Re: Pilots Want UFOs Investigated (AVwebFlash, Nov. 13)
My father, Dr. Urner Liddel, was a nuclear physicist for the Office of Naval Research in the late 1940s and early 1950s, before I was born. At that time, he was part of a team using high-altitude balloons to measure cosmic radiation. Tracking those flights was not a trivial undertaking, and he hoped the public would assist in the reporting of such sightings. He was interviewed by a journalist and quoted in an article on UFOs for Look Magazine in about 1950. He went on to work for NASA from the mid-'60s through the early 1970s.
Indeed, a high-altitude balloon can appear to be anything but a balloon, as I have witnessed personally.
Until he died in 1979, Dad maintained there was zero chance of extra-terrestrial intelligent life ever visiting planet Earth. He had analyzed the likelihood of life-supporting conditions on planets using the best available scientific evidence at the time, and concluded there just couldnt be such a coincidence as life elsewhere in the universe. I tended to agree with him.
Since 1979, our understanding of the universe has continued to change. It is bigger and older than we thought, and we are discovering planets in circumstances where we never thought we would find planets. We have found life on our own planet in places where we never previously thought life was possible. As a result of these advancements in understanding, I now believe that the likelihood of life elsewhere in the universe is a virtual certainty, and that the likelihood of there either being or having been other intelligent life somewhere at some time in the universe almost as likely. None of this changes the fact that the chance of an inter-galactic visitor coming to our blue planet at any time in the last several millennia (or the next several millennia) is still astronomically insignificant. My chances of being hit by a meteor are trillions of times more likely, and yet I have learned to be able to go to sleep at night without worrying about such things.
Nevertheless, I still fervently believe in UFOs, just as my father did. Ive had multiple visual encounters of an unexplained nature. The optical properties of our atmosphere, and the incredible variety of man-made flying objects, contribute to our inability to explain absolutely everything we see. However, just as global warming is not clearly a result of human activities, neither is there sufficient evidence that we should spend billions of dollars re-researching all sorts of countless, unexplainable, visionary experiences that seem to defy all explanation.
Lifes a mystery. Get over it, or become a scientist, and do something logical about it.
In Monday's edition, you note, "The tether got caught in the tail rotor ..." (AVwebFlash, Nov. 17).
Rather, the tail rotor snagged the tether. The balloon is inanimate and had no way to control itself, unlike the helo pilot, who was focusing on something other than flying the machine (like chasing a bad guy).
All pilots know that the first order of business is to "aviate." Stuff happens when we don't do that. At least he got down OK!
In your last very interesting bulletin, you mentioned the petition on avgas and the availability of 82UL (AVwebFlash, Nov. 17). I draw your attention to the fact that, in Sweden, avgas 91/96 UL is available for a large amount of general aviation aircraft.
Sylvain De Weerdt
Dear Mike Busch:
Just read your article regarding mechanic liability (The Savvy Aviator, Nov. 22). Couldn't agree more. As a master automotive technician, I have seen this for years. One cause is the rampant "consumerism" brought about by Ralph Nader.
In the good-old days, most auto repairs were conducted with a handshake. Unfortunately, due to the efforts of a very minor, few repairs shops, Nader was able to make the claims stick that 50 percent of the repairs/costs were the result of either fraud/lack of training or incompetence. Hence, rather than bringing the repair concern back to the original technician, the order of events now is: 1) stop payment of the check; 2) contact your lawyer; and 3) contact shop owner and relate that the check will bounce and that he can expect to be contacted by owner's lawyer in the morning.
I saw the paradigm change as early as 1987. It was quite common that a failed alternator could be repaired with the simple replacement of brushes and a quick clean-up. But due to the fact that courtesy and common-sense went out the window and shop owners were beginning to get savvy to the litigation game, it made much more sense to replace the alternator with a much more costly factory rebuilt or new unit. The factory had deeper pockets. But as you state, the law of unintended consequences with the GARA ruling has had an onerous effect on GA repair market. We in the automotive field for the most part feel that John Q. Public has brought this on themselves.
So, too, are we familiar with the extensive record-keeping you mentioned. Fact citation on the rear of repair orders can now go on for pages in an effort to anticipate any possible scenario that may come about from a failure or misunderstanding. Parts are kept for a period of time to ensure that any repair-related question can be answered to the vehicle owner's satisfaction. And still it is not enough, as most vehicle owners are in the learning process of what it takes to keep a modern vehicle running.
For the most part, this would not have been necessary if we weren't part of the problem in the first place. And the record-keeping is beneficial to all. But when the needed CYA efforts approach an hour or more for each repair, working with our hands and minds will cease to be enjoyable. I for one have reached the break-even point and am looking for a career outside repair. When the A&Ps make a similar decision, the industry will be doomed.
I only see the situation getting worse and all involved -- whether manufacturers, repair technicians or facility owners, vehicle owners, the legal profession and jury participants -- can share a piece of the blame. Unfortunately, the last guy to touch the vehicle or plane is the first guy everybody wants to blame.
I just wanted to let you guys know how much I enjoy looking through your online newsletter. I logged on a few weeks ago merely to try to find the answer to a question. (And I did!) I really thought this would be just another of the myriad others I would delete from my inbox once I had my information. That's not the case. I have so much more knowledge about all things that fly!
Keep up the good work.