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Archive for the ‘Consumer Issues’ Category

Emersons 1812 IPALast week I was lucky enough to stay at The White Swan Hotel in Greytown, home of the modern Arbour Day celebrations and claiming what is apparently one of the most complete main streets of Victorian architecture in New Zealand.

The White Swan began life as the New Zealand Railways administration building at the Woburn railyard in Lower Hutt, but in 2002 the building was cut into six pieces, relocated over the Rimutaka Range and reassembled in Greytown.

When I visited last week it offered great food, stylish rooms and warm service. The only thing missing was some great Kiwi craft beer.

Craft beers in New Zealand have moved from the fringe to the mainstream thanks to outfits such as Christchurch’s Three Boys and Harrington’s, and Wellington’s Garage Project and Yeastie Boys. No such tasty brews were available at the White Swan, which I thought a tad unusual for such a tasty pub.

Then I noticed a pattern to all the brews on offer – which included Monteith’s, Sol and Tiger – all were brewed or distributed by Heineken-owned DB.

It’s pretty well known, by drinkers anyway, that New Zealand’s brewing market is dominated by Japan-based Kirin and Netherlands-based Heineken. Together this duo controls virtually all of the big beer brands sold locally, from Steinlager and Canterbury Draft, to Heineken, Tui and Stella.

And last week Kirin grew a little larger thanks to its acquisition of Dunedin’s Emerson Brewing Company, via its 100 per cent-owned local subsidiary Lion.

The purchase was more than a little ironic, given the colourful Richard Emerson set up his craft brewery in 1993 selling unpasteurised beer after becoming disillusioned with the generic taste of the big breweries’ offerings.

I first sampled Emerson’s when a Dunedin scientist mate sent me some London Porter claiming it had aphrodisiac qualities. Soon after, I discovered Bookbinder which became a quick favourite. Thereafter, if I was within 300 kilometres of Dunedin, I would detour via Wickliffe St and fill the boot of my gently corroding MGB Roadster.

Subsequently Richard Emerson became a central figure in the craft beer vanguard, celebrating taste, tradition and idiosyncrasy. The quality of his output became recognised globally, and invariably he attracted the attention of the Dutch and Japanese giants.

Contrary to the PR spin, I’m not convinced brewing moguls like acquiring small breweries. The little guys spend too much on ingredients and their volumes are too small to deliver the cost efficiencies of the mainstream brews, so the moguls begin “value engineering” them. And the iconoclastic founders often make poor team players. However, as the popularity of their product grows, so do the value of these crafty brands until they reach the point where they become too painful to ignore.

I don’t blame the big brewers for buying brands like Emerson’s, Mac’s and Monteith’s – it’s commercially astute, as long as they don’t overpay. And I have nothing but admiration for the likes of Richard Emerson who turned a vision of quality ales into a global brand and a commercially successful company.

But there are two things that make me cough into my beer glass.

The first is, what will happen to the diverse and tasty lineup of unpasteurised beers that Emerson’s offer up? Big brewers make money out of volume, and I would be surprised if the likes of Taieri George or Whisky Porter will last for long. Mind you, as my wife constantly reminds me, I am not in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to beer.

The second and more worrying thing is the impact of the large breweries tying up distribution in New Zealand. Pubs are not always particularly profitable businesses, so the rebate structures offered by the big brewers are hard to resist.

But enticing pubs to enter into these exclusive supply agreements keeps craft breweries out of pubs, and tasty brews away from customers’ glasses.

More important from a commercial perspective is the exclusionary effect such control and incentivisation has on new entrants.

The Commerce Act has provisions which are designed to prevent a business taking advantage of its dominant position in a market for an anti-competitive purpose. I wonder if the independent brewers have ever thought of taking a class action against one of the two biggies?

If you go to Greytown, you should check out Stella Bull Park, named for the Wairarapa woman who did so much to make the town beautiful. There is a park bench there which notes: “Only God can make a tree.”

I’m of the mind that only an iconoclast can make a truly great beer. It’s just a shame that the incentivised distribution structure barricades these brews from the fridges of so many pubs in New Zealand.

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Last week Wellington hosted the beer appreciators shindig of choice – Beervana.

No glorified booze-up this, Beervana is the country’s largest craft beer festival and features over 250 craft beers. With brews including the likes of Day of the Dead, Coffee and Fig Ale, and Hop Zombie, it’s clear evidence that we’ve moved on from the bland brewing duopoly that I grew up with.

Sadly, come the next morning I found it delivered the same sort of hangover. Also currently suffering a hangover are the thousands of people who bought into the Facebook IPO. Right now, for every dollar investors put into the social network three months ago they have about 56 cents.

In July the tale of value destruction got worse, when Facebook revealed in its quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that around 83 million of its user accounts may be fake and another 45 million may be duplicates.

Nominally Facebook has around 950 million members, so the news that over 10 per cent of that customer base may be imagined rather than real is likely to get the market’s full attention. Sure enough Facebook’s already ailing share price plunged faster than a neckline at a cougar bar, bottoming out at $19.88 before recovering to around the $21 mark.

The most anticipated IPO of the last few years, Facebook had a strike price of $38 but within two weeks it was south of $30 and continued an unsettling slide ever since.

The good news is that Facebook is keeping good company. There’s been a gaggle of American internet IPOs over the last two years and most of them have been diabolical performers.

The worst I have seen is group buying website Groupon which is now down more than 60 per cent on its listing price. Not far behind is game-provider Zynga and online radio company Pandora which are both more than 40 per cent down on listing price. Meanwhile review website Yelp’s shareprice has lost 20 per cent of its value. Taken as a whole you could be forgiven for thinking the clock had turned back to the dotcom crash of 1998.

There has been one standout web entrant to the listed market world however, and that is LinkedIn. Often incorrectly described as “Facebook for grown-ups”, LinkedIn is part recruitment service and part business development tool.

Unlike Facebook it uses a “gated-access” model. This means contact with a business professional requires either an existing relationship, or the intervention of a contact to make the connection. Significantly LinkedIn has signed up to EU’s International Safe Harbour Privacy Principles, privacy not normally being seen as Facebook’s strong suit.

And whereas Facebook is finding it challenging meeting financial targets, LinkedIn just reported stellar second quarter results. Revenue was up 89 per cent compared with the same period a year ago and earnings were $50.4 million, compared with $26.3 million for the second quarter of 2011. Unlike Facebook’s dependency on advertising, LinkedIn has three revenue streams – its employment business, its marketing business and a premium subscription business – providing useful income diversification.

Even at its current $20 level significant doubt remains at what is reasonable value for Facebook. The kicker is price to earnings ratio (PE). At $20 Facebook is trading at about 30 times the company’s estimated earnings for next year. By comparison Apple, Google and the newly renovated eBay are trading around 15 times next year’s predicted earnings.

But there could be more bad news for Facebook, this time from within – specifically, from the 1.7 billion shares owned by staff and insiders which have been “locked up” by a post IPO trading blackout. From August to November those blackouts will lift, meaning for the first time they will be able to sell. These are staff who until now have had paper wealth in an illiquid company, so there is likely to be good appetite to convert paper wealth into the real stuff.

The problem is simple supply and demand economics. As these shares get unshackled supply is about to go through the roof, this at a time when demand is at an all time low, as measured by share price.

The kicker here is the extent of that supply. Back in May Facebook listed with 421 million shares being made available to investors through the IPO. Over the next three months four times that number of shares will be available for trading.

Looking at it that way the problem isn’t so much a hangover for existing Facebook investors. It’s more about overhang. Specifically the huge overhang that a four-fold increase in supply will bring. Perhaps next year at Beervana we might see a Facebook Fizz – an expensive little drop with sweet frothy head, but with little underneath.

Mike “MOD” O’Donnell is a professional director, author and eCommerce manager. His favourite tipple is the Garage Project’s Pernicious Weed.

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While the American preacher Harold Camping, who predicted the world would end in May, was mistaken it’s hard not to notice the huge number of natural disasters hitting mother earth.

From the Japanese tsunami, through to the Chilean volcano and increase in tornadoes, it’s been a frightening few months.

Two weeks ago my Wellington- to-Sydney flight got re-routed through Christchurch to avoid the Chilean ash. Just as we were coming in to land, the pilot pulled out as a result of the 5.0 earthquake.

Fifteen minutes later he got the all-clear to land, meaning I was in Christchurch for the 6.3 shake that happened soon after.

Like most Wellingtonians I’ve had a sort of misplaced guilt about Canterbury’s shakes. Having now experienced a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a decent shake, my guilt has turned to self-centred appreciation that my family aren’t going through what thousands of Christchurch families do on a regular basis.

There’s nothing like the smell of one’s own mortality to focus the mind.

A natural disaster may also have started to affect Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook empire. The seemingly unstoppable social media behemoth has just suffered its first month of negative American growth in May.

According to Inside Facebook, the social network lost six million users in the US, 1.5 million in Canada and 300,000 across Britain, Norway and Russia. Total users were still up 1.7 per cent but a loss of almost 8 million in core territories is a mite queer, especially after a sluggish April.

Whether it’s the cavalier attitude to privacy, their misguided plot to defile Google’s reputation or Zuckerberg’s exceptional ability to annoy the heck out of people, it’s noteworthy. Locally Facebook is still strong, overtaking every other social media site to make up 79 per cent of all New Zealand social media activity in 2010, according to Nielsen Online; it also has similar social media dominance in Australia.

The Australian Defence Force recently got a damn good lesson in how not to handle social media when a recruit secretly filmed sex romps with other recruits and aired it via social media.

The result was widespread condemnation by everyone from Prime Minister Julia Gillard through to the Defence Minister Stephen Smith who commissioned a review of the Defence Force’s social media policy. In announcing the review Mr Smith promised it would “harness opportunities to improve Defence’s work and reputation”.

It was at this stage that things got seriously unstuck. Sydney- based hipsters George Patterson Y&R Advertising was chosen to conduct the review, a firm that positioned themselves as “digital social” experts. When the Australian news media took a cursory look at this firm whose mandate was to sanitise the Defence Force’s laundry, they found a steamy pile of clangers dropped by George Patterson Y&R’s own social media team.

On the company’s Facebook page, and their own sites and profiles accessible from the advertising company’s homepage, were a sobering collection of colourful posts; ranging from some describing Julia Gillard as a lesbian and Kevin Rudd a loser, through to links to acceptable stalking and how to make your own sex toys. Remarkably, the bulk of the offending was conducted by members of the firm’s social media team, likely to be the very people who would be advising Defence.

Herein lies the challenge of social media. The only two commodities with any serious currency in social media are truth and humour. Both are extremely contextual, and thrive on intimacy. If you take either out of context or transpose them into a formal environment they can bite you on the bum.

To many it was further evidence that on the internet you really can’t control what is said about you. To others it was a convincing argument for the need for more control. Whichever camp you fall into, social media and the web more broadly is inspiring in that you don’t need to ask permission to make a tweet, to throw up a hyperlink, or make a complete dork of yourself and your brand.

When the father of internet jurisprudence Larry Lessig reviewed the movie The Social Network, his main beef was that the film failed to get the message across that the key enabler to Mr Zuckerberg’s success was the free and unfettered nature of the online distribution platform.

To Mr Lessig this defining characteristic of the net is under threat. His research (as a professor of Law at Harvard and founder of Creative Commons) has led him to the belief that policymakers and old world powers are collaborating to bargain away net neutrality in favour of regulation through software coding. In his book Code 2.0, Mr Lessig argues that rather than the net being uncontrollable, it allows more regulation than is possible in an offline world.

This week Mr Lessig is in New Zealand for the first time, delivering the key note presentation at Internet New Zealand’s Nethui. For more information check out http://www.nethui.org.nz

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Bob Dylan by Alberton Cabello Via Wikipedia

Next week is Bob Dylan’s birthday. Born Robert Zimmerman, this chronicler of 1960s social change changed his name to Dylan after being influenced by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
While opinions differ around the musical integrity of his later work, his first few albums came out of nowhere with a sound so different, and lyrics so innocently cutting, that they became the anthem for civil disobedience and social change.

While most agree his 1965 album “Highway 61 Revisited” is the best, the previous record “Bringing it all back home” is my favourite. And I reckon the opening track “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is pretty near perfect.

Amongst the plethora of eclectic references in the song is the line “You don’t need a weatherman, to know which way the wind blows.” While he wrote it as an empowering line for angry young men and women abandoning the social and political paradigms of their parents, it’s also salient advice for retailers trying to future proof their business.

The latest retail shopping study from Nielson Online shows that almost half of all New Zealanders adults are now shopping online. Almost 1.5 million New Zealanders aged over 18 bought stuff online in 2010. While only seven per cent ahead of 2009, it was effectively double the figure of six years ago. (see  http://nz.nielsen.com/news/documents/NielsenNewZealandOnlineRetailReportFINAL_TB1.pdf)

Not only is the percentage of local online customers increasing, so is the amount of things they are buying with the number of people purchasing four or more items increasing 25 per cent over the last year. So to take Dylan’s advice to heart, if you are retailing and want to future proof your business you are likely to be a mug if you haven’t at least started to migrate your business to online.

For some it’s an easy decision. If you have a limited range of products, physically disparate customers, an electronic database and transparent pricing, then moving to an online ordering and payment system is pretty much a no-brainer. However for others with huge inventories, poor stock management systems and customised pricing, it’s a nightmare.

One of the classic traps to fall into is the assumption that once you build a website for your business that customers will automatically go there. I’ve lost count of the number of websites I’ve seen companies build for large amounts of money, only to sit and wither. Big companies can afford websites which are effectively just a digital laurel wreath placed on the steps of corporate ego. Small companies have no such ability.

So a core question any widget-seller should ask themselves is whether they have strong enough brand, decent enough customer data and big enough marketing spend to attract sufficient traffic. A much cheaper option is to go where the existing traffic is, namely online portals and marketplaces, and sell your product on their platform. The downside of this is that your products will be listed alongside your competitors, so prepare to compete on price.

Assuming that you reckon you can get enough traffic to your website, the key question is how to put together your customer proposition. Oddly enough the traditional marketing notion of “the four Ps” – product, promotion, price and place – are a pretty useful place to start, particularly the first three.

In most cases it makes no sense to try and replicate all your offline products online. Instead focus on products that are easy to ship and unique enough not to have direct competitors at The Warehouse or Ebay. In addition to offering your regular products online, it may be that you can source particular lines at good prices, then offer these as online targetted specials. The beauty of this is that you can offer prices lower than you would in your store.

In terms of price it’s offline suicide to offer identical products online for less than you can buy them in your store. However to enable a level playing field consider offering free postage to mean the actual “in hand” price is the same. If you want to discount, then do it with the online-only specials outlined above, where you can tweak the elasticity between pricing, demand and revenue.

Lastly, when it comes to promotion there’s the holy trinity of search engine optimisation (so you appear on organic results), search engine market (so you show on paid results) and social media (so you show harness the strength of human networks). And don’t forget stunning customer service. Amazon in the United States and ASOS in the UK have immediate shipping and slick return policies, which results in powerful word-of-mouth promotion.

Beyond this the smart money is on marketing to your existing and new customers electronically. This typically takes the form of an electronic direct mail or EDM, but more recently it’s extended to the new generation of daily deal websites.

In a world where power has passed from the corporate to the consumer, retailers are foolish not to avail themselves of the same distribution network that their new global competitors use. As Dylan has also noted “you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changing”.

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They say that midlife crisis for men typically expresses itself in one of three ways: developing a drinking problem, buying a boat or seeking a mistress. I seem to be pursuing a different path, and instead am trying to connect with the television heroes of my youth.

In the early 80s the definitive cop show on television was The Professionals, where two roguish CI5 operatives screamed around the streets of London in Ford Capris protecting the Crown from all manner of spies and dodgy foreigners. This unlikely association gave the pedestrian Ford Capri serious cutting edge cool. And now in my 40s I am in search of such cool.

So last winter I spent months seeking out a rust-free Capri. And then having sourced one, I did what all good Kiwi blokes do to Ford Capri’s, I tried to soup it up by fitting a pair of twin throat side draught carburettors. Carmakers abandoned carburettors in the 1990s, in favour of more efficient and controllable fuel injection, meaning few people now know how to set up and tune twin side draughts. Everyone I spoke to kept on referring to it as the last black magic.

This phrase came up again recently when a small manufacturing business came to me having received advertising bumf from a number of web design/hosting outfits, all of whom were offering to build basic business websites for capped prices of less than $5000. The owner, Rebecca, wanted to know if it was a good deal.

I don’t bemoan any web shop marketing its services, but in this case the more I looked into it the more it became clear is what Rebecca would receive for her money, was a generic website lightly painted in the livery of the customer. Importantly, any additional changes would be charged for and monthly hosting fees seemed exorbitant for plugging in a server and keeping the switch on.

Now $5000 may not be a lot of money if you are a Telco or dairy company, but it’s a heck of a lot if you are a small business battling tough trading conditions and trying to keep costs below expenses and hopefully pay yourself a bit as well. In the case of my manufacturing mate, it was clear that once the $5000 had been paid Rebecca would be paying more for consequent tweaks.

I suggested to Rebecca that she do it herself. She laughed at the suggestion, saying that she didn’t know how to build a website or any of the associated internet black magic. That anyone would see putting together a basic web presence as anything but straightforward and free in 2011 I find surprising. That they think of it as black magic is simply astonishing.

There are a huge number of packages and systems that can provide anyone with a free website, however the one I directed Rebecca to is http://www.wordpress.com . WordPress is a free and simple online content management system which allows almost any web surfer to sculpt up a reasonable website in an hour or so thanks to a heap of sample themes and templates.

Best known as a blogging tool, WordPress is used by over 10% of the world’s biggest 1 million websites as a hosting tool, so it’s industrial strength. Plus it’s got built-in applications for most of the big handheld devices including blackberries and iPhones. For those that find WordPress too complicated there’s the super simple Tumblr or for easy eCommerce there’s Shopify.

Services like WordPress, Tumblr and Shopify take care of basic stuff like search engine optimisation, synchronising with social media platforms and providing comment functionality. Importantly there are limits to what it can do, but you can usually pack it up and take it elsewhere when you grow up.

These services don’t not make you a design genius. But they do steer you so that you don’t make a complete hash of it. However if your budget extends to $30 you can buy a copy of Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think” for the basics. The other money that you should spend is buying a domain name, also known as a URL unique reference locator, specifically your domain name, before someone else done. (NB WordPress will also charge you to bolt this on).

The trick here is going for simple, descriptive URLs. Ideally you should buy two – your name (eg: http://www.bobsmith.co.nz) and your business name (eg: http://www.smithjewellery.co.nz). To do this go to http://www.discountdomains.co.nz or http://www.registerdomains.co.nz and buy online for around $30 a year. Good insurance lest someone else pinch it.

Free websites through the likes of WordPress are no panacea for small businesses getting online or increasing revenues. But they are a great option if you just want an online company profile, contact details and product overview. And it’s a great way to save $5000. Never having to take customer calls saying “hey cobber, your site’s down” is pretty appealing as well.

Meanwhile if you really are after someone that knows the black magic of tuning side draughts, I can recommend a bloke called Murray in Silverdale. He’s the real deal.

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A couple of weeks ago the news came out that directory business Yellow Pages Group was being taken off the sales block.

The marketers of the business pointed to the current economic climate in justifying the decision to can the sales process, while others identified bank pressure as the key motivator. However at a digital level, I reckon the business has experienced killer jabs from consumers and Google that it has failed to recover from.

Back in March 2007 Yellow Pages Group was sold by Telecom to a joint private capital and pension consortium for $2.2 billion, in what was the largest ever local leveraged buyout. Even in the heady pre-global financial crisis times, it was a sobering amount of money.

Clearly the buyers were factoring in significant growth to justify the price, but this failed to eventuate. In the sales collateral circulated by the sales agent earlier this year reported annual revenue was quoted as being $297 million, while “pro forma” EBITDA was $166m.

Word on the streets was that the owners were seeking offers in the $600m to $900m range. The fact that this sum would only go about halfway to meeting the $1.7 billion owed to more than 20 banks and lenders, speaks volumes about the pressure the owners felt to sell.

The information memorandum circulated by the sales agents identified two main business segments, the directory business and the 018 assistance business, with the former making up the vast majority of income.

A directory business makes money in two core ways. First it seeks to upsell listers into larger listings with bells and whistles.

In the media game this is known as “lipstick” as it portrays the person or business in more glamorous light.

A second source of income is the display advertising it can bundle up with the actual listings, in the same way newspaper websites run advertisements around news copy.

While arguments can be made about whether or not Yellow Pages did a good job of selling lipstick and display, I would argue a core reason for its downfall in the online space is that it forgot about consumers.

It figured brand alone would result in it owning online directories, to the point of forgetting that one needs to earn the right to offer services to consumers.

Street wisdom is that a punter will suffer a poor user experience two or three times on a website before they simply give up and go somewhere else. This is what I figure happened to most users of Yellow Group’s two flagship websites.

If you have ever gone to http://www.yellow.co.nz or http://www.whitepages.co.nz then a few things become apparent.
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Firstly, the search engine is dreadful. There seems to be no fathomable rhyme or reason to the results you will get. Rather than using smart algorithms to work out what a person is likely to be looking for, they seem tightly targeted on verbatim search terms. So if you search for “David Smith, Christchurch”, it won’t return listings for D Smith.

The frustration experienced when you search for a person whom you know is there but stays hidden courtesy of a dumb search engine can push normally sane people right to the edge.

Secondly, the default search order for businesses is nominally based around those businesses it holds the most information about. Not only is this not intuitive for users, it looks suspiciously like advertising spend determines placement. Not a great way to build trust.

And thirdly, the search cards for businesses don’t actually list the phone numbers, you need to click off to another page. Damn frustrating.

A usability expert could have a field day on these webpages. Sadly it will be too late if many online consumers have already given up on the two directory sites.

Meanwhile Google got a lot better. And I mean a lot better. Not only did it launch Google Directory and Google Streetview, but its content indexing got a truckload better for phone numbers. It’s fast and mobile friendly. Plus it does a pretty mean reverse phone number search.

Then last year Google introduced multi packs of local business listings, based on geolocation.This is where it displays contact details for likely businesses along with a source map, after working out where you are. So if you search “pizza” and are in Christchurch, you get seven local pizzarias offered up. Last year searchengineland.com found that the organic referral visits of many big business directory sites’, including Yellow’s US equivalents http://www.yellowpages.com, http://www.whitepages.com and www. superpages.com, dropped in the wake of this change.

Yellow Group had a huge headstart with its online directory business, with trusted brands that went back generations. The business was its to lose and a combination of lousy usability and the Google monster may have seen that come to pass.

The sobering news is that the same thing could happen to your business. There are a swag of companies looking decidedly unsustainable in the face of Google’s profound ability to examine, index and retrieve information.

If you rely on ownership of data, obscurity of information or a tilted playing field, then Google will likely challenge your long-term sustainability. The weaknesses I perceive in Yellow Group’s flagship websites is a salient reminder to any business owner to ask how Google-proof they are.

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An old retired pilot mate of mine, Captain Bryan,  just sent me an extract from a 50 year olf flying manual for a radial engined plane (the AD-6).  I’m no aviator but its a fine evocative set of prose that makes you appreciate the jet aircraft of today.  Reproduced here for your pleasure.

Radial Starting

Be sure you drain both the sumps. (You can fill your Zippo lighter while you do this)

Look out the left side of the oily cockpit canopy and notice a very nervous person holding a huge fire bottle. Nod to this person.

1. Crack throttle about one-quarter of an inch.

2. Battery on

3. Mags on

4. Fuel boost on

5. Hit starter button (The four bladed 13’ 6’ prop will start a slow turn)

6. Begin to bounce your finger on top of the primer button.

a. This act requires finesse and style. It is much like a ballet performance. The engine must be seduced and caressed into starting.

7. Act one will begin: Belching, banging, rattling, backfiring, spluttering, flame and black smoke from the exhaust shooting out about three feet. (Fire bottle person is very pale and has the nozzle at the ready position)

8. When the engine begins to “catch” on the primer. Move the mixture to full rich. The flames from the exhaust will stop and white smoke will come out. (Fire bottle guy relaxes a bit) You will hear a wonderful throaty roar that is like music to the ears..

a. Enjoy the macho smell of engine oil, hydraulic fluid and pilot sweat.

9. Immediately check the oil pressure and hydraulic gages.

10. The entire aircraft is now shaking and shuttering from the torque of the engine and RPM of prop.

a. The engine is an 18 cylinder R-3350 that develops 2,700 HP.

11. Close cowl flaps to warm up the engine for taxi.

12.  Once you glance around at about 300 levers, gauges and gadgets, call the tower to taxi to the duty runway.

Take off in the AD-6

1. Check both magnetos

2. Exercise the prop pitch

3. Cowl flaps open.

4. Check oil temp and pressure.

5. Crank 1.5 degrees right rudder trim to help your right leg with the torque on takeoff.

6. Tell the tower you are ready for the duty runway.

7. Line the bird up and lock the tail wheel for sure.

8. Add power slowly because the plane (with the torque of the monster prop and engine power definitely wants to go left).

9. NEVER add full power suddenly! There is not enough rudder in the entire world to hold it straight.

10.Add more power and shove in right rudder till your leg begins to tremble.

11.Expect banging, belching and an occasional manly fart as you roar down the runway at full power.

12.Lift the tail and when it feels right pull back gently on the stick to get off the ground.

13.Gear up

14.Adjust the throttle for climb setting

15.Ease the prop back to climb RPM

16.Close cowl flaps and keep an eye on the cylinder head temp.

17.Adjust the power as needed as you climb higher or turn on the super charger.

Flying with the round engine.

1. Once your reach altitude which isn’t very high (about 8000 feet) you reduce the throttle and prop to cruise settings.

2. The next fun thing is to pull back the mixture control until the engine just about quits. Then ease it forward a bit and this is best mixture.

3. While cruising the engine sounds like it might blow or quit at any time. This keeps you occupied scanning engine gauges for the least hint of trouble.

4. Moving various levers around to coax a more consistent sound from the engine concentrates the mind wonderfully.

5. At night or over water a radial engine makes noises you have never heard before.

6. Looking out of the front of the cockpit the clouds are beautiful because they are slightly blurred from the oil on the cockpit canopy.

7. Seeing lightning in the clouds ahead increases the pucker factor by about 10.

a. You can’t fly high enough to get over them and if you try and get under the clouds—-you will die in turbulence.

b. You tie down everything in the cockpit that isn’t already secured, get a good grip on the stick, turn on the deicers, tighten and lock your shoulder straps and hang on.

c. You then have a ride to exceed any “terror” ride in any amusement park ever built. You discover the plane can actually fly sidewise while inverted.

8. Once through the weather, you call ATC and in a calm deep voice advise them that there is slight turbulence on your route.

9. You then scan you aircraft to see if all the major parts are still attached. This includes any popped rivets.

10. Do the controls still work? Are the gauges and levers still in proper  limits?

11.  These being done you fumble for the relief tube, because you desperately need it. (Be careful with your lower flight suit zipper)

The jet engine and aircraft

Start a jet

1. Fuel boost on.

2. Hit the start button

3. When the JPT starts to move ease the throttle forward.

4. The fire bottle person is standing at the back of the plane and has no idea what is going on.

5. The engine lights off—and—

6. That’s about it.

Take off in the jet

1. Lower flaps

2. Tell the tower you are ready for takeoff.

3. Roll on to the duty runway while adding 100% power.

4. Tricycle gear—no tail to drag—no torque to contend with.

5. At some exact airspeed you lift off the runway.

6. Gear up

7. Milk up the flaps and fly.

8. Leave the power at 100%


Flying the jet

1. Climb at 100%

2. Cruise at 100%

3. It is silent in the plane.

4. You can’t see clouds because you are so far above them.

5. You look down and see lightning in some clouds below and pity some poor fool that may have to fly through that mess.

6. The jet plane is air conditioned!! Round engines are definitely not. If you fly in tropical areas, this cannot be stressed enough.

7. There is not much to do in a jet, so you eat your flight lunch at your leisure.

8. Few gauges to look at and no levers to adjust. This leaves you doodling on your knee board.

9. Some call girl friends on their cell phones: “Guess where I am etc”

Some observed differences in round engines and jets

1. To be a real pilot you have to fly a tail dragger for an absolute minimum of 500 hours.

2. Large round engines smell of gasoline (115/145), rich oil, hydraulic fluid, man sweat and are not air-conditioned.

3. Engine failure to the jet pilot means something is wrong with his air conditioner.

4. When you take off in a jet there is no noise in the cockpit. (This does  not create a macho feeling of doing something manly)

5. Landing a jet just requires a certain airspeed and altitude—at which you cut the power and drop like a rock to the runway. Landing a round engine tail dragger requires finesse, prayer, body English, pumping of rudder pedals and a lot of nerve.

6. After landing, a jet just goes straight down the runway.

7. A radial tail dragger is like a wild mustang—it might decide to go anywhere. Gusting winds help this behavior a lot.

8. You cannot fill your Zippo lighter with jet fuel.

9. Starting a jet is like turning on a light switch—a little click and it is on.

10. Starting a round engine is an artistic endeavor requiring prayer (holy curse words) and sometimes meditation.

11. Jet engines don’t break, spill oil or catch on fire very often which leads to boredom and complacency.

12. The round engine may blow an oil seal ring, burst into flame, splutter for no apparent reason or just quit. This results in heightened pilot awareness at all times.

13. Jets smell like a kerosene lantern at a scout camp out.

14.  Round engines smell like God intended engines to smell and the tail dragger is  the way God intended for man to fly

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