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Old 04-25-2020, 07:39 PM   #1
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Designed to sell, not to use!

The cabinet door over my main touchpad has bugged me ever since I bought the GT. The damn door stands open essentially 100% of the time because the other small touchpads are not handy and the one on the end of the bathroom is an absolute pain to use, being half-hid behind the TV and awkward at best to operate. There is simply no reason to bother closing the cabinet door.

The hinges are almost impossible to remove. The bolt heads aren't accessible and the elastic stop nuts simply spin the bolts.

Today, I made the decision to can the offending cabinet door. I'll cut just the right length off each end of the door, swap the ends so that the trimmed edges face out, and reattach the ends to plates of the hinges, probably with VHB tape. The ugly hinges will be concealed and the touchpad and other displays will be out in the open where they should have been to start with.

I will still be able to remove the panel behind if needed because the end covers will simply swing up out of the way.

Just another example of things being designed to sell and not to use.
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Old 04-25-2020, 08:03 PM   #2
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Yes. Airstream is not Apple (or even any major Automobile brand today, foreign or domestic). End user experience, user interface, user perspective, optimum user design -- foreign concepts to the RV industry in general, including our friends in JC. Wha..?

The very idea that someone would first sit down and think through where everything should go, design for how real people (as opposed to myopically focused engineers) use things, to make it all simpler, easier, more intuitive; to remove the pain points, this is all make-believe land. We're too busy slapping these things together as fast as we can. Be happy it works and looks nice, ok?

Frankly, a large part of it, IMHO, is that AS does not see itself as starting from a clean sheet, rather they iterate on a classic design in the case of the TT or modify a chassis from a third-party.

Wally Byam said, "let's not make any changes, only improvements."

I say, hey, try starting from scratch and see where that leads.
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Old 04-26-2020, 08:32 AM   #3
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The very idea that someone would first sit down and think through where everything should go, design for how real people (as opposed to myopically focused engineers) use things, to make it all simpler, easier, more intuitive; to remove the pain points, this is all make-believe land.
As a former mechanical engineer, I say cut the poor buggers a bit of slack. I doubt they were engineers at all; they might have been interior designers, for all we know. After all, nothing in the Interstate, Grand Tour, or even the Atlas was actually designed at Airstream, except for the cabinetry and trim, which doesn't require an engineering degree to design. Everything else was purchased off-the shelf and shoehorned in wherever the designers thought it would fit.

Simplicity doesn't mean the same thing today as it used to back in the mid-twentieth century. Just look at automobiles. Back then, simple meant that a shade-tree mechanic could literally take a car apart and put it back together with just a decent set of sockets (SAE only, no metric) and open-end wrenches (and maybe a screwdriver or two for adjustments), but the driver had to use both hands and both feet to drive it, and pay attention to what he was doing every single moment behind the wheel.

Today, simple means that the car practically drives itself, even waking up the dozing driver if he starts to drift out of his lane, and slowing down for him before he rides up on someone else's bumper. But you've got to have a degree from at least a technical college and access to a brand-specific diagnostic computer to even tell what's wrong with the modern car, let alone start to fix what's wrong. They made cars simple to drive, not simple to fix. Because fixing the car is where the money is.

Gone are the days when a Class B RV just had a bed (or even just an air mattress), a port-a-potty, a Coleman stove, and an ice chest. I'm sure that there are people today who wouldn't mind returning to that level of simplicity, but RV makers don't target those people as buyers because that's not where the money is. RV makers add all the bells and whistles and shiny technology because that's what most buyers want, and that's where they can sell for the big bucks.

As for "real" engineers, the best examples I can think of were Napoleon's engineers. Napoleon loved to use cannons, and before he would send his beloved cannons across a bridge, he had his engineers certify that the bridge was safe— and prove it by putting said engineers under the bridge so that if it collapsed under the cannons, it would collapse onto the engineers. Natural selection weeded out the bad engineers in a hurry!
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Old 04-26-2020, 08:59 AM   #4
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[QUOTE=Protagonist;2354523]After all, nothing in the Interstate, Grand Tour, or even the Atlas was actually designed at Airstream, except for the cabinetry and trim, which doesn't require an engineering degree to design.

It is the cabinetry in this case that I was complaining about. I'm getting rid of a useless door and I have already recovered a lot of precious lost space from behind the window boxes while adding function.

There are stories of Wally Byam calling back from far away to have the designers make use of some small bit of wasted space. Airstream could really profit from that thinking today.

It doesn't take fancy engineering diplomas to, as the "THINK" signs that used to be ubiquitous in IBM urged. I managed to garner the top IBM engineering award one year with one year of college.
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Old 04-26-2020, 09:23 AM   #5
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They have modernized Wally's mission statement..... 😟

Bob
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Translation...We make no changes and the customer makes all the improvements. 😟
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Old 04-26-2020, 11:06 AM   #6
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Gone are the days when a Class B RV just had a bed (or even just an air mattress), a port-a-potty, a Coleman stove, and an ice chest. I'm sure that there are people today who wouldn't mind returning to that level of simplicity, but RV makers don't target those people as buyers because that's not where the money is. RV makers add all the bells and whistles and shiny technology because that's what most buyers want, and that's where they can sell for the big bucks.
RV systems technology peaked for reliability and performance in about 1995. The RV, especially B-Vans in that era had everything you need and nothing you don't. It was all simple, reliable, repairable, and understandable by the average buyer/owner. You turn the LP furnace/water heater/stove, and water pump on when you need them and off when you don't. The two-way ammonia-absorption fridges were reliable and just worked. The light receptacles were designed for standard bulbs, but accept replaceable LED bulbs nicely. They're not sealed, un-repairable fixtures. There are solid running boards instead of electric, retracting steps. There are no multiplex switch panels, complex electrical arrays, or power blinds. When something breaks, you can look at it, see what the problem is, and repair it with easily obtained, off-the-shelf parts.

My '04 Interstate is still *mostly* that way, although they decided to use a couple of unnecessary things, like the solenoid-operated gravity dump gate, instead of just the mechanical pull. But all-in-all it's still pretty simple.

I really don't understand that segment of the buyers' market that wants the expense and trouble of having to make difficult and expensive repairs, and have switches everywhere that few can remember what they do, exactly. There are very few B-Vans produced today I'd even want.

I was on a panel on technical issues for the Born Free Club at their bi-annual rally this past Spring. Far and away, the most complaints and most technical complaints came from owners of coaches with the complex electrical systems and complex electrical gizmos gadgets, and solar. I went to help several of them troubleshoot their issues, and not a one of them knew what all the switch panels did without pushing the buttons to see. Several of them couldn't FIND all their panels.

If one of the manufacturers uses the Transit 22' chassis van, and uses all the "old" reliable technology I'd think they'd have a winner. At least it would be with me.
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Old 04-26-2020, 11:20 AM   #7
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They have modernized Wally's mission statement..... 😟

Bob
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Translation...We make no changes and the customer makes all the improvements. 😟
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In my opinion, humble or not, Airstream management has lost real tactile touch with the product they are building. A few of them take an Airstream out for a week or two once a year, but if they learned anything from that it doesn't really show that I can see. From the crop of new purchasers each year they could ask a few to use the trailer and report back at 6 months and one year on what was working, not working, inconvenient, really fantastic, or whatever. Folks would be pleased to participate and they would gain real, tactile, just in time information. Why don't they do that? It wouldn't even cost them anything. I really think it is arrogance and that they think they are that much smarter than the people who buy their product.

We've trailered since 1971 and had our current trailer, a 1990 Excella 29, since 2009. Why don't we buy a new one? There is way too much going on that I don't trust mechanically, or don't want use-wise, or think is not right for someone who likes to camp where dirt does get tracked indoors and a pet is ready to put claws into pretty leather. I do think that solar as an option is great, and back up cameras as an option is also fantastic. Also ducted air-conditioning and heatings. These options make us think about a newer Airstream, but we are plenty happy with our 1990 Excella 29 and it has a ton of miles on it, and still looks fantastic (thanks to P&S in Helena, Ohio). And of course, it is paid for.
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Old 04-26-2020, 01:24 PM   #8
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Everything is a compromise.
The engineers could design a great RV, but it wouldn't be affordable.
They also have to balance the weight of appliances and water tanks so one side isn't way overweight.
Then use materials designated by the interior decorators. And keep the weight down, while making it quick to assemble.

I often admire the "Living Vehicle" RV designed and built by one guy.
It's beautiful, but at 150K it's outside most folks budgets.
He did it his way.
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Old 04-26-2020, 01:55 PM   #9
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Simplicity

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Today, simple means that the car practically drives itself, even waking up the dozing driver if he starts to drift out of his lane, and slowing down for him before he rides up on someone else's bumper.
As a currently practicing engineer, our company's design vision is:
"It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to subtract." Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Terre des Hommes (Gallimard, 1939), p. 60.

Airstream should follow this vision - along with implementing actual quality control.

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Old 04-26-2020, 02:13 PM   #10
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Or, as a famous aircraft designer, William Bushnell Stout, described his design philosophy, "Simplificate and add more lightness." The saying actually was originated by one of his designers, Gordon Hooton.

Stout designed the plane in 1924 that became the Ford Trimotor when Ford bought his business. Trimotors are still flying today and I was privileged to ride in one.
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Old 04-26-2020, 04:20 PM   #11
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A very interesting and on point discussion. I often find myself asking, “what were they thinking?”
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Old 04-26-2020, 05:08 PM   #12
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An outstanding discussion!

It should be published widely.
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Old 04-26-2020, 07:44 PM   #13
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Just for Fun??

Want to improve the product? Take a group of slide-rulers and pair them up with a group of bean-counters and send them off in various Airstream products for a couple weeks. Maybe even put them in an SOB so they can compare. Wanna bet there would be some interesting suggestions, slap fights?
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Old 04-27-2020, 09:29 PM   #14
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Today, I cut off the ends of the unneeded cabinet door, Painted the cut edges with brown paint I had mixed to match the edge binding color. I put two little patches of fuzzy Velcro on the cut edges so that the ends will not vibrate against the wall on either end.

While I was at it, I laminated a new wood panel for the touchpad cabinet so that I can rearrange the touch panel, Power Control panel, Magnum remote, and battery manager switch. Later 2018 builds than mine had a much better panel layout, but mine was an early 2018. I could have ordered a later panel, but anything from Airstream is $$$$ and more $$$ for shipping, plus two round trips to the dealer.
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Old 04-28-2020, 07:59 AM   #15
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Protag:
How does one become a 'former mechanical engineer'? Do you burn your diploma and go somewhere to unlearn everything you were taught in school and in practice? Now that I have retired I sometimes think (and my wife oftentimes thinks) that life would be better if I weren't so analytical.
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Old 04-28-2020, 09:19 AM   #16
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Protag:
How does one become a 'former mechanical engineer'?
I have one year of college. My IBM level was "Senior Engineer" for years while I lived in Colorado. When I moved to Texas, IBM could not designate me as an engineer because I have no certificate. My level then became "Senior Engineer/Scientist."

I was co-author of an article in the IBM Journal and I was, of course, listed without any degrees. A German professor wrote to me asking for a reprint. He was anxious to not offend me, not knowing my background, he addressed me as "Herr Professor Doctor Irwin." All my coworkers called me Herr Professor Doctor after that.
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Old 04-28-2020, 10:10 AM   #17
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............
......
As for "real" engineers, the best examples I can think of were Napoleon's engineers. Napoleon loved to use cannons, and before he would send his beloved cannons across a bridge, he had his engineers certify that the bridge was safeó and prove it by putting said engineers under the bridge so that if it collapsed under the cannons, it would collapse onto the engineers. Natural selection weeded out the bad engineers in a hurry!
Ha! I thought you were going to get around to Fourier who developed the mathematical series named after him. He was trying to solve a heat transfer problem (transient I guess) in the casting of cannons for Napoleons army.
Not a simple analysis for the time.

Thanks for jogging a few brain cells for this retired EE.😀

Oh, what was it that we were talking about? 😂
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Old 04-28-2020, 12:27 PM   #18
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How does one become a 'former mechanical engineer'? Do you burn your diploma and go somewhere to unlearn everything you were taught in school and in practice?
Former because I no longer earn my income that way. And, to be honest, since I haven't used those particular brain cells for the past 5 years, I probably have forgotten at least some of what I learned. But it's true that the analytical mindset that drove me to become an engineer in the first place is still with me.

But getting back to the topic of this thread, the Grand Tour actually did evolve from the Interstate as a result of user input. The idea of putting the galley on the passenger side and the wet bath on the driver's side, was the result of comments from users (including me, he said modestly) that having windows that looked out onto the service pedestal and having the wet bath blocking the windows that looked out onto the area under the awning, was kind of rude to the poor cook stuck at the galley while their spouse and/or friends were outside enjoying the day.

But sadly, no amount of user input has convinced Airstream that the Interstate needs a heated macerator pump to go along with the heated waste tanks for winter camping. So it's still possible to have waste tanks that don't freeze, but that can't be emptied because the macerator pump is frozen.
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Old 04-28-2020, 06:20 PM   #19
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At the risk of high jacking this thread-
Following up on Protagonistís comment, has anyone wrapped the macerator pump in heat tape to address the cold camping issues?

Granted you would need to be on shore power but considering the amps that the heated tanks consume you need to be on shore power anyhow (when not running the engine).
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Old 04-28-2020, 06:53 PM   #20
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At the risk of high jacking this thread-
Following up on Protagonistís comment, has anyone wrapped the macerator pump in heat tape to address the cold camping issues?

Granted you would need to be on shore power but considering the amps that the heated tanks consume you need to be on shore power anyhow (when not running the engine).
I did it in my driveway one year after returning from a winter trip to Florida in late February. We got a freezing cold snap before I could get my Interstate winterized again. I wrapped the 120VAC heat tape around the macerator to keep it from freezing. Got down in the mid-teens over night and barely reached above freezing for a couple of says. Worked great - no frozen macerator.
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