Robots and industry

Will robots rescue, or threaten, the airline industry?

Yesterday it was reported that US airlines were suffering a “staggering pilot shortage”.

Passenger and cargo airlines around the world are expected to buy 41,000 new airliners between 2017 and 2036. And they will need 637,000 new pilots to fly them, according to a forecast from Boeing released this week. That staggering figure is matched only by how many will leave the profession in the next decade — particularly in the U.S.

Retirements at U.S. airlines will start to rise precipitously starting in 2021 as the current crop of pilots turns 65, the mandated age of retirement. More than 42% of active U.S. airline pilots at the biggest carriers will retire over the next 10 years, about 22,000, according to a recent report by Cowen & Company.

In the next 20 years, airlines in North America are going to need 117,000 new pilots, Boeing estimates. And the farm team for training and recruitment in the U.S. — the military and regional carriers — are already struggling to find and keep aviators.

The coming retirements exceed the active U.S. regional airline pilots corps, which stands around 19,000.

Without enough pilots, the amount airlines can fly will be capped. And an acute shortage may wreak havoc on air travel, grounding planes and reducing air service to some cities if routes are cut or curtailed.

It’s already happening.

Last month, Horizon Air, the regional arm of Alaska Airlines, said it was canceling 6% of its schedule — more than 300 flights — from August to September because it doesn’t have the pilots. And Republic Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2016 in part because it was “grounding aircraft due to a lack of pilot resources”.

There’s more at the link.

This pilot shortage has been developing for several years, and airlines and the military have been devoting a lot of time and attention to dealing with it. Perhaps the best-known technological approach is DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS). The program “envisions a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would promote the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft, enabling operation with reduced onboard crew”. An early iteration was flight-tested last year.

Yesterday, a turboprop plane took off from a small airport in Virginia that from the outside, looked fairly unremarkable.

But inside the cockpit, in the right seat, a robot with spindly metal tubes and rods for arms and legs and a claw hand grasping the throttle, was doing the flying.



The demonstration was part of a government and industry collaboration that is attempting to replace the second human pilot in two-person flight crews with robot co-pilots that never tire, get bored, feel stressed out or become distracted.

. . .

Sophisticated computers flying planes aren’t new.

But the ALIAS robot goes steps further.

For example, an array of cameras allows the robot to see all the cockpit instruments and read the gauges.

It can recognise whether switches are in the on or off position, and can flip them to the desired position.

And it learns not only from its experience flying the plane, but also from the entire history of flight in that type of plane.

The robot ‘can do everything a human can do’ except look out the window, Langford said.

But give the programme time and maybe the robot can be adapted to do that too, he said.

The programme’s leaders even envision a day when planes and helicopters, large and small, will fly people and cargo without any human pilot on board.

The programme, known as Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and run by Aurora Flight Sciences, a private contractor.

. . .

Elements of the ALIAS technology could be adopted within the next five years, officials said, much the way automakers are gradually adding automated safety features that are the building blocks of self-driving technology to cars today.

Again, more at the link.

Here’s a video clip of the ALIAS system being demonstrated on a helicopter and a light aircraft. I suggest watching it in full-screen mode, to see the smaller inset videos to best advantage.



There’s even a possibility that aircraft might fly without co-pilots at all. Instead, multiple aircraft might have a single pilot, with all of them being assisted by ALIAS-type systems in case of emergency, directed by a controller on the ground.

NASA is exploring a related possibility: moving the co-pilot out of the cockpit on commercial flights, and instead using a single remote operator to serve as co-pilot for multiple aircraft.

In this scenario, a ground controller might operate as a dispatcher managing a dozen or more flights simultaneously. It would be possible for the ground controller to “beam” into individual planes when needed and to land a plane remotely in the event that the pilot became incapacitated — or worse.

. . .

The potential savings from the move to more autonomous aircraft and air traffic control systems is enormous.

In 2007, a research report for NASA estimated that the labor costs related to the co-pilot position alone in the world’s passenger aircraft amounted to billions of dollars annually.

Automating that job may save money.

More at the link.

Here’s another video, showing the ALIAS hardware and software controlling a Boeing 737-800NG simulator. It’s a very short step from this, to putting it aboard a real airliner (replacing the co-pilot’s seat) and taking it flying.



Of course, this automation technology might also pose a real threat to airline operations as they’re currently structured, because it can be applied to other modes of transport as well. Karl Denninger hypothesizes:

Prediction: Within 10 years every single airline will be reduced to carriers that operate routes consisting entirely of flights of more than 1,000 miles, most over water.


Because self-driving cars.

. . .

Look folks, most cars today can be retrofitted … Show me a $500 Lidar array that can do the job and suddenly that $2,500 retrofit becomes not only possible it’s easy and it’s an option roughly equivalent in cost to a leather seating package on new vehicles. At that point the “take rate” will be 90%.

Today I can drive from my home to Atlanta in about 5 hours. All-in, including “mandatory” 1 hour pre-take-off airport arrival requirements it takes me almost 4 hours assuming no weather or schedule delays to fly that same route … Actual operating cost of said autonomous vehicle is materially cheaper than the flight is and I can take a nearly-unlimited amount of cargo with me at no additional cost … The day I can get into the car at midnight in the back where I have equipped half the fold-down rear seat and trunk into a comfortable place to sleep, push the button, go to sleep and wake up at 6:00 AM (1 hour time zone shift) in Atlanta in time for two espressos before a business meeting Delta is bankrupt.

. . .

Folks, there is no business model for the airlines as they exist today once this becomes rationally expensive … Not only is this more-convenient and “on demand” rather than on someone else’s schedule nobody gets bumped, nobody gets groped, there’s no “extra fee and insult” garbage the airline industry has turned into a maze of and it’s cheaper on top of it.

The airlines have cut their own throats, in short, and technology is about to kill them all, with the exception of 3,000 mile flights and over-water segments where you simply can’t do it any other reasonable way. That’s a fraction of their current capacity and operating schedule and I’m going to enjoy watching them all burn in bankruptcy court.

More at the link.

I must admit, the thought of being able to avoid almost all airline travel is a very welcome one. I long ago grew sick and tired of airlines handling me as if I was a cow on the way to the slaughterhouse, cramming me into an aluminum tube with minimal space or facilities (not to mention the TSA treating me with utter disrespect in the process!). I hope Mr. Denninger is right.

Hat tip to

Its not only the airline industry that is working in this area.

The railroads have been working at it for years under the guise of Positive Train Control. Whenever an accident occurs, the media and politicians immediately screech for PTC.  Using government subsidies to research and develope the system that may reduce the accident that so far are the result of having one person on the engine. Most of the wrecks on the tube are either Metro (or equilivant) train with operators only on the engine or Amtrak. What is the common factor…one person operators.

While accidents will always happen, using the call for PTC to develope a system that leads to one major change…crew reduction to one member. Cost saving and reduction of workforce while having a ready excuse for incidents. PTC is a control and a restriction while reducing personnel costs. The crew will still be blamed for any occurrences, be that one man or two.

The development costs and research time along with the government monies could be much better spent on a work/rest program, call windows, scheduled days off, fatigue reduction programs that would be much more effective in incident reduction.

Spoken as a Locomotive Engineer with over twenty years service.

Disney day 7, going home

Finally going home.

What made me think I could keep up with a ten year old at Disney? My back hurts, knees, ankles. I have more moleskin on my feet than skin on my feet. But Mercy had a great time. And I learned a few things along the way;

When the weather forecast in Florida calls for rain…it means it.

Mercy was five the first time we came here and she remembers much of it but why would anybody bring an infant or toddler to Disney unless they were working on frustration management.

The bad thing about the Avatar rides, three hours waiting for a five minute ride. Watch it on YouTube with headphones and bounce in your chair.

The good thing about the Avata rides, the other lines at Animal Kingdom are a lot shorter.

I had forgotten the various smells of international travel…ers.

Disney runs like a well oiled machine, the buses, meals, characters, everything. I wish my company would come down and study the Disney model.

Nothing here is free, nothing here is cheap. Accept it and deal with it.

Seventeen hour drive home. I’m gonna do it in two days. We have a meeting with the adoption lawyer on Tuesday afternoon about how to handle our foster boys case. DCS has decided to terminate the parental rights and he is going. Into “the system” unless we keep him. How we are going to do that is still to be determined. Foster parenting a child in the adoption pool, guardianship, adoption are all on the table but he is not high on the list for open adoption. Ten years old, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Chiari Malformation, and other various developmental issues. But we will see.

some pics;

All in all, it was great. But time to go home and get to work. Mamasita has been carrying it all for too long.


Disney day 1

got here in the afternoon so no parks today. Shopping and eating.

weather was great until about 5:00 then it started raining buckets

The lovely wife and I have officially been apart for the longest time since I shook her hand and asked if she was single. I don’t know how people take separate vacations, I don’t like this at all.

Contemporary Resort is awesome. Next time if we all four come, this is the place.

phrase of the day;

“get an umbrella Dad, lets go for it”

Road trip day 2

I have discovered that all the people on the highways, regardless of age, sex, vehicle or state they’re driving in. All believe themselves to be better than average drivers.

Tennessee is great for road trips. The highways are clean and in great shape, the people nice can be, the stretch of 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga would be awesome     on a bike.

Georgia…not so much.

Mercy is doing great and has found that Waffle House is good but can’t compare to IHOP. She still won’t touch grits.

every wreck we have seen, and their have been a few, are from rear endings.

I love having reactive cruise control for road trips.

Mercy is taking pics and sending them to Mama, FaceTime every night.

Phrase of the day;

“Does every exit have Waffle House?”

Road trip

road trip to Disneyworld!!

just Mercy and me (Mercysdad) on this trip. The lovely and long suffering wife volunteered to stay home for this one. New foster son has some appointments and stuff going on he can’t miss.

Just north of Chattanooga Tennessee. Mercy is doing great taking a lot of pics with my phone.

Mercy nesting.

phrase of the day;

“I love Lou-eesy-ville”


Please, tell me he didn’t say that

I can’t decide if this is more fake news or if they just can’t take a joke. But I can’t believe Pres Trump actually thinks this.

maybe Pres Trump is just enjoying pulling on the media’s chain.

Per Redstate

On Air Force One, Trump Makes His Vision For The Border Wall Transparent

Yeah. This takes a special way of thinking.

While en route to France and a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening, President Trump sat with the press pool for around an hour and just schmoozed about policy.

We’re going to assume since he was on Air Force One, and not behind a podium, that this was all unscripted and our president was speaking off-the-cuff. That’s important to note, so you fully grasp that this is the man in control of our nation and its citizens’ well-being.

This is the glorious unveiling of the move from a free republic to a Kakistocracy.

On the subject of the Great Wall of Trump, the president, in full free-form, suggested that the wall would have to be transparent, or at least have portals to see through.

Said Trump:

“One of the things with the wall is, you need transparency,” Trump said. “You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through the wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.”

Ok. Sure. A wall with windows, right?

We’ve heard stranger ideas. So what is it we need to see on the other side? Why do we care, as long as it stays on the other side of the border?

He had more.

“As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you in the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” Trump said. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.”


Let’s not forget that the proposed height of this amazing wall is to be around 30 feet. Even if it was just half that height, for someone to propel a 60 pound sack of anything over a 15 foot wall would require somebody of mind-boggling strength.

Apparently, President Trump has put some thought into it. Not enough thought to think, “fence,” but some thought.

When reporters release these tales, they never include what their reactions were. THAT is what I’m really interested in hearing about!

I’m pretty sure my reaction would have gotten me kicked off the plane, possibly before it even landed.

A priest explains the five tenets of feel good heresy

It is the message preached from so very many pulpits. It is the theological underpinning of universalism. It operates on five beliefs:

1) There is a God who created and ordered the earth and watches over human life on eartth.

Okay, we can agree that God exists and created the earth. We believe He watches over us. This jibes with our faith.

2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.

Hear that? That would be the train coming off the rails, sliding down an embankment into a dry creek bed, and exploding!

First off, nowhere in the Christian Scriptures are we told to be nice. We are told be to be humble, merciful, compassionate, bold, courageous, holy, strong, loving, and whole host of other things. But never merely nice. And let’s be honest, nice is a really low bar.

MTD is a plea to be inoffensive. It is why all religions can be the same. The goal isn’t holiness, it’s being nice. It is believing in nothing so strongly that one triggers no one. It is theological milquetoast.

Our Catholic faith calls for us to be virtuous, strong, courageous, and so willing to love as God loves that we will lay down our lives, embrace sacrifice and suffering, and be heroic. Our Catholic faith produces knights and ladies, not snowflakes and SJWs.

3) The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself.

Hello, Narcissus! Life is about me being happy, huh?

It is enslavement to the self. It is a life where one pushes oneself not for the good of others, but to suit one’s own goals. Seriously? It is isn’t like there isn’t a long, terrible, and destructive track record that this sentiment produces. MTD requires no nobility of soul, no heroism of character, no selflessness.

It isn’t that Catholicism wants you to feel bad about yourself. This is a common retort from the MTD types. Catholicism does expect you to grow in virtue and wisdom. The Soul is like the body and mind: left unchallenged, it goes into atrophy.

The actual goal is to grow closer to Christ. Sometimes that will be happy, sometimes it will be a dark night of the soul. If I judge the worth of something by how it feels, I am operating on the cognizant level of a toddler. Sin has no place here. Sin is what other people do. Sin effects me, but my choices effect no one else. want a good idea why we are such an unhappy society? The sentiment that life is about being happy and feeling good is and always will be a dead end street.

4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.

Ah yes, God the butler, God the servant, God the sugar daddy, God the EMT. Nothing says mature relationship like only wanting a person around when it is convenient.

“This God is great! Just stay away until I need you to give me something or when I need someone to blame for tragedy or the consequences of my own bad decisions.” I mean, what divine being wouldn’t want a perpetual user living in His home for all eternity?

In Catholicism, though, we look to have a functioning and loving relationship with God. If we were to treat a spouse like we do God in MTD, we would be setting land speed records to divorce court. Love is about total self gift not about be total receiver.

5) All good people go to heaven.

Conveniently enough, I get to be the arbiter of what constitutes good, and by golly I will stroll right through those pearly gates. Heaven is the ultimate participation trophy!

So, what has MTD gotten us? First, it has driven men away from the Church. Men have a deep desire to be courageous and strong. I am not saying women don’t. However, men look for virtue and strength. They may not always articulate it, but they want to be challenged. It is bad enough that when they see themselves portrayed in the popular culture as dolts, cavemen, criminals, animals, and thugs. It is bad enough that the society only approves of the emasculated and effeminate as role models for men. When they hear that from their churches, you can bet they will head for the exits and encourage their sons to do the same.

MTD has downgraded the idea of selfless service. If the focus is on me, then service is reduced to being important only if it makes me feel good. That will kill service in the community and church. It will gut vocations. It will shred the idea of getting married. It will change the attitude of having children. MTD has reduced parishes from families to businesses selling goods and services at bargain basement prices. It has nurtured a society of the entitled where too much free stuff is never enough.

One of the conscious decisions I made long ago was to be MTD’s worst enemy. I don’t want anesthetized sheep but a courageous and able army. That means challenging and pushing. It means demanding more out of ourselves and using God’s grace to push us to be better and more virtuous. It means not living by the beast like passion of emotions but rising to our true level of reason and virtue. It means embracing discipline and selflessness.

I will admit it is harder on the ears that MTD. But, a good leader within our faith, be it in the home or the parish is more concerned with a person’s eternity than they are about their feelings.


hat tip to

On Transubstantiation

On Transubstantiation

Few things today separate the Christian community like the topic of Transubstantiation. The doctrine of the host becoming the actual body of Christ during the Eucharist or Communion.
I have heard the foolish arguments about exactly when the host becomes the body.
When the priest blesses it?
When it enters your mouth?
When it entered the stomach?
Am I chewing Jesus?

Let’s look at this from a Biblical view. I put to you that the subject as about authority and faith. Not bread and wine.

Do you like baseball? Ever watch a game? If a batter hits a single and runs for first base, sliding for it, and the crowd yells “He’s out”
Is he?
If the video shows the ball hitting the base before the batters foot? Is he out?
When the Umpire says “he’s safe” then he is. If he says he is “out” then he is.
Because he has the authority to determine out or safe. The crowd may yell and the video may show different but when the authority has spoken the determination is final. The manager bumping, yelling or kicking dirt on the umpire doesn’t matter. Only the decision matters.

When the Centurion came to The Lord in Matthew 8 he recognized that Jesus was a man of authority and only needed to say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus counted this recognition to him as faith saying that nowhere in Israel has he found such faith.

When Jairus came to The Lord about his daughter they arrived at the home to see the people mourning. The Lord said that she was sleeping.
Was she? The crowd said she was dead, the fact on the ground was that she was dead to every observable test.
But when Jesus went into her room he didn’t make long speeches or prayers for His Father to return the spirit of the girl or make any grand flourishes. He just said “little girl, arise” in today’s vernacular we would say “sweetheart wake up” and she did because He was the authority. He said she was sleeping, so she was. Mark 5

After Lazarus had been dead for four days, Jesus arrived and said simply “Lazarus, come forth” and he did. The crowd was mourning and said he was dead. The facts of the situation were that Lazarus was dead.
but He said to come forth and so Lazarus did. Regardless of the facts or public opinion. John 11

I could go on about calming storms (Who is this that the sea and the waves obey him) or about the demons recognizing Him and not arguing about being cast out but asking to go into pigs. Etc, etc.

When The Lord taught the people he would tell them that the kingdom of heaven is like such and such, not is such and such (a man who finds a pearl, a house built on rock, etc)

Now, lets look at the Eucharist, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13
At the last supper. The Lord said “Take this and eat for it is my body, take this and drink for it is my blood” not is like but is.
The disciples didn’t react with disgust or revulsion at a chalice full of blood or raw meat given to them. Jesus wasn’t turning them into vampires or cannibals. It was an authoritative statement. Form and substance, word and substance. They submitted to His authority and as an act of faith took and ate. It was his body and blood not because it changed into raw meat or blood, but because He said it was. The substance still looked like bread, tasted like bread, digested like bread.
But the same Voice that said the girl was asleep, that told Lazarus to come forth, that told the storm to calm, that told the Centurion to go home, said this is my body, this is my blood.

When the priest stands in The Lords stead and says The Lords words he is acting in The Lords authority. When the priest says “the body of Christ” and you say Amen and accept it as such. It is such. Not because of you, but because of Him.
Taking Communion or celebrating the Eucharist is a acceptance of The Lords authority. An act of faith.

Now to go a step further. If you believe John chapter one and that nothing was made without Jesus and through him everything was created. Then that same voice also said “Let there be light”
And that same voice is the one you will hear at the last judgement when the enemy says that you are unworthy and full of sin. That you are “out”
That same voice says “Safe”
“That one is mine, and I say Safe”

Now don’t you feel silly asking if you’re chewing Jesus?


How many guns?

Law-Abiding Citizens Have More Than 600 Million Firearms in America


We’ve all seen this meme around the interwebs, right?

“Legal gun owners have over 200 million guns… and 12 trillion rounds of ammo. Seriously, people… if we were a problem, you’d know it!”
I’ve also seen one that claims we have over 400 million guns and 24 trillion rounds of ammunition. The fact is, while there is no definitive way to tally all the firearms in the United States, it is commonly accepted and reported that there are roughly 300 million firearms in the hands of law-abiding Americans.

But has anyone else noticed that number hasn’t moved in years, even in the 8 years Obama sparked an increase in gun sales, the gun run during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and after the NICS background checks system set new records for 15 straight months?

So what if that “300 million” estimate is wrong?

According to Weapons Man, it is:

We believe that the correct number is much higher — somewhere between 412 and 660 million. You may wonder how we came to that number, so buckle up (and cringe, if you’re a math-phobe, although it never gets too theoretical): unlike most of the academics and reporters we linked above, we’re going to use publicly available data, and show our work.

What if we told you that one ATF computer system logged, by serial number, 252,000,000 unique firearms, and represented only those firearms manufactured, imported or sold by a relatively small number of the nation’s tens of thousands of Federal Firearms Licensees?
After explaining the logic behind their equation and showing his work, I’m convinced we have more than 600 million guns in America, more than double what is reported by the media.

So… how do ya like them apples?! Think it’s time for a new meme, patriots.

-Emphasis mine-

hat tip to Bearing Arms