Top Letters And Comments: Nov. 13, 2023


In Praise of Paul

Thanks for everything! How’s about occasional titillation just to remind us all of what we’re missing. Good luck in whatever comes next.

Larry Stencel

Writing well is hard. When it appears to have been easily grasped by the reader, it proves the point.
Paul proved this continually – on subjects ranging through the full spectrum of the human condition, philosophy, science, humor and imagination and gathered it all to shoot through the prism of aviation for each of us to interpret on our own in our own way. The comment section in his blogs revealed that regularly – and thanks for that opportunity.

Dave Miller

In the heart of a dusty California desert, amidst the sprawling cacti and the distant rumble of military and civilian jets, lived an old Mexican Vietnam vet named Rafael. Rafael, with his weathered skin etched with the lines of a thousand stories, had a passion for flight that rivaled the soaring eagles above. Every morning, without fail, Rafael would rise with the sun, his weathered hands reaching for the latest issue of AVweb, an online aviation news and information website. The reason for his unwavering devotion lay in the pages of the site, penned by a fellow Vietnam vet named Paul Bertorelli.
Paul’s articles were like a shot of adrenaline to Rafael’s soul. They were witty, insightful, and often unapologetically opinionated. Paul wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers, to challenge conventional wisdom, and to call out the BS in the aviation industry. And he did it all with a flair for the dramatic, weaving tales of near-disasters, heroic rescues, and lessons learned the hard way. For Rafael, Paul’s articles were more than just aviation stories; they were life lessons, reminders of the importance of perseverance, courage, and a healthy dose of skepticism.
Rafael didn’t always agree with Paul’s opinions, but that’s what made their relationship so special. It was a clash of perspectives, a battle of wits, and a testament to the power of free speech. Even when their views diverged, Rafael found himself eagerly awaiting Paul’s next article, anticipating the intellectual joust that lay ahead.
Over the years, Rafael and Paul’s connection deepened through the pages of social media. They became like pen pals, sharing their love for aviation, their experiences in Vietnam, and their thoughts on the world of aviation around them. Rafael would often clip out Paul’s articles and save them in a special box, a treasure trove of wisdom and wit that he would revisit time and again.
As Rafael aged, his body grew frail, but his spirit remained as strong as ever. He continued to read Paul’s articles with the same fervor, finding solace and inspiration in his words. And every morning, he would wake up with a smirk on his face, knowing that somewhere out there, Paul Bertorelli was crafting another tale, another adventure, another lesson learned the hard way. Hasta la vista, Paul!

Raf Sierra

Paul !!! Say it ain’t so ???

I (we) will miss your prodigious output of topical, insightful and irreverent writing.Don’t sell your self short, you worked at the level of the aviation magazine greats like Collins, Garrison, Gilbert, and Gann.

David Gagliardi

We will miss you. Your thought-provoking work is always fun to read and inspiring. I admire anyone who can express and then support an opinion so well. Humor is an amazing journalistic tool and you use it well. Enjoy the next phase. I look forward to your occasional contributions to the site.

Tom Haines

Thank you Paul for your knowledge of aerodynamics, of aviation, of aviation history, of aviation current events, for your ability to insightfully analyze, and in addition to all the above, to have written and spoken about it all in such an artful manner. I read you as much and sometimes more for your artistry than for your take on subjects of the day. You are a true wordsmith and that will not end along with your career. Thanks you for sharing your gift of language with us.

John Kliewer

I have had the pleasure of working with Paul since around October 31, 1989, and I have to say, for me, our association has always been a treat. We were both schooled in daily newspapers. We both had tough, no-nonsense editors we adored. We both had a cynical side, which Paul cultivated to perfection. He was also my instrument instructor and as we strapped on a ratty old Cherokee from Bridgeport’s Three-Wing Aviation, he liked to say with that ready sneer… “ready to slip the surly bonds?” Over the years, we’ve all enjoyed Paul’s “acerbic wit”, as he slaughtered and skewered all the sacred cows. He would be the first to tell you that aviation is expensive, time-consuming, and not without risk. But his natural skepticism could never hide the fun he was having as he slipped the Cub into a short grass field. And I liked the one where the epaulettes on his Van Heusen shirt kept adding stripes while he opined learnedly on proper pattern etiquette. Let’s not get started on his April Fool’s shenanigans. But you don’t get to be a helluva writer without knowing your stuff. Paul is an ATP, a CFII, and a serious student of the deep, broad world where pilots congregate—from accident stats to our fuels worries to our arcane rules and regs. He’s a great writer because he knows what the hell he’s talking about. Working with Paul has been one of the great joys of my professional career. I am delighted I was able to give Paul the platform, the electrons, and the pixels so he could perform at his best. I also knew how to keep the dragons at bay…and stay out of the way. I learned early it was always a good policy to let Bertorelli be Bertorelli. I am also delighted Paul chose to ease away from the keyboard on somebody else’s watch. Lastly, Paul…smashing that phone to smithereens was a worthy sacrifice to the Gods and a fitting trophy for our three decades plus friendship that I know will never end. So go take Val on a nice long ride…but I know you. Something will stick in your craw. You’ll be back.

Tim Cole

Pilot Experience

I’ve been flying with new hire pilots on the Bus, several of which who came through a CFI program or perhaps a brief right seat stint in a corporate gig.

My first observation is the enthusiasm regarding the study and memorization of cockpit procedures, particularly during preflight duties and cockpit set up. A breath of fresh air, although I know this too shall pass. Most that are just off IOE (extended in our operation) will volunteer this during our TEM briefing, I then share I’m counting down to the inevitable extended fishing trip in months rather than years, so we are Green on Gray. The perfect storm. I tell them – not today FAA. That’s my version of a Rap Beat.

Some present with bluster and braggadocio to impress, after all they don’t want to take command from the captain if they don’t have to. That’s a sign as well.

Energy management is a new concept, so I ask what their plan is beyond just reading the SID, STAR or Approach plate to me. What are they going to do with all the buttons if this or that specifically, what’s the automation plan and when, if “this” should happen. They will stray from their own plan, and I suggest how to rectify a sub optimal situation, then if needed tell. I have had to take control.

During cruise I like to say something like “I didn’t like that N2 vibration at 500ft did you? (regardless of the N2), pull out the procedure and lets take a look at it”. I find out if they can navigate an abnormal in the “books”. We are in a crew not an instructor student relationship regardless of experience, so I try to foster that by sharing my experience not dictating instruction. That’s also new to them.

They tend to hit the dreaded autopilot off button at CAT 1 mins, even while visual. I did too when low time. My thumb is resting on the takeover button as I’ve seen things that are just weird be commanded then. We learn more from our mistakes than pulling off a lucky guess, so that’s the rub. Differentiating a hardish landing with a potential bounce and over pitched tailstrike is what I’m being paid for at this stage. During those five seconds. I don’t particularly relish those five seconds. I know, I know, “a stabilized approach is …blah blah blah”. Yes true, but we’ve all seen beautifully managed and stable approaches go to heaven in a wheelbarrow.

While I was considered low time with 6,500 hours and a fresh DC-9 type with dirty oil on it, that is not the fresh faces we see on the line today. Shockingly, HR doesn’t call me to vet applicants, and the CEO has never once consulted me for network planning. Both of which I have considerable opinions about.

Dexter Morgan

China Sticks A Rocket Landing

I am amazed by comments that make automatically the Chinese a warmongering “enemy” whose technological achievements are gained solely through theft from its avowed “enemy”… the US. China accomplished all of this by killing its own smart people and steal from its enemies” their technology? That’s what “commies”do? Seriously? How do you design and build a superior system using someone else’s stolen technology? Do what they do…get what they get. That implies a stalemate not superiority.

General Dynamics learns from Boeing a better aviation mousetrap… that is called competition. Supposedly, we pride ourselves on superior products through competition. But if China does the same it’s what “commies” do. China is the leader in many areas through brilliant engineering combined with capable manufacturing. That’s a result of great schooling, investment in both technology and manufacturing by using its unique culture that takes a long term view of problem solving. Aerodynamics and physics defines the optimal shape. So, it stands to reason airplane, rockets, even engine technology will evolve into similar silhouettes or overall look because technical minds with leading edge aerospace technology have realized the optimum shape for desired performance.

Messerschmidt, Folke-Wulf, Arado, Junkers, Whittle, Bell, etc were developing jet aircraft and engines from the middle thirties onward. The US benefited from that technology gained to the Victor goes the spoils. Apparently it is morally okay to “steal” technology from competitors as the conquering nation but if a successful aerospace endeavor comes from China… it is simply a poor “commie” copy based on someone “stolen”engineering. Funny that SpaceX scattered many prototypes to get to the success of the Falcon series and China had success on their first launch. That kind of achievement does not come from killing their smart and copying from countries that don’t.

How about we learn some diplomacy both in business and politics, learning from cooperation rather than from threatening anyone who would dare to attempt to do better what we or others might have already accomplished?

I have a saying attributed to Mark Twain hanging in my living room. I read it every day. ”Loyal to country? Always! Loyal to government? Only when it deserves it.”

China has had many aviation/aerospace accomplishments. They are not looking to expand their borders. They want to do business with the all countries including the US. Good business only happens with cooperation, diplomacy, and common sense negotiation. That is impossible if a country takes on the posture of “empire” building through sanction and intimidation making everyone an “enemy” under the banner of “National security”. China has some success in a reusable rocket. Good for them. Maybe, just maybe, we could learn something from their success.


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  1. China Sticks a Rocket Landing

    I am amazed by comments that automatically make the Chinese a warmongering “enemy”…

    Counterpoint: I agree that labeling China as an enemy without evidence is an incomplete and oversimplified view. Conversely, blindly accepting China as a harmless partner ignores its concerning actions, such as its growing military power, assertive territorial claims, and flagrant disregard for intellectual property rights. This is further exacerbated by its insidious efforts to manipulate public opinion through the purchase of American media outlets targeting specific groups and the donation of large sums of money to American think tanks and universities. Ignoring these issues is akin to burying one’s head in the sand, allowing China to pursue its ambitions unchecked. This complacency is dangerously short-sighted.

    • You make a good point, Raf. Having been to China and meeting with some of their engineering “corporations”, I can tell you that China has a huge supply of engineers. That should come as no surprise given their population. The government also places a major emphasis on education, especially in the STEM disciplines and their young people see it as a way to elevate themselves above the populace. The government takes advantage of this by directing their R&D efforts toward those things the Central Party views as important for their national interests. And space is one area where they feel they can excel. So it should come as no surprise that they chose to demonstrate they can do what SpaceX can. Being second to do something is easy, once you know how. But make no mistake, they are also very willing to harvest any technical data or trade secrets that they can through covert means or simply buying it through acquisitions. I can tell you from my experience that they are very good at reverse engineering, having seen them do so with large turbine generators for power plants. Just ask Westinghouse about that. Oh, wait, you can’t because Westinghouse no longer exists. China sees itself as the USA of the new millennium and that includes dominance in space as well as with their military. Whether that dominance means a coming war remains to be seen, but you have to know their history to understand their motivation. So far, China is an adversary, not an enemy, and yes there is a difference.