View 743 Thursday, September 27, 2012
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
So Romney says he was joking about opening a jetplane window? Mad Magazine made a similar joke, long ago, in their parody of "Lost In Space". In the first panel the family was choking from lack of air; the robot droned, "why-don’t-you-open-a-window?" They did this, and it worked!
That joke worked for Mad because it’s a satire magazine; you read it knowing that nothing in it is meant as a factual statement. Is Romney running a satire campaign? Perhaps he should leave clowning to the professionals.
But seriously… one of the burdens of power is that the office does not permit joking. Or mistakes. Or spontaneity. All masters are slaves.
One of the privileges of power is to surround yourself with intelligent people so that if you say something that turns out to be wrong, someone will correct you. Of course there are politicians who do not choose to have intelligent people around them, and who intimidate their advisors so that they are not corrected; but the best do not operate that way. There may be people so intelligent that they never think or say anything egregiously incorrect, but I don’t know any of them. All of the competent leaders I have known – Reagan, Newt Gingrich, General Graham, Max Hunter, Possony – have expected their friends to speak up if they disagreed, and surrounded themselves with intelligent friends and advisors. As I have said often, one of the advantages of being me is that I have intelligent readers who will tell me if I say something silly, whether it was a simple mistake or due to incorrect information or just a slip of the mind.
I don’t know Romney, but having seen his accomplishments, particularly the reconstruction of the Olympic Games session, I would bet a lot that he likes to have smart people around him. As it happens I was on one of the advisory committees to Mr. Uberoff when he headed the LA 1984 Olympics (having been minorly involved in the LA bid made by Mayor Yorty). My involvement was mostly inconsequential but I was close enough to management to see just how complicated the task was, and how easy it would be to lose a lot of money without trying very hard.
As to windows on airplanes, the ventilation problem in the event of smoke in the cabin is not trivial.
For anyone interested in cabin smoke:
Many airliners still retain the option to open a window in the cockpit, at least on the ground. That’s because the pilot may have no way to exit the aircraft in the event of a fire preventing the pilot from reaching another exit. Smoke in the cockpit is one of the worst airborne emergencies for 2 reasons. First, the smoke may be so toxic that onset of neurological deficit or blood-oxygen transport problems may be only a matter of seconds. Second, the first indication of an aircraft fire or smoke/fumes in the cockpit is usually someone on board saying “hey do you smell something?”, at which point everyone around immediately takes a deep breath or two, inhaling quite a bit of whatever is in the air, delaying starting the emergency procedure procedures while everyone sits around going “I dunno it smells like a bad air filter, what do you think?”
In military aviation we try to beat these considerations into the brains of our student pilots, but over time a little complacency often sets in.
When airborne depending on the aircraft type, there may be an option to depressurize and “ram-dump” the environmental system, which opens ram air ducts to force outside air into the cockpit/cabin. I’m sure every aircraft will have variations in how this works but the basic idea that there is a switch that immediately shuts off conditioned pressurized air circulation and opens up ram-air from the outside is pretty much standard. It isn’t much different from opening a window.
I do know that my one major smoke/fume in the cockpit incident dropped my blood oxygen level to around 85% in a matter of minutes and resulted in an overnight hospital stay, from only 2 or 3 breaths of the smoke-filled air before I got on 100% oxygen.
I have limited experience with cabin smoke but the one I had went much as described: “Hey do you smell something funny?” Followed by discussion followed by “Let’s get this bird down fast!” Fortunately it was minor, although at 38,000 feet nothing involving blue smoke is really minor.
This isn’t really a mail bag, and I do have a lot of interesting mail. I’ve been subject to allergies this week, and Roberta has been gone East to see the grandkids. She’ll be home tomorrow and with luck things will go back to something like normal.
I have several messages pointing to http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/organ_ghouls_of_doom_suit_LxCZMP5uRGgI6yn3ywMN9J
It is not unexpected – indeed the point of Niven’s story was that this was inevitable – but it’s still a bit scary.