We flew to Singapore today. Because we were using our frequent flyer points, we had a more circuitous route than we might have preferred, but the only seats that we could find were on a flight from Melbourne to Singapore via Brisbane. As a result, I had a lot of time to catch up on some reading.
On the flight to Brisbane, I came across a a very interesting article in the Financial Review that described the role of drones in the war in Afghanistan. These planes can fly for days and are controlled by a pilot and a weapons officer, both based in the USA. It’s quite incredible that these planes are controlled from the other side of the world. One example of their use was described as attacking militant leaders. The drone would circle their home for days, watching their day-to day activities. When the time was right, for example when the wife and children went to the market, they would launch a rocket to kill the target, who had no idea at all of the presence of danger. Another example reported the use of a drone as protection for a small army patrol. A group of five or six men could get a needed night’s sleep whilst out in the field on operations, because a drone could stay circling above them all night, looking out for danger. Fascinating stuff, and a long way from old fashioned warfare.
On the seven hour flight from Brisbane to Singapore, I took the opportunity to read the newly released book by Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny titled, simply, QF32. Qantas Flight 32 was an Airbus A380 Qantas passenger flight that suffered catastrophic damage when an engine exploded, and was forced to make an emergency landing at Singapore Changi Airport. The failure was the first of its kind for the four-engined Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
The story written by Captain Crespignyis a humble account of his life experience as a pilot and the events around the emergency (in which he safely landed the very damaged plane with 495 passengers). The problem was caused by a faulty oil pipe in a Rolls Royce engine and caused Qantas to ground its entrée fleet of A380’s until the problem was identified.
I enjoyed this book and I was unable to put it down. In it, Captain de Crespigny describes the technical excellence that he (and other A380 Captains) have as aviators, the amount of technology incorporated into this aircraft and the importance of teamwork and leadership in commanding a major plane. Even through the book is about a potential disaster, he somehow includes many pieces of information that show just how safe it is to fly in these modern and large aircraft.
A recommended read for any withnan onterest in planes or flying and less than $13 from the Amazon Kindle Store.