The Red Arrows August 21st, 2011
Like most, I was saddened yesterday to hear the reports of one the Red Arrows tragically crashing and it’s pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging loosing his life at the annual Bournemouth Air Festival.
I think it’s important before I start diversifying to pay a personal tribute to the pilot, whilst the details are still vague the general consensus is that he stayed with his aircraft to the point of no return to ensure that his aircraft did not crash into a populated area killing others; he must have known that in doing so the outcome personally was not going to be a good one, it’s split second selfless decisions like this that define true heroism. Much respect Jon.
No doubt at one stage or another in our lives we have all seen the Red Arrows display whether in personal or on the television and there can be no doubt, they are without question one of the finest aerial display teams on the planet. The pilots flying skills are a testament not only to themselves but to the world class training received by our armed forces. It’s easy to forget that the pilots serving in the Red Arrows are front line fast jet RAF pilots first and foremost plying their trade with a smile of their faces.
However, given the state of the UK economy and our military activities overseas, especially considering the recent Defence Spending Review, I do have to question the place the Red Arrows have in the RAF; I want to stress though that my feelings are not aimed at the pilots, the crew or anyone associated directly with the team but with the system of decision making at a very high level.
Having a quick glance over the official website the Red Arrows have at their disposal a team of highly skilled and qualified personnel, a fleet of modern fast jet aircraft and a large support mechanism; it’s not just this that factors into my thoughts though, for every resource given to the Red Arrows, there is a resource denied or taken away from the front line, remember the pilots of the Red Arrows are active front line RAF pilots and whilst they are serving with the Red Arrows, they are away from the front line. I’ve never been in the forces myself but I’m sure if I had of been, I’d have appreciated a few extra aircraft overheard watching my back.
At any given time, the team have the following (not a comprehensive list by any means) at their disposal:
- 9 highly trained, exceptional fast jet pilots.
- 9 experienced aircraft engineers, each working on a specific aircraft alongside it’s pilot.
- A large engineering team and engineering support team.
- Management and base staff, including the base itself of course.
- Public relations team.
On top of this they also have a fleet of BAE Systems Hawk T1 aircraft, including the 9 actual display aircraft I believe this totals 13 aircraft in all.
I haven’t taken the time to look into how much this all costs in any detail and how much we as tax payers contribute to this but let’s be realistic, it’s not cheap. According to the Red Arrows official website we do not contribute to foreign displays as this cost is met in the most part by sponsors such as BAE, but of course as I mentioned above this is only part of the story; we are still taking front line pilots away from protecting our troops currently serving in dangerous situations, Afghanistan for example. The material cost of the team is only half the story.
“The benefits of the Red Arrows far outweigh the cost, promoting British interests and acting as an international ambassador for British industry. Further information relating to budgets should be directed to Royal Air Force 22 Group.
The Ministry of Defence considers that British tax payers should not bear the cost of overseas tours. The Red Arrows overseas tours, representing and demonstrating the very best of British excellence, are largely met by sponsors.”
The above is a quote from the FAQ section of the official website, the very fact that they feel the need to mention this tells me that a lot of people must be questioning the costs, especially the cost to us, the British taxpayer. It’s not what is said that I find the most interesting, it’s what’s not said. Clearly the powers that be do not want to publicise how much money it costs to run the team. A little bit of research on Google turned up this freedom of information act request from the beginning of last year which helps to fill in the blanks a little.
I’m certainly not against the Red Arrows, I have seen them on a number of occasions and there is no question they are an awe inspiring sight; but the glory days are gone, it’s time to face hard realities and I wonder if the public purse should be continuing to fund them in their current capacity. At the very least, why not return the pilots and engineers to front line duties during times of conflict and allow the team to take a break. I’m not against us displaying what a great nation we are but I don’t think we are in a position to do this as a matter of course any more. I think questions need to be asked.
I think it’s only right to end this post in a similar way to how it started. The Red Arrows only recruit pilots who have proved themselves on the front line, all Red Arrow pilots have seen active duty and have put themselves in harms way to preserve our way of life. The pilot in yesterdays tragic accident was no exception, seeing action in Afghanistan piloting a Harrier GR9 prior to joining the team and it’s for that I feel he should be remembered along with all the other servicemen and women who have lost their lives in conflicts to date.
My condolences go out to his family and friends.
BA Strike Action. The Saga Continues May 17th, 2010
I’m sat here watching the on-going battle between British Airways and Unite – the union representing the BA cabin crew – on Sky News. So as we all know, Unite members were due to start the first of their most recent bouts of strike action later this evening at midnight. BA have today sought an injunction at the High Court and have been granted this effectively ruling the strike action illegal as Unite did not follow the correct procedures during their most recent ballot (you’d have thought they would have learnt by now); so it got me thinking, just why are the cabin crew so against BA, after all BA pay their wages and in the current financial crisis I’d have thought they would have been glad of the job, especially as it’s the sort of job (I’d imagine) which they choose not only for financial gain, but also for the lifestyle and associated perks.
A quick search and I find this document on the Unite website outlining why they are striking. So, point for point here are my thoughts:
- “In November 2009, management imposed cuts in staffing levels that crew believe are damaging the airline’s standards as a premier carrier”
Well actually, isn’t that the managements job? I mean to look at its business model and operating costs and make cuts if necessary. Certainly, BA would not be the only company to have been forced to make budgetary costs during the recession. As for the cabin crew believing that the policy and reductions are damaging the airline’s standards as a premier carrier I have two thoughts. Firstly, that’s not your decision to make; you’re paid to do a job so get on and do it. Secondly, what standards? I refuse to fly long haul with BA as I feel the standards over the last 10 years have dropped significantly, not least owing to a large proportion of the cabin crew staff that I have found rude and inattentive compared with some of the newer airlines still in their infancy.
- “Staffing levels have been cut from four to three on the Euro-fleet, while long-haul crews have seen reductions of between one to three”
We’re in a recession, honestly what do people expect? Surely it’s better to reduce the staffing levels and maintain the operability of the airline? Or should they keep things as they are and wait for the company to go bust? I do feel for those affected, honestly I do but when the figures don’t add up changes need to be made, its basic business. The reduction in crew should not cause any problems in the real world but means simply that those lucky enough to keep their jobs have to work that little bit harder.
- “Unite members say that service is suffering because of these cuts”
Of course they do, otherwise they could not justify the industrial action. Regardless, based on my experiences and that of colleagues I would again argue what service? Perhaps if the cabin crew stopped counting how many colleagues were on the same plane and concentrated on serving the passengers albeit having to work that little bit harder, the service levels would organically improve. After all the biggest judge of service is the passenger, not the cabin crew. If the passenger feels that the service received was good they will return, the more passengers that return the more money the company will make and the staffing levels will no doubt return to where they ‘should be’. Surely by striking the service is suffering more?
- “This dispute can only be avoided if BA is prepared to make a serious attempt to find a negotiated settlement”
Actually it could all be avoided if the Unite members simply stop causing a problem and get on with what they are paid to do – their job.
- “The airline should start by putting the offer made during negotiations back on the table so that Unite can give members the right to accept or reject BA’s proposal. Unite is prepared to halt the strike while members are consulted and will stand by the crew’s decision. The ball is clearly in BA’s court”
Since when do people accept a job and then demand their own working conditions. No, sorry but you knew the deal when you joined, if you have to serve 3 passengers instead of 2 I’m sorry but that’s life. BA as a company has the right to change policy without asking your permission; I do not see how the cuts have a noticeable impact on your day to day roles apart from meaning you have to work a little harder. Just go ask a factory worker about hard work. Besides, re-read the statement. Whilst I am not sure of the exact circumstances it reads that Unite want BA to remake an offer that they have already made? If this is the case then why discount it when it was made, it’s not BA’s fault that you said no without even offering your members a chance to vote.
- “BA has been applying bullying tactics. British Airways’ management, under its boss Willie Walsh, has bullied and intimidated staff for months now. Over the last two months 38 workers who are union members have been suspended and now risk losing their jobs”
And no doubt if this were to be true they would have legal recourse through the courts. If there were clear undisputable evidence then why is Willie Walsh not facing charges? Unsubstantiated hearsay should not be a reason to cause strike action.
The document then goes on the list ‘The Facts’:
- “BA crew are not overpaid. 70% earn less than £20,000 per year”
I don’t understand what this has to do with anything. Before signing a contract of employment salary is clearly outlined and accepted. Besides, as I mentioned before cabin crew largely are attracted to the role by the travel perks and benefits, which Unite conveniently play down. Let’s not forget the 1.52million people in the UK currently claiming Job Seekers Allowance; I’m sure they’d love to become cabin crew for the existing pay and conditions.
- “BA cabin crew are not mindless militants, they are highly trained professional who are proud of the BA brand. They do not believe that you can run a premier airline with too few crew”
I actually agree with this in part, I think it’s Unite who are the mindless militants in this case, not the cabin crew. As for being proud of the brand I simply have one question. If the cabin crew are so proud then why seek to damage the brand further? Why not instead work with the resources they have available to ensure its success. The way things are going I see no winners and that, ultimately, means more job losses.
- “Despite a year of talks BA has refused to listen to its cabin crew and has imposed cuts in crew numbers that seriously undermines the high service BA customers’ expect”
Of course this is subjective. I’m sure that there would have been opinion groups established to report to management the views of the cabin crew, it’s naïve to think that every employee would be able to have their thoughts listened to, but I fail to believe that they have not listened to any genuine concerns. The cuts that have been imposed have been done so to ensure the on-going survival of the airline. I’m sure that if the recession had not hit then this would not have happened but let’s be fair, you cannot blame BA for the recession.
It strikes me that this has got out of hand, I wonder if with the benefit of hindsight whether a lot of the cabin crew affected would have pushed this so hard. Ultimately the prospect of strike action is causing long lasted damage to BA; a lot of customers are simply not willing to take the risk and are booking with rival airlines. I for one don’t blame them.
Instead of the legal back and forth, I wish the courts would simply stop strike action and stop Unite from going round and round in circles, giving BA and the airline industry in general time to recover and rebuild after the recession. Of course on the flip side, perhaps BA should be seen to be being a little more approachable to its staff. Ultimately decisions are made for business reasons and I see no reason why this should not be the case but I’m sure they could work a little harder to justify their decisions with their employees and prevent so much animosity.
Now that’s off my chest, I think it’s time to change the channel, EastEnders has started ;)
Gordon Brown November 9th, 2009
Firstly I’d like to say that I’m not much for politics; sure I watch the news as often as I can and try to keep up on current affairs but when it comes to individual parties, policies or politicians themselves, in my experience they are all as bad as one another. There are pros and cons for all of them. Gordon Brown has faced his fair share of criticism since becoming Prime Minister, some justified, some not so. I think anyone who becomes Prime Minster is open to criticism, whether we like the person or not I think we would all agree that it is a tough job in more ways than one.
My problem with Gordon Brown has nothing to do with politics; it has nothing to do with his parties policies. My problem is with the way in which he continues to fumble his way through life, seemingly blasé of his responsibilities and the way he should be acting, all the while receiving an extremely large pay check, paid by us the taxpayers.
I was reading through the papers this morning and came across the latest articles, featuring yet more stories documenting his trail of let downs.
The leading story is of a letter which he sent to a mother whose son recently died in Afghanistan. The conflict requires no introduction; it seems not a day goes by that we do not hear of another tragic loss, the loss of another son, another father or another husband. War is nasty business, I don’t blame Gordon Brown for us (the British Armed Forces) being in Afghanistan, the whys and what for’s are I think the responsibility of more than one man; though we may not like to admit to the fact, sometimes war in inevitable and necessary to preserve our way of life. However, Gordon Brown in his position of Prime Minister has a responsibility to represent the government, the country and in a roundabout kind of way us the public in expressing his gratitude and condolences to the family and friends of the fallen. It comes with the territory as they say and if he cannot be ‘bothered’ to do it properly then it’s time to step down. As well as wrongly-spelt names, the letter to the dead soldier’s mother contained four other mistakes. He wrote ‘greatst’ for greatest, ‘condolencs’ for condolences, ‘you’ instead of your and ‘colleagus’ instead of colleagues. He also spelt security as ‘securiity’. To show how personal the letter was and how much effort he had put into writing it, he ended the letter with repetition by writing ‘my sincere condolences’ and ‘yours sincerely’. In total the letter had more than 20 mistakes in it, not bad for a single sheet of paper. Now I do understand mistakes happen, I often make mistakes when writing letters but I always check back afterwards, especially if the letter is important. This soldier gave his life serving his country, and this is the best he can do? I think it’s a disgrace. Gordon Brown has since phoned and apologised but personally I think he could have done a lot more, perhaps a personal visit to apologise in person; surely that would have been the least he could have done given the circumstances.
Here’s the letter:
I then read about the way in which he laid his reef of poppies during Sunday’s Remembrance Day service. I have no doubt that he did not mean any offence but yet again, it is another public show of his lacklustre attitude towards his responsibilities. Unlike every other government representative, even the Queen; after laying his reef he simply stood upright and did not bow his head as a gesture of respect. I’m sure it was a genuine mistake just as I’m sure personally in his own mind he was reflecting on the sacrifices of those being remembered but he was not just there as an individual, he was there representing us. He had a responsibility which yet again, he seems to have neglected very publicly.
I go back to my opening statement; my thoughts have nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with government policies on war or any domestic issue. However I wonder about the suitability of Gordon Brown for the role of Prime Minster, a role which carries so much responsibility not only for our country, but for us as its people.
Gordon, you MUST do better otherwise please, step aside.