Email letters, July 11, 2013

Human judgment, high tech safest combo for plane landings

Alan Metcalfe’s letter in the July 10 Sentinel regarding aircraft autopilots needs some rebuttal.

The media almost always initially presents erroneous “facts” regarding an aviation accident or crash. One result is remarks similar to Alan Metcalf’s comments regarding the use of autopilots in aircraft.

I happen to know a little about autopilots (an electromechanical device based on the same technology as your home computer) after several decades of aiding in the design of and being responsible for the sales of many real-time computer systems (including those that got man to the moon in the late 60s). I also have spent a few thousand hours as a pilot in aircraft cockpits ranging from piper cubs to highly automated Gulfstream business jets.

Yes, some of our more modern airliners have the capability for the “autopilot” to land the airplane – provided that the autopilot is working properly, the airport in use is equipped with the proper instrument landing system and. of course, the instrument landing system is operable at the time the airliner wishes to land. With that said, I certainly hope that no airline will ever require its flights to land on a regular basis using that technology rather than the cockpit flight crew.

I’ve read the SFO crash press coverage. My viewpoint may be different than most that know nothing about aircraft operations, but it appears to me, at this juncture, we have a “pilot error” condition that caused this crash.

A somewhat similar crew versus highly automated airplane incident occurred over the South Atlantic Ocean when an Air France airliner was lost along with all aboard because the flight crew was distracted by technology and didn’t pay complete attention to what the airplane was actually doing.

Had the strangely scheduled, somewhat inexperienced B-777 Asiana crew been following what used to be standard cockpit protocol during landing in which one pilot is flying the airplane and the other is verbally calling airspeeds and altitudes — as well as monitoring the landing pilot’s actions — the SFO crash probably wouldn’t have happened, no matter what the crew’s B-777 experience or the amount of automation built into the aircraft.

The next time Metcalfe’s home computer decides to stop working (or, more relative, not doing what HE thought it should) he should sit back and say to himself, “Better here than on final at SFO!”



Expect an inverse ratio between health premiums, benefits

Like most Americans, I have been trying to keep up with what it is going to take to make the Affordable Healthcare Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) affordable. The picture is becoming clearer now.

So far, it appears we will need about $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years. We will need to hire tens of thousands of new government employees to handle everything, collect billions in fines and penalties for employers and companies, and, if necessary, collect more fines and penalties against any individual who doesn’t sign up. That about sums it up - so far!

Oh, I forgot. Your health premiums will go up, and your benefits will go down. I guess that cover all the bases. Wake up, people!

Grand Junction

Great American dream offered only to foreigners

According to Sen. Michael Bennet in his opinion piece in Sunday’s Denver Post, the American dream is only for foreigners.

His bill, which the Senate passed in June, would dramatically inhibit ordinary Americans in achieving their
dreams. By doubling legal immigration, which already causes most population growth, he would forgo Americans’ dream of stabilizing our population for generations, thus exacerbating our environmental challenges.

By increasing guest workers and low-skill immigration he will assure that entire classes of jobs will not pay the wages or offer the dignity that citizens expect. By vastly increasing skilled immigration he will lower the return citizens will receive for graduating from college and maintaining the civil society that is the basis of U.S. prosperity.

He also tells foreigners that they have no hope of succeeding in their homelands and assures that they won’t by imperially extracting their smartest and most motivated. Tell Congress to reject Senate Bill 744.

Fort Collins

Expanded background checks, magazine capacity limit do not impair Second Amendment

As Thursday’s editorial (“Colorado gun battle has moved to court”) implies, the core legal question presented by the county sheriffs’ lawsuit is whether Colorado’s newly-effective gun laws in any way infringe on the Second Amendment. If not, the lowest level of legal scrutiny requires only a “rational basis” for constitutionality.

In Heller, our Supreme Court held that denial of the individual right to “keep and bear” handguns for self-defense was unconstitutional, but reaffirmed that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and does not preclude prohibitions on the possession of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Moreover, while the Second Amendment protects at least some citizens’ right to “keep and bear” at least some kinds of firearms (at least for self-defense), it is entirely silent as to both the acquisition and design of “arms” and as to quantities of ammunition – perhaps because our founders had no knowledge of any firearms capable of discharging more than one round without cumbersome reloading.

Therefore, because both background checks and bans on machine guns and “cop killer” bullets have already been deemed constitutional, our courts should conclude that neither expanded background checks nor a 15-round magazine capacity limit violates the Second Amendment.

Consequently, Colorado’s new gun laws need only further a “legitimate governmental interest” – even if only marginally ameliorating a legislatively-perceived threat to public safety and/or to law enforcement officers (as with machine guns and “cop killer” bullets)—and need not “have any substantial effect on preventing future mass-murder attacks.”

Indeed, such attacks may not be preventable at all – since clearly demented individuals arguably enabled by our culture of gun violence perpetrate most of them. But each such attack refocuses lawmakers’ attention on the broader implications and effects of that pervasive gun culture and affords an opportune occasion to proactively counter them.

Grand Junction

Lack of coverage of council candidates was disappointing

After announcing the opening of Harry Butler’s council seat, The Daily Sentinel showed zero interest in me or in my fellow candidates Teresa Black, Ken Harris, Les Miller and Duncan McArthur. No interviews, pictures or phone calls.

After the hullabaloo coverage of Councilman Rick Brainard, one could have expected a modicum of interest. Apparently you have to get arrested before you get noticed in this town.

I am disappointed that the council was deadlocked in a tie vote, unable to compromise, choose an alternative candidate or have some mechanism to break the tie. Emulating our federal government, once again ideology trumps the interests of the ordinary citizen.

Grand Junction


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The FAA is scrambling around to make it ALL pilot error, as usual, and there is some error. Relying on the current auto systems. The automatic landing system switch was on! Howe also brings up the Air France loss because of late reaction to auto systems getting pilots in too late to react situations. Just remember the old flying story of the fully automatic flight system notifying passengers there was no pilots aboard, but as they were leveling off at 30,000 feet, the system came on with, “We have reached our cruising altitude, you may unbuckle and be assured, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go….”

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