Sunday, 16 March 2014

How to pinch large objects

I've just been offered (by Amazon) 3 hours Military Vehicle Driving Experience, 16 miles from where I live, for a mere £79. I found myself actually considering taking them up on their offer, then I remembered the horrifying footage of a tiny, hand-launched Israeli missile turning a massive Syrian tank into a giant firework and put the idea behind me.

I am glad that either I didn't see that phosphor shell being used, or it was not invented in that form, when I was a kid. Tanks - in my little mind - were indestructible, and I often used to imagine myself inside one for security before I went to sleep. If I had realised they could be turned into super-heated mobile ovens for frying humans so easily, then I would have thought even twicer before joining the army.

Now what about that missing aircraft with 239 people on board? The general consensus seems to be that a pilot who was not suspected as having the potential for going rogue, might have done so, because it takes knowhow to switch off all but the most basic of tracking devices and it is very simple to hit the mayday button in a second.

It could be that the aircraft has simply been stolen but, like some car-thefts where the thief does not believe the yellow sticker in the back window which says, 'Baby On Board', the pilot may have only just noticed that the plane wasn't empty when he took off.

It is not as difficult to steal massive, valuable objects as you might think, and the aircraft could well be undergoing a re-spray in the Kazakhstan desert as we speak. What about all those passengers, though? Sold on as domestic slaves? If I suddenly notice a drop in price when I next go to the market, then I will suspect this is what has happened. Either way, I hope they are safe, well, and awaiting rescue.

I worked as a layout-artist for a printer in the 1970s, and in those days, all the graphics were done by hand and all the printing was done using huge, Heidelberg, off-set litho machines weighing about four tons.

I was speaking to a printer who worked in London one day, and he told me that he was just returning to his printshop after a half-hour lunch break, when he saw a large, flatbed lorry go past in the street, carrying the exact same model of printing-press that he used.

When he returned to his work-post, he discovered that the press he had seen was not only the exact same model, but it was also the exact same machine. Somebody had stolen it when he was at lunch.

In less than half an hour in the middle of the day, the thieves had entered the workshop, disconnected the power from the press, undone the huge bolts which secured it to the concrete floor, then moved it about 100 feet before picking it up and placing it on the lorry before driving away with it.

In those days, there was a huge demand for these presses in the African black-market, so the machine was taken to the docks with false paperwork, then sold for thousands in somewhere like Nigeria or the Congo. There is - I am told - even a black-market demand for full-sized airliners in the Congo, and the place is so mind-numbingly large that it is quite easy to hide them in the Heart of Darkness. For all I know, the place is so dark that they could probably throw in the passengers for a small consideration.

The best way to steal large objects is to do it in full view of the public, in full daylight and looking as though you have every right to be doing what you are doing. The last bit is helped greatly by wearing hi-viz, fluorescent jackets, or by carrying a clip-board.

Also in the 1970s, there was a large function in Bath's famous Pump Rooms. The few hundred guests were standing on two enormous, hand-made carpets which covered the vast area of floor where the function was being held.

Half way through the event, a few men entered the room and asked the congregation to all move onto one carpet, so they could roll up the other and take it away. The people did as they were asked and stood huddled on the one carpet, watching the men spend about ten minutes rolling up the other as they stole it and left the room with it under their arms to take it to a waiting lorry.

It isn't so easy these days because of all the CCTV cameras, but there aren't any cameras in the middle of the oceans and we have to rely on our natural enemies' willingness to share data gleaned from military radar equipment. That - it seems - is a lot to ask.


  1. Yes Tom, that plane is a complete mystery.

    Re stealing large objects. We have a lot of holiday cottages round here. The other week somebody took a cottage for the week and during the week completely emptied it of furniture and fittings. The owners didn't find out until they went on the Saturday morning to clean it for the next occupants. And nobody around saw a thing, although it was in the middle of a village.

    1. I have heard of that happening before. I suppose it would be unreasonable to ask the tenants for a deposit large enough to cover the replacement costs for the entire inventory.

    2. And it might explain why the furniture is so crappy in most holiday lets...

    3. I have changed the title of this post from the flight number of the missing aircraft, to what it is now. It occurred to me that a lot of very worried people looking for any glimmer of hope may find this post in a search using the number, and I would hate to add to their already horrible experience, even if it means missing out on a few extra hits.

  2. I'm sure you know this one.

    A gang of thieves were loading stuff onto the back of their van at a building site. The site foreman came along and asked what they were doing. 'We had stuff left over from a job we've just finished, and thought maybe you'd like it' said the chief thief.

    'Well you can bloody well put it all back on your van, and clear off' replied the foreman.

    1. I went into a big factory once, and asked the floor manager what his name was and also the name of the bloke who did the metal bending. When I found Bill the metal bender, I said "Bert wants you to bend this bit of metal", which he obligingly did for me on the spot.

  3. My only problem with stealing the jet unnoticed was the total impossibility of silencing 239 people. Then I heard someone say depressurizing the cabin would handle that, quickly. As awful as frying in a tank.
    No question in my mind of the content of your post; good for changing its original title, what ever it was.
    And finally, why aren't we learning of any last minute texts from that plane?

    1. You need not tell the passengers of your intentions to hi-jack the plane. To do so would be guaranteed to cause avoidable mayhem and hysteria. Much better to say you have had to make a slight diversion.

      If you tell them they are not allowed to use mobiles, then most of them won't. You can then go around gathering up the phones at gunpoint at a later time, even if forgetting to turn some off.

      Getting mobile phone roaming data from hostile governments must be as difficult as the radar. Whole systems are already set up to block traffic, and if you key into those, then you can do the same.

  4. 'The best way to steal large objects is to do it in full view of the public, in full daylight and looking as though you have every right to be doing what you are doing.'

    Ah yes...the technique invented by Thatcher to privatise public property....

    They didn't call Sherman tanks tommy cookers for nothing.... and it looks as if modern anti tank stuff is perpetuating the risks.