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AND NOW PLANES

Evil kite eating tree develops new taste
Evil kite eating tree develops new taste
I'd thought that enforcing collective responsibility- by which, when one of our trees eats a kite, it and its neighbours get the chainsaw treatment- would have convinced them all to behave by now- but it hasn't.
Last Saturday, one of the evil kite eating trees here scored an aeroplane.
Sure it was a model aeroplane, but one that had been innocently flying around minding its own business (insofar as that's possible while fitted with a GoPro camera) when the upper branches of what looks to be a populus nigra italicus (Lombardy poplar to you plebs) reached out and snatched it from the sky.
At which point the plane's battery pack, discharging through a now damaged speed control chip, set fire to the engine and bits, which then fell to the ground.
Rather entertaining!
But not as entertaining as the next act- which was a partially successful attempt by the usual suspects (Gavin Mulvey and Nick Dunn) to shoot the remainder of the aeroplane out of the tree with a potato cannon. Partially successful in that they did succeed in shooting its tail off *.

Toothless under Tower Bridge
Toothless under Tower Bridge
But bits of planes falling out of the sky is currently topical (most uniquely so).

And not least around here because Simon, Lyndell, Elwyn and I flew back from Europe on SQ 321 (after flying the Dragon kite under London's Tower Bridge) along the same route over Eastern Ukraine taken by MH 17 just 10 days later.
Of course, more than 500 other commercial flights flew this route every month too, which is a little strange, because in other circumstances, placing oneself within 10 kilometres of an active war zone would be regarded as foolhardy.

So why doesn't it seem risky when you're 10km away straight above rather than horizontally?
Is it because of the comfort, the cabin service, and complete lack of visual or auditory signals that there's a war going on just out the window?
Toothless at the Tower of London
Toothless at the Tower of London
Perhaps, but it's more likely that it has been safe to fly on commercial flights over active war zones provided you're above the magical 10,000m- because the bad guys haven't, until now, had surface to air missiles able to reach this altitude.
But why haven't they?
This is pretty strange seeing as Frances Gary Powers' Lockheed U2 spy plane was shot down by a surface to air missile over the Soviet Union in 1960 while flying above 21,000m.
That being 54 years ago, I would have thought that technology to enable hits at just half this altitude would have spread to everywhere by now.
After all, it's hardly rocket science- err, well it is, but of the common or garden variety.
Is it because the bad guys do have the capability but choose not to pull the trigger for some reason?
Like that commercial aeroplanes are out of season (as for ducks here, except during May).
Nah, I can't believe this- if they could they would. They're angry envious people, so intent on blaming everyone else for their own personal and cultural inadequacies that they take pleasure from causing others to suffer.

Charlie Brown and the evil kite eating tree
Charlie Brown and the evil kite eating tree
Or is it that these failures are too dumb to develop a ground launched guided missile capable of 10km- which even backyard hobbyist rocketeers in the West can do by now I expect?
Or what if it's because the world's intelligence services have managed to keep every one of the at least ten thousand 10,000m capable missiles that surely exist out of the hands of everyone murderous?
This last is of course the narrative that our "security" services would have us believe - to justify taking liberties with our bodies and wallets.
But as unlikely as this may seem, seeing as every other theory comes up short, some combination of incompetent bad guys/competent governments must be it.
For how much longer though?

Snatched from the sky
Snatched from the sky
It's interesting that neither Iran (from whom Hamas/Gaza get their weapons) nor North Korea (who sell to anyone with money I suspect) , both of whom have high altitude surface to air missiles, have permitted them to get into the hands of anyone who would take pot shots at passing passenger aeroplanes. This suggests that for all their public posturing, both of these countries are wary of international reaction (code, in this instance for being reduced to rubble). Russia doesn't seem to be enjoying its current bad press over the MH17 downing either.
But the home grown option seems to me overdue and is at best just a matter of time.

I do note that commercial flights from Asia to Europe have now been re-routed away from the Ukraine- now they only overfly Syria or ISIS or Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan or North Waziristan!
This is surely of great comfort to intending travellers.
But personally, I'm not that concerned - commercial flying with main route airlines still racks up less than one crash per million flights, an insignificant risk compared to, say, the ongoing struggle I'm having with evil kite eating trees.

Michel, Elwyn,Pepijn with SSSL18 at Scheveningen
Michel, Elwyn,Pepijn with SSSL18 at Scheveningen
But I have taken the precaution of avoiding my next scheduled flight to Europe- by bringing in Malcom Hubbert as a substitute for the Dieppe festival this year. Thank you Malcom, such self-sacrifice for friends is increasingly rare.
Though to be strictly correct here, I did tell him- and them- that the reason I can't attend is my buggered (but slowly recovering) shoulder. It's true too; 9 days dragging maxi kites on and off the beach there is not likely to be rehabilitative - whereas Taiwan a week or so later will be a gentler lead in for the round of Asian events coming up from October. And also avoids my having to flying over dodgy places.



And to keep myself occupied in the meantime;

SSSL22 3 cell - 12 bridle
SSSL22 3 cell - 12 bridle
Ongoing single line single skin kite developments:
SSSL 22 (see photo) is rather wrinkly, but this is just cosmetic I think, because it does fly, and its higher aspect ratio does seem to have dealt to the light wind death dive problems of the earlier 2 cell versions- and has a noticeably lower stall speed.

And I'm wondering, just as an intellectual exercise, what maximum altitude a potato cannon might be able to reach?

PETER LYNN, ASHBURTON, NEW ZEALAND, 1 AUGUST '14

* The offending tree and its near neighbours escaped with a severe talking to this time; I was laughing too much to use a chain saw.


Octopus
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