Monday, February 18, 2013

Things you might see on a jet (not counting gremlins on the wing)

citation xEveryone is familiar with the basic parts of an airplane. Wings, tail and fuselage are easily recognizable as are propellers and jet engines. A modern jet aircraft contains many other parts that are not so well known.


flapsFlaps are a moveable section on the rear of the wing that are used for both takeoff and landing. They droop down to change the shape of the wing. This allows the airplane to fly slower without approaching its stall speed. Flaps can be found on many small general aviation aircraft as well as the largest transport airplanes.

flaps2Underside of the flaps showing the runners which guide them into place. Flaps can be moved to several different positions. Landings are usually made with full flaps and takeoffs are made with a partial flap setting.


slatsSlats are similar to flaps, but are found on the leading edge of the wing. They are typically found only on larger high performance jet aircraft. Like flaps, slats allow the airplane to fly slower without stalling. They are used primarily for takeoff and landing and are retracted during cruise flight.

slats3Forward view of the slats. The slats run along the leading edge of the wing and are normally deployed for takeoff and landing. The inboard section of the wing is not movable.

slats2This is a view of the underside of the deployed slat. The slat can be heated with air from the engines to prevent ice buildup. This is accomplished through the duct in the foreground.


wingletWinglets are curved up devices on the wingtips of many new jet aircraft. They reduce drag by helping to reduce the turbulent air left as the wing generates lift. Winglets also have the effect of adding length to the wing without requiring additional strengthening. This additional lift translates into fuel savings and longer flight ranges.

Static wicks

wicksStatic wicks are protruding wire-like devices that stick out from the trailing edge of the wing. They help to dissipate the static electricity that builds up on an airplane as it flies. The wicks also help to protect the airplane from the electricity of a lightning strike.

Spoilers and speed brakes

spoilerSpoilers and speed brakes are rectangular plates on the upper surface of the wing. As their name suggests, they spoil the lift being produced by the wing. Spoilers are used to slow the airplane quickly and can be deployed both in the air and on the ground.

Pitot tubes

2013-02-03 12.40.47A pitot tube provides the airplane’s instruments with information that allows the plane’s airspeed to be calculated. The tube takes a sample of the ram air pressure and compares it to the static pressure of undisturbed air. The difference is the plane’s speed through the air.

Pitot tubes can be mounted on the fuselage or the wing, but on most jet aircraft they are mounted on the nose section of the fuselage. Most jets have three pitot tubes, one for each air data system (one for each pilot plus a standby).

AOA and Temperature probes

angle of attackOther probes on the airplane include sensors for angle of attack and temperature. The upper sensor is the angle of attack probe, which determines the difference between the where the wing is pointed and the air moving over the wing. This is important because exceeding the critical angle of attack causes the wing to stall or stop producing lift.

Temperature probes are used to determine the outside air temperature. Temperature is used by the air data computers to determine speeds and performance. It also helps the pilots to determine when it is necessary to activate the airplane’s anti-ice systems.


Originally published on

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Comparing Obama and Bush on debt and spending

A common liberal answer to conservative complaints about the size of government and the federal debt is that George W. Bush also grew government and ran deficits. Rather than taking these claims at face value, conservatives should present liberals with counterarguments that delve deeper into the issues at hand.

First, examine the details of the growth of government under George W. Bush. According to the Office of Personnel Management, in 2000 there were 4,129,000 federal workers. By 2008, there were 4,206,000 federal workers, a total increase of 77,000 employees. Executive branch employees increased by 53,000 and military personnel increased by 24,000.

Much of this increase in the federal workforce is explained by the fact that the nation went to war on George W. Bush’s watch. Bipartisan votes in congress authorized the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001. The increase in military personnel was needed to fight these wars.

The jump in executive branch employees is also a result of the wars against terrorists. The increase is almost totally accounted for by the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. According to CNN, the Transportation Security Administration, which is part of DHS, employs approximately 60,000 federal workers. The TSA employs screeners, air marshals, inspectors, explosives detection teams, and, of course, bureaucrats.

For Obama’s part, federal employment also increased from 2008 through 2011, the last year for which statistics were available. In 2011, there were 4,403,000 federal workers, an increase of 197,000 from 2008. The 2011 total was slightly lower than 2010, due to the inclusion of temporary census workers in 2010. Under Obama, executive branch employees increased by 64,000 and uniformed military personnel increased by 133,000.

With respect to spending, President Bush inherited a surplus according to historical data from the White House Office of Management and Budget. There was a federal surplus of $128 billion in 2001. The recession and the new war combined to create a $158 billion deficit in 2002 as revenues fell and spending increased.

During the Bush Administration, total outlays increased every year from $1.8 trillion in 2001 to $2.9 trillion in 2008. The average deficit during the Bush years was $250 billion. As a percentage of GDP, the average deficit was two percent. President Bush’s largest deficit was $458 billion in 2008 when the financial crisis led to the creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and several corporate bailouts.

During President Obama’s first term, federal outlays increased from $3.5 trillion in 2009 to $3.6 trillion in 2011. The estimated total outlays for 2012 are estimated to be $3.8 trillion. In Obama’s first year, the deficit increased by almost a trillion dollars from 2008. Obama has not had a single year in which the deficit was less than a trillion dollars. Obama’s average deficit was $1.3 trillion during his first three years. This translates into an average deficit that is 9.2 percent of GDP.

Under President Obama, spending dramatically increased at the same time that tax revenues dropped sharply due to the Great Recession. By 2012, revenues were almost recovered to pre-2008 levels, but spending had risen even faster. Even three years in to the recovery, deficit levels remain above eight percent of GDP.

Some liberals might prefer to use 2009 numbers rather than 2008, but that would let Obama escape responsibility for the stimulus spending that he initiated. In reality, President Obama’s “emergency” stimulus spending never went away and the increased spending levels have now become permanent.

It is true that Bush left office in 2009, but he served less than a month. President Bush submitted the proposed budget for the 2009 fiscal year to Congress, but it was President Obama who signed it into law. In either case, the average deficit under Obama is more than four times greater than that of President Bush.

Both presidents increased the national debt according to statistical data from the U.S. Treasury. On January 20, 2001 when President Bush took office, the total national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. Eight years later on January 20, 2009 the debt had risen to $10.6 trillion.

During President Obama’s first term the debt increased to $16.4 trillion on January 20, 2013. This means that under Obama, the debt had increased by $5.8 trillion in four years as opposed to President Bush’s increase of $4.9 trillion over eight years.

In the final analysis, both presidents grew government and spent and borrowed far too much. President Obama’s spending and borrowing is in a league by itself, however. Obama is the only president in U.S. history to preside over trillion dollar deficits and one has occurred each year of his presidency.

The only other period in American history in which spending levels matched those under Obama was when the country mobilized to fight the Axis during World War II. In the 1940s, government spending decreased at the end of the war. So far President Obama has shown no signs of ever slowing his spending.

Originally published on

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gun shortage shows future of Obamacare

The news that the threat of new restrictions on the Second Amendment has spurred a sharp increase in the number of Americans seeking to buy guns should not come as a surprise to people who consider the incentives created by the actions of government. In many ways, the run on guns reported last week by Examiner can shed light on what can be expected as the reforms of the Affordable Care Act go into effect.

In economic terms, the run on guns is the result of an artificial increase in demand. This is driven by the threat of interrupting the supply of guns, particularly assault weapons like the AR-15. People who think that they might want to own an assault rifle are buying one now, while they are still legal, rather than waiting.

The effect of this increased demand is two-fold. Some retailers, like the pawn shop in Cartersville, increase the price of their AR-15s to react to the increased demand. As the price of the guns increased, more and more buyers found themselves priced out of the market. Eventually the price and level of demand would find equilibrium, where the number of guns and the number of buyers would be equal.

Other stores, like Atlanta’s Bass Pro Shop and the Barnes Store in Carrollton, that did not increase their prices to reflect the new levels of demand, found that their stock of the guns was quickly depleted, leading to a shortage. The price that they charged was based on the old, lower level of demand so there were too many buyers for the supply of guns.

The lessons on supply and demand learned from the increased demand for guns apply directly to the changes that are forthcoming in the market for healthcare. When the Affordable Care Act goes into full effect next year, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that there will be an additional 14 million Americans who become covered by health insurance. This represents a massive increase in the demand for health care services. This will be a permanent increase in demand rather than a temporary one as with the gun buyers.

The assumption made by the architects of the Affordable Care Act was that most of America’s uninsured were young people who chose not to purchase insurance because they were healthy. It was believed that these young people would purchase health insurance policies to comply with the law, but then not use them. In effect, the young and healthy were being forced to purchase insurance to subsidize the older and sicker people.

The assumption that new insureds will not use their insurance is probably not a good one. The Kaiser Foundation estimates that by 2016 the average annual premium for an individual health insurance policy would be approximately $5,000. For a family, the average premium would be $12,500. The national average salary is $42,979 according to the Social Security Administration. This means that 11 percent of the average individual’s salary will go to pay for health insurance. If the worker is the single breadwinner supporting a family, health insurance costs will eat up nearly 30 percent of his income. (In some cases, these insurance premiums will be paid in part by government subsidies. The Kaiser Foundation offers a calculator to estimate premiums and subsidies here.) It seems likely that if a person is forced to spend thousands of dollars each year for insurance, they will use it as much as possible. They will avail themselves of the preventive care services in their plans and go to the doctor for each sniffle, cough, sneeze and stubbed toe. This will translate into almost immediate shortage of doctors.

The dramatic increase in demand for health care services will disturb the equilibrium in the market. In a free market, the increase in demand would lead to an increase in prices. In the real world, health care is not a free market. Prices are already somewhat controlled by the government, through reimbursements for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and by insurance companies with negotiated rates.

There are several possible responses to the increased demand. The most obvious would be to increase the number of doctors to match the new demand. The problem is that doctors take years to train. Medical school takes four years after obtaining an undergraduate degree. After medical school, new doctors do a one year internship, followed by four to six years of residency, depending on their area of specialization. Essentially, it takes a decade to fully train a doctor, not counting the undergraduate degree. Even if we start training multitudes of new doctors now, they will not fully enter the system for another ten years. To cut the training time short would sacrifice the quality of the education and the depth of experience.

A second possibility would be to allow doctors to raise their prices. As with the AR-15s in the pawn shop, when prices rise, more buyers find that they don’t really need that product after all and demand falls. To some extent, insurance companies are trying to control the cost of health care by using increased cost sharing already. Many health policies are moving away from flat copayments to a model where the insured pays a percentage of the cost of their care. In theory, this means that the insured will shop for better prices and use less care. In reality, few people know how much their care will cost until they have already received it.

The problem with letting prices increase is that one of the stated goals of the Affordable Care Act was to reduce the cost of health care (or to at least slow its rate of increase). Higher prices are certain to be unpopular with voters as well as politicians. Prices are already starting to rise because of new coverage mandates and community rating according to a study by the American Academy of Actuaries detailed in Forbes.

The other alternative is for the government to impose price controls. The effect of price controls can be seen in the gun retailers who maintained the price of their AR-15s below the actual market rate. High demand means that there are not enough guns, or health care, to go around. Doctors will not accept new patients. Existing patients may not be able to get an appointment when they need one. Waiting rooms will overflow and wait times will be long. Patients who are truly sick might not be able to see a doctor when they really need one.

Think this can’t happen? It already has.

Because government reimbursement rates for Medicare patients are below market rates, there is already a shortage of doctors for Medicare patients. The Atlanta Journal reported last year that many Georgia retirees are unable to find a doctor who will accept Medicare. The problem is not limited to Georgia, however. According to the New York Times, many doctors around the country no longer accept Medicare. The Times notes that there are already thousands fewer doctors than needed and that the problem will be compounded by the new health law and retiring Baby Boomers.

Massachusetts, where Romneycare served as the prototype for Obamacare, is also suffering a severe shortage of many types of doctors. The Associated Press reports that seven of 18 medical specialties were in critical or severe shortages in 2012. These include shortages of basic specialties such as family medicine, internal medicine and general surgery. Predictably, this means that patients in Massachusetts have long wait times. According to, only half of Massachusetts primary care physicians are accepting new patients. Once a patient finally locates a doctor who will see them, the average wait is 45 days for an appointment. In spite of the subsidies in place under the law, half of the respondents still say that affordability is still the most important health care issue.

The problems with government controlled health care are not limited to Medicare and Romneycare. As Examiner reported last year, shortages of health care are common in countries where health care is run by the government. In Canada, the Montreal Gazette reported in 2012 that wait times for cervical, breast and ovarian cancer surgery is three times longer than government bench marks. This is a death sentence for many cancer patients. In England, the Independent reported in 2011 that the National Health Service is openly rationing many types of health care. In 2008, the Daily Mail described how patients were left in ambulances for up to five hours so that hospitals could meet government targets for timely care. One of the most horrifying examples of government health care run amok comes from the Netherlands where CNN reported in 2004 that health officials were working with doctors to create guidelines to kill people with “no free will” including children, the mentally retarded and people in comas. In 2012, Wesley Smith, senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, estimated in the Daily Caller that as many as six percent of Dutch deaths involving end of life career involved doctors intentionally killing their patients.

Around the world, government control of health care costs lives when people are unable to get the medical care that they need in a timely manner. It seems that no government and no commodity, whether it is health care or guns, is immune to the economic laws of supply and demand.

Originally published on Examiner:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Armed pilots provide roadmap for securing schools

When, in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre called for armed security guards in schools, he faced widespread criticism from liberals who believe that fewer guns, not more, are the answer to the problem of mass killings. On the other side of the political spectrum, some conservatives argued that the cost of placing police officers in every school across the nation was too costly for a federal government that is already running trillion dollar deficits each year.

The concept of armed guards at schools was proven on Jan. 31, 2013 when an armed officer stopped a shooting at Price Middle School in Atlanta. A student had smuggled a gun past metal detectors and opened fire in the courtyard of the school, wounding a 14-year-old student in the neck before the officer was able to get the gun away from him according to CBS News.

Even though armed guards are effective, they are also prohibitively expensive for many school districts. According to Craig Steckler, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the average salary of a police officer is $55,000. There are 98,817 public schools in the United States. According to the Department of Education, about 25 percent of these already have armed security officers on campus at least once per week. The cost for providing officers for the remaining 74,113 schools would be more than $4 trillion. In spite of the recent high profile school shootings, fewer than two percent of all youth homicides occur at or on the way to school.

The school protection dilemma is analogous to the problem of protecting airline flights in the wake of the September 11 attacks. One proposal was to put Federal Air Marshals on all flights, but with tens of thousands of airline flights each day the plan was prohibitively expensive. Training enough air marshals to guard these flights would also have taken years.

An alternative solution was to create the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. This program took volunteer airline pilots and deputized them as federal agents to protect their airplanes. The volunteers were issued pistols and then trained to use them effectively. The volunteers received no federal salary or extra pay from their airlines. Instead they use vacation time to travel at their own expense to the federal training center where FFDO training is conducted. They even paid for the training themselves.

The number of FFDOs is secret, but since the program’s inception in 2003, there have been only two public incidents involving FFDOs who caused safety issues with their guns. In 2011, NBC News reported that a passenger mistakenly picked up a bag containing a JetBlue pilot’s gun. More seriously, in 2008, a US Airways pilot accidentally fired his gun in flight according to Reuters. The aircraft landed safely and no one was injured.

The FFDO program has been spectacularly successful in terms of safety, cost and fulfilling the mission of protecting airline flights. Federal Air Marshals, full time agents, are used as well, but are deployed on flights deemed to be at high risk for attack.

A similar approach could be used in schools to allow volunteer teachers and school employees to become “Federal Classroom Officers.” As with FFDOs, the teachers would be federal officers and would be exempt from local gun ordinances that prohibit gun ownership. As with other law enforcement officers, they would also be allowed to carry their guns in the “gun free” school zones.

Teachers would not be forced to carry a weapon. The program would be for volunteers only. Teachers who do not like guns would be free to choose to remain defenseless. Those who prefer to be able to defend themselves and their students would be issued a weapon and trained to use it safely. They would be required to demonstrate competency with their gun at regular intervals to maintain proficiency.

Teachers who choose not to take part in the program would still benefit from it. First, they would be the direct recipient of protection from the Federal Classroom Officers in the event of a school shooting or terrorist attack. Second, the mere presence of Federal Classroom Officers might well deter many prospective murderers from attacking the school. In the past, many mass murders have taken in place in areas that were deemed to be “gun free.”

There is no doubt that many will oppose the idea of bringing guns into schools. Many of the same arguments that will arise were presented against the idea of arming pilots 10 years ago and have been refuted by the success of the FFDO program.

In reality, guns are already present in our schools. Thousands of schools are already patrolled by armed officers. Federal Classroom Officers would have the same training in firearms that these school security officers receive. All too often others, people like Adam Lanza, bring other guns to school when police officers are not present. In the end, that is why teachers should be given the option to arm themselves. There is no foolproof way to keep bad guys with guns out schools, but we can give our teachers and students a fighting chance.


Originally published on Examiner:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fear of ban prompts run on AR-15s

President Obama’s proposed gun ban has not yet become law, but it has already made some guns almost impossible to buy. The fear that “assault rifles” may soon be banned once again has led many gun owners to snap up guns that may be on the government’s list. In particular, AR-15s, the model of rifle used in the Sandy Hook and Aurora, Co. mass murders, have been flying off gun store shelves.

It is extremely difficult to find a gun store that has AR-15s in stock. Wal-Mart’s website lists several different models of AR-15, but notes that the guns are only available in its stores. A search of stores in the Atlanta area and elsewhere reveals that the guns are out of stock everywhere. Even models of the gun that are chambered in .22 Long Rifle, a smaller and less powerful cartridge than the normal .223, are sold out.

The Bass Pro Shop in Atlanta and the Barnes Store in Carrollton, Ga. report that they cannot keep AR-15s in stock. Both stores say that they have the guns on order, but have no idea when or if they will be received.

Elsewhere the story is the same. At the Gander Mountain store in Wichita, Ks., clerks say that AR-15s sell out as soon as they are received. The store recently received a shipment of the guns, which retail for about $750 depending on the model, and sold them all in about 10 minutes. “The first 10 people that came in and looked at them bought them,” said one clerk who requested his name be withheld.

One store that did have AR-15s in stock was the Elite Pawn shop in Cartersville, Ga. The store had three of the guns to sell, but was charging a premium. The guns, all different models, ranged in price from $1,700 to $1,900, a thousand dollars higher than retail. Unlike the local stores, employees at chains like Bass Pro and Gander Mountain say that they have not increased prices as demand for the guns has increased.

Assault weapons were banned during the Clinton Administration in 1994. The ban lasted through 2004. As John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” wrote in the Los Angeles Times, the ban was a failure. According to Lott, “there is not a single published academic study showing that these bans have reduced any type of violent crime.” He also noted that despite warnings that crime would increase after the ban expired, the crime rate actually declined. According to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey detailed in USA Today, the decline in crime continued until 2011.

According to FBI Violent Crime statistics for 2011, there were a total of 12,664 murders in the U.S. Rifles of all types were used in only 206 of these murders, about 1.6 percent of the total. Because “assault weapon” is a political term, there are no separate statistics for these weapons.

Reports from around the country indicate that gun sales are booming, a trend that began even before the Sandy Hook massacre according to MSN. Reuters reports that the FBI’s National Instant Background Check System has had nine of its top 10 days for firearms checks since the Sandy Hook murders on Dec. 14. The trend is likely to continue either until a ban is in place or the Obama Administration relents in its efforts to impose one.

Originally published on Examiner: