Friday, 13 April 2012

It's A Meteorite Re-Entry Redux

Like the Tunguska Blast in 1908. Update 23 April or this recent event in America.

Now the truth can be told .... as they used to say in those black and white war films with Anthony Steel, Dirk Bogarde, David Niven and Richard Todd.

It was a couple of Rare Force Typhoons haring across country from Coningsby to Bath where a hapless helicopter pilot had accidentally squawked 7500 on his transponder (I'm hijacked). Naturally, the supersonic fighters on QRA had to go supersonic to get to Bath quickly (like it says on the tin) and so scared the bejabers out of millions of people from Coventry in a swath southwestwards to Oxfordshire and Swindon as they boomed at about 6:10pm here in Coventry.

On Local Radio they knew nothing. I actually phoned up and said it was a meteorite re-entry. Most were saying it was an earthquake. The emergency services knew nothing. Birminingham Airport ATC said it couldn't be a supersonic boom because there's no supersonic aircraft in the country. Birmingham Airport ATC is provided by NATS, Swanwick in Hampshire which has RAF ATC co-located there.

Finally, well past 7:00pm, the MoD stuck up their hand and admitted the truth. Well, that is not good enough in this day and age. Could they not have alerted the emergency services and ATC of the boom by superfast interwebby thing? In the old Cold war days, the civil defence UKWAMO system covered the country and sirens were regularly tested. Nowadays, in the world of 24 hour rolling news, it takes over an hour for Wing Commander "Boz" Chaff i/c MoD RAF PR to release a carefully crafted, diversity and sustainability proofed press notice to the media, after senior officers, Ministers and probably Dave in KL has heard first. So far there has been no indication of how many trees the RAF will plant to offset the carbon footprint of the extra thrust and it looks as though earlier claims that all five of the single helicopter have been shot down with two probables and eight damaged for no losses have been revised downwards on detailed inspection of gun camera film. 

Meanwhile the Poor Bloody Taxpayer sits in the metaphorical dark for over an hour. Up with that I will not put as Winston Churchill once joked. I'm surprised that Typhoons had to be despatched to investigate what would have been immediately identified as a helicopter - eyewitnesses said they saw a Typhoon over Bath circling the helicopter at high alpha (helis are slow, Typhoons are fast) just to keep down with it. Why couldn't a copper chopper have been tasked instead or maybe Sidewindered Hawks could be dispersed across the country instead. Certainly cheaper than the £35,000 per flying hour (actually it's £70,000!) of each Typhoon. But then the Rare Force would argue that its pilots needed practice to keep current. I doubt very much that Boris's Limp Pricks Opening Ceremony speech will be drowned out by the sound of Typhoons racing after a supermarket bag caught in the breeze.

In big letters as a reminder for any future incidents:



Thud said...

Brian, doing some work outside this morning inbetween showers the lads and I couldn't miss atyphoon overhead coming from the direction of wales. Pretty impressive although a little squat looking.

Brian said...

Without the weedburners lit it resembles a Vulcan twice as far away. It just hasn't got that dangerous-looking oomph look for me that fighters need - it's as though someone has morphed a Buccaneer, Phantom and Tornado to get an average aeroplane.