Sunday, March 29, 2009

Who are what now?

Many years ago, in a seemingly more innocent and happy age, back in about 2000 or so, I worked in a building with an elevator in it. I still work in a building with an elevator in it, in fact three elevators, but it's a different building now and this really isn't the story I'm trying to relate now, so let's try not to get sidetracked.

The building I was in had an elevator, I think I mentioned that. One day I took the elevator to the balcony level to partake of a cigarette and noticed something strange scrawled on the inside of the elevator doors.

The inside of the elevators were painted black making a rather effective chalkboard, of which someone had taken the advantage to use as same. Scrawled in white chalk on the inside of the elevator doors in a rather workmanlike script;

"Tuners are cats."

I pointed this out to my workmate Glen, who was as equalled puzzled as I as to the meaning of the phrase. There was insufficient space between the doors for a hand to reach in and scrawl a coherent sentence. It must have been done before the doors were installed, or perhaps during maintenance. But what did it mean?

I have a couple of theories as to the significance of this communication, but today I invoke the great hive mind of teh intartubes - what does 'Tuners are cats' mean?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nice, but it could do with a slap of crimson.

I've been interested in the Roman Empire since I was in high school. I'm not quite sure why this is, what triggered my interest in this particular era of ancient history, but there you are. Perhaps it was a childhood visit to the Roxy Cinema in Nowra where I grew up, built in the art deco syle in the 30's and decorated in a gaudy Roman amphitheatre style, with fake colonnades and carvings of cherubs and gladiators.

Down at the front, though, beside the screen stood an enormous reproduction of a statue of Augustus Caesar. It was about the only decoration in the place not painted in gaudy colours and fake gold. How wrong they were, and how wrong are these.

If you've long admired Greek and Roman sculpture, then I suggest you DO NOT click on these links. If you do then I hope you have a strong gag reflex.

Top 10 Color Classical Reproductions

The ancients: now available in colour

Monday, March 23, 2009

Missing - inaction

Have I expressed how deeply unimpressed I have become with the performance of the NSW Police over the last few years?

I can give you a number of anecdotal examples of lack of commitment on the part of individual officers I have had involvement with, and witnessed, from the Police Sergeant who thought himself too important to leave his desk to witness some documents I was required by law to have certified by a Police Sergeant, to police vehicles obviously ignoring other vehicles flagrantly breaking the road rules. I'm so used to the last one, I've found myself more and more ignoring road rules when I find them inconvenient, and I don't think I'm alone.

Bikie killed in Sydney Airport brawl

It's bad enough that this occurred, but the implications are quite staggering. The brawl apparently went on for 15 minutes - no NSW Police even witnessed the event, they had to be alerted by a 000 call. According to the Premier, the initial call to 000 came in at 13:43, and the call to the airport police commander went out at 13:46 and police responded at 13:47. This is calculated to be a response time of less than one minute (my high school maths says it is between 3 and 4 minutes, but whatever.) It was presentedtestified in court that the fight actually started at 13:35 - in other words, a number of huge, possibly armed men brawled unimpeded through the airport, and not a single NSW Police officer noticed. NSW Police were totally unaware until 8 minutes later, when a member of the public placed a 000 call.

Try taking an overly large bottle of shampoo, or a set of nail clippers on your next flight and see how far you get. A brawl involving up to 20 people and ending with 1 person bludgeoned to death, walk right in. It's quite clear the the low grade harassment, inconvenience and expensive equipment is merely to provide a veneer of security, the illusion of safety. Walk into Heathrow, for example, and you will be able to see police officers walking around armed with sub machine guns, and this is in a country which generally doesn't see the need to arm it's constabulary with firearms at all. The authorities there clearly see the need for a different response at its primary airport. Walk into Sydney airport and the most you will see will be a private security guard armed with a walkie talkie. You will find a more effective policing model at your nearest Westfield shopping centre.

The response so far has been to propose introducing new laws, giving greater powers of covert search to the Police and allowing them to arbitrarily declare a club or organisation as being illegal, and the members commit a crime simply by attending a meeting.

Neither of these things strike me as being an effective response. I also think that both of these powers will likely be abused in the future, reducing what fragile liberties we already have.

And if you think the NSW Police are squeaky clean and would never abuse their powers, you haven't been watching channel 9 on Monday nights.

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hurry up and wait

Although this evidence could be best described as anecdotal, I am of the opinion that the closure of Hoxton Park has had the effect of making Bankstown aerodrome busier - perhaps too busy.

Wednesday morning. Dreary, overcast, occasional showers. Hop into FTU, make a note of the numerous gripes, none effecting airworthiness. The headset socket is loose, some oil drips on the front oleo strut, the flaps reluctant to spring back to zero degrees from extended, the park brakes won't lock on. FTU is quite an old bird, the register lists her rego date as December 1979. I was 7 at the time, and I'm no spring chicken myself. Having said that, I remember thinking to myself as I checked under the cowling, "damn, that is one clean engine."

Start up, grab the ATIS, taxi out to the run up bay, do some pre takeoff checks and taxi out behind a chieftain, intending to do circuits. Then I hear it.

"All aircraft taxiing for circuits report ready in the run up bay."

Bugger, followed by two other aircraft who had already done what I'd done, reporting they were finished their run ups and were already taxiing for circuits, waiting at other runways. In other words, I'm boned.

"FTU is also done with run ups and taxiing for circuits."

"FTU, is that you behind the chieftain"


"OK, report when ready on tower frequency."

And I wait. The chieftain in front of me is waiting for an IFR clearance, which isn't forthcoming from Sydney control. So I wait for her, she waits for clearance, and a session of circuits looks less and less likely for me. I hear other training aircraft reporting they are shutting down, requesting a light signal once circuits are available. There's just too many aircraft trying to fit into a fixed area of space. Perhaps until recently the controllers were prepared to accept a few too many aircraft in the circuit, but in light of recent events are keeping a tighter rein on how many aircraft are permitted to train at once. If so then I applaud their actions.

This still leaves me locked out of the circuit today, so I report that I want to depart downwind to the training area and continue waiting for the chieftains IFR clearance. The pilot repeatedly asks for an estimate on the delay, Sydney must be flat out because they can't even get an estimate. Eventually she gives up and requests a VFR departure, hoping to pick up an IFR clearance in the air away from Sydney airport. I finally get clearance to line up on the runway and wait. I do so and wait. I don't like to do this as I can't see behind me, and I am worried someone will land on top of me from behind.

I am cleared for takeoff, and do so without delay.

In the training area west of Bankstown the cloud is low and threatening. There are no showers out here yet, but they aren't far off. A cloud of green smoke hovers over the ground beyond the pipeline. Soon a column of yellow smoke joins it, a plume of red smoke does the same. RAAF detonating smoke grenades at Orchard Hills. The chieftain pilot gets her clearance over Patonga to climb to 5500 and track direct Scone. I practice an engine failure, I practice steep turns. I get bored and check out the dam, then head back.

Approaching Prospect a heavy shower passes between me and Bankstown, obscuring the landscape. Although the rain doesn't bother me, the lack of visibility does, so I turn 180, find tadpole lake (Bankstown pilots will recognise this perennial water feature) turn 180 again and head back to Bankstown.

This time there is no waiting, I put in a respectable squeaker, which I'm quite proud of, exit the runway, taxi back to the aero club and shut down.

26 hours to go until I can start my commercial training.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Fletcher, Blacksmith, Pilot?

US killer robo-plane makes strike without remote pilot

Although American pilots hate drone-driving duty, generally having to be ordered into it against their will, they are also very uncomfortable with the idea of mere enlisted tech specialists handling what are to all intents and purposes close air support missions using strike aircraft. This tends to call much of their raison d'etre into question.

This gets at the crux of the matter. No pilot worth his salt wants to sit inside a data centre while his aeroplane flys around without him. Even worse though, is an aeroplane that requires no pilot at all.

Friday, March 06, 2009

In which I update my whereabouts

This blogging lark. Not so easy sometimes. One would think tapping away on the keyboard, converting thoughts into words on a screen, pretty straightforward. Not so.

So please excuse the paucity of posts in recent months. It isn't I've wanted to be incommunicado, Real Life (tm) has merely intruded.

I was studying hard for my ATPLs, put practical flying aside for awhile. For one reason or another I failed ATPL Flight Planning. This subject is a cast iron bastard, so I will need to restudy and resit the exam. Maybe I can pass next time. Maybe. In the meantime, the heart just ain't innit, see? Performance and Loading is a bit easier, so I will sit that one next before getting back into Flight Planning. After that I have Aerodynamics and Aircraft Systems, which I just looove to study. That will be my carrot.

I put off flying over summer, as I mentioned, it being too hot and sticky under the perspex and having other fish to fry, so to speak. The law and the club rules mean I have to fly 90 days before I can fly solo again, so Tuesday I went out to Bankstown to gain recency. Flew with a feller called Craig, who was very pleasant to fly with. Corrected me when my technique was slack, as is appropriate. Not pedantic, as am I. Gave me some excellent techniques. All good stuff. So once again I'm legal.

Speaking of legal, it was time for my annual physical, and isn't that just cheap and cheerful fun /sarcasm off. As usual, I paid an awful lot of money to some medical practitioners for the privilege of waiting, being messed around, stripping on command, being poked and prodded, shaved, having electrodes attached. Those blokes in Guantanamo would go on a hunger strike if they were subjected to such humiliations, and asked to contribute financially for it. End result - I am as fit as the proverbial stringed musical instrument. For another year. Yay.