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72 Sqn trouble

Old 1st Apr 2021, 22:31
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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I find posts telling those trying to cope with the course and hopefully graduate under this total shambles of a system to man up and stop moaning to be in very poor taste. If I had had it inflicted upon me I doubt if I would ever have made the grade. This is an utter mess and those who have created it need to be shown the door. I have every sympathy with those who have spelled out the reality on the social networks. A once proud Service has been reduced to near impotence. At least in the 20s and 30s it scratched out an existence whereby the essential centres of excellence were maintained even if numbers and equipment were slashed. Now we seem to have the very lifeblood draining away before our eyes, even while the bottomless bucket is supposedly being continually topped up. The words root and branch come to mind....
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Old 1st Apr 2021, 22:46
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Call me old fashioned and not experienced in anyway shape or form in negotiating contracts, but why wasn’t there some form of contractual clause inserted to financially hit the company until they rectified the situation to the satisfaction of the RAF and met pre contractual levels in delivering 123 number of students in xyz timeframes, whilst ensuring adequate staffing and aircraft fit for purpose to deliver those aims. And if there is such a clause why isn’t it being I acted upon.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 04:10
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Nutloose,

How many "once only resets" did 4 Sqn have to have? These had to be introduced as the MFTS contract paid Ascent for aircrew graduating to the front line, not for training instructors.

On a separate note, if the problem on 72 is so dire, where is the input to 25/4 coming from? Are they living off "fat' built up during the Tucano days? Or are there other streams feeding into the T2?
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 08:39
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Originally Posted by NutLoose View Post
Call me old fashioned and not experienced in anyway shape or form in negotiating contracts, but why wasn’t there some form of contractual clause inserted to financially hit the company until they rectified the situation to the satisfaction of the RAF and met pre contractual levels in delivering 123 number of students in xyz timeframes, whilst ensuring adequate staffing and aircraft fit for purpose to deliver those aims. And if there is such a clause why isn’t it being I acted upon.
I have no idea about the contract under discussion, but in general terms Commercial people concentrate on Terms and Conditions, and Technical people (and in this case, one assumes, 22 Gp flying staff drafted in to assist) on the Schedule of Requirements. Perhaps, like the SAR privatisation job, 95% of effort went into T&Cs instead of the other way round? There, experienced SAR aircrew were largely ignored. It is not unusual for a project to be deemed successful because T&Cs have been met, irrespective of time, cost or performance. Much depends on the structure of the project team. If dominated or even led by Commercial, what is described above becomes inevitable. One must recall that it is some years now since the Chief of Defence Procurement decreed he did not want technical people near technical projects. That was a lot of expertise to throw away, and very difficult to regenerate.

As Haddon-Cave noted, you don't put submariners in charge of aircraft. The programme will sink.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 09:06
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As Mrs Friar was a flight crew scheduler for BA (using coloured pencils) they faced targets which regularly changed the focus - save cost, save crew hours etc. However the biggest hurdle they faced was removing the Copenhagen night stop where the fleet chief pilot's girlfriend lived and his golf course was located.
All long since changed to computers but whether anyone knows what the output actually means or they simply feed the machine is a debate.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 10:58
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Nutloose,

I don't know the commercial construct of the the new system but if it is a company set up to deliver the contract on behalf of a consortium you will likely find that there are commercial barriers to liability falling back to the parent companies. Ascent probably has insufficient funds behind it to deal with penalties incurred through failing to perform. As a result even if penalties are involved, the penalties might bankrupt the business and, with no plan B, MOD can't afford to bankrupt their only plan.

It has happened before......
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:05
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That’s just nuts, why would anyone award a contract to a company that hasn’t the resources behind it to guarantee its services, surely the said company could or should take out an insurance policy to back it up in such cases and that should have been written into the contract.

Last edited by NutLoose; 2nd Apr 2021 at 11:17.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:19
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Originally Posted by HEDP View Post
Nutloose,

I don't know the commercial construct of the the new system but if it is a company set up to deliver the contract on behalf of a consortium you will likely find that there are commercial barriers to liability falling back to the parent companies. Ascent probably has insufficient funds behind it to deal with penalties incurred through failing to perform. As a result even if penalties are involved, the penalties might bankrupt the business and, with no plan B, MOD can't afford to bankrupt their only plan.

It has happened before......
Normal commercial practice would be to require either a parent company guarantee or a bond (insurance effectively)adequate to ensure that the job can be done. While transferring to another contractor if needed.

What the MoD does I know not.

N
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:19
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Originally Posted by HEDP View Post
Nutloose,

I don't know the commercial construct of the the new system but if it is a company set up to deliver the contract on behalf of a consortium you will likely find that there are commercial barriers to liability falling back to the parent companies. Ascent probably has insufficient funds behind it to deal with penalties incurred through failing to perform. As a result even if penalties are involved, the penalties might bankrupt the business and, with no plan B, MOD can't afford to bankrupt their only plan.

It has happened before......
Indeed. Again, I'm not entirely up-to-date, but a company cannot be awarded a contract that exceeds the value of the company at time of award. Marconi suffered from this some years ago, having been assessed as the winner of a huge contract by some margin. I've also experienced political overrules whereby a company who didn't even bid was awarded an even larger contract, only to state 6 months later that they'd make a loss. MoD staff were then instructed not to apply pressure, and ignore minor things like systems integration and whether it actually worked, regardless of the contracted requirement and regulations. And yet, someone had to make a false declaration that the work had been carried out. Which, I concede, has been ruled perfectly legal. Something to look at here?
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 17:40
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The reality is that the process of outsourcing public work to the private sector almost always fails because there is no incentive for the public servants to prioritize quality. The political direction is to show cost savings above all else so that the politicians can take credit for being such awesome stewards of the public purse.

The private sector knows this and therefore will prepare a contract that represents the minimum possible package that will only work if everything goes perfectly, always. When there is the inevitable intrusion of reality the company first points to the contract to dodge responsibility and then loads on extra cost plus billing to provide the service they were supposed to provide in the first place.

By the time the program fails everyone on the government side has moved on to new jobs and can evade responsibility.

The really sad part of this story is other Air Forces have gone down the contracted training route before and invariably the end result is less training for more money. Unfortunately governments are loath to learn from the mistakes of others as the senior mandarins are convinced that under there outstanding leadership “this time it will be different” ......

Furthermore we haven’t even touched on the problem of compartmentalizing Air Force capabilities, instead of taking a wholistic view of the service.

Training squadrons represent a break for personnel from front line squadrons who for 3 years know they probably won’t be deployed and will usually have a stable relatively predictable schedule. Take that away and retention suffers which has its own very significant costs, but of course the pointy heads in charge of outsourcing don’t have to take responsibility for that. The true organizational costs never have to be accounted for and no senior leader is ever going to get credit for that kind of strategic thinking, assuming they are even capable of that level of understanding of the organization they are leading.

Last edited by Big Pistons Forever; 2nd Apr 2021 at 17:53.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 18:17
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no senior leader is ever going to get credit for that kind of strategic thinking, assuming they are even capable of that level of understanding of the organization they are leading.
Sadly so true.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 18:43
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Originally Posted by Big Pistons Forever View Post
The reality is that the process of outsourcing public work to the private sector almost always fails because there is no incentive for the public servants to prioritize quality. The political direction is to show cost savings above all else so that the politicians can take credit for being such awesome stewards of the public purse.

The private sector knows this and therefore will prepare a contract that represents the minimum possible package that will only work if everything goes perfectly, always. When there is the inevitable intrusion of reality the company first points to the contract to dodge responsibility and then loads on extra cost plus billing to provide the service they were supposed to provide in the first place.

By the time the program fails everyone on the government side has moved on to new jobs and can evade responsibility.

The really sad part of this story is other Air Forces have gone down the contracted training route before and invariably the end result is less training for more money. Unfortunately governments are loath to learn from the mistakes of others as the senior mandarins are convinced that under there outstanding leadership “this time it will be different” ......
.
Big Pistons Forever, you are 100% correct.
You only have to look at the recent CAA reports on the failures of the U.K. ATC management following privatisation to see where things are going with this.
Best of luck to those currently serving.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 18:57
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There is, I suspect, a surprisily large amount of naivety being shown here. Not in the specifics of the the MFTS issue itself but in the concept of how contracts work in general. I have seen from both side of the fence how poorly contracts are tendered/met. The MOD in general has a terrible habit of writing the contract first and then later putting the effort in to what the actual real requirement is. Thus, the contractor bids low to meet the entirely optimistic requirement knowing they will not be held to it because in fact the task they have been asked to meet is probably only 50% of the true need and so even if they hit all their targets, or not, the contract is doomed to fail. In that instance would you go all out, spend all of the company resource and still fail to hit anyone's idea of the quality required or would you draw in to a defensive position and point out that the contract is being met and the company stays afloat. Anyone who says the former has no idea how commercial interest works (and probably works for DE&S commercial). The mission creep, poorly defined requirements and constant push for in-year savings destroys programmes from the bottom line up.
In this instance, did the company over promise - probably. Could the MOD recognise this and see through the bid - undeniably it could and arguably it did. Did the MOD award the contract anyway - history shows yes. Reap what you sow/get what you pay for/if it seems to good to be true....pick your trite phrase as they all apply.
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 21:19
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Blaming Ascent for this fiasco is like blaming the shark who attacked the swimmer with an arm full of bloody fish. Ascent is doing what shareholders expect of their management, maximizing profits.

This is 100% on MOD. Their failure to adequately define the requirement, set realistic project deliverables, mandate the project milestone scheduling, and impose suitable contract compliance obligations; guaranteed project failure.

This is the poster child for the government truism. “ There will never be enough time or money available to do the job right, but there will always be enough time and money available to do the job over”

The ultimate irony is that if this project was properly contracted in the first place the resulting bids would have been extremely high to reflect the actual costs of providing a safe, effective and efficient training scheme plus the expected Industry profit; it would likely have been abandoned at the outset.

I wish I could articulate a solution, rather than just moan about the problem, but I see no realistically achievable alternative. Government procurement is profoundly broken and there is not enough political upside to fix it.

One of the most interesting contracting stories, IMO, is the USAF Boeing KC 46 Tanker saga. For the first time in living memory the US government imposed a fixed price contract with real deliverables. Boeing undoubtedly figured that they could wiggle out of the consequences of their low bid, but found out to their chagrin that they actually had to take responsibility for their failures. They are now 5.4 billion and counting in the red on this contract.

In a perfect world this would be a wake up call to industry that the government was getting serious about contracting reform and their bids better reflect reality. In the real world Boeing and the other aerospace contractors put on full court press to prevent these kind of contracts in the future and the USAF is now on record that they will not continue with this “failed” contracting model......
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Old 2nd Apr 2021, 23:08
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Originally Posted by Paul Rice View Post
is a regular typical flying duty in the civilian sector - these hours are spread through deep nights, very early starts, late starts with time zone disturbances thrown in - your not flying much you have all the time in the world to resolve these problem - This report borders on mutiny if it has been published by a military officer - bluntly "thats life in a blue suit" please be thankful that your on salary right now - seriously enjoy being on salary.
I have snipped down your diatribe to the relevant points, the parts which could bore a glass eye to sleep have been removed in order to preserve the will to live for the rest of us. We are all entitled to an opinion but in this instance mine is unique as I am not aircrew, either military or commercial however, if I have picked up on your ill-informed and bitter points above then you really are in trouble. You come across as a horrid, jealous type with a huge chip on both shoulders. "That's life in a blue suit?" How the hell would you know? If I am mistaken and you did indeed serve in HM Armed Forces I bet you were an utter joy to crew with. I hate to stereotype but adjectives for you which spring to mind include, passed over, ancient, passed over, mood hoover, passed over and passed over. I have no horse in this race but the dribble you typed has irked me. I would like to suggest you swan off back to your outrageously long days doing a boring, (flying or not it is still boring) single strand job and leave the issue at hand to those who know best, not me clearly.

It took me a while to put my finger on it but I think you are the sort of chap who owns and uses a gas BBQ.
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Old 3rd Apr 2021, 09:52
  #76 (permalink)  
 
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Paul Rice

Paul,

Commercial Reality Check Guys !
30 per cent of professional pilots throughout the world are unemployed with little to no chance of finding work in the medium term. 17 % of professional pilots are furloughed with little to no chance of significant numbers returning to work in the short to medium term. Those remaining at work are braced for further job losses and deep cuts to their terms and conditions of employment. While a 11 hour working day is a long duty period its not exceptional and 12 1/2 hours is a regular typical flying duty in the civilian sector. If your only flying 140 hours per annum you have it easy. 100 flying hours per 28 days is the summer target for the airlines and these hours are spread through deep nights, very early starts, late starts with time zone disturbances thrown in. You report 12 QFIs to 12 student QFIs and 22 students. That divides up to less than 3 students per instructor which seems very reasonable and manageable. If students are not flying often enough and your concerned about continuity and safety, then as the QFI you do not send them solo and if the course foot print over runs so be it. If your concerned about flight planning software and other dispatch issues deal with them your not flying much you have all the time in the world to resolve these problems. While the report highlights domestic problems within your Squadron these concerns should have been managed domestically in house using the established chain of command. This report should not have been published in an open forum and it borders on mutiny if it has been published by a military officer. It certainly brings the service into disrepute. Frequent shift changes not getting home when you expect to get home bluntly "thats life in a blue suit" please be thankful that your on salary right now, that your flying a wonderful aeroplane with a ready supply of talented highly motivated and aptitude selected students. Your the QFI you know what the problems are fix those that you can, recruit colleagues to fix those that you cant and when you have done all that you possibly put the kettle on have a cup of tea and chill out. Seriously enjoy being on salary.
Genuine question - do you know what an average “day in the life of” a military pilot/QFI is? I ask, as I sincerely hope you do, before posting what I have quoted above from you.

Do you suggest that because “thats life in a blue suit” people should just shut up and not report their flight safety concerns using their companies safety management system?! I’d like to think your company promotes honest and open reporting. I am in violent agreement that this should not have ended in an open forum, although I see no evidence of the mutiny you claim, just some instructors that care about their students, who want to see the system work. A lot of the points/suggestions you raise aren’t being addressed, hence the report in the first place.

By the way, about a third of the QFI’s don’t wear a blue suit. Do you know much about Ascent? (That's another genuine question).

Regarding the “reality check”. We (in the military) are well aware of the pandemics effect on the industry. I am grateful for a job, when a lot of friends don’t have one. I go back to the point i made earlier. Do you expect people to shut up and get on with it simply because there aren’t many jobs around? Really not sure what point you are trying to make by bringing job market to this argument.

Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Last edited by Professor Plum; 3rd Apr 2021 at 10:06.
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Old 3rd Apr 2021, 10:44
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One of the most interesting contracting stories, IMO, is the USAF Boeing KC 46 Tanker saga. For the first time in living memory the US government imposed a fixed price contract with real deliverables. Boeing undoubtedly figured that they could wiggle out of the consequences of their low bid, but found out to their chagrin that they actually had to take responsibility for their failures. They are now 5.4 billion and counting in the red on this contract.

In a perfect world this would be a wake up call to industry that the government was getting serious about contracting reform and their bids better reflect reality. In the real world Boeing and the other aerospace contractors put on full court press to prevent these kind of contracts in the future and the USAF is now on record that they will not continue with this “failed” contracting model......
They have probably got savvy after awarding the UH-72 Lakota helicopter contract to what was EADS US and is now Airbus Helicopters based on the EC-145 Civilian model, now 450 odd helicopters in and all delivered on budget and on time. Not only that, but where as in the past the US would fund and pay for the development of midlife update and modernisation programmes, these costs are covered by Airbus through their normal development of the Civilian model.



..

Last edited by NutLoose; 3rd Apr 2021 at 11:00.
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Old 3rd Apr 2021, 13:45
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Originally Posted by Paul Rice View Post
While a 11 hour working day is a long duty period its not exceptional and 12 1/2 hours is a regular typical flying duty in the civilian sector. If your only flying 140 hours per annum you have it easy. 100 flying hours per 28 days is the summer target for the airlines and these hours are spread through deep nights, very early starts, late starts with time zone disturbances thrown in..
Paul..I'll join the pile in...

Like others here I've had a foot in both camps..airline flying for several decades before Covid precipitated retirement, before that amongst other things QFI'ing (JPs) both at an FTS and at CFS and having lived both the military and the civilian dream IMHO you simply cannot compare the two roles as it seem you are attempting to do, simply by using flying hours.

On the QFIing side I vividly recall the sequence of rushing to early "met" every day, then brief/sortie/ de-brief/write up sortie to go in students file... then repeat, 3 in a day , sandwich grabbed on the turn, and then at the end of this "three flying hour" day if you had the secondary duty of scheduler another hour or two writing the next days programme. For others there was usually some other form of squadron or station duties that had to be fitted in.

Even a two sortie ("two flying hour") day often meant half a day in the Tower as Duty Instructor or behind the squadron ops desk running the programme in addition to the flying...

When I moved on to the civilian world I suddenly discovered there was no mandatory "met brief",at 0715/0800, no sitting in operations keeping the plan running, no mandatory Friday afternoon ground training, no none-flying related secondary duties. No going into work everyday, even if not rostered just in case the programme changed.....and you sure as heck, at least where I was in the civilian world, didn't expect the default lunch to be a bag of crisps eaten whilst walking from the desk where you'd been writing a report to the briefing room to start briefing your third student of the day..

.....Oh heck, I've gone all Four Yorkshiremen.....

I do however certainly also recognise that working to a limit of 900 block hours a year in the civilian world, and the disruption on the body due to switching day/night/lates/earlies is ******* fatiguing..

In short flying hours is a pretty lousy metric for measuring aircrew work, ..we all know MOL likes to claim the 900 hours limit means civilian pilots "only" work a handful of weeks a year, and we know (don't we?) that's highly misleading, well you're (perhaps naively) doing similar with your 140 hours comment...
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Old 3rd Apr 2021, 17:08
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Not looking for a halo, but back in the day, circa late 1981 at 1 Sqn, 2 FTS, (Gazelles) my QHI day was something like this: 07:30 arrive at Sqn to see how many aircraft we had actually been allocated from our wish-list the evening before; haggle with Duty Flight Commander at CFS(H) to attempt to find some extra sorties and resurrect a moribund flypro. Brief, fly, debrief usually 4 sorties. Not time to write them all up. Cobble together programme for next day. Hopefully leave at 18:00, taking one or student folders to write up. Repeat....
Did we complain? Not at all.
Fast forward a few years. Working for a well-known civilian helicopter operator, jumping through rigorous hoops to have selected two aircraft types for DHFS. The H135 in its then guise was too new to consider, and in any case the first RW trainer was to be only Single-Engine. But noted during my evaluation of the 135 for said international company that there was restricted headroom in the back. As to the twin, the hands-down winner was the Bell 412 for the rear crew training role, as well as up front. The BK-117, as then was, had been deemed short of space even with the control runs cabinet behind the pilot seats removed: as was the then EC proposal...which morphed into the 145.
Fast forward even further. Imagine my surprise when the 135/145 combo was selected to replace the 350 and 412. Whatever happened to all the careful decisions that were made in 1996? What had changed in the training role? Oh, and now there was a 350-B3 and a 412 with FADEC, glass cockpit, and FastFin tailfin to improve yaw authority in the hover. The 135 and 145 are fine aircraft, but Role Relation should not just be the province of the tp......
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Old 3rd Apr 2021, 18:37
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Originally Posted by NutLoose View Post
They have probably got savvy after awarding the UH-72 Lakota helicopter contract to what was EADS US and is now Airbus Helicopters based on the EC-145 Civilian model, now 450 odd helicopters in and all delivered on budget and on time. Not only that, but where as in the past the US would fund and pay for the development of midlife update and modernisation programmes, these costs are covered by Airbus through their normal development of the Civilian model.



..
I am not sure that this is a representative example as the UH-72 is basically the civilian helicopter with a new paint job because it is not being used operationally, only as a trainer. Fixed price contracting becomes a lot more problematical when bespoke military requirements are called for to enable operational capabilities. Nevertheless it is still encouraging to see contracting done right for a change.

When Canada upgraded the C130 fleet to the J model the then Chief of the Defense Staff insisted that Canada would buy a bog standard USAF airframe. There was extreme push back from inside the Air Force good idea club who had all sorts of reasons why it had to be "Candain-ized.". CDS ignore all the advice and the result was new C 130 J airframes on time and thanks to a favorable currency fluctuation significantly under budget. Fast forward a few years and the CDS has retired when it is time to buy some new Chinooks. This time the idea that Canada get the stock US Army CH-47F airframe is ignored and after they are Canadian-ized on a cost plus basis, the unit cost is 75% higher than the US Army is paying..... .

Last edited by Big Pistons Forever; 3rd Apr 2021 at 23:21.
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