Aerospace

Renewable investment dropped by largest margin ever

While watching the MotoGP in Sachsenring over the weekend CM couldn’t help but notice the lack of wind power being generated nearby the circuit. Last week we saw Ontario Premier Doug Ford terminate 758 renewables projects on the basis of their inability to provide sustainable and affordable energy. Last week South Australian consumers were hit with spot prices of $1,200/kWh because of the lack of baseload. Former Premier Jay Weatherill was turfed in the recent election because voters were growing tired of facing the highest electricity prices, slowest growth and highest unemployment rates. Despite all the jaw boning about the big renewable energy job machine, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted, “by state, South Australia has seen a 65% fall in green jobs since the peak in 2011/12. Victoria down 46%, Queensland down 49%, NSW down 32% & WA down 55%.”

The FT noted today that “Investment in renewable power declined last year by its largest amount ever and is likely to keep falling this year, threatening global climate goals…”

Should we be surprised to see the Turnbull Government in Australia look to keep open the very power stations they were seeking to close to meet Paris targets? Isn’t the 7% fall in global renewables investment last year yet more evidence of the waning popularity of saving the planet? IATA forecasts aircraft passenger travel to double by 2030. Gas guzzling SUVs are also toward the top of the sales charts. Consumers expect others to save the planet for them. Consumption patterns reveal one’s true care for climate change i.e. not much.

South Australia has been the biggest red flag when it comes to failed renewable policy in action. The irony is the state dynamited the old coal fired plants as a virtue signaling exercise. We have even seen some corporations look to take power plants over to become self sufficient because they have no faith in the grid.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten might want to censure coal fired power backers for being “knuckle draggers” but with a risk of repeat $1,200/kWh spot prices thanks to overreliance on renewables, many consumers will gladly wear that as a badge of honour if it means they can afford to heat their homes due to the overly cold winter.

NATO – 19 nations may hit 2% promise 18 years after committing to do so

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It is a farce. In 2006, NATO Defence Ministers agreed to commit a minimum of 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defence spending. This guideline, according to NATO,  “principally serves as an indicator of a country’s political will to contribute to the Alliance’s common defence efforts.” In 2017, only 5 of the 28 members outside the US have met the 2% threshold – Greece, Estonia, UK, Romania & Poland in that order. Despite Greece’s economic problems elsewhere, it manages to honour the deal. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “the majority [not all] of allies now have plans to do so by 2024.” 3 more are expected to hit the target in 2018. So for all the good will in the world, is POTUS wrong to call the other 19 members slackers that ride off the US taxpayer when so many of them are only likely to hit the target 18 years after ‘committing’ to it?

NATO commitment in 2017 can be seen as follows.

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Although all credit to the Europeans and Canadians for getting away with it for so long. Previous US presidents have obviously not concerned themselves with getting a fair deal on mutually agreed commitments. Although in what world would American taxpayers be upset to see the rest of the team pick up the slack?

Naturally the media are getting mileage out of the insensitive bully attacking his supposed allies. In fact Stoltenberg said last month on record that, “burden sharing will be a key theme of our summit next month, and I expect all allies to continue their efforts.” He reiterated that to Trump yesterday.

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To be brutally honest, how effective can a NATO force truly be if words aren’t put into action? What good is a promise if it is to be honored 18 years later. Imagine if that is the mindset should NATO be forced to act militarily. Would those meeting their obligations feel within their rights to have a bigger say in how NATO should work?

The problem with such a lack of commitment is that over the 12 years where 23 nations have not come close to meeting their obligations, the sum total of the actual defence capabilities suffers for the duration. The US is 67% of total NATO spend and the UK, France  & Germany make up half of the remainder. Yet building a sustainable capability in defence does not come through half measures or poorly thought out procurement. What is missed on many is that over 70% of defence budgets are allocated to soldier pay, housing, healthcare, training and so forth. Procurement and RDT&E get funded out of the balance. Have a skirmish somewhere and yet more money is chewed out of buying new equipment for the sake of logistics (feeding 10,000 troops and servicing hardware in a foreign land). Then there is the subject of terribly managed procurement programs.

Take the French disaster that is the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. Despite delays because of problems with a retrofit for radiation shields, the naval brass had to add 14 feet of deck because it realized that the E2-C Hawkeye surveillance planes it purchased couldn’t take off and land in its original build spec. Even now the flight deck is not long enough to conduct simultaneous launch and recovery operations. Even worse the blueprints for the CdG‘s propellers had been lost in a fire, which meant that the ship had to be refitted with hand-me down screws from carriers Foch and Clemenceau which meant her speed was cut from 27 knots to about 24 knots—which was unfortunate since her predecessors steamed at 32 knots. Speed to war zones is kind of important to gain a decisive edge. All of the spend to fix poorly thought out designs cuts from being able to procure other equipment and materiel. Scary to think Australia is buying 12 subs from the French! The problems are already revealing themselves despite not one boat having hit the dry dock.

History tells us many things of how NATO type organisations have failed in the past.The Peloponnesian Wars (431BC – 404BC) highlighted how things can change when allies do not keep up commitments and capabilities aren’t maintained.

Athens required her Delian League member states (consisting of city states mainly along the Ionian Sea) to pay tributes (phoros) to the treasury which was used to build and maintain the naval fleet led by Athens. Yet over time the member states relied too much on the wealth of Athens and over the course of the draining war and the costly campaign to Sicily, failed to honour the ever increasing demands to fund the league with the appropriate level of tributes which drove Athens into massive debt. Defence spending by the Athenians had been cut to around 30-60% of the average over the previous decade. The Delian League’s capabilities dwindled as a result and the Spartans, funded by Persia, took advantage of this and crushed it for good, in the very art of war that Athens was renowned for – the navy.

It is not hard to think of Trump feeling like a modern day Pericles. NATO is the Delian League and its projected enemies chip away all the while members dither over commitments, forcing the US to sustain the limited capability. Like the Athenians, the US has the most powerful navy in the world with a fleet bigger than the next 11 countries combined but even it has pared back the number of ships to less than 10% of what it had in WW2. Enhanced capability is one factor in cutting the surface fleet but even the US DoD realised that the conventionally powered US Kitty Hawk consumed 2% of the entire US military fuel bill annually so it was taken out of service to save money.

One can argue the $750 billion annual defence budget is plentiful but the US realises that power projection is an expensive business. Even Japan understands it can’t stay nestled in the bosom of US stationed forces forever without taking a proactive stance to defend itself. That is the same message to the 19 members NATO failing to pull their weight.

How cyber (in)secure is civil aviation?

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If you have a spare 15 minutes it is worth looking at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) video presentation on the state of cyber within the civil aerospace industry. It is not all bad but there is a real need to step up investment to guard against ever more sophisticated attacks. Cyber used effectively can thwart attackers but so many systems within airports are connected – passenger data, baggage handling, airport security. Air Traffic Control (ATC) can be hacked with ghost planes by spoofing messages and pretending the hacker is airborne.

IATA predicts that the number of passengers travelling by plane is set to double by 2035. In the IATA 2017 Annual Report it notes,

In 2016 some 3.8 billion passengers safely took to the air and some 54.9 million tonnes of goods were delivered as air cargo… There was one major accident for every 2.56 million flights using jet aircraft in 2016. While this was a slight step back on the five-year average (one accident for every 2.77 million flights), flying remains the safest form of long-distance travel…Aviation’s importance goes far beyond the 63 million jobs and $2.7 trillion in economic activity that it supports. 

There is no question the quality and advancement of hardware technologies in aerospace has been a large factor in improving safety. Whether the use of carbon fibre composites in fuselages and wings or the growth in ceramic matrix composites in engines to allow higher temps in the engine to raise fuel economy and reduce emissions. If we think that getting drugs approved by the FDA is hard, getting hardware approved by the FAA is even more difficult. A drug can cause side effects. A plane can’t afford to have any problems for the life of it, usually 25 years or more.

Software (e.g. TCAS, automated landing) has played no small part in enhancing safety but providing adequate protection to ensure systems function as intended is the weakest link. As the speaker says in this video, “we need to collaborate“.

We can’t afford to wait for the first aircraft to go down by such cyber attack means before we act. Remember post 9/11 that impregnable cockpit doors were made mandatory. The doors also allowed the pilots to prevent activation of the entry code to prevent would be hijackers from entering by taking a stewardess hostage. In March 2015 a Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, activated this function when his pilot took a restroom break  to commit suicide along with 150 passengers. The activation codes used by the pilot did not work. Technology can sometimes have unforeseen consequences.

Slightly off topic, though no less important, alcoholism and flying is also an issue. The FAA sites, a minimum “8 hours from “bottle to throttle.”” Between 2010 and 2015, FAA records show 64 pilots in the US were cited for violating the alcohol and drug provisions, and in 2015, some 1,546 personnel who must ensure airline safety, including 38 pilots, tested positive for one or more of five illegal drugs. In India, between 2011 and 2016, a total of 188 pilots across the country were found to have high blood alcohol levels during checks.

Japan’s Defense White Paper 2017 – Chinese military jet incursions up 30-fold in 10 years

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Should Japan just close its eyes? The Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has had to scramble jets almost 3x a day to intercept Chinese PLAAN aircraft flirting with Japan’s sovereign borders according to the 2017 Defense White Paper. Since 2007, the JSADF has seen an almost 30-fold jump in activity. With respect to the disputed Senkaku Islands, the PLAAN and PLAAF have been operating drones “inside” Japanese sovereign territory. While Japan can take some comfort with the US Forces stationed throughout the country, China’s increasing belligerence in the region is obvious.

With respect to China, the JMoD wrote,

China is believed to be making efforts to strengthen its asymmetrical military capabilities to prevent military activities by other countries in the region, denying access and deployment of foreign militaries to its surrounding areas (“Anti-Access/Area-Denial” [“A2/AD”] capabilities), and recently, pursuing large-scale military reforms designed to build its joint operations structure with actual combat in mind. In addition, China is rapidly expanding and intensifying its activities both in quality and quantity in the maritime and aerial domains in the region, including in the East and South China Seas.

In particular, China has continued to take assertive actions with regard to issues of conflicts of interest in the maritime domain, as exemplified by its attempts to change the status quo by coercion, and has signaled its position to realize its unilateral assertions without making any compromises. As for the seas and airspace around Japan, Chinese government ships have routinely and repeatedly intruded into Japan’s territorial waters, and China has engaged in dangerous activities that could cause unintended consequences, such as its naval vessel’s direction of fire control radar at a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) destroyer, the flight of fighters abnormally close to SDF aircraft, and its announcement of establishing the “East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ)” based on its own assertion, thereby infringing the freedom of overflight.

In the South China Sea, China has continued to take unilateral actions that change the status quo and heighten tension, including large-scale and rapid reclamation of multiple features, establishment of outposts there, and their use for military purposes, based on China’s unique assertions which are incompatible with the existing international order, and has made steady efforts to create a fait accompli. In addition, a Chinese fighter is alleged to have flown abnormally close to and conducted an intercept of a U.S. Forces aircraft. These Chinese activities represent serious security concerns of the region encompassing Japan, and of the international community.

For this reason, China is urged to further increase transparency regarding its military and enhance its compliance with international norms. It is a key task to further strengthen mutual understanding and trust by promoting dialogue and exchanges with China, and make further progress on measures to build trust, such as measures to avoid and prevent unintended consequences in the maritime domain.”

Sadly Japan is unlikely to get the answers it wants to hear. So as trivial as submitting to Chinese pressure to change an in flight magazine map might seem to many, the bigger picture is what is happening on the security front. As Churchill once said, “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth!

 

Butterfly Island

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38,000ft somewhere over the Pacific Ocean today.

Saving the planet one flight at a time. 2% of passengers offset carbon emissions meaning 98% don’t care

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Apart from the 100% certainty of me being screened for explosives at Sydney Airport (yet again today), the  one other certainty of life is that the growth in air travel suggests that more and more people are happy to save the planet, provided that someone else offsets on their behalf. CM has long argued this position. Our consumption patterns dictate the “true” state of care of the environment. It hasn’t stopped SUV sales dead in their tracks and last year the IATA forecast that the number of airline passengers is set to DOUBLE by 2030.  Could it be that taking a holiday outweighs saving Johnny Polarbear (whose numbers are growing by the way)? Is it conceivable that many of those that are climate alarmists don’t practice what they preach? Well if the UNIPCC COP summits are anything to go by, 50,000 of these pilgrims fly half way around the world every year to kneel at the altar of the climate alarmists pagans.

Virtue signaling airline Qantas has had a long history of emissions offset programs. Now you can choose how to waste your money.

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So to offset my flight to Haneda, CM is calculated to pay $11.21 AUD. I can put it to ‘local action’ (fund activism?), ‘developing communities’ or ‘global renewables’. In its 2017 Annual Report, Qantas boasts,

We have the world’s largest airline offset program and have now been carbon offsetting for over 10 years. In 2016/17, we reached three million tonnes offset.”

Carbon calculators tend to work on the assumption of 0.158kg CO2/passenger kilometre.

In the last 10 years Qantas has flown around 1 trillion revenue passenger kilometres. While the literature in the annual report denotes one passenger offsets every 53 seconds, the mathematical reality is simple – 2% of miles are carbon offset. So that means that 98% of people couldn’t care less.

Perhaps more embarrassing is that The Guardian noted in Jan 2018 that,

Qantas [was the] worst airline operating across Pacific for CO2 emissions

Kind of a massive load of hot air when you do the maths!

Air India seconds from disaster?

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Typical to see the press try to link the tragic accident caused by engine failure on a Southwest flight and a poorly fitted window frame on an Air India 787. The press once again went for clickbait talking about “smashed window…three rushed to hospital” instead of trying to search fact that this was a cosmetic folly and nothing more.

The main difference was in the Southwest accident, engine parts flying at 3,000rpm punctured the EXTERIOR window causing rapid decompression. In Air India’s case a poorly mounted interior window which has the functions of sound deadening and aesthetics popped out of a mount which would cause zero risk of compromising the plane’s structural integrity. If you look at the picture the oxygen masks haven’t deployed which would occur automatically if it did.

The sad truth of the Southwest uncontained failure is that the engine casing is supposed to catch any debris that breaks off. Such metal fatigue is more likely on such aircraft types (737) is that the short haul nature puts more stress on components. Such aircraft make more than half a dozen cycles (takeoff/landing) a day meaning wear and tear is higher. Tyres make a good reference- a 737 gets new tyres on average every 20 days. A long haul aircraft despite being heavier gets tyres every 40-60 days.

So typical press phooey to connect two completely unrelated accidents.