Monday, August 20, 2012

Last Weekend's Aviation Lessons Learned

26 mile flight turned into 196 miles.
A college classmate, who used to fly F/A-18s in the Marines, is now an airline pilot with well over 10,000 hours under his belt. He made a comment, last year, that no two flights are the same and there's always something to learn. I was safely reminded of his axiom, this past weekend.

I took a buddy, who was visiting from out of town, on a flight to Sussex Airport that's about 20 minutes away. The clouds were dissipating as the afternoon progressed. Just to be on the safe side, I filed an IFR flight plan and expected a direct route, via ATC vectors, to our destination. When I was issued my clearance I discovered that my 20 minute flight of 26 nautical miles (nm) had turned into a nearly two hour, 196 nm flight.

The first lesson I learned that day was not to take for granted the route that ATC will issue through busy airspace. Another lesson that I didn't learn until I got home was to always recompute fuel requirements when there's a change to your flight plan. I didn't top off my fuel tanks before I left my home airport since I was only expecting to fly about 20 minutes to a place where the aviation gas was significantly cheaper. However, even though I had almost three hours of fuel on board, it still should have crossed my mind. But, before leaving, I decided to turn down the clearance that I was issued (which is perfectly allowable).

When I took off from my home airport of Morristown the weather was clear so I simply flew my route visually. About 20 minutes later I learned an even more important lesson. Since Sussex Airport doesn't have a control tower, I flew directly over it at 800' above the traffic pattern altitude. This procedure gives the pilot an opportunity to check the wind sock and runway conditions for any glaring problems. But, since I didn't suspect any issues at the airport, I wasn't looking for anything in particular. Everything seemed fine as I announced my position on the traffic advisory frequency until a voice recommended that I not land at Sussex Airport since a "plane had crashed" at the far end of the runway.

Obviously, this seemed like good advice, so I turned around and, as we overflew Sussex airport on the way back to Morristown, we took a harder look at the runway. While we could see a King Air airplane at one end of the runway, there was no way to know that it had - as I found out today - landed with its landing gear up. In other words, the King Air pilot, who was returning to the airport after dropping off jumpers (parachutists), simply forgot to deploy his landing gear and he landed on the belly of the plane.

You might be asking yourself, "How does a pilot forget to put down the landing gear?" That's a great question since an alarm will go off if you forget to put it down as you can hear in the following video. But, it happens more frequently than you'd expect.

And don't take for granted that the runway's clear before landing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Waiting on line online

In today's online world of e-commerce, slammed servers are the equivalent to waiting on line.

A buddy of mine that I've known since middle school is a lifelong Doctor Who fan. Yesterday, he called me and asked if I could order him some tickets for a Doctor Who movie showing later this month in New York City. I said that it wouldn't be a problem.

Instead of setting a time for the tickets to go on sale the announcement was made via Twitter. The link in the tweet lead to a link which redirected to But that website was struggling under the load. Once it did load (if it did), there was a description of the event with a link to purchase the movie tickets on All the traffic flooding into brought down their entire website.

Even with all the benefits of the online world, queuing up and waiting on line at the theater would have been your best bet - we've only decentralized the problem. But, at 11¢ per ticket, how could you go wrong and not at least give it a try.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How I Lose Weight

I'm fortunate that my weight hasn't fluctuated much since college. But, from time to time, it might creep up 10 or 15 pounds which needs to be knocked back down. I've always believed that you don't gain 100 pounds without first gaining 50 pounds without first gaining 25 pounds, etc. So I try to remain vigilant. I enjoy running, so imagine going for a three mile run while carrying two five pound weights - being just ten pounds overweight will definitely slow you down.

Eat less and workout more is what needs to be done. But that's an oversimplification - it takes more than physics to successfully lose weight, there's a huge physiological and psychological part. My goal when losing weight is to do it without increasing my workout routine.

Fats vs Carbs
The key when deciding which foods to eat is to pay attention to the energy macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), before looking at the micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc). Traditionally, we think that low fat or no fat is good but consider which of the following is healthier: eating a tablespoon of sugar that's completely fat free or eating a tablespoon of flaxseed oil that's 100% fat.

When it comes to fats and carbs, it's important to recognize the difference between good ones and bad ones. The nice thing about fats is that they give you a full feeling when you eat them but you want to stick to eating unsaturated fats while staying away from trans fats.

With carbs, you'll want to eat complex carbs (high fiber) instead of refined simple carbs like sugar. The problem with eating simple carbs is that your body burns them up right away. In the world of carbs, simple sugars are like barbecuing with only lighter fluid whereas complex carbs provide the slow burn you get from charcoal.

My Experiences
Over the years, I've tried different techniques and, in the end, it's a matter of finding what works. I've made a few surprising discoveries. Most people will weigh themselves the same time, everyday - usually first thing in the morning. It's not unusual, when dieting, to notice a pound, or more, difference from one day to the next. While this looks like progress, don't be too quick to celebrate because it's not a pound of fat that you lost.

In theory, a pound of fat requires burning about 3,500 calories more than you've consumed. That's a big calorie deficit from one day to the next. A 200 pound person would have to run a marathon to burn that many calories.

So, where did that missing pound come from? It's mostly water weight but that's still a good thing as long as you're drinking water and staying hydrated. Ironically, you'll need to drink plenty of water to keep the fat burning process going smoothly.

Getting Started
The key to this diet is to make it a lifestyle. It starts with two weeks of indoctrination where you consume virtually no carbs that puts your body into a state called ketosis (more here) which weens your body off of carbs and simple sugars in a healthy way. When I do the two week indoctrination, I typically lose almost a pound each day. Also, since it only lasts for two weeks, it's not as unhealthy as it might seem when it comes to cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate, etc. On the contrary, I find that these health indicators also drop with the weight loss - and I'm only loosing 10 - 15 pounds.

After the first two weeks, I start to introduce more carbs into my diet without bingeing. The key is to look at the nutritional information on the foods that you're eating. The downside is that you have to be very careful when eating out. Fortunately, if you find that this weight loss technique works for you then there's no shortage of foods to make it easier designed by Atkins, PR Nutrition, The Zone, South Beach, Philip Maffetone, etc.

I don't want to sound fanatical about a low carb diet. Most any diet will result in some weight loss since it restricts what you eat. I've simply found that the low carb solution works for me. "Low carbs" generally means that, after the two week indoctrination, no more than 40% of your calories come from carbs while the other 60% is split evenly between fat and protein. For this reason, it's sometimes referred to as the 40/30/30 diet.

What About Exercise?
Obviously, exercise is important. But, don't suddenly increase your workout routine and expect the weight to melt off. Actually, whenever I increase my runs substantially, I notice a weight increase over the following week or two. I suspect that this is due to two things: my body retaining more water due to the added stress from the increased workouts and my increased appetite.

While exercise is important in the long term, consider that running a mile might burn 70-110 calories. If you walk that same distance, you'll burn more of it as fat instead of carbs. Regardless, if you cover three miles you'll burn up to 300 calories. That's less than a single Boston Kreme Donut. Trust me, it's easier to skip the donut than to find the 60-90 minutes it takes to run or walk three miles (keep in mind that you'll need a shower if you run three miles, which also takes time.) Cutting back on 300-500 calories every day, without feeling hungry, is much better and it's surprisingly easier than you'd think during the two week indoctrination, especially when eating tasty nutrition bars. Reducing 500 calories, each day, equals one pound of fat per week.

Keeping it Off
Keeping the weight off is always a challenge. Our bodies appear to have "set" points. In other words, our body likes to maintain the average weight it's been at during the past few months. So, if you can keep the weight off for six to nine months then you should be "set" unless you completely fall off the wagon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An Everyday Plane Crash

Click to view video
Most four-seat single-engine airplanes can't actually carry four adults with full fuel tanks, especially in the summer.

There are three "enemies" to small, single-engine, airplanes: heat, height, and humidity. A piston engine aircraft's performance severely degrades as these three factors increase.

The plane crash video, above, is unique in its clarity, first person point of view, and the fact that everyone survived.

The passenger in the right seat stated to the NTSB that the plane was unable to climb more than 60 or 70 feet above the ground before experiencing a down draft as it collided with the tree tops.

My initial reaction, when I saw this video, was that the plane was overloaded for the prevailing weather conditions. While drafting this blog post, my buddy, who's a commercial pilot / flight instructor, and I researched the airport and weather conditions as well as the aircraft's performance specifications. The key variable we didn't know was how much fuel was aboard the aircraft, for weight considerations, as we speculated the cause of the accident.

The airport that they departed from was 6,370' above sea level, "on a high mountain valley surrounded by mountains," and the temperature was about 80°F. It's possible that the airplane may have been climbing, relative to sea level, but the ground was sloping up faster than the plane was climbing. Also, after running some back of the envelope calculations, we figured that it would be very easy for this airplane to be outside its operating envelope for ideal conditions, let alone the conditions at the high, hot, departure airport. I'd be surprised if the FAA investigation doesn't mention these factors in its final report in about 12-18 months.

I experienced the high, high effects for the first time as I piloted my plane out of Las Vegas, last August, while carrying four adults. Fortunately, for me, my aircraft could handle these conditions since it was operating within its performance envelope. However, it was extremely obvious that I couldn't climb very fast. Air traffic control, who's used to seeing this type of degraded performance in the Las Vegas desert, simply had us circle a few times so we could gain enough altitude to get over the mountains on our way back to San Diego.

Plane crashes, like the one in this video, happen almost every day. Many are minor and most go unnoticed except by the local media. As a matter of fact, on the day this video was recorded there were six other plane crashes in the United States resulting in five fatalities.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Working For Another Big Company

I just watched a video that was recorded last Tuesday of Harry McCracken moderating a discussion with Ken Segall. Segall worked very closely with Steve Jobs, for many years, at Apple's ad agency.

Segall raises a great point about the key difference between Apple and other big tech companies which was originally stated by Jony Ive: Apple doesn't set out to make a profit, rather, the company sets out to make great products and if they do that well, profit ensues.

Ok, so what? That's no secret, is it?

Segall goes on, in the video, to contrast Apple's attitude with Dell's where the latter focuses on measuring clicks throughs.

Apple's key focus, since Steve Jobs' returned in 1997, was simply to provide the best possible user experience.

So, why do so many companies not "get it?" It's not what Apple does, it's how.

A big part of it is that many big companies misprioritize their focus. Specifically, the CEO works for the board of directors and they, in turn, answer to the shareholders. The company's focus is on maximizing shareholder value every quarter.

But, ultimately - in the long term - it's the customer who decides the profitability of any company. If you have something the customer is eager to pay for then you're golden.

Trust me when I say that your customers aren't going to pay you because you increased click throughs on your website by 10%.

Steve had the luxury of answering to a very friendly board of directors and he simply paid lip service to the shareholder's short term desires. It's not easy to amass this much power. When Steve returned to Apple, he fired nearly the entire board.

How many people, other than Steve Jobs, were concurrently the CEO of two multibillion dollar companies for years? I cannot think of a single person.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Need More Bandwidth

Ten years ago, I signed up for AT&T's top of the line business class DSL in Carlsbad. It's worked very well with five static IPs and 5 Mbps up / 600 Kbps down. With proper optimization, the servers on this circuit could handle 75,000 unique visitors each day. All of my professional and personal needs we met.

Last fall, I signed up for Optimum's residential service in New Jersey which is amazingly fast as you can see in the graphic. Faster than FiOS and "faster than 95% of the US."

The problem is that we keep needing more bandwidth and slowing down feels like going back in time. It feels so "dial up."

In the past, I've optimized the Carlsbad business servers by pushing static resources into Amazon's cloud. But, I've noticed a recent problem with only 600 Kbps up. When I'd get home, after taking photos with my iPhone, they'd sync to iCloud. Surfing the web, during the automatic iCloud sync, is painfully slow and there's no way to optimize this process. I think it's time to find a faster connection for Carlsbad, unfortunately, there are only a couple choices.