Charlie Victor Romeo – crash recorder dramatizations of Pilot & crew’s last words

In 1999 a novel play was created dramatizing the last minutes of airplane flights which resulted in a crash.  This has now been re-imagined as a 3D movie.  I’m not sure why you would want 3D for this, as it’s not exactly a lush cinematic event, but perhaps it helps sell DVDs.  As a pilot myself, there is a particular fascination reviewing the events and things that were said in the cockpit prior to a disaster.  We like to hope that WE wouldn’t have made the key decisions which lead to a bad result, but in the heat of the moment, would we or not?

Charlie Victor Romeo Theatrical Poster

The movie is called “Charlie Victor Romeo” because CVT is the industry acronym for the famous “black box”, or “Cockpit Voice Recorder” – the source for the dialog re-enacted by the actors.

This has also been used as material for “Cockpit Resource Management” training which airline pilots must periodically undergo.  But even to a lay person who doesn’t necessarily understand all of the pilot jargon, it’s still a morbidly fascinating look at what happened and why.

This is now in the Netflix database, but it not available for streaming at the date of this writing.  The film is currently screening in New York and Los Angeles.

This is probably not a movie for everybody, but if you find it hard to look away from a train wreck, or car crash on the freeway, this might be right up your alley!

Here is an official trailer:

3D printer uses metal – prints a working gun!

Ok, so the fact that they chose to print a gun as opposed to some other useful tool is probably mainly for shock effect and media appeal.  Still, the fact that these guys are able to print high-tolerance metal parts is amazing!  Click Here for the article.

3D printers are becoming more commonplace, but most of them use plastic as a medium and create output using layers of melted plastic (stereo lithography). Below is a MakerBot 3d printer.

This cool gadget can be yours for a paltry $2,899! 

As you might expect, a device that produces metal parts is a LOT more expensive.  Services like Solid Concepts can be very useful, giving you the ability to print on much more expensive gear, using more exotic materials for one-off manufacturing, prototyping, or even replacing impossible to procure parts on an existing machine!  These folks actually have a firearm manufacturing license, so if you have a gun with a broken but impossible to find part, they can probably make it for you quite easily.


Links to my other stuff

One reader suggested that I post links to Facebook, LinkedIn and so forth.  So, I created a “links” widget on the right hand side (scroll way down).  This has links to other sites on the web that I have something to do with.  Enjoy!

How TV Sports sounds to me

I’m not a sports fan at all.  As a consequence, TV sports interviews and commentary always have annoyed me as being boring, repetitive, and pointless.  I’ve even talked to friends who ARE sports fans, but prefer to turn the sound off on the TV when watching a game.  A friend of mine sent me this cartoon that so perfectly represents this in a way I could never have done – LMAO!


FAA really doesn’t like aviation – sleep apnea testing

I have come to the conclusion the the FAA really doesn’t like aviation and is working on good ways to cripple it, mainly by making it even more expensive than it is today.  With rising fuel prices, maintenance prices, equipment prices, and instruction prices, we really don’t need the FAA “helping” in this way.

Their latest idea is to introduce a rule that pilots with over 40% “body mass index” would be subject to mandatory Sleep Apnea testing.  This testing is not cheap!  This would impact approximately 5,000 pilots.  If this is successful, it’s entirely likely that the scope would be expanded to include more pilots.

It’s all in the name of safety!  Or is it?  According to Aviation Week, The agency also cites National Transportation Safety Board data that shows 34 accidents, including 32 fatal accidents, involved pilots who had sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea was not listed as the cause of those accidents.

Interesting logic the FAA is using.  I’d be willing to wager that most (if not all) of the pilots cited above also had 5 fingers on their left hand.  It seems logical then that the FAA could reasonably propose “preventative surgery” to have one of those fingers removed, thus making the skies safer for all.  I’d also be willing to bet that a large percentage of those pilots drank coffee the very same day that they had their fatal accident.  Perhaps the FAA could ban coffee for pilots (no, wait, that would actually SAVE money, they wouldn’t do that).

So I just have to wonder… what problem are we solving here?  To randomly pick a medical condition which has not been proven to be a contributing factor to any fatal accidents seems irresponsible and foolish at best.  Why does the FAA want to burden pilots with yet another hefty expense just so that they can continue to utilize their hard-earned pilot’s license?  Perhaps my initial conclusion is correct: the FAA really doesn’t like aviation and would like it to go away.

Not only is the FAA proceeding with this questionable program, they are side-stepping rulemaking channels and are classing this as a “process enhancement” which does not require any of the formal rigor that new rulemaking requires (such as evaluating the rule for sanity, asking for comments from industry professionals and pilots themselves, etc).  Why are they doing this? What do they have to gain?

How to find when your HP computer was made and check warranty status with only the serial number

Like most people, I suspect, I’m terrible at remembering “when did I buy that machine” and “is it still under warranty”.  There is no convenient way that I have found to ascertain the manufacture date from just the serial number (though I really wish HP would add that little gem of information to the info they give you with this handy web page).

Here’s what you do: Go to this web page (

Put your serial number in the top box and press enter:


Here is what you get in return:


If you then click on the machine identifier (circled in red), you get this:


So while they don’t tell you exactly when it was MADE, you can see when you bought it (that’s when the warranty timer starts).  In my case above, that’s Dec 23, 2008!  Hmm… time for a new computer? Winking smile

Got a window and you don’t know what it is? Try Process Explorer! (SysInternals ROCKS)

I have to hand it to the "SysInternals" folks at Microsoft – they sure come up with some great stuff.  I just used this one:

I had a spurious windows with no title bar and no chrome (border,minimize,maximize & close box), just a text input box – very suspicious, especially since there have been malware threats that masquerade as IME (see

So, I ran this tool, dragged it’s "target" (next to the binoculars) onto the suspect window, and it instantly identified it as a child window of that bug-ridden annoyance known as "Adobe Reader".  I right-clicked on the entry, picked "end process" and poof! window is gone.  VERY nice indeed.


The stock Windows "Resource Monitor" tool (buried in “task manager”, with a link on the "performance" tab to launch it) is a little more refined and gives you similar information, but lacks features like the "target" which you can drag-and-drop on any window to identify it.  Process Explorer also has some other niche tools which you might find handy from time to time.

They have a handy package called the sysinternals “suite” which contains most of the tools (including Process Monitor) all in one 13MB download.

Other utilities worth of note in the package include BgInfo (great for servers), Desktops, and Diskmon.  MoveFile is also handy if you have a pesky file which won’t delete – you can tell it to delete at the next reboot and usually that does the trick.  There is also a windows version of “whois” which unix geeks are probably familiar with.  This lets you quickly see who owns an Internet domain name.  ZoomIt is a nice tool for augmenting presentations, letting you zoom in and draw annotations (you see this used a lot in Microsoft tutorial videos).

1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

According to the Christian Science Monitor, a circa 1912 eighth-grade exam was donated to a museum in Bullitt County, KY.  They have scanned it and it has been made into an on-line exam that you can take to see how well you would do.  Most people taking this exam average only 57% – it’s hard!!  Our present-day school exams seem very simple and easy in comparison.  IMHO we don’t ask much of kids these days (wouldn’t want to make them feel like losers, or bruise their fragile little self-entitled egos).

CLICK HERE to take the exam yourself!

Inane FAA/Airline rule to be removed – electronic devices

According to the Wall Street Journal: An FAA advisory committee has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all U.S. airliners, according to one of the group’s leaders.

Well, in my humble opinion, it’s about time!  There has been testing, of course, but nobody ever proved that electronic devices can or do cause interference with Jetliner avionics systems.  For years, the quaking “ohhh, you MUST turn off all electronic devices” has been heard, and for no good reason other than paranoia.  I’m very glad that Amazon helped push through some proper analysis on this.  Hopefully, this inane rule will be off the books by the end of the year.

Airlines are also working on providing WiFi access during all flight phases, including below 10,000 feet.  That’ll be fun too!

BlackBerry RIM – another nail in the coffin

According to AINonline, RIM has announced a 40% employee layoff, and the closing of the corporate flight department.

In an effort to control recent losses totaling as much as $995 million, BlackBerry is closing its corporate flight department and selling off its fleet. Earlier this year, the company sold two Dassault Falcons and has plans to sell a Bombardier Global Express. "In light of the company’s current business condition, the company has decided to sell that aircraft [the Global Express] along with the two legacy aircraft [the Falcons] and will no longer own any airplanes," the company said in a statement. It is also planning to lay off about 4,500 employees

RIM’s flagship BlackBerry product was hit hard by the iPhone.  Other manufacturers were too, but they were able to rally and update their product line to compete.  RIM has arguably done that for the most part with their latest Z10 phone, but it seems too late to recapture waning business interest in the product line.  They also re-engineered their BES (mobile device management) software to allow it to manage non-RIM devices.  They have a good reputation in that area, and so that product may help their bottom line.  The trouble is, business has basically given up on RIM solutions and has looked elsewhere.  Can they recapture their market at this point?  It’s doubtful.