There were three meetings in 2002.
Spring Meeting: 19th-21st April 2002, Sywell.
Accommodation was at the Aviator Hotel on Sywell airfield itself. Saturday saw five talks (see below) interspersed with a buffet lunch, discussion, snacks and finished off with Dinner at the Aviator. Sunday saw visits to Fordaire Aviation (engineering and restoration projects) and Sywell Aviation Museum (newly opened July 2001). There were 45 attendees in all, with 35 attending the Saturday night dinner. This meeting had PGEA (Post Graduate Educational Approval) for 3 points and was an open meeting.
- “Five fatalities and a survival” – An assessment of glider crashworthiness (Dr Tony M Segal)
- General Aviation Activities (Frank McClurg, CFI, Northamptonshire School of Flying)
- A history of Pilot Medical Assessment – Medical Standards for the National PPL (Dr Simon Janvrin, Chief Medical Officer, C.A.A.)
- Implications of the National Private Pilots Licence (Mr Martin Robinson, CEO, AOPA UK)
- What do you mean? “Am I fit to fly?” (Dr Michael Bagshaw, Head of Occupational and Aviation Medicine, British Airways)
Five fatalities and a survival: Dr Anthony Segal.
There are few lectures or expositions I have listened to with interest a second time, but this one was even better second time around. Fascination rather than enjoyment would describe the subject matter, dealing as it does with crashed gliders and the survival or death of the occupants.
Wooden cockpits disintegrate, glass / plastic ones (with one demonstrated exception) are either too rigid, thereby transferring sudden deceleration direct to the occupant, or with weaknesses of strap mountings or the part of the fuselage occupied by the pilot’s torso, with fatal consequences.
The Cold War’s “Better Dead than Red” slogan becomes “Better broken legs than Dead“, if the glider has a soft crumple-zone nose capable of absorbing considerable energy in deforming or breaking but an otherwise strong pilot compartment. We saw slides of accidents to show, for example, that this is the case in the ASW24 single seat glider designed by Gerhard Weibel. To keep feet out of this zone may be the next step, but is a major rethink of the “performance is all” ethos that often drives new glider design and purchase. Slides showed how anchorage points for harness straps vary. Stiff little metal rods simply bonded into the fuselage wall often pull out, but the “lower tech” ropes with splayed ends bonded into the wall stay attached. Straps going round larger radii also stayed intact in the series of UK glider accidents that Tony Segal investigated with the help of the British Gliding Association, the Air Accident Investigation Branch and others.
Tony is a veteran BMPA member and spent 20 years as a GP, then 6 months self-funded at the Farnborough Institute of Aviation Medicine, on the Diploma course. Subsequent “networking”, put to superb and continuing use shows us there is life and new ways of saving lives or spines even after retirement from active medical practice. He is too modest to have pointed out how his own research and investigations, of which we were seeing some, have contributed to safety in Gliders and Motorgliders, and will continue to do so. He did however show us the June 2001 amendment to OSTIV Airworthiness Standards (Gliding’s international scientific and technical group) that starts to incorporate this thinking into the requirements for new gliders in section 3.5. What he did not show us was his work on “Four and Five point Glider Seat Harness Static and Dynamic Tests” that he presented to the world’s glider designers and manufacturers at the OSTIV Congress in 1999, the “Full size Glider Crashworthiness Impact Test May” (1989), “Resonance Frequency of Glider undercarriage and the pilots body” (September 1992), “Anthropometry and Glider Cockpit Design” (1993-4), “Dynamic Testing of Highly Damped Seating Foam” (January 1995), though we did hear in passing that 5hz undercarriage resonance is bad for your survival. I believe his latest publication is on two seater mainwheel impact tests in the latest issue of “Sailplane and Gliding“, (the BGA’s magazine).
The talk we were privileged to hear was the “proof of the pudding” or to mix metaphors “Out of the kitchen/lab and into the real world”, where our fellow pilots’ bodies, and not just expensive dummies on test tracks (but DERA- thank you from all of us pilots), inadvertently explore the limits of crash survivability in current and past glider designs. We also learnt that if you must crash, it really can help if you implant your beloved aircraft into soft earth rather than onto concrete, I note that our splendid hosts at Sywell, where we were meeting, have since obtained hard-won permission to build a hard runway, but at least there will still be plenty of grass around it.
Please can I hear this talk yet again sometime Tony? I have failed to record here even all the important bits and the names of all those credited with contributing. I may have lost my contemporaneous notes….. but never my appreciation of the ongoing science, enthusiasm and drive that we are privileged to benefit from. Perhaps soon you will be able to show us that the crash survival rate is improving.
A History of the Pilot Medical Assessment: Dr Simon Janvrin
Simon Janvrin is the Chief Medical Officer of the CAA and was therefore well able to give us a brief history of medical assessments for pilots, with particular reference to the recent developments in connection with the new National Private Pilots’ Licence. It is evident that the health of pilots has always been important for flight safety in both commercial and private flying and the CAA has an obligation to abide by international standards, including those associated with the new JAR regulations. However, with the proposals for the new NPPL comes an opportunity to reappraise the level of risk for private flying in the UK. Research had shown that in the last 25 years, medical factors were implicated in only three accidents involving a third party on the ground. This had led the CAA to agree that there was scope to reduce the stringency of the medical required for the NPPL. The proposal was that GPs should be permitted to issue appropriate medical certificates along the lines of those required for HGV licences and for glider and microlight pilots. The downside is that the new licence would not be valid outside the UK.
The Implications of the National Private Pilots’ Licence: Martin Robinson (Chief Executive EOPA).
At the time of the Sywell meeting, agreement on the NPPL was very nearly complete and it was expected to be up and running by July 2002. BMPA members were privileged to receive a first hand account of the reasoning behind the proposed licence and the way the negotiations had taken place. The CAA had indicated that it did not wish to administer the new licence but had stated that the aviation ‘industry’ must agree on any proposals. A National Pilot Licences Group would be established, composed of representatives from the BMP, AOPA, BGA, PFA etc. The new licence would permit flight in the UK in planes up to 2,000 kilo and there would be categories for single engine planes, self launched motor gliders as well as the existing microlights. The CAA would audit the scheme. Revenue from the issue of licences would be divided between the CAA and PFA. By the time members receive this Newsletter all details of the NPPL should have been finalised and published.
What do you mean “am I fit to fly”: Dr Michael Bagshaw
Dr Bagshaw rounded off the afternoon on a rather philosophical note, picking up on various issues raised by previous speakers, taking a broad brush view of fitness to fly and highlighting some of the problems of assessment.
Should the assessment be carried out by GP or AME? When the GP knows the pilot’s history, medical history and illness is less easy to conceal. The AME only knows what the pilot tells him and what he finds on the day.
How is the decision influenced by other factors? What we, as doctors, see is often what we expect to see and what we think the pilot wants. The caring doctor does not like upsetting the pilot who is a successful person, an achiever, who gets more than a little upset if he fails his medical. He makes it very plain what he wants.
The decision of “fit”, or otherwise, is based on risk assessment. The concepts of risk are difficult to convey. Decisions on fitness are based on an incapacity risk of less than 10% but if you are the one it becomes very clear and we cannot say with any confidence a person is fit for the period of their medical certificate.
The new National Licence gives the pilot more responsibility. In Dr Bagshaw’s view, this is progress. He had feared for a future where everything is regulated and based on an assessment of risks we cannot quantify.
Summer Meeting: 26th-28th July 2002, Shenington.
This year’s event was blessed with extraordinarily good weather which was reflected in the turnout. There were 45 attenders, including 11 medical students and 10 children. Unfortunately Go-carts were not amongst those present for reasons that I have yet to discover.
Five parties flew in, one of them twice! bringing with them at least 14 persons. (There is some doubt about how many of the Busby grandchildren came by what route.) There was much admiration from the locals for Ceri Twiston Davies’s precision landing from Jersey in his Cessna twin. He brought with him a co-pilot, their ladies and Ceri’s two children. Andy Sayers arrived from Dundee or thereabouts in his new (to him) Long Eze. Clad in immersion suit with Emergency Location Beacon hung round his neck, this was his third attempt that day. His last message from the cockpit at 500 feet above the East coast water was that he would let us know if there were further problems or we could read about it in the papers tomorrow. Happily the papers were not needed, he landed safely and camped overnight under his wing. Our immediate past-president was so keen that he came by car on Friday evening, by air on Saturday and by air again on Sunday. Jeremy and Sally Radcliffe floating in in their Stampe evoked much nostalgia for the thirties from an audience who cheerfully confessed they couldn’t remember that far back . Cranked wing devotees were represented by Stephen and Janet Gibson. The secretary also flew in.
Our medical student guests came from Cambridge (5) on Friday and Birmingham (6) on Sunday. Our hosts kept one aircraft and instructor solely for their use. All got at least one trial lesson and were very enthusiastic about it. They left with 3 months temporary membership of the gliding club so perhaps one or two may go further and who knows what seeds have been sown for the long term?
Madam President and her consort arrived on Saturday afternoon in state, how else (actually for state read Ford Transit motor home). They added great tone to the camping area and allowed arrivals to be not only properly greeted but on Sunday to be entertained to Glyndebourne style food and drink. Goblets instead of glasses, how much further up-market can you get? They also brought a fine selection of home produced choice cuts of meat which were much appreciated at the Saturday barbeque which was not so riotous as last year.
I hope we may be as lucky with the weather next year so that people can fly in, that we can again entertain medical students and also plenty of children (and thus by implication some of our younger members).
Autumn Meeting: 6th-8th September 2002, Newcastle.
Frankie Walters (BMPA President) organised this meeting for us. It was based at Newcastle on Tyne and on offer were jet provost flying, an introduction to archaeology from the air (incorporating a flying competition) and night clubbing – the hotel was on the Quayside in the heart of clubland! The AGM was held during this meeting as well as the Guinness Cup Competition and our Annual Dinner.
Andrew Clymo writes:
Newcastle fulfilled its promise of new sights and flying experiences, good food and excellent fellowship. The city has benefited from large injections of European money, i.e. our money returned earmarked, and has an extensively redeveloped waterfront district on the edge of which was our hotel.
Friday’s weather forecast was less than encouraging. Those who did fly avowed that they barely glanced at their instruments all the way but I think they all had the appropriate rating tucked up their sleeves in case of need. Arrivals were well scattered through the afternoon and evening and were greeted in their room by a comprehensive collection of local guidance. The first duty of the evening was to walk to La Tasca for Tapas. ‘La Tasca’ is the name, ‘Tapas’ the purpose and ‘for’ a preposition. The programme advertised lots of Sangria or beer, both true, but not the equally huge quantities of food. Many of us not experienced in Spanish ways found ourselves wiping our fingers in conclusion just as the main dishes were put before us. A friend of mine says ‘never diet when away from home’ and I took her advice. By the end of the evening our company was near complete and rather more than replete. However some of the (fool?)hardier souls went on to join the amassing army of clubbers. The scene was much like Broad Street in Birmingham but on the slope rather than flat which makes for interesting walking even when sober. I never did get a coherent account of the proceedings but one gathered they were up to expectations.
Wallington, now National Trust owned, but until recently the home of the Trevelyan family (note the Cornish origin), provided a Saturday breakfast of proportions and quality to satisfy even the most exacting of our trenchermen. We were then glad to be seated for a matching intellectual and academic feast of archaeology from the air. It was astonishing to see how human interference with the landscape has left signs from two or three thousand years ago, even when on the surface nought is visible. The ensuing tour of the overt and covert parts of the house produced an insight into more modern developments and especially the need for constant maintenance inside and out if preservation is to be accomplished.
Lunch at Newcastle Aero Club was advertised as simple. If that was so, I guess the charas must come from miles around for the complicated one.
The afternoon was devoted to one of the raisons d’etre of our association, to wit, flying. Many members took the opportunity to have a go in a Jet Provost (see Sqn. Leader Bagshaw’s contribution). All came back with dreamy expressions on their faces. The rest of us went off on a nav. exe planned by madam president in cahoots with her archaeology and aviation advisors. Some went in their own aircraft and others in Club ones with instructors. The tour went North and then East to the coast before coming back to base. The weather militated against perfection but there were some creditable performances in site recognition. My experience was of early scud running with the ground mostly in sight and rather close. Our instructor was, I hasten to say, ex-commercial with squillions of hours on Comets and things. There were storm cells further North but we saw lots of sheep and once we were away from the hills some striking archaeological sites. It was a great introduction to both aerial archaeology and the district. Prizes were awarded in due course. I was pleased to share one even if it was for the boobies.
Trinity House, whence we went for dinner, is a name familiar to everyone and synonymous with lighthouses and buoys. I had never thought where the name might have come from and had no idea the house still existed. It does and continues in use (since 1536) as the headquarters of The Corporation of The Newcastle upon Tyne Trinity House. Their business is looking after the welfare of seafarers on the North East coast. The house is full of remnants of this day-to-day business and memorabilia of that continuous enormously long service. It is a working building not a museum and so to get the most out of it, a guided tour is de rigueur. The tours, (in our case glass in hand) and to the gentle skirl of Northumbrian pipes, are conducted by volunteer enthusiasts. Overrun was the order of the evening. The dinner that followed was, of course, up to our usual high standard.
The Baltic Flour Mill, recently re-opened as an arts centre, has lately attracted adverse comment in the national press for its shambolic organization. Our experience was entirely in accord with this. At one stage, the weather being so nice, there was a move to hold the AGM outside and standing at the southern end of the new award winning Eyelid Bridge. That’s one better than the Privy Council. However, once the logistics had been sorted, and the annual business disposed of, the halls were a sight to be seen and the exhibits therein were definitely ‘different’. Lunch in the top floor restaurant suffered from some of the same difficulties as earlier affairs and a sharp outburst from the Presidential Consort was required to rally and stiffen the troops. Eventually all but a few who had to leave early (i.e. on time) were served and many lingering over their desserts and coffee were able to discuss the events of the weekend. The conversation was of airborne archaeology, Jet Provost joys and sailing and storms on the high seas.
Michael Bagshaw writes:
The Newcastle Jet Provost Experience
Gosh. Its 24 years since I last flew a Jet Provost Mk3A yet here are my hands flashing round the cockpit doing the checks as if it were only yesterday (wonder if I’ll remember how to fly the thing). Just shows what a good bit of kit we have in long term memory (thoughts of riding a bike), and what good training we received from the RAF Central Flying School.
Airborne, undercarriage up before 125 knots. As we climb through transition altitude and I run through the pre-aerobatic HASELL checks, I detect a hint of apprehension from Ian in the right hand seat. It might have something to do with the devilish horns which are sprouting from my Mk 4B helmet and the glint in the eye as I recall my trophy-winning display aerobatic sequence. After all, if I break the aeroplane we can’t just land and ask the flight sergeant to give us another one.
I had my own slight unease when there was no connection of leg restraint garters to the ejection seat and we didn’t remove the pins to make the seats live after strapping in. (I had similar disquiet when Geoff Fearnley arranged for me to do some instructing in a civilianised Mk5 at Southend a few years ago.)
24 years ago, I would never have predicted that one day I would actually enjoy flying a Mk3A, yet here I am having the time of my life. We instructors at Cranwell used to refer derogatively to the Mk3A as the constant thrust, variable noise machine. (We much preferred the Mk5A, with its more powerful engine, quiet pressurised cockpit, better oxygen system, crisper aileron response. Of my 1,000-ish hours flying the JP, only about 300 were spent in the draughty noisy cockpit of the Mk3A (my prerogative as flight commander).
So here we go! Three quarter slow roll to the right, followed by a Derry turn away from the crowd. Up into a loop (oops – this is a 3A, not a 5A, so I get the burble over the top sooner than I expect. Unload a little, and it keeps flying), then straight into a reverse noddy stall turn. Wing over into a half reverse Cuban, followed by…………. a voice from the right seat says “PLEASE don’t pull too much G, I’ll get into terrible trouble if we use up all the fatigue life”.
So we stop showing off to the cheering crowd, and instead enjoy performing graceful aerial ballet. The devilish horns retract, but the wall-to-wall grin spreads right round the back of my head and meets in the middle of my face.
Lightning is flashing from a distant Cb (nothing to do with my devilish horns I hope), but the storm is moving away from the airport and it is time to land.
More nostalgia as we over fly Acklington, which used to be a flying training school equipped with Jet Provosts and is now an open cast coal mine. (I had similar nostalgia as we passed Ouston on the way out – Newcastle UAS used to be based there with Chipmunks.)
Speed below 140 knots, airbrakes in, undercarriage down (3 reds, 3 greens), flaps to take-off and indicating, fuel content and balance, harness tight and locked, brakes on, off, pressures exhausted. At 300 feet, speed below 125 knots, full flap and indicating. Speed 115 reducing to 90 knots at the threshold. Look into the distance along the runway, flare, smoothly close the throttle, and with a trundle we are back on Newcastle’s wet runway.
Wow! Terrific! Fantastic!
Thanks to Frankie for the organisation, and thanks to the members of the Jet Provost group for so generously allowing us to play with their immaculate toy. Never seen so many BMPA members with such big grins.
But somehow I don’t think nostalgia is what it used to be.
Dr Michael Bagshaw (Sqn Ldr – retd)