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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Let's Build An Airplane

My daughter's father-in-law is a doctor on Treasure Island. It has some other Spanish name that I can never remember. Rumor has it that it was the model for the island in the book Treasure Island. I liked the book, so that's what I call it. Treasure Island is part of Cuba, and Cuba, being run by the commies, is impoverished. So I was thinking that the next time somebody goes to visit, they should take a package of medical supplies, you know, stuff that would actually be useful as opposed to trinkets and cute clothes and other such clap-trap as people see and want.

Catamaran Ferry Iris, Cuba
But then I realized that the contents of the package were immaterial compared to the difficulty of getting it there. You can fly to any number of cities on the main island, but getting to Treasure Island is kind of a pain. There is a ferry (a French catamaran, above), but space is limited, tickets are hard to get, you might have to wait a day or two to get on board.

Antonov AN-2 at the Rafael Cabrera Mustelier Airport
There is a semi-regular air service, but the plane is old and small and not all that regular. With demand as high as it is, they obviously need more capacity of some sort.

Now the first world solution to this kind of problem is to buy a ship or an airliner from an established manufacturer and then extract a continuous stream of cash from the sale of tickets. On one hand this makes good economic sense, but on the other, Cuba is impoverished. I'm not sure ticket sales would be enough to pay first world prices for first world equipment. I don't know how they paid for the ferry. Maybe somebody gave it to them. Or maybe I know nothing of communist finance.

What Cuba, and every other impoverished nation needs, is an industrial base so they can build their own stuff. Building airplanes might be just the ticket. Obviously they wouldn't be able to compete on the world market, because the world market wants stuff that is certified safe by the great government bureaucracies that certify such things. But for the parts of the world that are not part of the first world, a home grown aircraft might be just the ticket.

When I first started writing this diatribe, I was going to go off now on how it should be a simple matter for Cuba, with its highly educated workforce, to go into the aircraft manufacturing business. I mean the biggest part of building an airplane is putting the fuselage together and that's just a matter of sheet metal and rivets. Back in WW2 we put a nation of farmers to work building a glorious fleet of aircraft, and by glorious I mean enormous. I suspect that the USA produced on the order of 100,000 aircraft during WW2. So it really shouldn't be that difficult for Cuba to start building their own aircraft, especially since most of the 3rd world could use a nice cheap, sturdy, small airplane.

But then I read about the fastest ship on the block. Turns out it is made in Tasmania, an island off the south Coast of Australia, an island with no industrial base, no coal mines, no bauxite mines, no giant power plants. How could they possibly hope to compete on the world stage? What's wrong with these people, don't they know you can't do that?

Supposedly one of the reasons the USA has been so successful is because of its industrial might, and we were able to develop that because we have big iron and coal deposits. Tasmania doesn't have any of that. I'm pretty sure their aluminum is imported, maybe even from China, and they were still able to develop a successful industrial scale operation. And it is successful, they are selling their boats all over the world.

Maybe I'm thick, but I can't see any reason why Tasmania should be so successful and Cuba should be such a frigging disaster, other than the fact the the Castro brothers are made-men in the mafia founded by Stalin. It's enough to make you a commie hatin' redneck.

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