Below is a picture of my truck, It left the GM #2 Truck Plant in Flint Michigan 36 years and 400,000 miles ago. I changed the front brake pads on it yesterday. Most people reading this know the part in my had as a disc brake pad, but the subject of todays short story is the part of it that my index finger is pointing towards.
How did I know it was time to change the brake pads? If the truck was 36 months old rather than 36 years, Perhaps the onboard computer would detect some signal from fragile sensors in the ABS system and light up an idiot light in the panel; maybe a really new truck might degrade the engine output to keep me ‘safe’ at the same time. Maybe communications link in the truck would tell GM to send me an email or text, or have my local Chevy dealer call me and tell me my warranty is expiring? There would certainly be some complex system involving IT people, lawyers and service mangers, the unholy trinity of vehicle maintenance, all claiming a right on behalf of the nanny state to protect you…and drain your bank account, while demanding you thank them for it.
Could there possibly be a lower tech system that would alert me to change the pads? Unimaginable to the people who have an addiction to electronics and feel every single thing in their lives could be improved with an ‘app’, there is actually a system that was perfect, and cost about two cents per vehicle, and had zero electronics. Yes, the little tab riveted on, at the tip of my finger, touches the rotor when the pad is worn, it squeals, the driver hears this and knows it’s replacement time. The only real problem with the system is it counts on the driver having slightly more situational awareness than a tree sloth, and we we all know less and less of the public has that with each passing year.
OK, How does this relate to the plane I want to build? All the people addicted to electronics, combined with all the people selling ‘high tech’, have a powerful influence on what your read, see and hear about experimental aircraft, and the possible things you can equip them with. Just as with the brake pad replacement question, there are traditional low tech, long proven, elegantly simple was of doing things, and there are incredibly complex ways of doing things, and you get to choose……or do you?
Electronic, avionics, app and all that stuff can have mark up north of 1,000%, which makes them extremely profitable, and provides a war chest of money spent on advertising, paying “influencers” ( who are masquerading as friendly impartial fellow aviators. ), bribing aviation writers for reviews, running big booths at Oshkosh with ‘give a ways’ and ‘sponsoring’ things to make them all seem like they just have your best interests at heart.
Old school low tech has no budget. Its stuff someone who is actually your friend teaches you, and their only reward is belatedly paying back the old school aviator who taught them. Analog instruments at the flymart have no vocal advocates, and no magazine writer is going to get a free EFIS for writing a glowing review about them. Old school has spokesmen like long haired grease monkeys from Florida with archaic perspectives on simplicity and situational awareness. In the end, the only thing old School has to ‘sell’ it is your choice to use it, for your creation to include elements of simplicity that make sense to you. Its your life and your choice. Take your pick, you don’t have to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself.
3 Replies to “A respect for mechanical simplicity”
Home run. Again.
All it takes is one direct hit by a large enough solar flare and those nice little chips in all the fancy dreamware will instantly fry. No ignition, no electronic fuel delivery, and when we get to the airliner level it is MUCH worse.The basic ignition system used since 1960 in the Corvair probably would survive a modest event. This is not some “possible” event. It has happened in the Unites States before and not all that long ago. Good thing was the only electronic doo dad around at the time was the telegraph. Historical fact.
You are sooooo correct ! Simplicity and basic is the best.
I advocate mechanical Peterbilt trucks, old carbureted Piper Comanches,or of course a Corvair engine, which get ( almost) the same mileage than the “ new and improved” plastic and computerized versions.
In a “ high tech” age where everyone flies around with their head IN the cockpit instead of looking OUTSIDE , I wonder why they even bother to fly!? A simulator with the beloved glass cockpit would do as well for these poor fellows.