Sometimes in life it is important to stamp your authority on proceedings. All too often others will try to take charge despite having less knowledge than you and the result at best will be that the conclusion will be other than that which you originally intended. A classic example of this is the pressure regularly placed upon pilots by prospective passengers, friends, family and just about anyone else when loading an aircraft at a small airfield.

Picture the scene – I’m in Northern France having attended a wedding. My aircraft is at the local airport – actually quite a large airport, so there’s no runway length issues. I have a Piper Cherokee with 150 horses behind the propeller. With the tanks 2/3rd full I have 4 hours of flying at max-take-off weight. My target airfield in Essex is two and a half hours, possibly three away based on the forecast winds. So when a family member asks that I take some additional cargo on board my aircraft (which clearly isn’t full because you can see daylight through the windows!) I refuse as I know that we are already very close to max-take-off weight. Cue some pointed comments about my willingness to be a true family member and/or a human being 😦 I stick to my guns – no, I’m not taking the potted plant on board (God, how much does that thing weigh!) In the end they give up whilst cursing me as uncooperative.

We depart and climb in the manner of a pregnant duck (we were already pretty close to all up weight) into the air over north western France. The aircraft finally starts to feel responsive as we cross the French Coast at Le Touquet something like 30 minutes later.

I hope you got the feeling from that about the effect that passengers can have on pilots if they are vulnerable. Sadly for pilots employed in commercial aviation the pressure is greater because their company will take a dim view of them turning customers away, especially if they are likely to appear in the news. Sadly this circumstance cost the world one of the rising stars of R&B music (and at this point I lay aside my animosity to that musical description) I am referring to the death of Aaliyah. A tragedy that didn’t have to happen.

The NTSB report makes it clear that the pilot was out of his depth but that doesn’t absolve the passengers from guilt for the pressure that they applied. They became architects of their own downfall. A stronger pilot who wasn’t in fear of his job would have given them the finger – I would have. And it would have saved their lives.

There are a number of useless things in aviation…

Fuel in the Bowser
Runway behind you
Sky above you
Airspeed you don’t have

The Aaliyah accident rapidly took on three of those as the over-laden Cessna 402 struggled to get airborne. Perhaps leaving some fuel in the bowser might have helped but as the sky remained above and the runway behind grew Pilot Morales must have known that his time had come 😦

So for my readers I would make the following recommendation – never pressure your pilot when told that there’s too much to carry. An aeroplane isn’t like a camper van – you can’t fill it up to the roof and expect it to get off the ground.

“Six-pointer” is a sporting clichΓ©, particularly used in association football, used to describe a game between two teams with similar league positions, in leagues that employ a “three points for a win” system.” – From Wikipedia…

The Saturday before last saw Summers Lane hosting Thamesmead Town. With the nature of things in the current climate the actual positions of teams are difficult to correctly interpret with matches being postponed and rescheduled with a regularity that is making the successful completion of the fixtures list by the end of April seem ever more unlikely. This is a case in point – Thamesmead were in the relegation zone occupying, I think, 23rd place out of 24 before Christmas. However, they had been able to string together 2 draws in 2 wins in the last 6 matches which lifted them clear of the relegation zone and to one place above Wingate & Finchley in the table. The downside for them is that they have played 4 more games than the teams around them including Wingate – an anomaly brought about by the extremely wet weather. There is always conjecture in football about which is better – points on the board or games in hand. I don’t think there is a definitive answer to that one. Thamesmead will need to keep on winning to consolidate their position if they are not to be overtaken by the teams around them with games in hand. The first hurdle to that preposition was the match against The Blues and the opposite applied to The Blues pre-match thinking. A win was essential against at team that were clearly in the same battle as us. And the other games in hand would need to be wins too!

Looking at form coming into the match – Thamesmead looked like the better side. On the previous Tuesday they had beaten Maidstone United 4-1 which, given that The Stones are in the fight for automatic promotion, was a very good win. And Wingate & Finchley had recently been on the end of a 4-2 defeat by Maidstone. It suggested that this would be a difficult game for The Blues and most of the fans seemed a bit pensive prior to the match.

The game started very quickly and we were shocked into an early state of euphoria. Tommy Tejan-Sie playing down the left chased down a lost cause of a cross which he recovered on the bye-line. There followed a tussle with the right back who came away with the ball. TJ’s ‘never give up’ attitude came to the fore as he harrassed the defender into an error. A quick couple of steps into the area and he struck a low hard shot beneath the diving keeper to give us the lead! The disbelief was deafening πŸ˜‰

Of course, we expected the worst and were not disappointed – Thamesmead equalised in the 20th minute. With a blustery wind that was gathering strength behind them, the visitors piled on the pressure and I began, along with most other Blues fans, to hope that we could hold out until halftime when we would get the advantage of the wind in the second half. Hold out we did – with Bobby pulling off a couple of excellent saves.

Come the second half and here comes the rain… initially persistent but not heavy, it gave a good reason to hide in the Jack fisk stand. With the wind behind them Wingate & Finchley took full advantage placing the visitors under a lot of pressure. In the 55th minute the pressure told as TJ whipped a smart cross into the box and Adam Bolle rose above it to nod the ball down beyond the keeper’s desperate dive. It was beautifully taken goal and a text book finish. Just a couple of minutes later it was Ola’s turn to cross and Ahmet who, on the receiving end, nodded a curling loop of a header into the top right of the goal beyond the keepers reach. It knocked the stuffing out of Thamesmead and they no longer seemed to have the will to fight. It looked like the three points – a desperately needed three points – were in the bag.

Suddenly the weather took a very definite turn for the worse. The rain fell in a manner not seen since Noah dug out his workmate, saw and a bag of nails. I can’t remember ever seeing such a downpour whilst watching football. Then God decided to rearrange the furniture – big time! We were treated to a spectacular display of lightning and deafening claps of thunder. The referee was forced to call a halt to proceedings in the interests of safety. Apparently he couldn’t see what was going on – most fans would say that is a state of normality for referees πŸ˜‰ There followed an anxious wait to see if things would improve before the referee decided to abandon the game. I’m fortunate in that I have studied weather in my previous life as a pilot and I know that the average life of a storm cell is 20 minutes – even so… 20 minutes is a long time in football – managers have been sacked in less time than that! Fortunately the gusting wind carried the storm cell east very quickly and play was resumed after 15 minutes of stoppage. The Blues hung on for the three points which lifted us five points clear of the relegation zone.

Next up – if the pitch remained playable – was a London Senior Cup game against Redbridge. But here are some photos from the Thamesmead match: –

Winged Figure

An Objet d’art. Babara Hepworth (later Dame) was commissioned in 1961 by Sir Bernard Miller to produce a sculpture for John Lewis’ flagship store on Oxford Street. ‘Winged Figure 1963’ was erected in September 1963 and has adorned the east side of the store ever since. In 2013 it was given an extensive restoration to honour its 50th birthday.