Saturday, 31 May 2014


Why do airliners just disappear?

The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 239 people on board has had the whole world wondering and debating what could have happened. “There must be a cover-up,” many people say. “Large airliners don’t just vanish without a trace,” others will say. “The authorities know more than they are letting on.” And so it goes.

But aircraft, ships, land vehicles and people do from time to time disappear completely and often for unexplained reasons. However, many people have great trouble accepting the reality that sometimes there really is no explanation available, and they would rather believe a conspiracy theory, or criminal involvement even where it is probable that none exists.

It must be conceded that large passenger aircraft disappearances in modern times are extremely rare considering the growth of air travel, but they have happened in the past and we’ll cover some of them below.

Aerial disappearances started with Matias Perez on 28 December 1856 when he vanished with his hot air balloon north of Cuba. It was just his fourth flight with the Ville de Paris and no trace was ever found. To this day Cubans have a saying, Volo como Matias Perez, or to vanish into thin air like Matias Perez.
Matias Perez and his hot air balloon

At least a further seven balloons or airships disappeared without trace between 1856 and 1910 when the first recorded disappearance of a fixed-wing aircraft occurred. That was when a Short S.27 pilot attempted to cross the English Channel.

The first recorded disappearance without trace involving more than one person occurred on 8 May 1927 Francois Coli and Charles Nungesser flew a Levasseur PL.8 into oblivion while attempting to fly the Atlantic Ocean from Paris to New York. 

In the race to be the first to fly the Atlantic in August and September, two Fokker F.VIIA aircraft were lost with a total of six people on board. The wreckage of one of these aircraft was found, but no bodies were found.

On 8 November 1935 Australian airline pioneer Sir Charles Kingsford Smith MC, AFC and a crew member disappeared while attempting to break the Australia to England speed record in a Lockheed Altair. No bodies or wreckage were ever found.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

The first recorded disappearance of a commercial passenger flight occurred on 10 February 1936 when a Latecoere 301 with a French registration vanished without explanation over the South Atlantic Ocean. A total of 6 people were on board the aircraft flown by Emile Bamere.

The most famous aviation disappearance was that of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan in a Lockheed Electra 10E near Howland Island in the central Pacific Ocean on 2 July 1937.

The largest total of people to disappear on a commercial flight up to that time was when 15 people on board a Martin M-130 flying boat Hawaiian Clipper vanished en route from Guam to Manila on 28 July 1938. The location of the wreckage and cause of the disappearance remain unknown.

During World War Two a large number of military transports disappeared without trace. Many of them may have been destroyed by enemy action and they are not included in this list. However, Flight 19 deserves special mention.

The flight consisted of a formation of five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers and 14 crewmen. They all vanished over the Bermuda Triangle on 5 December 1945 while on a training flight. It is likely that the leader made a navigational error and all the aircraft ran out of fuel somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. No trace of the crews or wreckage was ever found.

Next was the disappearance of 10 people on a commercial passenger flight between Colombo and Cocos Islands in the northern Indian Ocean on 23 March 1946. The aircraft was a British registered Avro Lancastrian with 5 crew and 5 passengers. Its fate remains a mystery.

On 30 January 1948, 31 people disappeared with an Avro Tudor Mark IV in the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Among the passengers was Australian born war leader Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham KCB, KBE, DSO, MC, DFC, AFC. It was the largest number of people involved in a commercial flight disappearance up to that time.
Sir Arthur Coningham

Fifty-two people were lost six months later when a Latecoere 631 Registration F-BDRC went down somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on a commercial passenger flight. The reason and location remains unknown.

On 28 December 1948 a Douglas DC-3 on a commercial passenger flight disappeared off the east coast of Florida with 32 people on board.

A Douglas DC-4 Skymaster with 44 people on board vanished on a passenger flight in the Yukon Territory in Canada on 26 January 1950.

Six months later another Douglas DC-4 with 58 people on board vanished over Lake Michigan and its fate remains unknown.

Another DC-4 with 37 people vanished over Alaska in July 1951.

On 2 February 1953 a British registered Avro York with 39 people on board vanished without trace over the North Atlantic Ocean.

On 9 November 1957 a Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser departed San Francisco for Honolulu on the first sector of a round-the-world luxury flight with 44 people on board. Five days after the aircraft disappeared 19 bodies, some wearing life vests, were recovered from the sea almost 1,000 miles east of Honolulu.
A Pan Am Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

Thirty-six people were on board a Martin PBM-5 that disappeared between Lisbon and Madeira on 9 November 1958. A distress call was received but no trace of the aircraft or passengers was ever found.

Many disappearances of combat and military transport aircraft have been recorded over the years, but the disappearance on 15 March 1962 of a chartered Flying Tiger Line Lockheed Constellation L-1049H was different. It was a commercial airliner with a crew of 11 and carrying 96 military personnel. It disappeared without trace or warning over the western Pacific Ocean.

Central Bolivia was the last known location of a Transporte Aereo Douglas DC-4 that vanished on 10 January 1974 with 24 people on board.
A Douglas DC-4 Skymaster

Two cargo flights vanished without trace in 1978 and 1979. The first was a Douglas DC-6A on a flight from Bogota to Trinidad. Two months later a Boeing 707-323C vanished east of Japan.

As recently as 3 August 1986 a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter flying over the Caribbean Sea disappeared a few minutes before an intended landing. The aircraft was carrying 13 people. The cause remains unknown.

An unusual disappearance occurred on 25 May 2003 when a US registered Boeing 727 was stolen in Angola and never traced. Aircraft mechanic, flight engineer and private pilot Ben Charles Padilla was believed to be at the controls and, like the Boeing, has never been seen again.
Connect with Peter on Facebook or Twitter

Although the disappearance of the Malaysia jet has a number of unique features, it also follows a long established pattern of aviation tragedies; airline accidents and disappearances progressively involve larger aircraft and larger numbers of passengers in each event. The Malaysian aircraft is the largest civilian aircraft to date to vanish without a trace. It is the first disappearance of its kind involving a wide-body jet. It is the first event involving more than 200 people. It is the first event involving such a wide search area in the world’s least travelled ocean.

Looking at the list of disappearances above, which does not include hundreds of smaller aircraft, it can be seen in retrospect that such an event was probably bound to occur somewhere sooner or later. But something else is also clear from the list. Commercial aviation is getting safer all the time and that is why it is 
so important to find the flight data recorder from MH 370, or even some wreckage, so that the aviation world can learn how to minimize the risk of the same thing happening again.

The search for MH 370 may still have a long way to go, but it is vital that the authorities must be able to work diligently without sideshows, distractions and accusations of cover-ups and conspiracies. That is how the interests of grieving families and future travelers will best be served.

Fly exotic skies with this fast moving thriller

 Available as an E-Book from:


Friday, 30 May 2014


Are psychics genuine or fraudulent?

I have just read The $17 Million Psychic Scam in Readers Digest (May 2014) and that sent me Googling for the facts. This is what I found:
Psychic fraudster Rose Marks

Psychics have been around for thousands of years in one form or another and they consistently fail every scientific examination that they are subjected to. Many psychics will explain this away by saying that conventional scientists just don’t understand things spiritual. Many psychics will admit that only 25% of psychics are genuine, but then they will claim that they are part of the 25% that can be trusted. Reformed, whistle-blowing psychics may go further than that. Some will say that all psychics are frauds.

It is true that psychics fall into several categories. First, there are many seriously misguided individuals out there, often with chaotic personal lives, who genuinely believe that they have the gift. Their predictions are just as chaotic and unreliable as the psychics themselves. Sometimes they just crave recognition as some kind of superior being. My advice: Don’t take too much notice of them and avoid them if possible.

The next category is the professional psychic who charges a fee for the service, knows that his or her predictions are unreliable, but if they have to lie and cheat to make a living then so be it. These people are skilled operators who know how to get the right information from their clients (victims) and then give them believable predictions. My advice: Don’t give them a cent. They are frauds.

The third category of psychics includes people like Rose Marks, Sylvia Browne and Sylvia Mitchell, all convicted psychic fraudsters. They all started out like category 2 fraudsters, but their cunning and greed took them to a higher level. What a shame they were unable to predict their own downfall! My advice: Do not go anywhere near any psychic until you have thoroughly researched the individual and the world of psychics in general. Talking to friends about psychics is not the best way to learn the truth. You may be talking with people who want to believe and who think that you should believe too.
Sylvia Browne, the most brazen of all

Many people do genuinely believe in psychics and things paranormal, and will go back again and again for readings and hope. These people will recount episodes where the psychic predicted correctly, but usually they are allowing their memories to trick them when they overlook all the failed predictions.

So who gets conned by these psychic parasites?

About 70% of clients are girls and women aged from 15-55 who have at least one thing in their life that is not going the way they would like it to be going; a relationship problem, an elusive pregnancy, difficulties at work, financial problems, health and weight problems. They want to be told they are about to win Lotto. They want to hear good news. Often they are referred by a friend who found that the psychic got their future sorted, if you forget all the things they got wrong. People who frequently experiment with a range of life-styles, religions, health foods and other cure-alls are especially open to exploitation by psychic fraudsters.

Modern psychics are mostly right up to date with modern technology and business practices. They have a website with hundreds of five star reviews from satisfied clients. Usually the reviews are as fake as the psychic. They can extract your money very easily with internet banking or PayPal. But then there are others who only accept cash so they can avoid having to pay tax. That simply means that they are double fraudsters and that should send a clear message to potential victims.
Sylvia Mitchell was convicted
after a $138,000 fraud

One of the tricks of skilled psychic fraudsters is to discourage questions from their victims. They will counter your questions with, “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years with 90% accuracy,” or they will say, “You have to believe in order for it to work.” 

Another clever trick is, “I really want to help you, but you have to trust me.” To most rational people these answers would ring alarm bells, but to vulnerable people they can appear as a ray of hope for their troubled lives and that is what psychic fraudsters bank on. They love to belittle skeptics with statements like, “There must be something wrong with you if you can’t see how it works.”

Psychic fraudsters like speaking with authority using their own special gibberish. They like telling people that money is evil, dirty or cursed, especially when they want to attach themselves to your money. They like using terms like energy, aura and guardian angels, or how they can see a curse hovering over your shoulder.

These parasites are skilled at getting information from you, but discourage you from finding out about them. When they know enough about you they can then reformulate the information into pleasing predictions about your future. But just to stop you seeing through the charade they will throw in an extra or two. Typically this will be that someone close to you is sick, or someone close is going to die soon. But hold on, don’t we all know someone who is sick? Don’t we all know someone who will die soon? 

Continued below . . . .

No psychics in this thriller

An E-Book from


But to return to the $17 Million Psychic Scam, Rose Marks, born in 1951, amassed a fortune of $25 to $40 million from her scamming in New York and Florida. She took $17.8 million from just one victim – bestselling novelist Jude Deveraux. Marks took money from her clients on the pretext that the money was cursed and that she could cleanse it for them and later return it to them. She is now serving 10 years in prison and her family assets have been seized by the government. Other members of the Marks family received lesser sentences.

Sylvia Mitchell, 39, a Manhattan fortune teller (also known as Zena Clairvoyant) was found guilty by a jury in 2013 of swindling $138,000 from two women after convincing them that they placed too high a value on money. She took the money for safe-keeping and never returned it.

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) was one of the most famous psychics of the twentieth century, but different to the run-of-the-mill tricksters. Cayce made his predictions while under hypnosis. He was seen as a somewhat reluctant psychic who for a long time refused payment for his alleged talents. However, he eventually established a psychic business with premises and a staff in Kentucky. In 1929, working with a New York stockbroker, he was advising clients to invest in the stock market right up to the day of the famous Wall Street collapse. Like so many others, he never saw it coming.
Edgar Cayce advised clients
to buy stocks right up to
the famous Wall Street

Sylvia Browne (1936-2013) (Sylvia Celeste Shoemaker) was the most brazen of the breed that seems to flourish in America, people who are known in other parts of the world as witch-doctors. As recently as 2010 Browne’s psychic businesses were earning up to $3 million a year from book publishing, appearances on television and radio, and from expensive telephone readings. A 20-30 minute phone reading could cost up to $850. She claimed 85% accuracy with her predictions, but was rarely even remotely correct. She was famous for getting involved in murder and disappearance mysteries, but only once made a prediction that was partly correct. Brown was famous for telling the mothers of lost children that their loved ones were dead and later have them turn up alive. Most famously, at the age of 67 Sylvia Browne predicted on Larry King Live that she would die at the age of 88, but she only made it too 77, indicating a margin of error of greater than 50%. Her prediction, like all her predictions, was based only on educated guesswork.

What do readers think? Are psychics genuine or fraudulent?

Thursday, 22 May 2014


Slow vehicle or inconsiderate driving impeded traffic

That was the wording on the infringement notice issued to me on May 19.

I was driving a tour coach with 40 passengers on board on Auckland’s Southern Motorway. On this motorway the speed limit for cars is 100 kilometres per hour and 90 kph for all heavy and combination vehicles. The motorway has two lanes in each direction at the place where the alleged infringement occurred.
Former Mount Cook Denning #529 built in 1981
on the right and now in the Bus With Us fleet

My North American, Asian and European friends and readers should note that in New Zealand we drive on the left side of the road and the driver sits on the right side of the vehicle (Our left is your right). We do this in spite of the fact that 70% of the world’s drivers, all shipping and all aircraft operate on the right side rather than the left as we do. I apologize for this lack conformity with the rest of the world and ask visitors to our shores to please drive carefully and take care when crossing our streets, lest we clobber you from an unexpected direction.

But to return to the episode on May 19, while cruising at 90 kph we came to a slower line of traffic in the left lane. They were doing about 80-82 kph and there was about seven or eight of them. The right lane had gaps and so I moved right and started overtaking. It soon transpired that the problem in the left lane was a small car at the front of the line followed by a low-loader carrying a large machine and it was followed by more cars.
That's me singing a country song somewhere

After about 1.5 kilometres, without exceeding 90 kph, I was able to return to the left lane. About 200 metres further on, right where pink cones indicated that the shoulder was closed, I was ordered to stop. The cones continued for almost another kilometre, and so did I. I never stop a bus where it is not safe to do so.

Sure that I had not broken any law and wondering what could be wrong, I walked back to the patrol car and opened the passenger side door to talk with the officer. He responded by shouting at me and demanding that I not touch his door. Several minutes later he emerged and shouted, “You need to learn something about the Road Code. Heavy vehicles are banned from the fast lane. You can’t use it!”

He then indicated that he would issue an infringement notice for failing to keep left. He then started gathering the information he needed regarding the coach. He already had my license. While he was doing that I gave the passengers an update and waited some more.
Connect with Peter on Facebook or Twitter

I disagreed with his interpretation of the law and let him know that I would contest the infringement in court. I advised him to check with someone else before wasting everyone’s time with an infringement notice. I believe that he did check and found that my interpretation was correct. But not wanting to be outdone, he then issued the infringement for an entirely different matter.

The officer, who claimed to have been a police officer for eight years and stated repeatedly and bombastically, “I am well trained,” was probably still in his twenties and had little idea how to deal with a fifty year professional driver. Even the coach that I was driving, a beautifully kept 1981 Mount Cook Denning, has seen more highway than that officer may ever see.

The offers of support from passengers have been overwhelming so watch this space for updates on this situation.

This case was defended in court six months later at which time the officer was able to 'remember' cars overtaking the bus on the left side, even though no such comment existed in the officer's notes made at the time. Some parts of the officer's evidence were ruled out of bounds when it came to cross-examination. In a similar vein I was not permitted to give my own version of some prosecution evidence that had already been accepted by the court. On the bench were two justices of the peace. Their verdict: guilty. My verdict on them: Incompetent and biased. My verdict on the officer: Vain and dishonest.

Take a ride with this author on America's highways 
coast-to-coast, border-to-border

Available now as an EBook from:



Sunday, 18 May 2014


Panic! Sea levels are rising alarmingly fast and man is to blame

It is true. Sea levels are rising. But there is no evidence that man is to blame. The evidence points to a likelihood that the process is entirely natural and sea levels have been rising for thousands of years.
Blogger Blakeborough in a
flight simulator

Sea levels have been rising since the peak of the last glacial age 22,000 years ago.

At first the rise was gradual as the ice melted and the oceans warmed and expanded. At that time the world human population has been estimated to have been fairly stable at about 3 million. Man had learned to create and control fire 120,000 years earlier, but still lived a subsistence hunter-gatherer life and struggle to survive. (It’s amazing how some people think life is hard now, and getting harder) Agriculture and industrialization were still in the distant future and the wheel was also yet to be invented.

From 15,000 to 8,000 years ago the sea level rose at its fastest rate, about 110 meters or about 6 centimetres annually. After that average sea levels have been rising less rapidly and have only risen about 5 meters in the last 7,000 years. During the last 1,000 years the rate of sea level rise has slowed even more, while population and industrialization have exploded. This writer believes this must lead rational people to believe that the rise is natural rather than man made.

But the rise of sea levels over a few thousand of years is of little consequence when compared with the rises and falls over millions of years. Every piece of dry land anywhere in the world today was once under the sea and most areas currently under the sea were once dry land. Such is the nature of continental drift, climate change, seismic and volcanic activity. The world is one huge concrete mixer in slow motion.
Available as an EBook from:

It is a sad fact that many small islands and coastal towns will in time disappear under the waves and there is little that can be done to save them. If the ancestors of these people had been wiser they would not have settled where they did. Perhaps they had no choice; they were simple hunter-gatherers trying to survive. They probably were extremely pessimistic about the future of the world and the prospects for their children. In this regard, the thinking has not changed.

The same pessimism existed when I was growing up in the 1950s and continues to this day. It is unwarranted. The world is a better place to live in now than at any time in the past. We live longer, enjoy better health, and have more home comforts, luxuries and leisure pursuits than at any time in the past. This situation has come about because of a better distribution of wealth during the twenty-first century than in any century past, in spite of popular belief. The rich are actually not getting richer while the poor get poorer. That is a popular fallacy.

But the world cannot support more people, you say. I first heard that about 70 years ago (I’ve just had my 77th birthday). About that time I also heard that the world was going to run out of oil in 20 years. I heard many other things that have never eventuated too. I came to the conclusion that people make all kinds of predictions that will never happen. In the 1980s the doom and gloom experts were predicting a ‘nuclear winter’ using the current global warming theory in an uncanny reversal to suit their own ends.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I remember the doom and gloom experts sounding off when the world population reached 4 billion about 1960. The population is now over 7 billion and is forecast to reach 10 billion by 2065. And here is the crunch: People living in 2065 will have a better life-style than people living today. Why? The answer lies in the discovery of fire, agriculture, the invention of the wheel, industrialization, trade and commerce, employment, medicine, education, housing and leisure. All are terms that meant nothing to the poor hunter-gatherers of times long past.

Life just keeps getting better all the time. But I often wonder about suicide rates. I wonder how many suicides can be attributed to the ‘What’s the world coming to?’ brigade. These people are especially vocal when they support political parties that are desperate to gain power.

There is certainly more heat than substance in the global warming/sea level rise debate and it is causing unnecessary distress among a lot of people. Young people in particular, where the suicide rate is highest, are easily influenced by scary misinformation. That is a tragedy when they have so much to live for.

Connect with Peter on Facebook or Twitter

Friday, 16 May 2014


Alone and waiting for death
From The Scapegoat, an EBook by Peter Blakeborough

As his head broke the surface of the water, Cedric Asker heard a great crash and the sound of splintering timber and ripping steel somewhere close in the fog. He scrambled aboard the raft and tried to paddle toward some voices calling frantically for help. A massive explosion very close by was followed by a deathly silence.
He never heard the voices again.
As he sat alone in the silent fog, clinging to the small raft, he shivered and prayed for a miracle.
‘Please, God? If there really is a God, take me to dry land, anywhere.’
Time lost all relevance as he sat alone, cold, wet and afraid, on the raft, unable to see anything but the thick blanket of fog around him. A long time later, when the fog finally lifted, he saw a raft and lifeboat in the distance. He called at the top of his voice, waved the paddle, then the canvas, trying to get their attention. It was useless. They were too far off. The Elingamite was nowhere to be seen. She must have gone down with the explosion. After a few minutes the fog drifted in again and Cedric drifted aimlessly in the whiteout for what seemed like hours. It had been unbearably hot in the engine room. But on the sea it was unbearably cold. He started to shiver again and he put the canvas around his shoulders to ease the chill.
He wondered about Doris; was she alive and warm, or was she dead beneath the waves. He wished he had stayed with her instead of trying to rescue the old man.
He would never see her again.
He thought about his mother. His earliest memories were of a beautiful young woman who adored him. They had some wonderful times together and he missed her terribly when he left Carrathool to go to school in Sydney. After that he only saw his mother once a year and gradually they grew apart. In a way Granny Ruby, really his great-grandmother became more like a mother to him. He spent most weekends with her at Ruby’s Boarding House in Caraher’s Lane. She was the grand old lady of the Rocks, widely admired and respected, in Sydney’s oldest housing area.
He thought about the father he had never known. He had died a long time ago and his mother had promised to tell him about his father when he was old enough to understand. But in later years the subject of his father was never raised.
With the Elingamite gone and seemingly the passengers and crew too, he was now alone on the sea and he wondered if he too was about to die.

The Scapegoat is a fast-moving, fictionalized account of early twentieth century life in New Zealand. The plot has many unexpected twists and turns, including a trumped up murder charge.

 Available now from: for only $4.99 USD

The Scapegoat can be read on most E-Reader devices or on a PC