The practice of dumping excess fuel from aircraft


Qantas has had some bad press lately, having to abort several flights due to engine or other malfunctions. The most recent was when a flight to Buenos Aires from Sydney returned to Sydney yesterday after smoke was detected in the cockpit. A few days earlier a Qantas flight from Perth to Melbourne returned to Perth not long after take off due to engine trouble. In all 4 Qantas flights have been unable to reach their destination in less than 2 weeks.

In the overall scheme of things, this is of concern, but what it got me thinking about was that every time a plane gets turned back to due a malfunction, they dump most of their fuel because it would be dangerous to try to land a plane ‘heavy’ with aviation fuel, especially when there are already technical problems with the flight. Obviously the fuel itself adds weight and restricts low altitude manoeverability, but also represents a major fire/explosion risk.

With the price of fuel, I’m sure that airlines take as much as required to cover contingency plans and civil aviation law will also dictate rules around this. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about how much fuel is dumped from aircraft around the world on a daily basis and what the consequences might be.

According to an enlightening article in Wikipedia  only large aircraft, fitted with fuel dumping systems have the ability to dump fuel. It is not universal. It also says that they generally dump fuel at high altitude which means that most of it dissipates before it hits the ground.

So is it safe? The Institute for Southern Studies found that fuel dumping was behind crop damage in Tennessee. They say that most of the fuel vaporizes and doesn’t reach the ground, yet the net is full of news stories about problems caused by fuel dumping. Of course it could be considered far less risky than an explosion on impact and in my research, there was far more evidence of massive losses of oil at sea from ships.

I found it really difficult to get any sort of statistic of how many fuel dumps happen around the world daily, I know its a lot because of the number of PA’s I have heard from the flight deck on my travels. I’d be interested if anyone has any statistics on this. One thing I do note is that in New Zealand we don’t have problems like acid rain and we have very low flight density. Yes, I do understand that most acid rain comes from heavy industrial pollution.

Anyway, just something I’ve been thinking about. Yes, I would still fly Qantas without hesitation.

A Qantas 380 Dumping Fuel in Flight

On Human Singularity, IQ and EQ


Barton Kunstler wrote an enlightening article in The Futurist entitled The Singularity’s Impact on Business Leaders: A Scenario, where amongst other insightful information, he pondered the question of how technologically enhanced people in a workplace environment would interact with ‘normal individuals’. It gave me a number of EUREKA moments that I may or may not get into in this blog.

In the latest copy of IT Brief a publication of Action Media, the editorial by Clare Coulson talked about IQ and EQ and how they often don’t come together. This is very true, but there is a tension that Barton Kunstler picked up on wasn’t so much the problem for people with high IQ, but with their ‘peers’ acceptance or intimidation, intolerance by people who might feel threatened by their enhanced capabilities.

He postulated that management in a traditional environment, which evolved as an “efficient survival and social-enhancement mechanism. He suggested that human beings who  had enhanced mental, perceptual and physiological capability would totally disrupt the status quo.

My take from this was that the lack of EQ in the average manager would consider these people known as ESI’s or enhanced singular individuals as a threat, which from an instinctive perspective, in the evolved human brain could be perceived as a threat to the status quo and the ‘superior’ position of today’s ‘Manager’, which could be in fact any person in an authority position.

This could be a fatal flaw and will be a major problem faced in all areas where people are bred or enhanced to have a higher intellect. This could be simply a greater ability to use their natural intelligence, or a connection to external intelligence such as a computer. I don’t want to go into the feasibility of this in this blog, because I have already covered this to some degree in my previous blog, Singularity and ESI’s, which talked about people who have lost limbs and can control prosthesis’ with their brains, which is already relatively common place.

So if we assume this is possible and perhaps already taking place in the labs at DARPA and other well financed institutions, then how can we deal with this problem? The first aspect of this is defining the problem. Is the problem that people with high IQ’s, don’t have high EQ, or is it that the people who don’t have a high IQ don’t have high EQ either?

A progressive manager in today’s world, will employ best of breed staff on the basis that the better the people in his employ, the more successful the business will be and the more that will reflect on him or her. The traditional manager will not want people smarter than they are and will feel threatened by them. I believe the latter is more prevalent, certainly from my personal experience.

An argument that many people put forward is that people with high IQ’s don’t have high EQ (required for rational human type problem solving). In some cases that is true. There are many case studies of people who were encouraged at an early age to study hard, be it music, maths, linguistics, what they studied doesn’t really matter, it was their inherent ability to study and I suspect that those people would have been good at what ever discipline they chose. So we see students going to university at the age of 13 or 14.

Many of these kids have degrees before their age group peers finish high school. In many cases they are poorly tolerated by their fellow university students, who can’t relate to them and drift into a lonely life. The relating makes sense, the social life of an average aged university student is very different to a pubescent teenager. They are barely emotionally compatible and some parents do their best to ensure that young gifted children in this situation still get to play sport and enjoy their childhood, which in some cases is very successful, but those children often find that they are intellectually so far ahead of the others, that they find the chatter childish and can no longer relate, so they are left in limbo.

Most public education systems lack support for gifted children and a common thread is that gifted children suffer from asynchronous development and that they need to stay within their own age group in order to develop social behaviors, physical coordination and dexterity and emotional maturity. They may lift them a level above their age group, but little more is done for them. Many gifted children are home schooled where they come from parents who were also intellectually gifted and learned from the lack of support they grew up with.

A serious problem I see for the future is intolerance of gifted people, or holding them back, limiting their independence and controlling what they can and can’t do.

For example, in the military, they are looking at developing combat personnel with extreme strength, fast reactions and reasoning. But what traditional military leader who has worked their way up the ranks is going to accept a junior ESI telling them what to do? This is highly unlikely and will cause all sorts of stress.

I can see more success in the fields of science, but if and when ESI’s are developed, however that takes place, there is going to be a serious ‘Us and Them’ situation taking place and this will lead to workforce and community problems between the enhanced humans and as Kunstler calls them, the ‘Norms’.

Living in New Zealand, we have an endemic Tall Poppy Syndrome attitude towards people who appear to be brighter than others, or more likely to over achieve. It is interesting that Wikipedia singles out the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand as being countries that particularly single out overachievers, unless it is in the area of sport.

Kiwis will celebrate intelligence after the event, but often it takes a little help along the way. Ernest Rutherford was credited with having a gifted teacher, who helped him on his way to splitting the atom.

Other Kiwi children with high intelligence have had different experiences. For example a child who was exhaustively tested for 2 weeks by the Psychology Department of Auckland University and told he had an IQ of in excess of 165, was frequently bullied by a teacher who was incensed with being corrected by a child of 11. According to one web site, Einstein’s IQ was 160 as was Bill Gates. Charles Darwin apparently ranked 165. This student, as a result of school zoning was sent to a school with a brilliant history of rugby success, but a very poor academic record and certainly no support for a child who was reading and understanding Kafka and cosmic string theory.

Another common experience in New Zealand colleges is where children have been  threatened by their lesser performing peers that they will be beaten up if their exam results are significantly higher. In many Kiwi schools, getting on the 1st 15 in rugby is a far more highly praised achievement, yet those with intellectual prowess could well be the ones to combine Kiwi ingenuity with intelligence to build the country up as a knowledge society.

I want to ponder this some more, because ESI’s are being ‘created’ as I write this and the problem is, as Kunstler identified: How can ESI’s and Norms coexist? It doesn’t take a super brain to known that human’s are damaging our planet. Humans are a wonder of nature and their ascendancy to governing and damaging the planet is perhaps a result of their poor EQ. Logic might suggest that humans are bad for the longevity of life on earth. An ESI might decide that the best way to deal with this situation is to control the norms or eliminate them.

Note to self, read Vernor Vinge and see what he has to say, because the common thread that comes to me so often is Science Fiction becoming reality.

Perhaps what we need is another disruption to deal with the disruption. In effect take away the threat of human singularity, while embracing it’s ability to do good, rather than making better combat warriors.

The last word today goes to the many New Zealand Members of Parliament who abused their privileges and ministerial credit cards in droves. It appears that they have been rorting the system for years, but over the last year, have been getting caught out on everything from $1,000 lunches to buying themselves things like a new set of golf clubs. Add that to listening to them on radio or watching them on Parliament TV, you would have to wonder if EQ is on their qualification set.

It’s a little bit funny


On wednesday night I was ready to go to A Songwriter Speaks to hear a presentation and some music from Dave Dobbyn and others courtesy of APRA of which I am a writer member. Then at about 4:45 I got a call saying that thre were 4 comp tickets available for Elton John’s first gig in Auckland for 10 years. Well sorry Dave, but I’m sure I’ll be able to see you in Auckland again within the next 10 years and sorry APRA for not using the tickets you kindly sent me.

Well the concert was great and I agree with everything said in the NZ Herald review, in fact it really stole my thunder and it’s great to see a nice review in the paper that doesn’t spend time aggrandising the reviewer and tells it how we all saw it. What a great night.

Elton flew in from Sydney in the late afternoon, came to town, did his sound checks, relaxed did the gig and within an hour was back on his plane to Sydney. Given that this is his 3rd trip down here in 3 years (I said not in Auckland remember?) I guess all I can be is grateful that he took the time to pop down and share with us. As he said, it is such a long way to come.

We love Elton down here (who doesn’t) and he always gives a great show and although he didn’t talk much, he took the time to do autographs for everyone in the front row of the stage which was awesome in these paranoic days and kudos to security for not getting carried away, which you see overseas all the time.

As to the music, it was awesome, it was a wonder I could play at my own gig last night after shouting and singing for almost 3 hours. There was some virtuoso piano playing which was awesome to listen to and watch on thebig screens. How does he play so well with his little hands? One of my favourites was his 10-12 minute rendition of Rocket Man and the others were almost everything he played.

I mustn’t forget Davey Johnstone, the awesome guitar player from Scotland, now of Los Angeles, who’s stage collection of guitars made my 6 look puny. Davey has played with Elton for many years as well as on the Tommy show. He ha also featured on a number of Elton John Albums including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 2001. He has worked with a Who’s Who of artists in the past. He even merits his own page in Wikipedia. He first played with Elton as early as 1972 on Honkey Chateau which was Elton’s first number one album in the US.

Amongst the guitars that caught my attention at the show were a Fender Strat and a Fender Tele, Gibson Les Paul, Gibson Flying V, 2 double neck guitars that I suspect might be Rickenbakkers, one tuned for slide and the other including a 12 string. Then there were 4 (I think accoustic guitars including a 12 string and a nylon string and then there was the banjo. I told my wife that I have some buying to do, but first of all I had better sell some songs. Anyone looking for a new country song?

Elton John aka Reginald Dwight is a legend. He’s been around and started performing before I was born and I’ve been around a while. I could tell you what I was doing and where my life was at when a number of his songs were released and I’m sure you could do the same with songs like Rocket Man, Daniel, Song for Guy, Candle in the Wind……… I don’t need to mention them all, you know them. Of course Bernie Taupin was a major factor in his success he has continued to write and reinvent himself and is still current in my book with recent works including work on Lion King, Billy Elliot and loads more including loads of benefits, the tribute to Princess Diana and some awesome DVD’s and specials.

What impressed me more than anything was that at 61 years old and having been through so much in his life, his voice is as strong as ever, capable of bellowing out for 3 hours, his keyboard playing is if anything continuing to develop, especially creatively. Watching him on stage, other than his acrobatics being a little more subdued you wouldn’t have thought him more than 40 years old.

Thanks Elton, for coming down to New Zealand again, you have adoring fans aged from 8 to 80 and you will always find a warm welcome and big audience, even at the crazy prices they charged. One final footnote on the Vector Arena. The accoustics aren’t great, but the sound engineers did a brilliant job. It’s hard enough to make sure people get good sound throughout a major venue, but even more so with such challenging accoustics. Kudos guys.