Monday, 29 December 2014


New Zealand driver clocked at 240km/h (149mph)
A driver has been clocked at 240 km/h on the Waikato Expressway and police say driving at that 'crazy' speed takes 450m to stop.
The driver was apprehended yesterday travelling northbound on the Expressway at 224kmh. Police said the driver's initial speed - a whopping 240km/h - was "simply reckless" .
NZ Herald

It’s the silly season in New Zealand. Country roads Downunder are clogged with cars, bikes, caravans and trailers; drivers and families making their annual pilgrimage to the beaches, rivers, lakes and mountains, of which the country is well endowed. It’s the time to forget business and concentrate on barbeques, boats and booze. Did I say silly season? Understatement. It’s the deadly season!

Police and road safety organizations put out their usual media messages about speed and alcohol, following too close, fatigue, distractions, and so it goes . . .  But this writer gets the distinct impression that they are only preaching to the converted. The vulnerable are simply not listening. They believe it won’t happen to them. They believe they know what they are doing. They have the driving skills to prove it . . .

So how do we identify and deal with the drivers who are most at risk, before it’s too late?
Well, unfortunately, road accident investigation and reporting is rather primitive in New Zealand, as it is in most parts of the world. They need to take some lessons from air accident investigators, who during the course of the twentieth century changed flying from the most dangerous form of transport to the safest by a country mile. Today, aviation has a safety culture that is totally lacking in land transport, and especially with amateur drivers. Having said that, most amateur pilots lack the skills and experience of their professional brothers and sisters, but they understand that.  However, many car drivers think that they drive better than most professionals and the only things that matter are overtaking slow-moving large vehicles and avoiding cops.

During the course of almost 60 years of driving (50 as a professional) and 30 years of flying, this writer has witnessed many crashes, seen lots of bad driving, read many accident reports, and formed some opinions.

Driver licence testing has got harder in recent times, but that is only a beginning. Driver training is mostly primitive or non-existent. Every new driver should be required to learn only with a certified driving instructor and should remain under that instructor’s supervision until gaining a full licence. That is how it is done in aviation, and driving a car on a highway is more hazardous than flying an aircraft through the air. Aviation has developed a culture that is lacking on the roads.
Continued below . . . . 

Don't drive!

It's safer to stay home with a good book

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Driver attitudes must change. From the very first day of instruction, the emphasis must be on safety. New drivers should be required to undergo drug and alcohol testing as well as testing for personality disorders that could lead to bad driving, or inhibit good decision making. Re-testing of all drivers should be carried out randomly to ensure that drivers remain current in terms of driving ability and their knowledge of the law.

But, to return to the 240 kph driver, the police have seriously underestimated the distance required to stop from that speed. The car driver only has the tires and brakes on four little wheels to rely on. Compare that, again with flying, and a small jetliner touching down at 193 kph (120 mph). The jetliner will probably have some head wind, wheel brakes, air brakes and flaps, reverse thrust and will still require close to a kilometre to stop. This all raises another crucial question. Do the police think that they are bullet proof too? Why on earth were they chasing another vehicle at 240 kph? I guess it is possible that they checked the speed with a stationary device and called another patrol further along the road, but did they?

Technology exists for remotely disabling motor vehicles, and there is no need for police chases. Some finance companies use this technology to disable cars that have overdue payments. Government could use the same technology to disable vehicles and/or drivers that are unlicensed, speeding, or leaving the scene of a crime or accident. Remote disablement could result in fewer accidents, lower insurance premiums, and fewer vehicle thefts.

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Meanwhile, hyped-up holiday drivers will continue to driver irrationally, continue to crash, and continue to kill themselves and others. It seems that no research data exists that profiles the typical holiday accident-prone driver. My experience suggests to me that the profile not only includes young drivers (that much is well known), but also drivers of any age with little total (or recent) driving experience.

Typically, a young, inexperienced (bullet-proof) driver, puts a deposit on an old car that may be unsuitable for his level of skill, then he hits the highway at the most dangerous time of the year. Used car sales always peak just before the summer break. Many new drivers make an extra effort to get a license in time for the break. Families often upgrade the family car just before the break. The result of all this is thousands of drivers driving unfamiliar vehicles, on unfamiliar roads, with thousands of other hyped-up unfamiliar drivers. The result is inevitable.

Accident investigators seem quite unconcerned about the part that may be played by driver inexperience. Once again, aviation has that aspect under control. Their accident reports detail everything about a pilot’s history; medical history, total years and hours of flying, hours on the type, hours in previous months, weeks, days and hours, and all relevant events in the time leading up to the accident. Much of this information can be obtained from aviation records, and aircraft and pilot logbooks. But car drivers are not required to keep logbooks. That should change.

All vehicles should have electronic logbooks and data recorders. It’s time for car drivers to join the real world, before they accidentally leave the world before their time, taking others with them.

Finally, driving culture will only change when police investigate accidents to educate, rather than prosecute.

Saturday, 27 December 2014


Sending aid to Africa will only make their problems worse
Kevin Myers (born 30 March 1947) is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, having previously been a columnist for the Irish Independent and a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the "An Irishman's Diary" opinion column several times weekly. Until 2005, he wrote for the UK Sunday Telegraph. This essay appeared in The Irish Independent in 2008 and appears to have been updated and altered on its way around the viral email circuit. It contains typos that one wouldn’t expect from a competent journalist. Kevin Myers, however, is a real journalist and the general theme of his article has not changed. Here it is:
Somalia is not a humanitarian disaster; it is an evolutionary disaster. The current drought is not the worst in 50 years, as the BBC and all the aid organisations claim. It is nothing compared to the droughts in 1960/61 or 73/74. And there are continuing droughts every 5 years or so. It's just that there are now four times the population; having been kept alive by famine relief, supplied by aid organisations, over the past 50 years. So, of course, the effects of any drought now, is a famine. They cannot even feed themselves in a normal rainfall year. 
Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie led the country during a
large part of the 20th Century and made many reforms
Worst yet, the effects of these droughts, and poor nutrition in the first 3 years of the a child's life, have a lasting effect on the development of the infant brain, so that if they survive, they will never achieve a normal IQ . Consequently, they are selectively breeding a population, who cannot be educated , let alone one that is not being educated; a recipe for disaster 
We are seeing this impact now, and it can only exacerbate, to the detriment of their neighbours, and their environment as well. This scenario can only end in an even worse disaster; with even worse suffering, for those benighted people, and their descendants. Eventually, some mechanism will intervene, be it war, disease or starvation. 
So what do we do? Let them starve?  What a dilemma for our Judeo/ Christian/Islamic Ethos; as well as Hindu/Buddhist morality. And this is beginning to happen in Kenya , Ethiopia , and other countries in Asia, like Pakistan . Is this the beginning of the end of ccivilization 
AFRICA is giving nothing to anyone outside Africa -- apart from AIDS and new diseases. Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilization in Zimbabwe , the Begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us out of Africa , yet again. It is nearly 25 years since the famous Feed The World campaign began in Ethiopia , and in that time Ethiopia 's population has grown from 33.5 million to 78+ million today.  So, why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country?  Where is the logic? There is none. 
To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn't count. One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of children starving. 
Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia ; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there.  The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a low IQ, AK 47-bearing moron, siring children whenever the whim takes him and blaming the world  because he is uneducated, poor and left behind. There is no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system but I do not know what it is.  There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a column like this. It will win no friends and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of, well, the self-righteous hand wringing, letter writing wrathful individuals; a species which never fails to contaminate almost every debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority. It will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like John O'Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire enormously. 
So be it. But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Irish Famine, with this or that lazy analogy. There is no comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30%. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules plane, Ethiopia 's population has more than doubled. 
Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness. Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia , another fine land of violent, AK 47-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts and housing pirates of the ocean.  Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive, illiterate indigents, with tens of millions of people who only survive because of help from the outside world or allowances by the semi-communist Governments they voted for, money supplied by borrowing it from the World Bank! 

Somali women at a community event
This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense.  Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against AIDS infection.  Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre , Uganda , Congo , Sudan , Somalia , Eritrea etcetera. Broad brush-strokes, to be sure.  But broad brush-strokes are often the way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters.  Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 20th century have endured worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part of Africa .  They are now -- one way or another -- virtually all giving aid to or investing in Africa, whereas Africa , with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS. 
Meanwhile, Africa 's peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation. By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million; the equivalent of France , Germany and Benelux today, but located on the parched and increasingly Protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley . So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country? 
How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them? 
Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity! 
But that is not good enough. For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa . It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed.  It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates' programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating.  If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts. 
Oh good: then what? I know, let them all come here (to Ireland ) or America . (not forgetting Australia !) And now, Ebola ! 

Peter’s Piece

The Kevin Myers article is a heartless diatribe on an unfortunate region of the world and its people, and it comes from a journalist with a privileged upbringing and a warped view of the world from an unbreakable glasshouse. Have a heart, Kevin.
Ethiopia and Somalia not only share the same northeast African region, they have shared the same problems as Ireland in their recent history; bad government, corruption, war, famine, disease and poverty.
The difference is that the Ethiopians and Somalis mostly breed at home, because the rest of the world shuts them out, while the Irish breed all over the world and hardly at all in their own country. Looked at in this context, it is little wonder that the populations of Ethiopia and Somalia have exploded. Contraception is expensive and, for poor people, it is easier to live for the moment and defer the cost. If the Irish population decrease by 30% during the potato famine, it wasn't because they all suddenly became non-Catholic. It was because they were able to make a new life elsewhere.
As for the belief that tap water will prevent AIDS, well, that could be put in the same category as the blarney stone and the influence leprechauns on the affairs of humanity.
Both African countries desperately need United Nations supervision, foreign investment, and foreign homes and jobs for their surplus millions. Both countries also need to cut military spending and put more into health and education. If more countries would open their doors to these people, the Somalis and Ethiopians could become the Irish of the future, and all the world would be better off. Remember, immigrants build strong nations.
Meanwhile, Kevin Myers has inflicted a gut-wrenching assault on millions of innocent people, to boost his own readership and popularity. That is despicable. His article is all the worse because, although he now works in Ireland, he wasn't born there. His ancestors had the good sense, and the means, to leave during the hard times. Why would he deny the same opportunity to others?
His claim that Africa has given nothing to the world except AIDS and Ebola also doesn’t stack up. Has he not been made aware that Homo sapiens evolved in what is now Ethiopia, and that he owes his very existence to that region?

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Wednesday, 24 December 2014


The 60th Anniversary of Agricultural Aviation in New Zealand
 At Masterton, southern North Island, on May 22nd and 23rd, 2009.

By Mike Feeney of Hamilton, New Zealand, a dinosaur aviator, who believes that we should remember the people, the places, the events and the aircraft that shaped our lives.

This is a nostalgic, reflective item from Mike Feeney, one of the earlier post WWII aero club-trained NZ ag-pilots. This is the full version, in E-mail format, of a much abbreviated item which was sent to the American AgAirUpdate magazine. This includes a list of those who attended the function which was too lengthy to publish in Bill Lavender's excellent journal. Sorry if any names have been omitted, but there were some who managed to make it at the last minute, or were only able to call in for a while. Also, the list may include a few who could not make it due weather and/or family or business circumstances etc. Also, Clive Wilkinson has written an article which will be in the June issue of NZ Aviation News.
Many thanks to Graeme Mills for the use of his photographs. Graeme runs an excellent website which will interest many of the recipients on my distribution Contact list. By the time you receive this, Graeme will have posted more High Definition images. There is much more ag-aviation stuff on it than just Beavers I should stress. I have attached photographs in smaller format for the convenience of dial-up recipients. You may consider forwarding this on to interested people; principally as they may wish to access Graeme's website to look at the Reunion photographs. Very few of the list of attendees is on my Contact list)

Thanks to the efforts of principal organisers John and Penny Bargh and Lou Forhecz, the Diamond Jubilee of commercial agricultural aviation operations in New Zealand went off in a most successful and convivial manner. The large Copthorne-Solway Park venue was warm and comfortable which was appreciated as near-freezing, rain-saturated, 100 kph winds from the sub-Antarctic, raged outside for the entire two days. This precluded the planned Saturday afternoon flying display by a variety of historic aerial topdressing machines such as a Tiger Moth, Beaver and currently working types such as Air Tractor, FU-24, PAC Cresco, and Ag Cat.

Close to 180 folk attended, ranging down from 93 year old pioneer Guy Robertson who performed the cutting of the birthday cake. The guest speaker at the Saturday night dinner was another WWII pilot and early pioneer operator, John Barr. As an historian, I thought John spoke particularly lucidly of the early years of our NZ industry.

Friday afternoon and evening was occupied by people arriving from all over NZ, plus a few from overseas, and becoming re-acquainted. An ample buffet was provided on Friday evening with a generous amount of liquid refreshments being laid on by the various sponsors on both nights. The Sponsors were:

Hawkes Bay Aviation Ltd;
Rural Aerial Co-operative Ltd;
Tui Brewery Ltd;
Fieldair Ltd., Australia;
Petroleum Logistics Ltd;
Griffin Ag Air Ltd;
Air BP Ltd;
Pratt and Whitney;
Air Tractor;
Super Air Ltd;
Ravensdown Fertiliser;
Aviation Co-operative Pacific Underwriters Ltd;
Pacific Aerospace;
Paul and Naida Fenton;
Ag Air Update magazine.

Thanks so much to you all for coming to the 'party' with your contributions. It really helped make the gathering a memorable one! 

I was astonished at the huge amount of effort that had been made to put together the numerous photographic and newspaper clippings display boards that filled an entire large room. A large screen showed much interesting and historic film footage of aerial topdressing operations.

As I listened to Guy Robertson's address, my mind drifted  back to frosty  early mornings in 1950 when, as a ten year old lad, I recalled Robertson Air Services and James Aviation's first de Havilland Tiger Moths chugging out to work past our home on the outskirts of Hamilton. It was then I began to clip out increasing numbers of newspaper and magazine articles about the new and exciting industry. Soon after, I began to bike out to Rukahia aerodrome and hang around Guy's modest hangar and Ossie's base in part of the large RNZAF hangar. As well as the aircraft, there were a variety of trucks and tractors being fitted with all manner of improvised loading booms and buckets. I can't recall ever being told to go away by the men, and felt privileged to help with a cleaning rag on the oily Tiger Moths.

As I sat chatting to Guy and Phil Lightband, an early Rural Aviation founder, I felt a sort of warm nostalgic glow as I remembered those far off years when, as a ten and eleven year old, I was there at the beginning of the industry in the Waikato and, just nine years later was flying a Rural Aviation Cessna 180 on topdressing ops. In between, I spent some memorable times riding in the hopper of Alex Blechynden's DH-82 and helping on airstrips and flying out to work in a James Aviation Beaver with two chaps whom many will recall; my late chum Ron Woolford and Ron Henneker, whom I still enjoy an ale with today. There were also the many hands-on hours I spent in the co-pilot's seat in James Aviation's Douglas DC-3 top dresser. They were great and formative times which imbued a deep and long-lasting affection for the people who have been, and are still, involved with this nation-changing enterprise. It was only later that it dawned upon me that all this teenage involvement was a valuable training and awareness experience.

At the Saturday night dinner, a special mention was made of the four men who have exceeded 30,000 hours of agricultural aviation flying, and it was particularly special that they were all present. Even more remarkable is that the four chaps are still doing some ag-flying; albeit on perhaps a reduced level. They are John Harding, Derek Williams, Hallett Griffin and Robert Thurston. They have managed to stick with the industry during all its low points. Most of the rest of us either moved on to other flying jobs or, in many cases, right away from flying activity altogether. A few, like myself, have been in and out of the industry several times. One hundred and forty pilots were killed whilst ag-flying in N.Z. Many other New Zealanders lost their lives whilst ag-flying overseas. Overall, on average, about 25 have been killed every decade. More in earlier periods of course when the number of fixed-wing aircraft in action was nearly three times that of today.

I know John and Derek and Hallett fairly well; Robert not so well; but I know that each of them has an intrinsic internal quality that has enabled them to avoid the fate that so many others succumbed to. But I also know that each of them has had some very close brushes with the dark-robed chap and his scythe.... Only by having been engaged in extensive ag-flying as a pilot, can one truly understand just how attuned one becomes to the many cues that the aircraft and the wind provide to enable one to predict what a heavily laden machine may do in the next few seconds, during a critical flight phase such as take-off, or on short final approach to a no go-around short steep airstrip.

No matter how careful one may be when flying overloaded aircraft from marginal airstrips, in rugged terrain, luck plays a part in one's survival. Just when an engine fails, or a prop blade fractures is beyond the control of all pilots, no matter how skilled and experienced they may be. As Ernie Gann indicated so well, when he decided on a title, for his wonderful account of his early flying career:  Fate is the Hunter.

Now here be a gaggle of likely looking lads! From left are Guy Robertson (looking as debonair as ever), Peter Anderson (performing some arcane ritual with his head rolling into a turn), Frank Desborough (one of NZ's earliest aerial spraying pioneers), Phil and Esther Lightband (from the earliest of the Rural Aviation years. Phil is still actively flying in Tecnams up in Kerikeri), and Bruce Aitken who always added color to the industry during his decades as an operator. Many will recall Bruce's somewhat energetic ultra-low-level Piper Cub displays around the air show circuit. 

 For a chap who spent years man-handling a single-pilot DC-3, laden with five tonnes of fertiliser, at low-level down amongst New Zealand's hill country, Neville Worsley appears to be somewhat demure/bemused/dreamy/content/overcome with shyness? (Select one) when surrounded by these jovial aeronautical ladies. From left are Keitha Wilcox, Neville, Edith Robinson and Judy Costello. I actually know how much time has elapsed since Edith and Judy began to fly aeroplanes; however, being a quasi-gentleman, I shall refrain from further elaboration. Sorry ladies, but it is such a jolly nice and typical photograph, I just had to include it.

This is a shot of an old chum, Neil Mathieson, being ear bashed by myself (I am the gormless looking bloke with the 'jug' ears). Neil has an aircraft engineering business and I have long admired engineers like Neil, and so many others, who battle away at one of aviation's most messy and challenging tasks; trying to combat the insidious effects of NZ ag-aviation's constant enemy, the corrosive effects of acidic fertiliser which, if not routinely attended to, can turn an expensive aluminium airframe into a festering heap of scrap.

 As there was no flying display, I have included this evocative shot for my overseas recipients. This scene of Neville Worsley aerial topdressing in a DC-3 is typical of the many Ag Dakotas that operated in New Zealand for decades from way back in 1956. They usually carried five tonnes which brought their take-off weight to about two tonnes above that of passenger carrying DC-3s. The dispensation was based on their ability to rapidly jettison the load in event of an engine or performance problem amongst steep terrain. An exemption was also granted to fly the Ag variant with one pilot, with no ATPL licence required.

A list of those who attended

Acket, Lawrence; Aitken, Bruce and Janet; Anderson, Peter and Valda; Angove, Doug; Arends, John; Bargh, John and Penny; Bargh, Laurie and Dale; Barr, Colin----Barr, John; Blakeborough, Peter and Win; Bolton, Robb; Burton, Shaun and Anne; Cadwallader, Harley and Juliet; Campbell, Alan; Chalmers, Jim; Clark, Denis and Kay; Cluck, Jerry; Cook, Lyndsay; Costello, Ray and Judy; Coulter, Bruce; Cranston, Bob; Cresswell, Neil; Deerness, Ray; Desborough, Farenty and Kerry; Dingle, Ian and Jill; Donnelly, Max and Michelle; Dunstan, John; Feeney, Mike and Janet; Fenton, Paul and Naida; Fleming, Bob; Forhecz, Lou and Kerry; Fenton; Francis, Gary and Lesley; Frogley, Jim; Gardiner, Duncan and Jilly; Gardiner, Robert and Kirsty; Giblin, Lea and Hamish; Graham, Rick; Gram, Otto; Gray, Evan; Greene, Paul and Karen; Griffin, Hallett and Gloria; Hale, Chris; Hale, Keith; Harding, Bruce; Harding, John and Leigh; Harding, Richmond and Heather; Hartley, Denis and Jacqueline; Hatfull-Goodwin, Kaye; Haycock, Ashley and Monica; Herbert, Gordon; Hewett, Roger and Diana; Hooker, Royse; Iremonger, Chris and Sybil; Kay, John; Keenan, Lyndsay and Susan; Kensington, Norm; Langslow, Robin and Alison; Larsen, Bill; Layne, Peter and Stephanie; Lightband, Phil and Esther; Luther, Bill and Anne; McColl, Peter; McEwen, Alison and Brent; McEwen, Hunter and Margaret; McFarlane, Murray; McKay, Brian; McKenzie, Ken and Pam; McLauchlan, Don; Marshall, Blake; Marshall, Les and Jill; Martin, Graeme; Mathieson, Neil and Judy MacMillan; Menefy, Donald and Jillian; Mills, Graeme; Misson, Ray; Monds, Bob and Dot; Moore, Neil and Paula; Muller, Paul; Patchett, Ray and Louise; Rika, John, Robb, Peter and Therese; Robertson, Guy and Elaine; Robinson, Jim and Sue Davis; Ross, Betty; Ruddenklau, Arthur; Ruddenklau, Charles; Sayer, Jeff; Selby, Don; Sherlock, Brian and Janene; Simmons, Barry and Jo; Snow, Jack and Pamela; Somerville, Neville; Spence, John and Janet; Starr, David and Mary; Stephenson, John and Jenny; Stewart, David and Judith; Stimpson, Ben; Stuart, Owen and Maureen; Summerfield, Jim and Valerie; Sutherland, William; Thomas, Bruce and Gayle; Thorne, Clive; Thornton, Bryan; Thurston, Robert and Sydney; Toulson, Gary and Nancy Bjorklund; Trail, Jeremy; Turner, Keith; Wakeling, Ian and Ngaire; Walter, Murray; Whelan, Andrew; White, Nigel; Wilkie, Keith; Willcox, Keitha; Williams, Derek and Edith Robinson; Wilson, Grant and Les; Woods, Lew; Worsley, Neville; Yardley, Gary.     

As I typed out this list, I regreted that there are people whom I would have liked to have caught up with for a bit of a chat, but didn't. Sorry about that. It is the way things are at such a large and busy event, but all the very best to you and yours. Perhaps we may meet at some other place and time.  

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Saturday, 13 December 2014


The misadventures of a paid tourist in a strange land
Below is an extract from Highway America – the Adventures of a Kiwi Truck Driver, by Peter Blakeborough. Available as an eBook from Smashwords.

My alarm sounded at 3.30am on Wednesday 6th June, and a quick cup of coffee got me ready for the drive south along Route 28 to Hawthorn, Pennsylvania. Taking it slowly on the back country road, in case of tight corners or overhanging trees in the darkness, I found the shipper exactly fourteen miles from the freeway, as expected. They had some pallets loaded with food products going to Best Foods-Unilever in Little Rock, 900 miles south.

At 8.30am, I was back on Route 28 heading south, and after about an hour, Route 28 became a dual carriageway with numerous small cities along the way as it followed the Alleghany River. Then it was time to tangle with Pittsburgh and its tangle of partly finished ring roads and road works in every direction. I talked on the CB with the driver of another eighteen-wheeler who seemed to know where he was going and he invited me to follow. For thirty minutes we went this way and that dodging road works and tight corners until I was totally bamboozled and at his mercy. We went through a tunnel, crossed the Alleghany and circled the downtown district until we came to a bridge across Monongahela River. Somewhere, at a spaghetti junction, amid the babble of CB voices, I lost the other driver. A short stretch on the I-279 south brought me to the I-70 junction at Washington, Pennsylvania.
With the pitfalls of Pittsburgh falling astern, the driving got easier as the I-70 took me west onto the Great Plains and then south to Little Rock. The load was taken off at Unilever and dispatcher Cheryl Reed gave me an 1,100 mile load of L’Oreal cosmetics to go from North Little Rock to Sussex, Wisconsin, with a second drop in Dundee, Michigan.
The biggest challenge was navigating right through Chicago for the first time, while making about six stops to pay the tolls. Space is at a premium in Chicago and, as I neared O’Hare International Airport, I was surprised to see a McDonalds perched over the toll road. Further along, I saw another and took the off-ramp for a lunch with a birds-eye view of the traffic passing underneath.
Coming back through Chicago on a different freeway, after the first drop, the traffic was diverted off the freeway and onto busy suburban streets, due to road works. Inevitably, I missed a detour sign somewhere, and went down the wrong street. Things were a bit chaotic, as I realised that I could finish up in all kinds of weird or wonderful places, with a rig too big to fit. But fortunately, after a couple of miles, the car drivers seemed to think I had leprosy and gave me enough room to make a quick U-turn.
It was already dark when I started looking for a place to rest for the night near Toledo. The first three truckstops were full, and I was left with no choice other than to park on the freeway shoulder, after having driven 429 miles for the day, including two transits of the sprawling Chicago metropolis. I slept soundly all night with the traffic whizzing along close by.

A change of scenery was in store after picking up a load of battery materials from Royal Oak, Michigan, and heading for Maryville in the remote northwest corner of Missouri. The route was west through the Mid-West’s corn fields and wide open spaces. Fifty miles beyond Des Moines, Iowa’s largest city with 200,000 people, (everyone seemed to be out of town when I passed through) I turned south and followed the back country roads for a couple of hours. The flat roads were so empty that when I did see people they actually looked up from their activities and waved. I recall a woman hurrying with two pre-school children to the farm gate so that they could get a close look at a big truck going past. They seemed to be awe-struck, so I reached for the air horn cable and gave them a loud honk and a friendly wave.
Maryville is only a pimple on a pumpkin of a town, but it certainly had me baffled when it came to finding my way around. I realised later, that my directions for finding Eveready Batteries were for an approach from the south, while I arrived from the north. The second traffic light from the south was not the same place as the second light from the north. After driving around more or less aimlessly for half an hour, I stopped to make enquiries at the gatekeeper’s shack, at the entrance to a rather austere-looking establishment, with lots of high security fencing around it. Suddenly, I was surrounded by armed prison guards and they weren’t singing Jailhouse Rock. They must have suspected that I was on a mission to ram-raid the state penitentiary with several tons of high explosives.
After some fast talking on my part, one of the guards pointed to a large building that was visible just beyond the city limits; the Eveready factory. The forklift driver was waiting for me when I backed into the dock and within minutes the trailer was unloaded and reloaded with batteries for Fairburn, Georgia.
After circling Kansas City on the beltway the route was east through the middle of Missouri to St. Louis with a splendid view of the famous Gateway Arch rising 630 feet above the west bank of the Mississippi River.
A small green slice of western Kentucky passed under the wheels, as I travelled southeast towards Nashville. Light rain fell to smear the windscreen bugs and I turned on the wipers and engaged the washers. Suddenly, the road ahead disappeared behind a thick blend of bugs and engine oil. With my head outside the window to see where I was going I braked and pulled over to the side of the freeway. Somehow, engine oil had been placed in a container marked ‘Windshield Cleaner.’ I had a couple of standby containers on board and, after a few minutes, the system had been flushed out enough for me to continue my adventure as a paid tourist. Darkness came again and I pressed on to Chattanooga for an overnight stop, after an interesting 751 mile day.

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Monday, 8 December 2014


The romance and history of old US Route 66 still attracts sightseers

Distant travels, crossing continents, and exploring unknown territory, have captured the imagination of itchy-footed people ever since the travels of the legendary Marco Polo became known to the world in the 13th Century. People inspired by Marco’s travels included the New World discoverer, Christopher Columbus.

For many people, travel and exploration in North America holds a special place in their hearts. But, curiously, two of America’s greatest explorers, Lewis and Clark, were almost forgotten during their own lifetimes. Sent by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, in 1806, they returned, almost two years later, having made their way from Missouri to the Oregon Pacific Coast. Lewis and Clark, however, followed the westward route of a Native American, Moncacht-Ape, who, according to the only historian to write about him at the time, walked from Mississippi to the Atlantic, and then from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back, in the early 1700’s. If the writings of Antoin Simon Le Page du Pratze are authentic, Moncacht-Ape may have been the first person to cross the continent.
Explorers Lewis and Clark

After the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the American west opened up quickly to settlement and gave rise to the popularity of author Horace Greeley’s famous quotation, “Go west, young man.” The discovery of gold in California in 1849 turned the expansion into a rush for riches, and set California on the road to being America’s most populous state.

Initially, the rush of people was along the northern Oregon Trail. They walked, rode horses and donkeys, travelled in covered wagons and send their mail on the famous Pony Express. But then, in 1903, along came H Nelson Jackson and Sewall K Croker, and a 1903 Winton touring car named Vermont. They set out from San Francisco and reached New York 63 days later, becoming the first to motor across the continent.
H Nelson Jackson and the 1903 Winton

But before Jackson and Crocker made their historic journey, the beginnings of Route 66 had already been established along a collection of mountain-men trails through some of America’s harshest terrain. The introduction of Henry Ford’s Model T, in 1908, increased the traffic flow along the southern route from Chicago to Los Angeles, but the roads, or lack of them, were the cause of many hardship and shattered dreams. By 1917 only 2% of America’s roads had been paved.

In 1921, the Federal Aid Road Act was amended to include a US highway system, and the man of the moment was an Oklahoman, Cyrus Avery, who was charged with establishing the first national highway system. But his favourite part of the project was the road from Chicago to Los Angeles via Oklahoma. It became US Route 66.
US Route 66

Route 66 (sometimes called the Mother Road, the Will Rogers Highway and Main Street America) is America’s most famous highway. It travels two-thirds of the way across the nation, stretches 2,451 miles, and passes through the states of Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

During the 1930’s “Dustbowl” years, when the states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas were stricken by the most severe drought in recorded history, Route 66 was the highway to economic salvation for thousands of farming families, who left their land to migrate west.
An early section of Route 66 near Oatman, Arizona

But the business people who provided services along the route, mostly became prosperous on the money from travellers. US Route 66 has been glamorised many times by the world of entertainment. In 1940 it was the setting for John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, and the movie that followed. Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, and The Rolling Stones, all recorded hit songs about the highway. In the 1960’s there was a Route 66 television show.

US Route 66, in later years, attracted sightseeing travellers in increasing numbers. There was so much to see along the way that it became a magnet for American and foreign visitors too. The attractions included such landmarks as the St Louis Gateway Arch, the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, and the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo, Texas. Further west the highway passes through Arizona’s Painted Desert, and close to Meteor Crater, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. The scenery varies from closer settled small towns of the Mid-west to the wide open spaces further west. All along the highway, the traveller has a string of national parks, forests, and recreation areas to visit.
A stop on historic Route 66

The highway underwent many improvements and realignments over the years. From a series of dirt tracks in the 1920’s it eventually developed into a two-lane paved highway. It twisted and turned, connecting small towns and villages, with occasional larger cities. But the traffic that made the highway famous, eventually led to its undoing. Large sections of Route 66 were replaced by multi-lane freeways, and in 1985 it was removed from the national highway system and became a National Scenic Highway. Traffic volumes declined sharply and many businesses along the route were forced to close. Some former prosperous villages became ghost towns.

However, US Route 66’s scenery and attractions are mostly still in place, and it’s a great road to take for a leisurely look at America’s past.

Travel America's highways with author 
Peter Blakeborough

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Happy reading

Sunday, 7 December 2014


On the trail of a vicious murderer and rapist
 This is a sample read from the eBook A Twist of Fate,  an action-packed crime thriller, by Peter Blakeborough

Bob Asker checked into a small lodging house near King’s Cross in Sydney, bought a newspaper and studied the work advertisements. He soon found what he was looking for. The advertisement read; Positions are available for ambitious and enthusiastic sales people 18-25. Secure your future taking our revolutionary new product to the Australian people.
He had seen similar advertisements previously and believed that he knew what the product was. Television had recently arrived and Australian life and society would never be the same again. To Asker, timing was everything as he drove to the address in the advertisement.
A stylish Cadillac parked outside the door caught Bob’s eye. He walked around it admiring its sleek features. He thought it must be the status symbol of a high-flyer wanting to make a big impression. It was a nice car but not for him. He could never have a flashy, spend-up-large high profile and until his ultimate dream was realised an ordinary Australian homespun Holden would do.

A dozen people were in the interview room when Bob entered. Several more arrived and then the interviewer in his mid-twenties appeared wearing an expensive suit, Italian shoes, Rolex watch and gold cufflinks. He explained that the large number of applicants had necessitated a mass interview, but individual interviews would be held later for applicants still interested. He spoke enthusiastically about the prospects for a good television salesman.
‘Take my own example,’ he said. ‘I came here nine months ago driving a 1938 Morris on time payment. Last month I paid cash for the brand new Caddy that’s parked out the front. If I can do it, you can do it. Tyler TV Sales will pay you six pounds for every TV placed in a home. A sales rep can work seven days a week and an average sales rep sells twenty to twenty-five sets a week and earns between a hundred and twenty and a hundred and fifty pounds a week. Put another way that’s between thirteen and sixteen times the average wage. In America and Europe almost every home already has a television. In Australia only five per cent of homes have a television. The market here is wide open.’
The interviewer paused to look at the faces in front of him.
‘To grasp this great opportunity you will need a vehicle. It should be one that will have room for up to four TV’s like a small van. You will have the choice of providing your own or paying off one supplied by us. Finally, if you’re not afraid of hard work, if you’re honest and dependable and if you’ve got a burning ambition to succeed, then you could be the kind of man we’re looking for. We need a number of people able to start training immediately so if you fit the category I’ve just described, you should wait for a personal interview. Alright, who’s going to be first?’
Bob Asker shot his hand up quickly and the interviewer eyed him for a second or two. His next line was as well rehearsed as the spiel that preceded it.
‘Congratulations. Winners don’t procrastinate. This man is about to embark on a great career. If you don’t want to be a winner, don’t bother about a personal interview, but thanks for coming and good luck.’

Asker became a trainee salesman for two days and traded the Holden for a new Bedford van. He loaded his van with the customary four television sets and went to work.
His success as a television salesman was no surprise. He was accustomed to succeeding at most things. He knew his attributes and exploited them to the fullest – the ability to work hard, a charming personality and a shrewd head for business and negotiation. Unlike his forebears he was also gifted with exceptional luck. His luck had only deserted him once when he was arrested for a murder committed by someone else, tried, convicted and sentenced to death. But his luck returned when a freak accident gave him a split-second opportunity to choose between fate and fortune.
It may have been good luck, or a good sense of timing, that led Bob Asker into the television sales business, but he started the same week that television sales nation-wide reached a new peak. On his first day he sold four sets, three the next day and four the day after that. At the end of the first week his tally was twenty-two and he had earned almost fifteen times the national average wage. The average sales figures quoted by the interviewer were similar to those achieved by Asker in his first week, but he knew that the figure had been grossly inflated to make the opportunity look more attractive. He suspected that the true average of about one sale a day still provided a very good income.
At the end of the first month his sales reached an average of twenty-seven sales a week and he set his sights on doing even better. He was already working exceptionally long hours and he knew that from time to time he would have to take time off from TV sales and return to Griffith. He would have to change his modus operandi.
The company had trained him to knock on a door and offer a free demonstration. If the householder showed interest he would go back to the van and return with a TV. It would be plugged in and tuned and the family would be given a few minutes to watch and make a decision on purchasing it. Some people rejected the offer at the door while most others would accept the free demonstration but decline to make a purchase. There had to be a better way. He went to the warehouse to collect his quota of television sets.
‘How many sets do you think this van will hold,’ he asked the warehouse manager.
‘Don’t know. Maybe a dozen.’
‘Okay. Fill it up.’
‘What are you going to do with that many?’
‘Sell them.’
They managed to get a dozen in with room to spare. When he reached his sales territory he knocked on the first door. It was five-thirty in the afternoon.
‘Gidday, mate. What do you want?’
‘I’ve come to deliver your free TV.’
‘You’ve gotta be joking, mate. I’ve never won a bloody thing in my life.’
‘You have now, mate. It’s free – at least until I come back later to take it away,’ Bob said, turning towards the van again.
The man stood in the doorway not knowing what to expect next. When Bob returned with the TV he stepped aside to allow him through. A few minutes later with the set installed and tuned to a portable internal aerial Bob left for the next house, promising to return later. He soon had a dozen sets installed in the street. At eight o’clock he went back to the first house to find the family totally engrossed in Bob Dyer’s Pick a Box show; Australia’s highest rating television program.
The author in a flight simulator
‘Don’t take it away, mate. We’ll buy it. Jean, get the man three quid for the deposit.’
Only four TVs were returned to the warehouse that night and in the next seven days he sold over fifty sets.
His sales continued to mount and his share portfolios continued grew and expanded, but his holdings were so diverse that he was never more than a minor shareholder in any of the companies and therefore not attracting unwanted attention. At least once a week he called Janet to monitor the progress of his travel agencies.
Two months after joining Tyler Television Asker was promoted to sales manager and sent to Brisbane to open a new sales office. He asked for Brisbane because it was only a few hours’ drive from Lismore and Bryce Russell, Heather’s murderer.
After several weeks of training and supervising his new sales team Asker needed a break and drove south in his Bedford van to check on Russell. Russell’s business was growing too. He continued on to Grifith where he booked into a motel and slept for twelve hours straight.
The next day he had a meeting with Janet Reynolds, Wayne Stoughton and Eric Shand. Fransham Travel in Griffith and Fulton Travel in Wagga Wagga had both moved beyond recovery. But Asker noticed that Stoughton seemed uneasy during the meeting. Something was bothering him and Asker wanted to get to the bottom of it.
As the meeting drew to a close Asker looked directly at Stoughton.
‘Anything else, Wayne?’
He hesitated for a moment and then replied in the negative. But both Asker and Janet knew there was something else. Janet excused herself and went back to the agency.
‘Actually, there is something else,’ Stoughton volunteered. ‘It’s the company documents that we filed for you. Eric is concerned about it too. There are three shareholders and the same people are also the three directors. There’s nothing unusual about that. But the three individuals seem to have the same handwriting and I thought I’d just ask about that in case there are any questions later. They may think that someone has signed for someone else, or worse, they may think there is only one shareholder and director. I just wanted to be sure that everything is in order, Bob.’
‘Don’t concern yourself with any of that, Wayne. Everything is okay, mate.’ He paused for a moment. ‘Well, actually you’re right, Wayne, but don’t worry about it. The others are always extremely busy and they just leave things to me as chairman of directors.’
‘You really shouldn’t do that, Bob. And if you do, I shouldn’t know about it. In my profession, and the same with Eric, we can’t afford to condone anything that’s not strictly proper and ethical. You know what I mean?’
‘I do know what you mean. You’ll just have to trust me, Wayne.’
‘Okay. Let’s have a beer.’
Later he raised the matter with Janet when they had dinner together.
She thought about the predicament for a moment.
‘Wayne and Eric are two of the best friends you have in the world after your mother, me and Tom Laing. They would never do anything to betray you. I believe you should take them into your confidence.’
‘I suppose, when you put it that way, I’m betraying them by not telling them about the three identities that I use and the reason why.’
‘You could put it that way.’
‘But how do I tell them? I mean, where do I begin?’
‘From the beginning. Would you like me to be with you to confirm everything?’

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