I read a piece in our local free paper that drew my attention, it as a ‘look what our local lads are up too.’ Crossing Everest under a paramotor was the story, two remarkable young guys were the ‘local color.’ I had met one of them, Bear Grylls, previously at a fund raiser. He was appearing for a joint services charity gig at a local private school (closed for the holidays) in front of a mixed bunch of currect/retired military people mixed liberally with the comfortable middle classes, the odd mountaineer and sundry Joe public.
At a little over twenty as an SAS soldier enjoying a spot of R&R in Africa, he had experienced a parachute malfunction during free fall. The chute had partially inflated and taken him to the bush floor where he slammed into the ground breaking his back in two places. They flew him home in rather a bad way and after a short interval he became the youngest person to climb Everest at just twenty three! As ‘simple’ as that.
We all watched with rapt attention as he built a picture of his early life and its lead up to the climbing and summiting of the great mountain. It was inspiring and humbling at the same time. (Well worth the twenty five quid, they even threw in a very good Chinese meal afterwards prepared by the school staff.) Yes, I bought his (signed) book; I read it in a single sitting like most other people I have lent it to.
Now out of the Army and presumably facing an uncertain future, a Bear needed to find his honey and a new direction. This soldier turned writer/explorer has now bounced across a number of projects devouring and exploiting them (all in the best sense) to generate and sustain his emerging public persona. As you will see from his website he is a fascinating character driven by his need to achieve, his faith and enthusiasm for life. Discovery documentaries, records and remarkable achievements are being ticked off at a considerable rate but it was his return to Everest with Giles Cardoza which caught my imagination and the Paramotors they took with them.
Keep an eye out for him, he is quite a guy and if you feel inclined, read his books.
As I write this I look across the room to see two worn books sitting on the shelf. Weather Flying and Flying Know How were volumes that I pawed through as a lad hoping to glean something I could use ‘up there’ – I wasn’t dissapointed.
Bob Buck wrote beautifully and with great authority. It is sad to see him go but at ninety three I doubt that he would complain about the length of his run.
Aero-News did this piece on him, it covers his life well in a journalistic sense but for me and many others, his quiet conversational tone ‘over my shoulder’ will our lasting memory of him. I don’t know if they have an aviator’s hall of fame in the US, if they do, this man belongs in it. A life well lived I would say from this range. He and Ernie’ Gann should have a lot to talk about up there…. between trips.
It is with sadness Aero-News recently learned Robert N. Buck, 93, died April 14 in a Berlin, VT hospital of complications from a fall. The former Trans World Airlines pilot and aviation author set flying records as a teenager in the 1930s and flew severe-weather research missions during World War II.
Buck began his stellar aviation career as a 15-year-old glider pilot in New Jersey in 1929. The longtime AOPA Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors member flew until he was 88.
“He remembered staring out of the window in ninth grade and dreaming about flying; it was just the love of his life,” daughter Ferris Buck said.
She said her father instructed her and her brother Rob, a retired Delta Airlines pilot, to never hold a formal “celebration of life” for him after his death.
“So we had a party for him at his house Sunday,” she said. “At the end of the party, some of the local pilots did a fly-by, and one young man did incredible stunts over the house.
“A retired pilot friend of mine said, ‘Whenever I saw your father, I was awestruck because he was one of the real aviators, and we just came later,’” she added.
Buck was born in on Jan. 29, 1914, in Elizabethport, NJ and grew up in Westfield. When he was 15, he and a fellow high school student built and flew their own glider, which was towed by a Model A Ford at a local grass airstrip.
In April 1930, the 16-year-old Buck earned his private pilot’s license and set a 15,000-foot junior altitude record three months later.
On September 29, 1930 — reportedly equipped with six chocolate bars and a canteen — Buck climbed into a Pitcairn Mailwing at Newark Airport and took off for Los Angeles making an attempt at the junior transcontinental airspeed record, which he did by an hour and eight minutes.
According to an Associated Press account, the seven-stop flight lasted 28 hours and 33 minutes. Buck set another junior record on his return trip to Newark: 23 hours and 47 minutes, according to his log book.
He told the story of his early days as a pilot in his first book, “Burning Up the Sky,” published in 1931 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons. The press dubbed him “The Schoolboy Pilot.”
Buck’s long list of records also included a flight from Newark to Havana in 1931 in 14 hours and 47 minutes, according to the family. He and his parents later met with President Herbert Hoover at the White House, where Buck presented Hoover with a foot-long Cuban cigar.
Buck also established a Newark-to-Mexico City junior record in 1932 of 24 hours and nine minutes, according to a Times account.
Then, in 1936, at the age of 22, Buck established a nonstop long-distance record in a straight flight from Burbank to Columbus, OH. The next year, he joined TWA (then Transcontinental and Western Air) as a co-pilot rising to captain three years later.
“When I was a young captain — and I looked young — some lady said to the hostess, ‘Is that the co-pilot?’ And she said, “No, that’s the captain.’ And she got off the airplane at Pittsburgh,” Buck recalled in a 2002 interview with National Public Radio.
He also flew as a civilian pilot for the Air Transport Command during World War II flying personnel and material to the African and European theaters.
When TWA was awarded an Army Air Forces project to research weather during the war, Buck served as the project’s pilot and manager, flying a B-17 from Alaska to Brazil to investigate radio interference from static caused by precipitation, including rain and snow, according to the Times.
“I was able to put my nose in any kind of weather I wanted to fly through,” he said in the National Public Radio interview. “We’d sit around, waiting until the weather was bad and then go fly through it.”
As a result, he became one of the few civilians to be awarded the Air Medal for his weather research.
Buck was named TWA’s superintendent of flying (chief pilot to us) in 1945 and was command captain in the delivery of the carrier’s first Lockheed Constellation, the modern pressurized, four-engine, high-speed transport of its time.
Buck, who served on weather and air safety committees for what later became NASA, won the Air Line Pilots Assn. Air Safety Award in 1963. He also served on the FAA’s Supersonic Transport Committee.
He flew a DC-3 with actor Tyrone Power on a 20th Century Fox publicity trip through South America, Africa and Europe. Power, who had been a Marine C-46 Transport pilot during the war, did a majority of the flying and became a close friend of Buck.
In 1965, he made a round-the-world trip that covered both poles flying a Boeing 707 in shifts with several other pilots. In 1970, he inaugurated TWA’s New York-to-London and New York-to-Paris 747 service.
He was forced into retirement from TWA at the requisite age of 60 in 1974 but continued to fly general aviation aircraft, including sailplanes.
Buck’s 1970 book “Weather Flying,” is considered a must-read for pilots. He also wrote “Flying Know-How,” “The Art of Flying,” “The Pilot’s Burden: Flying Safely and the Roots of Pilot Error” and “North Star Over My Shoulder,” his 2002 memoir.
“Bob Buck was indeed captain to a whole generation of pilots,” said Dr. Ian Blair Fries, a fellow Air Safety Foundation Board of Visitors member. “His ‘Weather Flying’ began as a giveaway brochure for an aviation insurance company and grew into the best commentary we have on flying and weather. His thoughtful proposal to the novice on how to tackle easy weather situations first still provides the best way to assess the difficulty of any IFR flight. We who have known him have been honored and will miss his sage advice.”
Buck was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years, Jean, in 2004, but he continued to live independently, his daughter said.
“The night before he fell down, he made dinner for my husband and me — beef brisket and homemade pumpkin pie,” she said. “He did all his own mowing and cooking. He really was a remarkable man.”
Robert N. Buck has gone west. For most, the skies there are clear… but we imagine Buck was greeted by some stormy weather. And he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Richard Bach is an interesting soul, his writing was instrumental in shaping my early flying aspirations – mine and probably several million others. One book in particular, A Gift of Wings, captured my imagination completely; I have lost count of the number of copies I have bought and either given away or had ‘appropriated’ over the years.
He made his name as far as the general public were concerned with Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and then (as far as I am concerned) in his later work rambled off into a line of thought that feels like it found its foundations from the hippy trail – just a bit too ethereal and disjointed for my taste.
Although JLS was an exceptional seller, for me A Gift of Wings stands out as his masterpiece. It is a collection of short stories, some based loosely around philosophical ideas but all tied tightly to the world of pure flight and the love of it. Funnily enough I have only just acquired another copy and am working my way back through it, the writing has lost nothing of its power; the odd shiver still weaves its way down my spine. Try ‘Cat’ for a taster….
Yes, his work might try the patience of the hardier, practically minded technocrats amongst us; but Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and A Gift of Wings will live forever as classic aviation literature and enthuse generations of kids (who want to clatter or soar around the sky so badly it hurts) for many generations to come.
A bit more from Wikipedia about Richard Bach
He served in the USAF Reserve as a pilot, and afterwards worked a variety of jobs. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft to his later works in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor. One of his greatest books that many pilots love is A Gift of Wings.
In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the sake of flying rather than merely to catch food, was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by many other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight, became a number one best-seller on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone with the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.
In 1973, the book was turned into a movie produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.
What is striking about this work is the authors honesty. The book is constructed in a diary style and covers in the latter part the advance into Germany when the the retreating army left a lot of things behind – but hung on to their AAA. That made attacking airfield incredibly dangerous and provides us with a gripping account of one such attack. Pierre is tasked with a strike against an airfield well known to him and his squadron. It has fearsome defenses and he makes it clear to the taskers that they must expect heavy losses from the strike. ‘Hit it’ they say, so they do. Read the book to find out what happens but within the narrative is a gripping rendering of what it must have been like to go against a bitter and focused opponent knowing that the odds of your pulling off the target and making it home are miserable.
Whilst I will not engage in the flowery language of the reviewers below, I can own up to this being one of the books that has perched on my library shelf for a the last twenty odd years.
Customer Reviews The greatest aviation book ever written.
I have read a number of fighter pilot biographies and countless outer aviation related literature and this one is still my favorite. Maybe because it was one of the first I read but probably more because it is such a great book, very few others really are as personal and brutally honest as this one. If one is only going to read one WW2 biography it should be this one. An extra bonus is of course that Clostermann flies both the Spitfire and the brutal Hawker Tempest, it can not get any better than that, can it?
My return to childhood
If there was only one WW2 book you should read, here it goes.
This book is the first from many WW2 memoirs I’ve read and it’s undoubtedly the best one. When reading this, YOU ARE THERE, smelling the gunpowder, hearing bullets and explosions and wishing only to pass through the hell alive. You will read this book during one long evening and then you’ll return to it, once and again. I remember that I cried when reading the last pages, I cried of relief and sadness, I cried along with the young man, who had come through the most painful chapter of his life. Per Ardua Ad Astra – Through Struggle To The Stars, they say. And you’ll find that definitely true.
Excellent read Like the other critics I love this book.
But how many aircraft did he shoot down and how many was he officially credited with? In one of the originals 23 and now 33.
Shores has Closterman with c 19.
This latest version is the best. A larger picture of Closterman is created, more irreverant to authority, the issue of losing track of Mouchotte and the criticsm that ensued creates an inpiring picture of a very brave, idiosyncratic fighter pilot. A great book
Since I first attended a presentation where Bear Grylls recounted his summit climb and conquest Everest, I have watched his progress with fascination and admiration. After after breaking his back in three places when a parachute jump went badly wrong, this SAS soldier (now retired) was offered the opportunity by a friend to climb Everest. After his recovery, he decided to give it a go and ended up climbing the summit of Everest at the age of 23.
Not content with this achievement he teamed up with Giles Cardoza of Parajet and with the backing of GKN decided to fly over the hill all over again, this time by Paramotor. Quite a tall order but feasible – just!
Bear Grylls, supported by the GKN Mission Everest team, has become the first man to fly over Mount Everest by powered paraglider.
The flight happened during the morning of Monday, May 14th when a lull in the winds which rage around Everest gave them a window of opportunity.
Bear Grylls and fellow pilot Giles (Gilo) Cardozo achieved take off from the GKN Mission Everest base camp situated at 14,500 feet in Nepal. They were both flying specially developed paramotors each with a large wing emblazoned with the GKN logo.
Watching them leave, and helping with the preparations, was a group of more than 20 GKN employees who had trekked on foot to the Mission Everest base camp. Also there was GKN’s own Wolfram Messner who was part of the small GKN Mission Everest flight team and whose primary role was managing voice and video communications from the base camp to GKN and the media.
Bear and Gilo then flew successfully to 28,000 feet when a fault in Gilo’s machine forced him to abort only 1,000 feet below the summit and he had to glide back to safety. Bear continued to ascend until, at 0933 local time, he reached 29,500 feet and was able to look down on Everest as he circled above some of the most famous peaks in the Himalayas.
Then his own engine developed problems and he too had to glide back to safety but he had achieved his goal.
Kevin Smith, Chief Executive of GKN which had sponsored the record breaking project said today:
“This is a stunning achievement and we are all proud to have played a part in Bear’s adventure.
“Let us all draw inspiration from his courage and go on to complete our own Mission Everest challenge – to raise an extra $1 million for those in need in our own communities and in Africa.”
Let’s not forget Gilo in this. He might have had an engine failure 1000′below the summit but – what a failure and what a location! It is rumored that Everest doesn’t brook the presence of those that arrive without the wisdom of Solomon or the courage of a lion. Tall mountains, tall people.
We used to start our five day CRM (Crew Resource Management) courses with a stark (and some thought provocative) statement. “71% of airline hull losses are caused by human factors” Perhaps a little confrontational given the audience, but it certainly grabbed everyone’s attention. When looked at a little more closely though, the truth was and to an extent still is, pretty ghastly.
The players in our Industry have an eye on the phenomenal growth being experienced at the moment, more to the point, the likely effect of that growth on safety and the statistics. None more so than Boeing and Airbus; they dislike seeing their products starring on the 6 o’clock news.
That gaze has now settled on the East and the frantic expansion out there. One aviation consultant I talk to has been looking hard on behalf of a ‘major manufacturer’ for experienced pilot managers to join emergent carriers. They are seen as being vital in establishing and maintaining a solid safety culture and directing the safe the growth of the new airline. Funnily enough they seem to be a little thin on the ground…
Established carriers around the world have invested heavily in the fight to maintain high levels of flight safety; a constant battle against the incidents and ultimately accidents that cost lives and erode public confidence in air travel. The road to this point has been long, bloody and hard and looking ahead, the effort is likely to last some time – like forever.
The question hanging out there, another ‘elephant in the room’ is – will the ‘emergent’ carriers join in? Will the new start airlines, scrabbling for their place at the table initiate the positive steps that are needed to embed the kind of culture we are talking about here. The aviators arriving to take their seats may well have had the required training, but what about the leadership and the vision necessary to set the culture? Do the legislators fully understand how important an effective HF training program and culture is to air safety?
Changing the way we think and act in concert with our colleagues is an internal act, in theory it could be almost nil cost. The trouble is, printing a manual or issuing an edict doesn’t get the baby bathed. An effective program is anything but cheap; it takes pilots off-line both to present the course (few pilots will accept a message of this nature from someone who doesn’t fly) and to receive it. This is the last thing any rapidly growing organization needs and it introduces the likelihood that it may be bumped on the back burner to await less trying times. Hence the concern.
The growth of HF training over the last fifteen years, and the way it has been integrated into simulator and line training has been refreshing. Taken from the beginning, anyone working towards a professional pilots license will come across human factors modules within the syllabus, they are the regulators response to a general shift attitude within the industry and really only a primer for further training that arrives when the fledgling transport pilot joins his new company. Flying for the airlines, certainly for the majors East and West immerses you in the effort to better understand the man in the machine.
Measuring the effectiveness of HF training isn’t easy as the game embraces the artful alignment of attitudes and the tutoring of behavior. How do you quantify the relative safety of a working environment and the attitude of ‘operatives’? But the consensus view is that it has worked well, the fight deck workspace has become less tolerant of undesirable pilot characteristics. Ego, hubris, jealousy, lack of consideration and plain bad manners are now generally recognized as inappropriate and unacceptable on a modern flight deck. Equally, owning errors, positive acknowledgment of an error ‘spot’ or a ‘catch’ and the complimenting of constructive behavior across the cockpit divide are now generally regarded as strengths, not weaknesses.
The proof of the pudding they say is in the eating, on the odd occasion where someone slips and displays their darker side, that behavior becomes the elephant in the room and the guys in the situation know where the company policy and the correct path lies. That knowledge in itself can prompt a correction, an apology or a change in behavior which may well produce a change in atmosphere and a safer, more professional environment. Relief all round, forgiveness and perhaps a reflective debrief with a beer at the end of it.
Standby for a cliche! ‘The price of safety is eternal vigilance.’
Here comes another – ‘If you think safety is expensive, try an accident.’
Yes, cliches for some; a new line on the truth for others less familiar.
Let’s take this to the line operation and apply it to a single situation that can easily be experienced out there. As confirmed by the statistics, rushed or unstable approaches have enormous potential to develop into accidents. It takes early recognition and intervention to correct an unstable approach. It also takes a measure of courage and confidence, to go-around when it feels like you have boobed or failed in some way when you believe that you might just be able to keep the cat in the bag and recover the situation. The pain is relieved by a company ‘nil jeopardy’ policy for such decisions. Full backing of your company policy of active encouragement to do the right thing defines the safe, progressive airline and delivers more often than not the safe response to the challenge.
How else can we stop a transport jet crossing the threshold to land at twice the calculated threshold speed, landing then overrunning the runway bursting into flames killing people in the process. Easy to be wise after the event – sure, but a call of “Go Around” by either pilot would have broken the spell and saved the day. Air France in Toronto seem to have had a similar incident, they were a good deal more fortunate with their outcome. Solid HF training and company policy empower people to make the right call.
Does this sound like a Westerner preaching smugly at the East? I hope not as the record would leave me standing naked at the lectern. It was a US carrier that first commissioned research into Human Factors training for its pilots after a string of incidents and a couple of major accidents.
BEA had an accident with a Trident in 1972 where human factors were considered to be contributory, you may not find them mentioned by name as HF was largely unacknowledged in those days, but those pilots contemporary to the disaster know are well aware of them; they killed everyone on board.
No, it has been freely admitted (that 71% again) that we are all in this together and we have a single prize worth fighting for, even if the battle upsets a few of us on the way.
No one, whatever their background is immune, there but for the grace of our God go us all. But in the absence of divine intervention there are tools available to us out there. They are in our head – they just need sharpening!
Airbus needs a good clean run at its manufacturing effort to deliver on the promises that it has made to its customers. A undelivered promise is worth zip; the one that matters is the one that comes on cost, and performing exactly as it said in on the aluminum.
EADS/Airbus has a very short time window to sort out its woes, there is a limit to the tolerance of the airlines and the other humans in the manufacturing machine. None of us know what will happen if confidence collapses across the board. Boeing does have a fair idea though….
Airbus is at risk of missing 2007 aircraft deliveries if strikes at production facilities mainly in Germany and France continue.
So far, the strike actions in response to threatened job cuts haven’t caused the aircraft maker to back off its 440- to 450-unit output target, but Hans Peter Ring, the EADS and Airbus CFO, warns that continuation of the labor turmoil could cause some deliveries to slip into next year.
“We are on the critical path and close to being on the very critical path,” he told analysts in commenting on EADS first-quarter financial results.
More trouble on the horizon as workers see the writing on the wall.
EADS also hopes to draw up soon a short list of the most promising buyers and partners for the sites Airbus is looking to unload, mainly Filton, U.K., Nordenham, Germany, and Meaulte, France. Ring says there’s been much interest, and narrowing the field could happen before the end of July, although it’s more likely to occur after the European summer vacation break that lasts most of August.
Back in Africa again, probably the same next month as I missed a bid submission.
Abuja is a new city, the Nigerians decided that they needed their capital to be parked in the centre of the country. Cash wasn’t a problem so here it is.
Flying down the dark continent is an experience that I would rate somewhere near hemmeroid attention. Painful but necessary to reach a position where the pain stops and the discomfort starts. Not that there is anything that wrong with Africa – it’s just that we do it in the dark on the way out and it seems to go on forever. Africa is a big place. The ride home is much more pleasing as it happens during the daylight hours – so much more to see.
Abuja, it is certainly a better place to be than Lagos – which is different. That’s as far as you can go with a family show folks but the standing joke involves rubber tubes, god, questions and enemas.
Abuja is friendly, when you arrive in the early hours everyone says, “Welcome back to Abuja Captain, how nice to see you again!” Friends I never knew I had; pleasingly friendly and welcoming. Almost like home really.
The ride to our hotel takes place as the new capital begins to wake up.
Statistics? Around 133 million souls inhabit the country which is vast, humid and seething with tribal divisions and corruption if you are to believe the CIA’s World Factbook. Not as sinister as the creators identity might imply, more a guide for US government’s need for detailed preparation and research. I doubt invasion is on the cards here; still, you never know – I guess it qualifies. I don’t think they have got that one too far wrong but it seems unfair to single out Nigeria. I suppose that is the point, they don’t.
There are those that like to package airline flying into a box that is labeled ‘Boring exact science, predictable and ordinary.’
Flying across this continent in anything hardly deserves that offhand description. Africa has her surprises and her challenges, even at FL370. The weather throws up interesting problems occasionally, not so much en-route, more at he other end where thunderstorms, heavy rain and occasionally fog add their unique contribution to the proceedings.
Air traffic control is generally procedural with most of the cool stuff really well hidden in the ATC Centres. ; Communications used to be virtually impossible and conducted solely through HF. Little has changed recently other than there is a touch more VHF coverage now than there used to be and the quality of HF comms seems to have improved…. a little with the passage of time. Little faith is placed by anyone on the integrity of the system, it doesn’t seem to have a lot – integration that is though clearly the system works most of the time. This is not to decry the professionalism of those that work within Africa’s ATC structures, chronic under-investment, short term thinking, corruption and government efforts to leech cash out of the revenue stream (international over-flight traffic) has dogged the best effort of our colleagues on the ground.
Faith is a wonderful thing which is why we have 129.5 and ICAO procedures that apply to flight in remote regions. We can monitor the ATC environment which, as we all know, contains things that move at a mile every eight seconds, are crammed with people and weight hundreds of tons. Even our smaller colleagues, probably showing no TCAS returns and operating at all sorts of levels without flight plans could spoil a promising young mans future prospects and alter his breathing patterns for good.
Yes, they are increasingly rare but guns travel just the same as people and the profit margins are higher. Never seen one of course.
Air Traffic over Africa is predominantly North-South. That is until Ramadan, approximately September 24 to October 23 (2006). The favoured Ummah of Almighty Allah’s Beloved Nabee (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) submit themselves to their Glorious Creator and Sustainer. The Haj changes the traffic structure across Africa a tad during Ramadan. Lots of aircraft fly across the continent focusing their attention on Jeddah, the spiritual home of Islam. In doing so they create a challenge for the regular flights in that it needs (like all traffic) to be monitored.
After about four hours of metronomic radio activity passing position reports on 129.5, and routine ATC communications on the primary box, Abuja marches down the map with the top of descent point before it on the ‘pink string.’
Nigeria’s Air Traffic Control System is good and her infrastructure, perfectly adequate. Normally that is – let’s say, for the majority of the time. With poverty being rife and enterprise being sharpened to a fine point, airfield facilities of every sort have been fair game across time here in Nigeria elsewhere in Africa. Things tend to go missing in the night, stuff like runway lights, ILS ariel systems, NDB components and of course, miles and miles of coper cored cable. Were the authorities so inclined they could buy back a fair amount of this ‘swag’ from the local markets but here are ‘better sources’ available that carry commission.
Cruel I know, but you should try carrying out an approach in the tropics at night when it is sheeting with rain, where the ILS doesn’t have an ident for some reason, the VASIS/PAPIS look a shade dim, and only seventy percent of the runway lighting is available for ‘technical reasons’. Time to earn the money. Things are getting better, you can tell that I’m an optimist at heart, can’t you?
We keep a watch on these things, we have to to remain forewarned. After every transit through African stations where this phenomena is known to be a problem we log the serviceability sate of every facility and feed the info back to home base.
Yes, Africa can be a challenge but here is no place on earth like it. Spend too much time here and she grabs you, there is so much beauty painted onto such a colorful and violent canvas. To know it well is to both love and hate it in almost equal measure.
“Africa is a cruel country; it takes your heart and grinds it into powdered stone – and no one minds.” Elspeth Huxley
It’s not that we don’t want the EU to succeed when it takes on major, high stakes technology based projects… is it? ESA has been a notable success and certainly made the US think when NASA had its hiccup with Challenger.
Goodness knows, we plough so much money into that giant quango, and like the UK Health Service, the UN and just about every other massive bureaucracy, the EU seems to swallow massive wads of our cash at an absurd rate to little effect.
But didn’t you smile when the concept of a European owned and administrated GPS system was first floated? Our cousins across the water (who made their own earlier) must have been laughing into their ‘Bud’ having seen it all before. Did it seem like another opportunity to divert the gravy train to… heavens knows where? Yes, it did rather, didn’t it?
Time rolls on – hold onto your hat; the Gallileo project has now moved house and all concerned in this stellar project can relax and jack up their tenders yet again.
We are saved! – the ‘Government’ is taking the reigns.
Avweb source Reuters
It looks like Europe’s space-based navigation system will be government operated after the consortium of companies that were to build and run it effectively quit the project on Thursday. The consortium, led by Airbus parent EADS, had until May 10 to come up with a plan to get the Galileo project back on track and working toward deployment. But, according to Reuters, the consortium was plagued by infighting and nervous of the $3 billion cost so it let the deadline pass.
Shortly thereafter, European Union Transport Commission head Michele Cercone said the government would take over the project. Cercone said the consortium wanted the EU to assume the debt and take all the risk out of deploying the system so it made more sense to assume the project without them. The EU hopes to have the system partially operational by early 2011 and fully operational by 2012.
How does it go? ‘Do it once, do it right.’ Or did perhaps the men from the Euro-Ministry know that this would be the direction eventually taken? Perhaps the European political consensus would not have permitted this project to start unless private equity was involved from the beginning. Was the delusion that the risk was being transfered to the private sector and not the public purse was needed to see the nascent, high prestige project leave the launch pad?