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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 18th Aug 2013, 01:45
  #4181 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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MPN11,

Now you've really got me rummaging about in my memory ! I was an Instructor on the School in '66, and I can't remember going out to Sleap at all, or to instructing on the CPN-4, although there surely must have been a simulator for it at Shawbury. Did they have specialist GCA Instructors just at Sleap ? Or was it in fact a separate School ? (To put it bluntly, do you remember me there ?

It occurs to me (don't I know ?) that your GCA Course may have been a standard "bolt-on" to the end of the ATC Course I instructed on, for by then the CPN-4/MPN11 was in use pretty well everywhere, and a non-GCA trained Controller would be little use to anybody. I take it that in '66 the MPN-1 would have been withdrawn completely - I last used it at Gatow in '61.

Your recollection of the truck inside is accurate, IIRC - it was the lap of luxury after the old "Bendix". But the "Truck Test" you describe must (thankfully) have passed me by, for I was posted from the "1" straight onto two "4/11"s in succession, then onto an ACR-7C (there was a funny thing) before posting back to the School in '64, so I never suffered a "Truck Test".

It sounds to have been the exact equivalent of the dreaded "Unusual Position" which usually rounded off an Instrument Rating Test. Unable to see anything except your panel, you were entirely at the mercy of a sadistic Examiner, who would throw the thing about to disorientate you, then leave it in some impossible attitude, with speed or height or both falling off rapidly, before handing it back to you to sort out - if you could !

Happy Days !

Danny.
 
Old 18th Aug 2013, 10:34
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Morning, Danny42C. I hope folks will excuse us nattering here?

I was on 132 Joint ATC Course in Apr/May 1965, and 211 Radar Approach Course in Nov/Dec 66. As the system was then, you did the basic JATCC which covered Approach (DF) and Local and then on graduation headed off for your first appointment. After a year or so working in Local and Approach (DF) you returned to the School to do the "Big Boys" Radar Course. Subsequently (in 1968) the JATCC and RAC courses were combined and students went through the full spectrum of professional training before graduating. Don't remember you, I regret: my RAC Course Commander was Harry Talton, and one instructor was Fg Off Graham Wood (later Air Cdre and AOC MATO) with whom I had some lively arguments.

Apart from classroom work, practical training was an odd mix of the Simulators at Shawbury (based on the Cossor 787, the one with a rheostat for the range rings that could give them showing every mile on the display*, and the SLA3D PAR.) Then Sleap had the two MPN11/CPN4 Trucks (Red and Black) working live traffic (Vampires and Piston Provosts, flown by Marshall's pilots) which were pointed at simulated runways on the now disused airfield. Both trucks were parked just in front of the old Control Tower. So the training was a mix of equipments and simulated/live traffic. Of course [ooops] if you were going to a unit with different equipment then you would have to learn on the job - I managed to avoid that ACR-7C abortion, fortunately!

How the School managed its instructors is, of a course, beyond my ken. Did some just do Sleap/trucks and the others do Shawbury/simulators?

* That's where Graham and I clashed, as he insisted on me working on the Sim with range rings showing every mile. I pointed out I was going back to an MPN11 unit where only 5 mile rings were available, so there was no point (from my POV) of getting used to having the display cluttered up with rings I would never see or use again.

** It was on my RAC that I managed to have a Mess Bill bigger than my plt off's Pay Statement. The numbers are forever burned in my memory 54/12/6 vs. 52/10/0

Last edited by MPN11; 18th Aug 2013 at 10:37.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 11:20
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MPN11, no need to be excused, your comparing of notes with Danny helps us all to capture the ever changing scenario of those early days of RAF Precision Approaches. Allied to it all, of course, was the corresponding training of pilots in order to exploit the resulting expertise. In the main this didn't require grappling with the complexities of new technology as you did. The standard blind flying panel with ASI, artificial horizon, VSI, altimeter, G4 compass, and Turn and Slip, was ubiquitous and we were taught it from the start. All we had to do was ensure that it confirmed the instructions received from you were being complied with.
It is interesting that you both have little or nothing to say in favour of the ACR7. All I can say is from a "customer's" viewpoint it gave every satisfaction!
Colerne, perched on its hilltop, often suffered from low cloud/ poor vis/ driving rain/ gusty cross winds. Nonetheless once one heard the unmistakeable voice of Mark, our Polish ATCO, begin his patter and we started on down there was every expectation that the approach would indeed result in us being able to "look ahead now and continue visually" to a safe arrival rather than having to "go around". Rather like Danny's Bendix at full spin I guess that the confident tones belied the challenges involved on Terra Firma.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 11:55
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ACR-7

The snag with the ACR-7 (Search only), I recall, was that the antenna had a fairly narrow beam in the vertical plane which the controller tilted to get the best picture. So when conducting a Surveillance Radar Approach (SRA) the tilt to get a good picture for that function [up, to minimise ground clutter] would preclude the other controller [doing Director] from getting a decent longer-range picture for his task. Danny will undoubtedly elaborate!

Your Polish ATCO at Colerne exemplified the special breed of talk down operators. It was (and maybe is still?) a magnificent confidence trick, whereby we were able to tell pilots what to do with conviction!!

In truth, you would soon get your reputation tarnished if "Look ahead and take over visually" presented the pilot with a view of a large of expanse of grass without either runway or lights! I had the odd occasion as an aircraft approached break-off when that standard RT message was immediately followed by "Keep Talking" but then back then we were allowed to pass advisory information after Break-Off, so we just carried on talking all the way to the radar markers at touchdown. In later years it was just "Talkdown Out" at Decision Height or whatever, and you were left on your own to either land or go around.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 18:25
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Smile

Very interesting chat. A long time ago (and wearing dark blue) I came back from a maritime excursion. I was greeted with unforecast weather and with a disturbingly low fuel state, replied with gear down , hook down, talk to touchdown, at the obligatory pause for cockpit checks.

The GCA controller talked me into the wire on the first pass, thank god.

Last edited by Three Wire; 18th Aug 2013 at 18:27.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 18:35
  #4186 (permalink)  
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Way off topic, but Leeming in 1979 had a rather nice-sounding lady on GCA. Never met her, but always enjoyed the experience.

Probably would be interpreted by the trick-cyclists as an Oedipus complex
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 18:58
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Nothing sexist, I assure you - worked with WRAF Controllers from Day 1. But when the flight deck is stressed, I can imagine there's nothing nicer that a competent female controller bringing you home for beer and medals. Sadly I could only offer a Surrey accent, competence and then ... being ignored.

Even on serious sh1t days, or really hazardous circumstances, even getting a "Thank You" on Talkdown was rare. However, I recognise that the adrenalin in the cockpit probably over-rided everything else. I forgive you all

There's a pair of totally screwed up Lightnings from Binbrook who still owe SATCO Waddington a case of wine for digging them out of the sh1t on their quickest quickie ever. They could fly it, I could control it, and IIRC they crept on to the edge of the PAR at about 3.5 miles ... at around 1000 ft, for RW 03, carefully missing Harmston Church spire. They were the only pilots I really heard getting close to panic on the RT.

And when it was over, I had to look at the rest if the Approach Room and say "Don't you EVER let me see you doing controlling like that". But then I had a bit of experience controlling "Mr Fuel Shortage" over the years.

Last edited by MPN11; 18th Aug 2013 at 19:01.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 19:36
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The number of times I have galloped up the stairs of an ATC building to get a butchers at a silken voiced female air trafficker and come to a grinding halt.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 20:41
  #4189 (permalink)  
 
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Some ugly people are allowed in cockpits as well, apparently! Naughty person
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 22:09
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One flight from Chivenor sticks in my mind, with all you GCA experts discussing the equipment's technicalities.

A Hunter T7 needed an engine airtest and J/T Bloggs, a fitter, asked if he could come as he had worked on the aircraft. I was only too happy to have him along provided his boss agreed so off we soared into the wide blue yonder. I did the necessary test checks and having lots fuel remaining made a practice div to St Mawgan. The cloudbase was reported as 100ft and the active runway was, if my memory serves me correctly 12 or 13 so the sea fog was hitting the coast and rising to form stratus over the airfield. I did a QGH/GCA with the intention of descending to minimums then overshoot and back home. I was able to explain the procedure to Bloggs. After the "left a bit/up a bit" talkdown I carried on down to 150ft when low and behold the runway appeared right in front of us on which I did a "roller" then off home to Chivenor. My passenger was most impressed and couldn't stop talking about it. This would have been in 1968. In a later life it was possible to show various people on the jumpseat how an ILS approach happened. A pity it is no longer allowed.

In about 1957/8 Chivenor had a brilliant GCA controller called Jack Harrild who gave great confidence when his voice came over the R/T. He was a horse racing man and the final part of his patter was along the lines of "you're passing the six furlong post now". He'd be flogged for using non standard patter now, but real individuals who knew their job were a delight to work with.

Last edited by 26er; 18th Aug 2013 at 22:13.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 22:31
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MPN11,

I'll start by heartily seconding Chugalug's remarks some way above. Your generous "Excuse us from nattering", forsooth ! "Nattering" is what a Forum's all about. The very worst thing that could happen to this Thread is (as I've said before) that it should become Danny's (or anyone else's) monologue. It is naturally gratifying that my tortuous tale seems to be of interest, but it should never be more than a coat-hanger on which the other visitors to our Virtual Crewroom can hang their memories, remarks, questions and (yes) criticisms (but always without rancour).

And I would thank the Moderators for their unfailing indulgence as we roam from Drill Corporals who were "put on a fizzer" by a future King, to a hijacked 707 in Israel, to a ruffianly Land Crab in Aden, to the mechanics of a hammock in a Mess Deck, to a sky in Bombay that once rained gold bars.....(we could go on for hours). All life is here !

Revenons nous moutons ! You say that the old two-part system of Schools lasted to '68, and I left in '67, so in our time together the Sleap operation would have been quite separate and I would have had no part in it, (so your assumption about the division of Instructor labour is correct). So what did I teach ? (scatches head). Well, endless CR/DF simulator QGHs, "Mock" Control Room exercises, in which we often introduced a crash or two so that, whatever else you forgot when you left us, when the day came for you (and it would surely come), you might remember what you must do, and in what order, so that you could at least give the appearance of being in command of the situation.

And lectures, lectures, lectures. (We didn't mind you going to sleep on us at the back mid-afternoon so much, but 8.30 in the morning was a bit much)....D.

Chugalug,

Once again, it's nice to hear from a Satisfied Customer ! As to the humble ACR-7C, it had many aliases. "Cossor 787" was one. "Airfield Radar 424" was another. But although MPN11 and I have hardly been complimentary about it, it was decidedly better than nothing. At the risk of shooting my Linton fox (third station down the line), what I was told about it was this: It had originally been a contender for an estuary radar contract (Thames estuary ?). Ships have one thing in common, they are all on the same plane (ignoring the curvature of the earth). So a very shallow radar lobe is sufficient. IIRC, this could be jacked up in seven stages (Studs 1-7 in the Truck) from sea level up to about 10 in 1 steps.

The Estuary Radar contract folded (or they were outbid); Cossor were on their uppers. What to do ? Sell it to the RAF, of course - they'll buy anything - Success !

It was just a PPI, but useless as a search radar because of the shallow lobe. But if aircraft could be fed in from CR/DF ? (as in the MPN-1 case). This was done, and very successfully, too.

For, because the lobe was so shallow, you could get rid of almost all the ground returns, with the aerial at Stud 2 or 3, and carry on a Continuous Descent PPI talkdown almost onto the runway. On one occasion, I was actually able to pick out the runway lights for a hundred yards or so, and see my tiny square blip running along between them , but that was exceptional.

In the RAF in those days, as we all know, "he keeps on a-comin', you keep on a-talkin' " - till half a mile, then - "You're half-a-mile from touchdown - look ahead for the runway - you're clear to land (or whatever) - Talkdown OUT". (It was only later that we started saying "I'll continue to advise" - and I'm sure no one ever listened, for if your runway or the lights aren't in plain view at half-a-mile and 150 ft, what does any sane man do ?....D.

Next instalment of "Strubby" is on the stocks.

Cheers, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Aug 2013 at 22:50. Reason: Grammar.
 
Old 18th Aug 2013, 22:51
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Ships have one thing in common, they are all on the same plane (ignoring the curvature of the earth).

Yeah right, Danny! Try standing on the wing of a ship's bridge, with a height of eye of some 60 feet, looking straight out horizontally at the crest of an oncoming wave in the Bay .....

I'll let you off as far as submarines are concerned since they are of course "boats"!

Jack

PS Delighted by your reference to Revenons nous moutons ! Haven't seen or heard that for ages
.
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Old 18th Aug 2013, 23:19
  #4193 (permalink)  
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Talk of Many Things.

Three Wire, airborne artist, MPN11, Fareastdriver, 26er and (last but not least) Union Jack,

On behalf of the whole "Talkdown" community, I gratefully accept the kind words said about us and hope that our "Successors in Title" still continue to give every satisfaction.

Always wondered about the marked increase in Tower visitor numbers after the mid-sixties - what could it possibly mean ?

Jack Harrild ? - the name rings a bell, but where and when ? Too long ago, I fear.

Jack, point taken ! (Heaven help the sailors on a night like this !) Had a ride in a submarine once when was at Thorney Island. Story to be told later on.

Terra firma best, the firmer the better.

Goodnight, all,

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 18th Aug 2013 at 23:24. Reason: Add Text.
 
Old 19th Aug 2013, 09:24
  #4194 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by 26er
In about 1957/8 Chivenor had a brilliant GCA controller called Jack Harrild who gave great confidence when his voice came over the R/T. He was a horse racing man and the final part of his patter was along the lines of "you're passing the six furlong post now". He'd be flogged for using non standard patter now, but real individuals who knew their job were a delight to work with.
Jack Harrold never changed - he was still doing that 10 years later!!
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Old 19th Aug 2013, 17:02
  #4195 (permalink)  
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Danny learns to Leave Well Alone.

I was rostered onto the Strubby Truck right away. "Are you going to give me a day or two's checkout ?" I asked the Boss. "What for !", said he, "Isn't it bad enough that we've had to run one Controller short for a month while you've been enjoying yourself at Shawbury ? - Get out there !"

The Controller Establishment was small. You only needed two Officers, two F/Sgts and a Tracker on each of the two watches at Strubby, and one officer (who could easily do the lot, but a F/Sgt came in handy) on each watch at Manby. Six ATC officers, therefore, but in practice you needed eight or nine to cover leaves, sickness and detachments. My month's absence on the GCA Course had made things difficult.

Of course you didn't need all your Controllers to be GCA trained. Those who were would spend nearly all their time on Approach/Talkdown at Strubby, the others did Approach at both places. (Manby had no GCA). There was no ILS at either field in my time. Manby was reckoned a rest-cure for the battle-weary Strubby people, but it was only rarely that I was able to get rostered for a week there. But, curiously it was at Manby that I had two "occurrences" worthy of note, but there is plenty of time for them yet.

On the first morning on Talkdown roster, I went straight out to the Truck, which was only a short distance from the tower when we were working on 27, and entered into my little kingdom.

At this point, I would advise the reader to Google: "Bomber County Aviation Resource Strubby Airfield History" www.bcar.org.uk/strubby-history.php (All we are interested in is the map - or rather diagram - of Strubby). This clearly shows (wartime) GCA access tracks for all runways, although postwar we only used 09/27 (curiously, I never knew of the other tracks until now). The diagram will come in useful when I talk of runway changes.

Top Tower had told them I was on my way. The Truck was whirring and thumping, the Search Aerial on top twirling, and the Generator rumbling. Chiefy (Director) and Tracker stood outside the Rest Caravan to welcome the new man. "We've just brewed-up, sir," said Chiefy, "come in and have a cuppa". "What about the Truck ?", I asked, "Oh, the mechs are Running Up the High Tension and setting-up, they'll tell us when they've got a picture".

I glanced at my watch, 0745, and Approach would be wanting to leave for Briefing in a minute or two. "But we've got to declare servicability any time now". "Oh, if they haven't found anything wrong yet, we call it "serviceable" - if an unforeseen snag develops later, that's not our fault, is it, sir ?"

With that I had to be content. I climbed the steps into the little Rest Caravan. Inside were two or three old armchairs (one Lloyd Loom), the usual pile of old papers and magazines, a Calor gas ring with a frying pan, and an electric kettle. There was a little sink, water was pumped up from a tank underneath. Propped agaist the end wall were two old very worn deckchairs, dark green canvas, which I immediately recognised as the ex-beach-property of the Local Authority. Under what circumstances they had become "ex" ?, I thought it better I should not know.

The cleanest (ie least dirty) mug was offered, the tea was excellent - real "Sgt-Major's tea" - the spoon would stand up in it. It was a good start. We finished our tea around 0815 and strolled over to the Truck. I climbed up the rickety wooden steps first and into the dark interior - and froze in horror.

In front of me the High Tension cabinet door was ajar, with umpteen thousands of volts spitting and snarling inside, lying in wait for a victim ! Instinctively I slammed it shut. The radar pictures on all scopes vanished; a roar of execration arose (silhouetted against the doorway, the mechs couldn't see who'd come in). "What did you do that for, sir ?" asked Chiefy in a pained voice.

I couldn't believe my ears, but wordlessly pointed to the fearsome warnings on the door. "Oh, we don't worry about that, sir", said my Director,"if we had to go through all that rigmarole, we'd never have a radar till lunchtime. We always do it this way. Don't worry, we've never lost a man yet, we'll close it when we're steady on tune". The poster facing us: (You'll end up in a wooden box/if you Jam the Interlocks) hadn't had the desired effect: that was exactly what they'd been doing. (I later checked with the Boss - he knew all about it - it was as Chiefy said). It was not an auspicious start. My first task was to call Approach and announce: "GCA U/S TFN - High Tension failure".

The whole outfit consisted of the Bendix towed by the Matador generator truck, parked alongside the Bedford Workshop Truck hitched to the Rest Caravan. We sometimes had a little two wheel flatbed trailer as well, to carry a 40-gallon Derv drum for the Lister engine in the power truck. Last, but not least, there would be a collection of mopeds and bikes, but (IIRC), no cars.

That's enough to be going on with, more gripping detail next time.

Goodnight yet again,

Danny42C.


You can't win 'em all.

Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Aug 2013 at 16:06. Reason: Spelling Error.
 
Old 19th Aug 2013, 19:45
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Maybe Danny can answer this for me.

When I started in China in the mid 90s the company I worked for had their own weather radar. It consisted of a vertical 'C' shaped aerial on the roof that could be controlled vertically and in azimuth by the operator. When the weather was a bit dodgy I used to go to the radar room to get an idea of the weather en route.
They had an enormous collection of noisy cabinets and when I arrived they would start it up. The main interest seemed to be a small scope that had some pulses flickering up from the left hand corner. As things warmed up these pulses would get stronger and stronger until suddenly they would fill; the scope and then they would turn on the radar picture.
The equipment would present excellent pictures of cumulus and cunims up to sixty miles but I always wondered what this little scope was telling you.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 19th Aug 2013 at 19:57.
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 01:51
  #4197 (permalink)  
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Fareastdriver,

This is a bit of a puzzle, and I'm not sure I can help. For a start, it seems like a specialist weather radar of some sort, and a Met man might be a better bet - we have some, as I'm sure you know, for they Post here from time to time.

And the weather radars in your aircraft do the same job of picking up nasties on track, I believe (so said he, knowing nowt about it).

The only thing in my line that has an operator-controlled elevation radar was the ACR-7, and that'd be little use as the lobe was so narrow and the range so short. You mention operator control in azimuth, was that a rotating time base or some kind of reciprocating thing (like a PAR ?).

As far as picking up snow cu-nims in winter and the wandering T/storms in summer, both CPN-4 and AR-1 were excellent and powerful PPIs, quite good at seeing these out to 70 (? - have to look it up) miles. If they got to 30 miles and were heading to hit the field, we could shout in good time.

Your funny little thing has me foxed (some kind of oscilloscope ? a kin to the old "magic eye" valve we had - to confirm tuning - in the old domestic sets ?)

Best I can do, I'm afraid. Cheers,

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Aug 2013 at 15:24. Reason: Typo.
 
Old 20th Aug 2013, 06:26
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Thanks Danny. I can only assume it was a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of an American radar set.
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 13:26
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It was the monsoon season in Borneo. The rain was a little less dense than standing under the bathroom shower. I despatched the morning's Singapore flight and beat a retreat to the office. The aircraft reached the end of the runway, turned around and came back. The admin girl from the Ops Room stuck her head round my door - "Radar Defect!" Putting my cape back on I drove out, climbed the stairs and went into the flight deck. Andy pointed to his weather radar. The screen was completely red. "Can't go unless we get this fixed" he said. I reached over and turned the range switch from 15 to 120. The red area turned to yellow at around 30, then green at about 50 miles. All beyond 70 was a satisfying black. "There you go Andrew. Just a local rainshower!"

Andy L*****w was one of those pilots who wouldn't go until everything worked properly.

I know you're out there Andy.
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Old 20th Aug 2013, 15:36
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The wonders of radar are only gifted to a few. For the rest, it's incomprehensible black magic.
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