* Posts by SkippyBing

2025 posts • joined 21 May 2008

Army had 'naive' approach to Capita's £1.3bn recruiting IT contract, MPs told

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Re: Who wouldn't want to join?

The relatively high levels of employment* don't help either as the Armed Forces have always struggled to recruit when there are other jobs available where you get to stay at home.

*I'm aware of the arguments that the figures are fudged but it's still at a high level by historical standards.

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Re: That would make sense

'Perhaps add an incentive for further education - matching every quid the soldier pays in tuition costs or university fees.'

It's called Enhanced Learning Credits, either three lumps of £2K that can be used to pay for up to 80% of a training course of your choice (with some benefit to the service) or when you leave you can cash them in for University Tuition. Doesn't kick in until you've done six years of service from memory, and if you're within 2 years of leaving or have left within 10 years you can pretty much spend it on what you want.

It's really not advertised highly enough to potential recruits.

There're also Standard Learning Credits which is up to £175 a year for the same purpose. Which is how I have a forklift licence.

What happens when a Royal Navy warship sees a NATO task force headed straight for it? A crash course in Morse

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Re: Azipods in reverse?

'I think that's unlikely since the MS Queen Elizabeth (90,000 tonnes) have them compared to the Queen Elizabeth Class (65,000 tonnes ).'

See this article for the Alpha design with 4 Azipods


I'm trying to track down the Naval Review article that said they couldn't get off the shelf pods powerful enough. It's worth remembering the MS QE is about 5-6 knots slower than HMS QE and drag scales with the square of speed, hence MS QE has 2 x 17.6 MW Azipods and HMS QE has 4 x 20 MW induction motors driving two shafts (two per shaft in tandem).

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Re: Azipods in reverse?

'I would think nearly all recently constructed vessels above (and possibly below) certain tonnage thresholds are designed with azimuth thrusters - providing flexibility and agility to what would otherwise seem rather ponderous indeed.'

I think the main disadvantage with azipods is that it increases the draught which may be a more important consideration for certain roles. The QE Class Carriers were originally designed with azipods but when it was realised that they'd have to be specially made as there weren't off the shelf ones powerful enough they went back to a more traditional drive train.

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If the thought of being served by stewards is attractive, the navy have just stopped the practice. Mainly because they were struggling to fill the places anyway.

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Re: Please tell me that all this is public info

I suspect it's moved since then and it's not as if the exercise wasn't widely publicised.

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Re: Azipods in reverse?

Pulling allows the prop to be more efficient as it's encountering undisturbed water rather than the turbulence you get after the pod has moved through it. Theoretically a prop at the bow would be more effective than a traditionally placed one, but then you get other problems, and the rudder would be less effective as it wouldn't be directly in the accelerated water.

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Re: About those "machinery breakdowns".....

That's nothing, before she was finally decommissioned HMS Fearles stopped having a daily fire exercise as they were having enough actual fires.

Nobody in China wants Apple's eye-wateringly priced iPhones, sighs CEO Tim Cook

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Re: Re "Idiot tax"

'And the other tax costs much much more dearly than a thousand dollars once in four years.

I'm going to have to see some maths on that.

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Re: Its worse than he is making out.

'And yet China is still Apple's third largest market after the US and Europe.'

What a country of >1 Billion people is its third largest market? Who'd have thought the population of the third largest market would equal the first and second largest added together.

New Horizons probe reveals Ultima Thule is huge, spinning... chicken drumstick?

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'Rounding out the suite is REX, the Radio Science Experiment, which is designed to measure atmospheric pressure and temperature.'

I'm going to guess low and quite cold.

It's 2019, the year Blade Runner takes place: I can has flying cars?

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'the fictional road-and-sky craft relied on a system called an aerodyne'

Aerodyne just means a heavier than air flying machine, aerostat means a lighter than air one. So the fictional craft didn't rely on a system called aerodyne, they were aerodynes.

'Year-long' delay to UK 5G if we spike Huawei deals, say telcos

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9 Months delay?

I mean as major infrastructure programmes go in this country that doesn't really seem that big a deal.

Dutch boyband hopes to reverse Brexit through the power of music

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'They're in serious danger of becoming The-Lefty-Mail.'

You don't really need the 'in serious danger of becoming' bit.

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Did they not think to audition people who could sing?

Who's watching you from an unmarked van while you shop in London? Cops with facial recog tech

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Re: One simple trick to avoid being photographed

Are you saying you get the stuff delivered to your house and pay using your own credit card?

SkippyBing Silver badge

One simple trick to avoid being photographed

Shop online like any sane person this time of year. Most places will even wrap it for you which saves a massive faff on Christmas Day.

Happy Christmas! Bloodhound SSC refuelled by Yorkshire business chap

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'I'm not going to qualify as a submarine commander by sinking my canoe for 30 seconds, am I?'

No, for that you'd need to get it to surface again.

Spending watchdog points finger at Capita for 1,300 shortfall in British Army rookies

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Re: TBF...

'I was a soldier in the 60s and 70s. There was always the chance that the balloon might go up and we would be in action.'

There have only been two years since 1945 when there hasn't been a UK death in combat. 1968 and oddly 2016.


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Re: TBF...

'Back on the subject of the article, Private Eye has been covering this for years. Why governments keep doing the same thing - handing over public jobs to the same big companies who have no expertise and a shite track record - I really don't know.

I have this vague feeling that when awarding public contracts you can't take past performance into account. I'm trying to remember where I read that, certainly on the one occasion I got to score two competing contracts there was no section for taking it into consideration.

Amazon robot fingered for bear spray leak that hospitalised 24 staffers

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'An Amazon spokeswoman told The Register that employee safety was the firm’s top priority'

No it isn't, if it was they'd be bankrupt but with lots of employees wrapped in padding in a perfectly heated well lit environment. The same as with any organisation, ensuring its own survival is number 1, even the best company in the world only has safety as its number 2 priority.

Brit boffins build 'quantum compass'... say goodbye to those old GPS gizmos, possibly

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Re: Ah demonstation just in time. Norway / Finlands GPS knocked out by A.N. Other

'OR...presumably why there were lots of errors and shipwrecks until one had a better idea of one's location in such tempestuous waters...'

Yeah, that was pretty much cracked pre-GPS though, if you're out of sight of land you don't need GPS level accuracy and if you're in sight of land visual fixing is more than good enough.

Boeing 737 pilots battled confused safety system that plunged aircraft to their deaths – black box

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Re: Aircraft Systems

But the trim wasn't running away, it was moving a bit and then stopping which it does in normal operation. Probably on occasion it stopped when the pilots did something they expected would counteract the automatic trim and it appeared to work. If it was the only problem they had to deal with then it might have been a higher priority, but there was also an airspeed indication mismatch and a stick shaker active on one pilot's controls. Figuring out that a bit of trim movement is the most pressing issue would have been helped by knowing MCAS existed and has full authority over the stabiliser.

SkippyBing Silver badge

'This feature is pretty much covered by long-established procedures already. '

Well it obviously isn't or they wouldn't have crashed.

Boeing claim the runaway trim procedure deals with the issue, however runaway trim presents as just that, the trim motoring all the way to the stops, MCAS is an intermittent nose down trim that the pilots may think they've countered with the standard actions because it stops and they don't know about MCAS. If you've got more than one thing going wrong, and they did because one pilot's control was shaking to indicate approach to the stall, and their airspeed indications were mismatched, the trim occasionally motoring nose down and then stopping may not register as important until it's too late.

SkippyBing Silver badge

Re: AoA sensor replaced prior to fatal flight

It appears, based on reading the FDR data by people more knowledgeable than me that the previous flight's pilots had overcome the MCAS issue by diagnosing a failure that required isolation of the trim system. As they didn't know about MCAS they wouldn't have known that's what the problem system was but the effect was to remove it from the equation anyway. However this may have meant the next crew were starting from square one when it came to diagnosing what was going on with the various issues that they were presented with or have been primed to expect a reversal of the usual trim system rather than starting from scratch. Neither of which are great situations to be in.

'Has the cockpit been found to determine the state of the MCAS switches?'

There aren't any as such, and the pilots weren't told it existed previous to the accident. The trim cutout switch position can be determined from the FDR and I believe they hadn't been activated at the time of the accident.

SkippyBing Silver badge

Lion Air is not a small airline, they're the Asian equivalent of RyanAir or EasyJet and the largest in Indonesia, bigger than the national airline Garuda. They were also the launch customer for the 737 MAX. The pilots were Indian and Indonesian with 6028 and 5174 flying hours respectively, does that answer your slightly loaded question?

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Re: planes/cars

'Yes, surely it's those rusty, dirty contacts that were the problem, and just needed a good cleaning. On a 3-month-old plane.'

You don't work on a lot of aircraft do you?

Compared to the production run of the average car even the 737 is a niche product, meanwhile all the parts are subjected to a drop in pressure and temperature that would stop the average automotive engine running every time they fly a sector. So after three months a contact may well just need a clean because it wasn't installed correctly in the first place or even just because.

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Re: need an off switch

'There should be a single switch that unconditionally inhibits all automation, returning full manual control to a pilot. Not a panacea, but it might have prevented this accident.'

But what if one of the a pieces of automation stopping you from having an accident? These aircraft aren't designed to be flown in full manual control, there's always some form of automation at work keeping it in limits.

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Re: Really?

'Great. In other words, to satisfy some legal requirement they stuck a bag on the side of the airplane's control systems.'

To be fair it's a legal requirement that the aircraft won't enter an irrecoverable stall and kill you, so it'd definitely one to be in favour of.

SkippyBing Silver badge

Re: Really?

'I am astounded that this particular subsystem was not comparing both AOA sensors.'

I was also astounded that the disagreeing AOA sensor warning is an optional extra that only comes if you specify the AOA readout on the pilot's displays! What next, save money by not having the engine fire warning light?

SkippyBing Silver badge

Re: Really?

'When machinery is under manual control, it should be under manual control. There is absolutely no reason at all for this system to automatically control the aircraft.'

Except Boeing had no choice if they wanted the aircraft to be certified for flight. In essence on previous 737s as the aircraft approached the stall, think ~15-20 degrees nose up, the loss of lift from the wing coupled with the centre of gravity being ahead of the centre of lift caused the nose to fall recovering the aircraft from the stall. In trying to put even bigger engines on the 737 they had to move them forwards and up, this created an interesting aerodynamic effect where as the stall was approached the pods start to generate lift which counters the natural nose down tendency. In other words rather than naturally recovering from a stall the aircraft would now naturally enter one at high* angles of attack. This could lead to an irrecoverable stall and death. MCAS is designed to stop the nose getting too high and making the aircraft fly more like a legacy 737.

Before you say it's automation gone mad, the Hawker Siddeley Trident from the 60s had a stick-pusher to prevent it entering an irrecoverable stall. Because why let people put the aircraft in a situation where it definitely will kill them?

*it's high for an airliner

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Re: Hand flying

'ETOPS - Engines Turn Or Passengers Swim

Yes, I am old fashioned enough to prefer more than two engines for long over-water flights.'

An acronym which again isn't supported by any evidence, there have been no losses of a twin engine jet airliner due to the failure of an or both engines aside from the Hudson river crash which ironically wasn't a long over water flight. However, a four engine airliner losing two engines would also have had to ditch as the design criteria is for the loss of one engine.

'There is no advantage whatsoever to actually doing so unless necessity intervenes, but it is absolutely necessary that the pilots be able to do so in case of need.'

Pilots often cope with normal emergencies perfectly adequately, see http://avherald.com/ for regular examples. This was in no way a normal emergency, it wasn't even in the checklist because Boeing didn't think pilots needed to know about it, you try diagnosing an unknown intermittent fault at 300 miles an hour.

The issue is, if you make pilots hand fly long sectors just for experience, you will have more accidents than you prevent. Which is why they invented simulators, but you still don't practice for failures that no one knows can happen.

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Re: Lack of systems thinking

Some of the comments on the Pprune threads linked above make your point about considering the whole system. It does look a lot as if Boeing added MCAS to get around a certification problem with the 737 MAX but didn't consider all the potential interactions with the rest of the 50 year old design. It's also quite worrying that it only uses 1 of 2 AOA sensors* and doesn't even do a comparison with the other one to see if the data is valid.

*It swaps the in use sensor every flight, hence the previous sector not experiencing the same issue with MCAS, although the other faults were still manifest.

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That was an Airbus, I believe the problem there was they'd configured the aircraft to land to do the flypast without asking the engineers if that was a problem. It turned out once the aircraft thought it was going to land that's what it was going to do. I'm not totally sure why the actions for a go-around weren't successful, unless the pilots didn't think to try that. In that case I'm pretty sure it was Airbus operating the aircraft so you'd think they'd have known.

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Preliminary Repor

The preliminary report is available here:


Note this has been produced without the evidence from the Cockpit Voice Recorder which would give more insight into why the pilots did what they did.

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A lot of Boeing aircraft now do have FBW, certainly the 777 and 787 do. Essentially the computers can fly the aircraft more accurately than a human, which is more fuel efficient. Part of this is down to reducing the stability of the aircraft which means there's less drag as your control surfaces aren't working as hard to keep it pointing in the direction you want, although they are moving more often. It would be very tiring for a human to fly an aircraft with reduced stability hence the FBW. Although you'd still get fuel savings with the autopilot flying a positively stable aircraft because they're consistently better over a long period of time.

And good luck trying to sell a less fuel efficient aircraft to an airline.

SkippyBing Silver badge

'Heck I used to sit in the jump seat on Tokyo to Anchorage when I was a kid for hours and well remember the clattering of the trim wheels as they spun.'

Automatically if it was a 707 or newer.

'If you can't reliably hand-fly the plane from end to end you're NOT doing your job, your fitness to task is not acceptable, and your route is too damn long, and/or you're under-crewed.'

And what advantage is there to an aircraft being hand flown across the Atlantic? Literally none, and in fact when pilots were doing it there were far more crashes than there are now. To demonstrate more graphically look at the charts linked below, as automation has increased the accident rate has fallen and aviation has become safer year on year. 2017 was the safest year on record, despite there being more flights than ever and more automation than ever. Your argument that pilots should be doing all the flying and computers removed from the equation isn't backed up by any data.


SkippyBing Silver badge

Sitting in front of a computer in a low stress environment it's easy to say 'they should have turned the trim off' however in a cockpit at 300kts with multiple conflicting errors manifesting it's a bit more complicated.

During the flight one pilots stick shaker was going off to indicate they were approaching the stall, because it was wired to the same faulty sensor. There was also a slight disparity between the two airspeed indicators. However there was no way they were in a position to stall so why is the shaker going off? The nose intermittently going down may not have seemed like their biggest problem until it was too late*. In fact they may have thought they'd solved it by pulling back on the control column and activating the trim cut-out, now this doesn't exist on the 737 MAX, but did on the earlier versions, and in high stress situations people revert to previously learnt behaviour, it's called negative transfer.

In short Boeing's fix for the poor stall behaviour of the MAX creates additional confusion, especially if you don't know about it. The pilots could have used the trim cut-out switches to remove the fault but that relies on them making the correct decision in a high stress situation, something humans are famously bad at. A proper design review wouldn't have let a single AOA sensor fault manifest itself in this type of failure.

*The trim works by moving the whole tail plane making it very difficult to counter with elevator alone at the extremes of its travel.

SkippyBing Silver badge

Re: Question

'Were they

(a) able to disable MCAS?

(b) trained on how and when to disable MCAS?

Major design and training errors are at fault unless both (a) and (b) can be answered 'Yes'.'

Yes, in that you can disable all trim via two switches. Although in previous 737 variants you could over ride it just by moving the control column backwards, this was removed from the MAX as it would negate the purpose of MCAS which is purely to push the nose down if you're approaching the stall. The MAX needs MCAS as due to putting ever larger engines on the 737 it as lost the natural tendency to recover that the original design had.

No, as Boeing didn't include it in the training.

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Re: Question

Boeing decided it was best not to tell pilots about MCAS as they didn't want to overload them with information. It was assumed the standard procedure for dealing with runaway trim would be sufficient, except in this case it didn't present as runaway trim because it's limited to 2.5 seconds of travel at a time.

So the pilots were attempting to diagnose a problem without knowing all the potential causes, it's therefore likely they misdiagnosed the issue and were applying the wrong solution. n.b. there is another automatic trim system (STS), for fine tuning the pitch as speed increases, that they would have known about and may have thought was the issue.


I was once one of you, F1 star Lewis Hamilton tells delighted IT bods

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Re: What a knob

'Well there's Claire Williams who's team principal at WIlliams, and Tatiana Calderon is a test driver for Sauber F1 off the top of my head. '

While that's true you can't deny it's still something of a sausage fest, so it's a bit unwise for anyone in F1 to being throwing gender equality rocks at other fields just yet.

Openreach names 81 lucky locations to be plugged into its super-zippy Gfast pipe

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Re: Darkest rural Spain.

' But the local provider fibered us all up thanks to a grant from the EEC (I hear your leaving - strange?) '

Well the EEC doesn't exist anymore so that probably explains why we've left.

NASA's Mars probe InSight really has Mars in sight: It beams back first pic after touchdown

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Re: Power?

'Must have some pretty big solar arrays to get any useful work done!'

Or very efficient tech, so they probably haven't sub-contracted to any phone manufacturers.

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“All rocky planets share the same basic structure: an iron core, rocky mantle, and a lighter crust of silica rock,"

How do they know? They haven't drilled yet, it could be a nougat core and chocolate mantle* for all they know!

*I jest as I'm assuming they have an idea of the density based on its rotation, orbital eccentricity etc, but it seems a bit of a leap to then say all rocky planets have an iron core etc.

Mobile networks are killing Wi-Fi for speed around the world

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Why do you want the cable going to the ground floor? Or are the walls very thick?

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Re: Licensed Spectrum

'Ah well, presumably your new 2.6 isn't turbo charged.'

No that is true and I did think that would at least partly explain the difference, but the 2 litre petrol version of my old car produces about the same power and torque as my new one while not drinking like a sailor who's just got paid. So I have to assume it was the work experience kids go at engine design when they produced this thing.

2 Litre turbo-diesels do appear to be magic though.

SkippyBing Silver badge

Re: Licensed Spectrum

'As the USAians would say about their car engines, you can't beat cubic inches. Not in a straight line, anyway.'

Oh God you can. Due to a recent no fault on my part accident I had to replace my car (2 litre turbo diesel), in a fit of extravagance* I acquired a 2.6 litre petrol coupe. I am now kicking myself for my lack of research as it's got 5 less horses, a hundred less torques, and burns fuel twice as quickly. Seriously, how can a German manufacturer (and current F1 title holder at that) have made an engine that bad in any century?

For the two of you who're wondering, I'm going back to the other German manufacturer of rear wheel drive cars before the cost of fuel bankrupts me.

*i.e. spending almost all the money the insurers gave me.

SkippyBing Silver badge

'So either people need to run an electricity cable up the wall of the building, or drill a hole for a power-over-Ethernet cable between them. And install the outdoor antenna on a bracket (like satellite dishes of yore). Not self-install'

Speak for yourself Mr Spokesdroid, that sounds like a lazy Saturday afternoon to me.

Analogue radio is the tech that just won't die

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'At home now I have bought a broadband radio as it is much more functional (in terms of choice) and reliable than DAB. In the car, I've switched back to analogue.'

Similar problem where I live in terms of only getting BBC radio, if anything. I've now taken to streaming radio over my phone in the car as I get a much better 4G signal than DAB and I can listen to any station.

Big data at sea: How the Royal Navy charts the world's oceans

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'Does it REALLY take a year to do maintenance on a sub that has been out 'in the field' for a year?

It's a large lump of metal that gets deliberately submerged in sea water for most of its working life.

Try running your car continuously for a year and see how that works out without maintenance.

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