Thursday, 3 November 2011


A couple of years ago we went on an organised flying tour of Tunisia. We had a great time and met some great people. Madeleine and Fernand (centre and right above) were there with their Cessna 210. They were in their early 70s but lived life as if they were in their 30s. Madeleine only stopped talking to laugh.

Later we spent a weekend at their house in Rouen, we enjoyed good food, good wine and great company.

Time passes quickly, we left a couple of messages and didn't hear back, we assumed they were busy.

This week we tried to get in touch again and sent some emails to the local aeroclub.

Madeleine and Fernand took off from Rouen for Montpellier on February 26th 2011. Climbing through FL140 in the vicinity of Aigle VOR something happened and one of the Centurion's wings came off. The report has yet to be published, but I'm told there was icing and CBs in the vicinity.


Monday, 19 September 2011

People watching

I'm sitting in the loung of a large, New York area, FBO (Fixed Base Operator). I've been here for an hour or so, quietly looking at the people passing through while I wait for my lift to arrive.

Just outside the door there's a gaggle of limo drivers - smoking, laughing and no doubt putting the world to rights.

Then there are the white coats - a medical team presumably waiting for something or someone to arrive. I say 'something' because there's a van outside with ORGAN TRANSPORT written on the side.

There are a couple of policeman trying to track down some people who were here earlier. The people in question have popped out to lunch - something the receptionist has told the policeman a few times without them seeming to understand.

There are some golfers - a small group which passes quickly through.

By far the most interesting is a group of suited men with earpieces and curly wires disappearing into their suits. From time to time they are joined by other, more smartly dressed men of middle eastern appearance. They break off into various sub groups, talk in hushed tones and occasionally pop intio the rest rooms to 'sort out comms'. One of the group doesn't have an earpiece but does have an ID tag and a clipboard - he's looking fairly harassed.

A couple walks through on the way to a GV, they're followed by a porter pushing a huge trolley stuffed with shopping bags.

Someone behind the desk is looking at the curly wired gang and saying "On the ground in ten minutes, ten minutes." Clipboard man has gone over for a chat, meanwhile one of the curly wire gang is talking into his wrist and more curly wires have gone into a huddle.

I look on Flight Aware and see that my lift is in the air and on the way.

The medical team walked through the door leading to the apron, the transport van has gone. I imagine that  a family is fervently touching wood and crossing fingers.

The activity in the lounge increases significantly before a well-dressed, slim, middle-aged man arrives through the airside door. He's accompanied by a some more curly wires. A couple of similarly sharp suited gents jump up and lots of greetings follow. Three of them sit down and chat for no more than ten minutes - each time one of them looks up someone moves swiftly towards them with a briefcase or piece of paper. 

A Cessna Caravan parks up and a young family pass through on their way to the waiting car, their three- or four-year-old is fascinated by all of the suits. 

As quickly as the important group came in they get up to leave, returning airside. I counted over a dozen black limousines and 4x4s driving around the outside of the apron in a convoy lead by two police cars. It's emptied the lounge somewhat, but there are still four Brit-accented curly wires hanging around.

According to Flight Aware my lift is now only 22 minutes away.

Crew members sit drinking coffee while waiting for their passengers, FBO employees load food, organise fuel and take calls. Another line of black limos is waiting patiently outside for the next VVIP to arrive…

Wednesday, 10 August 2011


EAA Airventure 2011 has been and gone and we've had the wrap up email from the press office. Here it is, with a few observations…

Comment from EAA president/CEO Rod Hightower:
"This year's event was a tremendous success. From the arrival of the Boeing 787 to our tributes to Bob Hoover and Burt Rutan, all the way through the huge crowd on the flight line for Saturday's night air show, the spirit of aviation was alive and well at Oshkosh this year. You could sense the enthusiasm for aviation and the future of flight throughout the AirVenture grounds."
I'd say that was a fair summary
Attendance: 541,000 - Increase of 1.3 per cent from 2010. Comment from Hightower:
* "The final attendance figure came in almost exactly where we thought it would. Opening day (July 25) was a tremendously successful day, while Friday (July 29) was very close to a record and Saturday (July 30) - with the superb lineup and night air show - was a big draw. Only some rainy weather in the middle of the week prevented the increase from being even greater."
Who knows how many people were there? I have no specific reason to disbelieve the EAA…
Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.
See above
Total showplanes: 2,522 (up 142 aircraft from 2010). Total includes 974 homebuilt aircraft, 899 vintage airplanes, 367 warbirds, 94 ultralights, 92 seaplanes, 36 aerobatic aircraft, 30 rotorcraft, and 30 miscellaneous.
Really? Seems high to me.
Commercial exhibitors: 803 (up from 777 in 2010)
Now this I am struggling with - not only did exhibitor numbers look and feel lower than 2010, but many exhibitors had nothing to do with aviation.
International visitors registered: 2,098 visitors registered from 68 nations, with Canada (551 visitors), Australia (297), and Brazil (257) the top three nations. (NOTE: This total includes only non-U.S. visitors who register at the International Visitors Tent, so the actual international contingent is undoubtedly larger.)

Media: 861 media representatives on-site, from five continents.
…sounds a bit of a big number to me (although whenever a company offered a free breakfast or lunch journos suddenly appeared).

What's ahead for 2012? Comment from Hightower:
* "Next year, for the 60th annual EAA fly-in, we'll be honoring Paul and Audrey Poberezny for all that they have done for the aviator community. We'll also welcome the iconic Piper Cub on its 75th anniversary. We're encouraging all owners of this legendary airplane to come to Oshkosh and turn the field yellow. We are going to be hosting a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, inviting all surviving members of this renowned World War II unit to join us at AirVenture. In addition, we'll recognize Van's Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven, whose RV series of aircraft have become the most popular homebuilt aircraft kits in the world. And, of course, there will be plenty of additions and one-of-a-kind surprises that can be found only at Oshkosh."
Funny that Paul Poberezny's son Tom isn't mentioned. Tom suddenly 'retired' during the event, lots of rumours surrounding this…it seems that Mrs Tom and her daughter didn't quite hit it off with Mr Hightower.
Biggest show news was probably Avidyne's announcement of a slide-in GNS530 replacement, worst news was a double fatality at the Seaplane base.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A few quick (random) thoughts

Since getting back from Svalbard it's been hectic, particularly since Oshkosh beckons on Saturday. A few quick thoughts on some random aviation topics…

RAF Lyneham - According to the NOTAM the airspace will be suspended from today, and cancelled on September 30th. Liam Fox has announced that instead of being sold off, the site will re-open in 2013 as the home of the Defence technical training centre. I don't know if there will be flying from Lyneham in order to support that. It's a shame that a nice runway with lights, radar and an instrument approach is being lost to aviation.

BAA will have to sell Stansted and Glasgow or Edinburgh - This isn't something that greatly concerns me, but since BAA staff refused me permission to land at Edinburgh I'm happy that the people concerned might find themselves with new bosses, and those bosses might know a bit more about aviation.

Oshkosh - Only a week away, and the press conference invitations are coming thick and fast. So far no indications of any major announcements, although the Sennheiser S1 will officially break cover and Jeppesen will unveil the next version of Mobile TC which should bring enroute charts to the iPad. I'm sure there'll be more…

AirNavPro - as far as the UK/Europe is concerned this is really the only flight planning/GPS app available for the iPad. It has some good points, but the underlying airspace database is less than perfect, and it is far from intuitive. In a field of one it's the best, but it could be so much better, and so much easier.

PPR in the CI zone - What were they thinking? Clearly they weren't, and we now have a ridiculous system in place, albeit temporarily. My guess is that it will remain as those behind it aren't big enough to back down and risk losing face. The ability to (genuinely) admit a mistake and make changes as a result is a quality that's missing from many in senior roles these days.

More from Airventure next week

Friday, 8 July 2011

Still away

Sorry, have not managed any updates while on this trip - there has been lots and lots of flying, and not very much time. More when I get back, but in the meantime there are a few pictures on the FLYER Facebook page here