It’s not about Verse, but about MyWatch.

After long hours thinking about what to write about Verse Basic, I decided not to write any review about it. It just does not help anybody.

But I would like to talk about My Watch.
Amazing piece of technology. It is pretty straight forward to use and does not have any clutter to find your way through. My best features are:It tells me exactly how much time I have left, until my train departs.
Even during the night.
The illumination for the dark phases of my life is solar-powered.
The actual date is right there. It does not tell me the month, but I can easily deduct that by using my feet. If they are cold, It must be something around january. Hot feet: summer.
It can tell me the speed of my car just by using the stop watch. (1 km in 60 seconds = 60 km/h. 1 km in 1 second = 3600 km/h. That should be sufficient, since I do not have the possibility to reach escape velocity. The designers were certainly aware of it and did not overengineer it).
Battery life is amazing. About three years.
All these features come at a price. Not money wise, but intellectually. I do have to extrapolate the minutes from the actual time until – for example – my train leaves. But at birth, I got a brain. Why not using it? Five minutes walking time to the train station is easy to deduct from ETD. Even complicated things work quite nicely. If I know, when my next meeting will take place, a simple glance on My Watch and bang, I know if I am still on time.
And it’s light. I hate heavy watches. I hate big watches, too. I hate to carry a phone in my trouser pocket. Looks like I am pretty much a minority today. But there is one watch I think I could like if I change profession again.

The Garmin D2 Pilot Watch

It’s not a very nice looking watch (therefore no picture to protect me from your comments about my taste) but for a pilot it has about anything one would like to have.

Fly Direct-to or Nearest When You Need It

With D2, you can access our signature Direct-to and Nearest routing with a simple press of a button. D2 has a worldwide airport database so you can fly straight to the airport or waypoint of your choice. Or you can find the nearest airport if you need to land quickly. You can view your route on a moving map display, or follow the HSI to your destination. By setting your own waypoints, you can also easily navigate to any location not included in the database. You can even create Mark on Target waypoints so you can easily reference locations you fly over.

Never get lost again. Pretty cool. Especially if you are a renter pilot.
Battery life? Ahaaaa….

Up to 50 hours (GPS mode); 2 weeks (sensor mode); 5 weeks (watch mode)

Not bad eh? OK, no fancy color display. But who cares, if you just need the nearest airport with a toilet.

R.I.P. my friends.

It sucks, it hurts, it makes me angry and I never get used to it. Last week I lost again two pilot colleagues in a helicopter crash.
I do not care who’s fault it is, two of the three pilots in HB-XPQ that crashed last week in Switzerland have enriched my life for a few years. We have flow together, laughed together (you should have seen how high Catherine jumped, when I approached her silently form behind and made „Buh“), cooked together and had our fights.
I will not go into the usual mantra „but they were such experienced pilots“. Something went wrong and they hit a cable, period. Alex was a CFI and Examiner, CEO of Heliswiss, Catherine CPL and a shrink (The shrink on a stick). They knew how to conduct a safe flight and it still happened and it happens to the best, too.

Rest in peace my friends. You died the way every pilot wishes to go, only it should have happened 50 years later.
Catherine, in that part of the paradise, that is reserved for pilots, you can fly as much Lama as you want.

My thoughts are with the family and friends.


Snow and project management

One week of skiing. Weather was nice, but way too warm. Snow was too wet. I hate skiing in spring, really, I don’t mind – 15 °C but + 5 °C at 2500 m is silly. Days were packed but I still had time to read a book of Clarence (Kelly) Johnson. His work always interested me, because he is one of the most successful aircraft designers. Probably you don’t know his name, but Lockheed’s Skunk Works should be known to everybody. Also the planes he and his team designed:
P38 Lightning
P80 Shooting Star
F104 Star Fighter
A12 – SR71 Blackbird
… to name a few
Apart from the technical stuff he describes, his way of running the shop and getting projects done in time and below budget is remarkable. It is almost unimaginable today, that money is payed back to the customer and he finished most projects, even very difficult ones, before dead line.
He had 14 points of management. Not all of them are suitable to IT projects and corporate customers, but some certainly are.

  1. The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.
    Definitely! IT Project managers must have the absolute power.
  2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.
    SMALL! You can easily replace the military with a corporate customer. One reason why projects go awry, is the long chain of command. Many managers are more interested in covering their ass, than taking decisions.
  3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).
    Logic, no?
  4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.
    That works for other documents, too.
  5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.
    Doing reports is important but unproductive and most of the time nobody reads them anyway. Therefore keeping it to a minimum makes sense.

  6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. Don’t have the books 90 days late, and don’t surprise the customer with sudden overruns.
    No comment necessary.
  7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
  8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don’t duplicate so much inspection.
    In some cases four eyes see more, but 16 is overdoing it.
  9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn’t, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.
    OK, that is a bit difficult, since we often don’t need that functionality, but „eat your own dog food“ goes in that direction.
  10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.
    Very, very important. Many projects fail, because the desired outcom wasn’t clear at all. Customer and contractor had different ideas. Measure twice, cut once.
  11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn’t have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.
    That’s only fair.
  12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor with very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.
    No cc, no bcc, one email a day or whatever works. I strongly suggest a team room and no email conversations at all.
  13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.
    That could prove useful, if too many want to influence.
  14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.
    The guys who do the work are important. Not the ones pushing excell sheets and reports around.

    He made a few other points in his book.
    In my own words:

    Don’t work overtime. From the start of the project, work on it with constant pressure. Don’t be lazy at the start and get in a hurry in the end. Otherwise peoples performance will fall towards the end, when pressure rises.

    We owe our employees good working conditions and some kind of job security.
    The „you are below average therefore you should look for another job“ mentality that is more and more common today is just plain stupid and shows that the Cxx-level has not understood statistics or are just using this argument to get rid of people. By far most people are just average, including the Cxx-level.

    Keep everybody close together. In the Skunk Works, engineers worked in the same building or even rooms alongside the mechanics, where the parts and the planes were build. It’s not a bad thing, if the engineers get their hands dirty.
    In our world of home office and working everywhere, this sounds odd, but it still holds true. People who work close together and are in continuous communication get better results.

    Let people make mistakes and let them fix them. If people are afraid to make mistakes, they are more concerned about not making mistakes than about the projects. Rather look for the reason why mistakes happen, than for the culprit.

    A book worth to read.

The Starship Diaries

Nope, that’s not about science fiction. I just read the book from Dallas Kachan about his voyage around the world. He was one of the lucky ones, who sold his internet company at the right time.
It took him two years flying around the globe in the coolest – IMHO – GA plane ever built, the Beech Starship I.
The book is not only a list of places he visited, but also about his reflections about the world in general. The people he met in places the common tourist never see, changed his view of the world and especially about the western world.
It took him only about flight 200 hours to fly the 45’403 miles. Something he could have done easily in a few weeks, but he took his time. Stayed sometimes month in one place. Sometimes he had to, because the plane had to be serviced – due to bullet holes – or fuel wasn’t available or he got sick on a remote island in the pacific. He also talks openly about the mistakes he made as a pilot. He flew a 16’000 lb aircraft single pilot, which is pretty stressful in itself. He dozed of over the jungle in Africa and other things. You never get the impression that he thinks that he is one hell of pilot, which nobody would believe anyway with only a couple of hundred hours under his belt when he took of from California. I wonder if anybody from the FAA ever read his book and had a friendly chat with him, for example about the extension cord for his headset. He wanted to be able to use the potty in the back of the plane while flying.

There are old pilots and bold pilots, but now old and bold pilots.

Unfortunately the Starship is history. Developed by Burt Rutan for Beechcraft, it was way ahead of its time. Just when the public began to accept it, Beech pulled the plug on it after only 53 produced and bought them back. Only about five of them are still flying (there are rumors about a sixth being restored to flying status). My chances to fly it one day are pretty slim.

Worth a read, if you are an aviation buff.