Mark’s Airline Rant

So. Off to New Zealand tomorrow.

And, of course, in the midst of deliberations what to take and what not to bother with, the target being to jam everything into two bags and each of them weighing in at 23.0 kg.

Well, and the rest goes into the carry on. The trick being to carry this bag as though it were not heavy at all, to walk past the stewardess at the entrance of the plane and smile at her nonchalantly – to get round the corner to collapse, gasping for breath and to proceed, staggering, to your allocated seat. There, after a sequence of mental preparation and muscle warming exercises, you heft the bag into the overhead bin.

So, I arrive at the airport, and the person at check in asks me whether I have anything to check in.

Are you joking?

I am an arborist, of course I have bags to check in… umpffff (sound of me hefting the bag onto the conveyor belt) ker-chunk… 23.0 kg. As I have written in the past, in a next life I plan to do something professionally that involves light equipment only, such as a professional dominoes player, a jogger or a concern trianglist. But for now, yes, I pack heavy gear.

What I love with some airlines is now they will slap a Caution! Heavy! sticker on your bag when it weighs 15 kg. Which always makes me wonder who handles their luggage? Oompa Loompas? Hobbits?

But here’s the thing, I have an issue with this 23 kg business.

It does not seem right that I have exactly the same weight allowance as the bloke behind me in the queue, the difference being that he must weigh at least 120 kg! So, here is what I propose, give us an average weight allowance, person plus bags. Now that would be fair. So I get to take a big bag – and the big unit in the queue behind me gets to pack… a small duffle.

The average weight assumed per passenger varies from airline to airline and country to country:

Nominal weight in Australia for passengers and baggage = 77+20 = 97 kgs

Nominal weight in USA:
FAA (1995) = 75.5+9+11=95.5 kg
for passengers + carry-on + baggage

Nominal weight in USA, revised
FAA (2003) = 93+9+14 = 116 kg
for passengers + carry-on + baggage

Nominal weights for Easyjet:
Male=93kg, Female=75kg, Child=30kg (including 5 kg carry on and luggage: 13kg for International flights, 11kg for domestics)

So, as you can see, there is quite a range there. It also reflects a growing population – in more than just one way! But seriously, if I am below the nominal weight the airline is basing their calculations on, then in a sense they are earning extra on me and it therefore seems only fair that they give something back by giving me some extra luggage allowance.

Samoa Air obviously feel the same way and have introduced a scheme where you pay per kilo. Gets my vote! And I would get to pack some extra kit!

Yes, I am probably obsessing a bit over this matter.

Well I never

One of the thoughts behind integrating the blog into the treemagineers web site was to give people an insight into some of the background things that go on with the projects we are involved in. De facto it turns out to be a bit of a window into my brain as much as anything else, but that, as they say, is another story.

So, I thought I would share a bit of background info only few knew about – until now…

It is the story of the Pinto pulley. Or rather, the naming of the Pinto.

The naming of products we have been involved in has been quite an eclectic business, and this was no different.

Thinking back ten years or so, I remember the frustration I felt at the pulleys we were working with at the time, wishing I could tie into the becket at the bottom of the pulley, for instance, or being able to girth a sling onto the pulley directly. All things we did in the end, but it was a bit of an unknown, as the pulleys were definitively not designed to be used that way – and were certainly not very rope-friendly.

The practice of tying one leg of the hitch cord onto the becket on the P05 Fixe pulley that Petzl made was  a matter of considerable contention over a number of years, in the end some brave soul at Petzl US that use, which was quite risqué, in view of the lack of testing that I am aware of… but allowed us to use it in that fashion at the TCCs.

The Edelrid pulley above had a round rivet at the bottom that was more rope-friendly, but was also not rated.

When we embarked upon the Pinto project we specced a pulley that was to have the dimensions of a P05, have a load-bearing becket, rope friendly surfaces and offer a wide range of attachment options, from connector to tying in directly with slings or cordage. Initially DMM were unclear whether they  would be able to produce the pulley according to our spec. But they did themselves proud and came up with the goods. It was a lengthy process to iron out the inevitable teething problems the combination of such a complex forging and novel concepts brings with it.

And this is where the name comes in…

Pinto? What exactly is a Pinto?

No, it is not named after Ford’s Pinto…

No, it is not named after the Pinto horse…

No, the truth is more cryptic.

If my memory serves me right, this goes back to a conversation that Chris had with Richard Allmond, where they came up with the acronym P.I.N.T.O., that was short for Pulley I Need To Own. So there you go.

Actually, as I mentioned above, the project seemed to drag on for ever before the pulleys went into production, so long in fact, that there was a point where I suggested an alternate name, which was P.I.N.T.H.I.P., short for Pulley I Need To Have In Production, or  also P.I.N.T.H.I.F.P., … er, well, work that one out yourself. But somehow that name just did not have the same je ne sais quoi to it, does not roll off the tongue so well – and ultimately when the Pintos went into production also became somewhat obsolete.

So, Pinto it is. And now you know.

Expectations dashed

My wife bought a new spatula for the kitchen. Imagine my excitement when I read on the blurb that this device uses Elevate™ technology!

Wow… *breathless gasping noises*

Finally someone has cracked the anti-gravity mystery allowing us to elevate effortlessly – and in such a mundane item on top of that, who would have ever imagined it?!

Well done, Joseph Joseph. Pick up your Nobel prize whenever suits you.

Imagine all the options this opens up: zero-gravity rigging, zero-gravity work positioning and ascent. Hell, zero line work positioning, come to that. Just to be first, I would like to stake claim to the acronym for that, which would be ZLWP – remember, you read it here first! This is even cooler than jet packs!

But then I realized that all it was is a crappy foot on the base of the spatula. Talk about a sense of deflation and dashed hopes. Oh well, I’ll just have to wait for another fifty years – or however long it takes. Probably just round the corner, like nuclear fusion, always  five years away.

Talking about visions of a future that was never to be, I came across this article about the Maxim Gorky, a futuristic propaganda plane in the 1930s. The plans envisioned a printing press capable of producing 12,000 pages an hour, a darkroom, and a pneumatic post system and telephone switchboard for communications inside the aircraft. A loudspeaker system, named Voice from the Sky, would broadcast to people below.

Ultimately the whole project was a white elephant,  as the plane was slow and had limited lifting capacity, and only ever flew twelve times.

On May 18 1935 it was due to carry its builders and their families on pleasure trips over Moscow and was accompanied by two smaller fighters planes to emphasize its size. The pilot of one of the fighters, named Nikolai Blagin, performed an aerial stunt much to close to the larger plane and crashed into the right wing of Maxim Gorky, leading to both planes crashing to the ground in the suburb of Sokol, killing everyone on both aircraft, a total of 48 people.

Which just goes to prove that the weakest link in technology, however highly evolved, tends to be a flawed risk awareness in human operators.

Maybe if the Maxim Gorky had been powered using Elevate™ technology, things might have turned out somewhat differently! 🙂

Span Set color coding

As a reminder, and most of you probably already know this anyway, but when it comes to color coding lifting equipment, the reference point is the Span Set color coding system (which is identical with the color coding system described in table 2 of EN 1492-2):

This is convenient, as it allows the homogenous color-coding of components and quick and easy recognition of the Working Load Limit of any given piece of equipment when planning a lift.

For this reason we used the same color coding on the sheaves and anchor pins on DMM’s Impact Blocks.

By the way, on a side note,  it struck me how five years ago, as an industry, we were using rigging pulleys or blocks.

The term Impact Blocks was one we coined specifically for the product we were then developing with DMM – and today all of a sudden, what d’ya know, every rigging block on the planet seems to have become an impact block.

Ho hum. Makes me wonder whether originality is over-rated.

Some things puzzle me, no. 2

A while back I wrote about the mystery of Big Shot rubbers on pizzas, which puzzles me…

Well, here is another one for you…

Yesterday I was pushing my bike out of the garage in the morning on my way to the yard, when I heard an owl hooting, when I looked up it was passing right overhead. Ok, I am a city kid, I get excited about that kind of stuff. I really like the flowing silhouette of the owl’s wings, it has something very elegant to it.

But here is what puzzles me: evolutionary-wise, owls have invested so much trial and error in evolving the ability to fly absolutely silently. The ultimate stealth machine. And then they go around hooting their heads off! What is it with all the shouting?! What is the point of silent flight if you are going to turn yourself into some kind of avian Stuka bomber?!

So here is my suggestion… (had to laugh as I was drawing this one)

This way, I reckon it will be much less effort, certainly beats all of that hooting.

And on top of that, Didj, who is my go-to person in all things ornithological, claims that when they hunt, owls go all silent (not sure if I believe him, but I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt), so in that case, the owl can just whip off the horn bonnet, the bells and stop whistling… et voilà, full stealth mode.

Truly, I should have been put in charge of this evolution thangg, I would have come up with much more creative solutions!

Revisiting old friends

One of the things I love about doing presentations is how it is an opportunity to revisit old presentations and rework them, be it just stylistically (I cringe a bit, looking back at some of the early presentations I did. I did love those animated builds!) or in regards to content. To me it is a bit like hanging out with old friends: You have some history together, shared memories maybe or places you visited together?

Well that’s what this process feels like to me.

One of the first presentations I did on PPE. I would definitively rework this, heavily . Actually no, I would start from scratch!

Some things that I remember as being really central to a topic at the time, today I view differently, with an emphasis in another area altogether. No sure why that is… I suppose that over time, due to experience you have gathered and processes you have worked through, your point of view maybe becomes more differentiated? Be that as it may, to me this illustrates how views evolve over time, it’s a bit like being in a dialogue with myself – with ten years in between.

The other thing that puzzles me deeply to this day is what exactly people take away from these events, a question I still struggle with. So for me, part of this renovation process is attempting to strip what I am trying to convey down to its’ bare essence, to get clear in my own mind what exactly I am trying to communicate – in order then to then build on top of that foundation. The other way round, if you are not clear what your core message is, it is going to get very confusing and messy for all concerned.

This is one of the reasons why I make very sure that I can back up statements I make in public… well, most of them at any rate.

There is nothing more hollow than the speaker quoting “the newest research”. This is all very well, but you have to be able to back that up and substantiate what research you mean and what results out of it…. and also in what way it is applicable to the discussion. When people say something like that I am cringe inwardly and am like oh no, don’t say it, don’t quote research – and then they go ahead and do so regardless.

Because, when all said and done, if your argument is waterproof, trust your argument to convince people and do not use endless graphs, pie charts or quote research to add to its credibility.

Do not get me wrong, I have been guilty of all of this. This is very much the wisdom of hindsight speaking here…

Ahhh, As Strong as the Weakest Link, all shiny and freshly renovated… ready to perform in Rotorua!

In the end, I end up stripping the presentations down to their bare bones – and then start adding bits back in again.

For the NZAA conference in Rotorua, for instance, I realized that the time slots are only 30 minutes, which is not very much. But then again, it does not really matter, as long you are clear what exactly the point is you are trying to get across, because you can do that in three minutes if need be – or just expand it to whatever time is allocated to the talk. We shall see…

If you want to see the result of all this deliberating, come along to the NZAA conference in Rotorua on the 16 and 17 October. Or some other place in due course… and probably by that time whatever I am presenting there will have changed again. 🙂

Lifelong learning and all that jazz in action!