Tag Archives: news

Boeing’s 747 is still the queen of the skies for me

It is very nice to be back on a Boeing 747, still very much the Queen of the Skies. It seems incredible that it is just over 40 years since I first saw one; I was at Crystal Palace watching the motor racing and, used as we were to the endless procession of Boeing 707s and Douglas DC8s, with the occasional VC10 or something else turning in for the run into Heathrow when I looked up to see my first 747 (I’ve never liked the term Jumbo) as one of Pan-Am’s finest swung in. It looked huge compared to all of the others, even if it was barely visible on the photo that I took.

At that time I had yet to fly and, if you ignore a 30 or so feet zoom over an hedge and into a cabbage field when I was knocked off my motor bike, it would be 16 years before a BA 757 whisked me to Aberdeen one evening with one of her sisters bringing me back from Edinburgh a few days later. Whilst a long haul trip and the chance to fly on a 747 was conspicuous by its absence the following years saw me become a Shuttle Warrior as I nipped back and forth to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast so often that I got onto first name terms with some of the cabin crew.

That friendship and my love of the 747 were to be savagely disrupted in the space of less than three weeks starting late 1988 when firstly we saw that memorable image of the nose section of Pan-Am’s Clipper Maid of the Seas in a border’s field. The night she went down I had seen a Pan-Am 747 pass me when it took off from Heathrow as I loaded my bag into my car in the long stay car park. Whether it was flight 103 or one of her sisters I don’t know, but the majesty of the one I saw roar past me bore sharp contrast to the one that lay broken a few hundred miles north.

Around that time I had flown home from Edinburgh on G-OBME, one of British Midland’s new 737-400’s. Amongst the crew Ali and Barbara and their colleagues looked after us well on the short hop down to London and, once again, I made my way out to the long stay car park and headed down the M4 for home. Then came the news of an aircraft having come down on the M1 motorway trying to get into East Midlands airport after engine problems. That aircraft was G-OBME, and Ali and Barbara were amongst the crew. It was a black month.

My first flight on a 747 came in 1994, Gatwick to Newark with Continental and then came something of a flurry, mostly with Virgin Atlantic to California and Florida and the initial impression of them as the Queen of the Skies has been affirmed by experience. Over the years I flown down the back (in the last row you can actually see the fuselage warp during turbulence), right at the very front where you are further forward than the pilots and on the upstairs deck. They are a great aircraft, and about the fastest thing that you can fly on these days after the demise of Concorde, the erstwhile Goddess of the Skies.

So here I am again on one of Seattle’s finest, this one being one of Sir Richard’s fleet of 400 series models for another Atlantic crossing and, as someone of my generation who marvelled at Thunderbirds, there is a pleasure at riding once more aboard an aeroplane named Lady Penelope, the third or fourth time she has swept me over the pond.

You can keep your A380s, so ugly and bloated; the 747 has a much more graceful line and will always be one I carry torch for.

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hats off to Sir Frank Whittle: celebrating the 70th anniversary of Britain’s first jet powered flight

Seventy years ago today history was made when a British jet powered aeroplane first flew as the W1 turbo fan powered Gloster E28/39 took off from Cranwell and made a successful first flight.

Thanks to George Carter who designed the aeroplane, to Gloster chief test pilot Flight Lieutenant Gerry Sayer who made that first 17 minute flight, and to the perseverance and genius of Sir Frank Whittle, Britain entered the jet age.

Notwithstanding that the Germans had already flown their first jet aircraft, the He 178 in 1939 and would actually be the first to get a jet powered aeroplane into operational service in the shark like Me 262, this having first flown jet with power around 14 months after the Gloster. But Frank Whittle got the idea first, and today marks a landmark in our aviation history. It punctuates a remarkable 66 year period between the Wright brothers staggering into the air for the first powered and controlled flight and Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon.

So let’s celebrate the achievement on this, its 70th anniversary.

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nice to spend my 1000th Tweet on something people are enjoying

Watching TV this morning and seeing so many people really having a good time is nice. Simple old fashioned pleasures and people coming together to celebrate. I hope that the weather is kind to everyone planning on spending time outside today.

Something nice to spend my 1000th Tweet on.

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if Swindon vanishes in a fireball….

It will be nothing to do with my lack of religious belief, nor my anti AV status, but rather a spontaneous combustion of barbeque lighting fluid in the atmosphere.

Despite being 75 to 100 feet from the nearest meat cremation ceremony, the stench of accelerant is so bad that I’ve given up on gardening and come indoors feeling somewhat ill. Goodness knows what their food will taste like with all those fumes around.

So, if you live locally and see the flash, or you hear of our fireball on the news later, you’ll know why.

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christian symbols offensive? leave colin atkinson alone

Those who read my ramblings on a regular basis will know that I do not believe in G-d, but I have no objections whatsoever to those who do drawing comfort from their religion and the traditions and pageantry that go with them.

In a land that once was proud of its tolerance I am appalled that a gentle man by the name of Colin Atkinson can find himself in trouble with hie employers for displaying a cross in his vehicle.

I appreciate that it is their vehicle, and that they have to draw the line somewhere about how employees customise their working environment, but to say that it might offend is, to me, wrong.

Some 37 years ago I found myself in an early management role having to deal with customers who wanted a maintenance person to call, “but not the *****” (insert own word for someone of a darker skin). We have come a long way since those days of prejudice that Warren Mitchell parodied so brilliantly, and I am as angry about the treatment of Mr Atkinson as I was about the events of 1974.

I hope that someone sees sense here and drops this whole issue. To allow it to continue is to shame us all.

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a final word on Yes2AV

So far in this debate I’ve not really seen much from the Yes lobby that tells me why theirs is a good idea; it has all been about the FPTP system being wrong and that AV is great, but why?

As any of you that have read my previous posts on this topic will know I am against it, but again, to be fair, why?

Well, in what will, hopefully, be my final blog on the subject, here’s why:

What is the point of your vote? It is to elect the person that you would like to have represent you. Now this has become slightly corrupted in that you probably really vote for the party that they represent rather that the person. There is a distinction, but let’s leave it at that for now.

You get the one choice, and why would you want a second choice? Now the AV lobby will have you believe that you might have a second, third, or more choice, but is it really true that someone will say “I’m voting for party A, but party D would be my second choice, and Party F my third choice”? I really doubt that.

What is far more likely is that they will say “I want party A to win and party B to lose”. Let’s face it, someone who votes Tory is going to want the Labour party to lose and vice versa, so what can they do?

Under AV they can either vote as they do now choosing their one favoured candidate, leaving the other candidates boxes on their form unticked,

or they can vote for more than one candidate and put the one they don’t want to win as far down the list as they can

or they could vote for their favourite, plus some of the others, but not the one that they don’t want.

If they take the first option then there is no difference from now. If they take either of the other options they are voting tactically.

Now we need to be honest here and acknowledge that, apart from some specific areas of the UK, there are two main parties; Conservative and Labour, then there are the LibDems, and then the rest. Can anyone really say that this is not the case? You only have to look at the numbers to see it, or just glance at history. Apart from the current coalition, or the war years, when did we have anyone other than the top two in power?

So if you are voting tactically and you want either Conservative or Labour to win and the other to lose, then you need to make your second choice one that is going to attract enough votes to push the unwanted candidate down, and the only realistic second choice for most is therefore LibDem.

In one of my other blogs on this subject someone has commented about how many LibDem voters complained last year that they had not voted LibDem to get a Tory government, but isn’t that what AV is about. I, too, remember that now and understand her point.

Persuade me I’m wrong if you can, but as I see it if someone is elected on a raft of second, and possibly third, choice votes, how is this better than what we have now? Unless you are one of those who have successfully voted tactically that is.

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a seminal moment, 50 years on

The news that the Soviet Union had put a man into space, and then that they had got him back again, was somewhat awesome to me as a youngster. One of us, up there. It may have been at a troubled time for the world of the cold war era, and Yuri Gagarin might have been on the other side, but he became an instant hero to me.

Fifty years on I still hold his memory in high regard. Is space research a waste of time as some would have us believe? No to me; pushing boundaries is one of the things that life is all about, and to be the first to go where someone has not gone before is a special thing.

Still one of my heroes, Yuri Gagarin got there first, and he will not be forgotten.

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more on the yes2av campaign – is there a scandal that we should know about?

I am all for a fair fight, good open debate and accepting the results at the end, whatever they may be. My own campaign against the yes2av lobby is, I hope, a good example of putting an alternative argument forward so that people can make up their own minds, albeit that I do hope that my arguments do influence people towards my way of thinking.

And so I am appalled the read via another blog quoting from The Spectator that the Electoral Reform Society, who would have much to gain financially from a Yes2av vote being successful, are sponsoring that campaign. Read the blog and reference to the article here and make up your own mind.

It is old news maybe, having been published in late Feb this year, but was news to me until this morning.

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more on why I’m voting No2AV on 5th May

Deciding who will represent you in parliament and, ultimately, who will run the country is not a marketing survey.

If someone asks you to rate your top 5 or 10 hotel chains, supermarkets, airlines, fashion outlets or whatever then ranking them in order makes sense. It gives a feel for how people see the market and who they rate as number one. You could do the same with one of those, for me puerile, talent and reality shows to decide who to vote off.

But deciding the outcome of an election this way is, to me, completely bonkers.

Yes, I want to see electoral reform and a better way of representing the people, but I do not believe that AV has any place in such reform, so I’m voting No.

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vote no2AV on 5th May – have you spotted the irony with yes2av here?

Having had more Vote Yes for AV material thrust at me the delicious irony of the 5th May referendum has finally broken through to me: The vote is a first past the post one! If more people vote for it than against it will succeed, and will do so by the very system that it desires to eradicate,

So it 15% of the population vote for it, and less than that vote against, it will be passed by a minority.

Given that a few luvvies are queueing up to urge a Yes vote from their fans (who will no doubt vote Yes without understanding why), and that there is a small campaign in favour, but no apparent cry to oppose, we face the strong possibility of having a political nonsense thrust upon us. As WSC might have put it; “never in the field of politics have so few done such damage to so many” (well, other than New Labour of course).

We need change, but not this one. Perhaps I should take to the streets.

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