18 Oct

Car-related activities took a backseat for a week due to a work-related out-of-town gas turbine class. What I was most impressed by weren’t the electronic controls, but rather the mechanical backup systems, which were the control system before electronics. Even though it’s all electronically controlled today, all the mechanical systems remain in place, standing by in case the electronics fail. I’m in awe of those systems, using springs, rocker arms, linkages, bellows, spool valves, magnets, and very few electrical parts. It’s easy to think that the systems are complicated, until realizing that they are in fact beautiful and elegant mechanical solutions. My hat is off – in a big way – to the mechanical engineers who designed the systems, many of whom likely used nothing but slide rules and a lot of brain power to come up with solutions.

The class answered a question I always had; there’s a scene in the movie “Cast Away” where Tom Hanks swims away from the floating wreckage of his cargo jet as one engine kept running on a broken wing. I thought that was ridiculous, but surprisingly, Hollywood actually got that right. Once lit, all a jet engine needs to run is fuel, and since it’s got an engine-driven mechanical fuel pump, an engine can indeed operate all on its own with no power at all, a tribute to its elegance and robustness.

Somewhat related, when I got out of class on Thursday, out to the west were some seriously huge and mean looking clouds. It turned out those storm clouds were dumping tons of rain on trapped motorists on the roads north of Los Angeles. We got a little rain but avoided the worst of it; I read that some of the side roads will require months to clear.

The only car-related activity I did was to swap in the 16-lb wastegate spring and switch to a purely mechanical-activated wastegate, but haven’t driven the car yet.

Yes, I will admit I gave a bit of thought about getting hold of a used gas turbine auxiliary power unit (APU). The trick is the transmission and how to throttle it. I have some ideas there but it’s just pie-in-the-sky. I’m fine with where I am for now.