April, 2012

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Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

After more than eight hours of flight, I found myself at Fort Lauderdale Executive airport, with a nice line guy handing me a cold bottle of water. Another delivered my rental car right to the proper side of the plane with the air conditioner already running, as is the Florida tradition.

Mostly, the trip was uneventful. But the third leg underscored for me what a good metaphor private aviation is for life. After stopping in Brunswick, Georgia to buy gas, I checked the local weather between there and our destination, only to find the area peppered with heavy rain and thunderstorms. A full-blown thunderstorm will chew up a small plane and spit it out in parts; surviving such an encounter is unusual. One option was to spend the night in Brunswick and depart early the next morning. But stepping back, I realized that I was in a situation similar to the one every new pilot is in when he starts flying. Take too many risks and you die. But take no risks at all, and you’ll spend your flying life never straying far from your home airport. So the problem becomes one not of risk minimization, but rather risk optimization. Where’s the sweet spot in the curve where you’re pushing new horizons but are still safe?

Its really no different from what we do with the rest of our lives. Personally, I tend to err on the side of caution. And I’m probably poorer for it, not so much financially (though maybe that, too), but in terms of life experience.

In the airplane, I’m fortunately equipped with some equipment that’s able to view weather radar, but with an image that’s not quite current. I’m also equipped with a device that can detect lightning strikes, but does nothing to detect dangerous storm system that aren’t yet at the lightning-making stage. During the trip, I was talking to an air traffic controller whose job was making sure that planes didn’t collide, but who was also able to provided some limited information about weather . She could help me avoid the storm cells, but she had her own agenda that came first.

So essentially, I was integrating my own observations with those of others, and with the needs of others. The penalty for doing badly was potentially very uncomfortable. It might have been easier to wait out the storm in Brunswick. But my though was that the problem was a manageable one, even if it ended with a stop somewhere in the middle, or a turn back to Brunswick.

We made it to Fort Lauderdale with a plane well washed by the rain but none the worse for wear. And I’m an incrementally more experienced pilot, with a incrementally better understanding of my own strengths and limitations. And that feels good.

I only wish I was better at taking the lesson back to real life.

Eclipsing a tradition

Monday, April 16th, 2012

This one’s been in the works for a while. Five years, at least. Over that time, it appears I’ve created something of a tradition. Around November, I decide that it would be a Great Idea to fly my own plane down to the Bahamas. This is not a particularly challenging flight aeronautically; basically you fly to Fort Lauderdale and make a left. It only becomes non-trivial when things like money and time become factors. In other words, in the Real World.

So at the appointed time, usually a bit before Thanksgiving, I continue the tradition by sending $10 off for the appropriate charts, after which I start drawing lines, looking at hotel rates, and adding up numbers. And then, after a while, I look at my bank account and my work schedule, and I quietly fold the chart up and put it on the shelf.

But last year, I decided to do something different. I set up an automatic monthly transfer to an unused bank account, and three months before the target date, I started informing my clients as to when I’d be out of town. So in principal, this should actually work. Two weeks, 2500 miles, two countries, six cities, ten airports, and at least one mouse (we’re stopping at Disney World on the way back). Doubtlessly there will be some anomalies along the way, but that’s okay – I’ve built a few extra days into the Master Plan.

More as it unfolds.

Larry Allen’s World?

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Just what the world needs. Another blog, to ease the current severe shortage.

So what’s the point of this, really? To some degree, it’s to reduce the amount of ‘take a look at this’ email I send to friends and acquaintances. But there’s an ulterior motive. I’ve recently been afflicted with the need to write fiction. This is not something that just showed up out of the blue. I’ve been at risk for many years. Just ask my mother. More recently, a few years ago I was diagnosed (by a career adviser) as ‘needing an audience.’ So part of this exercise is to see if I can generate one.

If you bother to check back in (or subscribe to the RSS feed), what you’ll be seeing is a combination of the following:

New technological events, breakthroughs, achievements, or gadgets that I find interesting.

Portions of fiction works in progress. I’ll be above-board here; my goal is the same as the drug dealer who gives you the first one for free – I want you to come back for more. If you want to see the entire work, you’ll need to buy the magazine or book </wishful_thinking> If you’re interested in becoming a beta reader and seeing entire works, email me and we’ll talk about it.

Links to images or videos that interested me enough to want to share them.

Sharing of personal experiences that I think are worthy of sharing, sometimes with photos. Probably most of these will have to do with airplanes. I could wax poetic about aviation for quite a while, and I probably will, but I’ll save that for another post, at another time.

One thing I won’t touch on here is politics. Unfortunately, there are too many otherwise intelligent people out there who don’t agree with each and every one of my points of view, so exploring this realm would probably just upset all parties involved. Besides, its too important a topic to relegate to a few blog articles. Perhaps in another blog, at another time, in another place.

For now, commenting is turned off. From what I’ve seen, successfully managing the comments on a blog can be a daunting undertaking. But the jury is still out on this.

So that’s it for now. It will be interesting to look back a year from now, or two, or five and see where this has gone.