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Monday, Apr. 27, 2015

Silence is not always golden

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"November five four Tango Tango you are cleared to depart runway one eight. Upon reaching three thousand feet turn right to a heading of two seven zero and climb to one one thousand." Do we were cleared to fly by the simulator instructor. For once, our twin Cessna rapidly accelerated and took off into a clear blue sky. I had just made the turn to the west when the fire light came on for the left engine.

Confirm the fire, mixture to cutoff, feather the propeller, fuel valve off and discharge the CO2 into the engine. Great, the fire went out!

The emergency procedures worked and the engine was secured for the short trip back to the runway we had just departed. Then, bright and bold, the fire light for the right engine came on and flames were reported coming out of the cowling. Mixtures to cut off, feather the prop, turn off the fuel valves and discharge the fire bottle. That worked, too, but suddenly it all became eerily quiet and a twin Cessna is not a real efficient glider!

I completed the turn back toward the runway, and aimed for the end we had just departed. Looks like we might make it, I tell myself. A nice gentle turn to line up with the runway, put the landing gear down, round out and squeak squeak the beautiful sound of tires touching down at 100 miles an hour on firm concrete.

The sim session was complete at the end of a stressful day. Time to relax and come back next morning.

Ann and I spent this past week in Scottsdale, Arizona, me working, with Grannie shopping and relaxing. The companies that insure corporate aviation activities have found that recurrent training of pilots contributes in a positive way to the safety record, and hence their bottom line. Therefore corporate pilots are required to undergo training in flight simulators on an annual basis. Airline pilots do similar training every six months.

Now a week in Scottsdale away from harsh January weather in Nebraska is no real punishment, but this year both places averaged about the same temperature each day. Somehow the sight of green grass, live flowers and palm trees is a little better for tired eyes than the "dormant" we see here when the snow is gone.

Not all the flights in the simulator were as dramatic as two engines failing at the same time. Airplanes are machines, and however well cared for, hydraulic systems fail, fuel lines leak, generators fail, tires go flat, engines get sick and things break.

The records show that a well-prepared and knowledgeable pilot can do a creditable job of bringing the flight to a safe conclusion in the rare event when things do go wrong. The time in the "box" is stressful, but well worth the time and expense involved.


Already the campaign for president has turned into a seemingly never-ending circus and it is only January. For a political junkie, which I fear I've become, it is a most interesting act to watch. Hopefully, the American voters won't become so terribly disenchanted that they will vote for the smooth, shiny, attractive candidate, as I fear happened last time, rather than for the one of substance.

The current rhubarb concerning Gov. Romney's role in Bain Capital is a case in point. From Wikipedia: "Historically, Bain has primarily relied on private equity funds, pools of committed capital from pension, insurance companies, endowments, fund of funds, individuals, sovereign and other institutional investors." What that means, as I understand it, is that Bain is in the business of investing in interesting new ideas that inventive people are trying to put into production and need to borrow money to get started. Those startup firms need more money than say your local bank is willing to invest.

Bain and others like them gain access to pension funds and insurance companys' monies that need to be invested. Yes, those funds may involve the money both you and I have set aside for retirement, so we do, indeed, have an interest in how they conduct business.

Bain and their brethren, also buy and sell smaller companies that they acquire for cash, buying controlling interest through purchase of stock and other means. For those lesser companies that they determine have a future, they inject money and/or tweak their management to make that company more profitable and in turn share in the increased value.

Companies Bain acquires that have no future get their assets sold, the help laid off and are dissolved.

On TV we are painted a picture that shows Mitt Romney as heartless when failing companies acquired by Bain were sold off and employees let go. Jobs lost!

To illustrate the heartlessness of it, a fat hairy old guy decries the terribleness of it all. It doesn't look like he is very starved, or very ambitious either. If the truth be known his job would probably have gone away anyway when the company he was working for went broke.

I have more of a problem with Bain for their executives' track record of showering money (political contributions) to members of Congress.

Since the year 2000, of the 29 who received the most money from Bain, 26 were Democrats. The line between bribes and political contributions is fuzzy and corporations, "persons" in the eyes of the law, tend to have no sense of moral conscientious.

Several years ago, I stopped by to visit an old college roommate who was living in Texas at the time.

Following his Air Force career, Wally had earned a law degree and was a practicing attorney for some private equity firm, probably similar to Bain. His job was to be appointed CEO of a number of small companies that had been acquired by the larger equity firm, those companies that were in financial distress. Then he was supposed to lay the employees off and sell the assets.

Wally told me that it didn't always work out that way because a few of "his" companies under his new management turned themselves around and started showing a profit.

Then Wally made a statement that startled me stating that "Debt has value."

His comment shook my conservative roots, which understand that debt may be a necessary evil but the goal is to get out of it as soon as possible. Wally explained that the debt from a failing company could be combined with the large profit from a prospering company under the overall umbrella of the equity firm that owns both. The result of the combination is a lesser amount of tax to be paid to the federal government.

Voila, it made sense -- great for the big Wall Street brokers, but not real helpful for you and me.

Romney is not really my guy but I think it only fair that he should be credited for the larger number of jobs created by the success of Bain Capital than showing only individuals complaining about being fired.

Sadly, in the politics of today, all is fair as in love and war. I don't have to like it. I could just turn the TV off but that probably won't happen.

That is how I saw it.

Dick Trail


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Dick Trail
The Way I Saw It