AN APOLOGY TO THE B.A.L.P.A.

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AN APOLOGY TO THE B.A.L.P.A.

Sir,

The most colourful phrases—like the most colourful young ladies—display the least depth. Failure to recognise this fact induced me to commit a “whimsy ” that went ” wharnsy ” when I referred to ” frenetic young air-line captains,” and I apologise unreservedly for this offence. It is generally accepted that the physical and mental equipment required by a modern aviator grade him as one of the elite of any nation. I am also aware that the landing of a transport aircraft requires cool, calculated handling, and that the use of the term juggling ” in this connection—while acceptable to your general readers—is loose to the point of being blowsy when addressed to the Secretary of the B.A.L.P.A.

My intention was to contrast the frenetic conditions of modern jet-travel with those of the more peaceful past. I still believe that the adjective does not over-state the environment. In support of this, may I quote from an article entitled ” Airborne Computers ” published in ” The Times Survey of British Aviation, 1961.” . . .

” The air traffic controller has, therefore, been placed in a position where not only is the volume of traffic increasing very rapidly but the information available on each element of such traffic has also increased. The result has been almost to overwhelm the controller and to make it extremely difficult for hint always to make the right decisions.” Then, two paragraphs further on : ” To accomplish this (improvement in safety and economy) an increasing number of commands must be communicated to the pilot of the aircraft concerned and these involve both an increase in the number of communication channels and the ability of the pilots to carry out accurately the tasks required. The capacity of the communication chahnels is approaching its limit and the aircrew are already kept so fully occupied that it would seem unreasonable to place any further tasks upon them,”

The article goes on to explain that digital computers similar to those used for industrial process control are being developed to sort out and channel the information available to the ground controller from radar and communication systems. in addition, a computer will be needed in the aircraft.

Me and The Times both • just a pair of ‘ blabber-mouths.” I would like to ” sit in ” on the flight deck of a jet transport during approach and landing but only because I gain .pleasure from seeing a skilled specialist at work— whether he be an air-line pilot or a plumber. The principle’s of flight have beets with us for nearly sixty years, and I doubt if any interested layman needs a pilot’s course in order to have, at least, a broad conception of the problems involved in landing an aircraft. It occurs ‘to me that it is not the medical profesSion alone that credits the lay mind with feeble intelligence and leas imagination.

I will not join issue against Lt. Dunbar-Dempsey’s contention that I am all resentful, bitter and twisted and need a ” Father Figure” (who does not, by the way ?). This is fair tit-for-tat against my equally ill-mannered attack upon airline pilots, but if his allegations were true, they would not invalidate my criticism of the trend towards increased speeds in the air and on the ground when the .structure and organisation in both spheres can barely cope with traffic speed and density of twenty years ago.

If I am resentful, it is of this trend that ha’s taken flying out of the hands of ordinary people and confined it to a dying group of specialists. Increased air speeds can only hasten the day when members of the B.A.L.P.A. will be superseded by a little black box that squawks.

The pattern of progress is 1101 peculiar to aviaticin. Back in the days when engineering foremen wore howler hats and celluloid collars, tradesmen possessed a broad armoury of skills. A turner could take a raw chunk of metal, put it through the forge; shape. tuns, mill, drill and grind it to a finished component— with the knowledge that his talents were unexceptional. Modern production methods have driven the few surviving virtuosos into the tool-rooms of this country. They will shortly be winkled out and replaced by more ornamental but comparatively brainless young popsies who will sit at a keyboard and type instructions to the inevitable black box via magnetic tape.

Humanity lost a little something when the bow and arrow replaced the spear, and each succeeding ” scientific breakthrough ” hastens us towards that ultimate Wellsian end as ‘• little gray bladders of brain croaking on some desolate beach.”

But take heart, you bods. We still have the fair sex. With luck, they will continue to baffle science indefinitely.

Hutton. D. F. 13owtatN.