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February 16, 2004 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Police seize Vietnamese farmer's unlicensed, homebuilt helicopter This NYT/AP report convinced me that globalization truly dooms that American middle class pitted against such dedication. Yankee tinkering once provided a foundation for the North American industrial revolution. But now:' The farmer said he won't give up, vowing to sell his house or 25 acres of land if that's what it takes to get the license. "If I cannot do it, my children or my grandchildren will do it,'' he said. '
posted by troutfishing (38 comments total)

 
woooo hoooo mefi's back. sorry if I'm a bit slow out of the gate, but that's what a week without you guys will do to a fella.

and um, wow a helicopter out of an old engine and some really old plans. I wish I had the web when I was a kid.
posted by jmgorman at 8:15 PM on February 16, 2004


wow, dedicated fella. This guy deserves a hat going around for donations to help him, uhm, get that chopper off the ground. ;)
posted by dabitch at 8:20 PM on February 16, 2004


I was wondering: would the equivalent be legal in the US? I mean, obviously it would be legal to build, but would it be legal to actually fly? Or would the FAA treat you much the same way?

I know that there are aircraft you can build from a kit, but are those kits FAA regulated?
posted by kickingtheground at 8:22 PM on February 16, 2004


you have to run FAA observed tests to ensure their (kit helis) safety. Things like hovering 5 feet off the ground for 2 hours then 10', then 50', stuff like that.
posted by jmgorman at 8:27 PM on February 16, 2004


would the equivalent be legal in the US?

If it were under a certain horsepower, weight, and only has one seat I belive (though I could be wrong) it could be considered an 'ultralight aircraft' and would be legal in the US.
Ultralights are defined and operate under simple guidelines specified in FAR Part 103.

Ultralight engines must weigh less than 254 pounds and un-powered Ultralights must weigh under 155 pounds. All Ultralights must be single seat only. A license, or airman's certificate, as the FAA calls them, is NOT required to fly an Ultralight. All types of aircraft fit into the Ultralight category including hang gliders, powered hang gliders, paragliders, powered paragliders, and powered parachutes. Some extremely light weight conventional 3-axis controlled aircraft, also fit into the Ultralight category.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:31 PM on February 16, 2004


Oh, and I am wondering what the heck 'globalization' has to do with this? One would guess that the North Vietnamese Government has lots of regulations, regardless of 'globalization'.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:34 PM on February 16, 2004


jmgorman - thanks for the info. That's a provisional yes - I guess - given that the Vietnamese farmer's chopper hasn't made it quite that far yet.....

18 inches....woo hoo!

But - give the guy a decade, and he'll have a base on the moon.
posted by troutfishing at 8:35 PM on February 16, 2004


Oh, and I am wondering what the heck 'globalization' has to do with this?

Dumbed down, he meant there are shitloads of inventive tinkerers outside of our borders who will invent the proverbial better mousetraps for pennies on the dollar. The sentence Yankee tinkering once provided a foundation for the North American industrial revolution should have provided a clue.
posted by y2karl at 8:40 PM on February 16, 2004


Or the Vietnamese will finally be selling us those air cars that Popular Mechanics Magazine assured us - back in the late 50's - that, by 1975 or so, we'd be flitting to the grocery store in.
_______________________________________________

Steve - the Vietnamese police repression of local home flying machine innovations, and those forces - the spread of materials, technology, and know-how - which make such things likely are related.......but not necessarily so.

Oops - Y2karl beat me to that point...so I'll take it to the next level : the vast sucking sound.... ( not that I begrudge Vietnamese inventors - quite the opposite ).
posted by troutfishing at 8:48 PM on February 16, 2004


"flitting to the grocery store in" - these will be the Hondas of the air, supremely reliable. They will only to fall on our heads, and through our roofs, very occaisonally - and this damage and loss of life will be defrayed by quite affordable insurance premiums.
posted by troutfishing at 8:56 PM on February 16, 2004


Steve - BTW, thanks for providing that ultralight definition....

Interesting.
posted by troutfishing at 9:00 PM on February 16, 2004


Sikorsky would be sooo proud!
posted by RubberHen at 9:04 PM on February 16, 2004


One would guess that the North Vietnamese Government has lots of regulations, regardless of 'globalization'.

The who in the what now? *hands Steve a map made in the last quarter-century.*
posted by Space Coyote at 9:14 PM on February 16, 2004


Vietnam jails online journalist
posted by homunculus at 9:30 PM on February 16, 2004


That's pretty cruel to link to an AP story on the NYTimes (reg required) web site.
posted by smackfu at 9:44 PM on February 16, 2004


this must be stopped. soon every vietnamese will want a helicopter. then laotians and cambodians. it's the domino effect all over again. where is nixon when we need him? [portions of this comment relating to aerial dog hunts have been omitted in a gratuitous nod to good taste.]
posted by quonsar at 9:45 PM on February 16, 2004


By homunculus' link, it looks like it's safer to try to build a helicopter in Vietnam than to try to form a political party.

smackfu - sorry, i was overwhelmed by the resurgence of Metafilter. But thanks for posting the proper AP link.

quonsar - they'll be storming our borders soon, in helicopters powered by stolen Honda engines designed for Saturn cars made in Mexican Maquiladora factories.
posted by troutfishing at 9:56 PM on February 16, 2004


The who in the what now?

It said in the article:
No Vietnamese individual has ever been granted a government license to build an aircraft, said Le Cong Tinh
I saw "No Vietnamese" and thought I saw "No. Vietnamese"

/me smacks self
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:06 PM on February 16, 2004


First the guy from Cuba with the Buick ship, now this, perhaps we could outsource our public education system to communist countries. Or, better yet, send everyone to a 3rd-world country and see who would be resourceful enough to find their way back to the U.S.. That way we're sure to have the best and brightest living in the U.S..
posted by gyc at 10:46 PM on February 16, 2004


Mexican Maquiladora factories

They all moved to China.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:18 PM on February 16, 2004


Regarding the ultralight category, an outfit called Innovator Technologies in Canada has developed an ultralight helicopter. $19k US if you've had a minimum of 10 hrs rotorcraft dual instruction, otherwise $21k (and good luck not killing yourself on the maiden flight, dumbass).
posted by ehintz at 11:44 PM on February 16, 2004


Like gyc, I also thought of Luis Grass Rodriguez's Buick-boat. It's a real shame that the U.S. Coast Guard had to use it for target practice.
posted by magullo at 1:44 AM on February 17, 2004


ask him if he wants to keep the mefi server going.
posted by sgt.serenity at 2:44 AM on February 17, 2004


those air cars that Popular Mechanics Magazine assured us - back in the late 50's - that, by 1975 or so, we'd be flitting to the grocery store in.

Which will never happen. Think household collision insurance. Then think rental property collision insurance. Those premiums could never be affordable--no insurance company could afford to offer them and no one could afford to pay them. We kill each other in the tens of thousands on the highways each year. If people owned and used helicopters in the same numbers as cars, we would be killing each other in the millions.
posted by y2karl at 4:51 AM on February 17, 2004


The best part about the buick boat was that the hull was painted to match the car. Ingenuity and attention to detail. Those guys would never make it under the US industrial model.
posted by jmgorman at 7:01 AM on February 17, 2004


Yankee tinkering once provided a foundation for the North American industrial revolution. But now:' The farmer said he won't give up, vowing to sell his house or 25 acres of land if that's what it takes to get the license. "If I cannot do it, my children or my grandchildren will do it,'' he said. '

Interesting article, but I don't really get the comment. There are - in every country - entrepreneurs willing to risk everything in the quest to bring an internal vision to fruition. The dedication that guy has, that is quoted in the article, is not only very much alive and well in the United States, but is actively encouraged by our business environment, tax structure, capital markets, and legal system.

The countries that are truly "doomed" by globalization are those that suppress - instead of cultivating - their entrepreneurs. The creative spirit in that fellow is a natural resource for Vietnam - and look at how it is treated. In the US ... he would not need to be talking about his children finishing the vision of getting a single helicopter off the ground - he'd be a businessman (probably building ultra-light helicopter kits). If he succeeded in the risks he took, he'd have profits, which would mean his intelligence and creativity could expand into new areas.

The article is actually quite good at demonstrating why the political and economic systems of some countries will be helped, and others hurt, by "globalization".
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:01 AM on February 17, 2004


Sikorsky would be sooo proud!

where is nixon when we need him
posted by clavdivs at 8:18 AM on February 17, 2004


The dedication that guy has, that is quoted in the article, is not only very much alive and well in the United States, but is actively encouraged by our business environment, tax structure, capital markets, and legal system.

Experiences on this topic differ, it would seem.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2004


The dedication that guy has, that is quoted in the article, is not only very much alive and well in the United States, but is actively encouraged by our business environment, tax structure, capital markets, and legal system.

Experiences on this topic differ, it would seem.


Personal experiences might, but there's a lot of stats out there, and by almost any objective measure you want to use (from the number of new businesses created, to the number of patent applications filed), the US is a good place to be if you've got what it takes to try to start things.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:17 AM on February 17, 2004


got what it takes to try to start things.

of course, once he got it going, he'd export the assembly jobs to mexico where they'd put together his copters all day for the price of a taco, and pocket the savings. he'd hire a phalanx of lawyers to defend his money pile when the rotors start to fall off and kill people, and he'd fill the coffers of corrupt politicians who will work to ensure that the peons who actually create his dream for him are kept just poor and powerless enough that they must show up and build copters for him day after day. this is the type of societal parasite mulligan holds in esteem, bright shining light of humanity that he is.
posted by quonsar at 11:49 AM on February 17, 2004


I'd like to see a picture of this.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:38 PM on February 17, 2004


this is the type of societal parasite mulligan holds in esteem, bright shining light of humanity that he is.

Yes. Obviously, the Vietnamese system is much better. Just squash him before he creates anything.

Thank goodness - for the world - that people with attitudes like his continue persist - regardless of what governments happen to be around, and despite attitudes like yours.

Interesting that when I hear about what this fellow is doing in his backyard, I see a remarkable, risk-taking creative spirit, with the sort of dedication and commitment it takes succeed despite all odds. And I can envision him in a place where that spirit creates value for consumers, and jobs for workers.

You apparently look at the same scene, and see that same determination and creative spirit as the seed of all evil in the world. And envision a future in which that spirit creates nothing but lethal inventions, manufactured by slaves, and defended by lawyers and corrupt politicians.

I suspect there's a good reason why me and my kind are increasingly running the world - and it's not because we have to bribe anyone. It's because the dark, cynical, bitter sentiments of those that only see a world full of evil that needs to be constrained just aren't that attractive. Those who believe that entrepreneurs are "societal parasites" ought to simply go live in caves ... because that's where they would be living without the people they flap their mouths condemning.

The bizzare thing is that you apparently think your vision of human creativity is a "bright shining light of humanity". Good thing for humanity that so many people ignore rhetoric like yours, and persist in creating businesses.
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:28 PM on February 17, 2004


And envision a future in which that spirit creates nothing but lethal inventions, manufactured by slaves, and defended by lawyers and corrupt politicians.

take a look around, blind boy.
posted by quonsar at 1:47 PM on February 17, 2004


Yes. Obviously, the Vietnamese system is much better. Just squash him before he creates anything.

I wouldn't say it's a better system, but it doesn't seem much worse, either; he'd be squashed just as flat in the U.S. if he tried to fly his helicopter here. It'd be "have fun with the FAA, buddy, and I hope you have your million bucks' worth of venture capital lined up, because you're going to spend most of it just getting permits."

Interesting that when I hear about what this fellow is doing in his backyard, I see a remarkable, risk-taking creative spirit, with the sort of dedication and commitment it takes succeed despite all odds.

When I hear about what this fellow is doing in his backyard, I feel sorry for him, because he's in for a lifetime of exhaustion and disappointment. You're talking about entrepreneurs, but this guy is an inventor. Inventors are the people who come up with ideas, work themselves to exhaustion scraping together money to build prototypes, try to find business partners who will screw them over more gently than most, sign over the rights to their ideas and the ownership of their companies in exchange for the money necessary to make their brand-new companies run; and then, after years of hard work, inventors are the people who get run right out of business when some giant conglomerate steals their ideas and takes over the market.

That, my friend, is what this guy could look forward to if he lived in the United States. Never mistake creativity, determination, and an inventive spirit for business acumen. Business skill is its own arena and has nothing to do with any of the skills necessary to actually create the product or perform the service that the business theoretically exists to sell. Creative people exist to get ripped off by money people; that's capitalism.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:26 PM on February 17, 2004


I know that Midas is right on this count - small business growth in the US has been the main engine of job creation over the course of the last decade. I don't completely agree with Midas that the US is so helpful, always, to small entrepreneurs. One might make a somewhat different argument - that the US is conducive to business, generally, but that government policies - at least by way of government bailouts and also IRS prosecution of tax fraud - favor big business and are more likely to penalize small business. I could be wrong, but I don't have the impression that small business owners can write off 3-martini business lunches but they are, however, rather strictly policed in their tax deductions for home based business offices.

There are, further, a number of large corporations which have in the past few years openly refused to pax taxes while IRS tax audits, however, concentrate on individuals and small business owners.

Midas, I applaud the job creation of small business owners and entrepreneurs in the US. But to what extent is the vibrancy of small business growth in the US an outgrowth of American culture itself? And do US government regulations and tax codes favor small business, or do they (as I suspect) favor large corporations - which tend to have lower rates of innovation?

______________________________________________

Back to the Vietnamese helicopter-tinkerer : I find it hard to see how the overall diffusion of technology and knowledge through the developing world - which underlies this anecdote at least to an extent - will not undercut the American Middle Class. Wired Magazine's latest issue claims otherwise, but at least the bottom quintile of American wage earners (and possibly the second lowest quintile as well) has lost economic ground since the early 70's - American's era of greatest affluence. It's been downhill since.

I'm a bit dubious that the American IT workers - once hailed as the cutting edge, high tech emergent answer to America's dwindling manufacturing worker ranks - will find, on average, jobs which pay as much or more than those they have lost and are losing to India and elsewhere.

Think of the quickly shrinking temporal margins : the US had world supremacy in industrial manufacturing for decades. But the computer, IT, and software revolutions have had a markedly shorter tenure in the US before those industries which sprang from these revolutions began to export jobs offshore.

There are now plenty of highly trained developing world engineers and programmers to displace Americans who - regardless of exhortations to retrain - will nonetheless still lose ground.

The advantages of basing business and manufacturing - and even research - in the US are fast dwindling.

American culture may be vibrant, sure - but cultures all over the globe are in rapid upheaval from globalization and are absorbing technological know-how at a surprising rate. Blame the internet, blame the printing press, telephone, TV, fax machine - blame whatever. The historic US edge - in education, cutting edge knowledge and know-how, and even in cultural factors encouraging invention and innovation is quickly diminishing.

Humans, the world 'round, are just as smart as Americans and increasingly well educated......and they will work for dimes on the dollar.
posted by troutfishing at 2:46 PM on February 17, 2004


So there.

Also, my knee jerk reaction is to agree with most of what Mars Saxman just wrote.
posted by troutfishing at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2004


Midas - 'I suspect there's a good reason why me and my kind are increasingly running the world'

Probably not good grammar.
posted by asok at 4:47 AM on February 18, 2004


Probably not good grammar.

Incomplete sentence.

So what's your point?
posted by deadcowdan at 6:23 AM on February 18, 2004


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