Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Modern" Science (Part 1 of 3): da Vinci to Daniel Bernoulli (b.1452 - b.1700)

I think there is some law of the internet that says eventually every blog thread, if discussed long enough, will involve UFO's and Nazis. Or maybe both at the same time.
I suppose a reasonable corollary (say- there's a new one out this year!) is that every science-related blog will eventually discuss daVinci and Einstein. Or maybe both at the same time.
(So here we go!)

The longest topic in the "general" part of the A&P program is electricity- which just concluded last Friday. During the course of, ah, the course, I became curious about the time line involving the notable scientists, physicists, and mathematicians involved with electricity, and more generally, involved in the engineering and technology we are using in general aviation today.
Where to start? Actually, I have always wanted to read a good book on the History of Mathematics. There are number-ous (joke- get it- probably not- it's a bad joke), er, numerous books out there on just such a topic, and most college math departments offer some sort of class on the subject. But I haven't found one with lots of pictures- just lots of boring words and funny looking symbols). So, I have been doing some research using good 'ole Wikipeida.

Having a keen mind for trivia (and not much else), I frequently see familiar names when reference reading has me hop between technical subjects, particularly so for more dated references.

I have been coming the term "polymath" ("A polymath -Greek polymathes, for "having learned much"- is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of subject areas. In less formal terms, a polymath (or polymathic person) may simply be someone who is very knowledgeable. Most ancient scientists were polymaths by today's standards".)

Some time ago, I saw a museum exhibit of part of the Codex Leicester works of Leonardo da Vinci. It was rather humbling to contemplate the curiosity, ingenuity, intuition, and insight of this man of centuries ago. I start our tour of technical contributors to aviation with him. I'll end with those born in the late 1880's, and contributed throughout the first half of the 20th century. (I think most of us are relatively familiar with the contributions made in the last half of that century- and if not, the material is more well documented should such an interest arise).

There isn't enough room to go very deep here- I encourage all to read up on their "favorites" (Kepler is one of mine):

1452 da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)
1473 Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543)
1475 Michelangelo (March 1475 – 18 February 1564)
1564 Galileo (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)
1571 Kepler (27 December, 1571 – 15 November, 1630)
1596 Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650)
1616 Wallis (23 November, 1616 – 28 October, 1703)
1623 Pascal (19 June, 1623 – 19 August, 1662)
1627 Boyle (25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691)
1629 Huygens (14 April 1629 – 8 July 1695)
1635 Hooke (18 July 1635 – 3 March 1703)
1643 Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727 )
1646 Leibniz (1 July 1646 – 14 November 1716)
1654 Jakob Bernoulli (27 December 1654 – 16 August 1705)
1663 Amontons (August 31, 1663 – October 11, 1705)
1686 Fahrenheit (14 May 1686 – 16 September 1736)
1700 Daniel Bernoulli (8 February 1700 – 8 March 1782)

1452 da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519)
"an Italian polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, botanist and writer. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a man whose unquenchable curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived...As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics......the father of modern tribology as he studied an incredible manifold of tribological subtopics such as: friction, wear, bearing materials, plain bearings, lubrication systems, gears, screw-jacks, and rolling-element bearings...Leonardo was and is renowned primarily as a painter. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, are the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, respectively, their fame approached only by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon...He conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate and engineering are as impressive and innovative as his artistic work, recorded in notebooks comprising some 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which fuse art and natural philosophy (the forerunner of modern science). These notes were made and maintained daily throughout Leonardo's life and travels, as he made continual observations of the world around him...As an artist, he quickly became master of topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons and other visible anatomical features...As a successful artist, he was given permission to dissect human corpses at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and later at hospitals in Milan and Rome. From 1510 to 1511 he collaborated in his studies with the doctor Marcantonio della Torre and together they prepared a theoretical work on anatomy for which Leonardo made more than 200 drawings...For much of his life, Leonardo was fascinated by the phenomenon of flight, producing many studies of the flight of birds, including his c. 1505 Codex on the Flight of Birds, as well as plans for several flying machines, including a helicopter and a light hang glider."

1473 Copernicus (19 February 1473 – 24 May 1543)
"The first astronomer to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology, which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe...Copernicus' epochal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), published just before his death in 1543, is often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy and the defining epiphany that began the scientific revolution. His heliocentric model, with the Sun at the center of the universe, demonstrated that the observed motions of celestial objects can be explained without putting Earth at rest in the center of the universe. His work stimulated further scientific investigations, becoming a landmark in the history of science that is often referred to as the Copernican Revolution...Among the great polymaths of the Renaissance, Copernicus was a mathematician, astronomer, physician, quadrilingual polyglot, classical scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, jurist, governor, military leader, diplomat and economist. Among his many responsibilities, astronomy figured as little more than an avocation — yet it was in that field that he made his mark upon the world".

1475 Michelangelo (March 1475 – 18 February 1564)
"An Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took up was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival and fellow Italian Leonardo da Vinci....Michelangelo's output in every field during his long life was prodigious; when the sheer volume of correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences that survive is also taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century."

1564 Galileo (15 February 1564 – 8 January 1642)
"an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism. Galileo has been called the "father of modern observational astronomy," the "father of modern physics," the "father of science," and "the Father of Modern Science." Stephen Hawking says, "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science...The motion of uniformly accelerated objects, taught in nearly all high school and introductory college physics courses, was studied by Galileo as the subject of kinematics. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the discovery of the four largest satellites of Jupiter (named the Galilean moons in his honour), and the observation and analysis of sunspots. Galileo also worked in applied science and technology, inventing an improved military compass and other instruments."

1571 Kepler (27 December, 1571 – 15 November, 1630
"A German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, and key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution. He is best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion, codified by later astronomers based on his works Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. They also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation...During his career, Kepler was a mathematics teacher at a seminary school in Graz, Austria, an assistant to astronomer Tycho Brahe..He also did fundamental work in the field of optics, invented an improved version of the refracting telescope (the Keplerian Telescope), and helped to legitimize the telescopic discoveries of his contemporary Galileo Galilei."

1596 Descartes (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650)
"A French philosopher, mathematician, physicist, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy", and much of subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which continue to be studied closely to this day. In particular, his Meditations on First Philosophy continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes' influence in mathematics is also apparent, the Cartesian coordinate system—allowing geometric shapes to be expressed in algebraic equations—being named for him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution...As the inventor of the Cartesian coordinate system, Descartes founded analytic geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis."

1616 Wallis (23 November, 1616 – 28 October, 1703)
"an English mathematician who is given partial credit for the development of modern calculus. Between 1643 and 1689 he served as chief cryptographer for Parliament and, later, the royal court. He is also credited with introducing the symbol for infinity...Wallis made significant contributions to trigonometry, calculus, geometry, and the analysis of infinite series...Wallis introduced the term "continued fraction"...In 1655, Wallis published a treatise on conic sections in which they were defined analytically. This was the earliest book in which these curves are considered and defined as curves of the second degree. It helped to remove some of the perceived difficulty and obscurity of René Descartes' work on analytic geometry...(elastic collision), Wallis considered also imperfectly elastic bodies (inelastic collision). This was followed in 1669 by a work on statics (centres of gravity), and in 1670 by one on dynamics: these provide a convenient synopsis of what was then known on the subject...One aspect of Wallis's mathematical skills has not yet been mentioned, namely his great ability to do mental calculations. He slept badly and often did mental calculations as he lay awake in his bed. One night he calculated the square root of a number with 53 digits in his head. In the morning he dictated the 27 digit square root of the number, still entirely from memory."

1623 Pascal(19 June, 1623 - 19 August 1662)
"A French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a civil servant. Pascal's earliest work was in the natural and applied sciences where he made important contributions to the construction of mechanical calculators, the study of fluids, and clarified the concepts of pressure and vacuum by generalizing the work of Evangelista Torricelli. Pascal also wrote in defense of the scientific method....Pascal was a mathematician of the first order. He helped create two major new areas of research. He wrote a significant treatise on the subject of projective geometry at the age of sixteen, and later corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory, strongly influencing the development of modern economics and social science. Following Galileo and Torricelli, in 1646 he refuted Aristotle's followers who insisted that nature abhors a vacuum. His results caused many disputes before being accepted."

1627 Boyle (25 January 1627 – 31 December 1691)
" an Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He is best known for Boyle's Law. Although his research and personal philosophy clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, he is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry. Among his works, "The Sceptical Chymist", is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.
While still a child, Robert learned to speak Latin, Greek, and French. He was not yet eight years old when, following the death of his mother, he was sent to Eton College in England...After spending over three years at Eton, Robert traveled abroad with a French tutor. They visited Italy in 1641, and remained in Florence during the winter of that year, studying the "paradoxes of the great star-gazer" Galileo Galibei- Galileo was elderly, but still alive in Florence in 1641.
Boyle returned to England from the Continent in mid 1644 with a keen interest in science. His father had died the previous year and had left him the manor of Stalbridge in Dorset, together with some estates in Ireland. From that time, he devoted his life to scientific research, and soon took a prominent place in the band of inquirers, known as the "Invisible College", who devoted themselves to the cultivation of the "new philosophy". They met frequently in London, often at Gresham College; some of the members also had meetings at Oxford where Boyle went to reside in 1654. Reading in 1657 of Otto von Guericke's air-pump, he set himself with the assistance of Robert Hooke to devise improvements in its construction, and with the result, the "machina Boyleana" or "Pneumatical Engine", finished in 1659, he began a series of experiments on the properties of air.
With all the important work he accomplished in physics -the enunciation of Boyle's law, the discovery of the part taken by air in the propagation of sound, and investigations on the expansive force of freezing water, on specific gravities and refractive powers, on crystals, on electricity, on color, on hydrostatics, etc. - chemistry was his peculiar and favourite study.
Besides being a busy natural philosopher, Boyle devoted much time to theology, showing a very decided leaning to the practical side and an indifference to controversial polemics. As a director of the East India Company he spent large sums in promoting the spread of Christianity in the East, contributing liberally to missionary societies, and to the expenses of translating the Bible or portions of it into various languages."

1629 Huygens (14 April 1629 – 8 July 1695)
"a prominent Dutch mathematician, astronomer, physicist, horologist, and writer of early science fiction. His work included early telescopic studies elucidating the nature of the rings of Saturn and the discovery of its moon Titan, the invention of the pendulum clock and other investigations in timekeeping, and studies of both optics and the centrifugal force....Huygens achieved note for his argument that light consists of waves, now known as the Huygens–Fresnel principle, which became instrumental in the understanding of wave-particle duality. He generally receives credit for his discovery of the centrifugal force, the laws for collision of bodies, for his role in the development of modern calculus and his original observations on sound perception (see repetition pitch). Huygens is seen as the first theoretical physicist as he was the first to use formulae in physics"

1635 Hooke (18 July 1635 – 3 March 1703)
"A British natural philosopher, architect and polymath who played an important role in the scientific revolution, through both experimental and theoretical work...Hooke is known for his law of elasticity (Hooke's Law), his book, Micrographia, and for coining the term "cell" to describe the basic unit of life. Even now there is much less written about him than might be expected from the sheer industry of his life: he was at one time simultaneously the curator of experiments of the Royal Society and a member of its council, Gresham Professor of Geometry and a Surveyor to the City of London after the fire of 1666, in which capacity he appears to have performed more than half of all the surveys after the fire. He was also an important architect of his time, though few of his buildings now survive and some of those are generally misattributed, and was instrumental in devising a set of planning controls for London whose influence remains today. Allan Chapman has characterised him as "England's Leonardo"....he was employed as an assistant to Thomas Willis and to Robert Boyle, for whom he built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's gas law experiments. He built some of the earliest Gregorian telescopes, observed the rotations of Mars and Jupiter, and, based on his observations of fossils, was an early proponent of biological evolution. He investigated the phenomenon of refraction, deducing the wave theory of light, and was the first to suggest that matter expands when heated and that air is made of small particles separated by relatively large distances. He performed pioneering work in the field of surveying and map-making and was involved in the work that led to the first modern plan-form map, though his plan for London on a grid system was rejected in favour of rebuilding along the existing routes. He also came near to deducing that gravity follows an inverse square law, and that such a relation governs the motions of the planets, an idea which was subsequently developed by Newton...after a long period of relative obscurity he is now recognized as one of the most important scientists of his age."

1643 Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727 )
"An English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian who is considered by many scholars and members of the general public to be one of the most influential men in human history. His 1687 publication of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (usually called the Principia) is considered to be among the most influential books in the history of science, laying the groundwork for most of classical mechanics. In this work, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. Newton showed that the motions of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws by demonstrating the consistency between Kepler's laws of planetary motion and his theory of gravitation, thus removing the last doubts about heliocentrism and advancing the scientific revolution...Newton also built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours that form the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound....In mathematics, Newton shares the credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the development of the differential and integral calculus. He also demonstrated the generalised binomial theorem, developed the so-called "Newton's method" for approximating the zeroes of a function, and contributed to the study of power series...Newton remains influential to scientists, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of members of Britain's Royal Society asking who had the greater effect on the history of science and had the greater contribution to humankind, Newton or Albert Einstein. Royal Society scientists deemed Newton to have made the greater overall contribution on both."

1646 Leibniz (1 July 1646 – 14 November 1716)
"A German philosopher, polymath and mathematician who wrote primarily in Latin and French...He occupies a grand place in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics. He invented infinitesimal calculus independently of Newton, and his notation has been in general use since then. He also invented the binary system, the foundation of virtually all modern computer architectures. In philosophy, he is mostly remembered for optimism, i.e. his conclusion that our universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one God could have made. He was, along with René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, one of the three greatest 17th-century rationalists and anticipates modern logic and analysis, but his philosophy also looks back to the scholastic tradition, in which logic was an important part. Leibniz also made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in biology, medicine, geology, probability theory, psychology, linguistics, and information science. He also wrote on politics, law, ethics, theology, history, philosophy and philology, even occasional verse. His contributions to this vast array of subjects are scattered in journals and in tens of thousands of letters and unpublished manuscripts."

1654 Jakob Bernoulli (27 December 1654 – 16 August 1705)
"Was one of the many prominent mathematicians in the Bernoulli family...Following his father's wish, Jacob studied theology and entered the ministry. But contrary to the desires of his parents, he also studied mathematics and astronomy...He traveled throughout Europe from 1676 to 1682, learning about the latest discoveries in mathematics and the sciences. This included the work of Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke...was one of the many prominent mathematicians in the Bernoulli family...He became familiar with calculus through a correspondence with Gottfried Leibniz, then collaborated with his brother Johann on various applications, notably publishing papers on transcendental curves (1696) and isoperimetry (1700, 1701). In 1690, Jacob became the first person to develop the technique for solving separable differential equations...Upon returning to Basel in 1682, he founded a school for mathematics and the sciences. He was appointed professor of mathematics at the University of Basel in 1687, remaining in this position for the rest of his life...Jacob is best known for the work Ars Conjectandi (The Art of Conjecture), published eight years after his death in 1713 by his nephew Nicholas. In this work, he described the known results in probability theory and in enumeration, often providing alternative proofs of known results. This work also includes the application of probability theory to games of chance and his introduction of the theorem known as the law of large numbers. The terms Bernoulli trial and Bernoulli numbers result from this work."

1663 Amontons (August 31, 1663 – October 11, 1705)
"was born in Paris, France. His father was a lawyer from Normandy who had moved to the French capital. While still young, Guillaume lost his hearing, which may have motivated him to focus entirely on science. He never attended a university, but was able to study mathematics, the physical sciences, and celestial mechanics. He also spent time studying the skills of drawing, surveying, and architecture...Among his contributions to scientific instrumentation were improvements to the barometer (1695), hygrometer (1687), and thermometer (1695), particularly for use of these instruments at sea. He also demonstrated an optical telegraph and proposed the use of his clepsydra[1] (water clock) for keeping time on a ship at sea...Amontons investigated the relationship between pressure and temperature in gases though he lacked accurate and precise thermometers. Though his results were at best semi-quantitative, he established that the pressure of a gas increases by roughly one-third between the temperatures of cold and the boiling point of water[2]. This was a substantial step towards the subsequent gas laws and, in particular, Charles's law...His work led him to speculate that a sufficient reduction in temperature would lead to the disappearance of pressure. Thus, he is the first researcher to discuss the concept of an absolute zero of temperature...In 1699, Amontons published his rediscovery of the laws of friction first put forward by Leonardo da Vinci. Though they were received with some scepticism, the laws were verified by Charles-Augustin de Coulomb in 1781."

1686 Fahrenheit (14 May 1686 – 16 September 1736)
"At age 16, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit began training as a merchant in Amsterdam after his parents died on August 14 in 1701 from accidentally eating poisonous mushrooms. However, Fahrenheit's interest in natural science caused him to begin studies and experimentation in that field. From 1707, he traveled to Berlin, Halle, Leipzig, Dresden, Copenhagen, and also to his hometown, where his brother still lived. During that time, Fahrenheit met or was in contact with Ole Rømer, Christian Wolff, and Gottfried Leibniz. In 1717, Fahrenheit settled in The Hague with the trade of glassblowing, making barometers, altimeters, and thermometers. From 1718 onwards, he lectured in chemistry in Amsterdam...was a physicist and engineer who determined a temperature scale now named after him."

1700 Daniel Bernoulli (8 February 1700 – 8 March 1782)
"Was a Dutch-Swiss mathematician and was one of the many prominent mathematicians in the Bernoulli family. He is particularly remembered for his applications of mathematics to mechanics, especially fluid mechanics, and for his pioneering work in probability and statistics. Bernoulli's work is still studied at length by many schools of science throughout the world....His earliest mathematical work was the Exercitationes (Mathematical Exercises), published in 1724 with the help of Goldbach. Two years later he pointed out for the first time the frequent desirability of resolving a compound motion into motions of translation and motions of rotation. His chief work is his Hydrodynamique (Hydrodynamica), published in 1738; it resembles Joseph Louis Lagrange's Mécanique Analytique in being arranged so that all the results are consequences of a single principle, namely, conservation of energy. This was followed by a memoir on the theory of the tides, to which, conjointly with the memoirs by Euler and Colin Maclaurin, a prize was awarded by the French Academy: these three memoirs contain all that was done on this subject between the publication of Isaac Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica and the investigations of Pierre-Simon Laplace. Bernoulli also wrote a large number of papers on various mechanical questions, especially on problems connected with vibrating strings, and the solutions given by Brook Taylor and by Jean le Rond d'Alembert...Daniel Bernoulli was also the author in 1738 of Specimen theoriae novae de mensura sortis (Exposition of a New Theory on the Measurement of Risk), in which the St. Petersburg paradox was the base of the economic theory of risk aversion, risk premium and utility...One of the earliest attempts to analyze a statistical problem involving censored data was Bernoulli's 1766 analysis of smallpox morbidity and mortality data to demonstrate the efficacy of vaccination...He is the earliest writer who attempted to formulate a kinetic theory of gases, and he applied the idea to explain Boyle's law...He worked with Euler on elasticity and the development of the Euler-Bernoulli beam equation. Bernoulli's principle is of critical use in aerodynamics."


Phil Bell said...

My apologies for being away for the past few days- a spike in activities at work over the past couple of weeks made me miss some class time- before one can proceed to the next subject of the semester, the test on the previous topic must be taken, and before each such test can be taken, the appropriate number of "contact hours" (supervised learning, either in the classroom or "lab"/hangar) must be fulfilled-making the "school" part of my day an average of 8 hours long this past week- ugh.  I was pretty much a vegetable for the past few days.  (Okay, even more so than usual).
From what I've read, a typical A&P program is generally broken down as:

General- mostly books (theory & regs)
Airframe 1- mostly structural repair
Airframe 2- mostly systems
Powerplant 1- mostly pistons
Powerplant 2- mostly turbines

I don't' intend to bore those not interested in the specifics of the A&P curriculum (well, not much more than I probably already have), but when I spot a promising interesting general-topic items come along, I'll post them. The development of "modern" science seemed to be one such topic.

(I am particularly interested in some of the aspects of structural materials that we've discussed here).

gadfly said...

Phil . . . I’m sure you have more than enough on your mind at the moment. However, in addition to your studies, be willing in your classes to ask the “dumb” questions, beginning with the word “Why?”. You may find an instructor that will honor your request and go beyond the lesson . . . laying a firm foundation in the subject at hand, and prepare you for greater things in the future. Or you may find, on occasion like I once found, an instructor who felt “threatened”, because he didn’t understand the subject, himself, and did not want his “ignorance”, ‘found out. In my case, asking the “dumb” questions came with a heavy price at the moment, but in the years since, reaped great gains.

But in either case, move ahead . . . ever demanding of yourself an understanding of things beyond the subject matter, so the reason behind the spacing of rivets, or the full operating logic of a multiple spindle valve hydraulic actuator . . . or even one of the old complex carburetors for an R-4360 28 cylinder engine.

For instance, how many in your class would understand the requirement that a radial engine must always have an “odd” number of cylinders in a given row, and never an even number . . . unless it were a “Caminez”, four-cylinder “cam” engine. Or that the best and most easily balanced engine is a straight six, or a V-12 (two rows of a six). (Turbines are a matter unto themselves.)

Those old guys, “way back when”, evidently knew something . . . and an understanding of that ancient technology will push you ahead of the present class, that depends so heavily on computer software to make the new generation of engines operate smoothly.

An anecdote from the past: One of my Grandpa’s inventions used crude “fuel oil”, which was broken down in the engine to volatile components, to run the engine, with the remainder retained for further use for heating oil . . . something for the “farmer/rancher”.

Another invention, fully tested in his old Plymouth, many many times on the Santa Ana Freeway, was a constant compression system, maintaining a constant compression ratio at all speeds . . . achieving great efficiency. He came within a “gnat’s eyebrow” of signing a contract with Chrysler, but did not trust them. Who knows what might have transpired! However, the knowledge and understanding of those “old timers” went beyond the simple statements of a text book. Today, the nearest thing is variable valve timing . . . but it took fifty years to get there . . . and even that doesn’t quite cut it.

Let’s say it like this: It’s one thing to get the knowledge into the brain, but quite another to translate it down into your “fingertips”. And it’s that context that make the difference between the person who “knows” the subject, and the “artist” that makes it happen. Part of the difference . . . “understanding”.


airtaximan said...

gadfly, what would happen to a turbo fan engine, if you could encase it in a pressure chambre, and operate it at high(er) pressure all the time?

gadfly said...


'An answer to your question that I've learned long ago, leading to to good answers: Frankly, I don't know!


(The good part of being ignorant is that everything from this position is "up" and "positive". Remaining ignorant is called "stupidity". In other words, "Ignorance can be fixed, but stupid is forever.")

gadfly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gadfly said...

You see, the old mind is slipping a bit. I earlier said "spindle valve" (and there is such an animal), but I meant to say "spool" valve.

So what's the difference, you ask! Much . . . and in a hydraulic system, it's the understanding that makes all the difference.

"Back then", the instructor would hand us a complex valve, require that we identify the purpose of the valve, and explain what it would do, and how it worked. Of course, since it was part of an aircraft, we could focus our attention on a limited number of possible uses . . . usually either "fuel" or "hydraulics".

Most times there was no aircraft nor engine in the Moody Aviation inventory that could possibly answer to ownership of the device in question.

We treated it like a game in forensics . . . and could track it down, in most cases, to a simple problem of actuating a flap, landing gear, etc., or to an all position, all altitude, fuel system control or carburetor. But it tested our "grey cells" to the maximum.

Usually, those tests weren't the critical ones that determined whether we passed or failed, but counted heavily toward our final graduation.

If you find a component in an aircraft, it doesn't take too long to figure out the final purpose. But a "lone" component, lying on a bench, without label and without an "aircraft" nearby, . . . that's an equine quadruped of a different hue.

gadfly said...

In these discussions, it’s easy to find fault in major corporations . . . thinking of Toyota, and their latest problems. And in the problems of other large corporations, etc., without recognizing the problems of tracking down the many errors in design, including “software” errors.

In my own most recent comments, I went back to correct major mistakes . . . spindle valves as opposed to spool valves. And then I noticed I used “laying” when “lying” is the correct word. And then I came across an earlier double use of “to” . . . and gave up at that point, figuring the correction would gain nothing.

But in the case of machine design (something in which I have been involved most of my adult life), the conscientious designer has to anticipate every possible thing that may go wrong. With the complete design of an automobile, or an aircraft, the designer is under pressure from the “owners/stock holders”, the people in charge, the customers, etc., etc. And unless the designer has the full cooperation of his own organization/department, and much of the rest, there will remain some hidden “gotcha”.

Therefore, it is imperative that an engineer and/or designer, be highly skilled and understanding in most, if not all technologies related to his product. Being privileged to be a “third generation designer/inventor/machinist”, I have nothing but complete respect and empathy for anyone in the field . . . especially since much of what we do involves not only the “satisfaction” of a customer, but many times the short, and long-term life, and “quality of life”, of the customer . . . or “patient”.

In other words, it is not enough to have a basic understanding of a technology, but beyond that, a skill that transcends all the theory, and enters into the very lives of the people who use and must trust their future, in many cases, to a reliable product.

A few days ago, the inventor of what we have come to know as the “Frisbee” died . . . about ninety years old. I remember buying one of the first “Pluto Platters”, in 1957 . . . and flying them back and forth in the Submarine barracks at Pearl Harbor. We could make that thing fly down a row of “double racks”, and climb up over a few more, doing amazing things. Once in a while, we would hit someone sleeping between watches, or from a hangover, and receive their righteous wrath for our infraction. But life would go on. Not all accidents related to great inventions are so easily “brushed off”. I still have that bright yellow “Pluto Platter”, with the melted marks from dripping solder, when I stayed up all night building my first “Six Transistor Heathkit Portable Radio” there in the barracks . . . a reminder of a great invention (the “Frisbee”) that brought great pleasure to millions of people.

And then there was “Highball Adams”, the alcoholic aboard our boat (before my time), that drank “Aqua Velva” . . . and one day was found dead in his rack. Did the inventor of the famous shave lotion anticipate the possible lethal results of his formula? Or our first-class radio man, “Shakey Taylor”, who was a whiz on the telegraph key, because of the “DT’s” . . . did the producer of the pure alcohol, that we used to clean electrical contacts, fully anticipate the use of the pure stuff, when mixed with submarine coffee?

Submarine coffee . . . that's another hazard to mankind, a subject for another time.

My empathy for the inventor/designer, attempting to see each and every possible/probable thing that can and will go wrong with a new invention or design.


(One thing I’ve learned: Life can be dangerous . . . but I wouldn’t trade it for the alternative!)

gadfly said...

And yet another error: "Shakey Taylor" was a chief petty officer, not "first class". "Shakey Taylor" would check high voltage by putting his thumb to "ground", and use his "pinky" to touch the various leads. That was back when we used "vacuum tubes" ("valves" to folks across the pond), and B+ was 300 volts DC . . . and that was for starters. Maybe the pure grain stuff kept the rest of us alive. But whatever, we took enough of the real stuff aboard prior to a patrol to keep the contacts clean for at least a hundred years or so. And on rare occasions when we could re-establish radio contact after a two month patrol (in radio silence), our "electrical contacts" were clean and we could say we're a day out of "Pearl", and coming home . . . we can smell the Dole Pineapple Factory . . . or the Honolulu city dump, burning as usual . . . and the entire outside hull smells like a fish market . . . it's amazing what can grow all over a sub in a few weeks being submerged.


(And did I mention a shower? . . . an hour long hot shower? . . . the first in two months . . . and a feast of "all you can eat" at the salad bar down on Waikiki' . . . we'd been living on "green eggs" and fillet mignon, two or three meals a day, plus cold steak and yellow chilis at midwatch, with rancid butter . . . Oh my! And the sun . . . a bright thing up in the sky. Amazing!)

baron95 said...

Gadfly many in your class would understand the requirement that a radial engine must always have an “odd” number of cylinders in a given row, and never an even number

I hope no one, since there is no such "requirement". There are scores of two-stroke radial engines with an even number of cylinders per row (2 and 4 being common). As a matter of fact, that is a very common configuration for compact radial engines.

If you flew ultralights or model planes, you'd likely be using one.

baron95 said...

HBC just reported 2009 results. Sales down by 43% with delivery of only 309 planes. They lost only $451M.

Basically, on average, HBC delivered one Piston, two jets and 3 turboprops per week in 2009.

That is right, only a single piston plane left the factory, on average, every week.


baron95 said...

Oh, forgot to mention that the Zoche aero radial engine for GA also used 4 cylinders per row.

That is, AFAIK, the only new radial engine that we are likely to see in general aviation.

So lets not teach the A&Bs wrong, in case they have to work on a Zoche and try to look for the 5th cylinder, shall we?

KnotMPH said...
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gadfly said...

Well, now, then, there . . . I do stand corrected and will have to be more careful to specify a "four stroke" engine in the future.


baron95 said...

More interesting for the A&Ps, I think, is to understand the oil consumption and oil "fuel" system to those engines.

The father of one of my friends, worked at Pratt back in the days. (doing this from memory now)... He told me once that the engines on the Connie and DC-7 consumed 2 GALLONS (that is right gallons, not quarts) of oil per hour. I think the longer range Connies had heated oil tank/lines that carried almost 100 gallons of oil.

I may be mis-remembering this, but I think he said the FAA regs REQUIRED the transport planes to carry 1 gallon of oil for each 30 gallons of fuel. Some of our cert experts can confirm or dispel that.

I guess that means that, even if anyone builds a modern Part 25 transport with modern piston engines (that don't leak or burn that much oil), the certification requirements would still force them to carry quite a bit of oil - unless amended.

I find that interesting - if true, how the heck does the FAA come up with these regs?

baron95 said...

Oh one more thing - I remember he said that up to 4 gallons of oil per hour was acceptable, before anyone did any investigation. At 6 gallons per hour the engine was pulled from the plane.

Never forgot the phrase I heard him say - "Fill'er up with oil, check the fuel" used on a turn around.

gadfly said...

baron . . . large aircooled aircraft engines, by their very nature, must have wide open clearances and consume great quantities of oil. Think of the expansion rates between cylinders and pistons during the wild swings in temperature during a normal flight.

The more compact liquid cooled engines operate within a much narrower temperature range, and clearances are much tighter.

So, what you remember is generally correct. Also, consider that the oil in the reserve tank may tend to cool down to "ambient" temperatures of minus 40 degrees (F or C), and does not flow freely at that temperature.

Radial engines (as on the "Connie" and "DC-7", and virtually all other big radials) are "dry sump engines", meaning very little oil is actually inside the engine during operation. Heating the oil is required to get it to flow to the engine, at "high altitude and/or low temperatures".

The earliest "rotary" engines, such as the Gnome, solved the problem by adding castor oil directly to the gasoline. But at the end of each flight, the pilot's face was covered with the black unburned oil, and I read somewhere, the castor oil also created mid-air "pilot" emergencies from ingesting such great quantities of the stuff.


airtaximan said...

OK, Gad...

the pressure issue for turbo fan engines..

Use yur noodle...

Delta P

What if you could operate the engine at high pressure at sea level, an dhigher pressure at altitude?

What effect would this have?

airsafetyman said...

The required oil tank capacity is part of the aircraft type certificate (at least on larger aircraft), not the engine type certificate, so you would be able to certify an aircraft with smaller capacity oil tanks if the engine, in fact, used less quantities of oil over whatever range the aircraft carried fuel for.

gadfly said...

taximan . . . my “noodle” is smokin’ on another design, at the moment, and I’m not quite understanding where you’re going with the question. For a few years I was “senior research technician” and proto-type machinist, working with up to 2.5 megawatt electric plasma generators firing into a hard vacuum in Santa Ana, California . . . ask me a question about that and I might be able to fake an answer that would appear to be intelligent after all these years . . . but I doubt it.

My #2 son and partner ‘just came across a “Youtube” video of the USS Cod SS224, starting up a GM v16, a 1,600 hp two-stroke diesel after being dormant for almost forty years.

At our reunion for the USS Tiru SS416 a few years back, we visited the USS Cobia SS245 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, . . . and as I stood on the deck of that old boat, taking high definition video with stereo sound, I realized that it was on this very sub, I had first submerged on Long Island Sound while in submarine school in Groton, Connecticut, in October-December 1956. The greatest event, other than meeting with old shipmates, was standing on the deck as they fired up two of the four old diesel engines . . . an experience to bring tears and emotions beyond description. Those 16 cylinder diesels are almost as “heart pumping” as the Fairbanks-Morse ten cylinder diesels that we had on our boat.

Living 24/7 with those old engines is a thing of deep emotions. Each morning, to feel the throb of truly big engines . . . and watch the mix of blue and white exhaust in a low cloud move across the early morning waters of Pearl Harbor, mixed with cooling water, out each of four one-foot diameter pipes . . . more felt than heard, even though the sound was overwhelming. Today, my wife wonders how I can fall asleep in an instant . . . and I remember sleeping every day and night not fifteen feet from two of the four “F-M” diesels running at 720rpm, re-charging over four hundred tons of lead acid batteries or powering the four direct drive "Elliot" main motors turning the two 9 foot diameter, five foot pitch screws.

Loading aircraft at ORD, and working under DC-6B’s, DC-7's, etc., was also a thrill, as those big engines belched flame and smoke, as they each in turn warmed up. Back then, their days were numbered as the Viscounts, Caravelle’s, DC-8's, 720's, and 727's were taking over. Between the constant fumes of diesel oil on the “sub”, and the JP3, and JP4 at ORD, it’s a wonder that my lungs had any room left for oxygen. But there is nothing to match the deep sound of truly big piston engines.


(Compared to the big “P&W’s”, the little Continentals, Lycomings, Franklin’s, and even the Ranger’s and Warner “Scarab’s” seem like toy’s in comparison.)

(Thinking back of the times when I was involved in making minor modifications to investment molds for GE compressor blades . . . and that was . . . let’s see . . . about 1975? . . . those Rene metal blades were running close to their limit of delta P . . . hollow blades with dozens of internal columns cast directly between the two surfaces, to give strength, yet allow for constant cooling. Funny things happen when you compress gases (air), even at high altitude/low pressures . . . at close to sonic velocity. And to raise the ambient pressures ? . . . beyond my pay grade. I’m a simple knuckle buster machinist and sometimes inventor. Ask me about neurosurgery . . . that’s easier.)

KnotMPH said...
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gadfly said...

Knot . . . Remember a few years back and Mercedes came out with a "5 cylinder four stroke diesel"? At first, I asked myself, why "five" instead of "six"? And then it occured to me . . . a gasoline "six" divides six pulses into 720 degrees . . . and the effective power stroke covers about 120 degrees . . . six times 120 equals 720 degrees, "smooth". A diesel, with a higher compression, has a longer effective stroke, considering effective torque . . . say 140 to 160 degrees . . . divide 720 by five, 144 degrees between power strokes . . . "Voila!" . . . smooth running diesel.

For a variety of reasons the V-six (gasoline) and v-five (diesel) are not easy to balance. But a straight six, or a vee twelve (60 degree included angle), is un-complicated. And a diesel with a straight row of five cylinders, or multiple of five, becomes a "natural", and if in a "vee" format, I would guess the included angle would be close to 72 degrees, included.

Actually, each group of "five" or "six" acts alone, so the included angle may not be critical.

From this point, we get into other issues like dynamic crank shaft balance, single or double counter weight, and main bearings per cylinder . . . and a number of empirical items, not so easy to lay down on paper.


(For the readers that may not understand the basics of a four stroke engine, radial or otherwise, a complete cycle takes place in 720 degrees of crankshaft rotation. To properly balance the engine, the number of cylinders must be equally divided into 720 . . . and to further the discussion, the effective portion of the power stroke comes into play. As the power stroke force ("torque") is not a constant number, the empirical values play an important part, becoming far more important with low rpm engines, and far less with high rpm . . . everything being relative. And there are a thousand "gotchas".)

gadfly said...

A look back over the past hundred years or more, there are almost no new basic developments in the internal combustion engine . . . virtually none. It’s all been done before, long ago. And in almost every case, it is a friendly marriage of compromises . . . of the average capabilities of machine tools coupled with new alloys, etc., and down right economics of the cost of materials, labor, etc.

For instance, the “Wankel” was something for a time . . . claiming to be a rotary engine, but in reality, a reciprocating engine, coupled with a nightmare of machining problems, compounded by lubrication/sealing challenges.

Pick up a 150 year old copy of “The Kinematics of Machinery” by the German with the French name, “Franz Reuleaux”, and you’ll probably find everything you ever dreamed possible . . . and this was written before the first practical internal combustion engine in the nineteenth century. And turbines? . . . the most famous of all ships used one for the center screw (propeller) back before 1912 . . . the technology, even then, was becoming “mature”.

Almost everything in the past century, plus, has merely been some improvement or modification on a much older idea. In many cases, the so-called “improvements” have been nothing more than re-introducing an old idea under a new name or promotional slogan. Overhead cams? . . . a century old. Overhead valve V-8? . . . Chevrolet used this old engine configuration in 1916 . . . the public wasn’t ready for a engine like that, with forty horse power . . . so Chevy, in 1917, dropped it to re-introduce it, again, in 1955 . . . and as a kid, the Burbank Police Department didn’t give us “hot rodders” an honest chance, with their new “Chevy V-8's”. (Man . . . those things would burn rubber for a block . . . and then Chevy went back to chrome and glitter in ‘56 and that tub in 1957 . . . but technology always catered to the lowest IQ of the times.) Variable timing? . . . Old when I was born. Some ideas required not the knowledge, but the speed of calculations . . . enter the “Constant Velocity” joint. My own father, at the ripe old age of 14, just entering Riverside Polytechnic High School, was in the process of building his first car, with front wheel drive . . . using the best universal joints available in 1927 . . . and suffering from “Hooke’s Joint Effect”. (The engine? . . . a four cylinder, in-line Henderson, shaft drive, motorcycle engine, air cooled . . . traded it with $350 for a Duesenberg straight eight, about the time of the “Great Depression” . . . not bad for a high-school kid), It would take many years before a machine could produce the needed “ball races” to overcome the acceleration and deceleration . . . what is it? twice or four times in every revolution of the driving and driven shafts (too late in the day . . . my brain is tired). The problem was well understood . . . the solution would wait . . . another war and some other stuff to produce the “CV, constant velocity, Joint”.

Bottom line . . . there is virtually nothing new under the sun . . . nothing. While some of us are attempting to move ahead, there’s a whole bunch of others doing everything in their power to erase everything learned in the past. And, me thinks, the “whole bunch” is winning.


KnotMPH said...
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gadfly said...

Ka-Not . . . you is a funny man, you is!

Vulture Capitalists, you say?

You will be rich indeed! But just don’t make my mistake . . . When my ship came in, I was waiting at the train station . . . down in Glendale, as I recall.

Once, I had a customer, a German baker, with a business down our street, with ties to a bank in the Cayman Islands . . . or one of those highly respected financial centers. The invention (my own) still awaits a buyer . . . a “snap on” handle for a beverage can . . . we made the models, simple and cheap . . . but the great investor? . . . One day, driving along Central (Old Highway 66), his aneurysm burst, and he died before his car hit the power-pole. And once again, my genius ran into a dead end, as it were. Karl was an interesting guy . . . with big ideas. A little man with a big ego.


(In all fairness, we did have a successful invention . . . far removed from my normal center of interest and business. Funny thing . . . it came out of nowhere . . . medical . . . and my idea, based on something I learned about California Indians using insect jaws to close wounds, when I was in the fifth grade, . . . normally looking out the windows at the seagulls gliding over our playground in Burbank, California, . . . two neurosurgeons walked into our little shop . . . a couple days later showed their frustration over attaching arteries and veins, a millimeter in diameter, I put what little I knew together with their problem . . . was told it wouldn’t work . . . that was on a Friday. The following week, the chief neurosurgeon was signing my “non disclosure statement” as the third witness, and the rest is history. It wasn’t the money so much as what it would do for many patients . . . and it has saved many lives since. The royalties expanded into a couple other areas . . . and we won’t discuss that for the moment, except to say that it worked to the benefit and a ministry, beyond my wildest dreams. It was not an easy transition from then to now . . . many fought to destroy the idea . . . others wanted a piece of the action . . . human nature in all its glory! But God did what God does . . . doing things beyond my comprehension.

We remain anything but rich in money, but amazed at the miracle, of sorts, coming out of a simple daydream, of a poor student, thinking of gliding seagulls out the window, and a story about some Indians from the early days of California. Maybe, before I go on to a future “city”, I might build one more house, and live close to most of my kids and grand-kids.)

KnotMPH said...
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Michael said...
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gadfly said...

KnotMPH . . . Funny thing about those little boxes on the wall that you set to “76 degrees”, etc. I designed and built numerous units to calibrate those little boxes for Honeywell (so when you put in the numbers for whatever temp, you could expect to get that temp within a degree or two in your living room) . . . when they had a plant in Albuquerque out on Bluewater Road.

A girl on the line would place the completed unit in a fixture, calibrated air would blow into the unit, and a thing that looked like a portion of a steering wheel could be turned until the numbers on the unit lined up with the value of the temp of the incoming air. We (I) designed many such devices back in those days. It was “fun”, but also very “draining” . . . every so often, a new batch of engineers would come down from Minnesota, and I’d have to re-establish relationships and confidence with another group of college educated engineers . . . who seldom had much real-life experience.

One of my little machines that placed the “LCD” display on the printed circuit board was not doing a proper job . . . after 13 years of use on the production line. So, since we have an open end guarantee on anything we design and build, I offered to correct the problem at no expense to Honeywell. Long story short . . . the problem wasn’t ours, but someone (a college edumacated engineer) figured he knew better, and had re-arranged the pneumatic logic. We changed it back . . . and charged them a modest fee to do the maintenance that they had not done for thirteen years. Next, they asked for a quote on three more of our machines . . . which we readily gave. “Not enough” information on the RFQ, they said . . . they required complete working drawings of the design, to even consider our “quote”. “No way!”, said I . . . and three months later they had packed up and moved their operation to China.

On your other subject, when I caught up with my “sub”, after an emergency leave at the death of my Dad, I was privileged to be in Japan, just twelve years after the end of WWII. Japanese “shipyard workers” would come aboard our sub in Yokosuka, and offer to do extra work, after hours, in exchange for our “left over food”. They did not want charity . . . they were more than willing to work the extra hours for a modest return . . . and we honored their simple requests. To this day, I love the Japanese . . . regardless of all the hate that existed during those bitter times, when even some of my own shipmates were prowling under the waters not far away, to bring that war to an end.

To the credit of the “old timers” in the submarine service, I never observed any bitterness nor hate for the Japanese, even though the US Submarine Service accounted for well over half of the sinkings of both the Japanese warships and the maritime ships.


(Later, in that summer of 1957, I observed first hand the poverty on the Island of Hong Kong, and what the Chinese would do to escape the very form of government that is even, today, attempting to take hold in our own nation.)

gadfly said...

In Submarine School, at Groton, there was a large map of the Pacific, showing every Japanese ship sunk, both warships and ships of the maritime fleet. The “pins” covered most of the western Pacific. During my time at school, a class of Japanese sailors began some sort of training . . . and before their arrival, a curtain was placed over the map. The war was over, and we were now close friends with our former enemies.

And to bring our focus back to aviation . . . It was the Japanese that built the very first aircraft carrier, from the “keel up”. And it was the Japanese that embraced aviation, like no other country, when our own nation was denying that the Wright Brothers had even flown. And it was the Japanese that first introduced the first use of what we now take for granted . . . 7075 aluminum.

Sometimes in our discussions, there seems to be some sort of agenda to “prove the other guy wrong”. One person calls himself the “devil’s advocate” . . . and there is a place for that. But like “garlic”, too much is . . . too much.

Unless I’ve missed something here, I’ve never seen that to make anyone “happy”, nor raise the level of discussion or understanding to a higher level. Even the “antagonist” seems to go away, unhappy.

Once, I heard a pastor (Vance Havner) from the “back woods” say that such folks have a face so long they could suck marbles out of a gopher hole.

We have an unusual opportunity here . . . to share the many things we have learned . . . and maybe a better understanding of the things Phil has brought to our attention. For instance, what an opportunity to learn something like “Hooke’s Joint Effect”, . . . and not “smoking a weed”. Not interested? . . . Almost any car on the road, today, uses the solution to this problem, whether front wheel drive, or all wheel drive, or even the rotor on a helicopter. Hint: the solution to the problem is called the “CV” joint.

‘Lot’s of stuff going on here . . . and a bunch of “blog readers” that are eager to get on with serious and valuable discussion, while “some” seem only interested in putting down someone else, to boost their own bankrupt ego.

Come on, folks . . . let’s make the time count. At my end of the spectrum, time is the only thing with real value . . . all the rest is baggage, which isn’t of much value when you get to where ever it is you’re going.


Michael said...

Cessna 310 with 3 Tesla employees onboard crashed today morning after take off from Palo Alto. All aboard dead.

My thoughts are with the families of the deceased.

It was so foggy today morning here in the bay area, that several airline flights from SJC, SFO, OAK were delayed.

Unusual that a non pro pilot (he was a Tesla sr. electrical engineer apparently) would decide to take off in these conditions.

Ps: Tesla is the only co. which has managed to bring all-electric cars to 'mainstream' market. The CEO came under fire for forcing his co. to reimburse him for his pvt. jet flights. He also flew in a pvt jet to DC when he asked for and got $475 million in federal loans. Guess if you're in a green industry, it's ok to fly in on a pvt jet vs. if you're Detroiter.

airsafetyman said...

The Telsa CEO's behavior seems a dead ringer for Al Gore's who flew a corporate jet to get his Nobel Prize for prattling on about "global warming". The Telsa dude flys his corporate jet to suck up taxpayer dollars so he can help "save the environment" with his overpriced, no room, battery-powered sports car. At $101,500 each it doesn't seem like Henry Ford has quite come back from the dead. I am waiting for Col. Mike to give us a "communique" on a battery-powered Eclipse II. Ten or twenty billion of taxpayer dollars should suffice. It will generate at least eight new jobs in ABQ.

baron95 said...

Sorry to break up the Dr. Phil and Oprah, psychobabble moment of the blog, but...

Get ready for more draconian GA security measures, now that a PA-28 pilot has managed to setup a 7 story IRS (occupied) building on fire by crashing his plane into it.

I can hear the words ... If a PA-28 can do that much damage, imagine a Baron or a KIng-Air...

Oh well...

airtaximan said...

... or a semi, or a mini van...

Michael said...

Baron said "Get ready for more draconian GA security..."

Exactly my thoughts.

That Cessna 310 that crashed yesterday into electrical poles in Palo Alto, shut down electricity for the town for 8 hours. Stanford Hospital was running on backup generators. Traffic was backed up due to non-operating signals. People couldn't get in/get out of their office buildings due to power loss.

People are going to think, if a small SUV size prop plane can shut down a city like that, then imagine a pvt jet...

Personally I agree with what Whytech once said (IIRC) - It's hard to justify GA on utility basis.

GA, private gun ownership, etc. are luxuries that exist 'only in America' thanks to lobbyism of AOPA, NRA etc. Slowly but surely they will disappear as year after year they continue to decline.

Events like these accidents only accelerate the inevitable.

baron95 said...

Michael said...It's hard to justify GA on utility basis.

How do we get food/supplies to towns in Alaska that have no roads leading to it some/all of the time?

If your daughter/wife/mom gets into a serious car accident, no GA med evac for her?

No crop dusting to keep pests out of your food?

No utility getting from anywhere in the Northeast to MVY in under an hour on your schedule, vs 6+ hours driving/boat or limited schedule, overpriced puddle service + 4 hrs driving?

That 310 is no different than an M5. Sure you can go by public transportation or via a Camry, but, much nicer on an M5, right?

P.S. Gun sales are far from declining. Cars are becoming a lot more about style, performance, etc than "utility".

The ONLY reason guns and GA (and big, heavy, powerful cars) are under attack, is for the same reason as always: envy and control desires by those who think differently. I can't have a plane, therefore I don't want anyone else to have one.

That worked really well for the Democrat candidate for senate in MA.

airsafetyman said...

"I can't have a plane, therefore I don't want anyone else to have one."

Not really, It's more like: "I don't want the part-time amateur pilot to go tumbling down my street and into a day-care center after he takes off in heavy fog that grounds the professionals that do it for a living."

baron95 said...

Right...the same mentality that led the US Gvmt (the FBI to be precise) to intimidate the web hosting company that had the suicide pilots anti-IRS rant to take the site down.

But, in a great display of Texas/American defiance, Mr. Alex Melen, president and founder of the web hosting company, put this on the site....

"This website has been taken offline due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI. To see an archived version of the original letter, please go here:"

How ridiculous can our government be? The content of the site is all over the internet. Their attempt at censorship is only elevating the loonie's cause.

These guys still think they are in the era of 3 networks and 4 newspapers and that they can control the news.

How sad for the FBI, the DoJ, the Obama administration.

Stop being ridiculous. Stop trying to manage the news. It doesn't work anymore. This is the Web era.

baron95 said...

airsafetyman said...

"I can't have a plane, therefore I don't want anyone else to have one."

Not really, It's more like: "I don't want the part-time amateur pilot to go tumbling down my street and into a day-care center after he takes off in heavy fog that grounds the professionals that do it for a living."


Thank you for making my point.

"I can't have a plane, therefore I need to come up with ridiculous, one in a life time and/or dubious reason to make sure no one else can have one"

No one can drive SUVs because in the past 100 years, the earth's surface temp might have increased by 0.5 degrees.

baron95 said...

But hey, you may get the control you seek....after all....last week a six year old, 37 lbs girl was arrested and led away in handcuffs for throwing a tantrum in school.

Oh well.

Lets hope she doesn't crash her bicycle into the principal's office when they let her out, else the TSA will really rough her up.

airsafetyman said...

"I can't have a plane, therefore I need to come up with ridiculous, one in a life time and/or dubious reason to make sure no one else can have one"

Not really, this is not an isolated type of accident at all. Telsa would have been much better off using some of the 450 million dollars to buy a King Air 90 and hire some experienced, full-time corporate pilots who actually knew what they were doing. For the costs they will pay out to the families of the Telsa employees, never mind the human anguish, they could have established a corporate flight department several times over. Do you tink Telsa would go to a full-time pro pilot and have them work part-time designing their electric car? Of course not.

baron95 said...


They could start by hiring the Delta professional crew that landed on a taxiway at ATL or the NW crew that overflew their destination.

Unfortunately, they cant hire the Colgan crew that pulled back on the stick at a stall warning after flying too slowly or the Delta express crew that took off from the wrong runway. After all they killed themselves and all aboard (and some on the ground).

For EVERY SINGLE incident of a private GA plane killing a person on the ground, there is one or more of professional crews doing the same.

It is a ruse - just wait for the next accident to try to control one more group of people to be "just like you".

Michael said...

Baron said "For EVERY SINGLE incident of a private GA plane killing a person on the ground, there is one or more of professional crews doing the same..."

Are you arguing that GA is as safe as airlines?

GA: 16 fatal accidents per million hrs flown

Airlines: 0.34 fatal accidents per million flight hr.

Data from

When I see mission profiles like that of Tesla flight, GA just doesn't make sense. KSJC is just 10 minutes drive from their office. It's served by SWA and most major airlines. If the team flies first class/premier economy, not only will they be more comfortable and refreshed, they can actually get some work done during flight.

The time saving excuse doesn't work at all. I often leave for KSJC 45 minutes before departure time, and have never missed a flight (I check in online frm home of course). Given the jet speed vs. Cessna 310 speed, cost, lack of comfort... I could go on but you see the picture.

Why would you want to fly in rattling 1976 Cessna 310 vs. firstclass/premier eco on an airliner? Except for the fun of course which I totally understand as a pilot. I simply object to them doing that after getting 400 million+ dollars of taxpayer money as federal loans!

airsafetyman said...

Baron, The large corporate flight departments actually have a better, much better, accident rate than the scheduled airlines. Many have gone for decades with no accidents, incidents, or FAA violations whatsoever, while flying internationally as well as domestically. General aviation amateur-flown airplanes, like the 310 used in the Telsa flight, have a horrendous accident rate.

airtaximan said...

Personally I agree with what Whytech once said (IIRC) - It's hard to justify GA on utility basis.

kinda funny to think there are 10,000 props in charter, 4000 jets in charter and another 5,000 (not sure its not 10,000 jets) in all other forms of private aviation. Also, there are 190,000 privately owned props in the US...

I imagine the folks using these planes see "utility" and value.

baron95 said...


Privately flown GA planes have a worse safety record than professionally flown planes - true.

But I would not call it horrendous. On the order of 500 fatal GA accidents happen every year - and a big chunk of them are hard flying in places like Alaska. The vast majority of those fatal accidents happen in planes that cost much, much, much less than the annual cost of a professional flight crew - so that will NEVER be an option. It's like saying that we can cut in 1/2 the number of automobile fatalities in the US if every car was driven by an expertly trained safety driver. It is probably true, but ridiculously impractical.

The argument was - using fatalities on the ground by GA fliers to ban/restrict private plane flying.

No one died on the ground in this crash. No one was injured. And that is true for the vast, vast, vast, majority of GA accidents.

You, as an aviation professional know that. Yet, you could not resist using the "killing babies in a day care" argument, could you?

It is about envy of the capable and adventurous, and a desire to make them "conform" to an "average" existence.

I understand the game. Luckily, it is a bid harder these days to try to force feed a cap and trade bill on the American public, right?

With some luck, the fallacy of the "for show only" TSA commercial and GA restrictions will be made clear at some time.

In the mean time - my sentiments to the families of the hard working the Tesla engineers that died in this crash. Their loss is profound, and theirs alone. Unless, of course, like our ASM friend, you think being without traffic lights for a few hours is a human tragedy.

airsafetyman said...

No, Baron, the human tragedy is that the Telsa passsengers probably thought the pilot knew what he was doing.

baron95 said...

And likely he did.

Accidents happen.

People run stop signs everyday in America and kill mothers, wives and children in their car and outside.

Their passengers all think they knew how to drive. And he did.

Accidents happen.

Humans make mistakes, all the time, in every activity.

Aviation being the activity that has one of the highest bars to overcome before one is allowed to partake in it.

And that was not the argument you used. It was "killing babies on daycare centers the ground".

I am perfectly fine having discussions on improving training, having free dispatch services, even perhaps having graduated IFR licenses. E.g. 6 approaches in 6 months is enough for a pop-up flight with 2,000 and 2 on both ends, with a higher standard for hard IFR.

These are constructive discussions. It shows that the party is interested in improving safety, saving lives, but not "control" and ban an activity.

Same for gun legislation. Want to require combination steel cases for gun storage - I'm for it. Want to ban guns because a kid found an unlocked gun and shot himself - no, that is an excuse for control to conformity.

I suspect that most Americans, support those types of middle ground approaches, rather than free for all or ban at the extremes.

airsafetyman said...

No, Baron, you made the absurd statement that people on the ground were "against" the pilot because he could afford an airplane and they couldn't. I made the statement that if Telsa had instituted a flight department with experienced, responsible professionals rather than rely on a part-time amateur pilot who was a full-time engineer they would be much better off right now, not even counting the human costs. Many corporate flight departments use the the airline standard of not taxxing out with less than one-half mile visibility and not taking off with less than a quarter mile. Such common sense might have prevented this accident. This accident is like trusting your neighbor to drive your kids somewhere only to see him go around corners on two wheels at 80 miles an hour in the neighborhood. This was a totally senseless accident, totally stupid, and totally uncalled for.

eclipse_deep_throat said...

Baron said: How ridiculous can our government be? The content of the site is all over the internet. Their attempt at censorship is only elevating the loonie's cause.

Right. Only after I heard about his rant did it make me more interested in reading it, (I found that CNN has a link), simply because I wanted to get some insight into his thought process, lol, if you can call it that. Seems more like Dilbert's 'Rage Against the Machine.'

But isn't is interesting to read what crap an engineer has gone thru in all his efforts to get a business up an running? Sure, he made a lot of mistakes even with the CPAs he tried to hire. And I don't quite believe he didn't know about his wife's extra $12k of "unreported" income that caused one of his audits. At what income level do you become so overwhelmed with all the $$$ coming in that you 'forget' about $12k?

To paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying I agree with Stack's solution, but I sure as hell understand his frustration. The whole 'self-made-man' myth is American propaganda; he was a small fish in a large ocean. The Govt didn't care about his small-biz goals because (a), it was peanuts in terms of $$$$, and most important (b), he had no significant political connections to cut thru the red tape.

To bad he had to use a plane to make his point ... but like in the movie Seven, it seems like the only way to get people's attention these days is to use a sledgehammer. Good thing the Unibomber didn't have a pilot's license...


gadfly said...

The "Self Made Man" is an example of the results of unskilled labor.


WhyTech said...

"Accidents happen."

Yes they do, but to some more often than to others. The data for some forms of corporate flying are stunning when compared to GA overall (as also pointed out by ASM or ATM) - an accident rate of about 1/50 of the GA rate. When I saw the numbers some years ago, made me want to know why in a most urgent way. Turns out no big secret - loads of dicipline re training, ADM, safety management systems, etc. Nothing the average GA pilot couldnt do if he was sufficiently motivated. Most are not and willingly trade off risk for convenience. "Professional" has multiple meanings: 1) gets paid to fly; 2) flys with skill and awareness. No reason any pilot cannot be a "pro" as defined in 2. Just do it.

Michael is right about my comments re utility, but these were in the context of low time pilots in simple single engine piston acft, not GA overall. A KingAir 200 with a skilled flight crew, or a G550 are GA but are in a different league when compared to a 182 or an SR22.

gadfly said...

This whole blog thing began a few years back over the frustrations of the obvious “short falls” of Eclipse Aviation . . . “Don’t cha know?”

('Just had to add that term . . . being married to a Swede, etc., and last night on a late night radio talk show . . . some time in the "wee hours" . . . someone was discussing "Fargo", that classic of all classics, with all of the innuendos of "Scandihoovian" humor, that only the Scandihoovians don't find funny.)

The scenes on the deserted highway . . . that reminded me of working "ORD" past midnight, for United, loading a last minute bag on a "Viscount", standing on the hood of a "Clark" tractor, opening and closing that cargo door just right ("Starboard") of the tail, with four turbo fans warming (?) up, prior to leaving the gate . . . with ambient temp about "zero".

The guy that played the sicko (in the movie) that ran his friend through the "chipper" next to the frozen lake was a Shakespearian actor . . . "Doncha know?" There he was, cluching his friend's "foot and sock" (frozen solid) . . . almost finished . . . absolutely hilarious. But the final scene . . . the husband won . . . what was it, second place? . . . in the duck painting contest for the other postage stamp? . . . Whatever!

“Short falls” . . . the politically correct term that has come to replace “shortages”, etc., as in our New Mexico governor’s running off with a half billion dollars, including his investment of $20 million in Eclipse, etc., (give or take . . . we, the taxpayers “give”, and the others “take” . . . same old, same old, etc.). But, you will notice, we have the “Road Runner” (The "New Mexican" version of a high speed train . . . diesel electric milk run sort of a thing, transporting tourists and state employees, at "high speed", faster than a speeding donkey or ox cart, to Santa Fe and back, at a total loss, for a half billion clams, give or take . . . and in time, maybe another century or so, it will break even. But the $20 million, give or take, in Eclipse . . . pocket change for local politicians.

Clams? . . . did I say clams? A few million years ago, "clams" were alive and thriving in the area . . . I have one at home . . . found not far from Albuquerque in the mountains near Los Alamos. I'm afraid to pry open the shell . . . and yet I wonder what I would find. Maybe a "pearl"?

Many times, some of us have attempted to bring the discussion back to technical issues . . . but I have obviously been wrong, on that score. It wasn’t the “technical issues, like “stir fried welding”, and “Bondo” under the paint that brought about the end of the little bird, but clearly the political stuff. And now our attention has turned to the same thing on a national level, multiplied by numbers that we weren’t taught in high-school. New Mexico isn’t even a “pimple” on the landscape of human events any more. But I dare say that many of the families that put their hopes and trust in Eclipse, in days gone bye, are still suffering from the effects of promises not kept.

‘Just some comments, lest we forget the promises of certain folks, that promised so much, and delivered so little.

And to bring it down to a personal level, my oldest son is even today battling in Santa Fe to provide basic salaries for his school district system, because "Governor Bill" deams his "railroad" more important than prior commitments.


(History shows that people like Bill Richardson . . . well, let's say that sooner or later, history catches up . . . and the final chapter is seldom pleasant.)

baron95 said...

Whytech said...The data for some forms of corporate flying are stunning when compared to GA overall

But that is a pointless comparison, isn't it? Overall GA includes landing planes on unimproved terrain in Alaska and cropdusting and seaplanes.

If you want a meaningful comparison, you need to compare GA turbine (same equipment) private IFR flying (same missions) with Business aviation.

If you did that, and adjusted for equipment capability/age, you'd arrive at the true difference between a professional crew (of 2) plus dispatch services, to the private single IFR turbine pilot.

Yes, the professional flight department will have a better safety record. But it will hardly be 50 to 1. 5 to 1, maybe. But prob closer to 2 to 1 or 3 to 1.

Turbine private pilots flying an IFR transportation mission are not exactly falling out of the sky like flies, you know.

baron95 said...

ASM said...This was a totally senseless accident, totally stupid, and totally uncalled for.

Wow - you already know that? Just from watching it on CNN?

baron95 said...

State of Business Jet Industry - looking at the business volume leader - Cessna.

In 2007 Cessna was producing over 100 Citations per quarter, and none were "cheap" VLJs.

This months, Cessna/Textron reveled that they will be producing 30-35 Citations in 1Q/2010, with over half being lower priced Mustangs.

So, all in all, Cessna billings this quarter would have fallen some 75% compared to a couple of years earlier.

That would be the equivalent of the Auto industry going from 16M vehicles in 2007 to 4M annual volume. And we saw what a drop to 10M annual volume caused.

Now what have we seen in the past two years of crisis in the auto industry?

1 - Product innovation has accelerated. Entire new means of propulsion from plug-in hybrid to full electric to clean diesel have emerged. 6, 7 and 8 speed gearboxes became common place. real time navigation, traffic, Bluetooth, iPhone plugs, voice commands like SYNC are proliferating.

2 - Safety continues to improve at break neck speed. 5 stars all around on pretty tough crash tests, and stability control are virtually universal.

3 - Warranties and built in maintenance programs are growing. Buy a BMW and you get 4 years, 50K miles with all maintenance included. Buy a Hyundai and get 10 years power train warranty.

4 - Try and return programs (GM) and return if you loose your income programs (Hyundai and Kia) proven successfully.

5 - Industry successfully lobbied congress for $25B in funding for advanced technologies, $3B in cash for clunkers, $30B for GMAC and Chrysler Financial to keep them financing dealers and consumers, etc, etc.

I could go on and on.

And Business Aviation? And GA?

More of the same?

If these guys are waiting for business volume to return on its own, they'll be waiting a long time.

Or not, since they'll go out of business very fast.

Deer in the headlights syndrome.

Phil Bell said...

Great discussion on engines this past week- our previous discussion on engines was one of the "sparks" that got me interested in the A&P class- to see just how an airplane engine compares internally to an automotive engine. (Not that I know much about automotive engines either).

Baron mentioned the Zoche aviation radial engine- pretty compact- interesting design. Thanks! I was unaware of them. Their web site mentions:

"The Diesel engine has demonstrated the lowest specific fuel consumption of any prime mover (as low as .26 lb/hp hr for very large 2-stroke marine Diesels)."

Seems this is the same technology that served Gadfly, as he served in the Navy. Pretty critical for stealth to have great efficiency and unrefueled range.

Thanks also to KnotMPH for bringing up the Rotec radial- at first I (mis-)read Rotax, but nope- these are different guys.

Thanks to Gadfly for bringing up engine configurations, and Baron's comments on cylinder configuration in radials. I'll try to chip in a bit on that later today.

KnotMPH- speaking of chips and smoke- so far that about describes my electronics experience! (Not really- more like burned fingers and lots of inventiive language!). Wow- it must have been REALLY cool to work for the Skunk works- I had aspirations to do so, but the defense drawdown of the early 1990's pretty much derailed that. (I had heard the Rye Canyon facility was "out of this world"). Same with my aspirations of working for Northrop at Hawthorne. Rats.

I don't quite know why, but for some reason, the A&P school has more old radial engines sitting around, than it does old jet engines. Also some of the LyCon opposed 4 and 6's, which will be used for most of the instruction.

And one of the textbook questions does indeed involve weight and balance with 100 gallons of engine oil- "25 gallons for each engine".

Phil Bell said...

News report of the Telsa Cessna 310 accident. (Feb 17, Palo Alto, CA)

And the non-accident involving a Piper Cherokee. (Feb 18, Austin, Tx).

(I'm sure our collective sorrows go out for the families of those involved).

Phil Bell said...

New headline post should be up Tuesday or Wednesday AM.

(Still working on condensing the work of the notable "polymaths" of the 18th century- that surely was an exciting time of Political and Scientific Enlightenment).

Phil Bell said...

Thanks to Baron for the market summary for HBC and Cessna- looks like rough times still are with the manufacturing segment for a while longer.

Black Tulip said...


Copy message?

Phil Bell said...

Affirm-thank you- :0

airtaximan said...

you are a funny guy, BAron...

Easy to dismiss anything as "deer in headlights"...

I wonder if high end stero systems, super high end moorcycles, or the boating industry would qualify for such attention and $$ showered upon the automakers and bankers. Perhaps the high end restaurants, or high end destination resorts?

I guess all these guys all have "deer in headlights syndrome" too?

You always want a cheapo jet, one you could afford... designed to hop over to Martha's Vineyard... but the problem is always the same...

You can keep staring like a deer in the headlights at the prospects, instead of hopping over to reality. Reality is, this is a toy, or luxury item, not worthy of aid money - no way, after all that's been said about private jets, that any gov't $$ will bail out the likes of Cessna or Gulfstream...

So, you can keep staring at the poster on the wall, the one of a $1M or thereabouts mini jet designed for your mission. You'll awaken knowing the worlld has decided that its a prop plane.

ALso, you can keep staring at the images on the government funnelling bailout $$ to Cessna, but that ain't going to happen, either.

airsafetyman said...

"Turbine private pilots flying an IFR transportation mission are not exactly falling out of the sky like flies, you know."

Actually, they are. Consider the accident rate for the Piper PA-46-500TP Meridian. 414 units have been produced since 2000. Five US-registered aircraft have been involved in fatal accidents in the US with an unknown number of accidents with foreign registered aircraft. If each airplane has flown 250 hours a year since being manufactured the fleet hours comes to 568,500 hours. Doing the math, just considering the US-registered airplane accidents against the worldwide total fleet hours, the accident rate is 8.79 per 1,000,000 flight hours. In actuality it is higher. The accident rate is even worse for the Jetprop conversion airplanes.

Floating Cloud said...

With great anticipation of Phil's post on the upcoming "Age of Enlightenment," which is one of my personal favorites in terms of European/world history ... I am jumping ahead to the 19th C. here with this link to a pretty nifty website that I thought you all would enjoy.

Ernst Mach

baron95 said...

Thanks for taking time to do the math for the Meridian ASM.

Did you happen to have a chance to pull the prob cause and phase of flight for the 5 fatals?

Just curious.

If you have it handy, please post.


baron95 said...

ATM, re deer in the headlights. I'm hardly immobilized.

I've used a variety of planes to successfully fly the BDR-MVY, ACK, BID, MTP, etc missions. Mostly on a couple of Barons, but including Saratogas, Senecas, and even a 172XP.

I'm pretty comfortable in noting that, adjusted for inflation/personal income, the price for entry level jets is steadily dropping (actually dropping in big steps - C501, C525, C510, Eclipse, Diamond Next).

We already have modern twin turbofans new for under $3M and used for under $2M (if you don't count Eclipse). 10 years from now, if Diamond or someone else makes it, it will be $2M new, $1M used.

Modern TP (like Meridian) are selling used in the $1M-$1.4M.

And it is very, very likely that 10-20 years out there will be Brazilian and Chinese players, perhaps even Russian, for less.

Piston is a dead end, unless someone makes the technology jump to a modern engine architecture (unlikely).

Future will be cheap turbines (e.g. GE H80 on down) that will be powering UAVs, powering composite planes, once the technology is made cheap by the auto guys.

As for restaurants and resorts, like Hyundai, they have adapted big time, even though their business is generally down 10% or so, not 75%.

e.g. Both Marriott and American Airlines made changes to the their loyalty programs to enable frequent fliers/guests to keep elite status even though business travel was curtailed in 2009. They will continue to have my business for that. One of my favorites restaurants now has Ladies free entre night and couples two for one night. They have my business. even car wash has ladies 1/2 price on Tuesdays and guys 1/2 price on Wednesday. They also started loyalty cards - result I prepaid $100 of washes to use - accelerating their revenues.

I see change, adjustment, aggressive promotions everywhere I turn.

GAMA boys? "We are doing good", "Business will return in 2010".

Dream on.

airtaximan said...

Nice reply, appreciated.

But, the layoffs, price adjustments, PR/Ads regarding the utility of planes/jets, etc... are just like the Lady's night you described!

No deer... no headlights...

Also, there are advancements in the tech side of all aspects of GA. We get more done in 10 years and less in 3 than you would expect - these are long development time products, heavy invstments required, man-rated safety issues and of course the Certification.

MAkes sense, given what it is...

airsafetyman said...

Baron, two of the PA-46-500 fatal accidents occured during precision landing approaches. The third occured while the pilot was running in and out of clouds while VFR and hit a rock face on a Mediterranean island. The forth presaged the recent Airbus A330 accident; the cause was attributed to the pitot tube icing up (?!!). The fifth was attributed to a simple stall from low airspeed when the pilot attempted to return to the aiport when the engine had a power rollback for unknown reasons.

The NTSB has a good search engine on their site ''. For many reasons I would not necessarily agree with all of their findings on these five accidents.

Phil Bell said...

New headline post is up!

(Special thanks to a great returning author- our pal Black Tulip !!)

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