* Posts by donc

26 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Jan 2008

New mega offshore windfarms could supply 2% of UK energy



Up to now wind turbines offshore have each been built as an individual column with the turbine on top but as the water gets deeper that becomes more and more difficult structurally. So more complex structures are likely to be needed. Oil rigs have coped with this by being multi-legged but there are less of them. This is all new for offshore wind farms, there may been solutions that worked for the oil industry but are they economical for the wind farms? Perhaps they could be made as a massive floating network, tied by cable to the sea bed and each other but allowances have to be made for the surface swell, stability, etc.

It is easy to say, ha! this has all been done before by the oil industry but engineering is always about compromise, the set of compromises that were acceptable for an oil rig may not be the same as those for wind farms (a benefit is that the wind farms won't be permanently manned unlike most oil rigs).

Combined with the additional cost of laying miles of undersea cable, apologies if I didn't make it clear I was talking about the cost of laying it by the way, makes the whole thing extremely expensive to do. And lots of expense needs a big return on capital.



One other point I should have included in my earlier post, how will these wind turbines cope exposed to the worst of the North Sea? For years the North Sea has been a reference point for the Oil Industry when designing oil rigs for storms, bad weather and sea states. Which poor sucker will been sent out to fix them in the middle of the winter storms?


Classic Spin

The announcements of this over the weekend were full of spin with no questioning of the numbers that the government threw out. Seems the optimism has been turned up to 11 on this, wind turbines miles out to sea (much further than currently is the case), in deeper water, using larger wind turbines, etc (lots of firsts, therefore big risks involved and a need for really good project management).

Then there is new National Grid infrastructure required (no-one had the fore-sight to lay 100's miles of cable out to the middle of the North Sea?? What were they thinking?) and, even though the Oil Industry in this country has been building rigs, etc for the North Sea for decades, the industry association states that a new port is required. Surely you would want to make use of the experience and knowledge available in Scotland as the Oil Industry declines in the North Sea (protecting existing, highly paid jobs)? Even the statement that the wind turbines will be built here goes against the flow of the only factory in Britain closing down.

Given that the London Array is only just clinging on to life I think this can be safely labelled as hot air.

Airbus: We'll cancel crap A400M unless we get more £££


Re: One thing that everyone is forgetting

There is one problem with your statement, the C-17 was originally designed to be capable of tactical lift. Ever seen it perform the trick of reversing down the runway or performing a three point turn? This was to address operations from unpaved, rough airfields.

No-one uses it this way because the aircraft is so expensive, why expose a $100m+ aircraft to cheap MANPADS? And the A400M could be in the same boat, too expensive to fly into the forward airstrips.


The A400M has always been a costly case of Europork

The A400M has always been a case of Europork, look at the engine where the Airbus selection of P&W Canada (a company with decades of experience with turbo-props) was over-ruled and a European consortium given the work. The Germans wanted to buy westernised Antonov aircraft, the British military wanted a mix of C-17s and C-130s. The only reason for the UK buying the A400M in the first place was to be able to show that it was an active member of the European project, keeping the likes of France happy.

One other issue is that the C130J is c**p compared to the earlier C130K in UK service (the load system doesn't work, more complex engines don't give the fuel efficiency promised because Herks never fly high enough, you can't drop paratroops from them, etc) so if the A400M is worse again that really is not good.

Ofcom proposes squeezing £4m out of airlines



I can"t believe that Ofcom can be told by the CAA that this has safety implications (which it does) and get the answer that it isn't Ofcom's problem! Talk about a faceless bureaucrat just chucking it over the fence rather than thinking of the big picture. The cost of this won't be noticed (too much) by the likes of Heathrow, Stansted & Manchester but all the small general aviation fields will not be able to afford this.

I'm glad Ofcom is able to quite happily drag us back to the 1930's and non-radio joins, etc. How many mid-air collisions will it take for Ofcom to be brought to task for this kind of stupidity?

This frequency range is set aside by ICAO (part of the UN) and is common throughout the world, so it can't be used for anything else.

I will be glad when the Tories start attacking this quango because of these stupid ideas it keeps coming up with rather than dealing with the hard decisions it should be sorting out (mobile frequencies for example).

UK air traffic control goes after Wikileaks


A number of reasons for this

There are a number of reasons for the stance being taking and I think it is less something specific to this particular case but more as a general policy for air accident investigations.

Recording pilot and ATC conversations needs the agreement of pilots and controllers (would you enjoy everything you say being recorded?) and so they need to have confidence that they will not instantly be blamed for something going wrong. This is not really an issue in this case but it could be in others.

Investigations are run very carefully to ensure that no assumptions are made and that the real cause of the accident is identified so it can be addressed and prevented in the future. Consequently all information is very closely guarded until the final accident report is released.

During an accident investigation the AAIB, NTSB, etc, has a lot of power, technical support is provided by the various manufacturers but they are there only as long as the accident investigation team is happy they are not trying to spin things their way. Indeed I have been told of one employee of a manufacturer discussing an accident with a colleague on the train home. This was overheard by a journalist and reported. The accident investigator worked out where the leak was from and excluded the manufacturers technical team for prejudicing the investigation. Investigators can request a company's competitors to provide technical support and have no requirement to involve the OEM so this is quite an incentive.

As for what risk is there in the ATC recordings being posted it is only a few years ago that the Swiss controller on duty when two russian aircraft collided in mid-air was murdered by a relation of one of the victims so in some cases (not here) there can be some risk.

Basically this is probably a "keep off the grass" type of threat.

Most expensive RAF aircraft ever takes to the skies


A title

A few points -

* The fuselage is retained but the wings are brand new

* The engines come from Rolls-Royce in Germany. The company was originally a collaboration between BMW and RR but is now wholly owned by RR. As a result the profits come back to the UK and the technology is owned by RR.

* My understanding was that a big portion of the cost over-run was down to the work that had to be done to the airframes when BAE received them. The RAF had not tracked the service history of the airframes (as would be required by law in the civilian world!). The variation from aircraft to aircraft meant that the tooling and jigs designed for one aircraft would not fit another one. As a result the aircraft pretty much needed bespoke hardware for each one.

* The Combat Computer Architecture is being used by Boeing in the P8 aircraft. As a result UK taxpayers have subsidised the aircraft even though the UK isn't buying any!

* Pick any country in the world and you can find examples of cost and time over-runs. Here's one...


and another...


Depressing really...

Tory Lady tries to give bodice-rippers the snip



It used to be that people could do as they liked and the state would step in only when it affected other parties.

Now we have a bunch of Mary Whitehouses in the Houses of Parliament desperate to ban everything.

Spy boss poked by Facebook


data security & personal security

Compared to the data the government normally loses this is pretty minor (hence Miliband's comment, he may as well have said "is that all? Look at our past record...").

The family snaps from their holidays may not be state secrets but I wouldn't expect the head of MI6 would normally publish his home address in the yellow pages. Guess it depends on wether we really are under siege from terrorists (like the government say we are)?? Given the government's attititude, there is no risk of the head of MI6 being gunned down outside his house, kidnapped, etc by terrorists...

Dutch clotheshorse menaces plastic surgeon


El Reg Battling Clotheshorse Ring of Death

...this BlackBerry-sponsored bitchslap event...

All I can say is Genius!

Lockheed engineer: F-22 Raptor Stealth tech is 'defective'



No wonder it never turned up the Paris Air Show...

Ashdown's missile dump security panel puts women to flight



I'm surprised to see that a panel chaired by Paddy Ashdown (ex-SAS) comes to the conclusion that the special forces need more funding!!

Japanese airport trials 'personal mobility vehicles'


Rip off

Isn't this just taken straight from Wall-E? (minus the hover part)

Irish politico in Facebook jub-rub outrage

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To be honest, this picture should only increase the number of votes for her (at least from half of the population...).

BAA 'invented green superjumbo' to OK Heathrow plans

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@As I've said before...

Spot on, this kind of comes with the terroritory. I have lived next to an RAF base and under the approach to Heathrow so I have experienced it, the benefit is usually cheaper housing


BAA doesn't set the flight paths but the CAA. Council input is limited but not excluded. The reason is because other things have to be taken into account, spacing from other aircraft (not just other airliners), weather, etc. all the things that keep flying safe.

The studies I have seen for an airport in the Thames Estuary involved building on a bird santuary, how is this greener than expanding Heathrow? It just moves the airport out of sight and this is what Lewis is driving at.

The number of runways doesn't necessarily define the pollution, Paris CDG has four runways and Amsterdam Schiphol has six. Both of these are hub airports and both have large number of transit passengers, this is inevitable with a hub and spoke system as run by most of the major airlines.

The main impediment to an extra runway (in terms of actual position anyway) are some medieval buildings in one of the villages, why doesn't BAA pay to move them instead of letting them be demolished? Sony did this in Berlin when they built the Sony Centre, moving the few remaining parts of a famous hotel from the 1920's, preserving them for the future.

Personally I would like the third runway but with the number of flights kept similar to today. Then the delays would mostly go away (can't do anything about the weather). It would be nice to see high speed trains in the UK to reduce the number of regional flights and from London to Paris but I would take the train today anyway. However for flights going further into Europe than France it would still be quicker to fly.

EU abolishes the acre


A Title

The two systems are built around different principles, SI (proper SI, in multiples of 1000, etc) is ideal for scientific calculations but for everyday use imperial units are far more flexible and useful (pounds, ounces, pints, feet, inches, etc).

I use both sets for work (work in the aviation industry) and though I was tought in SI units I have a better understanding of what I am dealing with when I think in Imperial. Odd but it works for me...

UK's future super-stealth jumpjet 'rock solid' - Brit test pilot


Sea Harriers

The Sea Harriers worked fine for the environment they were designed for, operations in the North Atlantic. They indeed struggled with operations in the hotter environment of the Gulf but that could have been sorted.

Fitting the uprated Pegasus engines that were already being fitted to the RAF Harrier GR7s as part of the upgrade to GR9s would have given them a new lease of life in the Gulf. However no money in the pot meant it was nothing doing and they were retired to save cash. Now RAF Harriers are embarked on RN aircraft carriers to provide air support.

Not sure what condition they will be in in a couple of years though. One of the differences between the Sea Harrier and the previous RAF Harrier standards (apart from Sea Harrier having radar and AMRAMMs) was that there were no magnesium parts in the Sea Harrier. Magnesium tends to corrode badly in a salt environment so all the parts were made from alternate materials that could survive a life at sea. Who knows, without some care those shiny new Harrier GR9s could end up with the same appearance as a 1950s Morris Minor.

Never understood why the F35B used the Soviet approach to VSTOL rather than using the Harrier/Pegasus one. For 95% of the time the aircraft is lugging around deadweight in the form of the lift-fan. Weight that could be fuel or weapons. Pegasus on the other hand had little additional weight over a conventional gas turbine (got to allow for the nozzles, etc at the front).

Eurofighter at last able to drop bombs, but only 'austerely'


Hang on...

So the complaint here is doing something that has been done to every other combat aircraft since the first world war? The F16 when first introduced was meant to be nothing more than a cheap fighter for use during the day to combat the hordes of ruskies over the other side of the iron curtain. 40 years later it is an all weather capable fighter with far more capabilities than when it was first launched. And todays F16 is probably far more capable than the original F15As that were the bees-knees at the time. What the RAF want to do is no different to any other aircraft in any air force in the world. And like every other programme it will have to be prioritised over the 30+ year life of the aircraft. Or should the RAF be flying exactly the same aircraft in 30 years time?

Even if the UK could get hold of some F22s (US law bans their export!) their air-ground capability is more limited than the Typhoon's.

Said it before and will say it again, the Government can't fight two wars on a peacetime whilst simultaneously having to spend serious money upgrading all sorts of defense kit in the Navy, Army and Air Force that desperately needs replacing. The UK has the sixth largest economy in the world, we shouldn't need to act like a pauper when it comes to defence, science and engineering funding. Yes, the army needs more helicopters, the RAF needs more transports, etc. but robbing one part of the budget to cover a shortfall elsewhere is just short sighted. Yes we are currently fighting one type of warfare but who knows what will happen in five, ten, fifteen years?

The cost of oil is going up, drinking water is getting scarcer, the potential for countries going to war over resources will only get bigger.

The Armed Forces are ultimately an insurance policy only, when the brown stuff hits the fan, you don't want to discover that previous goverments only paid for third party coverage.

NZ hydropower drought could see leccy rationing

Dead Vulture

Hydro green?

Ironically hydro is no longer considered green among the green lobby. The fluffy bunny division are usually aghast about the artificial lake destroying the habitat of some animals whilst the "CO2 is Satan's farts" division don't like the huge amount of concrete needed to make the dam.

UK Carriers safe: Other war-tech ripe for the chopper


Dodgy costs

I understood that a Nimitz carrier cost the US Government something in the region of $6bn a shot, even at today's exchange rate that is still £1bn more than one of the UK carriers. The reason the Brits are not going nuclear is because of the cost. Hell, even the French have stated that won't build a second nuclear powered carrier because of the expense involved! And Charles de Gaulle is not a ship with a good design history, they somehow managed to make the flight deck 40-60 ft too short for the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft and it had to be refitted almost immediately after it was commissioned. Doesn't the fact that the French are buying the plans for CVF say something about the (non-)resounding success of the CdG?

As for the type of aircraft, STOVL does lose some range to the conventional C version but the flip side is that it will be able to generate higher sortie rates (more missions per day) and operate in worse sea states, as Zimon says above "'tis better to stop, then land, than to land, then stop". Training is easier as well compared to conventional carrier aircraft, it took the RAF Harrier pilots in 1 squadron a morning to convert to operating off an aircraft carrier during the Falklands campaign. It takes months to get to that sort of competence on a conventional aircraft, something that the FAA gave up with the old HMS Ark Royal in the late 70's.

The end of the article does hit the spot though, the reality is that the defense budget is too small, the military needs to spend money replacing some big ticket items (carriers along with most of the navy's other ships, Nimrod MR2, armoured vehicles, helicopters, etc) and also to pay for the operational costs of Afghanistan (body armour, armoured vehicles, helicopter parts, etc). At the moment it looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul. To cope with all these demands, instead of heading down towards 2% of GDP it should be heading up towards 3%. If anyone thinks that is a lot it might, be worth remembering that in the Cold War it was over 5%.

And if the answer to every defense need is to buy it in the good ol' US of A where everything is cheap and on schedule, why is the cost of the F35 (all variants) sprialling ever upwards and the date of delivery receding into the distance....

Biofuel backlash prompts Brussels back-pedal

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@Ishkandar - ASBO powered chariot

Stunning idea! Have to pass on the whip option (no doubt for much improved acceleration) though - would get too many dodgy questions about the over developed right arm....

When poor people pollute - the Tata Nano and eco-crime



Actually Jeremy Clarkeson makes a perfectly valid criticism of hybrids, they are not all that environmentally friendly. A Prius was road tested on Top Gear a while a go, it has to be driven very carefully to get the best fuel consumption. Thrash the guts out of it and you can forget any semblance of efficiency just like any other petrol engined car. And for the effort of careful driving you get 55 mpg (imperial gallons by the way...), thrash it and look at it return fuel figures in the 30's (still better than most SUVs however). Furthermore the hybrid needs natural resources to manufacture the batteries, which have no doubt been obtained by a bit of open cast mining. That will involve not only tearing up the landscape but lots of CO2 emissions from the machinery...

A reasonably sized diesel can do 50+mpg without breaking a sweat, they are inherently more efficient than an equivalent petrol engine because of the laws of thermodynamics.

In fact when I saw the show with the Pirus review JC actually pointed out that a far more effective solution to improving car fuel economy is to buy a VW Polo diesel. You can get better than 70 mpg from it and no need for open cast mining (sure it won't fit four obese yanks/brits but most of us need to go on diets anyway :-) ).

Physicists go nuclear with online protest at funding cuts


Wish them all the best

The Prime Minister spent plenty of time mouthing off about the knowledge economy and research & development when he was Chancellor, isn't about time to prove his commitment? This is something that can improve our lives and future generations in this country.

The UK government raises more than £500 billion in taxes and seems quite happy to lose billions on ridiculously complex tax credits, unworkable IT systems, ID databases, etc., isn't £80m in comparison something of a rounding error?

Actually why doesn't the government remove all the complexity in the tax system? Not only would nearly all of the over-payments cease (there's a big chunk of money that could be spent on science) but the average person wouldn't need to hire a tax accountant to fill out their tax form? Also neatly removing the tax avoidance schemes that make use of all the loop holes that result from such a complex system?

Ahh, I know, it would make to too clear how much everyone is paying in tax to fund them and their gold plated pensions...

MoD laptop losses expose government data indifference


And these people handle classified data???

This is shocking given the requirements the MoD expects everyone else to meet. I used to work for an aerospace company that did work for the UK MoD (not BAE Systems!), mainly for the RAF, mainly on the transport aircraft, and getting access to classified data was a real pain, you had to sign the Official Secrets Act, undergo security checks, background check, criminal record check, references, etc.

Even once that was done and MoD was happy you weren't a spy or a thief the computers used to access the data had to be in a separate room with the windows 'frosted' so people couldn't look in and see what you were doing, were not allowed to have any connections to the company networks (or the internet) and the hard drive was encrypted and had to be in a removable caddy. When you finished working on the classified data, it was encrypted, you shut down the machine and removed the hard drive caddy. This was then locked away in a big f**king safe, just to make sure someone couldn't wander along and pick it up.

And now I get to hear the genius' at the MoD happily wander around with reams of personal data they don't really need completely unsecured. Alright, the measures above are pretty extreme but how can a Ministry that requires them be so cavalier with personal data?

Security Guard at MoD: Oi! That laptop sir, does it have any sensitive data on it? You know, blueprints for the latest Astute submarine, access codes to GCHQ, that sort of thing?

MoD Bod: Nah, just the bank account details for some blokes who considered joining the Royal Marines a couple of years ago...

Security Guard: Oh, no problem. Here, let me help you with the door.....

Boeing knocks back Dreamliner first flight

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The problem Airbus had o the A380 was trying to make CATIA V4 and CATIA V5 work together, something that you get told at the beginning of any CATIA conversion course will not work. Why Airbus thought it could ignore this, I'm not sure, probably money is at the root of it (couldn't afford to upgrade all the software and workstations at the same time). Competition is very much still about, directly in the form of UG NX and also a variety of other CAD packages depending on cost (UG and CATIA are thousands of pounds a seat, cheap compared to upwards of £40K+ for an Finite Element Analysis licence).

IGES, STEP, et al. exist but sending data means the part creation history gets lost. CATIA and UG NX native files are parametric, so by tweaking a dimension the rest of the model (and any drawings based on it) automatically update. Using IGES, etc loses this data, leaving a 'dumb' solid and the result is not always very good anyway.

The slippages for Airbus and Boeing are just reminding everybody that jet airliners are complex and getting more so. The airworthiness rules keep raising the bar (as they should, as more and more understanding of the causes of aircraft crashes get fed back into each new revision). The time that has lapsed since the last major aircraft designs will definitely not have helped (B777 and A330/340 in the mid '90s). The experienced people changing jobs/company, managers who have never had to project manage something this big before, etc.

As for lightning protection there will be a copper mesh incorporated into the composite layup of the panels and this will provide the faraday cage effect required. All the various layups and design configurations would have to undergo lightning strike testing (and obviously pass!) to achieve airworthiness certification.

The approach is well known, for example, the engine nacelles on a variety of jet aircraft (Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, etc) have been manufactured in this way for more than a decade.