Monday, 3 March 2014

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - Were they thinking?

I would not be straight with you if I denied waiting in vain, hoping that the super-final glider crisis would reach some alternate face-saving conclusion.  Alas this has not happened.  I now face the prospect of my own conscience calling me a pussy for not being true to my own mantra of giving praise where praise is due.  The damage is irrevocably done and there will be no magical moments of enlightenment whereby all is explained and forgiven...

So here goes:

If I had won the super final on an Enzo2 only to be disqualified later, I would have the following dark thoughts:
"Sorry for the hassle" Really? I mean REALLY?!!  
Inching their way slowly and deliberately up the critically steep slope of design and innovation ahead of the competition they appear to have celebrated their dominance in crass and arrogant debauchery sliding around in the muck on the coveted pedestal they so famously claimed and notoriously defamed.  Diving, head first back down the now slippery slope of their own making in the lunacy of luge.  The winter Olympics have been a great metaphor for their recklessly rapid descent.  The consequences of their skeletal behaviour is witnessed in the bone-yard of shattered dreams with dozens of super final pilots robbed of hard earned positions.
 "We went too far..." Really? Are you f@cking serious? REALLY??!!
After insisting the glider 'conforms' (and forcing their own team to sign an absurd statement in support) the amateurish spin that ensued was embarrassing in a way that only John Cleese can normally achieve in Fawlty Towers. On what planet does a glider conform to a certification where practically everything that can be measured is found to be completely different?

Calm down already!  I am not one of those Enzo2 pilots so I can offer my opinion in a more measured way. Let us unpack it a little shall we?

When XCMag first responded to accusations of cheating they came out strongly in support of Ozone using fairly peculiar language.  Frankly it smacked of support-the-advertiser and pointed to a lack of editorial independence.  I would not have thought too much of it had half a dozen mates not commented.

XCmag wrote this on their FB page:
Certainly, when we rang the Ozone head office yesterday, the answer was clear: "No way is this an issue of cheating or supplying out-of-certification gliders on purpose, absolutely not."
The message was Ozone were working on getting to the bottom of the issue, and working on it fast.
That, at least, is a relief because the idea that a manufacturer would bend the rules to their own commercial ends in such a thin-lipped way would be anathema to all pilots in the sport – and would almost certainly damage the manufacturer's reputation beyond repair.
However, it does raise the possibility of an unprecedented manufacturing cock-up.
Alternatively, as one pilot suggested on the red-hot Paragliding Forum thread, it could simply be a case of a misplaced typo.
Could someone have mistaken an '8' for a '6' when transcribing hand-written notes onto a typed form early on in the process of certification? Turning the true measurement of 6812mm into 6612mm.
That indeed would be a simple answer, and could yet still prove true.
Weirdly enough the word libellous was used more than once in the bizarre article which somehow co-incided with alleged threats of legal action directed at the PWCA via Goran.  Sure enough, as 'predicted' by XCMag, Ozone declared the trailing edge discrepancy the result of a manufacturing 'mistake'.  Yeah right!

In-between a poorly timed, out-moded and inappropriate rant about paragliding not being a racing sport, XCMag then announced with misleading optimism that the Enzo2 passed a 'flight test' quoting Ozone in a long winded self-serving treatise of innocence (  

XCMag continued to bat for Ozone with the benefit of the doubt:
Speaking from his home in England Ozone’s boss Mike Cavanagh said the longer trailing edge on the Enzo 2 was the result of a mistake.
He explained that the original glider that was tested and certified had several “pinches” in the trailing edge.
Pinches are sewn in to a glider during development to allow test pilots to fly the wing with slightly different configurations. Like putting knots in lines to alter the trim of a glider they help test pilots hone the wing.
However, in the case of the Enzo 2 the final pinches were not carried through into the production model. Around 100 Enzo 2s have been made.
The glider tested on Saturday morning in Switzerland was the original test glider with the pinches taken out to lengthen the trailing edge.
Mike said: “All Enzo 2 wings will have a longer trailing edge because we did not put the pinches into the production model]. It’s a mistake.”
He added: “It’s not something we would measure as it is not an EN requirement, and it wouldn't have been a PWC requirement either – it still isn’t.”
Team Ozone remained defiant about the trailing edge the whole way through their story:
When going to production we failed to replicate these pinches and produced the wing in its original length without any of the pinches. We now see this was a mistake, and we apologise for that, but we did not see (and the EN does not state) the trailing edge as a measure of conformity.
and again later...
Although we were unhappy how this new check rule came about we are also thankful that the PWC Organisation, under great pressure from others, gave the time to allow us to prove the longer trailing edge tolerance still conformed. That being said we are truly sorry that our mistake in not ensuring a matching trailing edge has led to such controversy for all concerned.
The pesky part lies in the fact that we now know that there are very few similarities between the super final version and the 're-un-pinched' homologated sample.  

The result of the post-super-final glider measurements were unequivocal (that's what they it yourself!):
We consider.. .. all Enzo 2 M gliders ... are clearly and unequivocally not conform to the specimen homologated and archived by Air Turquoise.
The differences are such that they did not even bother measuring line lengths.  Zoller and friends concluded "..with such a differences in canopy construction, line length measurements and comparing in between SF13 wing and the archived wing is irrelevant."

The spin and self-righteous protests and explanations have pretty much dried up since then (go figure).

I also understand the real Enzo2 might be certified soon.  Ozone defenders may be feeling relief and Ozone themselves may be tempted to celebrate some kind of victory and claim vindication.  Sorry for you, but it simply doesn't work like that and you would be a fool to follow any argument along those lines a second time.  Just leave that one alone and save yourself further humiliation.

Then there is the paradoxical claim that became an argument: "Everyone is doing it so why pick on Ozone?"  There are several problems with that one it turns out.  The other manufacturers never got caught doing anything remotely as obvious and blatant (and Niviuk can be forgiven for struggling to make two gliders the same).  This prompted an even more dubious argument that the other manufacturers are also cheating but you just can't measure the things they are cheating around. Huh?  

Most puzzling of all is the relative lack of lash-back and vitriol although I have not been following the forums.  There has been very little direct criticism save for the splendiferous satire of Nick Greece.  I suspect the French and German speaking community may have been more critical but who knows?

You should know that I share my bed with a goddess.  Fernanda is the mother of my children and a fabulous cook.  She also happens to practise law in the high-court most days of the week.  So besides the fact that I have never actually won an argument in our house, I have had some interesting pillow talk about the Enzo-Enzo debacle. I asked her what she thought.  Her first response was that she 'does not practise criminal law'.  After I insisted she apply her mind she observed the following:
  • If you get caught speeding in your motor vehicle there is no point in telling the judge other people do it too
  • misrepresentation for financial gain is normally considered to be fraud
  • there are no laws against: interpretation of rules; arrogance; nor stupidity
  • technical loopholes are only relevant in criminal cases
When I asked her what she would advise Ozone if they were her client she remarked that they do not appear to need legal representation, but that they should fire their spin doctor or PR person and read a good book about ethics in cinderella sports while heeding the wisdom of Mark Twain:
"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything".

If you managed to read this far, you must surely be laughing, crying or seething in anger at my bla bla bla.  A message to all the seethers: I asked around and people I respect say Mike is a stand-up guy and would never take a stupid chance with his business.  In addition he more-or-less owned the problem from the start and, ignoring the spin and some lame sewing yarn, he kinda said sorry quite genuinely.  So what are we to think of that?  My best guess is that he may not have been completely up to speed about the plans surrounding the Enzo 2 and/or he said "push it a little boys" not realising that just how far les enfant terribles would push given the pressure to repeat the R10, R11 and Enzo magic rabbit-in-the-hat trick.  

In my opinion the Ozone team should all go for a beer and have Russel Ogden remind them of the one great truism in world cup paragliding that trumps all: "Don't believe your own bull-shit".
Then they should get back to creating awesome wings for the new new new Comp Class. 

Memories are short, tempers cool and I wager that Ozone sales will not notice this whole furore.

Time will tell...