It Takes Time To Get The Hang Of It
I read with some amusement your all too true article, "You Would Think They Could Finally Get It Right" \[March 20, p. 48\]. I was an inflight comm. maintenance tech. on the Airborne Command Post (NEACP) for more than 10 years. The suggestions made were common operating procedures with us. We routinely downloaded our status, ETA, and other information. If required, we also made room and transportation reservations, etc. Civilians will get the hang of it sooner or later. Let's just hope that it's sooner. By the way, since leaving Uncle Sam's loving embrace, I've tried to find employment in either the aircraft or the electronics fields. I'm overqualified.
Howard R. Hewlett
MSgt, Retired USF
"E" Doesn't Stand For Excellent
Do you remember when travelling on business was a fun adventure? The article"You Would Think They Could Finally Get It Right," \[March 20, p. 48\] hit home. I personally think the biggest problem is that the airlines are so focused on getting planes from point A to point B, on time and in one piece, that they forget customers also have to come along for the ride. Passengers become just numbers—ever overhear the conversations referring to Seat 8D?
A pet peeve of mine with the advent of "E" tickets is that we seem to have gone backwards. In the dark ages of paper tickets, I could call my travel agent two days before a flight. And, the next day I would receive a ticket and a boarding pass with my seat assignment. Now I get an e-mail that says the seat must be assigned at the airport. When I arrive, they assign me the dreaded middle seat in the seventeenth row. It seems like such a simple web-based application.
For trips of less than a week, I always carry my own bag. A month ago, I boarded a flight where they decided that the overhead bins were already filled to capacity and they would have to "gate check" my bag. When I arrived at my destination, the bag didn't appear on the carousel. When I went to the baggage office I found my bag with no airline tag. The clerk told me they had "found it on the ramp" and weren't sure what plane it had been on, or where it was supposed to go.
I'm not sure what the solution is. I'm sure that it has many components. One of the niftiest things lately is United Airline's decision to make one channel of their inflight audio system carry the air-traffic control channel that the pilots use. It's very interesting and has information that they don't have time or the inclination to share with passengers.
Senior Member of the Engineering Staff
Thomson Consumer Electronics
The Tradeoff Might Be Worth While
Regarding the editor's notebook \[Feb. 21, p. 52\] on the FCC, it's my opinion that the digital TV (DTV) industry has had time to figure out what to do. They need some kind of focus, and it seems like the FCC is the only way they will get that. We all know that it's every company for itself out there. Why would any company want to give up its own ideas for somebody else's? And no company would want to pay royalties on top.
I think the way that DTV is progressing is working out for the best. At first you get everybody to brainstorm, come up with ideas, and see who buys them. Then you get some type of regulatory body, as independent as possible, to pick the best. The evolution of USB and IEEE-1394 are good examples of this process. If nobody else will cooperate, then let the FCC take over.
As for Big Brother, I'm tired of all the paranoia. I refuse to live in chaos just because somebody could be watching me. If I'm doing something illegal, then they should be watching me. If the government is the only way to control something that will make my life better, then I'm willing to make the tradeoff. Perhaps because I've never been involved in crime or injustice, I have faith in the judicial system to prevent the misuses portrayed in the movies.
Some corruption is a necessary evil to force people to stay aware of their government's activities.
This Disease Hits All Fields
I build Boeing widebody airplanes for a living and was amused by your article "Engineers Vs. Bean Counters: The Struggle Continues" \[March 6, p. 164\]. I have to assure you that the problem isn't limited to engineering. Manufacturing has the problem too, and I suspect that it's even more rampant.
I use Boeing as my example here. With engineering, it's somewhat difficult to quantify costs, while in manufacturing one easily sees how the costs can be more closely documented. It becomes even more ludicrous that we would have to deal with limited support systems such as engineering, planning, etc., when ours is the most repetitive cost. Airplanes don't quite snap together. There's a lot of support required. Yet, lower paid support personnel become a "luxury" often disposed. So folks like myself, a manufacturing lead person, perform stupid functions like chasing parts. I would much rather be building the airplane or dealing with issues that require a significant skill level, but I often play runner.
Bean counters too often fail to comprehend all the finer points of a very complicated process. Because they ultimately make decisions of headcount, the ignorance continues. Pick a major process anywhere and you will find the same. I suspect that companies with bean counters who have a manufacturing or engineering background, and/or a great familiarity with the processes involved, will have less of the disease.
Carl R. McIver
Manufacturing Electrical Lead
Boeing Commercial Airplane Group