Thursday, November 27, 2014




A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have
made to their passengers...

1) 'Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologise for the delay to your
service. I know you're all dying to get home, unless, of course, you
happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you'll want to cross
over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.'

2) 'Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering
from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I'll let
you know any further information as soon as I'm given any.'

3) 'Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is
that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great
time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between
Mile End and East Ham, which means we probably won't reach our

4) 'Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a
security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for
the foreseeable future, so let's take our minds off it and pass some
time together. All together now.... 'Ten green bottles, hanging on a

5) 'We are now travelling through Baker Street ... As you can see,
Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually
told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don't think about
things like that'.

6) 'Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these
professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to
a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.'

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver
announced in a West Indian drawl: 'Step right this way for the sauna,
ladies and gentleman... unfortunately, towels are not provided.'

8) 'Let the passengers off the train FIRST!' (Pause ) 'Oh go on then,
stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care - I'm going home....'

9) 'Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with
'Please hold the doors open.' The two are distinct and separate

10) 'Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means
that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or
your bags into the doors.'

11) 'We can't move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.'

12) 'To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the
second carriage -- what part of 'stand clear of the doors' don't you

13) 'Please move all baggage away from the doors.' (Pause..) 'Please
move ALL belongings away from the doors.' (Pause...) 'This is a
personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the
rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody
golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them
up your @rse sideways!'

14) 'May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking
allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a
joint, it's only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.'



Commenting on a complaint from a Mr. Arthur Purdey about a large gas
bill, a spokesman for North West Gas said, 'We agree it was rather
high for the time of year. It's possible Mr Purdey has been charged
for the gas used up during the explosion that destroyed his house.'
(The Daily Telegraph)

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami
in her underwear.. When asked why, she said it was because she was
missing her Italian boyfriend.
(The Manchester Evening News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van,
because they cannot issue a description. It's a Special Branch vehicle
and they don't want the public to know what it looks like.
(The Guardian)

Interested in Cooking, Food and Wine?

At the height of the gale, the harbour-master radioed a coast guard
and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied he was sorry, but
he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just
blown his Land Rover off the cliff.
( Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs. Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue , Boscombe, delighted the audience
with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each
week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she
recalled -
'He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came
up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out 'Heil
( Bournemouth Evening Echo)

In the next few minutes, you’re going to discover exactly what “whole wheat” bread, types of milk, sugar, and vegetable oils do to your body… plus you’ll discover why it’s NOT your fault if you’ve struggled to lose weight.

These foods, commonly called “healthy” by experts, the media, and even the government, are actually silently harming the health of you and your family. But if you’ll continue reading you’re going to discover why you should eat MORE foods such as delicious butter, cream, cheese, coconut fat, avocados, and juicy steaks. If it seems odd to you, I’ll explain more in the article below…just click on the link.


Monday, November 24, 2014


Guided Tours of Austria and Surrounding Areas

When you think of Austria, it’s easy to imagine its snowy Alps and the “Sound of Music”.  If you find yourself humming“do-re-mi”, it's probably time to book one of the exciting guided tours of this lovely and historic area. It may well be a trip to remember.

Start your tour in Innsbruck, the home of two winter Olympics.  Most guided tours will take you to some of the historic Olympic venues and you may wish to pick up some souvenirs while you’re there.

Nearby is the beautiful and historic city of Salzburg.  Much of its architecture has been preserved over the centuries and there are many sites to see.  Many of the guided tours of this area will show you the birthplace of Mozart, one of the most famous composers of all time.
While in Salzburg, there are some guided tours that will take you to all of the places from the movie, “The Sound of Music”, including the Salzburg Cathedral, where the main characters were married and the Nonnberg Abbey. The Hohensalzburg Fortress, a large, white fortress high on a hill above the city dominates the skyline of Salzburg.  At the right time of year, the Mirabell Palace has a fantastic garden showplace that visitors can stroll around.

If you are interested in seeing the Alps themselves, go on one of the guided tours of the area that take you slightly outside of Austria proper, up into the magnificent mountains and to an infamous place called Berchtesgaden. This place is now a small, quaint town that is also the home to the historic Eagle’s Nest.

Excellent guided tours of this area will tell you that the Eagle’s Nest was Hitler’s retreat in the years before and during World War II.  They will put you into small buses for a hair-raising, scissor-back trip up the mountain until you find yourself winding your way to the top of the mountain. The view itself is breathtaking.

Once you’ve arrived near the top of the mountain on which the Eagle’s Nest sits, many guided tours of the area will take you through a mysterious tunnel that ends at a golden—yes, golden—elevator that Hitler himself rode up and down to get to and from his retreat.  At the top, you’ll arrive at the true top of the mountain and you’ll see the villa that once belonged to Hitler.  Take out your camera because the view of the surrounding mountains is unparalleled.

After visiting the Alps, many guided tours of Austria will finish up in the large and famous city of Vienna, Austria. Vienna was once home to the Austrian Emperor and was where Mozart lived and wrote the bulk of his musical work. Vienna is the center of culture, music and the arts in Austria and there are dozens of places to visit.

For museum-goers, many guided tours of Vienna will show you the city’s museum quarter.  The Sisi Museum is a museum centered around the Empress Elisabeth of Austria and visitors can see the historic Imperial apartments and other treasures from the reign of the Empress.  The Hofburg is another wonderful place.  Visitors to this museum can see the spectacular imperial jewels, dating back to the Hapsburg dynasty.  In addition, the Naturhistorisches Museum, which houses many ancient pieces of art.

Don’t forget the hundreds of lovely villages and towns you can explore in Austria. Some guided tours of Austria will stop at a small, traditional restaurant away from the big cities, giving you a chance to meet the local people and sample the local cuisine.

Organic Foods: Are they Worth It?

Are they Worth It? Arguments against Organic Foods

On any day at the supermarket, consumers have the option of buying foods from conventional produce farms that use chemical
pesticides and herbicides or organic foods—grown on farms that use only natural products to keep pests and weeds away from
the produce.  Organic foods are clearly more expensive and some consumers wonder if the extra expense is worth it.
While foods not grown using organic techniques definitely will contain residues of one or more types of pesticides, one
study done in 2002 revealed that organic produce routinely contain pesticide residue as well, but only one-third as much
as conventional produce.  Even so, the potential for ingesting pesticides from organic foods still exists so this type of
food needs to be washed just like other produce.  Unfortunately, no standards exist as to how much pesticide consumption
is tolerable.

Another important point that detractors of organic produce make is the finding that up to half of all “natural chemicals”
used in food production have been found to be cancer-causing when tested in a laboratory.  Chemists debate whether any
chemicals put on foods is safe and there are those who doubt that any chemical food residue truly has the ability to cause
cancer—regardless of whether they are organic or conventionally-grown.

There are those who are actively looking at organic foods and their ability to sustain the population of the earth.  Some
of these researchers feel that organic agriculture alone is incapable of keeping up with the world’s food demands.  In
addition, some agriculturists feel that the soil benefits found in organic farming is solely due to good crop rotation and
has little to do with the actual organic techniques.

Organic farmers have a greater time keeping their crops free of mold, pests and other diseases, resulting in a lesser
quality of produce and in greater crop losses by the end of the growing season.  One researcher claimed that growing only
organic tomatoes, for example, would consume more than 600 percent more land than tomatoes grown using conventional methods.
Most people believe that organic produce is completely free of pesticides and that no pesticides are used in the growing of
organic crops.  This is, in fact, not true.  Organic farmers aim to use as little pesticides as possible but such chemicals
are still used to some extent.  In addition, some organic pesticides contain an excess of copper—a heavy metal. Copper
leaches into the soil, builds up and can cause health problems just like other pesticides.

Other pesticides approved for use in organic farming have some toxicity as well. The pesticide known as sabadilla has been
shown to be toxic to honeybees and is being studied as a potentially toxic substance in larger animals and humans.
Interestingly, while organic pesticides must be extensively tested before they are allowed to be used to grow produce,
“organic pesticides” do not have the same requirements and may be as toxic as their conventional counterparts.

Organic foods are more expensive to grow and are thus more expensive to purchase than regular foods.  This means that
organic foods are less available to individuals living at lower income levels.  The cost difference for organic foods
is approximately ten to forty percent higher in average cost when compared to olrganic foods.

Every family has to make its own decision as to whether or not to go “organic” and buy only organically-grown foods. 
Some experts feel it is worth the extra cost to consumers to buy organic foods, while others question the actual benefit
of buying them.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


In September 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Valley Heights High School in Ontario, did something unforgettable. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent and the principal, she removed all the desks in her classroom. When the first period kids entered the room they found no desks.   'Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?'
She  replied, 'You can't have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at one.'
They thought, 'Maybe it's our grades.'  'No,' she said.
‘Our behavior?' She told them, 'No’ she said.
And so, they came and went, the first period, second, third. Still no desks in the classroom. Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening; by early afternoon television news crews had gathered at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all desks out of her room.
The  final period of the day came and as the puzzled students sat on the floor of the classroom. Martha said, ‘No one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I’m going to tell you.'
At this point, Martha went over to the door of her classroom and opened  it. Twenty-seven (27)  Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that  classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then walked over to stand alongside the wall. By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, for the first time in their lives, how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha  said, 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have. Now, it's up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price for your freedom to get education. Never forget it.'
This teacher was awarded Veterans of  Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year in 2006. She is the daughter of a WWII POW.
The freedoms we have in this great country were earned by our Veterans. Sardar Patel would have liked this fact. He had fought for independence, using ahinsa.
Remember the men of our military and the rights they  have won for us.....
I’m a Gujarati Christian from village Ratanpur, Matar, Kheda distt. & a resident of Behrampura; get the goodwill of the Defence Forces and you will have a zero-crisis tenure. They will die for you with a smile.
Perhaps India's Prime Minister, a self-educated tea-stall tea seller should read this blog. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014



Charles Svoboda's Story of 1965

This is a true story narrated by a copilot about professionalism and I have used it to set up the base for my story about flying in zero-zero weather.

         It happened sometime in 1965, in Germany. I was a copilot, so I knew, everything there was to know about flying, and I was frustrated by pilots like my aircraft commander. He was one of those by-the-numbers types, no class, no imagination, no “feel” for flying.

        You have to be able to feel an airplane. So what if your altitude is a little off, or if the glideslope indicator is off a hair? If it feels okay then it is okay. That’s what I believed. Every time he let me make an approach, even in VFR conditions, he demanded perfection.

        Not the slightest deviation was permitted. “If you can’t do it when there is no pressure, you surely can’t do it when the pucker factor increases,” he would say. When he shot an approach, it was as if all the instruments were frozen – perfection, but no class.

        Then came that routine flight from the Azores to Germany on our C-124 Globemaster. The weather was okay; halfway to the European mainland, the weather started getting bad. I kept getting updates by HF radio. Our destination, a fighter base, went zero/zero. Our two alternates followed shortly thereafter. All of France was down. We held for two hours, and the weather got worse. Somewhere I heard a fighter pilot declare an emergency because of minimum fuel. He shot two approaches and saw nothing. On the third try, he flamed out and had to eject.

        We made a precision radar approach; there was nothing but fuzzy fog at minimums. I started to sweat a little. I turned on the instrument lights. When I looked out to where the wings should be, I couldn’t even see the navigation lights 85 feet from my eyes. I could barely make out a dull glow from the exhaust stacks of the closest engine, and then only on climb power. When we reduced power to maximum endurance, that friendly glow faded. The pilot asked the engineer where we stood on fuel. The reply was, “I don’t know--- we’re so low that the book says the gauges are unreliable below this point.” We didn’t carry parachutes, so we couldn’t follow the fighter pilot’s example. We would land or crash with the airplane.

        The pilot then asked me which of the two nearby fighter bases had the widest runway. I looked it up and we declared an emergency as we headed for that field. The pilot then began his briefing.

        “This will be for real. No missed approach. We’ll make an ILS and get precision radar to keep us honest. Copilot, we’ll use half flaps. That’ll put the approach speed a little higher, but the pitch angle will be almost level, requiring less attitude change in the flare.”
        Why hadn’t I thought of that? Where was my “feel” and “class” now?

        The briefing continued, “I’ll lock on the gauges. You get ready to take over and complete the landing if you see the runway – that way there will be less room for trouble with me trying to transition from instruments to visual with only a second or two before touchdown.” Hey, he’s even going to take advantage of his copilot, I thought. He’s not so stupid, after all.

        “Until we get the runway, you call off every 100 feet above touchdown; until we get down to 100 feet, use the pressure altimeter. Then switch to the radar altimeter for the last 100 feet, and call off every 25 feet. Keep me honest on the airspeed, also. Engineer, when we touch down, I’ll cut the mixtures with the master control lever, and you cut all of the mags. Are there any questions? Let’s go!” All of a sudden, this unfeeling, by the numbers robot was making a lot of sense. Maybe he really was a pilot and maybe I had something more to learn about flying.

        We made a short procedure turn to save gas. Radar helped us to get to the outer marker. Half a mile away, we performed the Before Landing Checklist; gear down, flaps 20 degrees. The course deviation indicator was locked in the middle, with the glideslope indicator beginning its trip down from the top of the case. When the GSI centered, the pilot called for a small power reduction, lowered the nose slightly, and all of the instruments, except the altimeter, froze. My Lord, that man had a feel for that airplane! He thought something, and the airplane, all 135,000 pounds of it, did what he thought.

        “Five hundred feet,” I called out, “400 feet……..300 feet…….200 feet, MATS minimums….. …….100 feet, Air Force minimums; I’m switching to the radar altimeter ……..75 feet nothing in sight……50 feet, still nothing….25 feet, airspeed 100 knots,”

        The nose of the aircraft rotated just a couple of degrees, and the airspeed started down. The pilot then casually said, “Hang on, we’re landing.”

        “Airspeed 90 knots….10 feet, here we go!”

        The pilot reached up and cut the mixtures with the master control lever, without taking his eyes off the instruments. He told the engineer to cut all the mags to reduce the chance of fire. CONTACT! I could barely feel it. As smooth a landing as I have ever known, and I couldn’t even tell if we were on the runway, because we could only see the occasional blur of a light streaking by.

        “Copilot, verify hydraulic boost is on, I’ll need it for brakes and steering.” I complied.

        “Hydraulic boost pump is on, pressure is up.” The brakes came on slowly---we didn’t want to skid this big beast now. I looked over at the pilot. He was still on the instruments, steering to keep the course deviation indicator in the center, and that is exactly where it stayed.

        “Airspeed, 50 knots.” We might make it yet.

        “Airspeed, 25 knots.” We’ll make it if we don’t run off a cliff. Then I heard a strange sound. I could hear the whir of the gyros, the buzz of the inverters, and a low frequency thumping. Nothing else. The thumping was my pulse, and I couldn’t hear anyone breathing. We had made it! We were standing still!

       The aircraft commander was still all pilot. “After-landing checklist, get all those motors, radar and unnecessary radios off while we still have batteries. Copilot, tell them that we have arrived, to send a follow me truck out to the runway because we can’t even see the edges.”
        I left the VHF on and thanked GCA for the approach. The guys in the tower didn’t believe we were there. They had walked outside and couldn’t hear or see anything. We assured them that we were there, somewhere on the localiser centreline, with about half a mile showing on the DME.

        Then I remembered the story from Fate Is the Hunter.  When Gann was an airline copilot making a simple night range approach, his captain kept lighting matches in front of his eyes. It scarred and infuriated Gann. When they landed, the captain said that Gann was ready to upgrade to captain. If he could handle a night-range approach with all of that harassment, then he could handle anything.

        At last I understood what true professionalism is.
        Being a pilot isn’t all seat-of-the-pants flying and glory.

        It’s self- discipline, practice, study, analysis and preparation. It’s precision.

        If you can’t keep the gauges where you want them with everything free and easy, how can you keep them there when everything goes wrong?


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    CAT III LANDING ON THE MIRAGE 2000 IN 1993. Have you read Part 1, Charles Svoboda's story? Read that first, please.

          Over 90% of today's tourists travel by air. Its so much faster that the time saved more than compensates for the extra cost. In truth, even that statement is not really true in today's modern conditions. The advent of no-frills low-fare airlines have made the cost of flying cheaper than by rail, road or sea.

          That said, travelling by air has its own limitations. These are mostly weather related and, in the odd case, aircraft availability. Sometimes, it is a combination of the two, when your specific aircraft gets held up ay another airport because it has a snag that needs attention, or the prevailing weather does not permit flight.

          Automation will soon make flying possible in what we pilots call zero/zero conditions. An official definition of zero/zero exists: "atmospheric conditions that reduce cloud ceiling and visibility to zero." Current Instrument Landing Systems-ILS- have become so advanced that today's airliners require a Runway visual range (RVR) of 46 metres. The ILS transmits two beams, the Localiser (LOC) along the runway centre line and the Glidepath, along the aircraft's descent path. Both are displayed on one instrument, and the pilot has only to keep them centred to come down safely.

          Runway visual range (RVR), in aviation terms, is the distance over which a pilot of an aircraft on the centreline of the runway can see the runway surface markings delineating the runway or identifying its centre line. RVR is normally expressed in metres. In the US, which has to be different, it is expressed in feet. RVR is used as one of the main criteria for minima on instrument approaches.

Category I:

Decision Height: 60 m or 200 feet. If at this height, the pilot does not sight the runway, he must abort his approach and either divert or try again.

Runway visual range (RVR): 550 m or 1,800 ft.

Visibility: 800 m or 2,600 ft.  

Category II:

Decision Height: 30 m or 100 feet.

RVR: 1,200 feet (370 m).

Category III is subdivided into three sections:
    • Category III A – A precision instrument approach and landing with:
      • a) a decision height lower than 100 feet (30 m) above touchdown zone elevation, or no decision height (alert height); and
      • b) a runway visual range not less than 200 meters (660 ft).
    • Category III B – A precision instrument approach and landing with:
      • a) a decision height lower than 50 feet (15 m) above touchdown zone elevation, or no decision height (alert height); and
      • b) a runway visual range less than 200 meters (660 ft) but not less than 75 meters (246 ft). Autopilot is used until taxi-speed. In the United States, FAA criteria for CAT III B runway visual range allows readings as low as 150 ft (46 m).
    • Category III C – A precision instrument approach and landing with no decision height and no runway visual range limitations. This category is not yet in operation anywhere in the world, as it requires guidance to taxi in zero visibility as well. "Category III C" is not mentioned in EU-OPS. Category III B is currently the best available system. 
           The main reason for the delay in using Cat IIIC ILS is its prohibitive cost. It might be required for only 6-8 days in a year! So why spend so much?   

             The Airbus 380 and Boeing 777 have zero/zero capability as well as an autolanding system. An auto landing process is achieved by an autopilot together with the ILS. As the name suggests, the ILS directs where the plane goes and the autopilot ensures that it does so. The auto landing procedure is executed automatically but the Captain may still have to intervene to check that the speed is as desired when the flaps are selected from 0 degrees to landing position.  

          At 50 feet, the autopilot flares the airplane, a term to describe how it would raise the nose slightly to prepare for a soft landing. The computer would call out aurally the heights every 10 feet and then at around 25 feet, the throttles are closed. At this point, the airplane should sit onto the runway gently and roll along the centreline until it comes to a complete stop by the auto brakes with the pilot aiding it further with reverse thrust. If the Captain is unable to see the taxiway because the visibility has further reduced, he may request a ‘Follow Me’ vehicle to guide the pilot to its parking bay. 


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       My story is about the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft and flying in the period 1986-early 1990s. My Base Commander was a pedagogue who would not look outside the Rule Book. I was the Air Force Examiner on the Mirage 2000 aircraft and had devised holding patterns, one-in-ten approaches, ILS stacks, etc., things never heard of by fighter pilots before. The book said I could fly in RVR of 1000 metres. One day, it so happened that my Base Commander's boss at Command HQ, the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO), an Air Marshal, had come down to visit the base and see how we conducted bad weather operations.  

        It was drizzling that morning and the weatherman said that we could soon expect zero/zero conditions. The Base Commander shrugged his shoulders and looked rather apologetically at the SASO. SASO looked at me and said, " Air Force Examiner.. ........ ....Chicken?" I replied in a twang with a hint of an accusation, " Its your published order, sir. Override it and we could go." "Done," he said. 

           For those who don't know, the Mirage 2000 is the easiest aircraft in the world to fly, but bloody demanding to operate in war, given its multiple capabilities. The Indian Air Force took cognisance of this fact and split the force into squadrons with specific roles. The best aid available on board was the autopilot which could do anything, well, almost. In fact, the very same autopilot is fitted on the Airbus 319 / 320s. I had devised and tested an autolanding system, which I practised in a two-seater by night from the rear seat. Landings from the rear seat at night were not easy-you needed practice to get the hang of it. This was a drawback in the aircraft, in that the rear cockpit had a camera screen that repeated what the front-seat pilot could see through the Head Up Display (HUD) in the front cockpit by filming the HUD. The display was far too bright at night to see anything at all and had to be switched off. You had to approach the runway by looking through the side panels and aligning yourself with the edge of the runway. When about 50 feet above ground, you could see the runway lights, so getting back to the centre-line was easy. I would intentionally fly head down approaches at night, asking the front seat pilot to take over controls if my approach seemed hairy.

        The Mirage 2000 is a tailless delta-wing aircraft and faced a problem common to all delta-wing aircraft; the nose of the aircraft had to be raised fairly high to generate the lift required to come in to land at reasonably low speeds. In fact, the Concorde also had this problem, solved ingeniously by deliberately drooping the nose so that the pilot could see what was ahead. In the Mirage 2000, you had to raise your seat fully and change the display on the HUD to what is called the approach mode, which had a landing-oriented but totally different set of symbols on display. Landing after these two actions then became as easy as in the daytime. Rain was a problem, because, even in a drizzle, forward visibility reduced to zero! Incidentally, the landing speed of the Mirage was around 240 kph, whereas in the MiG-21, it was 310-320 kph.  

         I got the SASO kitted up and into the rear seat quickly enough. As we taxied out, the fog came in and visibility reduced to 30 metres. I handed over controls to the SASO and asked him to taxy out. He coped well, because the taxy-tracks were 30 metres wide and he could see the centreline and the grass beyond the taxytrack edges. As we moved further away, visibility dropped to 10 metres and I had to take over controls again. ATC piped in with a warning that RVR was 20 metres and dropping. Without informing the SASO, I switched the ILS on and used the localiser to get onto the runway centreline. I asked the SASO if he would like to take off. He declined, saying,"I can't see anything." I insisted he take off, saying that the aircraft was on the centreline and would stay there for the 450 metres required for take off. In any case, I was there to assist or take over if anything went awry. He agreed and the take off was uneventful. 

         We climbed out of all clouding by 9,000 feet. SASO started to throw the aircraft around, enjoying himself. Later, I took him down to 1,000 feet above ground level in a flattish and safe sector and, whilst still in cloud, showed him the ground mapping and safety modes of the multimode radar. I showed him how to distinguish roads from rail tracks, how to assess heights of hill features, what rivers and bridges looked like, etc. He was more than impressed with the quality of the display and what all could be achieved. Soon it was time to get back. I took over controls and said, "See for yourself how this aircraft autolands, sir." 

         I got in touch with our local radar and informed him we were doing an auto-ILS and requested back up. I started to slow the aircraft down from 450 to 200 knots, punched the required buttons, raised my seat, selected auto-ILS and changed the HUD to the landing mode. I then showed SASO my hands and said, "I won't touch controls unless required."The aircraft autonavigated to the holding point and as my speed dropped below 225 knots, the "lower undercarriage" command prompted me to lower the landing gear. The aircraft had climbed on autopilot to the stack safety height of 2,600 feet above sea level by then and entered the holding pattern at 200 knots. Since we were the only aircraft in the air, we exited the stack on our first turnaround.

       I informed ground radar of our exit and as we approached the ILS LOC beam, the aircraft turned and captured the localiser. As mandated, I called out LOC capture. I then reduced power to hit approach angle of attack (ά) of 13° and maintained it. Soon we were on glidepath and the aircraft commenced descent. Radar called out,"You're on glidepath and centreline. RVR is now zero in light drizzle. Wind is calm. Recheck wheels down and locked. Acknowledge." The Mirage 2000 has a beep signal that is transmitted on three frequencies at one time, when a button is pressed, but only if the wheels are down and locked. This signal confirms to the ground controllers that the wheels are actually down and locked. Radar, in turn, acknowledged the signal and we were now on ATC frequency on our second radio set. All this while we were in total clouding. ATC called us and said that all runway lights and the AVASI (Abridged Visual Slope Indicator) were on. We would never see them.

          I had selected Radioaltimeter visual warning to 20 feet. As the aircraft silently descended through clouds, radar kept telling us,"On glide, on centreline." My hands were visible to SASO, who said,"Can't see a sausage outside." "Look at the Head Down Display, sir," I added. It showed our glideslope. At 350 feet on radalt, I disconnected ILS glideslope, its minima being 300 feet-not even a Cat I ILS. I kept the last used glidepath on the autopilot and retained auto-centreline control. We were aligned perfectly down the centreline. At 100 feet, radar said, "Approaching our minima, on advisory if requested." I responded, "Yes, please."

      He continued,"On centreline, crossing threshold, height should be 30 feet." It was. As the radalt warning came at 20 feet, I throttled back to idle and allowed the aircraft to sink, allowing the ά to increase to 14°. Close to the ground, at 15 feet and less, the air compressed under the large delta wings of the Mirage 2000 tends to cushion its landing. Radar said, "Approaching touchdown." As we touched down smoothly, the autopilot disconnected by default. I just stayed on the ILS line and asked SASO,"Shall we do another one, sir?" He declined. I gently brought the aircraft to a halt and asked for the follow me jeep. My engine noise and flashing lights were picked up by the follow me jeep, and I put my 2,000 watt landing lights on. This was reflected by the orange stripes of the jeep and we followed him all the way home at a sedate 10 kph. On the long stretch back, SASO waxed eloquent, totally impressed with the aircraft (and the Indian Air Force Examiner?) 


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Wednesday, November 5, 2014


A Case Study of Roles and Responsibilities of Retail Managers in Two Existing Hospitality Business Environments

      In today’s context, hospitality has outgrown its roots and is, in fact, representative of an industry. The definition of hospitality that perhaps suits this Paper best is, “the relationship between a guest and a host, or the act or practice of being hospitable, that is, the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers at resorts, membership clubs, conventions, attractions, special events, and other services for travellers and tourists” (online: www. Since the field has opened up greatly, a surmise can safely be made that there is a vast number of players involved, each with his or her own role to play, blending in the ultimate picture with the host’s averment of caring for and entertaining guests. It becomes necessary, therefore, to go down a level or two and appraise the role of a retail manager, who, as we shall see later, is very much in the forefront of the situational management arena. Thereafter, an elite restaurant will be assessed with respect to its history and current status.
       The aim of this Case Study is to evaluate the roles and responsibilities of retail managers in the Food and Beverages category at both ends of the cost scale  and appraise a renowned restaurant in relation to its historical and current perspective in a retail environment, the public sector.
Scope of Study
       Having introduced the hospitality industry and stipulated the aim, this Paper will look at the industry in greater detail, compare the role and responsibilities of retail managers in the Food and Beverages category of a high end hotel, the Park Plaza Victoria London and the low cost
fast food giant, McDonald’s. Subsequently, El Bulli of Roses, Spain will be appraised in relation
to its historical and current perspective in a retail environment, the elitist public sector.
 The Hospitality Industry
      The hospitality industry is composed of a variety of sectors within the service industry that include, among others (online:
*      Food and beverage services, e.g. restaurants, cafes, bistros, clubs, etc.
*      Accommodation, e.g. hotels, motels, resorts, bed and breakfast, etc.
*      Entertainment, e.g. theatre, musicals, live band shows and cinema halls, etc.
*      Functions and event management, e.g. corporate functions, expos, etc.
*      Recreation services, e.g. health and fitness centres, golf clubs, theme parks, etc.
*      Gaming facilities, e.g. casino type hotels, casino type resorts, etc.
*      Additional fields within the tourism industry like transportation, cruise liners, special historic trains, etc.’
       ‘The hospitality industry is divided into two categories, the commercial and the non-commercial categories (ibid). The commercial category includes establishments that operate for profit, whereas the non-commercial category comprises establishments that operate on a not for profit basis. With the advent of government privatisation policies, commercial caterers are now replacing many of the non-commercial food operators. Thus, there is less of a distinction between non-profit organisations and profit making enterprises nowadays. Examples of the commercial category include’ (ibid):
v  Restaurants
v  Hotels
v  Takeaway / fast food shops
v  Motels
v  Bistros
      Examples of the non-commercial category include (ibid):
             Hospitals (food services)
             Relief agencies like The Salvation Army (food services)
             School canteens 
              Prison canteens
Note: The above list contains only the core sector within the hospitality industry.
      As stated, the hospitality industry offers a variety of services within several distinct sectors. ‘The quality of service on offer to guests depends on the price being charged. For example, in the food and beverage area, eating in a three- star rated restaurant will be far more expensive than eating in a one star-rated restaurant. This also applies in the accommodation sector. Staying for a weekend in a five-star international hotel will dent your wallet far more than staying for a weekend in a two-star rated hotel’ (ibid).
About the Hotel
        The hotel in question is the Park Plaza Victoria London. Part of Carlson, a global travel and hospitality company, the four star deluxe Park Plaza Victoria London hotel is centrally located just two minutes from Victoria Station and within walking distance of some of the city's main tourist attractions, including Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, etc. Apart from 287 air conditioned guest rooms including Superior and Executive Rooms and Suites, plus 12 one and two bedroom apartments, the hotel features a world-class, AA award-winning
restaurant , the on-site JB's Restaurant offering modern European cuisine and a comprehensive
wine list, as well as the collocated JB’s Bar (
Retail Manager
      The retail manager in any section of a hotel has an onerous job, particularly in the Food and Beverages (F&B) segment. His skills in man and situation management are tested almost daily, with crises in different scenarios in different contexts. Basically, he is responsible for ‘running the restaurant and bar to meet the hotel’s targets and policies, aiming to maximise profit whilst minimising costs. Retail managers ensure promotions are accurate and merchandised to the hotel’s standards, staff is fully versed on the target for the day and excellent customer care standards are met. Depending on the size of the establishment and structure, retail managers may also be required to deal with human resources, marketing, logistics, information technology, customer service and finance’(online: According to U.S. Lodging 1995 statistics, the F&B Department constitutes the second largest revenue generator of a typical hotel with an average of 23.1% for Food sales and 8.6 % for Beverage sales ( JB’s has a F&B staff of 22 under the Retail Manager.
Role of the Retail Manager
         A retail manager’s typical work activities may alter, but tasks usually involve     
  • managing and motivating a team to increase sales and ensure efficiency;
  • managing stock levels and making key decisions about stock control;
  • analysing sales figures and forecasting future sales volumes to maximise profits;
  • analysing and interpreting trends to facilitate planning;
  • using IT to record sales figures, for data analysis and forward planning;
  • dealing with staffing issues such as interviewing potential staff, conducting appraisals and performance reviews, as well as providing or organising training and development;
  • ensuring standards for quality, customer service, health and safety are met;
  • resolving health and safety, legal and security issues;
  •  responding to customer complaints and comments;
  •  organising special promotions, displays and events;  
  • attending and chairing meetings;
  •    updating colleagues on performance, new initiatives and other pertinent issues;
  • touring the sales floor regularly, talking to colleagues and customers, and identifying or resolving urgent issues;
  • maintaining awareness of market trends in the retail industry, understanding forthcoming customer initiatives and monitoring what local competitors are doing;
  • initiating changes to improve the business, e.g. revising opening hours to ensure the store can compete effectively in the local market;
  • dealing with sales, as and when required.
  • Reporting regularly to superiors and providing feedback and, if called for, advice.
  • Stroking staff positively to maintain excellence and retain coveted ratings or ranking.
Low Entry Level
         ‘The hotel industry is characterised by a large number of employees (online: Both white collar employees and blue collar workers may find gainful employment. Entry level jobs usually require no formal education. Professionals in the sector are usually qualified with trade certificates and college degrees. Many hospitality schools offer specialised courses of study in the hotel industry’ (ibid). The retail manager will invariably be a degree holder in Economics and, more often than not, in Management. This leads to another important topic that is taught at diploma/degree level: Marketing Mix.
The Marketing Mix
         The marketing mix is probably the most common marketing term. Its elements are the basic tactical components of a marketing plan. Also known as the Four P's, the marketing mix elements are price, place, product, and promotion (

Figure 1: Marketing Mix

        It is easy to understand by comparing it with another common mix, a cake mix, the basic ingredients of which are flour, eggs, milk and sugar. A cake is made using a certain mix. This is easily changed for the next cake. If a sweeter cake is required, more sugar is added. It is the same with the marketing mix. The offer made to the customer can be altered by varying the mix elements. So for a high profile brand, increase the focus on promotion and desensitise the weight given to price (ibid).
The 7 Ps    
          Modernists have found the need to increase the number of Ps by three, people, physical evidence and process (ibid). These attributes can be used to compare entities. How does the award-winning JB’s restaurant fare, along with JB’s Bar, as controlled by the retail manager?
1.      Price: There are many ways to price a product, like Premium Pricing, using a high price where there is uniqueness about the product or service. This approach is used where a substantial competitive advantage exists, as in JB’ Restaurant.
2.      Place: Place is also known as channel, distribution, or intermediary. It is the mechanism through which goods and/or services are moved from the manufacturer/ service provider to the user or consumer. Established concerns like JB’s Restaurant and Bar have an intermediary, established over the years for optimal cost effectiveness.
3.      Product: A product is simply the tangible, physical entity that customers may be ordering for consumption. A point to note is that the Product Life Cycle has to be catered for, else it might go stale or get spoiled if it is a wine. JB’s caters for it.
4.      Promotion: This includes all tools available to the seller for 'marketing communication'. A restaurant may offer a glass of wine free with a particular dish, as an example. JB’s generally run promotions in the lean months of April and August, aiming to attract customers from outside, i.e. who are not guests residing in the hotel.
5.      Physical Evidence: Physical Evidence is the material part of a service. JB’s use it in the excellent class of crockery and cutlery, layout of the menu card, décor on a dish, etc.
6.      People: People are the most important element of any service or experience. Services tend to be produced and consumed at the same moment, and aspects of the customer experience are altered to meet the 'individual needs' of the person consuming it. JB’s customises service by reserving favourite tables, remembering favourite dishes, offering specific brands of liquor to fastidious customers, etc., using a collated database.
7.      Process:  Process is an element of service that sees the customer experiencing an organisation's offering. It's best viewed as something that the customer participates in at different points in time. For instance, JB’s maitre d’ takes the hats and coats of valued customers and ushers them to their favourite table.
Macro-environmental Factors
        The analysis of an institution is incomplete if the macro-environmental factors are not considered, to whatever end they are applicable. Used under the acronym of PESTLE in the UK, each factor will be considered in sequence (
1.      Political Factors: A reflection of how government laws, which vary from country to country affect JB’s. These factors were catered for from inception as proved by the award of the coveted AA One Rossette to JB’s Restaurant.
2.      Economic Factors: These affect JB’s as the exchange rate of the GBP has varied to a fair extent vis-à-vis the USD, the Euro and other currencies. The currently weak USD more or less offsets the strong Euro.
3.      Social Factors include cultural aspects, health consciousness, age of staff, career attitude and understanding of safety. These fall within the ambit of a retail manager and JB’s have not faced any problem in recent times.
4.      Technological Factors include ecological aspects, such as automation, technology incentives and the rate of technological change. JB’s feature state of the art technology
used in the kitchen, discreet billing procedure and all-round Wi-Fi availability for guests (
5.      Legal Factors include discrimination law, consumer law, antitrust law, employment law, and health and safety law. These factors affect how a company operates, its costs, and the demand for its products. JB’s is fully compliant with all socio-economic mandates.
6.      Environmental Factors include awareness to climate change, carbon footprint and greenhouse effect and adoption of the UK's Hospitable Climates initiative (  Though this is more of the hotel’s responsibility, JB’s does its best to stay within limits laid down by the Hotel Management.
          If the six parameters discussed above are broken down into their components at the standard level, they could even be put through a SWOT study. Having completed the review of a high-end complex like JB’s, we could compare it in the qualitative sense, using the same parameters, with the role of a retail manager in the fast food chain giant, McDonald’s.  
About McDonald’s
         When McDonald’s Corporation founder Ray Kroc’s first ‘Golden Arches’ opened for business fifty-five years ago, on April 15, 1955, little did he know that he was creating history ( He had organised an operation built on taking care of the customer, providing a clean, family environment, and serving hot, fresh product, fast. With all attention on details (ibid), the McDonald’s of 1955 focussed on three foundational principles: Quality, Service, and Cleanliness (‘QSC’). An additional ‘V’—for value—was added in 1975. Today, they have more than 32,000 restaurants around the world in 117 countries, one of the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food eateries, catering to close to 60 millioncustomers every day (ibid). McDonald's main products are hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, egg muffins, French fries, milkshakes and desserts, sold under brand names (ibid).
The Retail Manager
      In general terms, the role of the retail manager at McDonald’s is similar to that of his counterpart at JB’s. There are, however, many differences when it comes down to the fine print. Firstly, JB’s is a 4-star rated high-end restaurant, catering to the elite and affluent.  McDonald’s is a low-cost minimum frills fast food eatery for people who either do not have the time to dawdle over a meal, or have a budget to adhere to. Moreover, JB’s is a diner where no one can predict how many customers will turn up and what will be ordered on any specific day. All items listed on their wide menu have to be made available in a reasonable timeframe. As only fresh vegetables are served, their menu has to be seasonal. It is not so difficult at the Bar, as can be readily understood. In McDonald’s case, the only question is that of volume. The menu is fixed. Changes, if any, may be seen in different parts of a country, depending on demographics. Sometimes, competition may force a cut in prices. Pricing techniques need some flexibility. At JB’s, retention of staff is important, as considerable amounts of money and time are spent on bringing the staff up to desired standards. Staff at McDonald’s tend to be students working part-time, second jobbers, etc. Turnover is rapid, but the cost involved in training is relatively small. So what does the Marketing Mix have in store for the retail manager at a McDonald’s outlet?
1.      Price:  As just said, pricing techniques need flexibility. McDonald’s therefore uses:
Penetration Pricing: The price charged for products is set artificially low in order to
gain market share. Once this is achieved, the price is increased to normal. This approach was also used by France Telecom and Sky TV.
Ø  Optional Product Pricing: Companies will attempt to increase the amount customer spend once they start to buy. Optional 'extras' increase the overall price of the product or service. This technique is used by airlines, who charge extra for seats that provide more leg room. On a pricier scale, corner plots of land come at a premium.
Ø  Product Bundle Pricing: McDonald’s often combines several products in one package, usually when a fresh crop of raw products is expected and the retail manager is being proactive. Videos and CDs are often sold using this approach.
Ø  Value Pricing: This approach is used where external factors such as recession or increased competition force companies to provide 'value' products and services to retain sales (
2.      Place:  Logistics is the focal point of any quick-delivery entity. It is crucial for McDonald’s, which thrives on its reputation for speed. McDonald’s invariably have more than one outlet in any city it serves, located at spots where the younger generation tend to throng, like multiplexes and malls. McDonald’s outsources most of its supplies. For instance, in India, it has outsourced most of its supplies to McCain Foods, with Cremica bakeries in Delhi and Mumbai providing the 380 sesame seed-topped buns and Dynamix Dairy the sliced cheese ( The dynamic supply chain is constantly on the go.       
3.      Product: The various items from different sources meet up at the restaurant at the right time, part of the retail manager’s charter of duties.
4.      Promotion: McDonald’s uses this strategy to good effect; for instance, its Extra Value Meals offers more generous helpings of French fries and chicken nuggets and its Happy
Meals has a toy as a gift.
5.      Physical Evidence: In 2008, McDonald's introduced its most comprehensive global packaging design ever, to reiterate honesty and openness with customers and remind them of McDonald's food’s quality and freshness (
6.      People: At McDonald's, all customer facing personnel are trained and developed to maintain a high quality of personal service. Attention is given to personal hygiene, dress and deportment.
7.      Process: McDonald's delivers value through all elements of the marketing mix. Process, physical evidence and people enhance services.
Macro-environmental Factors
          McDonald’s operates in 117 countries, all of which have different rules and regulations, specific to the F&B industry. For example, some countries ban beef products, including imports. That forces McDonald’s to shift to poultry and a wider range of vegetarian meals. (The latter category is also touted as a low-calorie meal, much required in an obese populace in the U.S., while also offsetting the high content of oil in McDonald’s products and calories in their sodas and desserts). Poultry, per se, can be a risky proposition, with the world having already experienced three Bird Flu epidemics. Some countries have fixed hours, some have power consumption limitations (like India), and some require the menu to be bi-lingual, with the local language having priority over English. McDonald’s must be complimented for managing so many outlets in so wide a range of countries, with absolute standardisation insofar as uniform, products, ethics, deportment and hygiene are considered. The only weak area identified is recycling, due to the volumes involved, but the Retail Managers are doing a good job at keeping their carbon footprint down to the lowest possible. This is in keeping with the company policy of 2009, named McDonald's 2009 Global Best of Green (ibid). Progress has been demonstrated on multiple fronts - energy, packaging, anti-littering, recycling, logistics, communications, greening the restaurants, greening the workplace, sustainable food and supplier leadership.
The El Bulli Restaurant, Roses, Girona, Spain
      El Bulli, a medium sized restaurant in the city of Roses, Spain has been selected by the highly regarded gastronomic magazine ‘Restaurant’ as the best restaurant in the world in 2009 (, a distinction achieved for the fourth consecutive year ( Owned by Ferran Adrià, a Spanish culinary expert, in partnership with Juli Soler and Albert Adrià, the restaurant has retained its 3 Michelin Star status since first achieving that laurel in 1997 (ibid).
      What is amazing about this restaurant is that it is open for only twenty-seven weeks in a year, from lunch on 15th June to lunch on 20th December every year. El Bulli has announced its operating schedule for 2010. It is virtually impossible to get a reservation for a meal in El Bulli, as it receives over one million requests for its seating capacity of about eight thousand a year, when open (ibid).
         Adrià is known as the ‘alchemist of the kitchen’. Both he and his restaurant are recognised “for their research in the realm of molecular gastronomy, in which his studies of the micro-properties of specific foods, species and ingredients have led to the development of unique recipes” Sandulli and Chesbrough (2009: online). The research is carried out in the six months the restaurant is closed. “Studies of the micro-properties of specific foods, species and ingredients have led to the development of unique recipes. In 1999, they decided to share their knowledge about creating oils, sauces and aperitifs with Borges, the food manufacturer. Borges launched products that were co-branded by both companies. This became a new source of revenue for El Bulli, which concluded similar co-branding agreements with other companies such as NH Hotels and Nestlé. This strategy, based on a small number of close alliances, aims to avoid any loss of control over the brand” (ibid).
       “They also aim to find and absorb new ideas in that period. This enables the restaurant to stay one step ahead of other restaurants that try to copy its formula for success” (ibid). On the other hand, add the authors, “El Bulli markets its brand and its knowledge through a variety of tightly managed relationships that have enabled its brand to penetrate business sectors far beyond the typical business activities of a restaurant. So while the restaurant is not profitable, its overall group of businesses does make money” (ibid). This paragraph is a succinct summary of El Bulli’s strategy and part of its perspective of the restaurant business.
       El Bulli’s current perspective is of exclusivity: to provide exotic and one-of-a-kind dishes, seeking to stay atop the lofty peak of ‘best restaurant in the world’. There are more than 10 million restaurants in the world (, but we can discount 99.99% of them on grounds of quality. The competition is fierce and Adrià is willing to accept financial loss on account of El Bulli, to retain top slot!
         A look at their past history will provide an idea of how the restaurant and its concepts evolved. From a minigolf installation that provided barbecues alfresco in 1961 to a beach bar in '63, the first restaurant came up as a grill in '64 ( Owned by a Dr. Schilling, whose hobby was gastronomy, and who spent a lot of time away in Germany studying fine restaurants and dishes, the restaurant would gain from his inputs and El Bulli went from strength to strength as a restaurant. From '70-75, many more fancy French dishes began to be served, including flambéed sea-bass with fennel, prawns in Pernod, double entrecôte with béarnaise sauce and emincé of beef Stroganoff. A new chef, Jean-Louis Neichel joined in 1975 and he was asked to study the cuisine in the most famous restaurant then, La mère Charles, whose owner was known to Dr. Schilling. By 1982, El Bulli was on its way to stardom. Ownership changed hands, with age catching up with the Schillings. Staff stayed on. El Bulli was one of the first haute cuisine restaurants in Spain to serve sea urchins. Prices went up, as did decor and style. Quality became a byword and soon, tables began to fall short. As the Michelin stars came in, the concept had already evolved. Uniqueness. One-of-a-kind. Exclusivity. The rest is history (ibid).
      It is with great regret that I have to inform you that this restaurant downed shutters for the last time July 30 2011, to reopen as a creativity center in 2014.