The Real Reason Why Air France Stopped Flying the Concorde

By Robert Mark on January 17th, 2019 | What do you think? »


                 Photo by Michel Gilliand

The Real Reason Why Air France Stopped Flying the Concorde

By Rob Mark

The creation and nearly 30-year operational life of the French/Anglo Concorde, the world’s first operational supersonic airliner, is a rich history of cross-border cooperation and innovation at a time long before the personal computer revolution or the first cell phone. In fact, the origins of the first supersonic transport (SST) date back to before the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960.

However, the end of the Concorde is indelibly etched into the memory of millions of people as a single photo of Air France flight 4590, its left delta wing ablaze, attempting to liftoff at a perilously steep angle of attack from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) on July 25, 2000. Staggering no more than a few hundred feet above the ground, flight 4590 crashed 90 seconds after it began its takeoff roll on runway 26 Right. This was the first and only fatal Concorde accident.

The Concorde ran over a piece of metal on the runway left behind by a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 that had departed earlier from the runway 26 Right. That metal sliced though a tire on the SST sending a piece of hi-speed rubber into the wing that sliced open a fuel tank, spewing fuel that quickly ignited. At least this is the story as most of us heard it.

The Swiss Cheese Accident Analysis Model

John Hutchinson, a retired Concorde pilot in the UK tells a much more detailed version of the Concorde accident on the Podcasting on a Plane podcast. Hutchinson, a Concorde captain at British Airways from 1977 to 1992, spent an enormous amount of time analyzing the 4590 accident from the perspective of his 15-years of left-seat experience. His story explains the Air France 4590 accident was a Swiss cheese calamity that again proves most aircraft accidents result from not a single cause, but from a perfect storm of errors that eventually overwhelm a pilot or crew.

                Concorde fuel tanks by the numbers

Just a few of the issues Hutchinson uncovered include a problem with the left main landing gear long before takeoff, a crewmember who was not technically qualified to be sitting in the Concorde’s right seat, a captain who overloaded the aircraft with fuel and bags, a center of gravity that exceeded the rear limits, a runway at CDG that was under repair and a captain who pulled the airplane off the ground before it ever reached flying speed. Although the aircraft became airborne for a short few seconds, there were two additional near disasters lurking, Hutchinson said, before the airplane eventually stuck a hotel west of CDG killing 113 people.

The podcast is a fascinating update of the final flight of Air France 4590 that runs about 37-minutes. Listen to the podcast here.

Rob Mark

BTW, if you enjoyed this story, why not share it with a friend and consider subscribing … it’s free.

Note: This story was originally written for and published at

Total Coverage: The FAA Oxygen Mask Study

By Scott Spangler on January 14th, 2019 | What do you think? »

Total Coverage: The FAA Oxygen Mask Study

o2The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 sometimes asks more questions than it answers. For example, what was behind Section 536. Oxygen Mask Design Study?

It requires the FAA to review and evaluate the design and effectiveness of commercial oxygen masks. “In conducting the study, the Administrator shall determine whether the current design of oxygen masks is adequate, and whether changes to the design could increase correct passenger usage of the masks.’

Diving into the Internet, this week’s research suggests that Section 536 was inspired by Southwest Flight 1380, where an uncontained engine failure led to the decompression of the 737’s primary people tube. Given the section’s focus on “correct passenger usage,” it seems safe to assume that this photo was an inspiration.

dixie cupGiven the Dixie-cup design of the ubiquitous commercial airline oxygen mask, which most of us have only seen in the hands of a flight attendant during the takeoff safety briefing that we’ve heard so often that we no longer pay attention to, it is easy to imagine how a real emergency could lead us to make it up in a panic. Sure, there’s a how-to pictograph on the rebreather bag, but who remembers that when panic is front of mind?

Here’s my question: what took so long? Too few actual decompression incidents, not enough Twitter photos during these events, or both?

I’m no human factors expert, but it seems logical to me that if you present a passenger, panicked or not, with a more anatomically shaped mask that makes clear where your nose and chin go, people would have at least a 50-percent chance of getting it right. And if they didn’t, feeling the breeze on their necks might give them a clue.

The FAA offers some interesting insight in Oxygen Equipment: Use in General Aviation Operations.

ga maskThe general aviation oral-nasal (mouth and nose) rebreather is a simple, inexpensive mask with an external plastic bag that inflates on exhalation. The bag mixes your exhaled air with the incoming 100-percent oxygen. According to the brochure, such masks will “supply adequate oxygen to keep the user physiologically safe up to 25,000 feet.”

The GA mask looks like the airlines’ drop-down Dixie cup, but it works differently. The Dixie cup “uses a series of one-way ports that allow a mixture of 100 percent oxygen and cabin air into the mask,” the FAA booklet says. “Exhalation is vented to the atmosphere; as a result, the bag does not inflate,“ (and I couldn’t find a reason why it’s there, either).

Finally, “this mask can be safely used at emergency altitudes up to 40,000 feet.” It didn’t say anything about keeping passengers “physiologically safe” at that altitude. But when still breathing is what really matters…

Still, the question remains, one-way valves aside, if the GA mask and Dixie cup are essentially the same, why not used the anatomically suggesting GA mask on airliners? It will be interesting to see what the FAA study has to say. Stay tuned. – Scott Spangler, Editor

What Made Herb Kelleher … Herb

By Robert Mark on January 8th, 2019 | 2 Comments »

What Made Herb Kelleher … Herb

People at Southwest Airlines knew Herb Kelleher by a number of titles during his years as president, CEO and executive chairman; founder, inspiration, chairman emeritus and of course, friend. Kelleher died Thursday at age 87.

Herb and his client/partner Rollin King incorporated Air Southwest, Inc. in 1967 to offer low-fare, intra-Texas airline service. Southwest Airlines grew into an industry giant with 58,000 employees and the largest Boeing 737 fleet in the world – 742 – operated on some 4,000 daily departures. Herb served as Southwest Airlines executive chairman from March 1978 to May 2008 and as president and CEO from September 1981 to June 2001.

From day one, Kelleher ran Southwest using a number of simple business strategies including one considered outrageous to this day, that keeping the airline’s employees happy should be the carrier’s primary focus. Happy employees, Kelleher believed, would translate into happy customers and eventually happy shareholders, a philosophy that proved to be true under his guidance. Shareholders came to appreciate that in 48 years of operation, Southwest Airlines never failed to deliver a dividend.

Kelleher focused on keeping fares low and making it clear up front to passengers that the airline didn’t offer frills along the way, except for peanuts. Southwest operated a single aircraft type, the 737, to keep maintenance and training costs in line. Another airline, Ryanair in Ireland, successfully copied the Southwest model. Kelleher and King also decided success demanded avoid operations at congested major airports like Chicago O’Hare, Boston Logan or Miami International, opting for secondary locations like Midway, Fort Lauderdale and Manchester NH.

Most of all, Kelleher was known for a personal trait normally missing from most executives in the aviation industry, a sense of humor displayed early on when Herb found a roll for himself in the airline’s early advertising. Read the rest of this entry »

Fathers, Sons and Airplanes

By Robert Mark on January 1st, 2019 | What do you think? »

Click above to listen

Fathers, Sons and Airplanes, by Micah Engber

The New Year comes twice a year for me. Of course there’s this time of year, the first day of January for the year we all know. But there’s also first day of Tishrei, the Jewish New Year called Rosh Hashanah. While there’s a joy to the Jewish New Year it’s more of a time of self-examination and repentance, a ten day process that ends with the holiday of Yom Kippur.

So I started to write this just as Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, had ended, it’d been a week of reflection since Rosh Hashanah. And while this little piece was started at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, it’s just as applicable for the secular New Year.

When I started writing this it had just turned 5779 according to the Hebrew calendar. I just couldn’t get used to it, and I’d been writing 5778 on all my checks, but eventually I got over it. The thing that I didn’t, and I won’t get over though, probably for the rest of my life, is that I miss my Dad.

Lew Engber, NCO in the Army Corp of Engineers during World War II, First Lieutenant in the Medical Corp of the US Air Force during the Korean Conflict, brilliant psychologist, terrific raconteur, bibliophile, pulp fiction, western and science fiction fan, trivia expert, a gourmet and at times gourmand, airplane geek, beer connoisseur, but most important to me right now, my father. He’s the man who taught me not so much all I know, but kind of, how to know it. He shaped my tastes, my likes and loves, probably unwittingly and unintentionally, but nonetheless, most certainly. Perhaps more importantly he taught me how to learn for myself, how to love and appreciate learning itself, and love to pass on my knowledge to others.

It’s wasn’t just the High Holy Days that had me missing my Dad, although that may have been the impetus. There’s another thing that had me thinking of him. You see it was also the time of year when The Collings Foundation makes an almost annual trip to the Jetport here in Portland, Maine, PWM. This year it was the Wings of Freedom Tour including the B‑24J Liberator, Witchcraft, the B-25 Mitchell, Tondelayo and the TF-51D Mustang, Toulouse Nuts. The B‑17G Flying Fortress, Nine of Nine was stuck in Vermont having just “gone tech”. Yea, I missed the B-17, but I was missing my Dad even more.

You see I grew up with these aircraft, well not these exact airplanes, but these types, or similar. It was talking about aircraft, ships, science fiction and other common interests that I shared with my Dad that helped make us close. You often hear about baseball bringing fathers and sons together, well for me and my Dad, it wasn’t baseball, it was aircraft and flying, among quite a few other things.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Logophile’s Look at Aviation

By Scott Spangler on December 31st, 2018 | 2 Comments »

JW-1Like many word merchants, I’m a logophile, a lover of words. When a new one catches my attention, meaning I can foresee some sentence in which it might be of use, I record it. For the past 15 years or so, my logo reliquary (“a container in which relics are kept and displayed for veneration,” also, a synonym for an aviation museum) is a reporter’s notebook I got at a Garmin media presentation at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Despite decades of collecting, I don’t often have the opportunity to employ many of my discoveries in my pursuit of word merchanthood. But opportunity is what you make of it, so join me for a stroll through the pages for a logophile’s look at aviation.

Without a doubt, today’s enhanced vision systems are perspicacious, which originally meant “having keen vision.” That foundation led to the leading sense of the word’s meaning, “having keen judgment or understanding; acutely perceptive,” which still applies to seeing-eye avionics.

Image result for will fly for foodHow to make a million dollars in aviation is a staple of aeronautical humor. Related to it is the t-shirt that proclaims, “Will Fly for Food.” If you want to confound your peers during your next hangar jeremiad (“a long lamentation or complaint”) describe yourself as an impecunious (“having no money; poor; penniless) aviator.

Jeremiad can also be “a long, scolding speech or sermon expressing disapproval or warning of disaster.” Who hasn’t nodded in agreement with such a sermon on the consequences of an improperly cleaned windscreen, where the residual bugs might be traffic on a collision course? But who have we every heard complimenting the line crew for a pellucid (“transparent, clear”) canopy or windshield?

Related imageInvesting in an aviator’s raiment contributes to their being impecunious. Some articles, such as a surplus flight suit, will not break the bank, but adding a sheepskin flight jacket, a watch with multiple dials, and shiny sunglasses that reflect airborne aspirations, are another story.

These reflective lenses can be helpful when an aircraft activates its fulgent lighting system. When these “very bright, radiant” lights begin to flash like lightening, it is clear that fulguration is one of their options.

Image result for cloudscapeI could go on, but you’ve likely had enough. But let me leave you with one more as we at JetWhine wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year. The hardest question any aviator will ever face is “Why do you fly?”

The answer is simple. Flight is many things to many people, but to all it is ineffable: “too overwhelming to be expressed or described in words” and an insatiable pursuit that many hold as “too awesome or sacred” to be spoken of. –Scott Spangler, Editor

A New Wright B Flyer for Kitty Hawk Day

By Scott Spangler on December 17th, 2018 | What do you think? »

Wright "B" Flyer's Brown Bird is a lookalike of a 1911 Wright Model B FlyerHappy Kitty Hawk Day! And can you think of a better way of celebrating the 115th birthday of powered flight than supporting the good people who are trying to build (with modern materials and components) a Wright B Flyer at its hangar and museum at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport near Dayton, Ohio.

Those people united in Dayton as the all-volunteer, nonprofit Wright B Flyer Inc. when they built the first flyable lookalike Model B Flyer  in 1975. Absent any drawings, they copied the Model B in the National Museum of the United States Air Force, employing modern engineering, components, and materials to meet the current airworthiness standards and requirements. Unlike the original Model B, the lookalike, known as Brown Bird, has a robust steel skeleton, a control wheel instead of levers, ailerons instead of wing warping, and a modern aircraft powerplant.

There are many ways to support this effort. You can volunteer your time and efforts and expertise. You can make a financial or in-kind (tax deductible) donation. You can undertake a fundraising effort. And you can become a member of the organization. Members at the Aviator level donate $25 a year; Honorary Aviator’s donate $100 (which qualifies them for an orientation flight in Brown Bird); and Life members donate $200, which include the orientation flight and lifetime Aviator benefits, membership card, a quarterly newsletter, and attendance at the annual membership dinner.

Construction of the new Model B Flyer is almost complete, and the group was hoping to make its ground tests by the end of this year, if Mother Nature cooperates. If all goes well, the first flight will take place in the spring, maybe May, and after the subsequent flight testing, it should make its first public appearance at the Vectren Dayton Airshow in June 2019.

NBAA-31Like Brown Bird, the new Model B Flyer will exist to to raise and sustain public awareness of powered-flight’s roots planted by the brothers Wright in Dayton. This is an international effort, and to make overseas demonstrations more practical, the new lookalike Flyer B will be easier to ship to distant locations and operate with a small support crew.

The lookalike Flyer Bs are inspiring and important on several levels. Because they look little like what most people see in their mind’s eye when they think “airplane,” the Flyers encourage the curious to take a second look and, perhaps, ask a question or two. And for those of us already infected with powered flight, the Flyers are a reminder of human ingenuity and motivation to apply it as we pursue solutions to our present and future challenges. – Scott Spangler, Editor

Hail the Centennial of Aviation’s Modern Era

By Scott Spangler on December 3rd, 2018 | What do you think? »

CharlesLindbergh-RaymondOrteigBorn this month in 1903, powered flight matured quickly during its adolescence that ended with World War 1 in 1918. That conflict was a period of accelerated puberty for aeronautical technology that in 1919 marks the beginning of aviation’s modern era.

If you need a birthday, there’s none better than May 22, 1919. That’s when New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig offered his eponymous prize of $25,000 to the first allied aviator or aviators to fly nonstop between New York and Paris. (Raymond Orteig, right, and the 1927 winner of his eponymous prize, Charles Lindbergh.)

Orteig revealed the award in a letter to the Aero Club of America. “Gentlemen: As a stimulus to the courageous aviators, I desire to offer, through the auspices and regulations of the Aero Club of America, a prize of $25,000 to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris, all other details are in your care.”

The Aero Club of America confirmed its participation three days later, on May 26, and established a structure to administer the competition for the $25,000 prize. It doesn’t sound like a lot of money today, but in today’s dollars, it is $374,090.24. (And given the price of a new single-engine piston airplane today, it’s still not a lot of money, but I digress.)

A few weeks later, in June 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first nonstop transatlantic flight in a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber. Their accomplishment didn’t qualify for the prize because they flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland to County Galway, Ireland, not New York to Paris. It did net them the £10,000 prize, awarded by the Daily Mail, a London newspaper.

Vickers_Vimy_(6436284927)Alcock didn’t survive to year’s end. He died, at age 27, at the controls of a new amphibious airplane, the Vickers Viking, on December 18, 1919, in foggy skies at the first post-war aerial exhibition at Cottévrard, an aerodrome near Rouen in Normandy, France. Three days before he died, Alcock was present when the transatlantic Vimy was presented to the nation at London’s Science Museum, where it remains today,

Two weeks before Alcock and Brown left Newfoundland, about the time that Orteig was writing the Aero Club of America, a U.S. Navy Flying Boat, the Curtiss NC-4, commanded by Lt. Commander Albert Read, made the first transatlantic flight. With a crew of five, it took the NC-4 23 days, and six stops, to fly from Naval Air Station Rockaway, New York, taking off on May 15, arriving in Plymouth, England, on May 31, after stops in the Azores, Portugal, and Spain.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Photo Banshee Represents a First

By Scott Spangler on November 19th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

USN-65As a former Navy photographer’s mate, the big aerial cameras under the long, windowed nose of the dark blue straight-wing jet drew me to the McDonnell F2H-2P photo Banshee. It was the Navy’s first photoreconnaissance jet. And the airplane on display was the last example, the sole survivor.

But that’s not what got my attention. The explanatory placard said that this airplane, its wing and fuselage filled with concrete, after a barge ride down the Indian River in 1959, spent nearly 30 years as a kiddie-climber at Pocahontas Park in Vero Beach, Florida. The National Museum of Naval Aviation didn’t acquire the airplane until 1988! And then it spent thousands of hours chipping out the concrete and carefully piecing the airplane back together using period parts.

USN-66Top dead center of the panel is the pilot’s viewfinder. He used it to sight his subject and to rotate the cameras from the vertical (straight down) to horizontal (oblique) positions. At night, two under-wing stores carried 20 flash bombs. With its electric heat, the windows in the camera bay did not frost up at altitude. And it could get up there. The long-legged (1,475 miles) jet had a maximum operational ceiling of 48,500 feet, and its speed (535 mph at 10,000 feet) made it a hard target for other Korean-era jets to catch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Could Knowledge of Undisclosed MCAS Have Saved Lion Air 610?

By Robert Mark on November 17th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

Could Knowledge of Undisclosed MCAS Have Saved Lion Air 610?

By Rob Mark

Having spent more than a few decades in the cockpit, I thought even I’d reached that plateau where I could claim I’d just about seen it all … until this week’s admission by Boeing of an – until now, unknown – automated AoA related stall-prevention system called MCAS that, even when the aircraft is being hand flown, could yank the control column away from an unsuspecting pilot.

Details are of course still sketchy, but I’m dumbfounded that anyone at Boeing could be so certain of a computerized system aboard the 737 Max 8, that they saw no need to mention its existence to operators or pilots.


From Flying eNews, November 15, 2018 …

In what some pilots are calling an inconceivable moment in flight operations and training, Boeing recently admitted the existence of the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), an angle of attack related stall prevention system that was unknown to operators of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, like the one flown last week by a Lion Air crew when it departed Jakarta Indonesia. The Lion Air crew experienced an unexpected nose pitch down shortly after takeoff as the aircraft was passing through 5,000 feet. Unable to recover from the event, all 189 people aboard perished in the crash that followed.

While it’s too early to draw any solid conclusions, there appears to be a circumstantial link between the, until now unknown MCAS and the angle of attack error messages reported early on following the Lion Air accident. The FAA last week issued an emergency airworthiness directive against the 737 Max 8 that said, “erroneously high single angle of attack (AOA) sensor input could result in ‘repeated nose-down trim commands of the horizontal stabilizer,’ which could be from the MCAS,” according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Operators of the 737 Max aircraft wasted no time making clear their feelings about Boeing’s apparent oversight in the release of MCAS information. In a message yesterday, ASN says the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines Group Inc. pilots, alerted its members … to the MCAS saying “it applies nose down stabilizer in specific conditions when the aircraft nears a stall,” the first time many pilots were made aware of the system’s existence.

The APA said the logic behind MCAS was not mentioned in training or in any other manuals or materials. Safety Committee Chairman Capt. Michaelis stated, “It’s pretty asinine for them [Boeing] to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls,” according to the ASN.

A Boeing message quoted by the APA said, “the MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) is implemented on the 737 MAX to enhance pitch characteristics with flaps UP and at elevated angles of attack. The MCAS function commands nose down stabilizer to enhance pitch characteristics during steep turns with elevated load factors and during flaps up flight at airspeeds approaching stall. MCAS is activated without pilot input and only operates in manual, flaps up flight. The system is designed to allow the flight crew to use column trim switch or stabilizer aisle stand cutout switches to override MCAS input. The function is commanded by the Flight Control computer using input data from sensors and other airplane systems.

A January 2018 report of the new Boeing’s created by the Brazilian ANAC briefly mentions the MCAS, but offers no specific guidelines on its operation. Whether the Lion Air 610 crew had any knowledge of the MCAS’s existence prior to their October 29 takeoff is unknown. Sources said Boeing risk assessment team felt the chances of the MCAS going off in flight were so remote, they felt an explanation of the system was unnecessary

Boeing told Flying through a prepared statement in part, “We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved … Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing. While we can’t discuss specifics of an on-going investigation, we have provided two updates for our operators around the world that re-emphasize existing procedures for these situations.”

Capt. John Weaks, president of Southwest Airlines Pilots Union (SWAPA) quoted in the Wall Street Journal said, “We’re pissed that Boeing didn’t tell the companies and the pilots didn’t get notice obviously, as well. But what we need now is to make sure there is nothing else Boeing has not told the companies or the pilots.”

Reprinted by permission of Flying magazine

Rob Mark is also Publisher of

Report this



Enstrom Artisans Build Helicopters with Personality

By Scott Spangler on November 5th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Enstrom-22Waggism, playful lightheartedness, is the last thing one would expect to see at a facility dedicated to the deadly serious business of building FAA-certificated aircraft. But then I met Sally, her name printed on an aluminum placard in red Sharpie on the wide end of a fixture used to build tail booms at Enstrom Helicopter in Menominee, Michigan.

Curious, I asked Dan Nelson about it. Was this the work of some unknown wag, an aeronautical version of Kilroy was Here?. Taking a moment, he carefully put down his Cleco pliers and explained that Sally was the name of the piston-powered helicopter just conceived at the factory. “We started naming them some months ago,” said Dan, a sheet metal master who introduces newcomers to the craft and mentors their mastery of it.

“There was a picture on Facebook of a fleet of our helicopters on the ramp for delivery, and someone said we should start naming them.” The piston-powered F-28F and 280FX get girl names, and boy names identify the turbine-powered 480B. “It’s just for fun,” he said with the unapologetic tone of a father talking about his children.

Perhaps naming these gestational helicopters isn’t so waggish. Expectant parents often name the nugget of their baby to give it an identity, to make it more than a bump, to connect on a more intimate, personal level. The only real difference is that the helicopter’s names stay in the womb. Like all parents, the customers who take the newborn Enstrom home have the naming rights.

Enstrom-34The riveted monocoque is just one appendage connected to the welded steel-tube pylon that is the Enstrom’s thorax. Working in robust rotating fixtures that look like complex gyms—yellow for pistons an green for turbines—it takes Enstrom’s state-certified welders about three weeks to weld a pylon, said Dennis Martin, Enstrom’s director of sales and marketing.

The welders work with pre-notched tubing, he explained, and the three weeks includes their final fitting, sand blasting, multiple inspections, and a light skim coat of primer that makes imperfections stand out. “We like steel because it’s easier to inspect and repair,” said Martin. “But the main reason is that steel will absorb a great deal of energy.

Enstrom-33“If you look at the S-N Curve [a plot of the magnitude of an alternating stress versus the number of cycles to failure for a given material], once it fails, steel continues to absorb energy, which means it is not transferred to the occupants. It doesn’t have a sharp drop off; once aluminum or composites fail, it’s done—it doesn’t absorb any more energy,” said Martin.

Just around the corner, in the composite shop, Tom Retlick is laying up the some seats that combine different layers of foam and glass that work in concert to provide lightweight rigidity, comfort, and a degree of energy absorption. Just celebrating 23 years at Enstrom, he’s surrounded by his work, artistry embodied by the split molds for each model’s cabin and attendant fairings.

The heart of Enstrom’s birthplace is the climate-controlled cube that is the quality department. “It’s such a crazy juxtaposition,” said Roger Hardy after setting a raw casting of the idler pulley for the piston power train in the Conner CNC measuring machine. Just outside those doors there are artisans bucking rivets, welding steel, and laying up and cooking composites “all under one roof with CNC measuring and milling machines.”

Enstrom-26“It takes some time to program the machine” to measure dozens of specific points on a part, said Hardy, who starts the effort with the part’s drawing. “But it goes to the exact same point on every part with a consistency that gives a true measure of each part.” He’ll see this part again, after it takes its turn in a CNC mill to become a finished idler pulley.

After making sure my curiosity had satisfied its current queries, he thanked me, and returned to work, as had all of the artisans I’d talked to this day. Each of them was knowledgeable and friendly, and prompted by my questions, they eagerly shared their knowledge in terms neither patronizing nor overtly technical. As a group, their personality was one of proud parenthood. – Scott Spangler, Editor