Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Flying High
Airstrip on Pagan

Now here is an idea that seems truly ridiculous. Of all the things we could think of to spend nearly Five Million dollars on, an airport on Pagan has got to be right up there with generating electric power with hamster cages, or an open air ice rink in Garapan.

According to the news source, the Pagan International Spaceport is expected to serve up to two flights of single or twin-engine aircraft per month for the first five years. Wow, that’s a whopping 120 flights for only $4,900,000. What a bargain! Let’s see, that would be a bit over $40,800 for each landing over the next 5 years. This is assuming Pagan does not erupt again spewing lava over the runway like it did last time.

Northern Islands Mayor Valentin Taisakan says this would be a good idea because there may be economic potential in exporting lava rocks, that’s what he said, lava rocks from Pagan to somewhere where they don’t have a volcano closer than 1500 sea miles away, I guess. This in lieu of exporting pozzolan or pizza dough, both of which are pretty much tapped out as highly sought after investment opportunities at this point. Whatever Pagan may be exporting, flying rocks off the island will not be part of the business plan. They may have some valuable, exportable commodities ummm, stashed on Pagan, that can be flown off but if so, no one is specifying the cost per kilo.

Now to get serious. The handful of people who live on Pagan, and the handful that would like to travel there to see the sights would be much better served by buying an unimproved field STOL (short take off and landing) aircraft outright. Such aircraft are used extensively in Alaska, Africa and many other parts of the world where landing fields are unavailable and or where there is insufficient air traffic to warrant large expenditures building airfields. It could be purchased, owned, maintained and operated for far less than the cost of the Pagan Spaceport and could also land without runways anywhere else a few hundred feet of moderately level terrain could be found. Other islands and constituencies could be served, not just Pagan.

Here is another reasonable idea. Buy a boat. You can buy and maintain a pretty sizable craft and operate it for a lot less than $40 Thousand per trip. It can carry a lot more than an aircraft and once again, it can be made to serve more than just Pagan Island. And, hey, you can dangle some lines and haul in a few fish on the way there and on the way back.

One last option. We taxpayers could even afford to charter a helicopter when needed to go to and from Pagan and elsewhere cheaper than the proposed permanent airport’s cost. Remember the proffered 5 million only buys a landing strip and does not include the cost to fly there and back or an aircraft to do it in.

All in all, this is an idea that should be canned immediately before additional funds are wasted on it. If our authorities have a hole burning in their pockets and want to get rid of 5 million smackers anyway, might I suggest finishing the airports on Tinian and Rota where sizable populations live and where reasonable numbers of tourists and residents might be expected to fly in and out. Tinian needs an ILS and a fuel farm to begin using its already expensive runway. Rota, will begin taking in charter flights and as gaming causes the islands economy to take off more scheduled flights will be necessary, both of which will require upgrades to the existing Rota airport.

Spend the money where it will make us some money. Not on a crackpot (did I say pot?) idea to build an airport on Pagan. -- Klingons now arriving at gate 15. Klingons now arriving at gate 15. Please be sure to secure your phasers and tricorders to prevent terrorist access…. Fade to a waiting line of the only 2 passengers being checked out by 6 TSA agents, an x-ray machine and a big bomb-sniffing dog.
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Bomb Me up Scotty

A B-2 ‘Sealth’ bomber crashed on Guam a few days ago. The pilots got out safely, that’s the most important thing. The plane, however, is totaled. An accident investigation is underway. They will figure out the cause and make recommendations. The oldest B-2s are now about 20 years old but even so the technology is cutting edge.

B-2’s are based on the dream of Jack Northrop of the Lockheed (and later Northrop Aviation) company 60 years ago to build a flying wing. Jack actually began work on the first of his flying wings in 1928 and wound up building large jet powered versions 20 years later (YB-49s). Some say politics killed the revolutionary design back then. The dream, now finally actualized, was to make planes with less aerodynamic drag and more payload capacity. Why have all that other stuff like tails and fuselages hanging off the wing if the wing itself could be made to fly, went Mr. Northrop’s reasoning.

Fast forward to the early 80s when Northrop-Grumman got a contract from the Air Force to try it again. The resulting B-2 bomber’s first flight was in 1989. 21 have been built. They have played major roles in the ‘smart’ bombing of Yugoslavia and later during the early phases of the current Iraq war.

B-2s cost One Billion, Two Hundred Million dollars ($1,200,000,000.00) each. Now that is a fair amount of cash-ola by any standards. I don’t know about you but I have a hard time wrapping my brain around just how big a Billion really is. I know that if I am making $1,000 a day ($365,000 per year) I am doing pretty well. (Heck, with a thousand a day we could turn on the aircon in the living room again!). If I spent the whole thousand every single day it would take me over three thousand years to blow the loot. Yep, at a grand a day I would have had to start 1,279 years before the birth of Christ to finish spending the money it takes to build one Stealth bomber by today. The good old USA has 20 of them left (plus the smoldering ruin at Anderson AFB in Guam). You have to flip a lot of burgers to pay out that much in taxes.

Nowadays we use them to show our presence and enhance our security around the globe. Not to mention strike terror into the hearts of those souls on the ground when one of those smart bombs comes blasting though their window unannounced. B-2s are just one weapon in the US arsenal, but it is a most formidable one. Imagine being attacked by an airplane you can’t see coming. We’ve come a long way, technology wise, since the B-29s that used to take off from Tinian and Saipan.
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By the way, if you like airplanes, Saipan history and a good story, try reading Rain of Fire B-29s Over Japan, 1945, by Charles L. Phillips, Jr. Colonel USAF (Ret.). It will soon be available at the bookstore at American Memorial Park and possibly at the Museum of History and Culture. It is a fascinating and vivid, firsthand tale of the men and machines that flew from here on Saipan to Japan during WWII. The book can also be ordered from the publisher online at http://www.specialbooks.com/ . I am reading it now and find it very entertaining and very informative. I recommend it highly.

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Quote of the week:
However far you travel, you will never find the girl who smiles out at you from the travel brochure. Unknown source

1 comment:

glend558 said...

A different way to explain 1.2 billion.. 1.2 billion is 1200 million. If you spent 1 million a day you wouldn't run out of money until July 2011. At a Million dollars a day....
Mind Boggeling isn't it?