Skip to main content
Le Fog - C'est Magnifique

With the weather so perfect, I decided that I would take advantage of the clear spell and make that shopping trip to France this morning.

I checked the weather on the Met Office aviation website, printed out my flight plan and then headed off down the road to find my aircraft.



There was still frost on the ground when I arrived at the farm twenty minutes later and I fussed around with the pre-flight checks, faxed my flight plan to Le Touquet to Heathrow and the customs form to the excise men.

Before taking-off, I could see that the hills towards Dover were looking milky but that isn’t unusual, so once off the grass, I started my climb to three thousand feet and a panoramic view of the English Channel beyond.

Le Touquet’s ATIS (automated information frequency) was giving five miles visibility, 2,500 feet and an overcast, a complete contrast with the English side of the Channel in fierce winter sunshine but as I coasted out over Dover, I couldn’t see the French coast, only a milky haze but that didn’t quite prepare me for what I found close to Cap Gris Nez, a sudden bank of fog, which reached out and caught me by surprise at 2,000 feet on my descent.

“I don’t like this” I thought. It’s easier with two people on board in these circumstances because the second person can help out with map reading and the radio frequencies while the pilot concentrates on keeping straight and level but I was alone. Deciding that discretion, being the better part of valour, called for me to turn tail away from the French coast, I swung around back towards the sunshine and headed back across the Channel to Dover.

I heard other pilots also debating whether to continue on to Le Touquet, where the weather was a little better but even with an IMC rating, I think it was probably better to cancel my flight plan than try and feel my way along the French coast into Le Touquet with a white stick in freezing fog conditions, another hazard to cope with.

Ironically, I just tried running the same flight all over again with Microsoft’s excellent Flight Simulator 2004. I can even position myself at the start on the grass at Maypole farm.

What the Flight Simulator doesn’t give you of course, is the feel of really sitting in bumpy cloud and the sudden drop in temperature inside the cockpit as the world becomes an opaque milky white. It’s good training but you don’t feel quite as lonely sitting in front of a PC as you do sitting in an aircraft when the horizon disappears and the weather turns foul.

Better get a bigger aircraft I suppose, a Boeing 777 or an F18, where, like the flight simulator, you can let the software do all the work and there’s the luxury of having an autopilot.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …