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Air France Crash

This is your Captain speaking…

It is hard for me to write about an aircraft crash. There are a lot of issues involved, not the least of which is giving lawyers information. There is also going to be an investigation which will take a lot of time, be very thorough, and will, at least in the internal reports, be very specific about the actual cause. Right now, there is a lot we don’t know. Right now, I think I know enough.

Background, mine. I first soloed in a USAF airplane in 1966. I was a pilot in the Air Force for 21 years until my retirement in 1987. I went to work as a commercial pilot immediately thereafter, first as a commuter pilot with Northwest Airlink, then as a pilot (and instructor) at United Air Lines until my FAA-mandated retirement last year as I reached my 60th birthday. The jet I flew for the last few years was the Airbus A-320. Airbus makes its airplanes as compatible as possible, so the A-340 that crashed is very similar to the planes I flew for United.

More background, this time about airplanes. Airbus airplanes are said to be fly-by-wire. That means that the control inputs to the hydraulically operated control surfaces are sensed by a computer from a control stick not unlike the sticks of game players. The computer then takes the imputes from the stick, runs them through sets of parameters to insure that the jet can properly respond to them, and then sends commands to the actuators to move the control surfaces. (Other large jets send the control inputs from the pilot through control cables that operate the hydraulic actuators directly.) In most cases, the pilot cannot tell the difference between the two types of control inputs. You move your hand and the jet does what you want it to do. Is the difference important in this accident? Maybe. We will know more when we learn how experienced the pilots were in this type of jet.

At the most the difference will be only a complicating factor. The most proximate cause of this accident will be (and I hate to say it) pilot judgment. You do not charge into a thunderstorm and try to land. Delta proved that in the 80’s at Dallas. There are wind shifts and downdrafts that are beyond the airplane’s ability to overcome, so that if you do everything exactly right you will still crash. That is why you do not go there.

So why would an experienced crew put themselves, their passengers and their airline in such danger? (Crashes have caused airlines to go out of business. Anyone heard of Pan Am lately? People stopped flying on them after the crash in Scotland, and it was not even their fault.)

Scenario. Lets say you are coming from Paris. Despite the fact that this jet has a huge range, no one takes more fuel than you think you will really need, so it is possible that you are running a little short on fuel as you approach your destination of Toronto, Canada. The weather was isolated thunderstorms, and since you do not have to take into consideration transient storms that have a small chance of hitting the airport when you get there, and since carrying extra gas is expensive, you put on a normal fuel load. Going overseas you always have to carry 10% more gas than you expect to burn as well as whatever you add “Just in case.” The normal load should be more than enough. Now the thunderstorms hit, and they are right on the airport. Whups. Bad event number one. (There is always a chain of events all of which have to go wrong in order to have an accident. There are always “If only’s” at every accident.)

With possible low fuel, you then have holding due to the thunderstorms. Airbuses are very fuel efficient in holding patterns, but you must fly at uncomfortably slow speeds. A lot of pilots like to fly faster, with resultant higher fuel burn. Lets say you fly just a little bit faster than you have too.

With holding you often get low level maneuvering. Holding patterns are in stacks, with more than one stack in a flight path. As you go from one to another you are often lower than you would like to be. (Jet engines are much more efficient at higher altitude.) More fuel lost as you wander around at low level from one holding pattern to another.

Pilots just do not like to go somewhere other than their destination. It is called diverting, and it is a bit of a pain. Near Toronto, a common diversion airport is Buffalo, which is just across the lake. (Big lake.) Not really easy in and out, but as they say in seafaring, “Any port in a storm.” No diversion for you, though. Never lost anything in Buffalo, and they are slow at getting to an Air France jet for fueling anyway.

Now we get to make the approach at Toronto. Nice long runway, bad weather, but not a real problem to pilots at this level. Airbuses have a feature that helps them overcome possible windshear. It compares actual speed over the ground with airspeed, and if you are too slow over the ground it adds airspeed. (Momentum is speed over the ground, and with a headwind you can get into a low energy state that will not allow you to overcome a windshear, while with more momentum [speed over the ground] you can fly out of it.) With a large headwind, something that often occurs around storms, you will have some extra speed put on by the computers. But not all pilots are happy with this extra speed, so you slow down to regular speed. Now if the wind shifts from a headwind to a tailwind, you are in a low energy state and a low airspeed. Double whups. With low airspeed the computer adds power, and with a tailwind it is easy to go high on the glideslope. About this time you are over the runway, high and going higher with a lot of power. Since only wimps go around and try again, (besides, you’re kind of low on gas) you just put the jet down, long, fast with a big, changing wind and a wet runway. When an airbus lands, the controls transition from flight parameters to ground parameters, which sometimes makes the required control imputes different from what you had in in the air. You jam on the brakes but the jet is a little unstable as you react to the different requirements of the ground environment. The wind shifts, the jet skitters around, and you slide off the end of the runway. No one dies, thank God.

That may have been it. I don’ know. But I bet a lot of it is close.


You scored as Dragon. You are the Dragon. You store a lot of knowledge about everything. You are generally one who is good with personal growth and can regenerate yourself after a bad experience.





























Which animal totem best suits you?
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Best of the Marty Blogs, February 2004 to July 2005

I have been going through all my old archives looking for any gems that might deserve some notice. I found a few, 45 in all, posts that I think can be looked at as “near” columns.

I can also tell you that you’re better off just going through these selections rather than trying to read through the blog archives. Before March, 2005, both blogs looked absolutely terrible. It took me about a year to figure out stuff. Luckily, if everything is right here, that saves wasted searching time.

(I may even put edited copies of these posts into a book with some selected columns)

6 Degrees of Paul Wellstone, a treatise on conspiracy theories

1 year as a blogger, a reflection

Eric and me

MSA Election Endorsement

MNCR Endorsement

MNCR Race Observations

Blogosphere and MSA Elections

Reflection on 4 years of campus activism

On the Smoking Ban

Pre-Star Wars jitters

Kiffmeyer and the City Pages

Bonsante eliminated from the Contender

Terrorist road to victory: Democrat Party Blvd:

Quagmire BS

Liberals not in charge of the blogosphere

CP and the Courts

Politics is not genetic

Book Meme

Goodbye Pizza Shack

State Central Convention

Hoplin and State Central

Oppose Eibenstiener and Hoplin


Gitmo Abuses

Stock Market scams

Annakin Skywalker diagnosis

Mary Kiffmeyer under the gun

Judge Roberts the persuader

Guide to blogging

James Doohan, RIP

Gun Play in North Minneapolis

Breaking up the filibuster

February 2004-July 2004 MartyEmail

Thoughts on Athiesm

Abortion and the Bible (later a MP column)

Party bouncing story

Outline of Route to Faith

Review of Fan Fiction Movie

Problems with the Bush Administration


Conservatives can do more harm than good sometimes (Certain Daily editor)

On watching a man die

Transition report

Wrestling team reactions to Iraqi prison “abuses”

Prison Abuse Apathy

Expos Fan Poem


Men and Women genetically more different than Men and Chinmps?


If people really are 98.7% the same as a chimpanzee, are male chimpanzees closer genetically to men than men are to women? As you know, men have an X and a Y chromosome and women have two X chromosomes. So besides the usual 0.1% (or 3.2 million base pair) difference between people, men and women differ by the presence of the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is a tiny thing; it is about 59 million base pairs long and has only 78 genes. If we look at base pairs, the difference between men and women would be 59 million divided by 3.2 billion or about 1.8%. This translates to men and women being 98.2% the same. Men and women are actually a bit more similar as the Y chromosome has about 5% of its DNA sequences in common with the X chromosome. This would change the number to 98.4% the same. If the 98.7% number for chimp-human similarity is right, then by this measure, men and women are less alike than are female chimps and women.

But that may not be the last word on this discussion…

Now if we look at the gene level instead of at the base pair level, men and women become much more similar. If we assume 30,000 total genes, then men and women are about 99.7% the same instead of 98.4%. (I haven’t been able to find a good number for how many genes chimpanzees and humans share.)

So is the bottom line that men and male chimps have more in common than men and women? Of course not. If we take a closer look, we see some of the dangers of looking at raw percentages instead of individual changes.

Another way to think about this is the 55 million or so differences between men and women are all concentrated on one chromosome and 78 genes. For chimps, the 42-150 million differences are spread out all over the chromosomes over many, many more genes.

In other words, while the quantity of changes may be the same, the quality is different. Even though we share most of our genes with a chimpanzee, lots of the chimp’s genes have changed in ways not seen in people. These changes make a chimp a chimp and a human a human.

So, men and women still ain’t getting along, genetically different or not.

Unidentified creature found after typhoon:


Early on the morning of July 23, a fisherman from Ningbo City in east China’s Zhejiang Province was shocked by the sight of a huge creature lying dead beside the seawall near his home.

Liu, who lives in Yangshashan of Chunxiao Town in Beilun District and who has been a fisherman for over ten years, said “I have never seen such a monster; it was larger than a whale.”

It was first seen by villagers on July 20, according to Mei who breeds fish nearby, and is nearly 12 meters long and weighs around 2 tons, according to district sea and fishery bureau staff.

The animal reportedly has a long thin head and a snout nearly one meter long.

Partly rotten, with its spine exposed, it has been impossible to identify, but has been described as having some hair, and orange stripes across a three to four-meter wide belly. The skull, which alone weighs over 100 kg, and coccyx of the creature have fallen from its body.

I have found all sorts of stories about sea creatures unidentified. Cool stuff.

Sorry I don’t update more regularly, but this is a “side” blog in my life, my main blog is http://www.martinandrade.blogspot.com

Some final thoughts on Mary Kiffmeyer

this is an audio post - click to play

News Roundup:

Here is the radio show recap with all of our cited articles.

Plus this article I cited repeatedly, showing that Muslim attitudes towards extremism are waning.

We got a lot of good feedback, thanks to everyone who chimed in. Tom Gromacki has fun with an ebonics translator, and produces a funny post to match.

Here is a hilarious satire blog about the Pope. h/t Catholic Blog.

Bridge causes dog suicide?

Anti-Strib notes that some smoking bans are being overturned. Yes, Mr. Lungs is there too.

Found this article (a bit down the page) by Bill McGaughey reflecting on a debate Tony Garcia and I had with him about the UN, he suggests:

Arlen Erdahl and I did not have too great a challenge in arguing against the proposition that the United States ought to withdraw from the United Nations. I doubt if many people in the audience were persuaded to that extreme point of view. But really the purpose in having the debate was not to bowl people over with our arguments; it was to overcome the so-called ‘red state, blue state’ mentality where liberals and conservatives are so deeply divided that they seldom discuss or debate anything. Each side demonizes the other while refusing to talk. In that sense, the campus Republicans, in agreeing to debate us, were actually on the same side as we, for our debate focused on real issues instead of how bad our opponents were or how unreasonable their position. We parted on relatively friendly terms.

Well, he declares victory, but I don’t think they won the debate outright. Maybe my recollection is off…

Awesome Wikipedia article on conservatism. Must read.

Occasionally I like to hit that “next blog” button up there on the blogger header and look for any possible gems. I find a lot of crap, few gems. http://attesa.blogspot.com/ is a gem.

Everyone has already heard this, Bolton was nominated in recess to the UN. All I can say is, YES!

Douglass Bass keeps doing good work with “Mere Christianity”, the C.S. Lewis classic.

Pawlenty needs to fire his staff. He has broken campaign promises, his man Eibensteiner was ousted, and after raising taxes and getting raked in in the press, his approval numbers have dropped below 50% by a healthy margin. Mind you, I still like Pawlenty over any Democrat, but every year I feel myself move closer and closer to the Constitution Party. Seriously, why did he raise taxes (or fees or whatever?) Why is he supporting more gambling in Minnesota? Cigarette taxes are a regressive tax, gambling is a regressive tax [or a fee on ignorance and stupidity]. Regressive taxes hurt the poor, and he’s going to continue to get whipped for it. He deserves the low approval rating he’s getting. Someone tell him to stop!

Column preview

My column is going to detail why the SCOTUS decision in Kelo v New London isn’t the last word on eminent domain. Source I, Source II, Source III

Random Link o’ the Day:


Random Link o’ the Day:


How come all I can think about all day is robots and cell phones that are too tiny to see?