Bird Strikes

I watched two rather aloof Branta canadensis in our local park the other day. They seemed oblivious to all the other birds on the priory pond. I’d certainly describe these two birds as being well fed. Given their stature and size, they looked formidable. These resident North American visitors are not to be messed with and are only eclipsed by the Swans on Reigate’s pond.

This species of bird has adapted well to living in urban and suburban areas and are frequently found on lakes, ponds, and rivers. I used to see large flocks of them gather on the river Thames. That was only a couple of miles from London Heathrow.

Even though they are numerous in the UK these birds are protected by law (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981[1]). Today, the population numbers may be as high as 62,000 breeding pairs[2]. Although these birds have the capability to fly great distances they tend to hang around where there’s a reliable source of food. Bird populations are changing their behaviours as a result of climate change.

Geese fly in the typical V-formation which is called a “wedge” or skein. From time to time, I see them fly over my house at a few hundred feet as they move between local lakes and ponds. They are easy to spot and often noisy as they elegantly traverse the sky.

Birds and aircraft share the same airspace. This is not a beneficial relationship for either. Strikes occur around the world every day. In the history of aviation, there have been hundreds of aircraft accidents and more than 47 fatal aircraft accidents caused by bird strikes[3].

It must be said that most bird strikes cause little damage to aircraft but that is highly dependent upon the size of the unfortunate bird and their habits. The story can be very different when an impact is with a Canada goose. Their large size and tendency to fly in flocks can have a devastating impact. On 15 January 2009, a US Airways Airbus A320 aircraft[4] ended up in Hudson River as the result of an encounter with such birds.

The risk of collision between birds and aircraft have always been part of aircraft operations. As a result, measures are taken to certify aircraft to be robust in the event of such collisions. Additionally, there’s a great deal of effort made at major airports to keep birds away from active runways.

Most of the bird threat to aviation safety exists when travelling at speed at relatively low altitudes. Bird strikes happen most often during take-off or landing. This makes me think that bird strikes are going to be a regular feature of the operations of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) / Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). The use of use highly automated aircraft may offer the opportunity to provide sophisticated bird avoidance features. However, so far, I’ve detected no talk of such features.

POST 1: A useful safety booklet Large Flocking Birds (skybrary.aero)

POST 2: A recent Boeing 737-800 serious incident LinkedIn

POST 3: An example of what can happen from 2019 Ural Airlines Flight 178 – Wikipedia

POST 4: Another useful safety booklet Bird strike, a European risk with local specificities, Edition 1 – Germany | SKYbrary Aviation Safety


[1] https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69

[2] https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/waterfowl/canada-goose

[3] https://www.skybrary.aero/sites/default/files/bookshelf/615.pdf

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

Change

It might be tempting for some politicians to thinks that the Conservatives have behaved so badly that the British public will not forgive their follies. In 2022, levels of incompetence and bad conduct have been astounding in the modern era.

The latest election polls for the next General Election (GE)[1] constructed with a uniform swing calculation of the polling averages (poor way to compute), shows a large winning Labour Party majority. That would be the political pendulum swinging hard from right to left, from blue to red.

There’s a problem with this analysis. Not least does it skate over the conditions that exist within the “swing seats”, that is those Parliamentary seats that are expected to change hands. It also takes for granted that the public mind will continue to be affected by the dreadful performance of the Conservatives in power. That famous political quote: a week is a long time in politics[2], surely needs to be read more than once.

It is often the cases that an incumbent party has an advantage in any political competition. Uprooting those clinging to power is never easy. Countering that, it is the case that a party is more likely to win by highlighting the deficiencies of their opponents. Eventually voters get fed up with a litany of failures and stupidities.

What’s missing is a positive construction of a vision for the future. Bringing about political transformation should not be a leap of faith brought on by sheer desperation. It’s understandable that voters may not wish to stomach more of the same. Wouldn’t it be so much better if they are drawn to a vision for a brighter future?

Today, I don’t see the articulation of that brighter future. What I do see is too much on specifics like how to fix this or that and how to pile more funds into this or that. A lot of what we hear is chasing the daily news cycle. The speed of news drives the political responses. Potential leaders are lagging the immediate cacophony.

My view is that a progressive political transformation can happen. What’s needed is that expression of, not so much how to change, but what will a changed country look like, and feel like. It is that vision of the promised land. Now, that sounds a bit grand. Maybe that’s what scares off opposition leaders from speaking of a better world.

Is it the case that modern-day British politicians fear raising the bar too high? Fear that raising expectation will result in ultimate disappointment. It could be so. What is needed is someone to cut through that fear. To frame words that communicate a vision.


[1] UK General Elections are scheduled to be held a max of 5-years from the first meeting of Parliament plus 25 working days, in accordance with the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022.

[2] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/a_week_is_a_long_time_in_politics

Bad Law

Jacob Rees-Mogg resigned on St Crispin’s Day. Shakespeare’s imagination of glory and immortality in Henry V no doubt on his strange mind. Well, let’s say we are not outnumbered by the French. We are outnumbered by the ideology of persistent right-wing Parliamentarians.

The bill in Mogg’s name got a reading in the UK Parliament last night. The so called Orwellian “Brexit Freedoms Bill” would make any authoritarian Government in the world simile.

This is a dreadful bill. To imagine British legislators are so superior that they can replace, fairly, effectively and honestly, so much complex law in so short a time is a simple con. Much of the legislative texts facing replacement took decades of research, investigation and proving to take shape. A great many of these laws of EU origin were driven by the UK.

Ministers attempting to claim to the UK Parliament that the EU retained law bill will allow ambitious standards to be maintained sounds like the worst sales pitch of a second-hand car salesman. Consumer, employment, and environmental regulation is not a burden. It’s an asset. Widespread outcry is justified[1]. #AttackOnNature

Duplications is a serious concern too. For organisations trading with the EU and beyond, having to met two sets of different laws will add considerable additional costs.

This bill would tie-up civil servants for a long-time and oversight of what happens wouldn’t be of the quality needed.

The former Business Secretaries were driven by Brexit dogma. The new Business Secretary needs to stop and think again. There’s no profit in trashing what works.

A serious debate about individual laws is the job of Parliament. Sweeping away swaths of good law because it’s a prejudice of the secretive European Research Group (ERG)[2] is sheer madness. Parliamentarians should work for the people, not against their interests.

POST 1: Financial Times: UK’s Rishi Sunak eases off on taking Brexit axe to EU laws. Plan for ‘delivery unit’ shelved in wake of warning EU legislation review would tie up hundreds of officials.

POST 2: Mogg continues to promote his “bonfire” of EU law retained after Brexit in The Express newspaper.

POST 3: Brexit supporters are coming out against this bad law Rees-Mogg’s plans to axe all EU laws will cripple Whitehall, says leading Brexiter | Law | The Guardian


[1] https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/rspb-news-stories/attack-on-nature-the-story-so-far/?from=hp2

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Research_Group

Air Taxi 3

Urban mobility by air, had a flurry of success in the 1970s. However, it did not end well.

Canadian Joni Mitchell is one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters and my favourite. She has tapped into the social and environmental issues that have concerned a lot of us for decades. Of her large catalogue, I can’t tell you how much I love this song[1]. The shear beauty of the lyric.

Anyway, it’s another track on the album called “Hejira” that I want to refer. When I looked it up, I found out, I was wrong. The song I want to refer to is on the 1975 album “The Hissing of Summer Lawns”. The song “Harry’s House[2]” contains the line “a helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof like a dragon fly on a tomb.” Without going into what it’s all about, the lyrical image is that flying from a city skyscraper roof was seen as glamorous and the pinnacle of success.

In 1970, prominent aviation authorities were talking about the regulatory criteria needed for the city-centre VTOL[3] aircraft of the future. Then on the afternoon of 16 May 1977, New York Airways Flight 971, a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter, crashed[4] on Pan Am’s building rooftop heliport[5]. That ghastly fatal accident reset thinking about city centre operations air transport operations.

So, what’s different 50-year on? Proposals for city centre eVTOL operations are much in the News. City planners are imagining how they integrate an airborne dimension into public transport operations. Cars, busses, trains and eVTOL aircraft may all be connected in new multimodal terminals. That’s the city transport planners’ vision for less than a decade ahead.

For one, the vehicles are radically different. Yes, the physics of flight will not change but getting airborne is quite different between a conventional large helicopter and the plethora of different eVTOL developments that are underway across the world.

Another point, and that’s why I’m writing this piece, is the shear amount of safety data that can be made available to aircraft operators. Whereas in the 1970s, a 5-parameter flight recorder was thought to be neat, now the number of digital parameters that could be collected weighs in over thousands. In the 1970s, large helicopters didn’t even have the basic recording of minimal flight data as a consideration. The complexity in the future of eVTOL will be, not how or where to get data but what to do with all the data that is streamed off the new aircraft.

Interestingly, this changes the shape of the Heinrich and Bird “safety pyramid” model[6]. Even knowing about such a safety model is a bit nerdy. That said, it’s cited by specialist in countless aviation safety presentations.

Top level events, that’s the peak of the pyramid, remain the same, but the base of the pyramid becomes much larger. The amount of safety data that could be available on operational occurrences grows dramatically. Or at least it should.

POST: Growing consideration is being given to the eVTOL ecosystem. This will mean a growing need to share data Advanced Air Mobility Portal (nasa.gov)


[1] https://youtu.be/nyj5Be5ovas

[2] A nice cover https://youtu.be/bjvYgpm–tY

[3] VTOL = Vertical Take Off and Landing.

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/1977/05/17/archives/5-killed-as-copter-on-pan-am-building-throws-rotor-blade-one-victim.html

[5] https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/16-may-1977/

[6] https://skybrary.aero/articles/heinrich-pyramid

Air Taxi 2

As a quick effort at simple research, I looked at several local government websites searching for Air Taxi or Urban Air Mobility (UAM) or Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). The result was lots of blanks with one or two exceptions[1][2]

There’s numerous articles about e-scooters and how they might be integrated into cityscapes.

Addressing local governments, much of what has been published to date concerns the use of drones. Yes, the use of drones is happening here and now, so this is not such a surprise. However, to me, this was a reminder that the frenetic world of aviation often discussed the future in rooms full of like-minded people. Embracing a wider audience is overdue.

In the case of UAM/AAM, innovations in civil aviation are move beyond airports, upper airspace, and specialist technical interest. If the electrification of flight is to take hold it will touch the lives of many more people than conventional commercial aviation.

These new aviation developments will generate new business models and offer new services. This is challenging stuff. It’s clear to me that, without the agreement of local authorities such enterprises will be dead before they start.

National governments may take a regulatory approach that imposes on local governments. That would be ill advised and ultimately unsustainable. A cooperative partnership would open a smooth transition from transport novelty to accepted everyday part of mobility.

Local authorities will need to adapt their formal local plans to include planning considerations of zoning, land-use, multi-modal matters, environmental impact, construction, utilities/support infrastructure, public privacy and much more.

Local government is a partner in risk management too. Just as highway authorities wrestle with improving road safety so, no doubt, UAM/AAM accidents and incidents will be on their agenda.

Fostering public-private partnerships is talked about but few examples have moved beyond theory and into practice.

POST 1: These issues have been highlighted at ICAO this year Urban Air Mobility and the Role of Air Transport – ICAO 2022 Innovation Fair – ICAO TV

POST 2: The organisation is looking at possible future operations https://varon.aero/

POST 3: People taking a holistic view http://www.supernal.aero


[1] https://www.civataglobal.org/

[2] https://www.urbanairmobilitynews.com/global-map/

Where are we?

From time to time, we do need to remind ourselves what the differences are between pollical parties and their thinking. Those differences are particularly stark now. In fact, dangerously stark.

So called “conservatives” are in defensive mode. They are lashing out having lost popular support and legitimacy across the nation. The misinformation is suggesting the opposition will form a “monstrous coalition” with other parties. Failing to recognise that the Conservative Party of 2022 is as monstrous coalition at war with itself.

In my mind there has never been a better time to argue for Proportional Representation (PR).  It’s a good way that a diversity of political thinking can be fairly represented. My words here are not an academic discourse so please don’t quote literate sources that point to flaws in my opinion.

Libertarian: It’s Anti-Government Government. In other words, reduce the size of the State to the absolute minimum. Thus, remove regulation and social support to create what is often called “UK PLC”. It’s a devil take the hind most thinking. Images of such a society are best captures in William Hogarth’s Gin Lane[1]. A small elite control and prosper but the majority languish.

Socialist: Almost the reverse of the above. Where the State is mother and father of every citizen. The “greater good” transcends individual aspirations and rights. Life is codified and regimented. A levelling takes place where tall poppies[2] are loped off ruthlessly. A small elite control and prosper but the majority languish.

Traditionally, these two have been characterised as far “right” and “left” in politics. Naturally, it’s not so simple as that because there’s lots of variations on the above themes. One common thread is that they both end up becoming authoritarian and destructive. Some would show the ends of the political spectrum as anti-authoritarian (anarchists) at one end and dictators at the other. So, there’s more than a few different ways of cutting the cake.

Where are we? It’s my belief that the vast majority to not fit in either of these two camps.

We live in a liberal democracy or have done until now. That, when it’s working well, balances individual aspiration with social responsibility. Our rights are respected at the same time as recognising our common journey as a nation. We work together to ensure that opportunity is spread far and wide. We cherish our environment. We build coalitions with common goals.

Britan needs to stop and take stock. The Conservative Party is pushing the whole nation in a direction it doesn’t not want to go. It’s strident libertarians are on a disastrous path. These are dangerous times.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2012/sep/12/william-hogarth-gin-lane

[2] https://wordhistories.net/2018/11/12/tall-poppy-origin/

Unsustainable

One Minister say we want more immigration. Another Minister says we want less immigration. One Minister say we want to tax less. Another Minister says we want to keep taxes. One Minister say we want shale gas. Another Minister says we do not want shale gas. One Minister say we want more building everywhere. Another Minister says we want less building everywhere. One Minister say we can put tackling climate change on hold. Another Minister says we must act on the climate. One Minister wants to privatise the NHS. Another Minister supports public health provision. And, so on and so on.

What we have is an unsustainable UK Government without a mandate. No wonder the financial markets have been spooked. The more Ministers zigzag, U-turn, and twist and turn the more damage they do. In Truss and Kwarteng’s first month of Government chaos, it is reported that around £300 billion has been wiped off value of UK assets.

The UK is facing its biggest crisis since the Second World War. The threat is the Conservative Party. Their abject inability to set-out what they stand for has left the Conservative Party vulnerable to volatile knee jerk reactions and being led by the nose by fringe interests.

Poltical parties contain people with different interests and views. When there’s no alignment and common purpose holding those people togther then the fabric of a party fails. Trying to head this off, leaderships often get louder, more irrational and clutch at straws. Prime Minister Truss received Conservative Party conference applauds to her “anti-growth coalition” slogan but this is crazy in the context of recent Government preformance.

What is observable across the globe is that right-wing populist politicians love confrontation. They enjoy shouting down opponents. They like controversies of their own making that they can then attribute to others. The Conservative Party is broken.

Our immediate concern needs to be that this Government is sleep-walking into a mass of avoidable catastrophes as we move into the winter of 2022. Sadly, now, they are practicing the cartoon pose of an ostrich with its head in the sand.

Decaying Fantasy

I never thought that I’d read a political conference speech that referenced Jethro Tull[1]. Not the long-lived British rock band. Personally, I doubt if Minister Jacob Rees Mogg has ever heard of that group.

Like a cake baker who knows they have baked a poor cupcake his conference speech is sprinkled with 100s and 1000s. The bitterness of the sniping that interleaves every other sentence is an unsteady grumpy excess.

True that references to Adam Smith might be expected given the Minister’s known inclinations. However, reference to the Navigation Acts[2] is beyond the pale. The Navigation Acts, while profitable for Britain, caused anger in the colonies and contributed to the American Revolution.

The so called “Brexit Freedoms Bill”, a fantasy island piece of legislation, that is exactly the opposite of what is needed. We need to collaborate with others to increase the size of markets and not create even more barriers to trade.

On one major point on energy, fusion reactors remain as expensive experiments. Yes, they are expensive experiments that should be continued as global collaborative research, but they are a million miles away from being operational power systems.

Even the companies that have explored the possibilities of shale gas have concluded that it doesn’t have a future in this country. Our countryside, geology and ground water should not be put at great risk by a headlong rush into such folly.

The highlight of the Conservative party conference could be attributed bullnosed stubborn buffoonish fantasising. Meaningless slogans like: “We are the only party with the determination to deliver.” Have nothing to offer. Especially when the premise has already been shown to be a con.

The speech indicates a political party void of ideas and in terminal decline.


[1] https://www.ukpol.co.uk/jacob-rees-mogg-2022-speech-to-conservative-party-conference/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navigation_Acts

Motorway

I can’t say the word motorway without the Tom Robinson Band[1] “2-4-6-8 Motorway” number going off in my head. In 1977, the whole experience of jumping on a British motorway was a million miles from where it is now. I guess, the song is a late-night drive from gig to gig. Last night, I saw – That same old motorway sun going down with the evening light. On my way home from a busy day.

COVID, cost of fuel, being environmentally aware, there’s no doubt I’m driving a lot less now than in the past. Yesterday, I had good reason to take a road trip of about 158 miles. Most of the daytrip was taken on packed motorways. That was the M25, that runs around London, and the M1 that heads north. The M1 being the first in its line. Opened in 1959. It’s a little older than me.

Here’s an observation. Logistics is big business. It’s not just the huge trucks that perpetually run up and down the motorways, but the massive steel-clad warehouse that line the route. Distribution centres as vast as many football fields. That seems to be the measure of these monoliths.

What was originally intended to speed a journey from A to B, isn’t living up to the road builders’ intentions. Motorways are a series of stop-go, stop-go encounters where nothing is smooth. In some places not even the road surface. In fact, that was one of the hold ups on the M1. Temporary repairs being done to fill a hole in the carriage way. I thought the guy with the pot of tarmac was particularly brave as he stood behind a few dayglow bollards to do emergency maintenance work.

Back to being environmentally aware. Left and right, being surrounded by heavy trucks, each one sported a slogan. Usually, a marketing company’s best attempt at three words to make a dull business look whizzy. Many of the slogans are now green. Not in colour but in what they are trying to say. There is a distinct overuse of the word “sustainable.” Sitting low down in my car and looking up at a big HGV guzzling diesel and I felt so much better thinking that these transport operators were concerned about the planet. Like hell I was. Maybe this fits the description of greenwashing. One exception was the bright red lorries of the Post Office. There are more concerned to let you know they shift a billion items every year.

So, where does all this activity sit in the world of Net Zero? It’s clear that the logistics trade isn’t entirely on-board with saving the planet. Do we blame them? Or do we look closer home? The ease with which a parcel can get from any part of the country to our doorsteps is a development we’ve grown to take for granted. I’d question that such conveniences are sustainable. Or a lot more must be done before they become sustainable.


[1] https://youtu.be/kGrnEc_3mYo

Next Please

There’s no celebration. No fanfare. Today, the UK get a new PM. The 4th in 6-years. We have seen Cameron, May, come and go. Now Johnson is going in favour of Truss. If there’s a celebration, it’s that Johnson is going out of Number 10 Downing Street. The removal van is, no doubt, fully laden.

This is a transition that needs to be made as quickly as possible. For too long the Johnson cabal has been lingering and doing little of any use to the nation. However, the jobs are distributed it’s a time when decisions must be made fast, but with a degree of smart flexibility.

Truss has none of Johnson’s ability to bluff and shtick. The new PM has a delivery that’s wooden and gaff prone. Nevertheless, Tuss has beaten others who would dearly love to be in the hot seat. Although, there’s good reason to question why anyone sane would want to be PM in September 2022, given the vast size of the in-tray that is waiting.

Smaller taxes and smaller Government may have been Truss’s shop window to Tory members but that’s not what’s necessary to dig the country out of the doldrums. This is a time for intervention. We have markets that are actively working against the interests of the British people.

Denying the aftereffects of Brexit also needs to go in the dustbin. It’s only by recognising a problem that a better path can be taken.

The last thing we need is a laissez-faire leadership. The textbooks of the Reagan era do not contain the solutions to the problems of the 2020s. Immediate changes to the energy market are needed. Regulation is a major part of those changes. Not micromanagement but structural change. The accumulation of huge profits because of our peculiar regulatory structure can’t continue.

On this momentous day, change must happen. However, as a word of caution, that transformation must not disregard the real and urgent nature of climate change. If our hot summer wasn’t an indicator sufficient to catch the attention of the new PM, and whoever is appointed as energy secretary, then look at what’s happening in Pakistan[1].

Winter is coming. Short-term measures must prepare us for winter, but the long-term perspective is vital. Not only do we need to decarbonise but reducing demand for energy for heating is achievable. For too long the benefits of improving Britain’s housing stock have been neglected. We don’t need more spiel and the hands-off approach should be for the dustbin.


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/pakistan-floods-more-than-450-children-killed-in-e2-80-98horror-show-e2-80-99-with-death-toll-feared-to-rise-further/ar-AA11uXnL