Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

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

Media still noticing Clutha inquiry

A little further down the feeds now…

Clutha pilot ‘may have been dangerously misled by manual’

Clutha inquiry told how helicopter crash victims died

Clutha FAI: Helicopter pilot ‘dangerously misled’ by manual (the Scotsman really should close the now generally moronic comments section)

Clutha helicopter crash inquiry: pilot could have been ‘dangerously misled’ by maintenance manual error

Clutha Tributes

Clutha Tributes

11/04/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry, day one, pretty much as expected

No surprises about what media homed in on.

But the AAIB has at least tried to make the purpose clear.

Philip Sleight, deputy chief inspector of air accidents at the AAIB, told the court that the AAIB’s purpose was to investigate the circumstances of an accident and make recommendations with the intention of preventing a reoccurrence.

He said the focus of the AAIB was “encouraging safety” not “apportioning blame”.

Clutha helicopter pilot given five low fuel warnings

Helicopter attended false alarm call before Clutha crash

A different quote came in another article, about the FAI.

Phil Sleight, deputy chief inspector of air accidents, told the inquiry there had been new documents presented but none of them were considered new or significant enough.

The purpose of the FAI is to determine the cause of the deaths, establish whether they could have been prevented and enable the sheriff to make recommendations that could prevent fatalities in similar circumstances.

Clutha FAI: Helicopter pilot received five low fuel warnings

Clutha helicopter crash inquiry: pilot ‘received five low-fuel warnings’

Another reminder was given.

The Crown Office has previously said there is insufficient evidence for criminal proceedings.

It’s easy to make ‘knee jerk’ judgements, but that would be wrong, since the media articles are just samples of proceeding, and those involved are privy to much more material than can make into these tiny articles.

Plus, as noted, there is something in the order of 3 to 4 months’ worth of material to be looked at, and that will probably take about six months, so nothing is going to happen soon.

When you sit on something like this, it can be amazing to see one small detail can take up a most of a day when being reviewed.

Clutha crash site

Clutha crash site

10/04/2019 Posted by | Aviation | , | Leave a comment

Clutha inquiry begins

Hard to miss the start of the inquiry into the helicopter crash into the Clutha bar, it was still intriguing to see the news feeds arrive from the few sources I let send such things.

I wonder how many articles there were across the whole media today?

Clutha crash inquiry hears of helicopter’s final seconds

Inquiry into Clutha crash which left ten dead begins

Clutha survivors ‘apprehensive’ as disaster inquiry begins

Clutha FAI: Witness describes helicopter sounding like ‘an old car trying to start’

Clutha FAI: The night tragedy befell ‘a pub without pretension’

Clutha helicopter crash inquiry: Witness relives the moment he saw helicopter light ‘go out’

Clutha helicopter crash inquiry set to open in Glasgow today after five-year wait for answers

Clutha crash victims remembered as Fatal Accident Inquiry begins at Hampden

The Clutha Bar As Was

The Clutha Bar As Was


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

Today is Smoke and Mirrors Day

29 March is Smoke and Mirrors Day.

Deceit, deception, illusion, even fraudulent cunning and those we’d better not mention, plus all other types of trickery are celebrated on Smoke And Mirrors Day.

The phrase “It’s all smoke and mirrors” refers to the way magicians use distraction to make sure their audience fails to see what’s really going on. The more complex the illusion, the more successful the magician.

The technique played its part in World War II, with many examples, the simplest being inflatable vehicles. A Boeing aircraft factory in America was concealed beneath a decoy town laid over the top, the D-Day invasion was hidden behind false radio messages from a few trucks driving around (including some in Scotland, to keep the enemy from discounting the west coast as an invasion departure point), the forces to be deployed were transported under cover so the build-up would not be observed, and in more technical efforts CDL (canal defence lights) were tanks fitted with strobe lights operating around 6 Hz which could confuse enemy observers. Famous magician Jasper Maskelyne tested a system of rotating mirrors and lights intended to be deployed to protect the Suez Canal, but it seems that only a prototype was ever completed, and it was not used. Most of these can be found with more detailed accounts given online.

But it’s not just magicians that have learned and perfected this art, as we see with ‘legalese’’ an incredibly convoluted language that lawyers use to make sure no-one but them understands what’s going on.

It’s nice to see there are now those who oppose that practice, and just use plain English to say what they mean, so the client (and everyone) can understand what’s happening.

Some say… it’s even been rumoured that politicians do the same.

Smoke and Mirrors

One of my favourite examples of Smoke and Mirrors can be seen in the vintage TV series – Mission: Impossible, which ran from 1966 to 1973.

Trying to pick just one? Nope.

This montage is a better reminder.

29/03/2019 Posted by | Aviation, World War II | , | Leave a comment

Leonardo da Vinci knew a good thing when he saw it

I’ve already mentioned Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at Kelvingrove.

I probably won’t include any pics of the exhibits though, as the room has subdued lighting to protect them for damage by over-exposure to light. Maybe later, when it’s quieter. But the sketches are both small and very subtle, a result of the way they were produced by silverpoint, in which a silver-tipped instrument inscribes lines on a surface that has been coated with a ground or pigment. This was used for drawing used in drawing during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries because it produced a fine line, and the sharp point was maintained in use.

But I came across an image of an earlier exhibition, The Da Vinci Experience, which took place in San Diego back at the end of 2009.

The pic makes it look as if da Vinci is looking (approvingly) at the A-12 on display just below his eyes.

Although most will identify the aircraft as an SR-71, it seems this is A-12 – 06933, on display at San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Briefly, The A-12 was a single seat aircraft, while the SR-71 (and YF-12) were 2 seat. The A-12 was shorter and lighter than the SR-71, meaning it could fly a bit higher and faster. Operationally, the A-12 was designed for direct overflight, with cameras pointing, straight down. The SR-71 was designed with oblique (side looking) cameras, avoiding the need for direct overflights.

da Vinci and A-12

da Vinci and A-12

Follow this link for the source, full size original of this image, and a collection showing all but one of the surviving aircraft on display.

06/03/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, council | , , | Leave a comment

Are hawks the deer of the sky?

Not a problem I have to worry about, but after seeing this video taken during the  Avalon Airshow, Avalon, Australia, of a USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III experiencing a birdstrike, I wonder if hawks are as smart as deer as regards traffic.

The airlifter was on its take off roll for its aerial display when a big bird was ingested by the engine, and almost instantaneous subsequent fireball and bang.

It didn’t take the fried meal long to go through that oven!

The C-17 aborted its take off and came to a stop on the runway before being taxied to a hangar for inspection. Since it didn’t fly on the following day, the damage may have been significant, or required more detailed inspection.

Closest I’ve been to an incident was the halting of the Prestwick airshow, to allow a passenger jet which had declared an emergency to land during the show.

I think someone had reported smoke in the cabin.

05/03/2019 Posted by | Aviation, military, Transport | , | Leave a comment

Virgin Galactic rocket pilot is from Helmsdale

While most of the stuff seen in the news these days is just tripe, there is still the odd gem there to bring a little surprise.

Virgin Galactic has pushed its Unity rocket plane faster and higher than it’s ever been.

Chief pilot, Scotsman Dave Mackay, and co-pilot, American Mike Masucci, took the vehicle to almost 90km in altitude above California’s Mojave Desert before gliding back down to Earth.

Mr Mackay, from Helmsdale, Sutherland, becomes the first Scottish-born pilot to travel to space, by Virgin’s preferred definition of that term.

“It was thrilling yet smooth and nicely controlled throughout, with a view at the top, of the Earth from space, which exceeded all our expectations,” he said after landing back at Mojave airport.

Virgin’s Unity plane rockets skyward

Pity the more generally accepted altitude for ‘space’ is 100 km or 62 miles, although it is just a line in the sand, er… sky.

Maybe next time.

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay Image courtesy of Virgin Galactic Press FTP

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay Image courtesy of Virgin Galactic Press FTP

24/02/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | | Leave a comment

Clutha continuation

Just noting, for completeness.

Clutha families ‘punished again’ over cost of fatal accident inquiry

Clutha Tributes

Clutha Tributes

24/02/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Scotland continues to move towards its first rocket launch

Having watched the first proposals for a Scottish launch facility many years ago, greeting by the sound of mocking laughter from the usual naysayers, I wonder what they’re doing nowadays?

Probably the same, since their tiny Trump-like brains can’t cope with change and progress.

Now we have new business and employment for somewhere between 130 and 170 people coming from this business as it moves from proposal to reality, and the first launch is scheduled for 2021.

I’m particularly intrigued by their mention of a clean fuel, having seen the reports of dreadful pollution and sickness caused to the lands and people who live in the fallout area around the old Soviet are launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The land based launch facility meant that spent rocket bodies just fell to ground and were just abandoned, complete with their fuel tanks laced with highly toxic rocket fuel, usually hydrazine, but many other similarly toxic chemicals were carried. Worth taking a look online, to see the pics of the wreckage left where it fell, and the resultant problems caused by the contents. The issue was never spoken of in the Soviet era, and silence still surround this seldom mentioned legacy, and the suffering of the communities below the cosmodrome’s launch paths

A company involved in plans to establish a spaceport in Sutherland is to open a mission control and design facility in Moray.

UK-based spaceflight firm Orbex said more than 130 new jobs could result from the decision to site the base in Forres.

Land on the Melness Crofters Estate has already been identified as a location for the spaceport.

It has proposed launching small rockets carrying nanosatellites from the site.

Orbex unveiled its Prime rocket, powered by what has been described as the world’s largest 3D printed rocket engine, at its new base at Forres Enterprise Park.

Prime has been designed to take satellites to altitudes of up to 776 miles (1,250 km).

Orbex said the rocket’s engine was the first commercial rocket engine to be designed to work with bio-propane, a “clean-burning, 100% renewable fuel source” that cuts carbon.

A Prime rocket is scheduled to be launched carrying an experimental payload in 2021. Orbex is working with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd on this project.

Firm behind Sutherland spaceport to open base in Forres

The first satellite-carrying rocket to be built in the UK for launch in Scotland has been unveiled in Moray.

Orbex says it will create almost 170 jobs as it manufactures the rockets to carry commercial satellites from a launch site in Sutherland.

The company is working in tandem with Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd.

The first rocket is due to launch in 2021, putting Scotland firmly on the map in the global space technology race.

Lift off for Scotland’s first satellite-carrying rocket

Prime Image Credit Orbex

Prime Image Credit Orbex

08/02/2019 Posted by | Aviation, Civilian, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: