Nothing to do with dear, lovely old Fred Dinenage. No. This is the story of what flies above. Specifically the state of the cargo crates that groan in and out of Chas 'n' Dave Tracey Emin Margate Manston RAF International Airport.
If you recall, Manston regular Meridian was recently banned from our skies for failing safety and technical inspections. although you can still see their logo proudly displayed on the freight section of the airport's website. More recently another Manston freight operator, Egyptair, has come under scrutiny and been warned that it could be banned from flying in EU airspace for 'systemic safety deficiencies'.
Just what Meridian's technical and safety failures consisted of has, up to now, been a mystery. But yesterday the findings of an FOI request to the Department for Transport fell into the old Eastcliff mitts, and it makes terrifying reading.
These are the lowlights:
Four inspections of Meridian were carried out in July, in addition to which the DfT has 'evidence indicating that an aircraft (operated by Meridian) took off significantly overweight on one occasion in July'.
The first CAA inspection on 8 July 2010 discovered, amongst other things, fuel leaks, no information about temporary repairs to No 3 engine, and bags not correctly secured and restrained.
On 15 July 2010 the CAA found delaminated flight deck windows, repair of a deferred defect extended 'well beyond limits', valve caps missing from main wheels, temporary repairs of a panel not recorded, no torque check on wing tank access panel screws, protective breathing equipment for crew unserviceable and a visible fuel leak still unattended to.
On 22 July 2010 the CAA noted flight crew seat covers worn and holed, no fireproof ID plate near the main entrance, a large screw head sheared off on the right hand wing, and seals on the right hand inboard fuel tank panels reused after fuel leak rectification.
A second inspection occurred on 22 July which found interior equipment not correctly secured, borrowed breathing equipment which the crew wasn't trained to use, the cargo locking mechanism not suitable for the pallet in use, a smoke detector in the lower hold unserviceable, incorrect performance calculations (presumably regarding things like weight and power on take-off), the flight engineer lacking an English language proficiency endorsement (and a spare pair of glasses!), old seals used on a fuel leak rectification and a fundamental error in load planning which required re-distribution of cargo.
Flamin' Nora! And to think those things were flying a few hundred feet above my bonce!
I know most Thanetians will probably roll their eyes and mutter about 'elf and safety which, considering some of the heaps you see on our roads, is only to be expected. I, on the other hand, am grateful that you can't buy an MOT for a knackered old DC8 in the local pub!