Re: Zen and the Art of Flying Saucer Maintenance

Michael M. Butler (butler@comp*
Sat, 12 Jul 1997 21:42:55 -0700

>> Bzzzt! Have you further considered that that's because they're absurdly
>> specified and designed, by political and pocket-lining
>> creatures?
>By what basis do you make this assertion? There is no politics in

Direct testimony to Congress, for starters.
But there is politics in aerospace development and procurement.
I'll address the "no politics" claim again a little further on.

>The more complex a device, and the more severe its
>operating environment, the greater its maintenance requirements.

This is tautologous: the harder things are, the harder things are.
But the better technology and wealth get, the more overdesigned
for the environment a piece of gear can be. You don't seem to address this.

>>You do know the story of the B-1 and of F-111s, right?
>> To take the latter example, suppose I insisted on fielding a full
>> complement of F-111s (the B variant, I think) fully loaded with Phoenix
>> on an aircraft carrier. You're going to have hella high maintenance
>> if you really want to keep everything flying; in fact the carrier may
>> never be the same, either:). Those tubs land *hard*.
>F-111s have been flown on carriers, and were originally supposed to be a
>multiservice platform. The naval version was going to have several more
>struts in the fuselage, a sturdier wing, and heftier landing gear.

Evidently you _don't_ know the story.

I'm keeping myself from laughing my guts out here. Talk to one of the
F-111B crew chiefs, as I have. They _could not_ get that puppy to hunt;
I'm familiar with the B variant mods, the plane was still too heavy
to land on an aircraft carrier unless you burned off all the fuel and
launched missiles (expensive missiles) before landing. Not very cost
effective. Oh, you could underload the planes, but then they had a
real hard time performing their mission--long loiter fleet stand-off
defense--you need the fuel _and_ the missiles.

As I said, the decks didn't like it much either. Oh, you could beef
up the carrier deck--but that would take the carrier out of service
for *quite* a spell while there's a war on, and the gross tonnage
gets screwed up, so you can't carry as much ship's stores, so now
the _carrier_ has trouble performing _its_ mission... and around
and around.

F-111s were developed _by order_ of Macnamara, who *knew* that the
life cycle costs of a "joint" vehicle *had* to be less. Others
*knew* what the mission-role requirements had to be for the Air
Force and Navy. Even Silly Putty can only stretch so far.
And everybody was making money even if the thing didn't work,
so what the hell?

Check how many were actually deployed for carrier use. I believe
the total number was *6*, but it might have been slightly different.
If you don't want to check, I'll see what I can dig up.

The phrase I used was "absurdly specified and designed".
I see little evidence in your post to change my opinion.

>There is no politics in engineering.

OK; then the Shuttle and modern aerospace contract developments
like the F-111, Shuttle and America's Vanishing Space Station
are not engineering. We agree. :)

The biographers of Max Faget will, I hope, address the Shuttle
and its co-option into its current bad design. If we have to,
I'll go into it. However, just talking about Shuttle ops,
permit me to commend to your eyes

_The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture,
and Deviance at NASA_ by Diane Vaughn, University of Chicago Press, 1996,
ISBN 0-226-85176-1.


The service ceiling of a standard B-1 is less than 30,000
feet. Why? This is *not* the original spec; it was supposed
to outfly the B-52 in all particulars, all conditions.

So--why? Because late-breaking "requirements" caused
new electronic gear to be placed the only place it would
fit; this led to the center of gravity being shifted such
that the plane can't assume a proper angle of attack at
altitudes much over 28,000 feet.

I can't prove that the requirements were political, but I
smell a big fat aerospace rat.

>You think that there will be less than 1 maint hour per flight hour? It
>hasn't happened yet, and the curve averages upward over time, so I doubt
>that it will happen for anything but the most low stress flight regeimes
>for quite a while.

I suspect the curve averages upward because of FAA restrictions,
human laziness and the litigious environment. Two of these
are correctable. :) I assume you know why Burt Rutan got
out of the kitplane business? Because some _yahoo_ who
put five layers of epoxy over one layer of glass hurt
himself when he tried to take off and the wings folded--
and won in court. Idiocy got rewarded. And general aviation
air design lost a pioneer for good.

I did not exclude *any* flight regime, and neither did you
at first--why do you now feel you have to?

Wanna bet?

My bet proposal: I pick "General Aviation, Ultralights
(an artificial distinction created by the FAA) and Subsonic
RPVs" as the flight regime, and I restrict
the pertinent maintenance time spent to that spent on
airframe, powerplant and VFR instruments (i.e., the
equipment needed for safe VFR operation in 1950),
over the useful life of the airframe or powerplant,
whichever fails first.

What do you like for the stakes?
Just for the record, 150 hp Zoche turbo diesel engines will
probably run $20k. :)

>> <snip>
>> >As for your assertion of any visitors not being detected, this goes
>> >against logic. Given that some group, corporation, or government on
>> >another planet would have shelled out billions if not trillions of
>> >EBE-bucks for such an expedition, the idea that they would not try to
>> >wring out the maximum PR, scientific, or economic value from that
>> >investment is ludicrous.
>> Ah, but why is this a given at all? And who says they'd derive any
>> benefit from being seen? How can you (or Hara Ra) be sure you know
>> what their payoff matrix is for be3ing seen? What if their motto
>> really is "Primum non nocere (at least at first...)"?
>So your beleive in alien abductions?
>Because Occams razor tells me if screwed up creatures like us with our
>screwed up ways of doing things can make it, then any visitors are just
>as likely to come from screwed up planets as well, and just as likely to
>have short sighted, self centered, idiotic politicians and bureaucrats
>in charge of things on their home planet. The ideas that people get from
>Star Trek are much more unlikely than things continuing much as they
>are now.
>Read Scott Adams new book, Dilbert Futures, in which he states "The
>future will NOT be like Star Trek." because people will still be as
>screwed up as they are now, they'll just have cooler high tech toys to
>be screwed up with.

I find myself unable to follow your reasoning. I find your confidence
in your ability to predict other lifeforms' reasoning charming, but
arbitrary. I couldn't have even predicted how relatively _un_ fucked up
_I_ am now if I'd tried to, say, six years ago.

I do find value in Adams' generalization that "everybody is an idiot
[sometimes]". Including me, and you, and William of Ockham, who,
by the way, was a _theologian_.

Occam's Razor kept "real" geologists from looking at continental
drift for a long time. All hail Occam's razor, it never fails
to make life simpler. :)

When the only tool you have is Occam's Razor, you think you need
to shave all the time.

No, I don't "believe in alien abductions". You seem to "believe" that
>short sighted, self centered, idiotic politicians and bureaucrats
>in charge of things
somehow never screw up big engineering, and that's a bigger whopper
than I could ever swallow these days. I don't get it.

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