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English Culture Poetry Society Uncategorized

My Rural Pub

My Rural Pub

 

 

Balmy evening, sun not set, sky is azure blue,

As I set off to the pub, to sink a pint or two,

I stroll along the leafy lane, and cross a rotting stile,

It’s not a gruelling journey, just barely half a mile

 

The woods I have now passed through, and either side are crops,

And over in the distance, is the village church and shops

On my left is golden wheat, to the right is yellow rape,

And my friend, the lonesome horse, stands waiting by his gate

 

I walk into the village, up round past the church,

Up cobbled lane, my local, The Robber and the Birch

Rural English tavern, horse brasses, and oaken beam,

Weather-beaten whitewashed walls, slowly turning green

 

Ducking to protect my head, I push the creaky door,

Entering the alehouse, where footpads drunk before,

All the chequered history, of my ancestors lie here,

You can smell it in the woodwork, and taste it in the beer

 

Minstrels, Monks and Robbers, perhaps a Prince or two,

Have stopped to quaff a jug of ale, as they were passing through,

Relaxing by the window, I slowly sip my beers,

With the sounds of Merrie England, still ringing in my ears

 

The cricket teams’ just entered, a very happy crowd,

I think that they’ve just won their match, and feeling very proud,

The clink of cheerful glasses, loud celebrating toasts,

With giant plates of sandwiches, provided by our hosts

 

 

It’s time to go, I nod goodbye to the old man by the door,

Glancing round my local pub, it’s English to the core,

I wander back, round past the church, and down the dusky lane,

Down through the fields, and past the horse, away, to home again.

 

 

Mark CharlwoodÓ 2018

 

Categories
Civil liberties Cycling Society Transport Travel Uncategorized

Forced to Wear a Cycle Helmet? I Don’t Think So!

I was sitting in the office the other day, when I overheard a conversation between two of my colleagues.  Now, I should probably explain here, that one of the protagonists is a keen cyclist, and commutes to work by bicycle every day, regardless of weather  – a distance of some thirteen miles.

The other party to the discussion was a self-confessed petrol head, and drives a very powerful, sporty muscle car.

He was remonstrating with my biking colleague, criticising him for not wearing a cycle helmet.  Quite rightly, in my opinion, the cyclist was defending his position by saying that there was no legal requirement for him to wear a crash helmet, and as such he wouldn’t.

This got me thinking.  Over the past three or four years, there has been some serious lobbying by some safety motivated pressure groups[1] to make it a legal requirement for cyclists to wear crash helmets whilst riding their bicycles.

As a free thinking adult, and a free spirit, I normally baulk at any sort of legislation that attempts to regulate aspects of my private life, and this includes the “Nanny State” mentality of coercing me to stop engaging in activities that are perceived by others (in all possibility non-participants in those activities) to be either dangerous or unhealthy.

So I decided to conduct a little research into the subject, and this is what I came up with.

Statistics.  Lots of statistics, all of which can be distorted and twisted to put a particular slant on a story.

However, I have done my best to strip the spin and hyperbole from the stats and explain it as it is.

Firstly, one has to first understand why a cyclist may need a crash helmet.

Advice to wear a helmet, means that the person or organisation offering the advice feels that there is a great risk that a head injury may be sustained by the individual when taking part in the activity – in this case the relatively safe pastime of riding a bike.

So, to put this into perspective, there is a need to assess the element of risk associated with cycling, and compare it with other common activities.

A little research throws up some interesting facts that the proponents for mandatory crash hats don’t tell you.

Firstly, according to Her Majesty’s government, there were over four times as many pedestrians killed on the roads in 2016 than cyclists[2]. If we are to accept the pro helmet lobby’s argument that helmets should be mandated for the riskiest activities, then they should be advocating that pedestrians should be compelled legally to wear helmets!  This is obviously ludicrous.

Bicycle helmets manufactured to comply with the older BS 6863 are designed to protect the rider from falling from a stationary riding position – not for crash impacts with vehicles moving at speed. The newer standard – EN 107, has progressively weakened the requirements due to lobbying from the manufacturers themsleves!

Naturally, everybody wants human activity to be as safe as is reasonably practicable.  However, there is a fine balance between protecting people and demotivating them from being involved in an activity.

The health benefits of cycling are well known; excellent for cardio-vascular fitness, aerobic fitness and the development of muscle bulk and stamina. Add to that the psychological benefits of riding a bicycle  – greater hand/eye co-ordination, a very good stress buster, and a great sense of personal freedom and independence, and you have a formula for good health.

Using the World Health Organisation’s Health Economic Assessment Tool, Cycling UK estimates that a UK-wide helmet enforcement law would result in an extra 263 deaths per annum as a result of the decrease in physical activity resulting from a reduction in cyclists. This would lead to an estimated increase in public health costs of £304M to 451M per year.

Given these stark warnings of an impending obesity epidemic, it would appear to be common sense for governments to encourage as many people as possible to ride a bicycle, not only as a leisure activity, but also as a means for commuting, and even a way of conducting commerce.

A second great driver for the encouragement to cycle is the government’s commitment to comply with EU emissions reduction targets.

Reduction in the use of hydrocarbon-powered transport is central to this theme, and increasing the number of bicycle journeys is an excellent way of both improving national fitness levels, and reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.

To facilitate this, there have been a number of initiatives set up to encourage cycling in the UK.  Boris Johnson, when he was Mayor of London, launched a public cycle hire scheme, now administered by Santander Bank – still colloquially known as Boris Bikes, to encourage Londoners to cycle.

This has proved to be a great success, with over a quarter of a million active members[3] and this has now been complemented by the provision of a London-wide cycle network, consisting of Bicycle Super Highways – with an orbital route, and cross city routes.

Sadly, all of these initiatives may prove to be worthless, should the pro-helmet lobby get their way, and legislation is passed to enforce cycle riders to wear crash helmets.

The statistics indicate that in every country that has instituted compulsory helmets for cycling, there has been an immediate and irreversible reduction in the number of active cyclists on the roads[4].

For example, in Perth, Western Australia, cycling rates plunged by 30 – 40% immediately after the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets became law.

Statistical analysis emphasises that the benefit of cycling, in terms of life years gained through better health against life years lost as a result of serious injury risks is a factor of about 20:1.

To put this into context, in the U.K., there is one cycling death per 29 million miles cycled – so tiny as to be almost irrelevant.

In fact, in 2012, an average person was three and a half times more likely to be killed in a road accident as pedestrian than riding as a cyclist!

I have to confess that I do wear a helmet – occasionally.  The big difference is that I make the decision whether to wear one based on my own assessment of the risks associated with the type of ride I am about to embark upon.

If I am about to ride down a well-maintained canal towpath, or ride on relatively quiet country lanes then I most definitely leave the helmet at home. However, if I am riding in a busy city, commuting to work, or riding in a cycling event, then I grab the bash hat from the cupboard, and reluctantly wear it.

Some charity cycle events insist that a helmet be worn by participants, despite there being no legal obligation to wear one on the public roads of britain. At busy and well subscribed events such as the London Bridges Bike Ride, or the London to Brighton Bike Ride, I will wear a helmet, as I believe that the risk likelihood of coming off as a result of the density of riders is high.

Conversely, on smaller, rural rides, I will wear a bash hat at the start to comply with the organisers requirements, and as soon as I am under way, I stop, remove the helmet, put on my cloth cap, and ride accordingly.

If legislation were enacted tomorrow, then I admit that I will consciously disregard it, and continue to ride without wearing a helmet when I think it appropriate to do so.   I have ridden bicycles since I was five years old, and as an adult have suffered numerous cycle crashes, where I sustained injuries to arms, legs, and knees, and in most of them I was not wearing a helmet.

I was in fact wearing a helmet when I sustained a particularly bad knee injury, (having lost control of a mountain bike, and being unable to unclip from the pedals before impact) but it was as useful as an aqualung is to a buffalo

More recently I survived a near fatal cycle accident – and in this case I was yet again not wearing a helmet. Furthermore in all of my accidents, wearing a helmet would have had no influence on the outcome.

We also need to consider the financial costs of the introduction of such a law. Cycling UK has calculated that initial costs for helmet acquisition could be around £180 million, and subsequent renewal costs of about £45 million every year – all of which falls onto the rider to provide.

An unintended consequence of this, is that there may be a degree of social exclusion, with poorer members of society not being able to afford a helmet, and therefore being prevented from gaining the health and cost effective travel benefits, or continue to ride without a crash helmet, and face being criminalised for committing an offence.

The same logic applies to,wearing a high visibility jacket or tabard.  There is currently no robust supporting evidence to suggest that wearing a high viz jacket will actually prevent a collision.  Evidence so far seems to suggest that whilst a high viz jacket is useful to a cyclist being seen by other road users in daylight, they are only 15% effective at night.

The use of high intensity stroboscopic lights fitted to a bicycle will make the rider 47% less likely to have a daytime collision with a vehicle, and at night, the use of frame mounted lights  together with flashing lights built into anklets or fitted to pedals make the rider 90% less likely to be killed or seriously injured.

So, as far as I am concerned, I will continue to wear sensible brightly coloured clothing, and ride a well-lit, and well-maintained bicycle, taking into account where I will be riding, and at what time of day.

Time for Nanny State to take a back seat!

[1] www.headway.org.uk/get-involved/campaigns/cycle-helmets/

[2]  www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras30-reported-casualties-in-road-accidents

[3] www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/cycle-hire-performance

[4] www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/document/2017/11/helmets-evidence_brf.pdf

 

Categories
Humour Romance Uncategorized

The Pub Pickup

I saw her across the bar from me. She was young, She was beautiful, and I was struck by her eyes. The colour of cornflowers, they were calm, and they were fixed unwaveringly on my face. The steadiness of the gaze was impressive, if not a little un-nerving. I felt guilty looking back at her, but she didn’t appear to be with anybody, just sitting there waiting patiently. Waiting for what? Or maybe for whom?

I looked away, picking up my pint, and taking a long satisfying pull from it. I popped open my bag of Walkers Cheese and Onion Crisps, and picked up my book. I attempted to read, but some sixth sense told me that I was still being watched. I furtively looked up, and the same blue eyes were still looking at me. I am not sure what I saw deep in those eyes. Was it desire? Hunger? Maybe. But I also detected warmth and friendliness, I could sense that she was screwing up her courage, and I wondered if I should invite her over to my table.

Raucous laughter came from the other side of the pub, and the spell was broken. She looked away, and I went back to my book with a sense of disappointment. I had hoped I would have had time to invite her over. Sipping at my beer, I managed to get through another few pages of Lee Childs’ latest Jack Reacher novel, when I felt the hairs on my neck prickle. Looking up, I saw immediately that she had made it halfway along the bar towards me. I gazed at her spectacular body, admiring the bright red kerchief that was around her neck.

“Hello” I said softly. I indicated the seat next to me, patting it with my hand. “Come on” I smiled…. “You know you want to”

She hesitated, then elegantly walked over to me. It seemed that now she had made the decision, there would be no stopping her. She plonked herself down next to me, pressing her body firmly against me. I could feel her hot breath in my ear as she leaned over to help herself to a crisp. I cautiously put my arm around her shoulders, and turning, she focused her eyes on me, her whole face smiling. I hugged her tightly, feeling her warmth and strength.

I thought to myself…

“God….. I love Siberian Huskies”.

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Uncategorized

Does Bad Driving on the Road Make You a Criminal?

This may sound like a rhetorical question, as most law-abiding citizens would assume, quite rightfully, that breaking a speed limit, or driving in a dangerous manner is a breach of the law. However, is it a criminal act? Most people would, quite correctly, assume not.

The majority of motoring offences are civil offences rather than criminal offences, and normally result in the issue of a fixed penalty notice, together with licence endorsement points being awarded to the driver.

The more serious motoring offences, such as causing injury or death by dangerous driving cross the boundary, and become criminal offences, carrying custodial sentences upon conviction.

So, does bad driving make you a criminal?

Bad driving does not by definition, make the perpetrator a criminal. However, there are proven scientific links between bad driving and a criminal past.

Generally, a person’s character and behaviour remains constant across a wide range of situations and circumstances. An individual who is habitually willing to break minor regulations will also demonstrate a tendency to disregard more serious laws and regulations.

In a New Zealand analysis of over 1500 drivers convicted of serious traffic offences, it was found that they were highly likely to have a criminal record for violence and anti social behaviour. It would appear then, that those who have accepted violence as an acceptable behaviour, would also continue to exhibit this behaviour when driving.

A study in 1998 focused on over 1000 individuals involved in serious motoring offences such as driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance, and taking without owners consent. Of these offenders, 56% had six or more previous criminal convictions for offences such as theft, burglary, criminal damage and violence against the person.

Illegal parking is a frequent offence, even amongst inherently honest people. This may be because it is perceived as a very low level of dishonesty. An individual may assess the chance of receiving a parking ticket as an acceptable risk compared to the time and inconvenience of finding an authorised parking space.

However, parking in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers is regarded differently. Honest and Ethical drivers will rarely park in such bays. Society generally finds this type of illegal parking as particularly contemptible, bearing in mind the status of the users entitled to use such spaces.

A study conducted by the UK’s Home Office Department (Chenery, Henshaw and Pease, 1999) revealed that of the cars parked illegally in disabled bays, 21% warranted immediate police attention. This could be due to the keeper being wanted for a crime, or where the vehicle registration was incorrect for the type and make of vehicle. This compares with less than 2% for those parked legally.

A third of disabled bay abusers were cars registered to keepers who had a criminal record, and in almost half of all cases the vehicle itself had a history of being used to commit traffic violations.

In 18% of disabled parking offences, the vehicle was known or suspected of being used in the commission of crime.

It is reasonable to assume that those who casually park in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers when legal parking is locally available will also display greater delinquent behaviour in other aspects of their driving behaviour.

Recently, South Yorkshire Police released a report on the subject of Dangerous Driving. Preliminary research indicates that in a fatal road traffic collision, there is a fifty percent chance that the driver responsible holds a criminal record.

The BBC reported that research has also found that Van drivers, and drivers of Trucks involved in a collision are amongst the most likely to have either previous motoring offences (40%) or a criminal record (28%).

It would seem that an individual likely to engage in hazardous activities such as crime is also highly likely to take that acceptance of risk into the driving seat.

So, next time you are pushed for time, and can’t find a parking space, don’t be tempted to park in a disabled bay. Not only will you be denying the convenience of parking to someone who really needs it, but you may find that you are under scrutiny for other reasons!

Categories
Airport Cycling Flight Society Transport Travel Uncategorized

Fast Food, Aeroplanes and Problems with Bicycles

As those who occasionally read my postings will know, my normal writing haunt is a local branch of Costa coffee, sipping at a medium skinny wet latte with an extra shot. 
Just so that I don’t come across as boring and predictable, I am sitting on my friend’s terrace in Coto De Caza, a small community of houses nestled around a golf course and country club, tucked away in the foothills of the California Hills, not far from Rancho Santa Margarita. 
Instead of my normal coffee, I am drinking a chilled bottle of Betty IPA, made by the Hangar 24 micro brewery based at Redlands, CA. This has proved to be a very good choice. America now has a thriving micro brewery sector, all producing some excellent ales. This one caught my eye for no other reason than it was packaged in a box with a picture of a B-17 bomber nose section, complete with a nose-art pin up girl. The aircrcraft was called Betty, so being a total aviation person (Anorak) I just had to buy it.  
Unusually for Southern California, it is, what we Brits call “pissing down” and the temperature is so cold that I am almost considering changing from my shorts and tee shirt into trousers and fleece. 
I have been up to LA today, and spent some relaxing time visiting Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. Having checked the hand and footprints outside the Chinese Theatre, I am surprised to see that I have bigger hands and feet than Tom Cruise, and the same sizes as Arnold Schwarzenegger. I guess that working out doesn’t make your feet bigger, just your chest and shoulders. 
On the other hand, Vin Diesel makes me look like a dwarf, and Clint Eastwood is only marginally bigger than I am. This made my day (Punk) and I felt lucky all the way back down to Sunset, looking for a certain burger joint in which to have lunch. 
Now, whilst I am not a regular user of fast food outlets, I still use them from time to time.  It’s odd that in the UK we have a very limited selection. We have franchised MacDonalds in virtually every town and city and a home grown chain called Burger King, and that’s about it if you want a burger. I have to say it – MacDonalds in the UK (rather than in the USA) compares unfavourably. 
Mind you, it’s not all bad news for MacDonalds. I was on a business trip a while ago, to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, where I enjoyed a very nice halal chicken burger at the MacDonalds outlet. On another trip to the Far East, I watched an elephant and rider use the Maccy D’s drive-through in Bangkok with no problem, despite the fact that a few years ago, I was banned from riding my humble bicycle through the MacDonalds drive through in Staines-upon-Thames on the grounds that I would “hold up traffic”. 
Always up for intellectual debate, I took issue with the rude attitude of the guardian of the “Drive-Thru” The spotty faced manager was quite explicit and refused to accept my argument that as all vehicles passed through the drive-through at less than walking pace, I was hardly holding up traffic. I also explained to the simpleton that a bicycle was in fact a vehicle and that I had to obey the road traffic act like all other road users. He countered this by saying that it was for my own protection as I may have an accident. 
Really?  
Oh, I guess I could drop my chips, or maybe spill my drink. I couldn’t conceive of any circumstances in an almost stationary drive-through, in which I would be placing myself in a hazardous situation. I stood more risk of getting a serious dose of e-coli from the lad with an obvious sebaceous gland problem than I was of facing imminent death or injury from vehicles.  
By now, I really was holding the traffic up, so I did eventually get served, and wishing him a cheery “Have a nice day” I went on my way. 
I noticed that a few days later there was a sign banning bicycles from using the drive through. This is the mentality of immature management and justification of stopping a safe activity on the grounds of health and safety.  
Anyway, grumpy old git rant over, and getting back to the plot…

The very best burgers on the planet are served at any branch of “In’n’ Out Burgers”. This is a very small chain of burger shops, indigenous to only Southern California. I discovered this best kept secret a few years ago, when visiting the same friends for a vacation.
I had taken a day out to do some light aircraft flying out of Santa Ana (Orange County) International Airport, also known as John Wayne International. I had rented an Evektor Sport Star light aeroplane from Sunrise Aviation, and had spent a happy few hours cruising up and down the west coast, from John Wayne to San Diego, and then back as far up the coast as Santa Barbara, flying overhead Los Angeles International. America is a fabulous place for a private pilot to fly. Try overflying London Heathrow at 4000 feet, and you’ll probably get shot down!  My routing then swung inland, to potter along past the Hollywood sign, and thence back to land at John Wayne. 

Above: The Evektor SportStar after my West Coast flight.

I landed, settled my account and as I was now officially ravenous, I jumped in my hire car, and headed onto the highway. I found In’n’Out by accident, but with some help from the counter staff I ordered a Double Double (Double burger, double cheese, double onions ) and I was recommended to have it “Animal” style. This involved having a special sauce and relish applied. I also ordered fries and a coke. 

I have to say, the place was heaving. I got issued ticket number 61. After a ten minute wait, they were calling tickets 43 and 44. I kicked back and filled in my log book, carefully adding the hours and minutes. 
At last, my number was called, and I was passed a neat red tray, measuring about 18 inches by 12 inches, upon which were a cardboard tray of fries, and a nicely wrapped burger. The flavours in the burger were excellent, and the burgers themselves were made of proper minced beef, rather than the compressed and reconstituted meat that fills so many other burger buns.  

The fries were crisp, and the whole meal was not only good value, but stuck in my memory as being of very good quality. 
I wasn’t disappointed today either. The In’n’Out on Sunset was overwhelmed with customers, and it was only 11:50. I had to wait again, but the wait was worth it as the quality was still very good. And the cost was just under seven bucks. 
And so,I’m sitting here, in the gathering gloom, typing this blog, prior to making a report on trip advisor. 
Thanks to the very hard working youngsters on duty today… you Rock!

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Uncategorized

Grumpy – And With Good Reason

It may be because I am getting older, and therefore less tolerant of the idiocy of others, or it may be that other people really are becoming more cretinous and idiotic.

To prove my point, let me share some thoughts with you.
A few weekends ago, I had to make a short train journey to meet up with some family members for a genteel lunch, at a beautiful quiet country pub, nestled snugly in the Surrey countryside, in a fold of the peaceful and wealthy Surrey Hills.
In order to enjoy my journey to its fullest extent, I made a quick excursion into the pleasant little town of Haslemere, where I was to catch the train. I left myself time to take a gentle stroll into the quintessentially English High Street where Costa Coffee is located, so I could buy my usual Skinny Wet Latte with an extra shot. Meandering back to the station, I popped into W H Smiths and bought a paper to pass the time.
Standing on the sun dappled platform, I began to peruse the news of the day. Amidst all of the hysteria about the forthcoming General Election, and the sad stories relating to the earthquake in Nepal, I found some cause for an element of grumpiness, which cheered me up considerably.
It seems that London’s Goldsmith College have banned Caucasian men from attending an “Anti Racism” event, because according to the – get this – “Diversity Officer,” that to attend you have to belong to the BME. It appears that the BME, far from being some supremacist group, stands for “Black Ethnic Minority”. 
Mind you, there is good news here as well, because the event also positively welcomed those who are “non-binary”. 
You could be forgiven for thinking this was some form of computer phobia, or an inability to count in base ten.  
I was a little amused to discover that those amongst us who are “Non Binary” do not know what sex they are.
Is it not somewhat ironic, that an event that is intended to break down barriers, and stop people discriminating against others based on racial background should fall into the trap of banning others from attending because they come from a different racial heritage.
You couldn’t make it up could you?
I did have to chuckle at the next article, concerning yet another bastion of the British Education system – this time Queens University in Belfast. Why has such a respected seat of learning become the target of my grumpiness (albeit mirthful grumpiness)?
Well, the scholarly leaders have decided to ban a conference on Free Speech, Self-Censorship and the Charlie Hebdo killings.
Who employs these people? Are they specially selected for being stupid, so as to make the scholars feel clever?
So, it was with a mood of cheerful grumpiness that I met up with my family, and enjoyed an excellent lunch, with good company and good food.
Having to a certain extent, forgotten the previous evidence that modern educationalists are sillier than primary school children, I awoke the following morning early, as I had to take a trip to London to attend a business meeting.
Driving to the station, I grabbed a coffee, and picked up a Metro free newspaper at the station entrance.
Skimming through it, – amongst the latest daily doses of pre election hyperbole and sad stories of the earthquakes and avalanches around Everest I spotted what I was subconsciously looking for…..my morning fix of idiocy to fuel my impish inner self.
Now, I work in the aviation industry, and have done for the best part of my working life, and I have previously been a security officer, VIP services manager, an aircraft cleaner, a passenger services executive, and have been flight crew. I have been exposed to witless behaviour on many occasions from both passengers and colleagues, but I did draw a sharp intake of breath at the story published.
It seems that a little boy, of four years old was travelling through East Midlands Airport with his family, who were flying out to Lanzarote for their holiday.
All would have been well, but for the four year old carrying a plastic toy gun. It was promptly confiscated by airport security staff because “it posed a security risk”. A spokeswoman for the airport apparently said “No items may pass through security that resemble a prohibited item”
Having seen a Nerf gun in a photograph, it’s quite difficult to see what part of a bright yellow and orange plastic toy could cause anyone but a certifiable lunatic, (or maybe a user of psychotropic drugs) or someone of less than normal eyesight and common sense to mistake it for a real weapon.
Are these people actually recruited for their simplistic interpretation of a regulation that is obviously designed to stop people wandering round the departures lounge with replica AK-47s and similar.  
Mind you, a few years ago I personally witnessed another situation whilst passing through to airside as a passenger. The lady in front of me was asked to cover up her tee shirt….it was camouflaged and had an image of a Hand Grenade on it.  
She was justifiably irritated, but was told that the image could be distressing to other passengers.
We live in a very strange world these days, where reality is skewed to accommodate flawed thinking, and four year old children can’t take their favourite toy with them on holiday.
Welcome to brave new world.

Categories
Aircew Airport Ecological Electric Transport Environment Flight pilots Society Technology Transport Travel Uncategorized

Electric Taxi – A New Brand New Era in Green Aviation Practice

.Ask anyone in the street about pollution and noise, and most folk will immediately talk about the road transport industry, or, if like me, they live near a major airport, then they would probably refer to the airlines.

Over the last fifty years, air travel has opened up a whole new dimension to travellers. Whether travelling on business, or taking the family away, air travel enables people to reach some of the remotest parts of our planet.

During the early and mid parts of the 20th century, air travel was expensive, and only those travellers with access to a large amount of disposable wealth could afford to fly. 

This was in part caused by the relative lack of supporting infrastructure, but the size of aircraft was also a limiting factor.

The biggest direct operating cost for any airline is that of fuel, and the current smaller aeroplanes were unable to offer the economies of scale necessary to place flying within the reach of the average man. 

To put this into perspective, in the early 1960s, the workhorse of the sky was the Boeing B707, which had a seating capacity of about 140. 

On the 22nd January 1970 Pan Am introduced the very first Boeing 747-100 into service. This aeroplane changed the face of aviation forever.  With its massive seating capacity, of more than double that of the 707, the costs for air travel fell dramatically, and even the poorest backpacker could save enough money to make a transatlantic or transpacific flight.

Over the years, developments of the 747 have continued, and as an example, a British Airways 747-400 will carry 345 passengers over vast distances.

But there are always other factors.  The 1973 oil crisis made fuel costs escalate rapidly, and a number of airlines went out of business. Those that survived recognised the need for newer far more fuel efficient aircraft.

Aircraft manufacturers rose to the challenge, and many new aeroplane were developed, constructed from much lighter materials, including polymers and carbon fibre materials. 

Engine manufacturers have developed cleaner, quieter and far more fuel efficient engines, and new software driven control systems enable aircraft to fly far higher, out of the worst of the weather, and at altitudes where engines are even more frugal.

Sadly, this is still not enough.  The global energy crisis continues, and international concern with  climate change is driving fuel costs upwards.

Airlines are looking to save costs wherever they can.  Most airlines will defer operating the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) until shortly before boarding, and some airlines have established a policy that requires aircraft to be taxied with one engine shut down.

The economics of this are sound, and saving may be made.

According to Airbus Industrie an Airbus A320 fitted with CFM56 engines will burn 250kg of fuel conducting a twenty minute average taxi time. A single engine taxi of the same duration will burn a reduced amount of 190kg.

Using IATA fuel data, jet fuel (Jet A-1) costs £0.3613 per kilo so a single engine taxi will cost the operator £68.65.  Two engines £72.26. This is doubled effectively, as the aircraft also has to taxi in after landing, which again, will take an average of twenty minutes.

Throughout 2014 fuel prices fell by an average of 42.8%, so it is reasonable to assume that they could rise again by the same amount, giving taxi costs of between £98.03 and ££103.19. 

A very simple costing taking into account British Airways fleet of 105 Airbuses, assumes that each aircraft flies 5 sectors a day (5×2 taxies = 10 x 20 minutes x 105) that’s a massive 350 hours of taxiing. 

350 hours x 60 = 21,000 minutes @ 12.5kg/min = 262,500 kg = 262.50 tonnes!

Now the figures look very different. In the above example, fuel currently costs £361.25 per tonne.  

£94,828 to just taxi around the airfield. Remember this is just a single days operation for one short haul fleet. 

Operators will be very keen to both minimise taxi times, and to reduce costs as much as possible during taxiing.

Airbus have been working on a new self propelled taxying system for the Airbus A320 series, known as eTaxi.

This system utilises a powerful air cooled electric motor that drives the main landing gear wheels via a self contained gearbox.

Powered is provided by the APU generator. The eTaxi motor has sufficient power and torque to enable the aircraft to be reversed off the parking stand, and then taxied to the holding point for the departure runway. At this point, the engines may be started.

Naturally, current procedures and checklists would have to be amended and modified to reflect the use of eTaxi to ensure continuation of current ground movement safety.

The eTaxi system offers many benefits.  Airbus’s own studies have shown that even greater fuel savings may be made than by using single engine taxying. 

Using the AP/eTaxi and a single engine for taxying equates to a fuel burn of 140kg, and full electric taxying only 40kg for the same 20 minute taxy.  

 Using the same fleet data as before, the savings are considerable. 

350 hours x 60 = 21,000 minutes @ 2kg/min = kg = 42.00 tonnes!

With fuel in our example currently costing £361.25 per tonne, 42 tonnes costs £15,172.50, a massive daily saving of £79,655.50!

Naturally,  there is a weight penalty for the eTaxi equipment, consisting of motor, gearbox, wiring harness and software and control equipment, but Airbus Industrie quotes this as being about an extra 400kg, and over a 500nm sector, this would require an additional fuel burn of 16kg.

Overall the use of eTaxi with both engines shut down, and including a 5 minute engine warm up and a 3 minute engine cool down, will offer a trip fuel saving of about 3% on a typical A320 sector of 700nm. 

So, the airline accountants will be happy with the considerable direct financial savings.  However, there are many other associated benefits by using an eTaxi. 

During taxying operations, aircraft frequently have to stop, accelerate, turn and hold in position.  This places wear on the brakes, and incurs fuel penalties every time that the thrust levers are opened to recommence taxying.  

As eTaxi is a direct drive system, the normal wheel brakes become redundant, the braking being delivered through the gearbox itself.  

 Environmentally, eTaxi makes a lot of sense.  The use of clean electricity for ground movements will significantly reduce the amount of NOx (Nitrogen Oxides such as Nitric Oxide and Nitrogen Dioxide) and CO (Carbon Monoxide) found in the local atmosphere.  Noise levels will also be significantly reduced. 

An additional benefit is a reduced exposure to the risk of the engine ingesting foreign objects, and extending the time between mandated engine inspections and checks.  

Bearing in mind that the biggest cost for an airline is fuel. Last year British Airways spent £3.5 Billion pounds on fuel. Most large national carriers will be spending about the same.  The figures are almost too large to contemplate. 

It would appear then, that any additional costs in retrofitting such devices to an existing fleet will pay for itself many times over, and any airline that specifies new deliveries without this option are potentially wasting millions.

Facts from Airbus Industrie publication FAST 51

Fuel costs from IATA Fuel cost analysis 2015

BA fleet data from http://www.ba.com

BA Fuel costs data from http://www.iag.com

Mark Charlwood©2015. Mark Charlwood is the owner of the intellectual property rights to this work. Unauthorised use is not permitted. If you want to use this article please contact me for permission. Thank you. 

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Celestial Lady

I wrote this in April 1989, after enjoying a wonderful, blissful day of gliding at the mighty 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, Royal Air Force Kenley

Celestial Lady

Dew lies on the velvet baize of the grass, like carelessly strewn fragments of glass,
Thin mist, drapes itself lovingly around the stark limbs of the trees, like a shroud,
My breath, smokes about my face as I peer across the field, in tune with dawns nature

The rising sun has stabbed the sky, causing its blood to stain the puffballs of cloud vermillion,
A bird, like a muezzin, calls the world to awake, from the minaret of the ancient oak,
And the mouth of the hangar gapes, to eject the sleek, yet sleepy residents onto the warming meadow,
The silence, suddenly shattered by the metallic snarl of an irritable engine

I stroll towards my chosen mount where she lies, recumbent on the grass – dormant awaiting the life giving breath of the gods,

Like an osteopath, I check her joints, and probe her taut yet pliant skin, her secret places, and diagnose a clean bill of health,
In the manner of a well bred woman, she demands my respect, and I duly escort her to her position

Strapped in, bound up, my cocoon is secure, an I perform the ritual of setting the instruments.
She moves a little, as we attach the cable, anticipation quivering in her shapely frame,

The cable snakes taut through the grass, a tug, a rumble and she joyously relinquishes her love affair with terra firma, for her true love. – the sky

A brief and wistful farewell to the tug, as he dives away, and at last, my my graceful friend and I are alone in empty acres of cerulean blue, United in a love that no ground bound man can know

We are as one. – her diaphanous wings mere extensions of my arms, bent to my thought and will,
Together we romp and roam the sunlit heavens, our playmates the birds and infant clouds

Like a true lady, she excuses my mistakes, and my callow ham fisted efforts, and doesn’t seek revenge, just gently admonishes me for my ignorance of manners, insensitive to her needs
Her effervescence bubbles like champagne, playful, her sense of humour to the fore,

Plunging me fifty feet, then tossing me one hundred higher, testing, teasing, but I’m still safe

Eventually she tires, grows bored with me, and slowly, imperceptibly, inexorably sinks back towards the land,
Exhilarated – yet yearning more, I gently steer and guide her down
Shamefully she bows her aristocratic head, as if in defeat, dull acceptance that the end is near,

Descending back to the scolding arms of gravity, the field expands, it fills my eyes, trees and meadow a confused blur, grass reaching up to pluck us from the sky

As we descend she moans out loud, rising to a screaming crescendo, as I ease her nose up. – be proud my Beauty! We lightly touch, kissing the unyielding ground, once, twice, thrice, then, totally spent, she drops, once more in slumber

And I am once again a mere mortal

Copyright Mark Charlwood April 1989

Mark Charlwood owns the intellectual copyright to this work. Unauthorised copying is prohibited.

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Does Bad Driving on the Road Make You a Criminal?

This may sound like a rhetorical question, as most law-abiding citizens would assume, quite rightfully, that breaking a speed limit, or driving in a dangerous manner is a breach of the law. However, is it a criminal act? Most people would, quite correctly, assume not.

The majority of motoring offences are civil offences rather than criminal offences, and normally result in the issue of a fixed penalty notice, together with licence endorsement points being awarded to the driver.

The more serious motoring offences, such as causing injury or death by dangerous driving cross the boundary, and become criminal offences, carrying custodial sentences upon conviction.

So, does bad driving make you a criminal?

Bad driving does not by definition, make the perpetrator a criminal. However, there are proven scientific links between bad driving and a criminal past.

Generally, a person’s character and behaviour remains constant across a wide range of situations and circumstances. An individual who is habitually willing to break minor regulations will also demonstrate a tendency to disregard more serious laws and regulations.

In a New Zealand analysis of over 1500 drivers convicted of serious traffic offences, it was found that they were highly likely to have a criminal record for violence and anti social behaviour. It would appear then, that those who have accepted violence as an acceptable behaviour, would also continue to exhibit this behaviour when driving.

A study in 1998 focused on over 1000 individuals involved in serious motoring offences such as driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance, and taking without owners consent. Of these offenders, 56% had six or more previous criminal convictions for offences such as theft, burglary, criminal damage and violence against the person.

Illegal parking is a frequent offence, even amongst inherently honest people. This may be because it is perceived as a very low level of dishonesty. An individual may assess the chance of receiving a parking ticket as an acceptable risk compared to the time and inconvenience of finding an authorised parking space.

However, parking in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers is regarded differently. Honest and Ethical drivers will rarely park in such bays. Society generally finds this type of illegal parking as particularly contemptible, bearing in mind the status of the users entitled to use such spaces.

A study conducted by the UK’s Home Office Department (Chenery, Henshaw and Pease, 1999) revealed that of the cars parked illegally in disabled bays, 21% warranted immediate police attention. This could be due to the keeper being wanted for a crime, or where the vehicle registration was incorrect for the type and make of vehicle. This compares with less than 2% for those parked legally.

A third of disabled bay abusers were cars registered to keepers who had a criminal record, and in almost half of all cases the vehicle itself had a history of being used to commit traffic violations.

In 18% of disabled parking offences, the vehicle was known or suspected of being used in the commission of crime.

It is reasonable to assume that those who casually park in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers when legal parking is locally available will also display greater delinquent behaviour in other aspects of their driving behaviour.

Recently, South Yorkshire Police released a report on the subject of Dangerous Driving. Preliminary research indicates that in a fatal road traffic collision, there is a fifty percent chance that the driver responsible holds a criminal record.

The BBC reported that research has also found that Van drivers, and drivers of Trucks involved in a collision are amongst the most likely to have either previous motoring offences (40%) or a criminal record (28%).

It would seem that an individual likely to engage in hazardous activities such as crime is also highly likely to take that acceptance of risk into the driving seat.

So, next time you are pushed for time, and can’t find a parking space, don’t be tempted to park in a disabled bay. Not only will you be denying the convenience of parking to someone who really needs it, but you may find that you are under scrutiny for other reasons!

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Glider – The First Flight

First Flight It was a crisp cold October morning in 1972, as my Father and I climbed into his Morris Minor Traveller, to head off to Crowborough. I was almost hopping from foot to foot with excitement, yet my stomach was also performing somersaults, probably due to the number of butterflies flying madly around it.

Today was THE day. This was the day that I would experience the utter joy and exhilaration of flight. And the start of a love affair that was to last my entire life.

We set off nice and early, as we had to drive to Crowborough, a small country town, in the middle of the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, Once there, we were to meet up with My Father’s friend, Bernard Kirby, who was the Chief Flying Instructor at RAF West Malling, the home of 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron.

My Father had met Bernard whilst conducting his daily commute to work. East Grinstead is a terminal station, and my Father, always a creature of habit, chose to sit in the same seat every day.

His regular companion, who always sat opposite Dad, happened to notice one day that my Father was reading yet another book about flying. He asked “are you interested in flying Alan?” My father responded that he was. Bernard then generously offered to take Dad up in a glider.

Knowing that I was aircraft crazy, my Dad asked if his 13 year old son could come as well. The answer was yes.

Having arrived at Crowborough, we all piled into Bernard’s blue VW Beetle, and he drove us to RAF West Malling. This small military airfield was home to my boyhood heroes, the pilots that constituted “The Few”, who so bravely defended my country against the Germans during the Battle of Britain.

Having been active throughout all of the Second World War, the RAF had downgraded its operational status, and it was now a non active base, but it was still home to 618 Volunteer Gliding Squadron, manned by members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

We arrived at the time of the Ugandan crisis, when President Idi Amin had deported thousands of Ugandan Asians. Many had arrived in Britain, and a lot of the old military quarters were being used to house these poor unfortunate souls. Even as a 13 year old kid, I could still see the desperation and sadness in their listless eyes. It still haunts me now, in those quiet contemplative moments.

Mr Kirby parked his car by the hangar, and we all got into the land rover. Well, my Dad and Mr Kirby got into the Land Rover. I was unceremoniously loaded into the back, and we bounced our way across the grassy tussocks to the launch point, where a number of gliders had been seemingly abandoned.

Getting out of the Landie, I felt a bit disoriented. There was a lot going on, and everyone seemed to know what to do, or where to stand except me. I stood to the back, and watched as my Dad was strapped into a large two seat side by side glider with an open cockpit.

It was fitted with two jaunty little windscreens directly in front of each pilot, reminiscent of a 1930s sports car. Bernard hopped in beside him, and I watched, fascinated, as he zipped through the Pre take off checks. In short order, a cable was attached to the hook on the underside of the fuselage. A few calls later, and the glider suddenly swooped forwards, accelerating at a very brisk rate, and rotating into what seemed to me to be a very steep climb.

I watched as the aircraft got to the apex of its climb, and then saw the cable drop, it’s little drogue chute flapping and gyrating like a wounded bird as it fell to earth.

A lad wearing a blue uniform approached me. He was about my age, but was resplendent in his RAF blues, oddly contrasting with a pair of white training shoes. He shyly asked me which squadron I was with.

I stared at him dumbly. Squadron? “I’m here with my Dad. What do you mean which Squadron.”

He replied that he was with Crowborough Squadron of the ATC

“ATC?”

“ATC” he confirmed.

“The Air Training Corps. I’m here to do a gliding day”. “How much does it cost?”, I asked, fearful that it would be well beyond my meagre pocket money.

“20p a week subscription”.

I was stunned. I could join up and get to fly for 20 p a week?????

Throughout the conversation I was tracking my Father in the glider.

It was now curving round, it’s air brakes open, as it sliced its way though the air, I could hear it sighing, and then it was down, rumbling to a stop about 100 yards from the launch point. I saw my Dad get out, and asked him what it was like. He grinned enthusiastically, and said it was fascinating.

I know now with hindsight, that my Dear old Dad was putting a brave face on it. I believe that he was terrified, but didn’t want to influence me.

In later. Years, I would ask my Dad if he would come flying with me. I have instructor ratings, and have amassed hundreds of hours, but he never flew again after that event.

Standing with Dad, I continued to wait patiently for my turn to get airborne. I didn’t have to wait long!

Another Air Cadet, a lad of about 16, briskly marched up, and asked me to “come this way please”

Flinging a dismissive and airy wave at my Dad, I strolled nonchalantly after the other chap, my relaxed stroll disguising my inner turmoil.

Would I be scared – shit myself? Would I be airsick?

“That’s your ‘plane” said my guide, indicating a very elderly glider that looked like it had been designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

It had an open cockpit, but the seats were arranged one in front of the other. Small curved windshields protected the pilots from the slipstream. The wing was a huge slab, mounted onto a short pylon, so that the rear cockpit sat under it. The front cockpit was therefore totally exposed.

A lanky man wandered up the frail craft, and looked intently at me. “Are you Mark?” He asked. I nodded dumbly back at him, my mouth dry, and my stomach doing backflips. “My names Colin, and I will be taking to up. Have you ever flown before?”

” No Sir” I responded.

“Nothing to worry about – its great fun. Come here, and lets get you in.” I walked up to the side of the beast, and gazed into the cockpit; it was ancient! It only had two dials – I was expecting more. It also had two vertical tubes mounted on the instrument panel.

“Right, stand beside the cockpit, and swing your right leg in. Stand on the seat, then bring your left leg in. Don’t step on the controls or cables, and keep your feet on the small floorboards, or you will damage the hull”

I gingerly climbed in and sat down, and Colin swiftly strapped me in, and pulled the straps tightly. The glider wobbled about a bit, as Colin eased himself into the rear cockpit, and he continued his commentary which, whilst I don’t remember it word for word, its almost the same as the patter that I give to others as I strap in.

“You’ll see in front of you two dials. The one on the left is the Air Speed Indicator, or ASI, the one on the right is the altimeter. In the middle are two tubes. This is called a Cosim Variometer. It has a green bead in one tube, and a red bead in the other. If the red bead goes up, we are sinking. If the green bead goes up, we are climbing.” (I was later to discover that the Mark 3 has a built in rate of sink, and I very rarely saw the green bead float up its tube, except during take off)

Colin continued “On the left side of the panel is a yellow knob. When we get to the top of the launch, you’ll feel the nose lower, as I push the stick forwards to take the load off of the cable. The red lever on the left cockpit wall is the lever to extend the spoilers” “The stick moves the flight controls. Push it forward, and the aircraft will dive, pull it back, and the nose will go up. Moving it to the left will cause the aircraft to roll to the left, and moving it right will start us rolling to the right. The rudder pedals are used to help us in the turns. Have you got that?”

“Yes Sir”

Colin called out to the Cadet loitering near the aircraft “wing up six”. The lad dutifully lifted the wingtip a few inches, and Colin began checking the controls. The stick waggled around between my legs, and the rudder pedals moved. It seemed that Colin was satisfied that the aircraft was functional, as he called to another cadet to bring a cable to our machine.

Kneeling down, the cadet requested “open” and I saw the yellow knob moved, and felt a metallic action under my seat. “Close” the knob retracted back into its recess in the panel. The boy then pulled on the cable to the rear, and I felt the recoil of the mechanism opening. I asked Colin what was happening, and he explained that the back release was being checked to make sure that if the manual release failed, the glider would still disconnect from the cable.

The cadet then reconnected the cable to the glider, and the rest of the controls were checked. I was told to “follow through” on the stick and rudder, and he would explain what was happening.

The wingman now lifted the wing so that the glider was sitting with the wings level. “Take up slack” called Colin. The cadet at the wing started waving his hand slowly, and within a few seconds, I noticed a ripple in the grass, as the winch was pulling the cable taut. The glider moved forwards a foot or so, and then stopped.

“Ready?” Said Colin

“Yes” I squeaked. Looking to the left, I could see my Dad watching, and I gave him a nervous thumbs up, and saw him smile in response. “All out!” Called Colin, and a couple of seconds later, the glider suddenly accelerated, faster than any car I had ever been in.

A few bounces and rumbles, and all of a sudden we were airborne!

Pure, unadulterated, fucking magic!

The aircraft rotated into a steep climbing angle, and the wind howled and whistled around the cockpit. I looked at the altimeter, and saw that we were approaching 1300 feet. Awesome!

At almost 1500 feet, I felt my stomach lurch as the nose dipped, and then I heard and felt a metallic bang, as the cable was released, and the noise dropped to a ruffle. I could hear Colin quite clearly.

I looked out, and spread below me was the Weald of Kent, and the city of London.

“Would you like to fly it” asked Colin? “When I hand control to you, I will say “You Have Control”. You will respond “I have control”. That way we both know who is flying” I took hold of the stick, and I heard those magical words for the first time in my life “you have control”.

“I have control” the stick tremored slightly as Colin relaxed his grip. “Gently pull back on the stick”.

I eased the column backwards, and the nose slowly climbed above the horizon, and the wind noise muted further. “Now gently relax the stick and allow the nose to drop” Following the instruction, I allowed the nose to drop and the altimeter began unwinding. The speed crept up, and then Colin asked me to level her out. I was allowed to do a bank in each direction, and then Colin said ” I have control”, and we commenced our descent back to the airfield. Talking me through continuously, Colin explained the approach, and the use of the spoilers to aid the a curacy of the landing. The aiming point was steady in the windshield, slowly floating up towards me, until, at the last minute, the ground rushed by in a blur, and with a bump and a rumble we were down, coming to rest a few yards from where we took off. I thought my head would fall in half, so wide was my grin. I clambered out, and thanked Colin, and wandered back to Dad. I was euphoric for days, and promptly joined my local Air Cadet squadron, 1343 (East Grinstead). My next exposure to flying was as a student pilot at Royal Air Force Kenley, the home of the mighty 615 Volunteer Gliding Squadron. So, I would like to thank you Mr Bernard Kirby, and Colin, who gave me the everlasting joy of flight.