Posts Tagged ‘ future ’

Steam Vs. Glass

In aviation, there are are two different kinds of avionics.  Both of them present the same information, and both actually use essentially the same sensors.  The difference is that one of them is far more expensive…though to be fair, it has been argued (generally successfully) that it has increased situational awareness to previously unheard-of levels.

I am talking about the difference between “steam” and “glass.”


"Glass" Cockpit

I want you to take a good look at these two cockpits.

On the “steam gauge” layout, you have the eight most basic instruments–each one of which you can cross-reference when you are in the clouds to give you the information you need to find out if you are climbing, diving, rolling, losing or gaining airspeed, and if you are on-course or not.  The radios are stacked to the right, and you can tune each one to the  exact frequency you need.  This was the technology for essentially eighty-plus years.  It worked well for that entire time.

In the “glass” cockpit layout, you’ll notice that every one of those gauges is gone.  In fact, there aren’t any radios to tune, either.  And how will you know you are on track?

The answer is easy–we refer to Steam Gauges as such because they are outdated by about fifteen years now.  They are still completely functional, but the latest and greatest technology (as in, “Glass Cockpit” technology) has helped to usher in the safest period in aviation history, and here’s why.

We have gone from referring to instruments as individuals (the “attitude indicator,” or the “airspeed indicator,” in the steam gauge cluster) to referring to them as units called the PFD and MFD (Primary Flight Display and Multi-Function Display).  The PFD sits on the left of the two screens, and gives the pilot every single piece of information he or she needs to fly the airplane.  It shows a horizon (ground/sky colors), airspeed (along the left side, displayed as a vertical ticker tape which rolls up or down, respective to the airspeed), the altitude (along the right hand side, displayed as a ticker tape which rolls up or down), whether or not you are on-course, which compass direction you are headed, and the list goes on and on.  It shows every piece of information that steam gauges do…but it does it on one screen, all in one place.  If your airspeed or altitude is falling, your ticker tape will show it more clearly and obviously to the eye than a steam gauge will.  If you are pointed more toward the air than the ground, your entire PFD will display blue (the sky), and you can adjust accordingly (push the nose over)–something easy to overlook if you have seven other separate instruments glaring you in the face if you get into hot water.

The MFD sits on the right side of this glass cockpit, and displays many of the things that several other steam gauges do, and some that they don’t.  The MFD displays the info of the engine parameters, a visual depiction of the direction you are headed and the terrain you are flying over, the radio frequencies you are tuned to, and the navigational aids you are using.  As is probably easy to see, the glass cockpit gives you moving-map GPS location detection, and will show any waypoint (or airport) you program into it.

The main reason that glass cockpits are wonderful is pretty obvious–they are pleasing to the eye, and they aggregate and present all of the necessary information in a way that is far more cohesive and intuitive to the pilot than having to look at (and interpret) six or eight separate gauges would be.  Glass cockpits are effectively bringing to the private, General Aviation (GA) and Experimental Aviation (EA) markets a relatively affordable way to increase situational awareness.  Big-time companies like Garmin have been involved for plenty of time, but smaller companies like Dynon have entered the market, and are providing glass cockpits at decent prices.  Many EA or GA installations can run between two and five thousand dollars per unit, but systems like the Garmin G-1000/3000/5000 will run easily into the multiple-ten-of-thousands of dollars.

So, there you have it.  If you knew this stuff already, I probably didn’t tell you much that you don’t already know.  If you didn’t, glass cockpits are pretty much where aviation is, and is already headed.  Hell, some Experimental Aircraft owners run their entire avionics systems on some specialized apps for the iPad–it has the accelerometers and GPS tracking to provide some situational awareness, but not all…and  EA owners are focused on saving the cash, so this works out beautifully.  Whatever route you decide to choose, each side has pros and cons, so start your homework here before you decide to shell out the extra $20 to $50 an hour for flight time with them.

Whichever side you choose, it will be worth your while–trust me.  Happy flying!


“Peak Oil Will Reverse Globalization.” –“The End Of Suburbia”

YouTube it.  “The End Of Suburbia.”  Dedicate an hour of your time to examining one opinion on how we got to this place, and how we will deal with it when oil is no longer cheap.

See, “Peak Oil” describes the the concept that we have turned a corner with oil production.  The jist of this movie is simply this:  the suburbs–and subsequently, the “American Dream”–were only able to exist because oil was cheaper than drinking water, back in the day.  In the future, when oil becomes prohibitively expensive, people will find ways to live nearer to work, and to learn to grow their won food–out of no other  reason than sheer necessity.  

The “peak” that is described refers to us being on the downward slide of the amount of oil the planet has to give us, that we have already reached the peak amount it will yield.  The problem is that as oil in the ground is becoming harder to find and process, it costs more to produce.  This drives the price up, as the extra costs will be passed on to the consumer.  We are seeing this already in this country, as gas prices seemingly rise at the slightest wisp of the wind blowing.    Think about it.  If oil weren’t becoming harder to find, would we have to be investing money into fracking?  The answer is no.  We have picked all (or a large amount) of the low-hanging fruit already, and that’s why we have had to find other means of oil production.  Why else would we be setting up oil wells which can drill over 15,000 feet down?

I found the movie to be a fascinating take on the future of life in America.  I used to think it was a bunch of liberal propaganda that these things could happen (and a lot of it still is–thanks for that, Al), but even now, times are only just beginning to get tough.  Many believe (as I did) that the gas price hikes of the summer of 2008 were price gouging and caused by those dastardly speculators, when in truth the speculators actually stemmed the bleeding, so to speak.  The fact is that if the oil market was truly free, price fluctuations would have been far more violent than they were.  It’s dry reading, but if you can digest it, US News and World Report explained it here.

No one knows the stats accurately on how much of that good-old-earl is left in the ground, but the truth is that oil is becoming harder to find, and we don’t produce enough of it to support ourselves, let alone anyone else.  Chalk it up to one more area the US is not competitive in, and it’s easy to see why we are falling as the world’s top economy.  China and India have finally found their stride, and soon their populations (which are three and four times that of ours) will bring demand far higher than our own in the next fifty years.  Guess what that means–yep, dwindling supply and rising demand will make the $7.00 a gallon that the EU is used to look like a bargain.

Back to the idea of the end of suburbia.  Frankly, this idea should satisfy conservatives and liberals alike, though extremists on both ends of the spectrum will trumpet different aspects.  For the far-lefties, the stoppage of urban sprawl will finally make them feel warm and fuzzy, because in a roundabout way it accomplishes what their favorite wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing has “inconveniently” spouted about how our way of life is hurting the planet.  For the far-righties, it will come down to learning the things we would have had to learn in the event of a revolution, without having had to go through one.  We’d have to learn how to grow food, how to field prep a deer, etc.  We’d have to live much more closely to work, we’d have to get to know our neighbors once more, and actually work together to accomplish the goals of our village (since no one else will).  Whether we like it or not, once oil gets to a level where we can no longer afford to have its cost attached to every product we buy, simple things like growing your own lettuce will be more economical than paying out the nose for it at a grocery store.

Some of you may disagree with my stance on this movie, but I found it to be an interesting (and very possible) outcome of the realigning of our society once the oil runs out.

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