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Fast Mover. 12/31/2005

Considering the fairly shitty time I’ve been having of late, including having to work on Christmas and Boxing Day, as well as having Smiffy pass on, I was rather pleased to receive an SMS message on my phone for this…

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A 1/32 scale Revell F-4E Phantom. This particular model is of the 30th Anniversary Edition of the Phantom, a plane that was first conceived in the late 1950’s, and saw extensive service in the Vietnam war. They were known as “Fast Movers”, an alluision to their speed and ability get ordnance on target quickly, in response to calls from troops on the ground.

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The Phantom was noted for several deficiencies. It was designed for the Navy as a “stand-off” interceptor, and not designed for close in air combat. Hence, the initial versions of the Phantom did not have a cannon installed. According to the designers, the Phantom would rely upon it’s Sidewinder missles to shoot down enemy planes. Unfortunately, as pilots soon found out, the Sidewinder wouldn’t engage once the bogey was too close in, a situation which is normal during ACM. The result of this was that the kill ratio for the Americans. This had the happy effect of forcing the Navy to create its Fighter Weapons School, famous the world over as “Top Gun”. The school taught Naval aviators how to get the most out of the Phantom, and to flyas close to the edge of the plane’s performance envelope as possible. The F-4E addressed this deficiency with regards to close in air combat with the inclusion of a Vulcan 20mm cannon into the airframe.

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Another shortcoming of the Phantom was its smoky engines. It was often quoted about the Phantom that it was “America’s proof to the world that with a big enough engine, even a brick can fly.” The Phantom’s engines were fast, but left a smoke trail visible from miles away. They also gulped fuel in tremendous amounts, especially when on afterburner in supersonic flight. During air operations in Vietnam, it was critical that air tankers were available for thirsty Phantoms. This resulted in the United States developing air-to-air re-fuelling into an art form. The United States is possibly the only country, currently, in the world, which can afford the sheer lunatic cost of mid air refuelling, on a full time basis.

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The last thing about the Phantom that was much hated by air crews was the very limited rearward visibility. The driver had to rely on the RIO, or back seater, to tell him if there was anything coming up on his “six”, or rear. This situation has been re-dressed in all fighters designed since then, with bubble canopies being the norm, affording excellent all round visibility for the pilot. If you look at planes designed in the sixties and seventies, and still flying today, like the F-15 Eagle, the F-14 Tomcat, and the F-16 Flying Falcon, as well as the Russian Mig-29 and Sukhoi Su-27, you will notice that the canopy forms a noticeable bulge in the air stream. Fighter pilots don’t mind paying the price for a little increased drag, if it means that they can see what’s happening around them.

The year that was.

We come to the end of another year. It has been a year filled with ups and downs for me. There were not a lot of high points. Nothing much happened this year to fill me with glee. Except for a certain arrival, whose appearance in my life has given me cause for much laughter and happiness.

On the flip side, I lost 3 friends this year. 2 to road accidents, and one to cancer. I have to admit I feel a serious loss with Smiffy’s passing. I guess we were close friends, but I didn’t know how close until a couple of days ago, when I was flipping through my phone’s address book, and saw his name, and realised that no one would pick that number up now if I called it. Well, someone would, since the number belongs to the office, but it wouldn’t be Smiffy.

I made a slew of new friends this year as well, having attended the PPS bash, and other miscellaneous gatherings. To those with whom I have made my accquaintance, thank you for saying hello, and being friendly. We should all meet again for coffee. Or something.

My work no longer pleases me. I wear 2 hats at work. One for my routine work which I was employed to do, and the other for Safety. And everyone hates Safety Officers with a vengence. Safety Officers have to, by the nature of their job, be hard nosed bastards, and taking no argument from anyone. It is human nature to take short cuts to ease work, and do the minimum, but if something happens, then it’s the Safety Officer who has to answer for it. Chasing everyone up to wear helmets and boots, and all the other thousand and one things that make up a site’s safety requirements means that this “second hat” is eating up more and more of my daily time. I hope I get some sort of recognition for this come bonus time. Assuming we actually get a bonus.

I didn’t do a lot of riding this year. I seem to have lost my nerve for fast, on the edge riding. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe my bones are taking longer to mend. I’m not sure. I do know that I dropped 3 times this year. Running in a traffic cone, and a car, and the other when the front wheel of a friend’s bike slipped under me. Also the truck has been giving me some grief. She’s showing her age, and needs a make over desperately.

All in all, this has been a year I’d rather forget. Here’s hoping that 2006 will be better.

Girl Friday. 12/30/2005

As a mark of respect for Smiffy and Boky, this week’s Girl Friday has been held over. Normal services shall resume next week.

Obituary. 12/29/2005

I just received news that a fellow biker has passed away in a road accident.

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News items from here and here.

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Click on picture above for full sized image.

Biker dies on ride in honour of mate

29Dec05

WHEN Darren ‘Boky’ Bokenham was killed in a motorbike accident at Mount Nathan this week, he had one of his best mates with him.

The 33-year-old rider from Sydney had a picture of friend Ben Manton taped to the windscreen of his bike when it crashed on Tuesday.

Mr Manton died in a bike crash in NSW just weeks ago.

The picture was stuck to Mr Bokenham’s motorcycle as a tribute to the experienced rider.

Sergeant Garth Crank, from the Gold Coast accident investigation squad, said it was a tragic coincidence and a timely reminder to take care on the roads.

“It was a tragedy of huge proportions,” he said.

“We found the picture stuck to the side of his windscreen and thought he might have been on a personal memorial ride.”

Sgt Crank said Mr Bokenham was the leader of a group of eight people who were on a joyride through the Hinterland.

The former soldier was travelling on Clagiraba Road when he lost control on an S-bend and was thrown on to an oncoming car. He died at the scene.

“By the time the second rider came around the bend, the man (Mr Bokenham) was already off his bike,” said Sgt Crank.

Fellow rider Chris Cootes, who was travelling behind Mr Bokenham, said his friend was an experienced motorcyclist.

“He had been riding for 15 years and was a very well respected, trained and experienced rider,” he said.

“He was an extremely safe rider. Both he and I have shared many kilometres.”

Mr Cootes said they had been out for a holiday spin with bike enthusiasts from around the country when the Mount Nathan incident occurred.

“(After the ride) Darren was to return to his family in Warwick and then head back to Sydney,” he said.

“Darren will be sorely missed. He was in good spirits. We had had a great day and were looking forward to having a drink and a chat when we got home.

“Darren passed away quickly and was surrounded with his friends doing their best for him.

“Rest in peace, Darren.”

Sgt Crank said it was the third major accident and the second fatality involving motorcyclists on the Gold Coast in the past three weeks.

I first met Boky on IRC way back in 1998. He was a rider with much experience, and a well respected and liked member of aus.motorcycles, a newsgroup I frequent. We have chatted together many times, and there was always that promise of “we’ll meet up for a ride and a drink one day.” Now it will never happen.

Ride in peace Boky.

How much more bad news can I take?

Obituary. 12/27/2005

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Colin Smith, MIHEEM, MCiBSE, passed away yesterday. I have mentioned him before in here as Smiffy. I was a matter of seconds too late to see him when he was alive, walking into his hospital room more or less as he passed his last breath. He was one week away from retirement, having decided to settle down in this country. He leaves behind his wife, Yvonne, 3 daughters and 2 step-sons. I have lost a good friend, and a colleague.

R.I.P. Smiffy. May the wind always fill your sails.

Heavy Lift #1 12/25/2005

So Christmas day dawned bright and early. I dragged my lazy carcass out of bed, and started getting ready for work. As I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, brushing my teeth in a distracted manner, my thoughts roamed over the week that was, looking for random highlights to file away in the memory.

We had a company dinner on Wednesday night, and needless to say, I was feeling a little fragile on Thursday morning. Chucking back shots of grappa with the owner of the restaurant, listening to old Italian love songs will do that to you. I was surprised I managed to make my way back, considering I was riding the black sprinter, which doesn’t actually move until the engine hits 8,000 r.p.m. I know I had a bit of a hairy moment, when my entire world (which, at that point in time, consisted of me focusing very hard through the narrow field of vision I had in the helmet), was filled with flashing blue lights and sirens. I thought I was fucked, until I realised it was the Police escort for some big ass, fat cat politician. I chased up behind them, until I remembered what the bike had tried to do to me 2 weeks ago, so I backed it off. I think I was only doing about 150 km/h the rest of the way home.

So this morning, after I got my brain kick started, I rocked down to the site in the truck. The place was deserted, as I expected. I opened up the site office, and poured myself a cup of coffee. Jerkoff turns up a little later, and starts explaining to me what is supposed to be done today, even though I didn’t remember asking him to volunteer any information. I told him to shut the fuck up, while I finished my coffee, and told him I read the fucking method statement, same as the copy he got. I walked out on site to see the set up of the lift operation. And almost immediately issued a stop work order.

In spite of 2 meetings, where I made the safety requirements clear to the contractor doing the lift, he had brought no safety equipment to site on the day. No barrier tape, warning signs, witches hats, signal lights. Nothing. I practically screamed at him and the vendor’s engineer in charge, pointing out to them that they shouldn’t take what I say lightly. I reminded them that delays caused by safety violations was on their cost, not ours, and they shouldn’t even think of fowarding a claim for compensation for delays.

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After that initial hiccup, the lift proceeded smoothly, after the security guys on site helped the contractor out by giving him some barrier tape and witches hats, and assigning some extra personnel to provide overwatch during the lift. After housekeeping, I gave the place a once-over, and walked up into the CEP to see the actual machine location. Things were also good there, except for the trellis that we had to remove earlier.

The trellis is a welded beam assembly, measuring some 20 feet by 20 feet, out of box section steel. It was welded in place on the support trusses, and the contractor removed it by grinding off the welds and then lifting it off. When we noticed that the trellis was warped. It had obviously not been welded in a jig, and therefore when the installation welds were removed, the trellis sprang back into the shape it had been in when it was first welded.

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The contractor was scratching his head, wondering what he was going to do. I could see from the look on his face, he was considering sliding some weights atop the trellis to bow it back into the correct shape. So I walked over to him, and whispered the words, “chain blocks”, into his ear. He looked at me in some dismay. And I told him, chain blocks, (which would have to be anchored to the floor of the CEP), or nothing. From the method statement he provided, he figured on this being a half a day job. He was now looking at providing overtime for his work crew.

At least the lift is done, and one headache is now removed. I’m wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow, when the lift is going to involve a 120 tonne crane, a 30 tonne crane, 2 low loaders, several trucks, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Girl Friday. 12/23/2005

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