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Friday, 25 November 2016

Meet the British Bank Manager

The proper status symbols

I don’t live in the past, but I used to. Before I emigrated to the country of my mother’s birth, I had no idea that there were proper things and things that were not. Not only that, but there were items that a proper English gentleman would not be seen dead carrying… too pretentious.

The Brief Case

Brief Case
Let us begin with the brief case. This is a brief case, leather, two straps which were never done up, and a brass clasp, the key for which was long since lost. A brief case was the appropriate status symbol for either a solicitor or maybe a banker. I asked my uncle Norman why (the Bank Manager) why he didn’t have an attaché case, “Oh quite inappropriate for my station, I am not carrying diplomatic dispatches.” You see, a brief case is for carrying briefs, thus the name. A brief is what a solicitor prepares to brief a barrister who may be representing you in the higher courts.
Toy James Bond Case
So when James Bond was given a case by Q, it really was an attaché case, should be hard with two clasps, both of which were lockable – and the more expensive ones with a combination lock. Now this toy manufacturer got it all wrong, only one clasp and Bond would only have carried his Beretta 9mm. 
The Attaché Case

This is a proper attaché case, note the cool features, a place for stationery, spare pens, envelopes and so on. I wasn’t a bank manager or a solicitor, but always wanted one of these things.

The Furled Umbrella

John Steed
Uncle Norman used to spend quite a bit of time making sure his umbrella, or brolly (he never called it that) was properly furled. It was so carefully done, each pleat was evenly spaced, it was a work of art. Even when it rained, I never saw him deploy it. An article entitled “An Umbrella Guide for the Distinguished Gentleman” in the Gentleman’s Gazette explained this, “Of course in London in up until the 1930’s all gentlemen were expected to carry a furled umbrella in inclement weather, but we’re not expected to ever use one as you had the funds to hail a cab, an odd situation but there it is!”  Now aficionados of British television of the 60’s will remember the Avengers with the fictional character, John Steed. The epitome of the English gentleman, he had all the right accoutrements.

The Bowler Hat

John Steed wore a bowler, of course. Other famous characters who stylishly used a bowler hat were Laurel and Hardy (although they would have used the American name for the hat – a Derby), Charlie Chaplin, and who can forget John Cleese! The hat dates back to 1849 and was designed especially for game keepers on horseback, sort of a fore-runner for the riding helmet, I guess. As to hats, I was instructed to wear a Trilby when wearing civilian clothes as a serving Royal Air Force Officer. The reason, so that you could return a salute by doffing your hat! I still have one!

The Pin Striped Three Piece Suit

Pin Stripe or Chalk Stripe

The final part of this picture is the suit. A City Gent would only wear a pin striped suit. There were some choices so you could wear this “uniform” to show some individuality. For example, if you wished, you could wear a three piece suit – and you never buttoned the jacket, so that the waistcoat (vest in USA) was showing. A proper gent would also have a watch chain on the left side of his waistcoat. Now you have to be careful that your tailor doesn’t sell you a chalk stripe rather than a pin stripe. Consult the Gentlemen’s Gazette again, and you’ll see the difference. Of course, navy blue was probably the most popular, and never, never, never with brown shoes!

So let’s complete the image:

City Gent
The Complete Bank Manager

Notice the error in this stock cartoon? Yes, he’s deployed his umbrella instead of waving his permanently furled umbrella to hail a taxi. But it’s not bad, he’s holding what resembles a brief case, has the Bowler hat etc. Gone are the days of the British Bank manager, I’m afraid. I guess it is progress, but he had a special relationship with his customers. He had absolute authority, and could authorize (authorise in British spelling) an overdraft or loan based on trust, not credit scores and collateral. It was to him personally you wrote an apologetic letter for the unintended overdraft. He would bounce your cheques only reluctantly, especially after you had spoken to him! Remember, back in the day, it was a court martial offense to bounce a check because it was considered dishonest!

The Proper way to hail a cab
Don’t we all miss the kind of service like that?

Thursday, 22 September 2016

What is Apple Jelly


What is Apple Jelly?

Photo courtesy Bill Hoagland, Petroleum Product Marketing Consulting
No, it is not something invented by the late Steve Jobs, it is a redish-brown gooey substance often found in the bottom of jet fuel tanks. Apple Jelly is the nickname given to "APPL Jelly" which comes from the abbreviation for Alberta Products Pipeline where the material was first identified. It is an emulsion of anti-icing additive and water, which precipitates out to the bottom of the tank. These additives are known as Prist, DiEGME, Fuel System Icing Inhibitor (FSII). In 2002 the US Air Force published a study of this problem, worth reading, see references below.

Why Use FSII?

For valid cost reasons, many helicopter operators have their own fuel tanks. It seems to be conventional wisdom that it is a good idea to pre-blend FSII to take out any free water in the fuel. However, the purpose of FSII is to prevent the formation of ice at low temperatures. It is not required above -40°F. Almost all helicopters do not require FSII. If it is used the required concentration is between .10% and .15% by volume.
oto courtesy Bill Hoagland, Petroleum Product Marketing & Consulting

In a follow-up phone call to Bill Hougland of PPMC (See below) he said, “By using proper housekeeping to keep the water out of your tanks it is generally not necessary to use FSII (for helicopters in most cases).  But you must follow your aircraft operation guide.
If Apple Jelly forms in the bottom of your tank is likely that your fuel no longer has the approved concentration of additive thus potentially “off-spec.”  Another argument in favor of its use is the prevention of microbiological growth, although it must be said that FSII is not considered a bio-cide, but only a bio-stat. (In other words it doesn’t kill those bugs.)

The Dangers of Apple Jelly

Apple Jelly is highly corrosive and has been reported to have caused the following events:
  • Disarming of fuel filters, which can allow water and sediment to reach the aircraft.
  • Corroding and removing fuel tank linings including paints.
  • Corrosion of aircraft fuel tanks.
  • Causing erroneous readings on aircraft capacitance fuel gauges.
  • The potential to cause engine flameout on an aircraft, although a search of the NTSB database finds no accidents or incidents of this nature.
  • Potential for off-spec fuel after FSII/water emulsion settles in your tank.

The Solutions

It is highly recommended that your director of maintenance, safety officer, and accountable executive examine all references below. As a matter of priority you should at least consider the following recommendations:
  • Sump your tank and filter daily.
  •  Perform a white bucket (clear and bright) test prior to accepting fuel from a transport.
  • Allow your fuel to settle for one hour per foot of delivered fuel.
  • Confirm that your filter is compatible with pre-blended fuel. (See EI 1581 below)
  • Conduct drain test on all aircraft every day without fail.
  • Write your fuel procedures manual and include it as part of your Safety Management System (SMS) so that you can manage fuel risks appropriately. 


Many thanks to Bill Hougland of Petroleum Product Marketingand Consulting, Parker, Colorado


Note: Some documents are not public domain. Therefore it might be advisable to consult with a fuel expert such as Bill Hougland.

Hougland, B. (2004). Securing your own fuel farm. Air Medical Journal, 23(4), 20-23. Retrieved from
AC 150/5230-4B - Aircraft Fuel Storage, Handling, Training, and Dispensing on Airports. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Air Transport Association of America, Inc. (n.d.). Standard for Jet Fuel Quality Control at Airports ATA_103. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from
Revision 2006.1
REF/ISBN: 9780852935750 Edition: 5th
Spec 103: Standard for Jet Fuel Quality Control at Airports. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2016, from (See Note above)
Investigation of "Apple Jelly" Contaminant in Military Jet Fuel. (2002, March). Retrieved April 04, 2016, from

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A million reasons for Safety Management Systems

Straw Poll Makes us Think

A recent straw poll asking what people knew about Safety Management Systems (SMS) in aviation produced some surprising answers. This got me thinking about why anyone would go to the trouble and expense of introducing SMS when it is currently not mandatory for on-demand (FAA Part 135) operations in the USA.

Some know "What", few know "Why"

Quite a few responders to the poll said they had good knowledge about what SMS is, but it is clear very few understand why. Quite by chance this video by the comedian Michael Jr. popped up. Watch the video then read on.

Know Your Why

Everybody's Doing It?

There may be a million reasons why anyone would introduce SMS, but "everybody is doing it" is most certainly not one of those reasons. At the first International Helicopter Safety Symposium in Montreal, September 2005, one of the speakers referred to the fact that we had already plucked the low hanging fruit in safety. Using a safety system for many decades that had consistently failed to reduce accident rates, it was agreed at that meeting to form the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST) It set an aggressive goal of reducing the worldwide helicopter accident rate by 80% in 10 years (by 2016) There has been some success, with a notable reduction in accident rates globally.

Out With The Old

NTSB: Stall Warning Sounded Before Phenom 100 Crash

So what was the old system? Well think about it, we'd see pictures of smoking holes in the ground surrounded by accident investigators. Given time, hopefully those investigators would find a cause and make recommendations to prevent recurrence of that specific accident. But were those recommendations followed, and if so did they do as expected, i.e prevent a recurrence of that accident? This kind of tombstone safety management has failed to reduce accidents down to the ideal of zero. No doubt changes in technology, procedures, and training have made aviation the safest way to travel. But is it not a disgrace that we have to climb on the backs of so many dead people before anything gets done?

In With the New

How can we change from being reactive, that is after the crash, to proactive, that is before the crash, in our efforts to keep us safe? This is the key to SMS, the "Why". We are beginning see the "What" of SMS in that it is a systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organizational structures, accountabilities, polices and procedures. Wow! What a mouthful! OK, so Mom and Pop Aviatiors Inc. decide they need this, and simply copy and paste someone else's manual calling it their own. Job done? Nope... for the simple reason that neither Mom nor Pop actually understand the "Why" of the whole thing. Nor, indeed, do they understand the "What", either. And in any case isn't the "what" they're now doing exactly the same as "what" they've been doing so badly for so many years?

Risk Management and Safety Assurance

Risk management, somewhat new in concept, is how we can become proactive. Before the crash, identify risks, do something to avoid or minimize (mitigate) those risks to an acceptable level, and then make sure that what we did works! This checking back has not been part of safety before. You may have heard aviation companies boast that they are much safer than their competitors simply because they've never had an accident. WRONG! They are just lucky, because the statistics prove them wrong. On the other hand, if they practice effective safety assurance, they can rightly say, "We are safer than our competitors, and we can prove it."

Is it All About Costs?

I am an unabashed cynic. We all know that manufacturers have often been caught out not recalling something they've known about simply because it was cheaper to pay compensation to those hurt. When the accountants (or bean counters) get to the point where they decide it would be cheaper to recall that faulty motor car, or whatever, then and only then do they do it. Anyone with an interest in aviation history know that the cargo door design flaw in the DC 10 eventually led to the demise of McDonnall-Douglas. They knew about it, did nothing, and paid the price in lives lost.

Stand Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

So I would say to Mom and Pop that if they really want to stand head and shoulders above all the rest, they need to consider what they do to prevent accidents, to become clear-headed about why, and to set their standards high and then make sure they achieve those high standards. This involves an enormous commitment to working at it in every aspect of their business. This will pay huge dividends when the regulators announce that SMS is mandatory, because by that time it will be too late to go through the growing pains that all face when completely redesigning the way they manage safety. As they continue to convert their large fortune into a small one in aviation, they can at least sleep soundly at night knowing they are doing their best at preventing accidents.

More Information:

There are many resources out there. Try the USHST links page first.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Is Google taking over the world?


Well, this has all become so confusing... so a word of warning to you all. In my final semester at Liberty University, I was asked to create a Google+ account so as to upload my course work. I rather stupidly allowed Safari on my Mac to save the password used to create that account. Then when I tried to edit this here blog, it had disappeared.

So the lesson is, be alert to the fact that if you allow auto-completion of user names and password, you might not get the results you expect.

Have a Happy Easter - full of joy and gratitude.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What I hate about this place is the apathy, but there again who cares?

Somebody asked me the other day why I was so passionate about safety. I answered his question with a question, "Am I more passionate than you?" I have lost too many friends, been to too many funerals, and endured the horror of being first on scene of an aircraft crash to find someone with whom I had shared a few social moments the night before spread all over 2 miles of German countryside. I have seen the look on the faces of widows and orphans. I never want to experience any of that again.

So how do we generate enthusiasm amongst those who have never been touched personally by tragedies brought about through unnecessary accidents? Of course those of us who are long in the tooth can tell a few war stories when the hanger doors are open. (and how we love doing that!) But that is hardly enough. I have to remember that the timing of the question was was during initial training for all employees about our All New Safety Management System. My obvious passion for safety came across because I was so enthusiastic about SMS, and what it could do for us.

There are many reasons why an SMS is the right way to go, and many of those reasons have already been well documented. (See the United States Helicopter Safety Team (USHST) website for many such examples.) I have yet to see anybody concentrate on the fact that a well-organized, well-designed, and well-supported SMS can do a great deal to encourage the apathetic. Under our old safety system there was one twelve-month period when not one safety concern report was filed. I come to find when I return to the job that it was mainly because, "nothing ever gets done." So if your policy makers commit to and devote the resources to a safety management system, they are therefore by definition committed to being much more responsive. It is little good having a non-punitive reporting system if the general perception is that nothing will get done.

One of the pillars of SMS is safety promotion, difficult in the old paper-based systems. How do you get a completed safety investigation piece of paper into everyone's hands? Under our SMS when a form is posted, all employees can read what was found on the investigation, what was done to fix a problem, and what residual risk has been accepted by the accountable executive. Who? A requirement of SMS is to identify the person who controls the purse strings in the organization. That person is therefore required to sign off on risk management and hazard analysis processes.
If you want to add to those two major advantages just one more feature of SMS it would have to be as follows. Many of us have seen trite phrases on notices saying, "Safety is our number one priority,” when we know it is not. By making people accountable from top to bottom within an organization you can only add to that safety culture where it is no longer acceptable to walk past a hazard that you see, it is no longer acceptable to ignore the reports of people who care, and it is no longer acceptable to minimize the risks associated with our “risky business.” Members of the organization with any brain whatsoever know full well the hollowness of the often quoted phrase, "We are a safe organization; we have never had an accident." That may just be luck, because statistically most aviation operations have existed for many decades without an accident.

With SMS in place, running well, supported by all levels of the company, we can now say, 

"We are a safe organization, and we can prove it!"