BRUCES INTERESTS AND PURSUITS
At the time of writing, I am currently on my 63rd orbit of the sun, working hours are reducing and I am finding more time to devote to activities that, although non-income producing, are usually less stressful. In case you are interested, here is an outline of what might be occupying my time.
I suspect my interest in aeroplanes came from as a young boy, watching the military planes land and depart from Whenuapai near Auckland. My first actual flight was in a Grumman Widgeon around the Hauraki Gulf when aged 12. Shortly after that I was offered a flight on a SPANZ Airlines DC-3 from Auckland to Wellington and back with a number of provincial stops. My first jet flight was in 1971 on an NAC Boeing 737-100. I passed my private pilot licence at Kapiti District Aero Club in the 1980's and later joined the Wellington Aero Club, flying from Wellington International. Alas I am no longer an active pilot but do maintain an interest with flying generally and especially advances in avionics. I have collected some unusual aviation pictures and "bloopers". None involving myself, I hasten to add. Check some of these out below. They will open in a new tab.
Electric power for aircraft
During 2010 and 2011, interest and media hype has built up about electric power for aircraft. Some of this interest has been in respect of commercial airliners but most is to do with light planes such as used in private and sports flying. "Kitplanes" puts it like this: "Electric-powered aircraft offer many benefits including dramatic improvements in reliability and safety, lower maintenance and total lifecycle costs, significant improvements in environmental compatibility (noise, emissions and fuel), improved performance, and improvements in ease of operation and passenger comfort. The biggest benefits are reliability and safety. With only one moving part (motor armature plus propeller), electrically powered aircraft should be far less susceptible to failure; there's not much to fail".
There are still a lot of challenges associated with making electric flight cost effective. Despite modern improvements in batteries such as the high density lithium-ion variants, battery technology is still the limiting factor and some manufacturers are putting their efforts into hydrogen fuel-cells instead. Further to that, the 'Kitplanes' quote above oversimplifies the reliability and safety issue at least from an engineering viewpoint. An electric 'system' including a 30kW motor, controller, interconnections and batteries is far from a trivial proposition. Batteries for these applications are usually in banks delivering 200 volts. Even at this voltage, over 150 amps of current has to be controlled and delivered to the motor. The engineering has to be done according to best practices or safety and reliability will be very compromised.
I would like to see an electric motor used in single-engine light planes as a redundancy option or emergency power source, but where the petrol motor remains as the prime power source. As an example, a common light plane is the Piper PA-28 Warrior which has a 4-cylinder 160hp petrol engine. If this engine fails in flight, the pilot adopts the best gliding speed and aims for a suitable landing spot within glide range. If the plane was say 3000ft above terrain the gliding range will be about 5 nautical miles. In rough terrain, the options may be few indeed. Now, some people solve this problem by buying twin-engined planes, but these are not the best solution. Twins are expensive to operate and some have such poor handling when one engine is out that they can result in a crash anyway, especially if an engine goes soon after take-off.
If an electric motor could be fitted in series or in parallel with the petrol engine of a single, a relatively low powered electric motor of 30kW(40hp) would kick in if the main engine stopped and that could allow the pilot perhaps 20-30 minutes to find a better landing site. It does not take that much horsepower to maintain level flight, or at least, reduce the descent rate considerably. The techniques for coupling an electric motor in this way present some engineering challenges and would result in some performance compromises but this would be a lot cheaper than a traditional twin engined light plane.
Instead of coupling the electric motor to the petrol engine, another idea might be to install it as a pusher at the rear of the fuselage.
That becomes a kind of twin engined plane (1.5 engines perhaps ?) and requires the twin-boom design such as was used in the Cessna Skymaster 337, above, as well as some other types.
Such a hybrid aircraft could also be designed for use with a smaller petrol engine; say 120hp, assuming that the 40hp electric engine could be simultaneously used when full power is actually required, such as at take-off. That way, you have a 160hp aircraft but which creates less greenhouse gas emissions than one with a single 160hp petrol engine.
Even after all these years, I still dabble around with electronics. Yes, I have built the amplifiers and all that, like all good technicians do, but I recently built a AC power monitor for the home and also a low power FM transmitter. These are not ground-breaking technologies any more but I still get a kick out of prototyping up a stage and see it perform as designed. Even seeing the inverted sinewave appearing on an oscilloscope from a simple op-amp inverter gives satisfaction. I have a good understanding of RF amplifiers plus video and audio circuits. I have built electronic exhibits and repaired many more for the Science-Technology Roadshow, which tours nationally and aims to provide school-age children with a hands-on learning experience in science and various technologies. More recently I have experimented with microcontrollers which is a segment that has been foreign to me. I have made a few Arduino-based projects which have proved to be a useful introduction to the topic.
Loudspeakers and home theatre
For years I had a keen interest in loudspeaker design and a quest to quantify what makes one speaker sound different to another. I can make loudspeaker measurements using the very capable Liberty Praxis system. An early adopter of home-theatre, when Dolby pro-logic was king. I resist frequent-upgrade syndrome, so still operate my 1996 Yamaha receiver. It does have 5-channel discrete audio inputs, so the blu-ray player uses that, but it sports no digital input so TV sound is still only stereo and Dolby Pro-Logic. Some years ago I built a set of speakers intended to be operated in bi-amplified configuration, which are still operating. The interest in speakers et al is fading. My ears are not quite as discerning as they once were and I have come to realise that fully realistic sound is not going to come from a pair of traditional speakers in a box, no matter how much is spent. I do follow the work of Siegfried Linkwitz , who to my mind is the greatest audio reproduction thinker around. His loudspeaker designs are far from conventional, being multi-way active systems based on open-baffle techniques with carefully matched crossovers and equalisers. Two of his recent designs are shown below.
I find the detective work involved in researching family history quite rewarding - some of the time... Enthusiasm comes and goes. Sometimes a burst of activity arises from a nugget of information appearing out of the blue. I might be the family history detective but have not found a family member who was a detective. Miners and boot-makers perhaps and even an army warrant officer, but no detectives (yet).
Ever since my box brownie circa 1967, I have owned a camera. Far from being an expert, I mostly take travel shots now. One of the better digital cameras I owned was the Canon G3. It was a 4Mpixel camera with 4x optical zoom. Despite being a low specification by modern standards, the G3 produced some amazing pictures, which were fine for screen display or even printing up to 8x6". I used the 'raw' mode for taking a serious shot. Alas the G3 was stolen from my car many years ago, but unexpectedly was delivered back to me by the N.Z police about 5 years after being taken. Of course I had moved on since then, with a Fuji S6500fd in use. I sold the Fuji a little while back in favour of a Panasonic DMC-ZS20 which is more travel-friendly and conveniently also takes movies. Problems I have with the Panasonic are the hunting for focus, especially in low light settings and particularly when taking movies and there is relatively poor battery life, especially with bracketing on.
Travel, walks and leisure
I can sometimes be seen walking the hills, beaches and bush parks around Wellington with my co-director; Jenny. We usually holiday to somewhere around the country each year and most winters, we also manage a short break to sample the hot mineral pools at Taupo and Rotorua.
More recently, the co-director and myself have travelled in Europe, USA and Canada. All our were conducted by well known travel companies since they know how to organise a tour. And so it was. We had a fantastic trip around Italy with Trafalgar director Giuseppe and able driver Marcello. A short but memorable taste of Ireland under the Cosmos wing was followed by a river cruise conducted by Avalon. The cruise commenced in Paris actually where we spent a couple of warm days enjoying Paris sights before being whisked by TGV to Luxembourg; the nearest rail station to Trier, where the MV 'Luminary' was parked on the Moselle. We spent a fantastic two and a half weeks on the Luminary, meandering down the Moselle, Main, Rhine and Danube all the way to Budapest. The relaxed atmosphere on board plus the food, wine and shore tours suited us perfectly. The only hitch on that trip was that the lock workers were running a strike, which meant we disembarked the boat for a couple of days, more or less continuing the tour as planned, but by bus. The Luminary caught us up as it happens, at Vienna, where we re-boarded for the remainder of the trip to Budapest. That aside, what a wonderful journey and only to be recommended. Last year, it was off to Vancouver to start a Rocky Mountaineer holiday comprising an Alaskan boat cruise on the mv 'Zuiderdam' followed by the train ride through the Rockies ending up at Calgary. Another enjoyable experience for both of us.
Of course, getting to Europe especially, from New Zealand, requires much time on a aeroplane. To Europe, we first flew from Auckland to Tokyo; an 11 hour journey, then after a few memorable days there, it was off to Munich, which was a 12 hour flight. From there to Rome was another hour and a half. I will admit that despite my aviation interests and background, that being crammed into an aluminium tube for that length of time cheek to jowl with everyone else, with no legroom or elbow room comes close to my definition of hell. Airline travel has gone considerably backwards in terms of civility, humanity -whatever you like to call it. Now we have the possibility of riots on planes from passengers tilting their seats back. Airlines have themselves to blame; they sell the bit of space in front of you twice. First to you, then to the person in front who can lean back into your face. Still, flying wouldn't be so affordable if they didn't wedge you in. A full plane is the only way they make any money. Actually on our recent journey to Vancouver; a 13 hour flight, we elected for premium economy, which does make things better in terms of space. Still hard to sleep and not easy to walk around and get some exercise, but better. Any future trips -the first priority will be an airline offering the more spacious seating -at a reasonable price of course.
Some would say I am well-travelled, but then everybody is. We all travel in orbit around the sun and how far is that? Well, let me tell you - Starting with our average distance from the sun of 149.59787 million kilometres (93 million miles); which makes the circumference of orbit some 940 million kilometres (2*pi*R). That's how far we all travel in a year. What speed is that, I hear you ask? You do the sums.. OK, I make it 107,000km/hour. So, yes I am well-travelled, having journeyed 57,340 million kilometres so far. Now there will be some smart-asses out there who will say that's not the half of it. Yes, I know the whole solar system; the Milky Way and the universe at large are all moving within their respective frames of reference, but that is taking the point too far, don't you think?
Not any more. No more DIY servicing or modifications for me. Once computers started to find their way into cars and more particularly into the engines of cars, I called it quits. A long time ago, the thing to build for all budding techos was CDI (Capacitor Discharge Ignition). I was one who built up a box and wired it into the Mk3 Cortina. It worked but it was very hard to say if there was even an ounce of performance gain. Nowadays, I look under the hood of a modern car and have trouble recognizing the engine components.
Doesn't everyone like gardening?. No. Well, not especially. I have no luck with getting things to grow. Even plants from the garden centre labelled with 'Sure thing', 'Guaranteed to grow' or 'Cannot be killed even with a litre of RoundUp and hacking for 3 hours with an axe' do not stay living for more than a week. Around here with high wind conditions even the flaxes and coastal grasses have to think seriously about surviving. Rocks are the things that work for me. Some green things have survived me but mostly, I just mow lawns.