Just been watching a double episode of the British spy drama, “Spooks”. Been interesting to watch it evolve over the last three years.
This arc concerned a terrorist takeover of a Saudi trade mission in London, where Britain is to sign off on the sale of nuclear plants to Saudi Arabia. But what looks like an Al Aqaeda attack is actually a ploy by Israel’s Mossad to destabilise the agreement and send the country into turmoil. This would force the western countries to send in a peacekeeping force to ensure the flow of oil (hey, just like in Iraq, with the foreign companies getting the money, not the natives; or like the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, where the US and Indonesia would split the natural gas revenues if Australia could be persuaded to not intervene).
Of course, the gallant operatives of MI5, in spite of political and bureaucratic interference, managed to save the day. The single Mossad survivor ended up at Gitmo for a few years’ questioning, and all sides denied Israeli involvement because there was no proof. I thought about an SF story I read decades ago, where a spy was captured because his culture believed in circumcising males. British and US doctors must be damn stupid if they can’t tell the difference between clipped and unclipped males. The Mossad operatives were not trained from birth, and so would have been clipped. A good Muslim Al Qaeda terrorist would definitely not be clipped (would interfere with his enjoyment of the 72 houris he was promised in the afterlife). Wonder whether ignoring this was a plot device, or was everyone actually ignorant of the act of genital mutilation of males demanded by some cultures (I know of at least two women who had never seen a clipped male until they had seen my equipment, and I am far from unique in my experiences).
This brought to mind another information brief experience that occurred only the day before. I was watching a tape of the show “Air Crash Investigations”, concerning the flaw in the rear cargo door design of the DC-10 wide body. I the late 1970s, I had read a story in “The Reader’s Digest” about this matter, and it explained how the problem had only been found by chance when a plane managed to land after several had mysteriously crashed without evidence of the cause of the crash. It was put down to a combination of factors, but not highlighted was the known design fault by McDonnell Douglas.
The TV program related how the first known crash of the DC-10, the plane managed to land, and he US NTSB investigators concluded that the skill of the pilots had helped save the aircraft when the cargo door unlatched at 3500 metres in 1972. The door had not been closed properly by the ground crew. The same investigators examined the wreckage of another DC-10 crash in France two years later, and found that the same problem had occurred, in spite of McDonnell Douglas being told of the problem.
The bulk of the program concentrated on presenting evidence that McDonnell Douglas knew of the hazard two years before the first commercial flight, but had done very little (what was done was no stated), but after the first crash had not been ordered by the US FAA to correct it completely (even though a few fixes were recommended). Even so, the company did implement a few things. But publicity was avoided. In the French crash, the Turkish ground staff could not read the warnings written in English, and had not been told how to correctly close the cargo door. In spite of this, the program pilloried McDonnell Douglas, ignored the airlines’ incorrect training, and said that the outcome of a following court case killed the DC-10.
Problem is, the DC-10 died when engines began falling off just after takeoff. This was found to be due solely to incorrect maintenance procedures followed by the airlines, against McDonnell Douglas’s instructions. The DC-10 was quickly followed by the re-engineered DC-11. It was a damn good plane, but I have only seen it in service with the US military as an in-flight refueller, and In Japan where it was extremely popular until McDonnell Douglas died in the 90s.
My problem here is twofold. Firstly, a reputable magazine such as the “Digest” published a patently partisan feature that was definitely a pack of lies, designed to deceive. Either the magazine was bought, or the journalists were. Secondly, the TV show glossed over the role of poor airline staff training as being a major cause of the ultimate death of the DC-10. Why? Politically incorrect, especially at a time when airlines are being criticised widely for inadequate staff training and reduced staff numbers?
Today I noticed something strange about airline prices. Singapore Airlines was offering cheap return flights to London at about $2200 a seat economy and $10,000 business, while the same travel agent was offering seats to the same destination for $1585 economy and $4850 business. Singapore Airlines trying to move upmarket?
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