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Archive Monthly Archives: October 2016

Chilbolton Observatory – Hampshire’s Finest Abandoned Airfield

Chilbolton Observatory is one of Hampshire’s finest abandoned airfields. During World War II it was once home to squadrons of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Typhoons, and Vampires.

Opened in 1940 as a satellite airfield for RAF Middle Wallop it was used by the RAF and USAAF.

After the war it was used for flight tests before being closed in 1961. Today it is the site of Chilbolton Observatory, a facility that carries out atmospheric and radio research.

The footage in the video below was taken using a DJI Phantom Vision+ quadcopter drone in June 2014.  You can clearly see that the car park of today was once part of the main runway.

Chilbolton Observatory

Chilbolton Observatory, abandoned airfields, Hampshire

By assumed USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The airfield was an operational base for a squadron of Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.  The image to the right shows the airfield in 1944 when CG-4As gliders and C-47s transports gathered there in preparation for operation Market Garden.

Today, crop marks in the fields reveal the locations of two of its three runways while in this image the runways, dispersal points, and perimeter track can clearly be seen.

In 1941, with the Battle of Britain won the previous year, the airfield was designated a Care and Maintenance facility.

1944 saw the arrival of the USAAF in the form of Spitfires and Mustangs from the Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 67th Reconnaissance Wing.

Hawker Tempest, RAF Fritzlar, Germany, 1945

Hawker Tempest, RAF Fritzlar, Germany, 1945. © B Lovegrove

Between 1945 and 1946 it was back in the hands of the RAF.  The airfield saw the arrival of several more squadrons of Hawker Tempests (a derivative of the Hawker Typhoon), Spitfires, and Mustangs.

(Note: In October 2016 at Goodwood Airfield the Hawker Typhoon RB396 Restoration was launched.)

For example, 247 Squadron’s Tempests F2 andTyphoon Ibs arrived on 20th August 1945, and departed on 7th January 1946.  A few month’s later the squadron’s first de Havilland Vampire jets arrived.

When the RAF vacated in 1946 it was taken over by the Vickers Supermarine company and became the location for tests of their new aircraft which included the Supermarine Attacker, Supermarine Swift and Supermarine Scimitar.

The Folland aviation company also used it as a test area for the Folland Gnat and Folland Midge aircraft.

The airfield was also used for location shots for the 1952 David Lean film The Sound Barrier.

By 1961 all major flying operations had ceased and the site was transformed into the location for atmospheric and radio research.  Civilian flying continues at the Chilbolton Flying Club grass strip.

The Chilbolton Observatory radio telescope is a prominent local landmark and it is still used as such by passing aircraft.  It is on the edge of the Middle Wallop MATZ (Military Air Traffic Zone).

Folland Midge during test flights at Chilbolton in 1954

Crop Circles at Chilbolton. Elaborate hoax or a reply from distant planet?

The NHS Wasted Billions – Where Does All Our Money Go?

The NHS Wasted Billions - Where Does All Our Money Go?Hardly a day goes by without one politician or another banging the NHS drum.  The political ping-pong often revolves around the NHS wasted billions.

In July of this year the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 covered the anniversary of the death of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service.  I wonder what Mr Bevan would make of today’s NHS.

During the program Jeremy Vine interviewed an Aneira Thomas, the first baby born in an NHS hospital.  She was born on the 5th July 1948 at Amman Valley Hospital, Carmarthenshire.

She, her three sisters, and her daughter have all spent years working in the NHS in a variety of roles. As you can imagine she is a champion for the Health Service and is very proud of her connection to it.

However, when Jeremy Vine asked her what was the single biggest cause of waste in the NHS here answer was surprising.  As I recall (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) she didn’t use the opportunity to knock the Tories or blame Conservative policies.  Instead, she seemed to draw attention to the waste within middle management.

During the preceding weeks I had seen numerous stories in the press about the amount of waste in the NHS.  It began to look as if the NHS is a huge bucket with so many holes in it that every time the budget is increased a lot of it escapes through the holes.

The NHS Wasted Billions

For 2015/16, the overall NHS budget was around £116.4 billion.  It’s the second biggest slice of the tax payers’ pie after pensions.  Defence spending for example is a third of health care.

If you work in the NHS you will probably have your own opinion so feel free to add your comments below this post.  I’d be interested to know what truth there is for each of these examples of the holes in the bucket.

  1. Consultants paid thousands for weekend work (NHS paying locums up to £4,000 for a day’s work, The Times, February 2017)
  2. Agency nurses paid excessive daily rates
  3. The protectionism of middle managers who take a salary but contribute nothing
  4. Paying fortunes for drugs that should cost a fraction of the cost
  5. Outright and deliberate fraud
  6. Health tourism (accounts for £1.8 billion alone)
  7. Failed IT projects
  8. Over-treatment and over-diagnosis
  9. Contracting management consultants who give no value for money
  10. Perks, expenses, and bonuses paid to staff well in excess of their productivity
  11. Theft from hospitals and other medical centres
  12. Self-inflicted conditions and associated illnesses e.g. obesity and illnesses it causes like diabetes, drinking to oblivion (I’m not including alcoholism, just the binge drinkers who blog up A&E) – (No excuse for eating junk food because healthy meals are cheaper, report finds)
  13. Six figure ‘golden handshakes’ for departing executives and consultants
  14. 1990 Courts And Legal Services Act (Section 58) which creates an annual legal bill of £1.5 billion
  15. Bills for private finance NHS hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  All but one of these deals was signed for under the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.
  16. Loss of equipment lent to patients that is not collected or returned
  17. Money sent abroad to fund anti-smoking projects in other countries
  18. Missed appointments by time wasters.  “Patients missing their appointments cost the NHS £1 billion last year” – The Guardian, 2nd January 2018

Are these all valid?  Can you think of any others?

Hospital Parking Charges

Hospital parking charges are a contentious issue.  Over £120,000,000 was collected in 2015/16 according to a report published by the Press Association.

On the one hand there are the hospitals justifying parking charges as an important revenue source that offset the budget cuts.  While on the other the patients, their families, and their visitors are angry about paying for every visit.

If just some of the waste in the list above was addressed perhaps many hospitals could waive or at least reduce the parking charges.

Further Reading

Why can’t we admit to ourselves that the NHS is one of the most overrated, inefficient systems in the world? – The Independent, April 14th 2017

 

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