be bright in the IR, he smiled and said ‘of course’ “

Freeman did nice lunch talk – some on Project Orion (see Amazon)
“The Physics worked” and there were plans to put dozens on Mars by ’65. Apollo was dead end (I agree, chemicals just don’t work for long term, essentially dead end technology)

Afternoon was fun, on space stuff

VC’s going “spacy”
Well, someone has to take the risks.
I did not see any potential, other than maybe “Carbon Designs”
Before space elevators, they’ll be developing materials for consumer products – the ubiquitous golf club shafts and tennis rackets

Aldo Ressi tried to lead talk on “Why go?”
Zubrin of Mars Society was twitchy and sort of pushy
Aside – Aldo buttoned holed me last year (several sheets to the wind) about space travel and “aliens”
He’s on the XPrize board

Then George did one on How to go?
Interesting talk about “space elevator” (Freeman is skeptic).

Talk about China – and that they will push us to achieve.

Later some stuff about “tourism” – shall we say “Pie in the Sky”
There were some interesting conversations about where the boundary should be between “private enterprise” and public efforts/
For now, Govt is looking at “near space” being turned to the private sector, maybe out to L5, eventually to trans-lunar.

Last was NASA announcing series of prizes, patterned on X-Prize
Centennial Challange
This is interesting
The principal that govt. agencies can’t always (make that maybe almost never) make the right plans, but set goals and let others shoot for them. This also leverages budgets. You only pay the winner, many spend on the R&D shooting for the prize.


BTW : I’m a believer that mankind will move beyond the atmosphere sometime, just as fish left the ocean to colonize the land.

Pretty much, I likely would not have gone to AZ for this, but was there anyway. With spouse along, I tack on a few days to either end of the conference.

Some other posts

Spaceflight industry ready for takeoff - The New Space Race - MSNBC.com

Good Morning: PC Forum 2005: Jeffrey Katz founder of Orbitz

Phil Gilbert | Perspectives in Process: Personal Mobility

CNet postings (note that CNet owns PCForum - and I assume Flight School)
Freeman: let's colonize space for fun

Space elevator stuff

Liftport FAQ

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