Miss World 2003
Its not everyday a nearby neighbour becomes
Miss World, so forgive me for giving the top spot to the
Rosanna Davis from Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, a friend of my (very
lucky) nephew, and daughter of singer
Now known as Miss World 2003, she describes herself
humble person and hopefully a great ambassador for my country and for
women all around the world.
Missile Strike - The Inside Story
22nd November, at 10:15 am local time,
a Russian-built SAM-14 (shoulder-fired Surface to Air Missile) hit an Airbus A300 B4 freighter over Iraq. Despite the fire that
erupted in the port side wing on impact and the
in-flight emergency that was declared, the aircraft managed to land safely in
Baghdad with no casualties.
The aircraft, registration
OO-DLL, was leased to
and operated by European Air Transport (EAT), which is a Belgian company
owned by the courier company DHL, itself a German company owned by
Deutches Post World Net.
Media coverage of this attack has been scant.
What is presented here is an inside account from impeccable
sources, never before published.
Happened on Board the Aircraft
The aircraft had just departed Baghdad
International Airport (formerly Saddam International) bound for Bahrein, and was passing 8,000 feet when
the crew felt a shudder and heard a rumbling noise from the left hand side
of the aircraft. Immediately the crew were alerted by the Master
Warning system of problems on the hydraulic systems.
With three separate hydraulic systems blue,
green and yellow the A300 will fly and is controllable
with the loss of any two. But it is not controllable with
the loss of all three, as all the control surfaces rudder, ailerons,
elevators, horizontal stabilizer, flaps and slats are directly moved
by the hydraulics and have no manual reversion.
The flight engineer checked the hydraulic panel
and noted that the pressure and quantity for the green
systems were reading zero. The crew therefore started the Dual
Hydraulic Systems Failure checklist and whilst doing this, realised
that the blue system
readings had also reduced to zero.
Whilst discussing this and attempting to find out
what control if any was still available,
the aircraft banked to the left and the nose
the flight engineer noticed that the left wing
outboard fuel tank gauge was reading zero;
Air Traffic Control (the US Air Force) radioed
that the left engine was on fire, though there was no indication of an
engine fire on the flight deck.
In fact the fire was in the outboard end of the
wing in the area of the aileron and end of the flaps and was being fed by
both the hydraulic fluid and the fuel.
Left wing of the airplane is on fire
Due to the configuration of the aircraft with
its engines slung low beneath the wing and fairly well outboard of the
aircraft centreline, it was still possible to maintain some control.
Increasing the power pitched the aircraft up,
decreasing it pitched it down, while
using asymmetric thrust provided some left and
The landing gear was successfully extended and
locked down using a manual procedure. An attempt was made to land on
runway 33 right at Baghdad International, but due to the
circumstances the aircraft actually touched down fast and very heavily
on the parallel runway, 33 left.
The speed at touch down was approximately 210-220 knots with a sink
rate of 2,000 feet per minute, compared with normal figures
of 135-145 knots and 200-300 feet per minute. After landing, the only
retarding devices available were the engine reversers. No brakes or speed
brakes and no nose-wheel steering either, due to loss of hydraulics.
Whilst slowing down - unmanoeuvrably - the aircraft
left the runway and ran off into the sand, with the engines still in
reverse, until the aircraft finally came to halt (they would normally have
been deactivated at 60 knots). The engines were damaged after landing,
with the starboard one ingesting a rolled barbed-wire fence.
fact, the whole aircraft is a write off, but due to the flight
crews skill and presence of mind, no-one was hurt. Whether or not the
insurance will pay out for the hull loss is under debate.
Did It and How ?
The SAM-14, sometimes known as the
Strela 3, is built in Russia. Weighing 10kg, it is the successor to the
SAM 7. More accurate and reliable than the SAM 7, it has a larger
warhead - 3 kg, twice that of the SAM 7. Its maximum range is 4.5 kilometers
with an altitude of up to 9,900 feet.
SAM-14s had in fact been launched against the DHL aircraft,
but only one reached its target. It was the first strike on a civilian
aircraft since the war. Clearly, the attack was carried out by
people allied to Saddams defeated
Baathists and/or foreign insurgents.
extraordinary aspect, however, is that the attack was covered live by French
journalist Claudine Vernier Palliez and her photographer, working for Paris Match, who seemed to be - to use the familiar
with the perpetrators. They are the source of the photograph
below. With difficulty you can hunt down their story, in
French, on the magazines painfully clumsy website. Amongst
other things, the magazine proudly proclaims,
Exclusive, Our reporters were with the rebel commandos who hit the DHL
cargo plane. They fired missiles at the Airbus
But you can easily find
9:08 am, spaced 50 meters apart two men open fire. The first one reaches
his target. Here, one of them in a djellaba fires his SAM-7
In addition to the Paris Match scoop, a six-minute video showing a masked militant firing the missile
was delivered to Sara Daniel,
who is a journalist with the
French weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur.
The footage, which you can view,
shows ten militants, their faces covered by chequered keffiyeh headdresses or white
scarves, carrying out the attack.
The missile, launched from the shoulder, is seen shooting up into the sky
after being fired by one of the men. Leaving a vapour trail it makes a
sharp U-turn and homes in on the DHL plane.
The militants are then seen rushing away in a car. The eleventh militant - who
presumably shot the footage - films his own lap in his haste to get into
Later shots show the stricken aircraft
The militants clearly have great trust
in the integrity of French journalists.
to the DHL Operation
Since August of this year, EAT have been operating from Bahrein to Baghdad
on a daily basis for DHL Bahrein. For convenience,
DHL is used in this article to designate the employer of the crews
flying the aircraft.
Although George Bush declared that major
hostilities were over last May, Iraq remains, as we all know, a
hostile place, for both machines and people, whether military or civilian,
and of whatever nationality or religion.
The Hazards of Baghdad International
A vital document for flight crews in any country
is the Air
Information Publication, or AIP.
It contains all the data necessary to
operate safely and within the rules of the issuing State -
Information on procedures to be carried out in
certain emergencies such as loss of radio communications etc,
charts of all the airfields and airports in the
their approach and departure procedures, minimum
safe heights, minimum descent altitudes for the approach (the height
at which, if you cannot see the runway, a missed approach must be
go-around procedures and
lots, lots more.
No Air Information Publication has been
published for Iraq since 1990 and no such AIP is in force at the present
time. The French airline
Corsair has given this reason for refusing to fly British troops into
The operation into Baghdad is particularly
hazardous, without the absence of an AIP and the added risk of people
firing missiles at you.
As a result, the crews flying into Baghdad were
basically having to make it up as they went along, with a lot of input
from certain security people.
The approach favoured by the military and
ex-military crew members is to come overhead the field at 15,000 feet and
start a spiral descent keeping within a two-mile safe zone around the
airfield. The safe zone is maintained by US Army helicopter gunships.
This approach results in the aircraft turning
finals well above the normal approach speed.
And with more than 45° of bank, sometimes up to 60°, the only way
to lose the speed is to pull the aircrafts nose up with the power at
idle and rolling out of the turn at the same time.
This hazardous routine would definitely be a
fail if you did it in the simulator on your check ride.
Perhaps for this reason, it was never practiced in the simulator,
and not much thought seems to have gone into what to do if something went
wrong. A failure of the engine on the inboard side of the turn with more
than 45° of bank at less than 1,000 feet could be disastrous.
should be noted, moreover, that this evasive manoeuvre is possible only
when landing, not on take off. It was, therefore, not available to
the DHL aircraft that was shot during its departure from Baghdad.
? What insurance ?
With all this extra and unfamiliar risk, the DHL
flight crews were understandably concerned about insurance cover,
especially as those who had their own personal insurance policies, eg
mortgage protection or life insurance, were informed by their respective
companies or underwriters that the policies would not cover Iraq or any
other war zones.
Initially, DHL management told the crews that
the normal company insurance policy would continue to cover all crew
members operating in the Middle East with no reduction in cover for Iraq.
But no documentary evidence of this was ever shown to anybody.
Then, because of the disquiet, the Director of Operations wrote to
advise that DHL had set up its own fund for additional cover up to a
maximum of 400,000 per employee, but again no documents were presented.
The insurance status of the crews is still
when the company first told employees that there was the
possibility of operating into Iraq (and Afghanistan), with crews being
based in Bahrein for 15-day tours, the first question on
many peoples lips was How much danger money are you paying ?
None, came the reply.
This seemed a little strange as
the ground engineers and mechanics who were
contracted from a British company were receiving $500 per day above
their normal rate for going to Iraq or Afghanistan, and
DHL was making 200-300% above the normal air
cargo charter rate per flight.
Moreover, as the normal night stop allowance in
Scandinavian countries is 30 per night higher than anywhere else that
DHL goes to, most people thought that it was probably better to stay in
Europe and fly to Stockholm occasionally, than to spend 15 nights in
Bahrain with no extra allowances and without the added hassle of people
trying to shoot you down.
Though the company insisted that all crew
members were to be asked to go to the Middle East on a strictly voluntary
basis only, with no pressure applied, the reality was a bit different.
There were first-officers on the now defunct
Boeing 727 fleet looking for a future on the Airbus fleet, and others on
the A300 fleet who were eligible for promotion to Captain.
They knew that part of the selection process consisted of asking
the Crew Scheduling Department if the proposed aspirant had been
Refuseniks were not given a friendly response.
One was asked why hed never complained about flying to Belfast;
another was told that flying to Baghdad was safer than Vitoria in Spain
(not true, despite some high ground).
They were told again and again that the operation was safe.
So volunteers did indeed come forward, for a
project that was highly lucrative for DHL, and demanded extra and
unconventional skills because of the dearth of infrastructure information
and the tricky two-mile safe zone over Baghdad International.
Yet it carried high personal risk with dubious insurance cover and
no extra remuneration.
Indeed, the heroic captain on the flight that
was attacked had only held a command for six months and was one of the
more junior captains on the fleet.
The whole operation seems to many to be amateurish
and mercenary. Some also ask what
is a German-owned Belgian company doing in Iraq anyway.
The crew were extremely lucky, as well as
skilful. Had the missile
exploded in the fuel tank or hit the engine, the outcome could have been
very different. Just as lucky
are DHL and its associates who before long can resume earning earn large rewards by
flying into Iraq.
Late Note (11th December) :
Aviation Weekly has a good
article about the incident in its latest edition, which accords
closely with the above, though with less detail.
Zimbabwe - A
More Optimistic View
Despite differing viewpoints and perspectives, it is interesting that
Guest-Blogger Des below, many of the Commonwealth Heads of Government who met
last week in Nigeria and myself all seem to conclude that President Robert Mugabe
Late Note (8th December)
: The Heads of Government have now extended
Zimbabwes exclusion from the Commonwealth, and Mr Mugabe in a fit of
pique has decided to withdraw from the organization altogether - as he
had earlier promised. Dictators can
act as they please.
By Guest-Blogger Des
It was quite a coincidence that you had just written
about Zimbabwe in the Tallrite Blog Issue #58 as I was returning from spending a week there. I read
your piece with
interest. There is no doubt that most of what you wrote was
factually accurate - indeed, in a few instances the truth is even less
encouraging than you stated (eg, the Minister for Finance is now
projecting that inflation will reach 700% by the end of the year rather
than 455%, a loaf of bread now costs Z$5000 rather than Z$2900).
Despite the accuracy of your facts and statistics, I felt that the
impression created by your piece was materially different to that I formed
by visiting the place.
I believe that most Zimbabweans - most particularly
those who share your own views on the political situation there - would be
disappointed by the impression created. The country is in the grips
of a political and economic crisis, but it is not in ruins.
- The most productive
agriculture industry in Africa - if not in the world - has been reduced
to chaos by an ill-advised and disastrously-badly implemented land
redistribution programme. Most other forms of trade suffer because
of foreign exchange shortages caused by government-created economic
difficulties. Nonetheless, Zimbabwe possesses a cadre of well
educated and sophisticated business people who have not lost either
their optimism or their sense of balance. It is not at all too
late to put right what is now wrong.
- The government continues
to attempt to muzzle the press and stifle opposition, but they have
not succeeded. The opposition press (or more accurately, the
objective press!) continues to publish, and I would have to
say that I experienced an absolutely free flow of ideas and opinions
throughout my visit. Your statement
Zimbabwes people exist in an information blackout so
effective that all they hear is government propaganda and official
denials from the state-owned media
is simply wrong.
- While many dreadful things
have happened on farms, and while many political activists have
suffered for their opinions, I do not believe that the majority of
people live in fear of either police or army. One could add that
a person is likely to feel safer on the streets of Harare than in
many other places, including many parts of Dublin !
- From what I can gather, Zimbabwes major educational institutions retain the values and
standards that characterised their past. Certainly, those of
their alumni that I met represent an excellent advertisement for their
It suffers from an AIDS epidemic, but then so does
every country in the region - most notably, South Africa and Botswana, whose
political and economic achievements most of us admire. This is one
thing we probably cant blame Mugabe for.
You are right to refer to the
of the people of Zimbabwe. You could add that the majority are
gentle, cultured and well educated, and - much more than our own
society - guided by strong religious principles. Similarly, you
are right to suggest that they have, in many ways, been abandoned by the
world. I know youre not suggesting it, but I do not think that
sanctions or other forms of isolation will help Zimbabwe at all.
- The only good that came of Englands and New
Zealands politically-motivated failure to fulfill
their Cricket World Cup commitments in Zimbabwe was the
early elimination of NZ from the competition ! People in Zimbabwe
want more contact and involvement with the outside world, not less.
Zimbabweans have achieved a lot in the years since
independence. I strongly agree that they could do with some
sympathetic attention from the rest of us. But, I believe they need
more engagement, not less. I would be optimistic that there is
potential for early resolution of the current crisis - I believe the quiet
diplomacy to which you refer has a decent chance of succeeding, and I
would be optimistic regarding the prospects for an early change of heart
(and personnel) at the top. I dont really see Osama bin Laden being
given the run of Harare ! There are plenty of models of peaceful
transition around, including the current case of Georgia. Similarly,
there are plenty of models for the early elimination of mega-inflation and
restoration of a stable economic environment - the former Yugoslavia comes
to mind as a relevant example.
Zimbabwe is located at the centre of of a zone whose
fortunes are improving rapidly following the ending of civil wars and
local conflicts. Zimbabweans have the skills and the status to take
a leadership position in the rapid expansion of economic activity in the
region. They have the advantage of speaking English as a first
As soon as there is change at the top, it is certain that
the USA, the UK, the EU, the IMF, etc, will see the advantage in helping
restore the Zimbabwe economy and bringing its government back into the
As I said, I am optimistic for their future.
Putin and Bush Do a Couple of Things Right
Two unconnected twists
in favour of common sense and prosperity emerged last week, perpetrated by
First, President Vladimir
Putins senior economic adviser Andrei Illarionov
announced, twice, that Russia had no intention of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol,
to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by
withdrawal will torpedo the implementation
of this pernicious deal - already sensibly disowned two years ago by
George Bush and 99 US Senators - a deal which
a centurys time will make a miniscule difference to
global warming (delay it by six years)
at the cost between now and then of $100 billion
per year, money that would otherwise be available
to better the welfare of todays impoverished people,
who cant wait a hundred years.
(Note : These are published figures that even groups
of the Earth agree with.)
Putin himself has also provoked environmental outrage by very reasonably
pointing out that a bit of global warming is just what Russia needs to
boost harvests and reduce heating costs, a comment that could be applied
to most of northern Europe, not to mention Canada, southern Chile and
Argentina, to name a few. Global warming - if it exists -
threatens only the poor in hot climates, the people whom Kyoto requires
to wait for a century.
Russias reluctance is,
however, rather curious, because
it will find the Protocol painless since its economy has crashed since Soviet
days. Thus, with no effort at all,
its CO2 emissions
are already 39% below the 1990 levels, which means it could make money
by selling CO2 credits to others.
It would be a shame
if its Kyoto reluctance is just a negotiating ploy to obtain other
favours, as anything to protect the worlds poor from continued hardship
caused by environmental zealots is to be applauded.
second piece of good news is President Bushs decision to rescind
the bizarre 30% tariff he imposed nearly two years ago on steel imports to
protect inefficient US producers and their 160,000 steel workers.
This was blithely to ignore the 12 million Americans who work in steel-consuming
tools, cars, oil, white goods etc.), not to mention the
293 million steel consumers. A
year showed that a tariff of only 20% would save 9,000 steel jobs but
throw 74,000 people out of work elsewhere - a ratio of one to eight.
is now congratulating
itself for forcing Mr Bush into a U-turn by threatening
counter-sanctions. He blinked first some
given this administrations disdain for Old Europe, I doubt whether European
histrionics had much to do with his action.
more likely that he recognized the damage the tariffs are causing to US
consumers and jobs, especially now that the economy is rebounding and an
election is beginning to loom.
And certainly, he also listened during his recent state visit to Britain to the
common sense of his poodle to whom he happened to owe a huge favour.
Tony Blair is, notably, neither gloating nor claiming.
of motivation, the U-turn has been rightly welcomed
by Europe and Asia.
a good weeks work by both presidents.
Afraid of European Anti-Semitism
Over the last couple of weeks, we have learnt that our
intrepid mandarins in Brussels are afraid of anti-Semitism. Not,
obviously, as afraid as Jews are in France, Germany, Holland, UK, Italy, Belgium,
Greece, Sweden and Denmark, where they are the direct recipients of anti-Jew
In a moment of weakness last year, a body called the European
Monitoring Centre (EUMC) on Racism and Xenophobia commissioned a study on
anti-Semitism from the Technical University of Berlin. Earlier this
year, the authors, Werner Bergmann and Juliane Wetzel, produced their
Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the European Union.
EUrocrats took one look and immediately suppressed
it. That was back in February, and it has been kept out of sight
ever since. Weve only just learnt, through a leak, of its
central finding of the report is that Israel is seen by many in
Europe as a capitalistic, imperialistic power, the
with the US as the evildoers in the Middle East conflict. Many do
not distinguish between supporting Palestine and opposing the Israeli
government on the one hand, and hostility towards the Jewish diaspora on
the other. In the
increasingly blatant anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim media, including
audiotapes and sermons, it says that the call is made to join the struggle
not only against Israel but also against Jews across the world.
The report reviews, country
by country, specific anti-Semitic behaviour within the EU during May/June
2002, finding that the countries listed above are the worst
offenders. Anti-Jew conduct includes -
physical attacks on Jews,
desecration/destruction of their synagogues,
cemeteries and memorials,
anti-Jew slogans and swastika graffiti,
threatening and insulting mail and phone
anti-Semitic propaganda on the Internet and in
It then makes the shocking finding that such acts are
committed above all ... by right-wing [and
left-wing] extremists, radical Islamists or young Muslims mostly of
Thats a surprise.
its been far too strong for those delicate EUrocratic stomachs these past
ten months. If this
ever gets out, they fear action may have to be taken to curb entrenched
anti-Semitism and this is likely to anger many Muslims, as well as the
political extremes. So lets simply keep everything under wraps and
hope it will just go away.
more comfortable to ignore the evidence and go along with noted
left-leaning intellectual Noam Chomsky, himself a Jew, who when recently asked,
Is anti-Semitism on the increase?
In the West, fortunately, it scarcely exists now, though
it did in the past.
Ireland, a country that gets off lightly in the EUMC report, tried to show
its anti-anti-Semitic credentials by proposing a UN resolution, to be
co-sponsored by the EU, that would specifically condemn
to a cacophony of Arab and Muslim objections, it took just two weeks for
Ireland to capitulate and withdraw the motion a few days ago. (This
also smacks of treachery, according to Atlantic Blogs post
of 8th December).
perhaps Naom Chomsky is right. There is no anti-Semitism in Europe
and so we dont need any high-falutin UN resolutions.
By the way, you can find the suppressed, confidential,
under-wraps, for-your-eyes-only, top-secret report in an 814kb pdf file
Thank God for the internet !
Late Note (8th December) :
After ten months of secrecy and subterfuge, it has taken less than three
weeks of sustained exposure, leaks, scorn and ridicule in the media and
cyberspace to persuade the EUMC finally to publish
the report, though it says it doesnt support it.
The media reported with glee that the Plain English
Campaign has awarded its 2003 Foot-in-Mouth
trophy to Donald Rumsfeld for remarking,
Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know.
display their ignorance.
For what he said in that press
conference at Nato HQ in Brussels back on 6th June last year, which is
truncated in the above extract, was in fact expressed in terminology that
was crystal-clear, and free of jargon, gobbledygook and other confusing
language. In other words, totally in keeping with plain English as defined
by the Plain English Campaign.
can listen for yourself here.
It is the
concept that he was explaining (unknown unknowns etc)
which is a little complex - yet very pertinent for the terror situation he
was describing. The bemused journalists, commentators and evidently
the Plain English Campaign simply failed to understand it. And
because of this, they like to pretend that Mr Rumsfeld expressed
himself in clumsy un-plain English, which he assuredly didnt.
a look at my earlier post
on this matter.
Phrase Books for
Oh, those inscrutable Japanese tourists. They have such fun
when they visit America and Britain, especially when theyve taken the
trouble to swot up on the language beforehand. But were not talking
plain English here. Or maybe the English is just too
A practical joker has stirred up trouble by
publishing 50,000 copies of a Japanese-to-English phrase book with
incorrect definitions for every phrase.
Now thousands of Japanese tourists whove painstakingly studied the
bogus dictionary are encountering blank stares, hysterical laughter and
even the odd beating as soon as they open their mouths abroad. For
think theyre saying
Can you direct me to the rest room ?
Excuse me, may I caress your buttocks ?
I am very pleased to meet you
My friend, your breath could knock over a water
May I please have film for my
Would you place your copious breasts in my mouth ?
We love you so much
Were here to take your head
am lost. Which way is uptown ?
know martial arts. May I kick your ass ?
guys are the best, keep it up
You have fat butts. Sit on my head
The book is already sold out and has become a collectors
It lends new meaning to the lament of Anglophone countries, coined by
Winston Churchill (or was it George Bernard Shaw),
Divided by a common language.
Quote of the Week
our sovereignty is what we have to lose to be readmitted into the
Commonwealth, well, we will say goodbye to the Commonwealth, and perhaps
time has now come to say so .... They tell me [Australian Prime Minister
John Howard] is one of those genetically-modified because of the criminal
ancestry he derives from - criminals were banished to Australia and New
Zealand by the British.
President Robert Mugabe,
reacting to Zimbabwes exclusion
from last weeks Commonwealth meeting in Nigeria
of Heads of Government,
as a result of violently rigging his presidential re-election in 2002