Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Flat Earth fun – Something for the weekend

Following Monday’s news that flat-earthers have insulted the people of Scotland by taking over a shop in Inverness, I can only do my own bit and have some fun for the rest of the week.

Not actually ‘fun’ as such (unless the idea of flat earthers is enough to tickle your funny bone), but a set of gorgeous hi-res pics shared from a recent Dragon Lady flight to the edge of space.

For those not aware, the Lockheed U-2, nicknamed Dragon Lady, is an American single jet engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force, previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency, and has been since the mid-1950s.

This is the panorama you get from the cockpit of a legendary U-2 Dragon Lady aircraft.

Ross Franquemont is a U-2 pilot and instructor at the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, based at Beale Air Force Base, California. Fortunately for the rest of the world, he is also a great photographer. In fact, the incredible images you can find in this post were taken by Ross during missions flown at high altitude (something around 70,000 feet) in the Dragon Lady aircraft.

Flat earthers hate it, and of course, say any pics taken from it and showing the curvature of the Earth (and any other globe effects) are all FAKE, and manufactured for the purpose of discrediting the ‘truth’ of the flat earth.

Earth From U-2 Credit Ross Franquemont Via The Aviationist

Earth From U-2 Credit Ross Franquemont Via The Aviationist


March 3, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | | Leave a comment

A positive drone story slipped through the media censor net

In a double first, authorities are claiming the drone-assisted rescue seen in the video below is a ‘World First.

I’d say it’s a double because this must be one of the few drone stories reported by the media with any sort of positive aspect.

It’s also notable that I found this as a Guardian report, as source often mocked for not being part of the rabid media.

It would take too long to list the usual complaints and whining noises heard when drones are featured in the media, and usually grossly misrepresented, since the problem is generally not the drone as such, but some moron who has it under their ‘control’.

I sadly doubt this marks a change though, and the media will continue to home in on those who suffer from drone-phobia, and it will be business as usual for those who just want to shoot them down if they see one, or imagine they see them about to collide with their jet (but never have evidence, apart from the one ‘hit’ that turned out to be a plastic bag when inspected on the ground).

January 19, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , | Leave a comment

People’s Palace air display

I couldn’t think of something appropriate for the first post of 2018, although I had planned a series of relevant pics, they needed some fettling and that wasn’t finished.

Scratching around material collected but yet to be used, I remembered forgetting about a chance find from the People’s Palace, which even labelled itself.

If you’re familiar with the layout, and recognise the spot, then you’ll also appreciate why it’s so dusty, and why those items have been left where they lie.

Peoples Palace Air Display

Peoples Palace Air Display

January 1, 2018 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, council, photography | | Leave a comment

Drone rules and regs set to be ramped up with apparently more police powers

There’s a sad irony (for me at least) as I watch the development of drones (and arguing about the meaning of that word makes no difference, language changes to meet the needs of the day, get over it), having been a radio-control modeller in the past.

For pure fun, I jumped in with both feet almost the first day serious electric buggies arrived, starting with completely sealed waterproof ‘go anywhere’ chassis (which was soon stripped down to almost nothing as I didn’t go anywhere wet), that I probably doubled the intended speed of, and advanced to a 4-wheel drive beast with differentials, and souped-up with high power motor, extra cells to increase the drive voltage, and electronic speed control to dump the mechanical thing that came in the box. Sadly for the maker’s good efforts, I made it 2-wheel drive, as drifting it was a LOT more fun.

Then I got hooked on the start of decent radio-control helicopters, but that never went really well, as I was forever suffering technical issues that meant more time on the ground than in the air, but I did learn the basics, and never crashed.

The irony is that in those days, RC helis cost way more than drones, and did not fly themselves in any way. We were lucky to have one gyro, compared to the multiples fitted to drones.

Cost and ability kept the sky clear in those days.

Today, drones are relatively cheap (a fraction of the original RC helis) and need no skill to fly.

But they do need common-sense – and sadly, that’s a rare commodity.

Look no further than the issues around increasingly powerful laser pointers.

Is the instance of morons who think it is a ‘Good idea’ to park themselves near an airport rare to nil?

Sadly, looking at the news and incident reports, anything but!

The same people can go out and buy any drone they like, and fly it where they like.

I could waffle on about ‘Why we can’t have nice things”.

I could list many items I am not allowed to buy, or even OWN for that matter, having been restricted by legislation in recent years.

I could probably even point out that relatively responsible (such as me) are restricted by the law, while criminals care not one jot about the law, and carry on unaffected, fairly safe in the knowledge that they will not be caught.

That’s not my imagination or an unjustified claim. Look at gun crime for example, or even vehicle excise duty evasion, now growing even though it should be easier to catch offenders by number plate recognition, as opposed to eyeballing ‘tax discs’.

I can’t afford a decent drone, so this has no impact on me now.

But it’s just such a shame that what should be both a fun recreational item AND a superb tool for serious users, has become demonised and targeted by legislation that is really more ‘knee-jerk’ (to keep uneducated members of the public appeased) than effective regulation.

See details here: Police to be given powers to ground drones in UK crackdown

There’s also a clear media trend – maybe intentional, maybe not – to ‘talk up’ stories about civil incidents involving passenger aircraft.

This usually comprises a story about a ‘ near miss’ involving a drone a few feet from the aircraft, and reports of drones being spotted by aircrew, often at extreme distance, and so far (despite the number of claims/reports) no actual collisions, or even video to support the stories.

There’s been more evidence of UFOs near aircraft than drones.

That’s not to be misrepresented as my wanting to see such an event, but evidence and fact would be better.

As it is, these sighting have about as much credibility as UFO sightings, which aircrew generally stopped reporting once their bosses began to drop their names off the promotion ladder.

Reading the media, one could be forgiven for thinking that a drone sighting involved something more like…

Predator And Hellfire

Predator And Hellfire

Than this…



I’m just having a bit of a waffle, since I’ve largely avoided throwing anything into this particular pie.

But most of the so-called ‘power’ are largely contained in existing CAA rules, and sadly, from comments that can be found in other forums, those currently ignoring those are unlikely to change their habits, especially as they can disappear long before any police with ‘powers’ can arrive.

Fly safe if you’re lucky enough to get a serious drone for Christmas.

November 28, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

One for the Spitfire fans as another is saved

For such a small aviation museum run by volunteers, the Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum punches above its weight, and is an impressive performer.

It’s a long time since I’ve been there, but I have watched its steady progress online.

Slightly irritatingly, I learned that before I made my visit I had regularly spent days within sight of the museum, but did not realise it was there. This was in the days when I used to (try to) fly RC helicopters, and attended annual fly-ins held on the old airfield runway.

Oh well…

The museum’s most recent success is the restoration of a World War II Spitfire that saw service in the Battle of Britain, but crashed during a training flight from Ayr in 1941, killing the Czech pilot.

The plane was finally salvaged from of Loch Doon in 1982, following a four-year search by divers after the museum’s founders commissioned the salvage project in 1977, not long after the museum opened.

This article covers the recovery operation: The Loch Doon Spitfire is Found

Since then, it has taken 35 years of work to restore the aircraft’s bodywork – although an expert (from Yorkshire) was able to restore the fuselage, it seems ill-health prevented further work, but the museum was able to raise fund to buy wings, and allow this part of the work to be completed.

However, there remains much to be done – while the exterior has been largely completed, the interior remains as the next stage of restoration.

Via: Loch Doon Spitfire goes on display in Dumfries

Longer story appeared later: Spitfire recovered from Loch Doon put on display

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540

Dumfries And Galloway Air Museum Loch Doon Spitfire P7540 – Pic via BBC News

July 17, 2017 Posted by | Aviation, military, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

The last Vulcan display at Prestwick also had a hint of drama

I couldn’t make it to the display at Ayr, but it seems the real action took place at Prestwick, as I just learnt from this video I spotted.

The following description of events is quoted from the video owner:

On the 5th of September I went across to Prestwick to watch the Scottish Airshow 2015. Primarily I wanted to see the Vulcan one last time before she’s retired in the next month or so.
Having arrived at the airport we waited for the Vulcan XH558 with great anticipation.
Once we saw him over Ayr my excitement grew even more.
He called up Prestwick tower to do a flyover the airfield , then make a right hand turn to then land on runway 30.
However after he made that turn things seemed to go wrong. Rather than report final he then did a second flyover , and started entering orbits to the north of the airfield.
After it became clear he was having a nosewheel gear issue , a Spitfire of the BBMF called up and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the vulcan an inspection from underneath the aircraft.
Once they had determined the Vulcans speed the spitfire confirmed that his nosewheel was not extended fully and that there was nothing blocking it from locking into place.
Following this the Vulcan entered into some very aggressive yawing , both left and right in an attempt to free whatever was holding the nosewheel back from extending and locking.
After some time they were successful and initiated a landing.
We were all waiting with bated breath, not knowing whether or not it had indeed fully locked into place.
Thankfully the landing went well, and as you can hear at the end of the video was great relief that everything had gone so well.
Praise must also go to the Spitfire pilot for taking the initiative in helping the crew of the Vulcan resolve the issue.

That brings back memories of the Prestwick Air Show (at the airport then) which had the drama of a World War II aircraft suffering a similar stuck undercarriage, which refused to be bumped loose, and eventually had to be ditched and lost in the sea off Turnberry, which was chosen as the beat way to ensure no other damage, and safe recovery of the pilot.

Thank goodness the Vulcan trip to Scotland did not end in similar fashion – although I suspect they might have ultimately dumped fuel and done a belly landing with the larger aircraft. This is the procedure I’ve seen in the past, on American aircraft of the same size in recent years.

It seems the crew would have been aware of the problem before arriving back at the airport.

Looking at this recording of the full display, it includes views of the usual lowering and raising of the undercarriage for some of the passes, and while I can’t be categoric of the full sequence having been captured, it is clear that the nosewheel is not fully forward in any of the shots:

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military | , , | 2 Comments

2015 Prestwick air show will be last chance to see the Vulcan fly

Britain’s last remaining flying V bomber, the Avro Vulcan, will be making it’s farewell visit to Scotland at the 2015 Scottish Airshow on 5th and 6th September.

As seen last year (2014):

For those not aware, XH558 returned to the air a few years ago, but was always on borrowed time as its components were nearing the end of their rated lives, and once reached, there were no new parts or spares left that would be airworthy, so the aircraft’s flying days were always numbered.

September 5th and 6th really are the last days to ever see this aircraft in Scottish skies.

The organisers of the Scottish Airshow have secured this unique aircraft and it will fly at beach front Ayr on Saturday 5th September then land at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. It will be the highlight of the Sunday Aircraft Exhibition where members of the public will be able to see it for one last time and even get up close to take photographs or talk to the flight crew.

Check here for any updates or changes closer to the event:

Scottish Airshow – Prestwick/Ayr 5th & 6th September 2015 | The Scottish Airshow – Prestwick International Airport

See also the Vulcan’s own web site for other opportunities if you are travelling around the country:

Displays / Tours – Vulcan To The Sky

Click on the image below to see a gallery of Vulcan images from over the years, assembled by those nice people at Gizmodo:

Vulcan Farewell

Vulcan Farewell from Gizmodo

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War | , , , | Leave a comment

7th Annual Space Auction includes MacBean Scottish connection

While reviewing the list of items on offer in the 7th Bonhams Space History Sale (and coming to the conclusion that I would not be bidding – even a washer that made it into space was not going to meet my budget, at an estimated £470-610), I was intrigued to see that Scottish heritage was being claimed by one of the astronauts, with an artefact from the Apollo 11 mission:

FLOWN Cloth, woolen MacBean tartan, 8 x 5 inches. With an Autograph Letter Signed by ALAN BEAN on his personal illustrated letterhead.

INSCRIBED and SIGNED “ALAN L. BEAN / Flown to the Moon / Nov ’69“.

ALAN BEAN’s handwritten provenance letter reads: “I hereby certify that the accompanying MacBean tartan cloth travelled with me to the moon in our command module, Yankee Clipper. I then transferred the tartan to our lunar module Intrepid for descent to the lunar surface. The tartan remained in the lunar module during our 33 hour stay on the Ocean of Storms and was then returned to Earth.

The Macbeans are a 700 year old clan. According to family lore, one of Alan Bean’s ancestors, John MacBean, was exiled to New England in 1652 following his support for the Scottish King Charles II against Cromwell.

My apologies in advance for any spelling errors in the clan name, but I have, as always, quoted the source material as given, and it includes two variants, so I cannot tell which one is the intended correct version in this instance.

I would assume MacBean, but cannot be sure.

Clan MacBean Tartan

Credit: Bonhams – Clan MacBean Tartan

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Aviation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama as helicopter lifts casualty from Wallace Monument

I’m always a sucker for a good helicopter story, so today’s incident at Stirling’s Wallace Monument can’t pass without mention.

Oddly, the Wallace Monument is one of those places I’ve passed hundreds of times, yet never stopped to visit – even when passing the entrance road at the bottom of the hill.

In this case, it’s reported that a teenager was four steps from the top, 67 m up and at the end of 246 steps, when a dislocated knee ended the climb, and made the return trip by the same route… unlikely.

An RAF Sea King rescue helicopter based at Lossiemouth was called in to winch the victim off the 1869 tower, and to hospital.

Helicopter rescue on Wallace Monument after person dislocates knee | Stirling & Central | News

Teenager airlifted from Wallace Monument near Stirling – BBC News

The BBC News article carried this pic credited to Les Calderwood:

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

Wallace Monument Helicopter Rescue

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Photo surprises still appear

While I was never fully attracted into the world of film photography (too much fiddling with chemicals and fear of poisoning myself, no matter how careful), I was always impressed with what could be done in the darkroom (by someone who knew better), and the sort of surprises that could be pulled out of shots, from areas where there was apparently nothing to be seen – to the untrained eye at least.

I tend to think this no longer applies in the world of digital, not because it can’t be done, but because it can be seen as ordinary and needing little effort. Studying Photo

shop (or rather its various and more reasonably priced clones) can provide a handy reminder that knowledge of appropriate techniques, and the application of appropriate filter layers, can achieve much the same as a ‘wet’ darkroom, and with a lot more safety (ok, this is maybe only important to me.)

I was running a series of long exposure trials during some nice evening light, after spotting a clear dusk sky with some contrails crossing below a bright Moon. The real reason was to see how the extended exposure affected the sharpness of the final result when the ISO was fixed at 100 ASA (which is of no interest here), but was interrupted when a low flying jet passed through one of the shots.

At first glance, the shot didn’t appear to have seen the aircraft, which was no great surprise, but more intriguing was the apparent absence of the aircraft’s lights or strobes, which I expect the long exposure to have caught, if not as light trails, then at least as light spots.

The untouched capture is shown below (not the original though – this one is reduced for the blog), and while it took a moment or two, I did eventually spot the aircraft lights – they can just be spotted in the upper right quadrant of the image (but they are just splodges in this blog version of the original). A star is more noticeable, below and to the right of the Moon – but then again, it’s not moving, so delivers more light to the spot.

Moon and contrails

Moon and contrails

Curious about what was recorded of the aircraft, or its lighting, I tried some extreme post-processing just to find out what might have been caught, and was intrigued to find not only the strobes, but also the coloured marker or navigation lights could be seen.

The push-processing might make for  horrible image (I’ve spared you the whole scene, and just clipped out the section with the lights), but it does show that even digital image sensors – which some people like to criticise as having no sensitivity – do catch detail that can be recovered. And if need be, rendered useful if enough time is spent fettling them. But that’s not justified in this case, which was just to satisfy a little curiosity.

Plane track

Plane track

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Aviation, photography | , | Leave a comment

Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club static event at Kingdom Shopping Centre

Aircraft plan view

A static exhibition is planned by the Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club for Saturday, March 15, 2014, at at Lyon Square in the town’s Kingdom Shopping Centre.

Club members will be joined by friends from other clubs in the area, including Dunfermline, Balbedie, and Kinross, and will be displaying their model aircraft at the special event in the Centre.

The Glenrothes Club was formed in 1960, and has consistently had a healthy membership within the town.

Currently they have more than 60 regular members who attend events across the region.

The Glenrothes club is highly respected amongst the aeromodelling fraternity, and boasts a wealth of facilities including its own clubhouse and five-acre flying site with runway.

Via Glenrothes models take to the skies! – Fife Today

Fife Today might have been just a little over enthusiastic with their headline, since this is a static display.

It seems this is first time this sort of display has been organised for some years.

Although it’s years since I was last there, I was at the club site and enjoyed the flying displays they put on at the fairly numerous events held there.

Find out more on their own web site:

Home – Glenrothes Aeromodelling Club

March 8, 2014 Posted by | Aviation | , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: