Friday, November 20, 2009

Intro to John Part I

Hello everyone. This will most likely be the first of many different snippets about me. So I guess I'll start at the beginning. At least the beginning of my attraction to weather.

I moved to Traverse City, Michigan (KTVC) in the fall of 1990 in order to go to school at Northwestern Michigan College. My course of study was aviation. This was my second attempt at college, the first one had ended poorly, but that's a story for another day.

I quickly took to all things aviation and weather was a very large part of that. My first flight was a windy day with overcast skies. My instructor warned me that it might be a bumpy ride but there was no waiting, I wanted to start flying now. We took off into a light rain and the ride was bumpy as promised but neither of those things bothered me. The first thing that really startled me was the realization that I was in an environment that had three dimensions. I was no longer in a car that went left or right and forward or backward. I had now added up and down. As we flew away from the airport I looked around and the first question I asked my instructor was, "how do we get back?" He smiled and told me to look back over my shoulder where I could see the airport nestled at the bottom of the two bays of Traverse City.

After that initial flight I dove into the books and ended up on the correct Dean's list. I would spend hours at the airport in the general aviation terminal because they had a computer where you could get the basic weather information like METARs, TAFs and the maps. It was just black and white but I would watch the weather and print the new map every hour watching it move from Wisconsin across Lake Michigan and into the Traverse City area. The windows faced to the west-northwest over the field so I could see the weather from miles away. I took a class in weather and we actually hand plotted on Skew-T charts. Boy does that take some patience! Operating an aircraft that only weighs about 1600 pounds you quickly develop a healthy respect for mother nature.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Private Jet for the President, but not business?

N755NA, originally uploaded by dfndr13.

Why was a private jet, a Boeing 757 at that, good enough for the current president's campaign, but not good enough for businesses?

Let me tell you why he used the private jet. Outside of the obvious security concerns, there is no way he or his rival John McCain could have run successful campaigns without one.

First, they could not have used the airline's hub and spoke system because it only serves about 500 airports throughout the US, and they do it through only a few main hubs for the carriers that serve the most cities. Imagine some of the connections they would have had to make to get to some of the smaller cities they visited. Can you see them trying to decide who to leave behind when the connecting aircraft was a Beech 1900 with only 19 seats? Do they draw straws? I'm sure they wouldn't have minded leaving the press behind.

Speaking of commercial travel, can you imagine being the poor booking agent? You want how many seats? And you want them in a group? Who can't sit on the aisle? I doubt they would be buying tickets two weeks in advance, so can you imagine how much it would cost?

So maybe they booked everyone on the same flight. Can you imagine the cabin with all the people trying to talk to each other? Of course they couldn't have any private conversations regarding planning or strategy, so maybe the cabin wouldn't be that loud after all.

OK, so they had their own aircraft for all the same reasons business have them:
- Security of the "C" level positions.
- Ability to transport groups of people in a timely fashion.
- Ability for those groups to work and plan en route.
- Ability to be proactive for their customers and shareholders.

I think that last point is fairly important. As these bank and other businesses take the bail-out or rescue money, don't we as taxpayers become shareholders? Wasn't that the idea? Well, then if I'm a shareholder I want my CEO and the rest of the company to have the right tools for the job. This means a business jet for most companies. Sometimes more than one. Taking away a business jet or even access to a business jet is as bad as taking away any other tool your company might use such as a computer or a blackberry.

My problem in this mess is not with the business jet, it is the fact that there is no incentive for the CEO to make an effort to succeed. When they receive "golden parachutes" no matter whether they succeed or drive the company into bankruptcy, where is the incentive? Folks, I can help you out here, I'm willing to take a salary of $1 million dollars per year or until I bankrupt your company, whichever comes first. I bet that's a lot less than what you're paying the top executives right now. Seriously though, why would you want to hire someone who wants guaranteed contract up front? Don't get me wrong, there should be something in the contract that spells out what the requirements are going to be for success or failure.

So let's get to the real root of the problem which I believe is bad management. We can start by ditching the CEOs who couldn't explain to the politicians and the media why the business jet is a viable and necessary business tool. Let's find some CEOs who can explain convincingly to the American public how they are going to use their jet to make money for the taxpaying shareholders.

So what do you think? Do you believe that a business jet is a necessary tool? Why or why not?