It is with a sense of foreboding that I face the world today. Three things have happened that are giving me that `uncertain feeling`.
Uncertain feeling Number 1: The UN Resolution that was passed last night, imposing punitive action from the air on the Gadaffi Regime. A bit late, and with the UK up front, is what concerns me the most, although I was bolstered a bit by the drive from the Arab League to impose it - bolstered, but wary as I always am of things Arabic and Gadaffi is more unpredictable than any - and a wily fox. Of course all this has happened within earshot of the echo of Mr Cameron's words that spelt the end of HMS Ark Royal and the Harrier squadrons. Still, we have those jolly nifty new Typhoons, aka Eurofighters, as well as our Tornados - but what about our troops in Afghan? Don't they need a bit of top cover? Perhaps Op. Libya will be treated as R&R for the pilots and groundcrew? And of course we have the French alongside us! Allez! Which reminded me of the last time I saw a French military jet `in action`. It was at the Farnborough Air Show in the mid 90`s. I was there as a guest of a company that had been assisting me in some research I was doing, in my role within the police, at that time.
On the final `official` day, I'd been treated to a 5 course lunch from a top chef in the hospitality suite. This was followed by a flght line seat and non stop refreshments as I watched a stunning display of aircraft piloted by their countries best aviators. The following day I was back there as all the aircraft were going home. At the briefing they were reminded by the Director of Flying, in no uncertain terms, that there was to be no `showboating or other flambouyant acts or gesture`s from the fast jet jockeys who were, after all, display pilots as well as military aviators and prone to the occasional case of oneupmanship. I was at the end of the main runway in a privileged position, with the excuse of talking to my chaps doing perimeter marshalling and traffic management. Being an aircraft enthusiast I was chuffed to be in a prime position to watch the hardware. Along came a Saab Gripen, the latest rugged all-weather, all purpose all Swedish beast, made famous in those Saab car advertisements. As the pilot turned into wind, he closed the canopy and spooled up the motor. A huge cone of intense flame blasted him down the runway. He lifted off and immediately retracted the wheels, remaining dead level for a few seconds before pulling sharply up into a vertical climb, a bit like a mini space shuttle launch. I went as deaf as a post, as did half the population of Farnborough. Exhilerating? Just a bit! No showboating from Sven, then.
The second notable departure came from a Russian Mig 29 that, the previous day, I had seen defying what I had hitherto believed were the rules of avionics, by doing slow and high speed manoevers that made me question what I had just seen, blaming the illusion on too much Chablis with my lunch. But it was all true. I had seen these laws re-written before my very eyes. The Mig pilot assumed the position, wound up his two engines, rolled down the runway, lifted off and then did the unexpected. He just seemed to remain stationary in mid air. He wasn't of course, but he was going so slowly and at such an acute angle that it looked like he was suspended from an invisible wire. Just as he reached the control tower, where the `No Stunts Please` briefing officer was no doubt watching this sober take off, he wound it up into a climb, slowly at first, before flipping it sidways and doing a half circuit and disappearing back to the Urals. Ears were now starting to bleed a little. Igor was eager to please.
Finally, to the point of the first point of this convoluted post. Whining its way along the taxi path came the latest in French joi de vivre. It was a development version of the well established Mirage 2000, the `D` variant that they had been doing a hard sell with. Along with all the other pilots, this `garcon` had clearly taken exception to the lecture by the Flight Director because as he taxied past the control tower, a glowing Gauloise cigarette butt was flicked out of the cockpit and arched across the tarmac, landing on the grass, still smouldering. He turned onto the main runway and as the jet engine's re-heat kicked in, a 20 foot long blue/orange cone of flame came stabbing out of the single, gaping jetpipe. He'd barely closed the cockpit as the plane started to accelerate. Just like the Saab, he lifted off and immediately retracted the undercarriage and levelled off at what seemed no more than 50 feet up. Then, in his own interpretation of the Director's briefing, he did a 180 degree roll and climbed out of Farnborough upside down, flipping it upright at about 500 feet. Beau Gesture.
So to our French chums, getting back in North Africa (where they seem to like to be, for some strange reason) I say, "Bon Chance".
I'll also bet a Looney that Canada will be there too. They're suppose to speak French (although none of my Canadian family do) so that might help. Any of their pilots Quebecois? That should make air traffic control out there a bit spicy! Bless them, anyway.
I almost forgot, I said there were 3 things that gave me that `uncertain feeling`,
Uncertain feeling Number 2: This morning Mrs Hogday asked me to bring her the bottle of Guinness that I had foolishly failed to drink last night (it was St Paddy's Day and I always have a few bottles of the dark stuff handy). She forced me to open it and pour it into the beef stew she was preparing. She was holding a large stainless steel spoon so I had no choice.
Uncertain feeling Number 3: What started all this uncertain feeling stuff was when I awoke from a terrible dream. I was riding my motorbike (couldn't tell which one) at high speed, towards The Mersey Tunnel. Suddenly the tunnel started to close up, like the shutting down of the aperture on a camera lens. The hole got smaller and smaller until it was clear I was going to crash. Then I opened my eyes just as the cat was about to sit on my face.
I really needed that Guinness.