Some policies are directly targeted to fix a problem, other policies maybe aimed at indicating a direction of travel. I think the measures in France to ban domestic flights on short routes is the later.

Internal routes that can be flown in less than two-and-a-half hours, are prohibited[1]. That can be done because high-speed rail transport offers a means of connecting certain French cities.

The calculation being that greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by this control. There had been many calls for even stricter restrictions on flying in France. Lowering carbon emissions is a priority for many European governments. Sovereignty is primary in this respect. A State can take measures to control domestic flying much more readily than they can internationally. Connecting flights will not be changed by this new legislation.

High-speed trains do take passengers from airlines and take cars off the roads. Where a mature rail network exists, there are significant benefits in focusing on rail transport between cities. Often rail and air are complementary, with major high-speed rail stations at airports.

Given the rhetoric surrounding the “climate emergency” these restrictions are a modest measure that will make only a small difference to carbon emissions. The symbolism is significant. It’s a drive in a transport policy direction that may go further in time and other States may do the same.

Flying between Paris and Lyon doesn’t make much sense when a good alternative is available. Flying between London and Birmingham doesn’t make much sense either. However, changes like these need to be data-driven transformations. There needs to be a measure reduction in greenhouse gas emissions because of their implementation. For example, displacing travellers onto the roads would be a negative outcome.

The imperative of greenhouse gas emission reduction means creative and new measure will happen. It’s far better for aviation to adapt to this framework of operations rather than push back. The direction of travel is set.



Semiconductor superpower. Where have I heard that before? Let’s go back to the moment when the silicon revolution was a topic of popular conversations. Today, as much as people are speaking of AI. It has been difficult to accept that Moore’s Law is real. Early on, the notion that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every two years seemed far fetched.

I remember the 1980s, and the privatisation drive that effectively gave away the country’s technology crown jewels. UK semiconductor manufacturers of the 1980s such as GEC, Plessey, Ferranti and Inmos waned or sold-up[1]. Policy makers of that time saw globalisation as risk free. Now, that looks like selling off the family silver.

At the time, silicon chips were predicted to kill off a substantial percentage of white colour jobs. Only a few people saw the potential for massive new industries to spring-up and employ large numbers of new workers. It’s true that the jobs created were, on the whole, quite different from the ones they displaced. Admin work in a giant insurance office is miles from that of a being an on-line games developer, tester, or marketer.

My point is that Government intervention in technology hasn’t got a good record. That’s not an argument for a hands-off approach. That too has proven to have negative outcomes. I’m often tempted to go back to the story of videotape and VHS against Betamax[2] The better technology is not always the one that wins in the global marketplace. Boring reality and dull pragmatic considerations can tip the balance.

The record shows Government Ministers get swayed by the whizzy, super advanced, “superpower” labels that get stuck on the latest promotion. Let’s face it, a photo opportunity next to an exciting futuristic image gets the media’s heart beating. Marketing hype is not new. It has a role in druming-up investments in risky ventures.

Unquestionable is the intense level of competition in the global semiconductor marketplace. If the UK is to be taken seriously when billions of dollars are placed on the table by others there really must be a matching offer. One billion over a decade will end up getting spread as thin as oil on water. A strong collaboration with other, who have common interests would help. Let’s not forget that doing the “dull stuff” can be highly profitable too.

The open market, in deals of the past, has seen a concentration of power. This is not good for a medium sized country on the edge of a continent. Inward investment is to be welcomed. At the same time strategic domestic protections should have a place. Investments in domestic technology capabilities secures a future.




Brexit “outrage” as The Express newspaper put it. Headlines like this are signs of shear desperation. It seems every time something goes wrong, which it regularly does, the call comes out from Brexit supporters – it must be Remainers or the House of Commons or Lords or civil servants or large corporations or lefty liberals thwarting the great Brexit plan. Noting, of course, that there never was a plan in the first place.

“Take Back Control” has become the hollowest political slogan in British history. Rather than dimming the light of fervent Brexit advocates these repeated setbacks just pump them up. This kind of thinking is both sad and dangerous. It has a deep flavour of paranoia.

This month, shocks from the Conservative Party’s council election meltdown are another trigger for the political right to agitate. Shouting: bring back Boris Johnson is unsurprising. The dreamy magical thinking is that because he delivered a big parliamentary majority in 2019, somehow, he, and he alone, can do the same in 2024. Other conservatives are positioning themselves for the next run at being Prime Minister.

I’m not one to totally dismiss the Johnson proposition. Naturally, it would be calamitous and beyond reason but that has not been an impenetrable barrier since 2016. Brexit, as a happening, delights in causing chaos. There’re political thinkers who invite chaos and disruption to free potentially creative energies. They’re not a bit concerned about the impact of that approach on the average person.

Brexit continues to hobble aviation in UK. A large percentage of the people who worked in UK aviation, before the COVID pandemic, were EU nationals. A lot have gone. Now, it’s often the case that when EU nationals apply for jobs in the UK, the aviation industry must turn them down[1].

The legislative proposal to remove retained EU laws has created yet more uncertainty for UK’s aviation sector. The threat remains regardless that it may be in the process of being watered down. Debates in the House of Lords focused on democratic scrutiny of the process where significant changes are planned[2]. Ministers continue to wish to use arbitrary powers to make changes. There’s ambition in the policies advanced while, at the same time, there’s a wish to look all ways at once.

For a lot of aviation topics, the UK has stated it will continue to use European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules and guidance. Although, this is eminently sensible in an international setting it does suggest that Brexit benefits, if they exist at all, have been greatly overstated.

Given the tabloid media jitters seen in recent headlines, it’s perfectly clear that Brexit is a million miles from being “done”. A bad idea remains a bad idea, however it’s dressed up.

Expect turbulence right up to the next General Election. Change is not assured. People will have to campaign hard to make it happen. In comment on the change of the crown, “The country is in a waiting room” said historian Simon Schama.

[1] One major airline – We have had to turn down a huge number [8,000] of EU nationals because of Brexit. Another has blamed the British government’s post-Brexit immigration constraints on the labour market for fuelling staff shortages.



I know this is not a new issue to raise but it is enduring. Years go by and nothing much changes. One of the reasons that “engineering” is poorly represented in the UK is that its voice is fragmented.

I could do a simple vox pop. Knock on a random door and ask – who speaks for engineers in the UK. The likelihood is that few would give an answer, let alone name an organisation. If I asked who speaks for doctors, those in the know would say the BMA[1]. If I asked who speaks for lawyers, most would answer the law society[2]. I dare not ask who represents accountants.

Professional engineering institution have an important role. That’s nice and easy to say, in-fact all the ones that are extant do say so. Supporting professional development is key to increasing access to engineering jobs. It’s spokespersons, specialist groups and networking opportunities can provide visibility of the opportunities in the profession.

So, why are there so many different voices? There’s a great deal of legacy. An inheritance from bygone eras. I see lots of overlap in the aviation and aerospace industries. There’re invitations in my in-box to events driven by IET[3], IMECHE, Royal Aero Society and various manufacturing, software, safety, and reliability organisations.

The variety of activities may serve specialist niches, but the overall effect is to dilute the impact the engineering community has on our society. Ever present change means that new specialist activities are arising all the time. It’s better to adapt and include these within existing technical institutions rather than invent new ones.

What’s the solution? There have been amalgamations in the past. Certainly, where there are significant overlaps between organisations then amalgamation maybe the best way forward.

There’s the case for sharing facilities. Having separate multiple technical libraries seems strange in the age of the connected device. Even sharing buildings needs to be explored.

Joint activities do happen but not to the extent that could fully exploit the opportunities that exits.

If the UK wishes to increase the number of competent engineers, it’s got to re-think the proliferation of different institutions, societies, associations, groupings, and licencing bodies.  

To elevate the professional status of engineering in our society we need organisations that have the scale and range to communicate and represent at all levels. Having said the above, I’m not hopeful of change. Too many vested interests are wedded to the status-quo. We have both the benefits of our Victorian past and the milestone of that grand legacy. 





There’s nothing wrong with making an argument for deregulation. What’s absurd is to make that argument as an unchallengeable dogma. It’s the irrationality of saying that deregulation is good, and regulation is bad, de-facto. This kind of unintelligent nonsense does permeate a particular type of right-wing political thinking. It pops it’s head up in a lot of Brexiters utterances. For advocates of Brexit their great goal is to throw away rules and lower standards. Mostly, this is for financial gain.

Let’s take some simple examples. The reasons for rules and regulations can often be found in recent history. Hazards are recognised and action is taken.

There’s still lead paint to be found in many older houses. There was a time when such paint was used on children’s toys. Toy safety has been a confusing area of law, and there have been several sets of regulations since the 1960. From our current perspective this past laxness seems insane, but such lead paint mixtures were commonplace. In fact, all sorts of toxic chemicals have been used in widely used paints.

I remember working in one factory building where a survey was done of the surrounding grounds. Outside certain windows there were small fluorescent flags placed at in the grass verges. They marked places where minor amounts of radiation had been detected. This came from discarded paint brushes and tins that had accumulated in the war years. At that time radioactive luminescent paint was used to paint aircraft instrument dials.

Any arguments for the deregulation of toxic chemicals in commonly used paints should be one that is quashed instantly. However, some deregulation fanatics are only to happy to endorse a loosening of the rules that protect the public from toxic chemicals.

One result of the loosening of public protection is often to put greater profits in the hands of unscrupulous industrialist. Across the globe there are numerous cases studies of this sad folly. Newspapers and political parties that push the line that rules, regulations and regulators, by their very nature are crushing our freedoms are as bad as those unscrupulous industrialists.

Yes, there’s a case to be made for pushing back over-regulation. There’s risks we are prepared to take where the risks are low, and the benefits are large. This is a matter for intelligent debate and not throwing around mindless slogans. We should not be cowed by loud voices from small corners of society intent on tearing down decades of learning and sound practical laws. I could come up with an encyclopaedic list of examples. Opponents rarely, if ever want to address a particular case since it’s much easier for them to thunder off sweeping assertions. Beware these siren voices.

NOTE: The Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 implemented the requirements of Directive 2009/48/EC, whose purpose is to ensure a high level of toy safety.


The rate of increase in the power of artificial intelligence (AI) is matched by the rate of increase in the number of “experts” in the field. I’ve heard that jokingly said. 5-minutes on Twitter and it’s immediately apparent that off-the-shelf opinions run from – what’s all the fuss about? to Armageddon is just around the corner.

Being a bit of a stoic[1], I take the view that opinions are fine, but the question is what’s the reality? That doesn’t mean ignoring honest speculation, but that speculation should have some foundation in what’s known to be true. There’s plenty of emotive opinions that are wonderfully imaginative. Problem is that it doesn’t help us take the best steps forward when faced with monumental changes.

Today’s report is of the retirement of Dr Geoffrey Hinton from Google. Now, there’s a body of experience in working with AI. He warns that the technology is heading towards a state where it’s far more “intelligent” than humans. He’s raised the issue of “bad actors” using AI to the detriment of us all. These seem to me valid concerns from an experienced practitioner.

For decades, the prospect of a hive mind has peppered science fiction stories with tales of catastrophe. With good reason given that mind-to-mind interconnection is something that humans haven’t mastered. This is likely to be the highest risk and potential benefit. If machine learning can gain knowledge at phenomenal speeds from a vast diversity of sources, it becomes difficult to challenge. It’s not that AI will exhibit wisdom. It’s that its acquired information will give it the capability to develop, promote and sustain almost any opinion.

Let’s say the “bad actor” is a colourful politician of limited competence with a massive ego and ambition beyond reason. Sitting alongside, AI that can conjure-up brilliant speeches and strategies for beating opponents and that character can become dangerous.

So, to talk about AI as the most important inflection point in generations is not hype. In that respect the rapid progress of AI is like the invention of the explosive dynamite[2]. It changed the world in both positive and negative ways. Around the world countries have explosives laws and require licenses to manufacture, distribute, store, use, and possess explosives or its ingredients.

So far, mention of the regulation of AI makes people in power shudder. Some lawmakers are bigging-up a “light-touch” approach. Others are hunched over a table trying to put together threads of a regulatory regime[3] that will accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative[4].





AI awakens

Artificial Intelligence (AI)[1] is with us. Give it a question and it will answer you. Do it many times, with access to many information sources and it will improve its answer to you. That seems like a computer that can act like a human. In everyday reality, AI mimics a small number of the tasks that “intelligent” humans can do and do with little effort.

AI has a future. It could be immensely useful to humanity. As with other revolutions, it could take the drudgery out of administrative tasks, simple research, and well characterised human activities. One reaction to this is to joke that – I like the drudgery. Certainly, there’s work that could be classified as better done by machine but there’s pleasure to be had in doing that work.

AI will transform many industries but will it ever wake-up[2].  Will it ever become conscious.

A machine acting human is not the same as it becoming conscious. AI mimicking humans can give the appearance of being self-aware but it’s not. Digging deep inside the mechanism it remains a computational machine that knows nothing of its own existence.

We don’t know what it is that can give rise to consciousness. It’s a mystery how it happens within our own brains. It’s not a simple matter. It’s not magic either but it is a product of millions of years of evolution.

Humans learn from our senses. A vast quantity of experiences over millennia have shaped us. Not by our own choosing but by chance and circumstances. Fortunately, a degree of planetary stability has aided this growth from simple life to the complex creatures we are now.

One proposition is that complexity and conscious are linked. That is that conscious in a machine may arise from billions and billions of connections and experiences. It’s an emergent behaviour that arises at some unknown threshold. As such this proposition leaves us with a major dilemma. What if we inadvertently create conscious AI? What do we do at that moment?

Will it be an accidental event? There are far more questions than answers. No wonder there’s a call for more research[3].




Head in Sand

Well, it’s happened. A debate. Are we any wiser? Well, not much. So many good points are raised but so many good points are dismissed by current Government Ministers. So deep are they in a mess of their own making.

On Monday, 24 April at 16:30, a UK Parliamentary debate[1] took place on the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU). This was consideration of e-petition[2] 628-226 relating to the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. On the day of this debate this petition had attracted over 178 000 signatures. Petition debates are “general” debates which allow UK Members of Parliament (MPs) from all political parties to discuss important issues raised by the public.

The petition reasons that the benefits that were promised, if the UK exited the EU have not been delivered. Not at all. Although this fact might be self-evident it never-the-less warranted a timely debate. Public support for Brexit is falling as every day that goes by.

The petitioners called upon the UK Government to hold a public inquiry to assess the impact that Brexit has had on this country and its people. Given that other less impactful events have been subject to a public inquiry it seems only right that Brexit be investigated.

The call for an independent public inquiry, free from ideology and the opinions of vested interests is only fair, right, and proper in an accountable democratic 21st Century country. Transparency is a mark of good governance.

Today’s, Brexit is damaging the UK’s economy, opportunities for young people and rights of individuals. It’s well past the time that the people of the UK were told the full story. There needs to be a way out of this mess.

In the debate the point was made that the two biggest Westminster political parties continue to be committed to Brexit despite the harm that it’s doing to the UK. A long list of disbenefits were rattled off as speakers paced through the evidence. A long list that is growing.

The Government’s current approach is to ask UK Parliamentarians to stop talking about Brexit. It’s the ultimate ostrich with its head in the sand[3]. Brexit is a gigantic strategic mistake. Unfortunately, there remains a significant number of English politicians so entrenched in the mythology of Brexit that change is slow in coming. The public are way ahead of the politicians.

Stereotyping people as being in one camp or another, with the aim of continuing to divide the public is the unscrupulous tool of those people without a rational or coherent argument to make. It’s clear, progress will not be made until Ministers recognise that Brexit was a mistake. We may have to wait until after the next UK General Election before a real change is possible. Let’s hope that day comes soon.

POST 1: UK Press reports on the debate MPs debate consequences of Brexit for first time | The Independent MPs debate Brexit impact ‘for the first time since leaving the EU’ | The National Brexit: MPs call for public inquiry into impact of leaving EU – BBC News

POST 2: Brexit is a drag on the UK Sunak Grins And Bears It As Boss Hits Out At Brexit’s ‘Drag On Growth’ | HuffPost UK Politics (



[3] It’s a myth ostriches bury their head in the sand. Though this isn’t true, Ostrich Syndrome is a popular belief. It’s avoidance coping that people use to manage uncomfortable feelings or rather, not deal with them.

Working hard for the money

What goes wrong with research spending? It’s a good question to ask. In some ways research spending is like advertising spending. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.[1]” Globally billions are spent on advertising so you might say – it must be working. In fact, far more is spent on advertising than is ever available for research in the aviation and aerospace world.

Research spending is a precious asset because of its bounds. Even so, a great deal of research spending is lost on activities that deliver no or little benefit. It’s true Governments, institutions and industry don’t often put-up funds for vague and imprecise aspirations or outlandish predictions but nevertheless money goes down a sink hole on far too many occasions.

A reluctance to take tough decisions or at the other extreme of the spectrum a relish in disruption plagues research funding decision making. Bad projects can live long lives and good projects get shut down before their time. My observations are that these are some of the cases that crop-up all too often across the world.

Continuing to service infrastructure that cost a great deal to set-up. It’s the classic problem of having spent large sums of money on something and thereby the desperation to see a benefit encourages more spending. Nobody likes to admit defeat or that their original predictions were way off the mark.

Circles of virtue are difficult to address. For example, everyone wants to see a more efficient and sustainable use of valuable airspace therefore critics of spending towards that objective are not heard. That is even if substantial spending is misdirected or hopelessly optimistic.

Glamourous and sexy subjects, often in the public limelight, get a leg-up when it come to the evaluation of potential research projects. Politicians love press photographs that associate them with something that looks like a solution in the public mind. Academics are no different in that respect.

Behold unto the gurus! There’s conferences and symposiums where ideas are hammered home by persuasive speakers and charismatic thinkers. Amongst these forums there are innovative ideas but also those that get more consideration than they warrant.

Narrow focused recommendations can distort funding decision making. With the best of intent an investigation or study group might highlight a deficiency that needs work, but it sits in a distinct niche of interest. It can be a push in direction the opposite of a Pareto analysis[2].

Highlighting these points is easier than fixing the underlying problems. It’s a good start to be aware of them before pen and ink meets, and a contract is signed.

[1] statement on advertising, credited to both John Wanamaker (1838-1922) and Lord Leverhulme (1851-1925).


Light touch folly

Light touch regulation. Now, there’s a senseless folly. It’s a green light to bad actors wherever they operate. It’s like building a medieval castle’s walls half as thick as planned to save money in the belief that enemies are too stupid to work it out. Saying that the public good far less important than the speed of developments is unwise to say the least.

The INTERNET arrived in the UK in the late 1980s. Now, it seems strange to recount. Clunky Personal Commuters (PCs) and basic e-mail were the hight of sophistication as we moved from an office of typewriters and Tipp-Ex to the simple word processor[1]. Generations will marvel at the primitive nature of our former working lives. Getting scissors and cutting out paper text and pasting it into a better place in a draft document. Tippexing out errors and scribbling notes in the spaces between sentences. Yet, that’s what we did when first certifying many of the commercial airliners in regular use across the globe (Boeing 777. Airbus A320). Desktop computers took centre stage early in the 1990s, but administrations were amid a transition. Clickable icons hit screens in 1990. Gradually and progressively new ways of working evolved.

Microsoft Windows 95 and the INTERNET were heralded as the dawn of a new age. Not much thought was given to PCs being used for criminal or malicious purposes. No more thought than the use of a typewriter to commit crime. That doesn’t mean such considerations were ignored it just means that they were deemed a lower-level importance.

In 2023, everyday there’s a new warning about scammers. Even fake warnings about scammers coming from scammers with the aim of scamming. Identifying whose real and whose a fake is becoming ever more difficult. Being asked to update subscriptions that were never opened in the first places is a good indicator that there’s some dirty work afoot. Notices that accounts are about to be blocked referring to accounts that don’t exist is another.

In 30-years the INTERNET has taken on the good and bad of the greater world. It hasn’t become a safer place. In fact, it’s become a bit like the Wild West[2].

Our digital space continues to evolve but has nowhere near reached its potential. It’s like those great western plains where waggons headed out looking for rich new lands. In any towns on the way the shop fronts are gleaming and inviting but if you look around the back there’s a desperate attempt to keep bad actors at bay.

Only a fraction of the suspicious, emails, texts, and messages get reported. People unconsciously pile up a digital legacy and rarely clean out the trash that accumulates. A rich messiness of personal information can lie hidden to the eyes but just bellow the digital surface.

When politicians and technocrats talk of “light touch regulation” it’s as if none of this matters. In the race to be first in technology, public protection is given a light touch. This can’t be a good way to go.

[1] Still available – Tipp-Ex Rapid, Correction Fluid Bottle, High Quality Correction Fluid, Excellent Coverage, 20ml, Pack of 3, white.