Sunday, February 8, 2009

Flight Lessons for the Economy -- Updated

Airplane of State

--- Flash --- credentialed commentator Robert Higgs has similar idea.

An old and venerated image for our country in its interactions with the world is the Ship of State. While it was Longfellow's poem that I immediately thought of the image goes back to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who wins the priority award for having the good sense to include the image in his work The Republic.

I believe that we now need a more modern exemplar of our society and I humbly submit the aeroplane. As Longfellow noted in his poem there are many sound, bumps and thumps that discomfit the non-sailor.

Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'Tis of the wave and not the rock;
'Tis but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!

If anything our modern methods of communication: Television, Radio, Internet make the background noise of insignificant sounds and shocks louder and more distracting. The faster speed of air travel and and the sensitivity of airplanes to up and down drafts can make for even more discomfit in the passenger section.

Despite what most passengers and some neophyte aviators may believe or claim to believe about airplanes, they come off of the design table with a great deal of inherent stability. The is especially true of training airplanes like the Stearman PT-17. Most beginning pilots have to learn the feel of the controls and most at some point in their career experience Pilot Induced Oscillation (PIO). The universal and sovereign remedy, in training, for this is to take ones hands off of the controls. The plane damps the oscillation and resumes level flight with no input from the pilot. Remember this point it will become important later.

The Jet age has given us several Iconic Aviation Disasters. I would now like to focus on three of them and try to derive some useful points. In the tradition ancient Greece and Rome we will introduce these events through the Heros of those events.

Alfred C. "Al" Hanes

Date: July 19, 1989
Aircraft: Douglas DC-10
Problem: Loss of Hydraulic pressure in flight control system - due to failure of #2 Engine.

Captain Haynes through brilliant management of crew and cockpit resourses and the presence of a DC-10 Instructor Pilot, Dennis E. Fitch, maintained sufficient control of the airplane to manage an approach to Sioux City's Gateway Airport. The airplane went through one last dutch roll cycle robbing Haynes of a successfull landing. But 185 people owed their lives to Captain Haynes' skill and professionalism

Robert "Bob" Pearson

Date: July 23, 1983
Aircraft: Boeing 767 - 200
Problem: Loss of Power, both engines failed due to fuel mismanagement.

By skilful use of available assets - Altitude, Airspeed and Brains Capt. Pearson sucessfully landed his airplane at Gimli Industrial Park Airport, Gimli Manitoba Canada. Captain Pearson and First Officer Quintal came to the incident with a unique combination of knowledge and skills. Quintal had served as a flying officer at Gimli, while Pearson was a skilled glider pilot. Pearson used his glider training to fly the 767 to a sucessful landing (a successful landing in aviation lore is one that you walk away from). The combination of local knowledge and glider training allowed these two ment to know when to follow the rules and the manual and when to trust their instincts.

Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenburger

Date: January 15, 2009
Airplane: Airbus A320
Problem: Loss of power due to bird strike.

Captain Sullenberger displayed great judgement and situational awarness by choosing to water land the airplane in the Hudson river rather than try to reach any of the airports in the New York metro area. In his spare time Capt. Sullenburger is a glider pilot.

Lessons to Learn:

No successful aviator argues with the big blue marble. It will always win on the basis of gross tonage.

You can't use what you don't have - Capt. Haynes used his engines, the only functioning controls to control altitude and attitude. Capt.'s Pearson and Sullenberger used their gliding skills to navigate the uncharted area of Airliner glider flights.

You have to know when to act and when to be still, when to follow the rules and when to dump the book and improvise.

Money is the Engine of our Economy

Our Airplane of State has suffered an engine failure. We need to determine if the problem is one of adequate fuel but a faulty pump system; loss of fuel; or some other problem.

While we are doing this we need to maintain an awareness of our attitude, altitude and air speed.

At the moment it appears that we are in a phugoid oscillation cycle initiated by government manipulation of the rules of finance. This is the finance equivalent of arguing with the blue marble. The rules of finance that make everything work are called, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). GAAP is the standard language, the shared understanding, if you will. By following GAAP we are able to determine the status of a company, and estimate its potential. The danger comes when, the smartest men in the room, come up with something that is outside of GAAP. It may very well be a safe and useful practice, on the other hand as Enron, the Savings & Loan crises and the current credit meltdown have shown. It is equally likely that the departure from GAAP will lead us down a path where our best tools are giving us poor data.

My guess, since I am not an economist, and haven't slept at a Holiday Inn
® recently is that the best thing to do right now is nothing. I certainly don't believe that we will get anything useful out of a non-stimulating stimulus package.


newine said...

"the best thing to do right now is nothing"

But if you're acclaimed as 'the one' and your acolytes are asking for miracles, you have to do something or the illusion will shatter. (The real One used miracles sparingly, lest they take center stage and supplant his real mission: our salvation in far more than just the economic sense.)

tigger23505 said...

That would be a true miracle - A populist politician who recognized that doing nothing would do more than any of the actions currently on the table.