Former COPA national staff member and current Flight 8 webmaster Adam Hunt has released his first novel, The Longest SAR.
The work is Hunt's first book-length fiction, although he is well-known in aviation circles as the original author of eight of the COPA Guide series of non-fiction books as well as hundreds of aviation articles that have appeared in COPA Flight, KitPlanes, UltraFlight, Ultralight Flying!, Helicopters and other magazines.
"I originally wrote the outline for this novel back in 1983 when I was flying as a military helicopter pilot on a search for a missing aircraft. I never had the time until now to actually write the story," Hunt said.
The book is set in 1984 and is about the search for a missing Cessna 310 that has disappeared in British Columbia. The story is told from the point of view of the searchmaster, an experienced captain who is near retirement. The search is subject to the expected usual factors: bad weather, no emergency transmitter signal, search aircraft unserviceabilities, SAR techs being arrested, interference from relatives of the missing passengers, psychics and the difficult task the searchmaster has of trying to piece together all the information available to locate the missing aircraft.
The search is further complicated by the searchmaster's own personal problems, which impact how he deals with his search crews, the members of his deployed headquarters team and the search itself. The book deals with what the search means to him personally and explores to what length he will go to find the missing aircraft.
“On one level this is a very realistic adventure story that anyone can read and enjoy. It is also a psychological portrait and a philosophical subject, too, so I am hoping that a wide range of adult readers will enjoy it. There are naturally, several flying scenes in the book and the subject is all about aviation, so it has an obvious appeal to pilots," Hunt said.
Hunt knows his subject matter as he served as a military helicopter pilot between 1982-95, qualified as a Canadian Forces searchmaster in May 1991 and flew searches with 408 and 417 Squadrons as well as Base Flight Cold Lake.
The book is independently published by QQ Books and available on paper and as a download under a permissive Creative Commons licence.
Hunt explained why he went this route for publishing: "Since I wrote the outline for the book I always intended it as a creative project, not as a commercial endeavour. I feel that too many creative compromises are often made to try to make a book a commercial success. I am also a big fan of Lawrence Lessig, his book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity and also the free culture movement and so this book is just my small contribution to it."
The Longest SAR is available as a paperback book at
or as a free e-book download at
By Adam Hunt
|C John Quarterman|
COPA Flight 8 invited local Ottawa pilot, former Cessna Cardinal owner and former COPA national staff member John Quarterman to come and speak to the flight about the future of oil and gasoline for transportation in general and aviation specifically.
The topic is one that is very general in scope; much more so than the usual subjects of Flight 8 meetings, but it could greatly affect the future of aviation and the way society in general will look and work in the future, so it attracted a good turnout, mostly by pilots who are not very familiar with the issue.
Quarterman started out by explaining that he is not an oil industry analyst or insider, but just a pilot who has taken a great deal of interest in the oil industry that powers our planes. He mentioned that he has done extensive reading on the subject and attended a number of briefings on the subject, including those by the federal government's Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to Canadian municipalities.
He first became interested in the subject after reading The End of Cheap Oil - Global oil production of conventional oil will begin to decline sooner than most people think, probably within 10 years, a paper written by Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere and published in the March 1998 edition of Scientific American.
What he has learned since he started studying the subject is a major factor in why he sold the aircraft in which he owned a share.
He started by quoting from U.S. sources that the aviation industry uses 7% of the oil consumed. Quarterman emphasized that most of that is burned as jet fuel and avgas, making it one of the larger oil-burning sectors. In the U.S. 60% of all the energy used each year comes from oil, more than all the other sources combined. Aircraft are especially susceptible to higher oil prices because there are no practical alternatives and also because of their typically large fill-ups, even for light aircraft.
Quarterman stressed that the world is not about to run out of oil, but over the past hundred years of extracting it we have found and used up all the high quality, easy to locate and cheap to extract oil sources. Now we have only oil sources that are hard to find, expensive to get at and, like the Alberta tar sands, yield a very low quality product that requires a lot of energy and money to turn into something that can be used.
Quarterman next showed a video of Jeff Rubin addressing The Business of Climate Change Conference in 2009. Rubin is the former Chief Economist of CIBC World Markets, who quit that job to write a best-selling book about peak oil called Why Your World Is About To Get A Whole Lot Smaller.
Rubin has a lot of credibility in the financial and oil markets because predictions he made about oil prices in the past have turned out to be remarkably accurate. In this video he has predicted that oil will cost US$225 a barrel by 2012. If he is right then at the current comparison rates between oil and gasoline prices, automotive gasoline will retail in Canada in the neighbourhood of $2.70 per litre and avgas would be expected to cost about $4.35 per litre, or about $16.45 per gallon.
Rubin emphasizes in the video talk that the issue is "not about running out of oil, but about running out of oil that you can afford to burn." He predicts that, as indicated in the title of his book, the biggest impact is that the global economy will be undone.
Globalization is based on the fact that manufacturing of goods moves to where the costs of production are lowest, primarily driven by low wages and it assumes that the costs of then transporting those goods to market are a small factor.
As Rubin explains, when high oil prices drive up the cost of moving goods to market, then it is cheaper to make steel in the USA at higher wage rates than to make it in China and ship it to the USA.
Rubin also spends some time examining oil depletion, indicating that as oil fields are drawn down and used up that new ones must be found. The cost of those new fields, deeper down, more expensive to find and develop and producing lower quality oil that requires more expensive refining, means that oil prices will have to go above US$100 per barrel and only climb from there, even if enough new fields can be found.
One of the biggest factors is the fact that as fields of high quality light sweet crude are expended they are replaced by synthetic heavy oils from the tar sands. Another related problem is that in taking the Alberta tar sands from its current production of 1.2M barrels/day to 4M barrels per day as planned, the result will be a polluted tailing pond of the same area as the state of Florida. The environmental costs are high.
As an economist Rubin spoke about the spike in oil prices that occurred in the summer of 2008. He indicated that there has been lots of blame on speculators and other causes for the high prices but that the simple truth is that since 2005 the amount of conventional oil extracted each year has not increased while the demand for it has. This competition for an increasingly rare resource has to result in higher prices.
He noted that oil companies always make public announcements when new oil discoveries are made, but never when old fields are depleted and taken out of service. With global oil demand at 86M barrels/day right now and at the current rate of field depletion, the world has to find 20M new barrels/day by 2014 just to keep current consumption - ignoring increasing demand.
Continuing on in the economics theme Rubin mentioned that normally when dealing with commodities, higher prices limit demand, but when oil went to $147 per barrel in 2008 demand actually increased. Oil demand actually has peaked in the USA, Canada, Western Europe and Japan but other countries are driving the demand. Certainly China and India are increasing their oil demand, driven by new inexpensive cars like India's $2,500 Tata Nano and the Chinese Chery.
The Nano, Rubin describes as a miracle, in that it allows lower income families to drive a car, and as a disaster, it creates millions of more oil consumers. He noted for every person giving up driving in the developed world there are 10 people buying their first car in the developing world. Even while China and India are increasing their demand it is in the oil producing countries, like Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Russia that demand is soaring.
Ruben says: "Have you ever filled your tank up in Caracas or Riyadh? If you did, you'll soon know. It's 25 cents in Caracas, it's about 50 cents in Saudi Arabia, but the point is it's 50 cents whether oil is $20 a barrel or whether oil is $200 a barrel, because that's just the way things are over there. OPEC is a disparate place separated by history, religion, geography, but there's one common denominator: everybody has a God-given right to consume as much cheap fuel as they bloody well feel like it."
He goes on to point out that most electricity generation in the Middle East is gasoline or natural gas burning and that gasoline for electricity production is subsidized to a cost of seven cents a gallon. This all adds up to increasing domestic demand from oil exporting countries as they cannibalize their exports to feed their domestic markets. As a result, in 2009 Rubin predicted a return to oil prices over a $100 per barrel in 2010/11.
In discussing the 2008-09 recession Rubin said that, despite what some people believe, it was not caused by sub-prime mortgages, noting that Japan and Germany went into recession long before the mortgage meltdown. That recession was caused by high oil prices derailing the global economy.
He also indicated that some measures, such as bailing out obsolete industries like car manufacturers, was misguided. To avoid a peaking of GDP, subsequent loss of wealth and a breakdown of the economic system, countries will be forced to go from a global economy to a much more local economy. Rubin indicated that this will not be a government policy change, but will be market driven as imports will not be able to compete with local goods due to high transportation costs.
As an example he pointed out how the current Chinese steel industry works, with ore from Brazil shipped to China for processing into steel and then shipped to North America all due to cheaper wages in China. A small increase in oil prices makes the Chinese wage advantage insignificant and that globe-wide steel supply chain uncompetitive.
Quarterman went on using his own slides to explain and expand the video's message, highlighting the most important point that "the discovery of oil supplies has fallen in a straight line from the 1960's, while consumption and demand for oil has at the same time risen in an exponential curve upwards, with the two lines crossing in 1981."
Quarterman went on through graphs and displays to show that the world has been emptying the global fuel tank ever since 1981, practically guaranteeing a second major energy crisis in short order.
The first theory discussing the possible peaking and subsequent decline of world oil production was proposed in 1954 by Marion King Hubbert. Based on his modelling, Hubbert predicted that the U.S. would reach a peak of oil production in 1970 and that the world would reach a peak in 2000. U.S. oil production actually peaked in 1971 and it is very likely that world production peaked in 2008, although we will have to wait a few years to confirm that.
While Hubbert's predictions were very close, other oil economists have been less accurate and usually far too optimistic. For instance, with its North Sea oil finds Britain and Norway became oil exporters. The North Sea was expected to peak in 2020, but actually reached its peak in 1999. In 2009 the UK became an oil importing country.
Chris Srebowski, writing in 2004, indicated that the world was finding 12.5M barrels/day in new discoveries while losing 30M barrels/day in depletion, or the equivalent of two Saudi Arabias, in terms of production.
Quarterman did cover the area of renewable energy sources, indicating that the USA now has 6% renewables, mostly solar, geothermal and wind power, but it won't be enough to make up for the loss of oil production in the next few years nor soften the blow of very high oil prices.
When asked what individuals should do, Quarterman indicated that cutting your own oil consumption won't solve the problem on a global scale, because the oil market is world-wide, so a litre of oil you don't use will be burned by someone in China, India or Saudi Arabia.
Flight 8 would like to thank John Quarterman for coming into speak to us on this large and complex subject. The flight members realize that an hour and half is only enough to graze the surface of a game changing issue like this, but it was a good introduction to start people thinking about the subject.
Video - Jeff Rubin addressing The Business of Climate Change Conference in 2009