Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Clutha inquiry S07

The Clutha inquiry is drawing to a close, the findings will be released as soon as possible.

It’s a little sad to see that the main comments are all negative, regardless of the outcome of the inquiry.

It’s almost as if everyone is trying to score points and prepare the ground for some sort of “I told you so” response if the finding does not suit their particular agenda.

Sheriff principal Turnbull acknowledged that the delay in holding the inquiry had caused great distress.

A number of representatives for the victims expressed disappointment in the proceedings.

Donald Findlay QC, representing Mary Kavanagh, the partner of victim Robert Jenkins, said she felt crash victims did not feature enough during the inquiry held at Hampden Park.

Gordon Jackson QC, representing the family of victim Gary Arthur, said he had asked the Crown Office why there had been such a long delay in starting the inquiry and said he would ask them for an apology if their explanation was not entirely satisfactory.

The Crown Office has previously acknowledged the delay in calling a fatal accident inquiry into the crash.

Clutha bar helicopter crash inquiry concludes

The Clutha Bar 2019

The Clutha Bar 2019

11/08/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

‘Flyboard’ makes it across the English Channel

Ushering in yet another way for illegal immigrants to sneak into the UK benefits system 😉

Just kidding (although it does look safer than climbing into jet aircraft wheel wells or hiding in refrigerated lorries).

I was a little disappointed when the first attempt at this crossing didn’t quite make it, but it looks as if the orgnaisation and execution learned from that one, and the second went better.

I found this one more interesting than most record attempts as it shows how significant using the appropriate technology and hardware can be to its effectiveness.

While there have been various ‘personal’ transport systems similar to this (generally allowing a single person to ‘fly’), none of them have been particularly safe, or useful with regard to range or duration.

While something like this has been around since James Bond used a jetpack in 1965’s Thunderball, it wasn’t really a useful device.

Powered by a rocket motor, the fuel was dangerous, poisonous, corrosive (you really didn’t want to get even a drop spilled on your skin), and the motor was hot!

Even worse, duration was only a few minutes, further reduced by the need to make sure there was always a reserve and land early – run out of fuel with a jetpack and you fall out of the sky immediately.

While these devices will always have the ‘falling out of the sky problem’ (with no wings at all, there is no glide option, and they fly so low, parachutes are not really an option), the use of jet turbines and safe fuel (and computer control) to extend their duration and improve their stability has made a major difference.

As usual, I’m sad to say the WordPess STILL doesn’t allow BBC video to be embedded in posts (I tried this one, and it doesn’t even show the story, let alone the video – it just deletes the lot when I hit ‘Publish’), so you have to follow the link to see this one.

Franky Zapata: Flyboarding Frenchman crosses English Channel

Don’t know if this video will stay up, but I’ll include it:

04/08/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

I did it again! This time I knocked out this year’s Scottish Airshow

Regulars will know I have occasional fun posts about how I jinx things, and how they get cancelled or disappear as soon as I take an interest.

This time, it’s the Scottish International Airshow, which restarted in Ayr a few years ago.

I almost made a serious effort to have a look last year, but started planning just too late.

Having already been to Ayr a number of times this year, I thought I’d dare to plan ahead, and try to make the trip while the airshow was taking place.

THAT went well.

They’ve already announced that there will be no show this year (2019, sorry folks, clearly my jinx effect IS real).

It’s set to return in 2020 (assuming the funding is in place, dare I say, 4th, 5th & 6th September, 2020).

Read the background here:

The Scottish International Airshow

There’s further commentary here:

Scottish Airshow will be back and bigger than ever in 2020

Well, there’s one aircraft that won’t be there 😉

24/07/2019 Posted by | Aviation | , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry S06

Back in the news, this time with the thoughts of a psychologist, and mildly alarming too, in a way.

But it also shows why I often suggest not making assumptions on court cases based only on snippets the media choose to report – ALL the material considered needs to be known before a conclusion, or even a valid opinion can be formed, not just a few tasty highlights extracted to attract readers.

The pilot of the helicopter which crashed into the Clutha bar probably “violated procedures”, an expert has told an inquiry.

Prof Polly Dalton, a psychologist at Royal Holloway University of London, was commissioned to compile a report for the Fatal Accident Inquiry.

She discussed a number of options to explain pilot David Traill’s behaviour.

The FAI was previously told the captain didn’t follow the standard emergency procedures that night.

Giving evidence as the final witness to the Clutha Fatal Accident Inquiry, Prof Dalton said “the pilots failure to land the aircraft within the 10 minute time limit would appear to constitute a deliberate violation of safe practice”.

She also said it could have been a deliberate sabotage.

But she ruled those out and concluded that it was “most likely the pilot violated the standard operating procedures because he mistakenly believed that they were not appropriate to that particular situation”.

Clutha Inquiry: ‘Mistaken’ pilot ‘violated procedures’


The Clutha Bar 2019

The Clutha Bar 2019

21/07/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry S05

Back in the news.

This week…

Clutha Inquiry: Pilot says he never had low fuel warning

Clutha helicopter crash – Handover pilot tells inquiry he has ‘never experienced’ low fuel warning in flight

Clutha: Helicopter instructor had no issues with pilot

Clutha Inquiry: pilot ‘very good’ in proficiency test

Pilot ‘has faith’ in Clutha aircraft despite fuel issue

Clutha Inquiry: Helicopter model ‘had fuel indication issues in months after crash’

The Clutha Bar 2019

The Clutha Bar 2019

07/07/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Helicopter flapping and cyclic angle of attack video reveal

I’ve mentioned my (generally failed) attempts to fly radio-controlled helicopters (long before drones and even model-sized gyros were around). Most of these were thwarted by various silly technical issues, some of my own making, other down to hardware issues, but all meaning I never transitioned from hover to flight.

One side effect of this was to make me study rotary flight theory (no different for model or full size), as part of my fault-finding efforts.

Some aspects were ‘invisible’ as they related to dynamic changes that took place during each rotation of the rotor head, so could not be observed, and weren’t particularly obvious or intuitive until their theory was considered in some detail.

One is the ‘flapping’ of the blades, required to balance the lift generated across the rotor disc of a single-rotor helicopter, or autogyro, in forward flight.

A rotor blade moving in the same direction as the aircraft is called the advancing blade and the blade moving in the opposite direction is called the retreating blade. In forward flight the advancing blade has a higher airspeed than the retreating blade, creating unequal lift across the rotor disc.

This is countered by ‘blade flapping’. The advancing blade flaps up and develops a smaller angle of attack due to a change in relative wind vectors, thus producing less lift. Conversely, the retreating blade flaps down, develops a higher angle of attack due to a change in relative wind vectors, and generates more lift.

Unequal lift arising from motion of the rotor disc is also countered by cyclic feathering, which means the angle of attack of the blade is varied during each rotation, varying the lift to further compensate for the variation.

The speed of the rotor meant that couldn’t be seen back in those days, but advance in video and camera miniaturisation mean that previously impractical or even impossible scenarios can now be recorded and reviewed, such as this video showing the above effects as they take place while a rotor blade is in motion on a flying helicopter.

I don’t have any commentary or source for this clip, so just have to hope I’m correct in adding that the items which can be seen oscillating (moving up and down) at the base of the blade are mechanical dampers.

19/06/2019 Posted by | Aviation, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Scottish spaceport is not ‘going away’

I seem to have been following various stories about Scottish spaceports for some years, since before the military base at Machrihanish was closed (and it was classified as “Scotland’s Area 51” as there was already so much spacecraft activity there – according to some 😉 ).

Much has changed since then, including the requirements for a facility which can support spacecraft launches, as criteria such as vehicle size and orbital altitudes have changed.

The whining of naysayers was loud in those early days, and can still be heard today, at the alternative spaceport sites now being proposed in the north of Scotland.

But the chances of that whining being rewarded by such proposals never coming to pass seem to be somewhat remote these days.

Activity and interest continues to grow, as we’ve noted in the past.

I can’t wait for the first launch, and just wish I was in a related industry/business (and lived up there, which would help).

It has been almost a year since it was announced that Scotland could host the very first UK spaceport – and interest is far from waning.

By the end of the year, plans could be submitted to build a facility at the A’Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland.

But Scotland has a number of regions which look attractive to aerospace companies for development.

A consortium has revealed plans to build the UK’s first vertical launch site at Scolpaig, North Uist, following months of investigations.

Shetland has also been earmarked as a desirable location.

When looking to build a spaceport, the UK considered both horizontal and vertical launch sites.

Like their names suggest, horizontal launch sites fire rockets at a gradual angle – similar to what you would see at an airport.

Prestwick Airport, for example, is on the cusp of applying for a licence to carry out horizontal space launches from its 2,986-metre concrete case runway.

The airport also cites its “coastal take-offs, favourable weather conditions and excellent transport connections” among the factors which make it an ideal launch spot.

Similarly, Cornwall is also expected to have a horizontal spaceport operational by 2021.

A vertical launch pad, as the name suggests, is one which enables rockets to be fired directly upwards into space.

There are key criteria which are necessary for a site to be considered for this.

They revolve around the orbits of the rockets – principally known as polar and sun synchronous orbits (SSO).

An SSO is where it passes over any given point on the Earth’s surface at the same local solar time. A polar orbit is one that passes over polar regions, especially one whose plane contains the polar axis.

Scotland contains sites with the best access to polar and SSO orbits without flying over land inhabited by humans.

Why is Scotland a prime rocket launch site?

The above criteria are crucial, as anyone aware of the dire condition of land around the Soviet era Baikanur launch facility will already be aware. It is now contaminated and extremely hazardous to anyone living there, as fallen rocket bodies were just left to rot where they fell, discharging highly toxic propellants such as hydrazine wherever they fell.

The Western Isles have entered the race to create the UK’s first commercial spaceport.

The project led by Western Isles local authority – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – is separate to bids to build ports in Sutherland and in Shetland.

It has been proposed the Western Isles’ Spaceport 1 be located at Scolpaig on the north-west coast of North Uist.

The comhairle said up to 70 jobs could be created at the site which would be used for small satellite launches.

Test launches could be carried out later this year.

The comhairle has agreed to invest about £1m to purchase the land needed.

Western Isles in race to open UK’s first spaceport

Lift off: UK’s first vertical-launch spaceport plans unveiled

Vertical Launch Spaceport

Vertical Launch Spaceport

12/06/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry S04

This week…

Clutha inquiry: Helicopter operators ‘concerned about fuel indicators’ before fatal crash

Faulty fuel sensors on Clutha helicopter ‘were not replaced’

Clutha helicopter operators ‘worried about fuel display’

Clutha helicopter crash inquiry: two drops of water could have caused faulty fuel reading

Clutha: Two drops of water ‘could distort fuel reading’

Clutha inquiry: Pilot warned of faulty fuel reading

The Clutha Bar 2019

The Clutha Bar 2019

19/05/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry S03

This week…

Clutha Inquiry: Engineer’s fears over helicopter maintenance

Interesting – this next account seems to challenge the preceding.

Clutha Inquiry: Police inspector describes helicopter’s fuel warning ‘issues’

The Clutha Bar 2019

The Clutha Bar 2019

05/05/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

LNT – Is this the right way to use lighter-than-air craft?

My engineering heart always sinks whenever I see some great new announcement proclaiming that someone has had a brilliant bright idea, and that they’re resurrecting the airship in some way.

The last revelation was Airlander 10, but like most of these giants, it ended up having an accident.

Since day one of this, I always pointed out that if the military (with its budget) didn’t think they could make it work, and dumped it, its chances of civilian success were slim to nil.

Airlander 10 crash-landed after mooring line snagged power cables

I’m willing to go out on a bit of limb and suggest that, with current technology at least, basic physics means that these giants are doomed from the day they are conceived.

I don’t know where the borderline lies, but the basic flaw is that their propulsion systems are limited in relation to their size.

While there is a practical limit to the force they can exert on a relative small amount of air, and impart a controlling force to the craft, as they get bigger and bigger their area (and volume rise rapidly, meaning that the effects of wind and buoyancy rise faster than any of the controlling forces available to the pilot.

The bigger the get, the slower they get, and also the lower the wind speed they can legitimately operate in.

While the financial rewards for smaller craft are less attractive for the big monsters, I’d always maintained they could be more successful if anyone dared downsize developments, instead of continually trying to make these things ever bigger.

It’s almost as if the first thing those involved do is throw all thoughts of ‘Commin Sense’ out the door.

Now, it seems someone has taken that step, and I’ll be interested to see if progress of these smaller craft leave the big monsters in its wake.

Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have helped create a revolutionary new type of aircraft.

Phoenix is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to stay in the air indefinitely using a new type of propulsion.

Despite being 15m (50ft) long with a mass of 120kg (19 stone) she rises gracefully into the air.

She looks a little like an airship, except airships don’t have wings.

“It’s a proper aeroplane,” says the UHI’s Professor Andrew Rae.

As the project’s chief engineer, he has overseen the integration of Phoenix’s systems.

“It flies under its own propulsion although it has no engines,” he says.

“The central fuselage is filled with helium, which makes it buoyant so it can ascend like a balloon.

“And inside that there’s another bag with compressors on it that brings air from outside, compresses the air, which makes the aeroplane heavier and then it descends like a glider.”

New aircraft rises ‘like a balloon’

First lighter-than-air aircraft I’ve come across in years that hasn’t made me say “Oh no” at first sight.

UHI Phoenix Via BBC

UHI Phoenix Via BBC

23/04/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry, not new

It’s only the opening stage, but if it carries on like this, I wonder if anything new will come out?

This is really no more than we had in the days following the incident.

Clutha Inquiry: Lack of crash evidence ‘frustrating’

Lack of Clutha crash evidence ‘leaves unanswered questions’

Going over the existing material is good, it has to be reviewed, but after so many years, we might expect information to appear that was not available at the time.

Perhaps the legal people are preparing the way for new/additional legislation.

Clutha crash site

Clutha crash site

18/04/2019 Posted by | Aviation | , | Leave a comment

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