Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peak Oil?

There are two articles in the New York Times today that mention Peak Oil.

One article, is about supply, and the technical debate as to whether or not the worldwide annual production of oil has peaked, as it has in many individual countries such as the United States.

The other article mentions a different kind of peak oil, peak consumption. This article is about how upset the Saudis are that oil consumption in the United States has peaked. The price shocks of the last few years is the largest contributor, but our election of a president who has made a commitment to reducing consumption over the long term has is terrifying them; "the Saudis know that any attempt to reduce gasoline consumption is a threat to the future of the Saudi economy."

This really isn't all that complicated. We produce 7% of the world's oil, while consuming 24%. Simple economics say that we can have a lot more influence on price of oil by managing our demand rather than our production.

In the election last year, you had a candidate who's party was promoting increasing supply ("drill baby drill!") vs. a candidate focusing on reducing consumption. You would think that all of the business people and free market advocates in the Republican Party understand these basic facts, but they are so co-opted by big oil that they are literally being paid not to.

Since the election, the winner has actually been focusing on long term consumption reduction, and the Saudi's are scared shitless. They are now worried about peak oil consumption more than we are about peak oil production. With 230 mpg hybrids and pure electrics on sale next year, they should be.

One final quote from the second article: "the former Saudi oil minister, Sheik Yamani, once said that the stone age didn’t end because the world ran out of stones, and the oil age will not end because the world runs out of oil. It will end when something replaces it."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A380 at Oshkosh

The Airbus A380 is, by far, the largest commercial passenger airplane in the world. Unless you visit London, Dubai, Sydney, Singapore, L.A. or a few other cities, you probably are not going to see one anytime soon.

At the Oshkosh Airventure air show last month, I was fortunate enough not only to see the giant bird, but to witness an aerial demonstration. The demonstration culminated with a particularly interesting landing, to say the least.

The following is a video of the landing:

A critique of the landing can be found here (just fast forward through the 30 second commercial at the start).

Below is my photo of the aircraft right before landing. Note that the aircraft is actually landing to the left side of the picture, even though it is pointing to the right side of the frame. That is how much it was crabbed into the wind.

Finally, here are some shots of the demonstration and the aircraft taxiing past me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Snowstorm In Denver in August! *

Ok, it wasn't a snowstorm, just some flurries, and it wasn't in Denver, but up around 12,000 feet of elevation in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was August 16th, and I personally witnessed the snow!

Sorry for the misleading, but cool photo of Denver International Airport after an actual blizzard.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Southwest Fail

The aviation experts were wrong, Southwest failed to purchase Frontier. I suppose that is good for the Frontier people, who will not be assimilated into the Southwest collective.

I still predict that Southwest will announce service to Atlanta later this year, potentially by bidding to acquire AirTran.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why I Am Not An Airline Pilot

I often refer to myself as a "commercially licensed" pilot rather than a commercial pilot, as I hold a Commercial Pilot's License, yet am not currently employed as a commercial pilot, with the exception of occasional flight instruction.

I have flown commercially on a scheduled charter airline which flew both passengers and cargo between Colorado and Wyoming. In Wyoming, we had a "crash pad" in the basement of some house where we would attempt to sleep during the day.

Today, the Washington Post has an article about underpaid pilots for regional airlines and their crash pads. From the pictures and description of the crash pad they visited, it seems vastly superior to the one I used to stay in at Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The article points out that "..first-year pilots in the industry can make as little as $20,000". Actually, that is a little optimistic. I was once offered a first officer job by Mesa Air. According to their web site, their current starting salary for first officers is $19.26 an hour for turboprops. That sounds great, until you realize those are only flight hours. The time you spend at the gate and in the airport doesn't count. Your contract specifies a minimum of about 76 hours a month. Do the math, and you are looking at $17,565 dollars a year. No wonder they live in $200 a month crash pads. Word has it that many airlines include applications for public assistance in their new hire packet. Something to think about when you book a ticket on Delta/United/American that is "operated by" Skywest, Mesa, Colgan, Pinnacle, etc. More data on region airline pilot salaries is here.

This current scrutiny stems from the aftermath of the Colgan Air flight 3407 crash in Buffalo, in which pilot fatigue seems to have been a major factor. Let's just say that I can understand how that can happen, having worked flights departing at 4 AM. My only problem with the article is that it makes it seem like crash pads and pilot fatigue is a recent phenomenon caused by current events, when this has been the situation for decades. I will grant that it probably has gotten slightly worse over time, but it is not new.

Amazingly, you will periodically read about pilot shortages, not just from people selling flight training, but from serious publications like Aviation Week. There is no pilot shortage, just a shortage of people willing to fly airplanes for less than $20,000 a year, especially when they can be located anywhere in the country based on factors that are out of their control.

Most people would be surprised to know that being a pilot is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. It is usually listed second or third behind fishermen in stories like this. Police on the other hand, despite their high and mighty claims that they must taser children, great-grandmothers, and pregnant women to protect their saftey, rank only 10th.

It is the final quote of the article that made me remember why I ultimately turned down the job offer from prestigious Mesa Airlines. The article quotes the wife of one of the pilots:

"...it has been difficult for their children. "My little girl, she says, 'When is Daddy coming to visit us again?' I said, 'Daddy doesn't come and visit us. This is his home.' "