Monday 29 May 2023




A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Mile End and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall......'.

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see, Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentlemen... unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

8) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause ) 'Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home....'

9) 'Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with 'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate instructions.'

10) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.'

11) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

12) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage -- what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you understand?'

13) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your @rse sideways!'

14) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it's only fair that you pass it around the rest of the carriage.'

15) Commenting on a complaint from Mr Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.'
(The Daily Telegraph)

16) Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her underwear.. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester Evening News)

17)Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)

18)At the height of the gale, the harbour master radioed a coast guard and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff.  ( Aberdeen Evening Express)

19) Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled - 'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil Hitler.' ( Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Let's move into one-liners now:

I once dated a girl who broke up with me because I only have 9 toes. Yes, she was lack-toes intolerant.

I've started telling everyone about the benefits of eating dried grapes. It's all about raisin awareness.

I've started investing in stocks: beef, vegetable, chicken. One day I hope to be a bouillianaire.

If you boil a funny bone, it becomes a laughingstock. Now that's humerus.

I accidentally rubbed ketchup in my eyes. Now I have Heinzsight.

Did you know muffins spelt backwards is what you do when you take them out of the oven?

Scientifically, a raven has 17 primary wing feathers, the big ones at the end of the wing are called pinion feathers. A crow has 16. So, the difference between a raven and a crow is only a matter of a pinion.

I was walking in the jungle and saw a lizard on his hind legs telling jokes. I turned to a local tribal leader and said, "That lizard is really funny!" The leader replied, "That's not a lizard. He's a stand-up chameleon."

I tried to come up with a carpentry pun that woodwork. I thought I nailed it but nobody saw it.

Singing in the shower is fine until you get soap in your mouth. Then it's a soap opera.

The Black-Eyed Peas can sing us a song but the chickpeas can only hummus one.

Then there was the time Fruit of the Loom took Hanes to court... it was a brief case.

How much does a chimney cost? Nothing, it's on the house.

How does an attorney sleep? First he lies on one side, then he lies on the other side

I have a few jokes about unemployed people, but none of them work

How do you make holy water? You take some water & boil the hell out of it

Will glass coffins be a success? Remains to be seen

Two windmills are standing in a wind farm. One asks, “What’s your favourite kind of music?" The other says, “I'm a big metal fan”

Heard about the new restaurant called Karma? There’s no menu, you get what you deserve

I went to buy some camouflage trousers today, but couldn't find any.

What do you call a bee that can’t quite make up its mind? A maybe

I tried to sue the airline for losing my luggage. I lost my case

If and when everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

She had a photographic memory, but never developed it

Is it ignorance or apathy that's destroying the world today? I don't know and don't really care

I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind

Which country’s capital has the fastest-growing population? Ireland of course. it’s *Dublin* everyday

My ex-wife still misses me, but her aim is starting to improve

The guy who invented the door knocker got a *No-bell* prize

I never thought orthopedic shoes would really work for me, but I stand corrected.

Once upon a time there was a king who was only 12 inches tall. He was a terrible king, but he made a great ruler.

A Mexican magician said he will disappear on the count of 3. He says, “"Uno, dos.” Poof. He disappeared without a tres.

I wrote a book on how to fall down the stairs. It’s a step by step guide.

My son was chewing on electric cords, so I had to ground him. It’s OK, though. He’s doing better and conducting himself properly.

My friend claims that he “accidentally" glued himself to his autobiography, but I don’t believe him. But that's his story and he’s sticking to it.

“Doctor, my child swallowed a roll of film. What should I do?” “Let’s wait and see if anything develops.”

An armed man ran into a real estate agency and shouted, “Nobody move.”

Got drunk yesterday and threw up in the elevator on my way back home. It was disgusting on so many levels.

I asked the surgeon if I could administer my own anesthetic. He said, “Sure. Knock yourself out!”

I got into a fight today with 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9. The odds were really against me.

In Britain it’s called a lift but Americans call it an elevator. I guess we were just raised differently.

97% of people are stupid. Glad I’m in the other 5%.

I saw an ad for burial plots, and I thought: “That’s the last thing I need !”

Need an ark? I noah guy

I used to be indecisive; Now I'm not so sure

Sleeping comes so naturally to me that I can do it with my eyes closed

What did the grape say when it got stepped on? Nothing. But, it let out a little whine

What do you call a very articulate dinosaur with a good vocabulary? A Thesaurus, of course.

Once upon a time, there was a King who was only 12 inches tall. He was a terrible King but he made a great ruler.

Ran out of toilet paper and now using lettuce leaves. Today was just the tip of the iceberg, and tomorrow romaines to be seen.

My friend Jack says he can communicate with vegetables. That's right... Jack and the beans talk.

I want to tell you about a girl who only eats plants. You probably have not heard of herbivores.

I was struggling to understand how lightning works and then it struck me.

Six cows were smoking joints and playing poker. That's right. The steaks were pretty high.

I went to the paint store to get thinner. It didn't work.

Dad, are we pyromaniacs? Yes, we arson.

What do you call a pig with laryngitis? Disgruntled.

Writing my name in cursive is my signature move.

Why do bees stay in their hives during winter? Swarm.

 If you’re bad at haggling, you’ll end up paying the price.

Just so everyone’s clear, I’m going to put my glasses on.

 A commander walks into a bar and orders everyone around.

I lost my job as a stage designer. I left without making a scene.

Never buy flowers from a monk. Only you can prevent florist friars.

How much did the pirate pay to get his ears pierced? A buccaneer.

 I once worked at a cheap pizza shop to get by. I kneaded the dough.

 My friends and I have named our band ‘Duvet’. It’s a cover band.

 I lost my girlfriend’s audiobook, and now I’ll never hear the end of it.

 Why is ‘dark’ spelt with a k and not c? Because you can’t see in the dark.

Why is it unwise to share your secrets with a clock? Well, time will tell.

 When I told my contractor I didn’t want carpeted steps, they gave me a blank stare.

Bono  and The Edge walk into a Dublin bar and the bartender says, “Oh no, not U2 again.”

Prison is just one word to you, but for some people, it’s a whole sentence.

Scientists got together to study the effects of alcohol on a person’s walk, and the result was staggering.

I’m trying to organize a hide-and-seek tournament, but good players are really hard to find.

I got over my addiction to chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. I won’t lie, it was a rocky road.

What do you say to comfort a friend who’s struggling with grammar? There, their, they’re.

 I went to the toy store and asked the assistant where the Schwarzenegger dolls are and he replied, “Aisle B, back.”

What did the surgeon say to the patient who insisted on closing up their own incision? Suture self.

I’ve started telling everyone about the benefits of eating dried grapes. It’s all about raisin awareness.

Another Shift

1. If Poison expires; is it more poisonous or is it no longer poisonous?

2. Which letter is silent in the word "Scent," the S or the C?

3. Do Twins ever realise that one of them was really "Unplanned"?

4. Why is the letter W, in English, called double U? Shouldn't it be called double V?

5. Maybe Oxygen is slowly killing you and It just takes 75-100 years to fully work.

6. Every time you clean something, you just make something else dirty.

7. The word "SWIMS" upside-down is still "SWIMS"

8. 100 years ago everyone owned a Horse and only the rich had Cars. Today everyone has Cars and only the rich own Horses.

9. If you replace "W" with "T" in "What, Where and When", you get the answer to each of them.

10. How does an attorney sleep? First he lies on one side, then he lies on the other side.

Great Puzzles Still Unresolved -

-At a movie theatre, which armrest is yours - left or right?

-If people evolve from monkeys, why are monkeys still around?

-Why is there a 'D' in fridge, but not in refrigerator?

-Who knew what time it was when the first clock was made?

-Wonder why the word "Funeral" starts with FUN?

-Why isn't a Fireman called a Waterman?

-How come Lipstick doesn't do what it says?

-Why are goods sent by Ship called CARGO, and those sent by Truck SHIPMENT?

-Why do Doctors "Practise" Medicine? Are they having practice at the cost of the patients?

-Why is it called "Rush Hour" when traffic moves at its slowest then?

-How come Noses run and Feet smell?

-Why do they call it a TV 'set' when there is only one?

-What are you vacating when you go on a "Vacation"?

I have a few jokes about unemployed people, but none of them work

How do you make holy water? You take some water & boil the hell out of it

Will glass coffins be a success? Remains to be seen

Two windmills are standing in a wind farm.  One asks, “what’s your favourite kind of music ?The other says, “I'm a big metal fan”

Heard about the new restaurant called Karma? There’s no menu, you get what you deserve.

I went to buy some camouflage trousers yesterday, but couldn't find any

What do you call a bee that can’t quite make up its mind? A maybe.      

I tried to sue the airline for losing my luggage. I lost my case

-If and when everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane

-She had a photographic memory, but never developed it

Is it ignorance or apathy that's destroying the world today? I don't know and don't really care

-I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind

-My ex-wife still misses me, but her aim is starting to improve

-The guy who invented the door knocker got a No-bell prize

-I saw an ad for burial plots, and i thought: “That’s the last thing i need !”

-Need an ark ? I noah guy

-I used to be indecisive; Now I'm not so sure

-Sleeping comes so naturally to me that I can do it with my eyes closed

What did the grape say when it got stepped on? Nothing. But, it let out a little whine

What do you call a very articulate dinosaur with a good vocabulary? A Thesaurus, of course.

Aphorisms maybe?

As I said before, I never repeat myself.

A conscience does not prevent sin. It only prevents you from enjoying it!

Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.

Doesn't expecting the unexpected make the unexpected become the expected?

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a workstation. What more can I say!

If it's true that we are here to help others, then, what exactly are the others here for?

How come abbreviated is such a long word?

Sometimes I need what only you can provide: your absence.

Your future depends on your dreams. So go to sleep !!

Can you do anything that other people can't? Sure... I can read my handwriting.

I'm a nobody, nobody is perfect and therefore I'm perfect.

I've got to sit down and work out where I stand.

If I save time, when do I get it back...???

I am free ... of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.

Take my advice, I don't use it anyway.

Some More:

Why is the place in a stadium where you SIT, called a STAND ?

Why is that everyone wants to go to HEAVEN, but nobody wants to DIE !!

We have FREEDOM of SPEECH, Then why do we have TELEPHONE BILLS ?

If money doesn't grow on TREES, then why do banks have BRANCHES ?

Why doesn't GLUE stick to its BOTTLE ?

Why do you still call it BUILDING, when its already BUILT ?

If it’s true that we all are here to HELP others, What are others HERE for ?

If you aren't supposed to DRINK & DRIVE, why do bars have PARKING lots ?

 If All The Nations In The World Are In Debt, Where Did All The Money Go..?

 When Dog Food is 'New With Improved Taste', Who Tests It ?

 Who Copyrighted The Copyright Symbol ?





Vortilons on an unknown aircraft

The latest innovation in the area of wing-tip stall, and control thereof, is the Vortilon. Vortilons are very simple devices that perform an important function, somewhat like vortex generators, but without the penalty of drag. They are small fences fitted on the undersurface of an aircraft’s wing, “but their main function is to generate a vortex of air over the top of the main wing only at high angles of attack. When the angle of attack on the main wing is raised, the lower surface airflow starts to move outboard at an increasing angle.” They have no loss in performance in all other phases of flight. “The vortilons stick up and move forward as the wing angle increases and they start acting as little fences to the spanwise airflow. They don't stop it, they ‘trip’ it - causing a vortex. This vortex has the effect of keeping the airflow attached to the upper surface of the wing - reducing the wing's local stall angle and increasing aileron effectiveness at low speeds/high Ø.” Vortilons also work with different parts of the wing to enhance stall behaviour.

Vortilons on the DC-9: The DC-9 wing featured vortilons on the lower wing surface that improved control at high angles of attack up to 30º.” In most attitudes, the vortilons were aft of the area where the airflow ‘stagnated,’ so they had little effect. However, when the aircraft was in a potentially dangerous, nose-up attitude, the vortilons “poked past the stagnation point and triggered vortices.”  The vortices extended over the upper wing surface and limited the span-wise flow, thereby preserving lift on the outboard wing sections, so the inner wing would stall first. In a swept wing design, this makes the nose pitch sharply down, enabling the crew to recover control quickly. The vortilons also reduced the downwash from the wing on the tail, which helped crews recover from potential deep stalls.

Vortilons on the HS 125-800: These were also relatively small. The objective was to replace wing fences used on previous models, which minimized span-wise flow and tip stall, and predominantly maintained aileron effectiveness. The standard wing fence ‘fix’ on the -800 required more vortex generators just in front of the aileron hinge line; the combination added drag. “The vortilon solution had less drag than the wing fence and required fewer vortex generators. Also, there were advantages at low speed, and possibly with high-speed cruise performance.”

Vortilons on the Lear Jet: As stated earlier, Vortilons work with different parts of the wing to enhance stall behaviour. According to a Learjet Newsletter (August 2006), the inboard pair of vortilons on the Lear Jet 35 and 35A are placed halfway between the stall strip and the stall fence. The latter forces the inboard portion of the wing to stall first, while the outboard section continues generating lift, giving the pilot better control of the ailerons for a longer period.  The inboard vortilons act as a second stall fence, creating a high-energy vortex, with concomitant benefits.  The outboard vortilon is placed directly in front of the ailerons, which we know is a desirable factor. Pilot workload during an impending stall is minimised, permitting simple recovery.

Vortilons on Boeings: As the basic Boeing 737 evolved with time, extra performance became necessary. The 737-200 NGs have three vortilons on the underside of the leading edge slats to restrict the spanwise flow of air, as shown in the figure infra. 

Three barely visible Vortilons on the Boeing 737-200NG

The Boeing 767-400ER also features three vortilons under the leading edge of the outboard slats. “Results of stall testing were not satisfactory, in that stick forces became light near the stall, and uncommanded and undesirable roll at the stall would tilt the aircraft up to a 20-degree bank. Installation of the vortilons eliminated the problem.”   

Vortilons on the Embraer 145: “The shape and position of vortilons is not yet an exact science and requires considerable flight-testing and knowledge to locate them optimally.” Continuous experimenting is required with various shapes, sizes and positions to arrive at a decision. According to Embraer, Brazil, who integrated vortilons on the ERJ145, the aircraft faced very much the same problem as the Boeing 767-400ER in terms of stall characteristics. Their test pilots found one wing dropping as α reached 20 degrees. Vortilons solved this problem.

Yellow Vortilons are clearly visible

Furthermore, the ERJ145 uses state-of-the-art lifting devices, yet it fell short of ‘the maximum lift coefficient values to meet the short take-off and landing field lengths required for regional airline operations’. Market surveys provided design margins to allow the leading edge to be modified with a fixed 'droop' and the four vortilons on the lower surface leading edge of the outboard wing panel contributed significantly towards achieving their aim. Their interaction with the wing sidewash at high angles of attack produces strong vortices that are convected to the upper surface, where they modify the pressure distribution and boundary layer development, postponing flow separation and increasing maximum lift. Their shape and position were defined using advanced 3D programming. The combined effect of the leading edge droop and vortilons allowed an improved take-off and landing performance without resorting to more complex variable geometry leading edge devices (such as slats), for a small cruise performance penalty.


Figure supra shows a close-up view of four yellow vortilons while the Figure following is a schematic representation of the ERJ145 droop and vortilon. Note that the aircraft is flying from your left to the right.

Sunday 14 May 2023



Moms will be Moms...

Doesn’t matter who you are or where. Here is some Mom talk.

Issac Newton's mother--  "But did you wash the apple before eating it?"

Archimedes's mother--  "Didn't you have any shame running naked in the street?  And, WHO is this girl Eureka???”

Thomas Edison's mother--  Of course I am proud that you invented the electric bulb. Now turn it off and get to bed !!!"

Abraham Lincoln's mother--  "Now that you have become President for heaven's sake get rid of that shabby tailcoat and stovepipe hat, and buy yourself a decent outfit."

James Watt's mother--  "If you just keep watching that damn lid lifting and dropping, rice will be burnt. Turn off the stove now."

Alexander Graham Bell's mother--  "You have installed this new silly thing in the house alright, but I do not want girls calling you at odd hours."

Galileo Galilei's mother--  "What use is seeing that damn moon with your telescope if it does not help me to see my mother in Milano."

Samuel Morse's mother--  "Make sure your school report card doesn't have only dashes and dots.”

Mona Lisa's mother--  "After all that money your father and I spent on your braces, is that the best smile you can give us ?"

Michelangelo's mother--  "Can't you paint on walls like other kids? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling ?"

Albert Einstein's mother-- "Can't you do something about your hair? Use styling gel or something?"

Bill Gates's mother--  "You keep browsing all day long; watch out if I ever catch you on any adult website."

Daniel Fahrenheit's mother--  "Stop playing with boiling water and let me make tea."

Georg Ohm's mother-- "I don't like you resisting everything I say."

Robert Boyle's mother--  "If your volume is really inversely proportional to pressure, you must be constipated. Take a laxative."

Alessandro Volta's mother--  "It is shocking to see you all the while dipping those copper and zinc rods in that beaker.”

Andre Ampere’s mother--  “Apart from fooling around all the time shall you ever find time to glance through your current books!”

Socrates' mother--  "If you keep drinking from any cup, it is not necessary that you will also survive like Meera Bai."

Christopher Columbus’ mother--  "I don't care what you were busy discovering and where you could still have dropped a two-line letter!”

Dedicated to all Mothers, but for whom Human Civilisation wouldn’t have progressed.

Wednesday 3 May 2023




A Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) made Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) crashed in Jammu and Kashmir's Kishtwar district today, 04 May 2023, killing one of the three crew members on board. The other two were seriously injured. The Dhruv fleet was grounded till this Tuesday, 02 May 2023. This accident came close on the heels of the recent Indian Navy accident, where a Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) from the Indian Navy’s newly acquired fleet of ALH Mk-3 MR ditched close to the coast off Mumbai in the forenoon hours of March 8, 2023. The helicopter experienced a “sudden loss of power and rapid loss of height”. The crew (two pilots and one aircrewman diver) who managed to carry out a controlled ditching exited the aircraft and were recovered safely.

The Truth Hurts, Says Indian Navy’s 1st Dhruv Flight Commander:

I’m a second-generation helicopter pilot and have been flying rotary-wing machines since 1989. Of course, the primary amount of flying has been on HAL-built aircraft, the Chetak and the ALH and of course, the Kiran.

I’m quite saddened by the slew of remarks against a former CNS, himself a decorated pilot. HAL has often taken one or two points in which there may be a slip-up, and highlighted only these points, thereby glossing over the crux of the matter. In this case, the crux of the matter is blade folding, not the “automatic” part that inadvertently came up. I have been in the field at the helm of affairs when the Naval ALH were taken on board the aircraft carrier for the first time. The idea was to test out the helicopter in the role that it was destined for. Sadly, the maiden embarkation on board the carrier was a challenge that the helicopter could not live up to.

Blade folding is a major sticking point that is currently being discussed. The navy had specified to HAL the requirement of a 3.5 m blade-folded width right from the very start. This was based on the shipborne requirements because, after all, the helicopter would have to land on a ship and be stowed in the hangar after folding the blades. At sea, the requirement is also for a quick and easy way of folding the blades. Just like the Chetak or the Kamov, or the Sea King. Logically then, HAL should have thought about this as a major design shortcoming before even offering a helicopter with any width greater than 3.5 m. The navy had contributed a fair amount of money towards the development of the indigenous helicopter, yet it is quite clear that the blade folding requirement was not given its importance even during basic design at HAL. The navy as usual was forced to accept an initial lot of helicopters under concession.

It is always the crew that is pressurised to support the ‘indigenous effort’ and were as usual told to at least start flying the helicopter and gain some experience. This was for the first 8 helicopters. Today, this very acceptance of a concession is being turned around to twist the Navy’s tail by making statements like the Navy and HAL should sit together to discuss these points and engage HAL to let them know what the Navy wants.

As a solution about fifteen years back, HAL had made the suggestion that the Navy should accept the method where one blade remains forward and the other three go back. For this, HAL actually suggested that the Navy should cut holes in the helicopter hangar for the front-facing blade – a classic case of making the hand fit the glove. The thing is, these suggestions are often made at the MoD level, and the impression given is that the Navy is adamant about not taking this option. Similarly, the concession given to HAL was to achieve a 5.4 m folded width, to begin with, instead of 3.5 m. They could not meet even this 5.4 m, and the constant complaint in any forum was that the Navy cannot accept even 0.2 m more than the required width – conveniently forgetting that the 0.2 m was from the 5.4 m, not the original requirement of 3.5m.

The problem in all this is that the person on the top does not have the background and the time to understand the nuances and gets convinced that the Navy is putting unreasonable demands. The segmented blade folding option was discussed way back in 2005-06, so there is no reason that HAL should not already have done this over the last fifteen years if they were serious. At that time HAL had wanted the Navy to sponsor the study and trials. There is nothing new in segmented blade folding. The Chetak has got a two-piece blade from 1960 onward. Retrofitting the ALH for segmented blade folding will not only increase weight but should also involve hundreds of hours of testing. And I’m not sure whether to trust the results of these flight tests, given the efficacy of the rigorous testing that HAL does.

To give everyone a clear viewpoint of the blade folding procedure, there were a total of 64 loose items that had to be removed, used and fitted back at the time the kit was offered in 2005. This took over half an hour, though a timing of 22 minutes or so was demonstrated using five HAL personnel and safely on the ground with no wind and no rolling and pitching of the deck. I can’t imagine five personnel being employed for folding the blade in a procedure that takes over 20 minutes. During folding on board the carrier the first helicopter became unserviceable because the lining on the blade came off as soon as we folded and put back the blades. On the second aircraft, the bolt broke. HAL will claim that they have rectified this, by putting the lining on the bolt and using a better material for the bolt. They also would have reduced the number of items. But the procedure still takes too long, and at sea, this becomes a danger from submarines to the ship which has to maintain a steady course.

To come back to the point, the biggest problem again here is that the customer which is the Indian Navy, was given a product that did not fit the bill. Once again fault is being found with the Indian Navy for not supporting indigenous development. And the crux of the matter is being diverted by focusing the attention on the term ‘automatic blade folding’ that wasn’t asked for, only a convenient and quick blade folding.

Let us go to the testing philosophy of HAL, which many of the crew felt was suspect. The (in) famous crash of the first civilian Dhruv after takeoff from Hyderabad was completely avoidable. For those of you who may not remember, the Government of Jharkhand ALH while on a ferry from Hyderabad to Ranchi, lost the tail rotor at cruising altitude, and had to force-land. The aircraft was a write-off, but the crew survived.

Before emphasising the survivability of the ALH, I’d like to point out that this failure occurred in cruise, at normal forward speed, and there was more than enough time for emergency actions, by the experienced test pilot that was flying the helicopter. If this had happened at hover, it was certain death. Now, a few months before this while ferrying a naval ALH to Visakhapatnam, the tail rotor gearbox had sheared off, and was hanging on just two supports. We could see the entire rotor disc shaking vigorously at hover, and it was quite scary. After landing, it was with horror that the crew found a nearly 8-inch portion of the tail rotor blade leading edge had flown off. This imbalance caused excessive vibrations and damage to the tail gearbox. Another few minutes and this tail rotor would have flown off too.

This was a serious matter and was taken up with HAL. They provided the simplistic solution of changing the tail rotor blades and the tail gearbox on board the ship and expected the crew to fly the helicopter as if nothing had happened. When questioned about the analysis and the steps taken to prevent a recurrence, the HAL staff were surprised why we were questioning their superior method of addressing the problem. To them, the defective item had been replaced with another one, and voila! Good to go.

When we asked them about a similar thing happening on the new tail rotor, the answer was, “We have tested this and it is okay”. Well, the one that broke also was tested, right? In all this, we found that one more helicopter tail gearbox had a crack in a similar place (two down out of only three on board the ship). HAL remained unfazed and claimed that the two cracks were unrelated, and the other helicopter gearbox had cracked due to “over-shimming” so we were not to bother. They would replace the other gearbox too. Nice solution. Overshimming -This had obviously been done at the manufacturing facility. Why was not the person responsible for this over-shimming brought to task? If it were found that a Naval technician had missed out on something important, there would be some disciplinary action if it was negligence and a method of addressing the issue if it was procedural. Not sure if the person who signed off on the paper clearing that helicopter for the flight was taken to task or not.

At this point, HAL should have done a proper analysis of the cause and taken corrective actions for the tail rotor blade debonding. If they had done the study, then possibly the crash of the ill-fated civilian ALH on a ferry from Hyderabad to Ranchi in November of that year, would have been avoided. This is a clear case of, well, so many things. There were many other findings that came as a result of this accident. A peculiar one was that the CVR/FDR stopped recording after both engines were shut down. The simple fact of ensuring that the vital black box is connected to the battery when both engines were shut down had been missed out during design. So, when the generators stopped working, so did the crucial recording device. We all keep wondering what other crucial things had been missed out by design.

I’m not sure of the actual effect of any disciplinary action taken after the crash of the first civilian ALH because there were many problems found in the processes being followed in the manufacture of the blades. Among them, is the process of manufacturing composite tail rotor blades. The entire fleet was grounded for six to eight months until we got replacement blades. Again, these blades started showing signs of cracking up of the resin coating. HAL said it was not a problem. Photographs are scary.

There have been a few crashes on the ALH in the recent past. Two Army aviators lost their lives and in the latest one, the Army Commander was on board, when a critical component in the control chain failed. This kind of failure is unheard of in any modern helicopter and puts a cloud on whether the testing of any modifications is really exhaustive or just that there is some aspect missed out either by ignorance or act of omission. I do not want to elaborate further, because the cause is not yet finalised, but so many crashes in such a short time do bring about a very big trust deficit.

After this embarkation on board the aircraft carrier, there was a detailed analysis carried out internally and it was fairly well concluded that this helicopter would not meet the exacting requirements of Naval flying from ships, and the problem areas were highlighted to HAL.

Well before we embarked on the carrier, we had to contend with many other issues. The strangest one was that whenever it rained, it poured inside the cockpit. Water would come through the overhead CB panel, and pour on the collective pitch where the engine control was located. Water would drip on the instrument panel. Water would drip on the passenger seats. I remember the AME of the civilian Dhruv telling me that the ONGC Chairman when flying on board the civilian ALH once had to use a newspaper to shield himself from rain. HAL will again claim that this point has been addressed. But the main issue again begs the question, why was this not checked out in design and before delivery?

As far as the Indian Navy went, we were the most problematic customers for HAL. We would demand that the helicopter be fully free from any rainwater leakage, we would insist that all the documentation had to be in order and that all instruments had to be fully functional before we left the facility. We would make sure that there was no defect on the helicopter before leaving for the unit. The crew were very sure that once we took off from the helipad to take the helicopter back, we would get no support from HAL. The advantage of the Navy was that our sailors and officers had worked with Western technologies for a very long time with the Sea King, the Sea Harrier etc. The procedures laid out from so many years of following internationally laid down standards in acceptance procedures made the Navy a very painful customer for HAL. HAL may state that they have addressed many of these problems in Mark 3, but why should the problem be there in the first place? Would you accept a car from a dealer that leaks rainwater? HAL designers and others at the plant would often claim that this was the first time they were making a helicopter, so there would be some ups and downs. This excuse even then was completely untenable, because HAL as an organisation manufactured everything from spacecraft components and supersonic fighters to propeller trainers. this is not because HAL is the best, but because nobody else has been permitted to do this. There is no bigger tragedy for the nation than not allowing any competition. Ask any Services pilot and you will hear the truth – the finished aircraft lack quality, HAL lacks commitment and most of all an unwillingness to face the truth. I’ve rarely if at all heard anything good being said about the HAL. If this is indeed the case, why is it that the opinion of the real customer is never taken, the pilot in the field?

The real question to ask is that if HAL is indeed so capable and the ALH is really a world-class helicopter why is it that there are no sales in the civil market and for Military Export? The issue seems to be that HAL has set its standards very low by any yardstick, and it reminds me of the saying that goes “The real problem is not that I will set my standards too high and fail, but that I will set the standards too low and succeed”. Successive HAL products have been pushed down the throats of the reluctant Armed Forces, and they are in no position to refuse – unwilling customers that cannot say no, for various reasons. The correct thing to do for HAL would be to challenge the globally established players; prove that the helicopter and the Company is right up there along with the best. This in itself will ensure that the Services come willingly to the table to buy the ALH for their own use.

Following the 2007 crash of IAF’s helicopter display team’s Dhruv, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report from 2010 highlighted the fractured relationship between HAL and the IAF. The report blamed HAL for compromising with professionalism to protect its business interests, which in turn could have serious implications for the safety of the people flying and operating the machine. The report also highlighted the problem of “cyclic saturation” with the helicopters, which caused two of the crashes (including the one in 2007). This technical oversight had also reportedly cost HAL a contract with Chile for the sale of the helicopters.

I also perceived a lack of professionalism at HAL. To list out some:

During acceptances at HAL, we would find that individual components would have been switched from other helicopters. In other words, the log card would state that for eg, the fuel pump serial no 12345 was installed, but the actual item on the aircraft would be serial no 98765. Once we realised this, then it became de-rigueur to physically inspect each and every component to check that the component is correct. HAL was concerned about this, and would say, why are you so fussy?  Why is this so important, you may ask. It’s important because each component has certain flying hours and a defect history that is recorded in the log card, and ensures that nothing which is defective or with more flying hours on it than recorded is installed. Would you ever think of doing something like this from any foreign vendor? One expects a certain level of integrity and honesty from any vendor, especially a PSU that is supposed to be trustworthy.

The Final assembly line of the helicopter used to be very bad. There was no proper hygiene maintained. For eg, all the metal filings from the drilled holes would fall to the aircraft floor, never to be cleared. There was no template being used for the drilling of holes, so each panel had to be hand-crafted because there was nothing standardised. I have personally seen people working on the open Main Gearbox / IDS with tools and pens sticking out of their pockets.  Anything could fall out of the pocket into the gearbox, causing dents and leakages. We have removed ballpoint pens and nuts/bolts under the floorboard, in the area of the floatation gear bottles after hours of flying. A very dangerous incident was when we had sparking and melting of the alternator cables. Never heard of! The HAL solution was to replace the cables. All was well, and the team that had come with the cable, told our engineer, that the cable was too long, and they wanted to use tie wraps (or tie-wire) to secure it. Fortunately for us, the designer also came by that day to find out what was wrong. He was horrified to find that the persons installing the new cable did not have a wiring diagram and had routed the cables incorrectly. This was the reason there was ‘extra’ cable. We were saved a repeat of this. There were so many places all over the aircraft where cable bundles were secured with a tie wrap due to which the cables got cut. This was because of the vibrations on the aircraft, and the cables likely not being routed correctly. It is likely that many of these are corrected, so I will not dwell too long on these points, but such a lack of basic engineering hygiene and procedures invariably led to many failures. This is completely unacceptable from any standpoint in a manufacturing company that specialises in Aerospace components and aircraft.

One day we came back from a sortie during which we noticed the GPS position not showing. On return, we found that both the GPS antennae had flown off. When I called HAL, I was horrified when I was told that we were not the only ones – so why didn’t they tell us in time? This meant that they knew this was happening. It was a faulty design of the antenna mounting bracket and we found cracks on all of them on other helicopters.

While I can go on about individual incidents, the crucial point is the way that HAL handles any defect reported by the customer.

There seems to be very little accountability. When the customer reports a problem, especially grave problems, the manufacturer must find out the deeper reason for the defect or failure. In Mathematics, it is called ‘deriving from first principles’. The manufacturing process has to be vetted. There could be a flaw in the assembly line, or there could be a problem with the particular tooling used to put together the component. Or there could be just plain carelessness. Like in the case of the alternator wire. While punitive action may not be always necessary, some amount of discipline is required. As customers, the Service pilots never get to know whether the root cause has been addressed – all that we used to receive was a defect summary that did not tell us what exactly has been done.

The way HAL handles most defects is a replacement, without really going into the root of the problem. The tail rotor issue on the ALH is one example, that I have written about. I was not satisfied with the resolution of the problem and refused to fly the helicopter from the Carrier at the time.

The other point is about the way that the design bureau looks at designing a helicopter. A couple of examples are in order. The engine cowlings on any helicopter are designed to open upwards, sometimes they open downwards so that people can stand on the cowlings and work on the engines. Not for ALH. The initial design required two technicians to climb on a huge platform and open about a dozen and half fasteners, and then the entire cowling had to be taken down like an eggshell and laid on the ground. It was only after many meetings with the Navy, that HAL agreed to cowlings with hinged clamshells that would open downwards providing a platform for the worker to stand on. The quality of these clamshells was so bad, that they would bend and break at times. This point will also possibly be refuted by HAL as having been addressed, but the issue is that this should not have happened in the first place at the time.

I actually casually asked some of the designers whether they had ever worked on, or closely studied any other existing type of helicopter, to see the crucial design issues and other small modifications or attention to detail they had done. “No” was the answer. They seemed genuinely surprised about my asking and proudly said all of them were PGs, with some either holding or pursuing Doctorates, (so why would anyone want them to look at other helicopters). My point was also important because it is only when you have physically worked on any helicopter in the field, will you understand the day-to-day problems with regard to accessibility, Human-Machine Interface (HMI) issues and the like. They will also see how other manufacturers have addressed issues that they may have faced. Many of these are simple solutions, may not be patented and can easily be adopted. One simple example is the hand holds provided to climb on the engine deck. The HAL has provided handles made similar to commercial cupboard door handles, sticking out into the airflow. Even these door-type handles were so badly made, that one of them broke when a sailor was climbing on top, and broke his hand. We are fortunate he was alive. What happens if he falls overboard? I’m sure HAL would have then provided a heavier handhold, and come up with some theory that the person should be more careful when climbing up or something like that, rather than addressing the core issue. Other manufacturers have provided spring-loaded flaps, so that the flap goes in when you put your hand or foot, and the flap provides a smooth finish to reduce drag in flight. It must be understood that all most of the other manufacturers worldwide have adequate staff on design and production who have a lot of experience in the field, and therefore know and understand the problems faced by the man in the heat of the battle when tasked to service and to fly the helicopter.

Another point is that there is no independent thought or foresight. A simple example – I also asked one of those on the LUH design team in the Design Bureau, whether they had considered the commonality of parts between the ALH and the LUH. Again, they were surprised, and asked me why is this relevant? Now, if I need to answer that question here in this article, then evidently, the reader has no authority to comment on anything written here.

Coming back to the issue of customer base, the LUH could have been developed and matured in the civil market, and then offered to the Services, if HAL were so confident that the product was good. It must be realised that the civil world has no time to waste on the downtime of aircraft. Time is money, and they cannot afford the luxury of downtime like the Services have to. Penalties are extremely harsh, and could even be up to a lakh of rupees per half hour of delay in the positioning of the helicopter. ONGC and all Oil Companies impose such penalties on the helicopter companies. I myself was working on a contract where the only downtime permitted for the single helicopter was 48 hours in a month, non-cumulative. Can anyone be confident of providing such a commitment were he to operate the ALH?

All pilots will have personal instances of an indifferent attitude or a deliberate wrong being done at the factory, just to get the aircraft off their backs. Our unit once took three months to accept a helicopter from HAL. This delay was because of recurrent problems with vibrations, rainwater leakage, components not matching, the list is endless- but we didn’t budge. Can you think of any other manufacturer that will take so long to deliver a helicopter that has only just come out of servicing?

Before we go too deep into how and whether HAL should be considered to provide the Navy with the 111 helicopters needed to replace the Chetak, we should first consider the current state of our Military-Industrial-Complex. A large part of the income from exports of any major industrialised nations comes from weapons/systems sales. India has practically none that really matters.

Incidentally, ALH helicopters were sent to Nepal, Israel and Ecuador. The HAL crew really put in a lot of effort for preparing the first of the civil helicopters to be sent abroad to Israel, in 2005 or 2006. A lot of effort meant they did a very good paint job. I’m not sure if the rainwater leakage was fixed or not, but the difference in the quality of the paint job between that helicopter and the one they had prepared for the Navy was enormous. Just like the “Export Quality” goods that used to be advertised in India. The HAL had a marketing contract with an Israeli firm, which nobody is talking about. If the ALH was indeed manna from heaven, then why did this marketing contract not produce the desired results? Israel promptly returned the civil registration helicopter and this is never mentioned anywhere by HAL. I’m not sure if Nepal is still flying their ALH. Ecuador has grounded all their remaining helicopters after some of them crashed, one quite spectacularly during a parade and cancelled the contract. HAL claims this is pilot error, and the customer thinks otherwise. In any case, there was a trust deficit and Ecuador cancelled the contract, mainly, because they were at liberty to do so, unlike the Indian Armed Forces. HAL had exported one ALH on contract to Israel which they returned to HAL because they didn’t find it good enough. This and the aircraft sold to Ecuador most of which crashed is not even a drop in the ocean of defence sales. The ALH with Nepal and Maldives were gifted by the Government of India, not purchased by them out of choice.

The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) in many ways tries to address this shortcoming of the Military-Industrial-Complex. It is clearly stated in the preamble that “A need has also been felt for identifying strategic partners for promoting defence production in the private sector.” To start with, this one definitive push is in the right direction. A private sector player is interested primarily in the bottom lines. This statement should not be quoted out of context. This is because even the PSUs are required to adhere to budgets and timelines, and finally, generate profits. The approach to this is different for both of these. Private industry will not compromise on the quality of intake, or have to go through detailed procedures and governmental approvals to achieve the desired results. To quote some examples from the non-aviation commercial space, an excellent example is what happened to Maruti, after collaboration with Suzuki, and what was the status of Maruti Motors before that. Prior to this, India was ‘atmanirbhar’ for cars like the Ambassador Mark 4, the Premier Padmini and the Standard Herald. The fact that these were copies is a different matter. The common man had to be happy with the paddle shift gears in cars. The electricals were so bad that batteries had to be disconnected when going out of station. Cars needed petrol to be poured over the carburettor on a winter morning to start. I myself have driven a Premier Padmini and the change from this to a Wagon R was like moving on to a completely different level. Remember how all of us had to tilt our Bajaj Chetak scooters before starting? Do we do this with any of our modern bikes, whether an indigenous bike like the Pulsar or a foreign one like a Honda Activa?

Why I bring these examples to an aviation discussion is that the basic principles are the same – India had a practically non-existent industrial capability and never seen or used modern manufacturing techniques, better standards of equipment and the highest safety standards. Do any one of you think for a moment, that if the Government of that time had not brought in Suzuki, we would have been driving anything other than the Ambassador or Padmini? There is a dynamic difference in the machining, finishing, quality of workmanship and performance of the modern generation cars. Perhaps India would have had a much larger share of global manufacturing of cars, had the Government gone all the way, and allowed more numbers of car manufacturers to set up base here. However, if other manufacturers had been allowed a free run like Maruti was, then Maruti may not have had the lion’s share of the market today. A similar mindset we’re seeing now about the HAL’s entry into the NUH market, existed in 1982 when Suzuki was brought in. In the case of the NUH debate, seems to be a feeling that if another manufacturer comes into India and proves its mettle, then the unchallenged position of HAL will be in danger. If we do not grab this opportunity of tying up with a foreign manufacturer, to set up shop in India, with a Private entity, then we will definitely miss the bus to build a strong Military-Industrial-Complex.

I’m a commercial helicopter pilot now and wish to touch upon the issue of speed. Why is speed so crucial you may ask? Well, to cover a distance of 100 NM (Nautical Miles) a helicopter flying at 150 kts will take 40 minutes, and the ALH zipping along at 110 kts will take about 15 minutes extra. So what’s the big deal? Imagine YOU are the person drowning in the water, fighting to stay afloat, and having to wait for 15 minutes more. Or, you need to reach the point where the enemy submarine is so that you can speedily drop the torpedo before the submarine disappears. Additionally, since the fuel consumption figures of the S76 and ALH are comparable, the same amount of fuel will just take us that of a much lesser distance in an ALH.

The fact that the Naval version of the ALH is about 400 kg heavier than the IAF/Army version is another point to be kept in mind. This difference is as good as 5 passengers and is a crucial point. Weight increase has also been caused by the imported Vibration damping equipment strapped on at a later stage, which should not have been needed to start with, but that is a different line of discussion altogether.

If HAL was truly serious about providing a naval helicopter, the moment the design bureau realised that 3.5m width wasn’t possible, a possible decision could have been taken at the time that the basic airframe could be the same, but the rotor head and blades for the Navy would be optimised for sea level operations and shipborne use. The current ALH is more optimised for high altitude use and to survive battle damage, and hence separating the two designs could have yielded the required results. The Sea King is excellent for sea level use, but cannot cross the Banihal pass. Similarly, the ALH performs admirably at high altitudes, but the same performance could be a drag at sea level (pun intended). This option is just one of the possible scenarios I’m suggesting, in hindsight of course. If this was not considered possible, HAL should have at the onset accepted that they will not design a helicopter for the more exacting Naval requirements. HAL claiming (as per information on a different website) that the cost of an imported helicopter would cost 10-15 crores more without actually knowing the figures is incorrect. We don’t even know the exact cost of an ALH.

Coming back to the ALH, the moot question is – how much of the ALH is actually Indian? The engines are ‘manufactured’ at the HAL Engine Division, a euphemism for assembled. The Avionics are Israeli. Crew seats are imported, as are passenger seats for VIPs. The material used to make the airframe and blade comes from various sources abroad. There is enough literature about the weapons that are going to be imported. Flotation gear is imported. The Rotor brake was made in India with quality control by HAL. These brakes used to suddenly get jammed while flying, and so HAL said to us, fly without the brakes. Sadly with this aircraft, the Sum is less than the Total of the parts.

Coming to the oft-repeated term of indigenisation. When we speak of an Indigenous product, what exactly is indigenous? Something produced by a PSU (with parts from all over the globe) or something that is produced in India, even if it is by a foreign manufacturer with imported and locally produced parts. By different yardsticks, a Hyundai car made in India will be indigenous or will be imported. It is the same for home-use items like Surf Excel or Colgate. Should we stop using any of these products? There are enough clarifications in the news from the Government that an item manufactured by a multi-national company in India will still be considered Indian / indigenous. So we have to understand that if a foreign vendor with years of experience comes into India to set up shop to manufacture a helicopter, he is bound to bring with him the expertise, the precision manufacturing practices, industrial safety and everything that has made that company successful. You are automatically creating a value chain, a supply chain that will increase the standards of manufacturing and design in India. This will also spawn its own network of MSMEs and design experts. This will further spur indigenous R & D and design as well as spinoff manufacturing. This is just like the previously described automobile revolution.

Today there are Indian companies producing world-class components for foreign manufacturers. I was told at the Sikorsky factory that the entire cabin structure of the S92 is manufactured in India and sent across. This is the norm everywhere. An American helicopter can have French engines or Canadian engines, European manufacturers will use engines from Pratt and Whitney, components from all over the globe, so in that sense, any helicopter is a fusion of material from around the globe. What then is different if HAL does the same thing? Sadly with the ALH, the sum is less than the total of the parts.

If we allow a foreign vendor to bring in a helicopter that is suited for the Naval requirements, then ultimately, the Nation will benefit. If we were to insist on HAL’s (unsuitable) helicopter being inducted into the Navy to replace the Chetak, then we are doing a great disservice to the Service and to the Nation. I do not understand why there are so many demands that only a PSU should make helicopters and that the design effort of HAL should not be allowed to go waste. If as I’ve said earlier, the product is really so good, there will automatically be a queue to purchase the helicopter. HAL has its order books full not with willing customers, but with those that had no choice. The Navy today has a choice and there seems to be a determined move to scuttle this choice. If the ALH were to be imposed onto the navy as the NUH, HAL may have won the NUH battle, but India will surely lose the war. We in addition would have lost an opportunity to break free of the clutches of the Soviet-era mentality that believed anything made or done by the government is good, and anything done by private enterprise is evil. We would have forever killed any opportunity of nurturing real talent, as well as allowing knowledge and skills to grow and flourish, all for short term gains of a PSU that really, has nothing to gain or lose from the contract, other than a sense of prestige and balancing of the account books.

When we look back many years later, we will then know precisely on whose door to pin our failure as a nation to seize the moment.