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Send your letters to The Editor, E&T, Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Herts SG1 2AY, UK, or to engtechletters@theiet.org. We reserve the right to edit letters and to use submissions in any other format.

Does ‘Dr’ confer status?

In principle I don’t disagree with David Hill’s suggestion that engineers should be entitled to use the ‘Dr’ title (Letters, November 2012). I had many engineering friends in Germany before I retired with similar qualifications to my own and some expressed surprise that I was not called ‘Doctor’ as they were. However, I don’t begrudge my medical friends the title ‘Doctor’. It is worth remembering that surgeons are called ‘Mr’.

When you’re lying in the operating theatre about to have some serious surgery, as I have experienced recently, the last thing on your mind is your surgeon’s title.

There have been a lot of letters on this subject but that won’t achieve a change in our title.

Also, I know of some retired surgeons who revert to the title ‘Dr’. Clearly they are keen to have the status of ‘Dr’.

WM Ritchie OBE CEng FIET

By email

In my eighth decade and with nearly 50 years of institution membership, I am now in retirement. Down the long vista of my career, an unresolved theme has been the public perception of an engineer as a tradesman. Someone who can perform a full range of domestic repairs and, by inference, wears overalls and drives a white van.

An answer presents itself. To become a chartered engineer, a person has to possess the appropriate graduate qualification. He is a technologist in that he applies scientific and technical principles to the solution of day to day engineering matters.

Now that the Privy Council has permitted us to become the Institution of Engineering and Technology, I suggest that they be further petitioned for members to become chartered technologists. This title would be protected by law, as are other professions such as barrister and pharmacist.

In like vein, my understanding is that suitably qualified members or our sister Institution of Mechanical Engineers can designate themselves as chartered environmentalists.

Anthony Williams FIET

St Helens

Over a long career covering both industry and academia, I have had the privilege of knowing many engineers who are highly professional, motivated, enjoy their chosen career and are usually well paid for their efforts. The question of status (or lack of it) was very rarely mentioned or even considered as a matter of importance.

Why do some engineers keep on bringing up this old chestnut? Let engineers be content in the knowledge that they are making a valuable contribution to society instead of wasting valuable time and effort bemoaning their perceived lack of status and seeking to boost, essentially, their own egos.

Alan Jones CEng MIET

Aberavenny

David Hill refers to the lack of status of chartered engineers. How right he is. In my newspaper today there is an advertisement by British Gas which states: “Our team of professional engineers will fix your boiler fast.” This is nothing less than an insult to chartered engineers, and action is needed now.

I suggest that every engineering institution contacts the Engineering Council and demands the Council acts. Initially the Council should contact British Gas and make a formal complaint. Then the Council should press for the term engineer to be restricted to chartered engineers.

This should not be impossible. After all, in 1910 the College of Physicians got permission from the Privy Council for its members to use the title of Doctor, even though the members had never attended University and only had the qualification of Licentiate of the College of Physicians.

Ian V Waite CEng MIET

By email

David Hill raises an interesting point: why should chartered engineers not simply use the prefix Dr? As far as I can tell, there is no law in the UK to prevent this.

Paul Robison CEng

By email

Bulb change disaster

The unavailability of incandescent bulbs under law is a disaster. A 60W incandescent used to cost 19p with everyone along the way making a profit from each sale. The equivalent energy efficient lamps, usually CFLs, cost £2.50 upwards, surely a reflection of the carbon expenditure in their manufacture.

What is worse is the vendors of CFLs are making absurd claims as to their equivalence to incandescent. The useful light is not lumens, but the amount of lux on the working surfaces.

Measurements that I have made indicate that a 22W CFL is required to obtain a useful light (but only over the first 1,000 hours). Vendors generally quote five times the indicated power rating and claim a 100W incandescent equivalence. They are dishonest and guilty of misrepresentation and fraud. And there still is no equivalent replacement for the 150W incandescent.

Dr Gina Barney FIEE

By email

Working with hotlines

I was interested in the article on the use of hotlines during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the November 2012 issue of E&T. As a Post Office Telephones technical officer in the mid-1960s I was asked to go to a repeater station one day where I was met by an executive engineer from Dollis Hill. We had a formal chat and he asked me to take him to a given rack in the equipment building. He explained that a few valves on this hotline had become micro-phonic and had to be changed.

He knew which production line had made “my valves” and when from the codes written on them. I cannot remember whether he or I unsoldered them, but he said a box of 12 new valves would be sent to me. I was to select three to replace the “faulty ones”, solder them into the amplifier and ring him when I had completed said duty, which I did. No more was heard so I had carried out the job correctly.

Monitoring a working hotline sounded like audio white/pink noise whether the circuit was in use or ideal. Has anyone else experience of working on the hotlines?

John Bowen CEng MIET

By email

Not as equal as others

I am somewhat surprised by your comparison in Number News in the November 2012 issue of E&T where you equated 100GW of wind power with 39 nuclear power plants.

Surely the whole point of wind power is to replace conventional power stations generating large quantities of gas deleterious to our environment, not zero gas-generating nuclear stations. Better to equate it to replaced coal and gas-powered stations, but of course only when the wind is blowing sufficiently and not too hard!

Stan Jones FIET

By email

Switch safety

Most domestic fixed appliances are required to be installed with a double-pole isolating switch. While this may appear to be a sensible and safe approach we should consider all the possible failure modes, particularly those where a contact may become welded closed.

If the live switch pole fails in the ON position, as happened to my cooker switch, then while the equipment may appear to be switched off, all internal wiring is still live and therefore potentially dangerous.

Some isolating switches have a neon indicator on the load side and since this will indicate that the power is off it can lead to a false sense of security.

A much safer wiring configuration would be to reverse the neutral load and feed connections in the double-pole switch so that the neon stays on in the event of live switch contact failure. Better still, the switch manufacturer could connect the neon between the live load and the neutral feed.

Surely a single-pole isolating switch would be much safer given the failure mode described above and the fact that if the installation is wired correctly, then the risk of the live and neutral being swapped is negligible and certainly no less safe than the current standard.

Ian White CEng MIET

Great Gransden, Huntingdonshire

Time for bed

The October issue of E&T shows a picture of a Nasa ‘aircraft’ built to test the practicality of flying around on the surface of the Moon. For me this was a case of déjà vu as there was a similar device shown (and possibly built) at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in the early 1950s. As a young scientific assistant I snapped a photo of the machine, which was known as the ‘Flying Bedstead’. I believe that this was built in order to experiment with VTO – probably a forerunner of the Harrier.

Don Hancock FIET

Lanark

Corrections

The research described in ‘Vehicle Technology for Older Drivers’ in our November 2012 issue was conducted by The Hartford Insurance, not The Hartford University.

‘Feel the Burn’, the article on the design of the London 2012 Olympic Torch in our August 2012 issue, should have stated that 0°C and -42°C are the boiling points at atmospheric pressure of butane and propane, not their freezing points.

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