OpenAirplane Shuts Down

OpenAirplane, the operation that attempted to make renting general aviation aircraft as simple as renting a car, is shutting down. I’ve completed two Universal Checkouts in the OpenAirplane system, but like many pilots, I never exercised the privileges.

I’ve been a follower of Rod Rakic for some time, and I’m sorry to see his endeavor didn’t make it:

General aviation is a bit like teenage sex. Lots of people talk about it, even when few are doing it. Survey data is not anywhere close to being as valuable as being in the market and following real money. Consumers are fickle, and humans are terrible at estimating utilization. Long before we launched OpenAirplane, we surveyed thousands of pilots. They told us they would fly an average of 10 hours a year more than they do today. That did not come to pass. Demonstrating to us at least that surveys are a terrible way to capture intent. While the idea of OpenAirplane won us praise, fans, and even super fans, the reality is that too few pilots took to the skies to make the operation sustainable.

If there’s one thing that we learned the hard way, it is that it’s tough to get pilots off the couch and into the cockpit.

To add to that, it’s getting harder to justify $!50+ per rental hour to fly. The GA industry needs to allow for innovation if it’s going to survive.

via Contact Ground, Point Niner – Rod Rakic – Medium

A Little More Than a Year Ago I Went Home

YouTube recently reminded me that it’s been about a year since Lauren and I returned to Champaign-Urbana and took a 172 out over the city. We visited one of my favorite teachers, and also had dinner with the parents of one of my very best friends from childhood. We walked the rows of apple trees at Curtis Orchard and watched the staff at Prairie Gardens begin to unpack Christmas decorations.

Via Aerial Tour of Champaign-Urbana from Frasca Field – Michael Castellon – YouTube

WWII Air Combat Techniques

The American Volunteer Groups –– or Flying Tigers –– were volunteer air combat units organized by the United States government to assist China against Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Erik Shilling, a former Flying Tiger, describes the air combat techniques required to engage with Japanese fighter aircraft:

We used to listen to Tokyo Rose quite frequently. On several of her broadcasts, she called the Flying Tigers cowards because we refused to stay and fight, then challenged us to stop running away. We thought this was quite humurous, and at the same time, knew our tactics were hurting.

Also on some of Tokyo Rose’s broadcasts, the number of AVG aircraft that the Japanese claimed to have shot down, was the exact number Japaese aircraft that we had destroyed. (We only lost 4 pilots in aerial combat.) This was the figure I used in giving our kill ratios. It had no bearing on the number of aircraft we or they destroy. Even [Daniel] Ford has said that we killed approximately 400 air crew.

To show a couple examples of attacking enemy fighters: If you attack head on, which the enemy was reluctant to do, because our guns outranged the fighters, they would normally pull up. (If he started turning away, he would already be at a disadvantage.) You started firing at Max range, and then dive away, under these conditions we didn’t turn and tangle with a Jap fighters.

Attacking the enemy from a 3 to 6 o’clock position.

Why roll rate was important, is that one must remember that all maneuvers, except for a loop, started with a roll. The slower the roll rate the longer it took before the turn began.

1. If he turned away, he set you up on his six. A most undesirable position for him, because he would be a dead duck.

2. The enemy invariably turned toward you which was normal and anticipated. With his slower roll rate, you could beat him into the turn, get a deflection shot at him, and when you slowed down to where he started gaining on you in the circle, you rolled and dove away before you were in his sights. If you haven’t tried it don’t knock it.

via AVG Flying Tigers combat tactics (Erik Shilling)

The Health Benefits of Daily Fasting

via NPR:

During the fasting period, participants were encouraged to stay hydrated with water. Each day, they logged the timing of their meals and their sleep in an app.

“We saw a 3% reduction in their weight and a 4% reduction in abdominal visceral fat,” says Taub.

“We didn’t ask them to change what they eat,” she explains, though participants consumed about 8.6% fewer calories — likely as a result of the limited eating window.

In addition to the weight loss, “we saw that cholesterol levels improved and blood pressure [levels] also improved,” Taub explains. There was also some reported improvement in sleep quality, and many of the participants reported more energy.

“We are surprised that this small change in eating time would give them such a huge benefit,” says Satchidananda Panda, a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a co-author of the study. Panda and Taub have some theories that may help explain the reduction in belly fat and weight loss.

Revisiting the Tram Diaries

About 15 years ago I worked with a talented team of people that helped bring the world’s attention to the diaries of a Vietnamese doctor killed in battle in 1970. An American G.I. recovered the young woman’s diaries, which spoke of war-weary sadness and longing for her family, from a battlefield and decades later donated them to the Vietnam Center at Texas Tech University.

I vividly remember the day Dr. Dang Thuy Tram’s family visited the university to view her diaries. I watched as her mother clutched the small book to her chest and wept.

I’m reproducing some of my work on the Tram Diaries here and again here:

On Oct. 6, Doan Ngoc Tram entered a room in the Vietnam Archive, then fell to her knees and sobbed at the sight of her daughter’s diaries, which sat elegantly at a table beside a picture of a smiling Dang Thuy Tram. The elderly mother clutched the handmade books to her chest and wept as her daughters held her. It was the closest she had come to hugging her late daughter in almost 40 years.

For at least an hour she sat and held the diaries to her body, running her aged and delicate fingers across its pages and binding. She hugged her daughters and walked around the room viewing pictures of Dang Thuy Tram, whose absence was achingly felt and obvious to the 40 or so spectators present.

“I thought it was her. I wanted to hold her but I couldn’t,” she says through an interpreter. “It was like she was there with me when I held the diaries for the very first time.”

Schools in Rural Texas Find Workarounds to Address Lack of Broadband, Digital Divide

A new report from my office looks at how the lack of broadband in rural Texas communities is crippling business and agriculture, and forcing schools to find creative ways to provide online access to students:

To close the gap, students often create “workarounds” to connect with online resources, such as gathering outside businesses and school campuses to tap free Wi-Fi. Hetherington says Bandera students were often seen waiting in line at the Bandera County Library after school to use its high-speed internet. Today, Bandera ISD’s BEC-provided Wi-Fi has been incorporated into its curriculum; for example, Alkek Elementary students take iPads down Main Street on digital “scavenger hunts” to hone their online skills. Texas school districts such as Huntsville ISD and South Texas ISD have outfitted school buses with Wi-Fi so students can study during the ride home, while Weatherford ISD has provided signage and even recycled hardware for local businesses that want to offer students free internet access.

The Home Computer Christmas War of 1983

Fantastic article on the battle royale between computer and gaming manufacturers in the runup to Christmas in 1983:

Coleco had entered the videogame console market late, introducing the Colecovision in mid-1982 just as Atari was beginning to wear out its welcome with the public. With its superior graphics and sound, and Donkey Kong as its pack-in game, it sold well before Christmas, but was not immune to the plague ET subsequently cursed the industry with and when Coleco management saw consumer sentiment was turning toward home computers they saw an opportunity to jump trains. The marketing department decided their ideal customer was parents of less-technically savvy teenagers who needed to do school assignments and wanted to play arcade conversions, and so they suggested adding a printer, keyboard and tape storage to the existing Colecovision console, rather than develop an entire new machine. It was hoped this could get the computer, christened the Adam, to market faster, but adding all those peripherals was trickier than expected, and despite promises to retailers Coleco failed to deliver most of the units in time for Christmas – and many of those they did deliver were defective. Poor reviews and disappointed potential customers coloured public sentiment and the Adam bombed, taking the Colecovision with it.