Category Archives: cars planes and trains

Stuff about anything vehicular

the joys of motoring #26

Jennifer Jaguar sailed through her MoT test today. Lately she has been looked after by a family business down in Portsmouth where I’m working a lot, and it’s nice to know that all the TLC has been paying off. The old girl went through the 100,000 miles barrier last month, although I’ve only contributed a little under half that.

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Empire of the Clouds – Book Review

I’ve really enjoyed this book. I’m about 10 years younger than the author, but remember most of the aircraft he describes very well and many of the test pilots were my heros too.

One or two review have criticised the author’s style, but I found that his conversation way of writing contributed a lot to the pleasure I’ve had over the last couple of days as I’ve avidly read it. Altogether a wonderful tale of an era when aircraft were going through radical change. Yes, there were mistakes and incompetence and our industry did suffer from political weathercocking, but it was a time that produced some spectacular and beautiful aircraft, some of which were truly world beaters.

Empire of the Clouds: When Britain’s Aircraft Ruled the World

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The joys of motoring #6

So there I was, heading off up the M5 in Jennifer Jaguar with plenty of time to get round Brum and to my seminar around the M42/M6 interchange when the warning signs told me that the M5 was closed between junctions 6 and 5. Oh, well. Off at J8 and across via Pershore, Evesham and Stratford upon Avon and pick up the route again from that side.

Why is it that some idiot has failed to manage to drive along a piece of road where we’re all going the same way without driving into something? I know that I’ve asked  this before, but I do get the feeling that some people have to take their brains out before they get behind the wheel.

Despite my having left with time in hand I got to where I was going an hour later than planned. Not too bad under the circumstances, but I reckon I could have shaved another 15 minutes off that if it wasn’t for two other pieces of brainless activity (or non activity actually) on the part of my fellow car peddlers.

Firstly, why is it that so many people arrive at a roundabout and then stop and look to see if anyone is coming? Look as you are getting there and you can see whether or not you need to stop. If there’s no need to stop, then don’t.

Then there is the traffic light brigade, the worst example of which this morning was in Evesham. I’m eight cars back in the queue at a red light. The lights change. What seemed like three days later the person at the front woke up and moved off. A couple of the others followed fairly promptly, but the rest had to think about it. The bloke in front of me must have had to get the manual out to see which pedals did what as the one in front of him had almost got through the lights before he moved. And then the inevitable; he’s 30 feet from the lights and they start to change. All of a sudden he’s realised what the pedal on the right does and he goes for it, and is undeterred as the lights go red just before he gets there. Through he goes as I coast to a halt at the line.

So thanks to all you people who each wasted a few more seconds of my life again today, and thanks also to whoever caused the problem on the M5. I only missed 40 minutes of the seminar that I’d paid £400 (plus VAT) for because I know my way around and could find a different way. One of my fellow delegates wasn’t sure enough to try a diversion and missed three hours of the seminar.

The joys of motoring?

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Police helicopter to move – more fun with the media?

“Police helipcopter to move” screams the headline on the placard!

Goodness gracious! What could this mean? Has it been on static display outside Police HQ all of these years? Have they finally found the budget for enough fuel to fly it? Are they going to take it away on a truck?

The thing has been in regular movement since they got it. It has been flying around where I live for years, so has the local rag only just got wind of this or could it be another example of sloppy standards in journalism?

The latter of course. Yes, I know roughly what they mean in that there are ongoing issues about the shared service with Wiltshire NHS, but why should I have to interpret a simple headline? Surely accuracy would be better? “New base for Police helicopter”, for example, says it all.

Please stop dumbing down. We need better standards if we are to get this country back on its feet. The media are in the front line along with teachers and, first and foremost, parents.

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What really goes on in the cockpit(?)

The cockpit of a modern airliner is a pretty cramped place. 32000 feet above Ireland Captain Jason Wirth and First Officer Barbara Lopez sat surrounded by controls and instrument panels as they occupied, respectively, the left and right hand seats. In their crisp white shirts and aviator shades they appeared model professionals monitoring progress while the flight computers took their Boeing 777 from Heathrow to Chicago. Behind them, separated by the obligatory post 9/11 secure door, nearly 300 passengers and crew had settled in over the hour or so that had passed since take off.
Looking through his side window Wirth remarked “Irish coast coming up. It’s about time”. Lopez peered at the weather radar on one of the glass screens before her, its scanner searching the skies for up to 100 miles ahead. She pointed to a brightly coloured patch on the screen. “That looks rough”. Pressing the transmit button she spoke again, her voice calm and clear; “Oceanic control, Amair 492”.
“Amair 492, Oceanic control. Pass message” came the crisp response.
“Amair 492, with you abeam Shannon westbound at flight level 32, anyone reporting chop at this level?” Lopez asked.
“Stand by” then, after a short break “Amair 492, Delta 194 is about 20 minutes ahead of you reporting light to medium chop at level 36. I have no-one at your level”
“Is that what we have on the radar?” asked Wirth. “Sure is” responded Lopez. “OK, ask for change of course and height” nodded Wirth.
Pressing her transmit button again, Lopez spoke “Oceanic, Amair 492. Thanks for the update. Requesting flight level 36 and course change 277”.
“Amair 492, Oceanic. Cleared to climb, flight level 36 and 277”
“Amair 492, three six and two seven seven. Good day.” replied Lopez. She reached across and entered the new data into the flight computer. As the messages passed through the giant aircraft’s systems the GE turbines and ailerons responded, the Boeing’s nose rising and moving slightly right at their command.
“How long? asked Wirth. “17 minutes” replied Lopez.
This time it was Wirth who pressed the transmit button. Back in the cabin Purser Elaine Dickenson picked the phone off the wall as the tone sounded. She spoke a single word “Purser”. “Captain speaking” Wirth told her, “expect light chop in 17 minutes; you’re cleared to serve the meals”

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Why can’t we get airport design right in the UK?

As someone who has been in customer service for over 45 years I get puzzled by the failure to do some simple things that could make a huge difference. I’ve just travelled through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, but these remarks aren’t confined to that building, more to what I see as a series of blindingly obvious failures. Continue reading

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Motorsportmania blog goes live this weekend!

Over this weekend I will be moving my motoring and motor sport (auto racing) posts over onto a new blog, Motorsport Mania here on WordPress. Motorsport Mania

This will allow those who are following my motoring mutterings to do so without having all of the other stuff that apears on John’s Jottings cluttering up their message boxes.

The new blog will feature all of my car related stuff from this weekend onwards and I’ll have a look at building a page of links back to the various motor sport and driving blog entries from the JJ site.

So that will be the place to go for my thoughts on current matters in F1, NASCAR, Indy and other types of racing and, expecially as I’m doing some other writing at present (Truck & Driver took an article from me last week for future publication for example), I’ll mention these as and when they come up.

Thanks to my followers, and I look forward to your comments on the the new blog as it gets under way.

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more #F1 musings on the #hungariangrandprix

I’ve been looking at that incident between Cobbler senior and the Barra Boy again and believe that MSC really knew what he was doing. As he moves over he appears to keep watching his mirrow long after Rubens had got into the blind spot part way alongside him.

We know that those mirrors are pretty useless, so was he so focussed on looking that he moved a bit too far over? Or had he seen Rubens come across and was waiting until he got alongside just to intimidate him as much as possible? I think the latter.

If, as he appeared to claim in his post race interview, he was trying to let Rubens past on the other side (his left), why wasn’t he looking there? Why stay focussed on the right?

We know of his opinion of Rubens and maybe he just thought he could make him chicken out. They both swerved left together, so got away with it all even if Rubens did take off slightly as he passed over the kerb at the pit exit, and Rubens had the experience to use his track position there to make sure he got the corner.

All in all an ugly moment and rather uneccessary.

Something else that troubles me though: A certain other Brazilian used to dish this sort of thing out every bit as much as MSC does and yet still gets revered whereas everyone queues up to throw rocks at MSC and want him penalised. MSC’s move on Rubens was nasty, but almost identical to one that the yellow helmeted Brazilian pulled on Nigel Mansell once (like Rubens, he didn’t bottle it either), but that isn’t the only example of overdoing intimidation; turning into Mansell (yes him again) at Spa, ramming Prost off the track in Japan. I could go on.

MSC and Senna both have (had) sublime driving skills, but I will never be able to regard either of them as true greats because they have this tendency to be bully boys. Both are/were good enough not to need to behave that way, but neither had enough character to kerb their animal instincts.

The real greats like Ascari, Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Lauda and others could be hard, but would not pull these sort of stunts.

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#F1 Musings on the #hungarian grand prix

Great drive Mark Webber! Did what you had to and good call by the team when the SC came out.

Renault vs Force India – Ooops. An accident waiting to happen. Maybe F1 needs to look at NASCAR on pitting under SC conditions (not that get it right every time, but they do have a pit for every car on the track, and they have 43 in a race. OK, the pits would stretch half way round the lap at Monaco, but you get my point.

What were you thinking Michael? That was just plain stupid, and good job Rubens for not backing out.

SV will grow up one day, and we can maybe put up with the tantrums as they aren’t hurting anyone else. The kid is bloody quick, but maturity is one of the reasons why his team mate has won 4 races this year.

Well done Williams and Sauber, and also to the Ruskie Kid.

So, tight at the top going into the Summer break. Who’s your money on?

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#F1 Musings

What on earth are HRT up to on the driver front? Dropping Senna for the British GP was a bit of a shock even if he has been a bit of a waste of space, but now they drop Chandhok! Not signs of any real leadership for the team.

JV making another come back attempt? He did OK in a decent car, but was pretty ordinary otherwise and is too far past his sell by date now. Maybe buying his way in as an entrant is one last roll of the dice to get himself a drive, but he really ought to fade away quietly.

After being so rude about the opening event I am happy to say, as I did here the other week, that I was wrong and that this is turning into a good season with plenty of doubt about the outcome of each race, and no runaway at the top of the table. Roll on Hockenheim, even if they did make a hash of changing the track a few years ago. Silverstone shows how it can be done.

Blown diffusers? Wondering where the idea came from? Not a new concept; check out the 1986 MARCH indycar, where one A Newey was on the factory design team and being loaned out to the preferred customer’s race team. These things come around from time to time.

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