Archive for February, 2004

Spring is Here!

Winter is over.  It may not feel like winter is over, and if you look on a calendar, winter doesn’t “officially” end until March 20th.  Calendars are not baseball fans, so ignore your calendars and take it from me:  Winter is over now that spring training has arrived.

Since calendars are so unreliable, some people wait for the arrival of the first robin of spring.  Those people are clearly Amish.  Modern New Englanders know that winter is over when their network sports anchors deliver reports from the Florida sunshine and crack corny jokes about the weather back home.

When I turned on my television this week and saw sportscasters in short-sleeves, I knew that spring had sprung.

Spring training brings with it the hope that 2004 is “next year”, and that the Red Sox will finally win the World Series.  At the very least, the excitement of spring training will help last season’s painful finish to fade into the past.

There have been many changes to the Old Towne Team since I was shouting at my television for Grady Little to take Pedro Martinez out of Game 7.  Since I assume that most of you have lives and therefore don’t follow the Red Sox as closely as I do, I have compiled a summary of the team’s off-season activities for you:

  • Grady Little made some comments that he would haunt the Red Sox if he was fired.  He was then promptly fired.  Note to Grady Little:  Your decision to leave Pedro on the mound in Game 7 is haunting enough.
  • Terry Francona was hired as the new scapegoat, I mean manager, of the Red Sox.
  • Playoff hero Todd Walker was not invited back.  A new second baseman, Pokey Reese, who batted a horrific.215 last year, was signed.  He may not be able to hit, but he does wear his cap at a jaunty angle.
  • The Red Sox tried to give Manny Ramirez away for free.  No one wanted him.  Unable to give Manny away, the Sox then tried to trade him for the best player in baseball, shortstop Alex Rodriguez.  Amazingly, not only did the trade not happen, the current shortstop’s feelings were hurt. 
  • The Red Sox stretched their financial muscle and picked up star pitchers Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke.  These pitchers were available because their former teams couldn’t afford to pay their salaries.
  • The hated New York Yankees traded for Alex Rodriguez.  This move prompted Red Sox owner John Henry to complain that it is unfair that the Yankees have more money to spend than other teams.

Even the most negative member of Red Sox Nation hopes that these moves will enable the Red Sox to throw off the yoke of the also-ran.  This will be the year.  The Sox have a better team than everyone, except maybe the Yankees, and the Yankees can’t win EVERY year…can they?

It’s spring training and the Red Sox are in first place.  The sunburned sportscasters of spring bring with them a rebirth of hope.

Sports Tim 20 Feb 2004 No Comments

Flying Free

Flight.  Since the first time a soaring bird relieved itself on the shoulder of an awestruck caveman, humans have been fascinated with flight.  Children all over the world dream of piloting an aircraft into the sky, but many of those dreams go unfulfilled.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Considering how well most people drive, it is probably a good thing that the cost, time, and skill required to earn a pilot’s license has kept most people safely on the ground.

I am sorry to report that the days of rampant restrictions are over.  It is now perfectly legal for anyone to pilot an aircraft called an “ultralight” without a license.  That means that those people in the car next to you who are trying to shave, drink coffee, and bark orders into their cell phones while steering with their knees on the Mass Pike can now legally FLY WITHOUT A LICENSE.

What is an ultralight aircraft, you ask?  According to a website called “All About Ultralights” (http://www.all-about-ultralights.com), ultralights with engines are single seat aircraft that weigh no more than 254 pounds.  These aircraft can remain in flight for more than 3 hours at altitudes of up to 15,000 feet at speeds of up to 55 knots.  There are also ultralights without engines; single seat gliders that must weigh no more than 155 pounds.  Ultralights range in price from $3,000 to $30,000.

I first saw an ultralight last year when I was at Lake Winnipesaukee.  I heard it before I saw it, a low buzzing sound much like a lawn mower.  When I looked up, I saw a contraption gliding towards me, about 300 feet over the water.  Upon closer inspection, I saw a man sitting in a chair that had been suspended under a hang glider.  Behind the chair were a small engine and a propeller.  The craft slowly floated past and eventually disappeared over some trees in the distance.

I asked around, and was told me that the ungainly contraption was called an ultralight, and that no license was required to fly one.  I refused to believe that something so, well, airborne, would not require a license, so I looked to the Federal Aviation Administration for answers.

I found Federal Aviation Regulation 103.7 (b) (http://www.faa.gov), which states:  “…operators of ultralight vehicles are not required to meet any aeronautical knowledge, age, or experience requirements to operate those vehicles or to have airman or medical certificates.”

The lack of an age requirement is particularly comforting.  My 5 year-old niece cannot legally ride in a car without a booster seat, but she is perfectly within her rights to pilot an aircraft to 15,000 feet.

Another comforting section of the Regulation is 103.7 (a), which states:  “…ultralight vehicles and their component parts and equipment are not required to meet the airworthiness certification standards specified for aircraft or to have certificates of airworthiness.”

I’ll have to remind my niece to take her ultralight to a reputable repair shop.

The “All About Ultralights” website describes the ultralight community as self-regulating.  The controlling authorities appear to be the Aero Sports Connection (ASC), the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and the United States Ultralight Association (USUA).  These organizations have no real power, but they politely ask Ultralight dealers to ask for some proof of certified training before selling an aircraft, even if they really need the money.

So, if you are a person interested in exercising your freedoms, I suggest that you snag yourself an ultralight and aim for the sky.  You might want to hurry up and get flying before the government decides to make money from, I mean regulate, the industry.  One last piece of advice for you:  Before purchasing your first ultralight, the website strongly suggests that you “know how to fly”.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 04 Feb 2004 No Comments