Shoreham and the future of air shows

No person or organisation associated with the 2015 Shoreham flying display accident escaped criticism – implied or actual – in the Air Accident Investigation Branch’s final report.

When the aircraft that later crashed, the Hawker Hunter T7, took off from its North Weald, Essex base heading for Shoreham to fly the display, it had several time-expired or unserviceable components in it. In retrospect the AAIB report says it was not in compliance with its permit to fly, yet none of these faulty components caused the accident.

The Flying Display Director hired to manage show safety was fully qualified in terms of knowledge, experience and expertise to oversee all aspects of the flying display, but the report implies there were some things – like the exact display routine the Hunter was to fly – he should have risk-assessed manoeuvre by manoeuvre. Yet even if he had, the crash might still have happened.

The Hunter’s pilot was fully qualified in terms of experience, training, flying recency and medical fitness to carry out the display he had planned, but on the day he got one of the aerobatic manoeuvres badly wrong, making mistakes that are difficult to understand in somebody so experienced.

The mistakes meant that he himself was seriously injured when thrown clear of the aircraft on impact with the A27 highway next to the airfield, but 11 people on the road were killed.

By flying a similar Hunter through the same manoeuvres, the AAIB has determined that the pilot could not have pulled the aircraft out of his “bent loop” without hitting the ground once he had passed the apex too low and failed, at that point, to carry out an “escape manoeuvre” by rolling the aircraft upright.

If he had used his ejection seat during the high speed descent from the loop it would not have saved him, and the pilotless aircraft would have continued to impact with the ground, possibly in much the same place. The only way the pilot could have prevented killing the people on the A27, says the report, was to crash the aircraft into nearby fields, but during the last second or so he probably still hoped he could avoid harm to road-users by pulling up in time.

Why was he too low at the loop’s apex?

He should have entered the loop from a 500ft base, but he started at about 185ft. The height of the top of a loop compared with the entry height is a product of speed and engine power at entry. The aircraft should have entered at a minimum 350kt with full power selected, but the Hunter entered at 310kt with less than full power until well into the pull-up. The pilot should have aimed for a 4,000ft apex with 150kt indicated airspeed over the top, but in fact it got to less than 3,000ft with 105kt.

Unless the pilot recognised the lack of energy at that point and carried out the rolling escape manoeuvre, he and the aircraft were doomed.

Why a pilot with so much experience of teaching, let alone flying, aerobatic manoeuvres failed to heed these indicators that the loop was going wrong may never be known, because trauma has obliterated the details of the fatal flight from the pilot’s memory, according to the report.

Air shows involve risk. A study by the AAIB has recently quantified that risk, and my blog a year ago describes the findings in detail.

The final Shoreham report confirms the impressions given by the earlier AAIB bulletins on the subject. Because no-one in an on-site air display audience in UK has been killed since the early 1950s, such success appears to have led to complacency.

Not rampant complacency, but a relaxed belief that all the people involved are experts who know what they are doing, so they don’t need to be given the third degree before a show.

The sign that not all was well was the number of serious air display accidents, mostly fatal, that occurred just outside the area controlled by the display organisers – just like the Shoreham Hunter crash.

The AAIB found that 65% of all air show accidents came into that category, but almost always the only person harmed was the pilot. So nobody, including the CAA, raised the alarm, until now.

Meanwhile aerodromes used for decades as air show venues have suffered encroachment at their boundaries by expanding residential and industrial development. This affects the profiles aircraft are allowed to fly during a display, and flight display directors are bound to take this into account.

No longer are display lines, and entry and exit profiles dependent purely on where the display audience “crowd line” is, they have to take into account what each aircraft would have to do in the event of a technical or operational mishap during the display to avoid crashing into a nearby populated zone.

These are considerations that will affect air shows in the future. If a flying display stops being exciting, it might as well give up. Or go somewhere else more rural.

Coastal air displays will survive, because the escape route for aircraft in trouble is obvious.

The best example of the conundrum air show organisers face is what has happened to the traditional Red Arrows display at the biennial Farnborough International Air Show. When the Reds reviewed their Farnborough routine in detail following the tightened guidelines published in the early Shoreham bulletins, they found they had to curtail their display considerably.

In a statement following the release of the Shoreham final report, the CAA says: “We are fully committed to ensuring that all air shows take place safely, for the six million people who attend them each year in the UK and for the communities in which they take place.”

Let’s hope the CAA means what it says.

Airlines: the pre-Truth industry

Airline pilots today are obliged to steer their machines according to an instrument discovered in the earth’s Iron Age: the magnetic compass. Ships’ commanders only use that these days if all else fails.

By modern navigation standards the magnetic compass is not an accurate device. An aviator flying along a magnetic meridian toward either the North or South Magnetic Pole flies “a wiggly track” according to the Geomagnetism Team of the British Geological Survey. The pilot’s magnetic compass may display a constant heading, but the aircraft relying on it follows the gently wandering vagaries of the earth’s dipolar magnetic field.

In 2011 a Boeing 737 suffered a fatal crash on approach to land because of the artificially-induced complexities of a navigation system based on Magnetic North in a digital era (detail later). All four crew and eight of the 11 passengers were killed.

Modern aviation navigation can be conducted using a phenomenally accurate, multi-sensor system orientated to the earth’s spin axis, with reliable integrated backups. But in fact it’s compromised by the decision to continue using a legacy system of orientation based on the earth’s ever-changing magnetic field.

This dependency on steering by the earth’s dipolar magnetic field when technology provides far better alternatives is enforced by institutions like the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Air Transport Association which are content with the status quo.

For the time being at least.

ICAO’s maritime sibling, the International Maritime Organisation, approved navigation by True North/South beginning in the late 1970s, and now it is universal for all but a few coastal mariners who choose not to use GPS backed up by inertial navigation systems (INS). Now the IMO is in the final stages of implementing standards for what it calls “e-navigation”, its way of describing the use of the best available integrated digital, satellite and other technology, plus best practice, to achieve the most accurate and reliable navigation at sea, all with the earth’s spin axis as the directional orientation reference.

ICAO itself, on the other hand, commented recently: “This issue [navigation by True North] is not on our work programme at present.”

Asked for a comment on the situation, the UK CAA said: “We understand the issue, and with the increased use of GPS etc., moving to True North does make more sense. Also as more aerodromes look to formalise GNSS (global navigation satellite systems) approaches the logic is clear.”

So why not adopt True North? It’s not the CAA’s job to make this decision (rather it’s for ICAO and EASA), but the CAA slightly apologetically offered this explanation on behalf of the international aviation establishment: “If you were starting from a blank sheet of paper with the technology available today, you would select True North. But aviation started with magnetic from the outset. The infrastructure supporting aviation is also based on magnetic, including VORs, runway directions, approach procedures, radar etc.”

ICAO and IATA argue that navigation by magnetic track still works, so there’s no need to face the effort and cost of moving to an orientation system based on Earth’s spin axis (True North/South) despite the fact that the cost of changeover would be one-off.

Maintaining the existing system, which requires regular updating as the earth’s two magnetic poles constantly migrate relative to the geographic North and South Poles, has a continual cost, but that’s apparently fine because it’s built in to the system’s budget, so no new decisions need to be made.

Magnetic navigation is fine as a backup system – and nobody doubts that every aircraft will continue to carry a standby magnetic compass in the cockpit as long as manned flight lasts. The IMO requires all ships to have a magnetic compass, but to steer by a system using True North.

Maps and charts are oriented according to the earth’s spin axis – True North/South. This is also the orientation datum programmed into the firmware of the aircraft flight management computers (FMC). They have to convert their orientation information to Magnetic to pass it to the avionics displays, unless the pilots choose to select True, which, of course, they can. But air traffic management protocol requires them to use Magnetic when operating under instrument flight rules (IFR).

Air traffic controllers still pass magnetic headings for pilots to steer for procedures and traffic separation purposes. Pilots still navigate by adopting Magnetic headings which are actually converted from True by the FMS and shown on their compasses in the primary flight display/navigation display.

The FMS does this by applying a “variation” between Magnetic and True that was embedded in the firmware when the system was set up.

This variation value needs to be updated regularly, but it rarely is, despite the fact that, in the last 40 years the rate of migration of the Magnetic North Pole (MNP) has accelerated dramatically. FMS software is easily updated, but firmware is more of a problem.

In fact the surface position of the MNP is forecast to reach its closest point relative to the Geographic North Pole (GNP) in 2020 (approximately 87N 170E), and then it will continue moving tangentially past the GNP toward Russia’s north coast. Therefore the so-called magnetic heading most aircraft are flying is inaccurate because the variation value – in many fleets – has not been updated since the FMS was new.

THE RESULTING FATAL CRASH

As a result of this built-in disparity, in 2011 an airliner fatally crashed into high ground because the pilots were confused by an inaccurate compass heading.

On 20 August 2011 the crew of the Bradley Air Services Boeing 737-210C (C-GNWN) were attempting an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to the airport at Resolute Bay, Nunavut, in Canada’s far northern islands, somewhat closer to the Magnetic North Pole than most aviators usually get to fly. The airfield and approach charts – and therefore the procedures – show True North for orientation. This is customary in polar regions because the magnetic field lines close to the Magnetic North Pole have a strong vertical component, so the lateral strength of the field reduces. Meanwhile the variation can be enormous.

The Resolute Bay ILS approach that day was to runway 35T, the localiser orientated to 347degT. The magnetic variation at Resolute Bay at the time was 28degW.

The autopilot was initially set to VOR/LOC Capture, and the compass system set to True, but according to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) report there was a compass error. The captain was flying 330degT according to the heading on his horizontal situation indicator (HSI), perceiving the intercept angle to be 17deg from the right of the localiser (347T).

The report explains: “However, due to the compass error, the aircraft’s true heading was 346deg. With 3deg of wind drift to the right, the aircraft diverged further right of the localiser. The crew’s workload increased as they attempted to resolve the ambiguity of the track divergence, which was incongruent with the perceived intercept angle and expected results.”

resolute-bay-approach-2

Diagram from TSBC report

This is what happens when pilots don’t know what to believe, and in a region where there are three Norths – Magnetic, True, and Grid (the latter for local charts), confusion is the default when things don’t proceed as expected.

The crew were indeed confused and decided to abandon the approach, but just as they were initiating the go-around the 737 flew into a snow-covered rocky hilltop about a mile east of the airfield. It didn’t help that the aircraft was fitted with an old fashioned – rather than an enhanced – ground proximity warning system, and that the crew were under additional pressure because they began the descent well above the glideslope.

Spurred by this event, at ICAO’s Air Navigation Conference in November 2012 Nav Canada proposed that aviation should stop using magnetic references and use only directional orientation relative to the Geographic North Pole.

This makes particular sense for any country – like Canada – with territories that approach the arctic or antarctic regions, who are forced to use True close to the magnetic poles, but it would also work perfectly worldwide. But the Montreal-headquartered ICAO has still not put the issue on its “to do” list.

Now, however, with more flights than ever transiting the Arctic ocean on routes between North America and South East Asia or India, steering by Magnetic North makes little sense, although it just happens that the Magnetic North Pole is now migrating closer to the Geographic North Pole than it has ever been in recorded history.

That imminent closeness of the two North Poles is used by the pro-True lobby to suggest this is a natural time to change, because the changes required will be the smallest they have ever been. But it is change itself that presents the one-off cost, and which demands scarce human resources to organise it, not the mathematical size of the variation between Magnetic and True.

The following rather simplified chart shows that the advantages – in today’s world – of Magnetic are few, and the disadvantages many and compelling, while the advantages of True are powerful and its disadvantages relatively trivial.

mag-vs-true-3-2

Maybe at present there is no actual urgency to adopt True North as aviation’s navigation lodestar, but industry voices on the subject are muted, as if it is bad form to step out of line.

A major European airline, not alone in its beliefs, has a compelling and detailed presentation on the subject, in which it concludes : “Transition from magnetic to true reference is unavoidable. The transition phase will need further studies in order to maintain the safety objectives. Time is ripe to start the transition process.” But the carrier was not prepared to break cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MH370: where to go for the final sweep

According to current plans, and if no new information comes to light, the Australian Transportation Safety Board says it will suspend the MH370 search indefinitely on 2 January 2017. The Chinese have already stopped their search.

For those who understand aviation operations, here is a final blast of the raw information that Capt Simon Hardy established through his mathematical and geometric examination of known data. If you’re new to this story, scroll back to to the previous one to establish what that data was.

Below is a diagram showing the tracks Hardy reckons MH370 followed. This is according to his calculations.

route-map-image

 

Now follows a flight plan which delivers the track Hardy worked out. This flight plan was fed into a Boeing 777 full flight simulator. Be patient, because it’s a long trip and the FP covers four pages of A4 (and that leaves out the calculations for a proposed diversion to Learmonth in Western Australia, on the grounds that the simulator will reject a flight plan without at least one planned alternate).

Hardy explains:

“I deduced a route mathematically using my technique, which has no relation  to how much fuel was on board. Months later I used an airline system and entered this route to see where the aircraft would run out of fuel. Inputting the actual MH370 takeoff fuel of 49.1 tonnes – and allowing the system to do the usual route flight levels and speeds – resulted in a predicted fuel starvation within 12sec of where it should, after 7h 38min.

“The document that follows is an Airline Operational Flight Plan, the kind that thousands of pilots are using in flight right now.

“On long flights of 13 hours it will rarely be out by more than a few minutes and a few hundred kilos of fuel at the destination, once the actual takeoff time has been written in.

“This plan shows the aircraft running out of fuel 1min 48sec before the 7th arc (-175kg), using one turn point ANOKO, and one track of 188degT that was derived from my technique.

“The time the ATSB propose for the 777 to run out of fuel is 2min before the
7th arc (the error is just 12sec after 7h 38min).

“Aircraft Weight and fuel on board are correct as per MH370’s load sheet. Fuel
consumption is as 9M-MRO, although this [simulator] is a different 777 adapted to perform exactly the same.

“Initial Flight level is FL370 instead of FL350 but a cruise time of less than 30min before transponder failure and unknown levels is so short as to make little difference. Simulator system constraints mean once it turns west it must be at ‘even’ flight levels, hence the climb toFL380.

“Winds are forced to zero as they were unknown at the time. Ratio of times 60/90 shows as 60/86. I postulated in December 2014 that this may be due to increasing headwind as we travelled towards 6th arc. This was later proved to be correct! Application of winds will take the result away from 12 seconds
error to 2min error. This is still an astounding result and is only true
for the route inputted, and for the take off fuel of 49.1 tonnes”

End of quote.

The ATSB has all Hardy’s work including this FP.

Here are the four sheets that make up the flight plan.

fp-page-1

 

 

fp-page-2

 

 

fp-page-3

 

fp-page-4

 

Hardy welcomes comment and questions via this blog.

The minutes are ticking away to the ATSB’s suspension of the search, even as the arrival of the southern hemisphere midsummer makes searching easier. The aviation world, and all those associated with MH370, wish them luck during these last weeks.

MH370 search to stop just short of Hardy’s predicted position

Two years ago Boeing 777 captain Simon Hardy calculated the most likely position of MH370’s undersea remains using only established facts and mathematics.

The Australian-led international search for the lost Malaysia Airlines 777, however, may be suspended in December just short of that position unless existing plans are amended.

Hardy’s proposed position, and the methodology that determined it, has been widely published, both in Flight International magazine in January 2015 and a month earlier on the web via FlightGlobal.com.

Most theories posted to the web – especially related to serious subjects like this – usually attract massive peer criticism and public comment, but Hardy’s has faced no criticism, just requests for clarification.

It has, however, attracted great interest, and he has met the Australian Transport Safety Board at their request more than once to talk about it.

He has now posted a spoken explanation of his methodology to YouTube, so if you want to test your mathematics and geometry, go there.

Hardy’s calculations put the resting position of MH370 just outside the planned area for the multinational search effort, close to its southern end. So the methodology that the official search team used produced results that are pretty close to the predictions Hardy reached independently.

Here is the ATSB’s explanation, posted on 21 September, as to why they will not look in Hardy’s predicted position even if the remainder of the planned search fails to find the aircraft:

“At a meeting of Ministers from Malaysia, Australia and the People’s Republic of China held on 22 July 2016, it was agreed that should the aircraft not be located in the current search area, and in the absence of credible new evidence leading to the identification of a specific location of the aircraft, the search would be suspended upon completion of the 120,000 square kilometre search area.”

The ATSB makes the intention clear: “It is expected that searching the entire 120,000 square kilometre search area will be completed by around December 2016.”

Hardy’s calculations put the MH370 wreck just outside that area, and they cannot be defined as “new evidence” because the ATSB knows about them already and has decided, without explaining why, not to search there.

By December the arrival of the southern hemisphere summer will have made the search much easier.

Hopefully the search team will find the aircraft remains within their planned search area. But what if they don’t?

If the ATSB won’t go there, Hardy is considering crowdfunding to extend the search for a few weeks into the area indicated by his work.

 

 

Daedalus spreads its wings

The operating future of the old Royal Navy aerodrome at Daedalus is assured, says its owner Fareham Borough Council. We know, they say, because we put £1.5 million into it after we bought it last year, including resurfacing the runway.

To be fair, that looks like an organisation putting its money where its mouth is, but what about the proposed on-site National Grid interconnector terminal that – by running high power electricity cables under the aerodrome – could interfere with aviation activity and high-tech systems by creating a powerful electromagnetic field above ground?

Not on my watch, says Fareham’s Executive Leader Councillor Sean Woodward. “We saved this site for aviation, so we’re not going to do anything to damage that.”

Yes, he says, the interconnector will be sited at Daedalus to the north of the airfield, but not until means have been agreed to neutralise any electromagnetic effects, whether by shielding or by burying them at sufficient depth underground. At the moment the aerodrome costs Fareham about £0.3 million a year, says Woodward, and income from the new tenant would help with investment while they work to make the airfield sustainable.

And they have plenty of investment plans still to run, says Woodward. The big plan, already under way, is to use non-operational land on the Daedalus site to attract aviation, aerospace engineering and marine industries that would benefit from being based on an operational aerodrome. This is not such a far-fetched idea when Daedalus’ location at Lee-on-the-Solent is wedged between the civil marine port of Southampton and the military harbour at Portsmouth, plus Britten-Norman and NATS are already on site, and the airfield has a runway capable of serving business jets.

Woodward says he doesn’t see the aerodrome as the main money-maker – for the time being at least – but as the attraction to lure businesses to the site. One of the incumbents already at Daedalus is a technical college, CEMAST – Centre of Excellence in Engineering Manufacturing and Advanced Skills Training for the aerospace, marine and automotive industries. It accepts 900 students a year, all places taken.

daedalus-tower
RCA (Regional and City Airports) manages the airfield and air traffic control for Fareham

While at Daedalus last week I detected an infectious enthusiasm among people at all levels there, born of a respect for the site’s long aviation history and a determination to capitalise on it.

daedalus-slipway-hovercraft
Serious aviation history here. Daedalus was a RN Air Service seaplane base in WW1, before it became an aerodrome. Taken from the seashore, this picture shows the seaplane base slipway and the old hangars at the top. And the Hovercraft Museum that’s sited there too.

 

 

 

Lessons from Dubai

The 3 August Emirates Boeing 777 crash at Dubai may have happened a while ago, but the man/machine interface implications are so complex it still has human factors experts’ heads spinning.

Following an uneventful final approach to runway 12L the aircraft hit the runway with its gear in the retraction cycle, slid to a halt on its belly and burst into flames. All on board got out alive before the fire destroyed the fuselage, but a firefighter was killed by a fuel tank explosion.

That’s a surprising outcome for a serviceable aeroplane carrying out a normal landing at its home base.

So what happened?

Flight EK521 was inbound from Thiruvananthapuram, India carrying 282 passengers and 18 crew. The ambient temperature was high, nearly 50degC, and there was a windshear warning on all runways, but this did not cite high winds or powerful gusts. Probably the wind was swinging around under the influence of vertical air currents generated by intense surface heating combined with the coastal effect.

When the 777 had about 5nm to go on approach to 12L ATC cleared it to land and told the crew the surface wind was 340deg/11kt. That’s a touchdown-zone tailwind.

As the aircraft descended through 1,100ft on final approach the aircraft was also registering an airborne tailwind. It persisted almost all the way down.

But apart from the tailwind on the aircraft’s approach, the descent was uneventful until just before touchdown. At that point the tailwind switched to a headwind, adding about 20kt to the 777’s airspeed.

Around 5sec after the flare the right gear touched down about 1,100m beyond the threshold, and 3sec after that both main gear touchdown switches were made and the RAAS (runway awareness advisory system) voiced the alert “long landing, long landing”.

Questions still remain about exactly what happened next on the flightdeck. Who did what, and why?

The United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority has released some factual information about weather and aircraft performance, but the investigators are expected to take another three months or so to ready their final report.

Meanwhile from what the GCAA has released, we know that the captain was the pilot flying. He disconnected the autopilot at about 900ft on approach but left the autothrottle in. When he began the flare at 35ft AGL the throttles retarded to idle, and within about 10sec both touchdown switches had been made.

What happened next, or at least why it happened, is difficult to work out.

Witnesses say the aircraft “bounced” from the first touchdown. But the crew was attempting a go-around – possibly prompted by the “long landing” alert mentioned earlier – so the “bounce” may have been the result of the crew pulling the nose up for a go-around.

Some 4sec after the warning the aircraft was airborne again, the crew reduced the flap setting to 20deg, and 2sec later selected the gear up, both acts part of a go-around drill.

But the throttle levers remained at idle.

About 5sec after the aircraft had become airborne the tower, noticing the apparent intention,  cleared the aircraft straight ahead to 4,000ft, and the crew read that back. Then the first officer called “check speed”, the throttle levers were moved from idle to fully forward, and the autothrust transitioned from idle mode to thrust mode.

Unfortunately the increasing engine power arrived too late to prevent the aircraft sinking back onto the runway with its gear almost fully up. It slid on its belly for 800m before coming to rest with the right engine detached and a fire under that wing.

The GCAA interim report doesn’t mention whether or not the crew attempted to trigger go-around power by selecting the TO/GA (take-off/go-around) switches at the time of the go-around decision, but it appends a page from the flight crew operating manual about autothrust modes.  It contains this sentence: “The TO/GA switches are inhibited when on the ground and enabled again when in the air for a go around or touch and go.”

This situation raises questions galore. In a go-around situation the drill is to select power first, then set the appropriate flap, then register a positive rate of climb and pull the gear up. Maybe the crew thought activating TO/GA was enough, but they didn’t monitor engine power, throttle lever movement or rate of climb before retracting the gear.

This is basic stuff, so what’s going on here?

Are we witnessing the actions of a crew rendered insensitive by automation, or de-skilled by the same thing? Or is this an event involving mode-confusion because of the complexity of modern aircraft and their smart control systems?

The industry is going through a crisis of confidence in pilot training. The doubt arises from increasing numbers of accidents that began with a non-critical fault or distraction and result in the pilots becoming startled and not acting as they had been trained to do.

Behind it all is the fact that today’s aircraft and their systems are impressive and reliable, but ultra-complex. Meanwhile the basic approach to pilot training is the much the same at was in the pre-digital era.

Emirates is in the vanguard of modern attitudes toward evidence-based training, but maybe the fundamentals are set before pilots reach the line.

Finally, pilots are never really trained to operate the digital systems they use all the time at work. They just learn that on the job.

Let’s go back a bit to the quote from the Emirates 777 FCOM: “The TO/GA switches are inhibited when on the ground and enabled again when in the air for a go around or touch and go.”

I bet the pilots never tried that in the simulator.

Modern aeroplanes now are rather like personal computers in the relationship pilots have with them: most people are skillful users of tablets or laptops for routine tasks, but never have a chance to try out their full capabilities, most of which would rarely be needed. But if things go wrong or something unusual happens, the user is often out of his depth.

The Royal Aeronautical Society is hosting its two-day International Flight Crew Training Conference in London next week. This is one of the subjects that will be examined there.

Will Daedalus soon be wingless?

Image result for hms daedalus

Lee-on-Solent airfield, originally the site of the Royal Naval Air Services’ first seaplane base in 1917, was also a Fleet Air Arm training base in WW2 as HMS Daedalus . The picture, looking east, shows its coastal location between Portsmouth harbour (seen in the distance) and Southampton Water

The historic Daedalus airfield, still operating as Solent Airport (EGHF), is a CAA-licensed general aviation aerodrome, with airline traffic served by Southampton airport to its north-west and Bournemouth to the west.

It is also home to Britten-Norman, which proudly calls itself the UK’s only independent aircraft manufacturer, still churning out updated civil and military variants of the perennially popular Islander/Trislander series more than 50 years after the type first flew.

More than 1,250 Islander series aircraft have been produced, and B-N operates a specialist MRO support service for them at Lee-on-Solent. But as an aeronautical engineering company it also carries out sophisticated mission systems integration for the Defender variant and other aircraft.

Now the base is under threat as an aviation site.

Fareham Borough Council, which owns it, is tempted to accept offers to locate a massive National Grid electrical supply interconnector terminal close by. This 10-acre, 25m-high terminal will be an electrical power supply interconnector with France, and if it goes ahead many extremely high voltage electrical cables will run underneath Daedalus’ runways and taxiways.

This will seriously mess up simple things like compass swings, but the calibration of mission systems and any other equipment affected by powerful electromagnetic fields will also be threatened.

Considering the interconnector terminal could equally efficiently be located the other side of Southampton Water at Fawley on a site that has always been industrial, threatening Daedalus, Britten-Norman and local general aviation in this way just because Fareham Borough Council likes the colour of National Grid’s money is, to put it mildly, short-sighted.