Top Letters And Comments, November 13, 2020

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Veterans Day 2020: Infinite Remembrance

Thank you, Mr. Bertorelli. This is the best Veteran’s Day article I may ever read. Through tears. I was in Chu Lai during the rocket attack in which Army nurse Sharon Ann Lane was killed.

After a couple thousand hours in the Huey, much of it in Vietnam, I have come to realize how fortunate I was to have done all that flying and served all those on the ground. Yes, many times I saw those upturned faces and trusted that Lycoming turbine. It was mostly flying ash and trash, with a few combat assaults a week. However my buddies and I often made many hasty medevacs in the field to get wounded out quickly. The Huey was no sports car, but made an outstanding air ambulance. That was its original design purpose, back in the fifties.

Finally, go to you tube for the immortal sound of those blades and what it meant to all of us: “joe galloway god’s own lunatics”

Gilbert B.

Paul, thanks for mentioning the nurses who may have had one of the toughest jobs–dealing with the results of war and taking care of many young men. In an evacuation hospital, most of the soldiers had wounds and some of which were very severe. I recall laying in one waiting for my turn to be shipped to Japan. The nurses provided constant care and worked hard to treat and console those with serious injuries. I cannot imagine the courage it took to go to work every day knowing that is what you would have to face on many days. It could also be dangerous if there was a rocket or mortar attack on the hospital; the nurses stayed and took care of the patients when this happened irrespective of the danger they faced.

Rich G.

Paul, good story well written. I happen to have a fair amount of off the record Huey time, I was AF and flew with the Army some in Europe, way back when. The Huey saved a lot of folks and had a very unique sound, as you well wrote. I would also offer that another bygone aircraft had a unique sound that also saved a lot of people and provided that USAF around the globe medivac capability, the C-141 A/B. I did have a bit over 6600 hours in the Starlifter and flew numerous normal (scheduled) airevacs and several emergency flights. In 1975, prior to the fall of Saigon, my crew an I were at Clark AB in the Philippines and had just done a Saigon turn-around. Short day, easy flying. Inbound to Clark the Command Post asked us to take the first leg of an emergency airevac to Guam. Of course we immediately said sure. To make a long story short, that airevac ended up in Andrews AFB MD with us still in the seats. Some where around a 40 hour crew day for our basic crew. Not legal by any standard but the word we got a couple of months later was that both patients lived. Definitely a worthwhile day for us. The rapid change capability and the long range of the -141 made such tales common place and is reflected today in the USAF medivac system that does so much good. The C-141 had a unique sound when those 4 TF-33’s (JT-3D) spooled up and hauled that wonderful girl off the ground. That sound was often referred to as the “Sound of Freedom” and it can still be heard today but only if you Google it.

David C.

Why Electric Airplane Designers Are Turning To Hybrid Drives

A good presentation. It is nice to listen to someone who takes a realistic engineering approach to a complex problem instead of simply assuming miracle batteries will save it all. Dr. Anderson’s comparison to hybrid and electric land vehicles and how they developed is a good segue to electric aircraft. In the beginning, companies tried to develop pure electric cars, but then moved to hybrid drive designs because the then available batteries were in adequate. It took about 20 years of perfecting hybrid vehicles before battery technology evolved enough to allow pure electric cars. I suspect the same path will be true for battery powered aircraft. He also raises another good point, that using a hybrid design allows engineers to develop the electrical distribution and control systems that will eventually be used on full electric aircraft. In other words, learn how to get most of the needed technology done while waiting for batteries to catch up.

John M.

Why would we change the fuel reserve requirement for a battery powered aircraft? Whether it’s petrol or electrons, the planning requirement is there to ensure the pilot has time in the tank for emergencies or factors that he or she may not be able to control. Headwinds, fuel leaks, leaving the gas cap off, are some factors for a ICE powered airplane. But batteries may have their own issues that may cause excessive consumption beyond unforeseen headwinds. Temperature instability cause variation battery capacity and subsequently in flying range. I’m guessing, but I suppose faulty electrical consumption from the avionics, computer, or lighting systems may reduce range as well.

I think it’s important to design the system to the performance standard, and not change the performance standard to help design the system.

Mario A.

I see hybrid (electric/diesel) propulsion as a great way of minimizing environmental impact. Use electrics to boost climb, use diesel/Jet-A for the cruise. Hovering is never energy-efficient, so STOL aircraft, where half the power comes from electrics and the other half from the reciprocating unit(s).

Supercapacitors are a great alternative to LiPo batteries and do not age the same way!

For smaller planes, a folding prop, and an electric powerplant in the nose, and a pusher unit in the rear, powered by a diesel engine would probably be ideal!

Tord S. E.

Poll: Can a Computer Think Like a Pilot?

  • This question is like asking whether a locomotive needs to think like a draft horse. What will happen eventually is that we will build more and more physical, technological, and regulatory infrastructure designed for uncrewed aircraft, and the situations that require clever piloting will be increasingly factored out. Don’t worry, though: those of us who go for that old-fashioned stuff will be allowed to buzz around in HAA (Heritage Aviation Area) fish tanks over the countryside.
  • A teacher always taught me, “No one votes themselves out of a job.” As a pilot, it’s difficult to imagine I’m not needed anymore.
  • Fact algorithms are similar to checklist flows but triage and multitasking priorities and judgement, as well as communication with humans in the plane and on the ground, remain best performed by humans.
  • Computers can follow instructions but humans are needed to make decisions. Every time I fly, I think about what I’m doing that a drone could not do. I usually come up with at least 6 things.
  • If it has the right sensors and programming, yes. A good example that already exists is Autoland.
  • Why would you want it to?
  • Yes, and it can now.
  • Until AI becomes sentient, it will never actually think. Will it be able to respond to normal events? Sure. Will it be able to respond appropriately to highly-abnormal events? I wouldn’t trust my life to it.
  • Wrong approach. Start with the goal and work back.
  • AI will never “think.”
  • No, but a pilot can be expected to think like a computer.
  • Define thinking.
  • Only like a pilot who can foresee every possible scenario and pre-write the script to address each. Otherwise, we in computer programming call that writing self-modifying code, and that makes us evil.
  • No, a computer only does what it is pre-programmed to think. Artificial Intelligence is mostly a farce at this point. We have algorithms that may learn but it is nothing compared to a human with experience and situational awareness.
  • It thinks differently, not like a human.
  • Typical situations, probably soon. Rare emergencies, who kows?
  • Why ask? Our brains are analog, not digital.
  • Yes, if we’re willing to let computers have accidents, too.
  • Like a pilot, probably. Like a human, no. Not all decisions as PIC are pilotage.
  • This is one of the dumbest questions I’ve seen in the poll. Of course a computer can’t think like a pilot. They don’t even come close to working the same way. Now, can a computer replace a pilot? Yes, but it won’t “think” like a pilot.
  • Under normal circumstances, maybe, but a computer can’t think creatively. Good luck with a computer that can get UAL232 on the ground.
  • Computers don’t think.
  • Wrong question: can a pilot think like a computer?
  • No thinking, just reaction to environmental and other inputs against a series of stored instructions whether programmed or “learned.”
  • Good God I hope NOT!
  • When a computer can drink a six pack and make a fool of the themselves at the bar then they will truly be able to think like a pilot.

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