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An Aviator Passes.

It’s with a very heavy heart that I read reports this afternoon that one of the Red Arrows has crashed, and the pilot hasn’t survived.  The Red Arrows are a true credit to The Royal Air Force and are nothing short of absolutely awesome to watch — it’s impossible to describe just how skilled these aviators are.

I’m a happy chap if I can keep my airspeed and height within the standards expected of a newly qualified commercial pilot (which I am not, but no harm in aiming high) — these guys and girls fly fast jets at almost 4x my speed, often only inches apart.  It’s a real treat to watch.

I have had the privilege to see this years Red Arrows (part of the team changes every year) twice.  Only earlier this week they overflew my home town and my son had to ring me straight away to say he’d seen them again; and wanted to know why they had no smoke on – I was 150 miles away; but this gives you an idea of how inspirational they are; my 3 year old adores them.  I haven’t the heart to tell him one has crashed.

My thoughts are with the pilots family, friends and his colleagues; it’s always awful when a fellow pilot passes, especially when flying.  Rest In Peace.

Flying West

Capt. Michael J. Larkin 

I hope there’s a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you’d see all the fellows who’d flown west before.
And they’d call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, “He was quite a good lad!”

And then through the mist, you’d spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He’d nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, “Welcome, my son, I’m pleased that you’re here.
“For this is the place where true flyers come,
“When the journey is over, and the war has been won
“They’ve come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
“Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol’boys
“Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
“This is Heaven, my son — you’ve passed your last test!”

7-5, Taken Alive??

Please don’t misuse it…

When learning to fly I was taught a mnemonic (one of many learnt during training), which helps me to remember the three very important transponder squawks which are used in varying emergencies:

75 – taken alive, 76 – in a fix, 77 – going to heaven.

This is to describe the following squawks and their uses.

  • 7500 – Unlawful Interference – Hijacking normally.
  • 7600 – Communication Failure – Radio Inoperative.
  • 7700 – Other Emergency – Normally a May Day, where an aircraft or person aboard is in grave or imminent danger.

Emergency Squawks

The main thing they do is alert any radar operator to your peril – and they generally do this by highlighting the aircraft in a very prominent colour on the display of the radar operator.  The operator can then use this information to assist the flight much better, and if you have a Mode S transponder they will also have other information about the flight as well.

Of course we all hope we never have to use any of the emergency squawks, but we all use routine codes every day and will often have to change between them in flight, as we are assigned new codes by new ATC units.

Be Careful!

A post in this months GASIL reminds us that as pilots we have to be careful how we set these squawks… particularly near or around 7500.  Older transponders (in much of the GA fleet) are set by rotating a series of dials, whereas newer transponders are set with buttons and the code typed in.

Old Transponder
Old Transponder
New Transponder
New Transponder

The danger is that when changing squawk on an old style transponder you may scroll the dials through one of the emergency combinations.  7600 and 7700 can be resolved quite quickly by confirming with Air Traffic Control that no emergency exists…  however they are unlikely to believe that having squawked 7500 (even fleetingly) no hijack situation exists, no matter how much you plead.

Fighter Jet Anyone?

The point made in this months GASIL, which I am emphasising is that you must select standby when changing transponder codes on older style units.

Change the unit to standby, change the code, then put turn transponder back to On (Or Alt if available).

If you do not then in the current climate, and especially in 2012 with the Olympics in town, you can fully expect to be intercepted by an RAF Typhoon from the Quick Reaction Force.  This may take some explaining away…

… but if you do get it wrong you can find the Interception Procedures here!

Interesting Links for March 29th.

These are my interesting links for March 29th:

  • Non-Doms Have An Unfair Advantage – Duncan Bannatyne eloquently sets forth the case for changing the UK tax regime which allows "non doms" to pay little / no UK tax on their earnings and leaves UK businesses at a disadvantage. Lawyers tried to restrict this article – says a lot!
  • Inside GCHQ: ‘Caution: Here comes the BBC’ – Insight into how the BBC were treated when they were allowed privileged access into GCHQ. The documentary which this was in aid of is broadcast at 2000 on BBC Radio 4. Looks like it'll be worth a listen.
  • How do they do IT?, Formula 1 – Computerworld – Fascinating look into the IT which supports the Formula 1 teams, as it makes a whistle stop world tour! Can you imagine setting up IT equivalent needed to support a medium sized enterprise in 7 days, then taking it to bits again and moving to the next location?
  • RAF fighter jets scrambled amid terror plot fears – The RAF have again been scrambling fighter jets, but this time to accompany "suspicious" civilian airliners through UK airspace; with ministers awoken in the night who could have had to make a decision to shoot them down! Scary stuff, surely never to happen?

Interesting Links for March 25th.

These are my interesting links for March 25th: