Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Devil's Arithmetic Visits The Valley of Speed

 I've been thinking about this all day. News is slowly leaking out from Reno and Stead Field. I'm struck by the misinformation that the field reporters are providing the viewers of the 24/7 CableNews channels. One handsome guy on FoxNews reported that mechanical issues might have caused Friday's crash...then went on to call the offending part an "Elevator Trim Raise"

I'm pretty sure he means "Elevator Trim Tab"...

It turns out there was a similar incident at the 1998 Reno Air Races.

Seven time AMA Motocross Champion, Bob "Hurricane" Hannah piloting another highly modified P51D, lost his left elevator trim tab during the Saturday Gold Heat Race, and "Voodoo" shot straight up pulling 10+Gs of deceleration, causing Hannah to black out. Hannah regained consciousness  at 9000ft, regained control, called a Mayday and landed safely. Voodoo sat out the rest of the weekend.

Voodoo's missing left elevator trim tab
I witnessed this from the fenceline in the Valley of Speed, far from the grandstands and the Home Pylon. Until today I'd never heard the whole story of Hannah and Voodoo's narrow escape.

It's the rare man who can keep it together when confronted with 10Gs. I think it's fair to assume that Jimmy blacked out when the Galloping Ghost shot skyward in front of the Pits Friday afternoon. The plane's lazy tumble from the top of the climb into the fatal dive without any throttle input, would imply an impaired-pilot situation.

That so many eyewitness pilots said the Jimmy did everything he could to keep his craft out of the crowd, indicates to me that Jimmy was probably coming to and instinctively pulling back on the stick in the final second or so of the fatal dive. There's no substitute for experience, and Jimmy Leeward had spades. The 50ft or so difference between impacting the tarmac and the VIP Boxes versus crashing into the grandstand probably reduced casualties by a factor of five...Godspeed Jimmy, good on ya'.

The Devil's Other Arithmetic

The Metric System...sorry European Readers, not your Metric System...we Americans don't cotton to your metric system (unless we're American Soldiers, who've been conversant in meters and kilometers since the Marshall Plan)

No I'm talking Web Metrics here...that's American Geek Dialect for Web counting at it's most basic and downright intrusive data collection at it's most extreme.

I've been writing my little...what does KirkVallus' sister call it..."his blog about the weather and other stuff?" for a couple of years. Until Google's Blogger Service added their "Stats" feature in the spring of 2009 I had no idea if I even had any readers aside from a couple of characters who are friends and appear in CorduroyPlanet from time to time. Since last spring I've been averaging 30-35 page views a day. CorduroyPlanet is a labor of love, I like it advertizing-free, and outside of posting a link on Facebook or Twitter from time to time, I've done nothing to try and build a commercially viable audience.

So imagine my surprise when I had six comments in need of moderation this morning! After I published them, I clicked on the Stats Tab and my jaw hit the desk! Over 4000 views of Friday night's "Chilled" blog!

I was dumbfounded! I clicked through the Stats Tabs and found that commenters on a couple of Tech Blogs had linked to my blog. Throughout the day, I looked in every hour or so and the hits just kept coming. Page views hit 10K in 22 hours.

Blogger Stats is "Web Metrics Lite" It tracks a few things, but it isn't intrusive to visitors to my blog, and doesn't give nearly the in depth, detailed info that the industry standard Google Analytics does. I do get a look at Referring urls and Referring Pages...curious, I clicked through and found links on several Techie and Gearhead websites.

Devil's Arithmetic
I got pounded on a British Gearhead Forum for being "The blogger on that link doesn't have a clue what he's talking about" I followed that guy's link to the 1998 Voodoo story and photo.

Here's the links that linked CorduroyPlanet...these were the major drivers of the click storm:

SlashDot linked James Gosling's Blog link, and about half the page views came from these two sites.

I'm grateful to have all these folks read my screed...I just wish it wasn't a Train Wreck Event that caused all the commotion. I'd have preferred the traffic went to the posts I'm most proud of like my Father's Day Blast, or my Proposal for a Lincoln Highway Centennial Bicycle Tour.

I did get a hint last year when I wrote daily from the Valley of Speed about the Reno Air Races and a non-fatal crash on Saturday. I got many visits from European readers for those blogs.

As much as I hate what happened Friday, the Air Racing Community will regroup, emotions will ease, the NTSB will issue their findings, and everyone can relax once again. The Leeward family will go on with their hearts heavy, and we all will pray that the Reno Air Races will return to us next September.


  1. Most scientists use the metric system.

    Too bad you had to miss all the "real" action and are now blah, di, blah, di, blah from a far.

    Oh well. That should keep you glued to your electronic leash for awhile?

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