Wednesday, 16 December 2009

News, just like buses

Generally, there's not a lot of GA news at this time of year. The trade shows are over and most companies are either trying their best to get through the winter, or working on next year's exciting new projects... and then we get loads of news stories all at once.

Aware - A new, £150 GPS that promises free airspace updates for life and that comes with the UK CAA charts installed.

Coventry Airport - Closed, open and closed again. Not sure it'll be back soon as a licensed commercial facility, but there are rumours that it will be open on an unlicensed basis before too long. Let's hope that's true.

Shoreham Airport - Lots of rumours about downgrading the level of ATC. Those rumours are being denied by the management...

Eurostar wings - following a Swiss accident report (relating to an accident that took place over three years ago) it seems that there's some doubt about some of the spar cap material quality control, and perhaps some of the design. It is rumoured that the Swedes have grounded the Eurostar. There's a meeting at the CAA on Thursday 17th December...

Rotax 4-stroke engines - New units will have a TBO of 2,000 hours.

Ditching - I wouldn't fancy ditching at this time of year, but Kate Burrows ditched her Twin Comanche near an oil rig between the Isle of Man and Blackpool today. She was picked up, taken to the rig and then taken to hospital. A great outcome.

Hawker Beechcraft - Netjets has recently cancelled some orders that will reduce HB's backorder book by $2.6b (yup, billion). HB's public reply was, 'I want to emphasize that these cancellations will have minimal effect on our liquidity, earnings and deliveries in 2009 and 2010.'

There are even more stories in the background, but for now they're rumours waiting to be confirmed…

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Sometimes I hate the web

I've been getting text messages from friends this morning. That's usually a good thing, but today all of the messages are to tell me that the FLYER website is down.

Our tech. team (Liam) is working on it and our ISP (Houxou) has been informed, but it looks like we suffered a DOS (Denial of Service) attack overnight.

Why do hackers/whoever do that?

Ian

Monday, 30 November 2009

Civil war breaks out

It seems that GA has gone to war with itself. The issue is the IMCR and the work done on an accessible instrument rating by the FCL.008 committee.

Whatever the facts, and it is a complicated area, the personal attacks do none of us any good at all.

Grrrrrr

AOPA thread on Flyer
IMCR thread on PPRuNe
FCL.008 terms of reference

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Winter woes

The C182 has been at Hentsridge for a while now. I took it over there before my last trip to the US for the AOPA Summit.

I think it's finished, all bar the paperwork. When that's done I'll have an aeroplane with repaired seats and repaired vortex generators.

That's the good news, the bad is that once it's back it'll be parked in the open for the winter. This will be its third winter outside and the paint has suffered. In fact it has suffered so much that a respray will be necessary soon, certainly in the next 12 months...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The joy of air travel

Two of us had a meeting in Germany yesterday. Things are pretty busy at work so we flew there and back in a day with BA from Heathrow. I parked the car in the long-term car park at 9 in the morning and picked it up twelve hours later. Add the travel time to that and you find that in order to attend a one-and-a-half-hour meeting we had to drive, walk, wait and get a bus for fourteen-and-a-half hours; not a great ratio.

GA would have been more efficient, a lot more fun and we would undoubtedly have enabled a couple of meetings with clients on the way out or on the way back. So why didn't we, of all people, fly ourselves? Mainly because the infrastructure just makes it so hard (in this context the word 'hard' is interchangeable with 'expensive').

The only airfields with approaches and lights that are open late enough are either bloody expensive (Bristol), too far away to be practical (Southend) or just unavailable except in emergency (Lyneham).

At least T5 is a pleasant experience as far as airport terminals go.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Thumbs up FAA

Following the mid air in Nw York that claimed eight lives, the FAA has issued new rule for the Hudson corridor. I can imagine many aviation authorities simply banning GA from the area, imposing positive control at all altitudes or mandating TCAS or similar. I'm glad to say that with the help of the GA community, the FAA (not an Authority but an Administration, an important distinction) has issued new rules that retains airpace access for all users. See here for more.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

BFR time

I did a BFR (Biennial Flight Review) just before leaving the US. For anyone not familiar with FAA regs, it's necessary to complete a BFR with a flight instructor every two years (hence the biennial bit).

The FAA stipulates that a BFR should consist of an hour of ground instruction and an hour's flight. I met Chris, my instructor, and we sat down and talked through some FAA rules and regulations with the structure provided by some questions...

- What do you need to fly in Class B/C/D airspace
- Point to some Class D on the chart
- What does it mean by *L next to an airfield
- What are the visibility requirements below 10,000' for Class B
- What documents do you need to carry
etc.

It's fairly basic stuff and the questions are typical of every BFR I've done, but as I only fly in the US a couple of times a year, it's a useful refresher. If you're hiring from the instructor's employer, it's also a good opportunity to get briefed on any local procedures. I've not yet finished one of these hours thinking that it was a waste of time.

The ground portion over, we moved to the aeroplane via a weather check from www.aviationweather.gov - Chris had already done a NOTAM check. We flew a fairly recent but somewhat tired and dirty C172SP - the one with THIRTEEN fuel drains - there was a bit of a blustery crosswind, but before long we were climbing away and towards the practice area where we did some slow flight, flew some stalls and did some steep turns. It was pretty bumpy below 1,500' but smoothed out above.

After the manoeuvres, we set course for Lakeland where we did a couple of touch-and-goes before returning to Peter O'Knight for a full stop, after which Chris signed the BFR in my logbook and said goodbye. The cost, for an hour of aeroplane rental and two hours of instructor time, was $250.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the flying was the differences that we all get used to. The weather was overcast at something like 10,000' with visibility of at least six statute miles. It seemed like a standard UK day, but Chris thought it was pretty hazy. He went on to encourage caution for the approach to Peter O'Knight's shorter runway, which at 2,600' is, in his opinion, short.

It would be easy to be a little smug and think that they're spoiled with (usually) decent weather and long runways, but perhaps the bigger learning point is just how quickly we can get used to our own type of flying. I learned at Gloucester but mainly fly from a strip these days, yet a while ago after visiting Gloucester I still managed to start up and request taxi having completely forgotten to book out or pay a landing fee.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Taking the temperature

AOPA's Summit has just closed and it is time to take stock. Trade shows often reflect the health of an industry, so I consider Summit as a thermometer temporarily inserted into the backside of GA. The prognosis is that the patient is in need of some regenerative oxygen, and perhaps even a heart transplant.

Unsurprisingly exhibitor and visitor numbers at Summit were down, and GAMA's Q3 shipment figures (which show aeroplanes shipped, not necessarily sold) showed a decline of 58% for piston aircraft.

It may sound everything in Tampa is doom and gloom, but that would not be true. The vast majority of people involved in GA are passionate about flying, and many of the companies involved are running lean of peak, just waiting for things to start to recover, which according to most won't be before 2011 at the earliest.


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Single-engine jet poison?

The three main contenders in the race to certificate, build and sell a single-engine jet were exhibiting at Tampa and selling positions. Two of the jets, the Cirrus Vision SF50 and the PiperJet, flew in, while Diamond had a fuselage mock-up only.

Piper and Cirrus both have one jet flying, while Diamond has three, including two production-conforming machines.

Both Piper and Cirrus have recently announced a slowdown in their projects. Given the devastation currently being visited on the aviation industry, all three manufacturers must be finding the pill of certification expense hard to swallow. The question is, will the 'pill' eventually provide years of good health, or will it cause a fatal overdose?


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Some industry numbers from Cessna

I've just been listening to a short presentation from a Cessna Senior VP. He came up with some interesting numbers that I thought I'd share.

In the USA, GA is thought to:
- employ, directly or indirectly, 1,250,000 people
- contribute $155 billion to the economy
- have a payroll of $55 billion, so some big salaries in there if that's true!

Cessna, in particular, has over the years built 192,000 aeroplanes, some of which have been used to train about half of the world's pilots.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

SATSair becomes latest victim







...and the economy takes its toll on another aviation company. SATSair is (or was) a South Carolina based on demand charter company. SATSair was a little different though - instead of the usual mix of King Airs or Ciatations SATSair exclusively used Cirrus SR22s. The company originally ordered 50 aircraft with options on another 50, although in the last few weeks only eight airframes were being operated, with others with time expired engines and others sold on.

Both the on demand and fractional markets have been heavily hit by both the economy and the PR disaster that was the big three auto companies climbing out of their bizjets in Washington with begging bowls in hand. NetJets, the world's biggest and best-known fractional operator has seen a significant drop in flight hours while DayJet, a Florida based on demand air taxi operator using Eclipse 500 aircraft went out of business last year.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Old friend

I needed to go flying today. The C182 still has no interior, and although there was a slim chance of it being ready by the end of today (yes, Justin works on Sundays sometimes!) it wasn't looking likely.

The solution presented itself in the guise of this little AA-5. It's been a few years since I flew an AA-5, in fact I'm pretty sure that it would have been in 1994 or perhaps 1995 when I did a cross-Channel checkout in one, but it's a basic enough aeroplane that handles remarkably well for what many would consider a 'spam can'.

I can't remember any vices, and certainly didn't discover any today on a flight that took us down to the South Coast and for a look at the Cerne Abbas Giant.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Cumulus in administration

Apparently the current downturn has resulted in the loss of 30,000 jobs from Wichita (pretty much the home of US General Aviation manufacturing).

UK failures and losses have so far been small by comparison, but Cumulus was added to that list on Friday when the company went into administration (owing me about £1,000).

The company operated a number of Cirrus aircraft that were based at various UK locations; pilots paid a deposit and a fixed monthly amount to fly a predetermined number of hours a year. The numbers always looked a little on the marginal side, and I guess that with harder times they went from just the right side of the line to somewhere way below the line.

As with Air Touring, it'll be interesting to see the list of casualties. Cumulus was a relatively small company, so hopefully their failure won't directly lead to others.

Just in case you need the details, the administrators are:

Portland Business & Financial Solutions
1640 Parkway, Solent Business Park
Whiteley, Fareham
Hampshire
PO15 7AH
stewart.goldsmith@portbfs.co.uk

Friday, 9 October 2009

Good news, bad news

I popped in to Henstridge today to see how Justin is getting on with the aeroplane.

Good news...
- New, fixed, 406MHz ELT is now in and working
- GNS530 is now a GNS530W and is in and working
- Justin has found the leak that's responsible for keeping the carpet in the luggage area wet.

Bad news...
- I saw the part for an AD (or was it SB?) that needed doing. Something to do with a resistor or something near the starter solenoid. It's a small, thin wire that looks like it would cost about 5p to produce. I'm assured that the part costs more!
- The interior is out again. I'm sure you can only take them in and out a limited number of times before they turn to dust!

Still, at least it'll be in the hangar for less time than the Miles Gemini that's there too... it's quite hard to type with your fingers crossed.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A little TLC for the 182

For the last week, the C182 has been at Henstridge for some maintenance. Nothing too drastic (I hope) but a little TLC and a few bits and pieces. A VG or three need replacing, both front seats need some attention, and I'm planning on getting the 530 taken out so that I can return it to Garmin for a small repair - the screen brightness control (that is normally automatic) has reverted to only being very dim. It is possible to change it by going to the right part of the menu, but it is a pain having to do that with every engine start.

I'm planning to head for Henstridge early on Tuesday to see how things are going, so fingers crossed...
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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Who stole my week?

It's been a busy week (it's press week) with all sorts of aviation activity and writing going on. Time's still short and the deadline is rushing towards us, so I thought I'd go for the short, succinct blog review of the week so far...

Katana - Safe, strong and a bit expensive
Egyro - Expensive, small and hard to use
iPhone software - Get AeroWeather
Dick Rutan 'Decision Making' DVD - Good, but very cheesy in places
Log Ten Pro - Amazing customer support

Now for QSY...

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

What do you think about solo time?

Only time for a quick post today, it's deadline week for FLYER magazine and there are a few things to do... anyway, a quick question. Is solo time valuable on the way to an airline career? If so, how is it valuable and how much solo time is needed to bring that value?

It's not a random question, but it seems that Europe and the USA could be moving apart on this one.

Monday, 28 September 2009

United States of Europe













I am used to finding this kind of thing in the USA, but this web site is aimed at the European market.

EuroFPL was launched by Travis Holland as a solution to the endless nights he spent in Iceland trying to get routes accepted to airports in Europe. As his hours available for sleeping were robbed by battles with CFMU's deep thought routing computer, Travis yearned for something like www.fltplan.com that would show acceptable and validated routes... and so in March 2009 the Eurofpl project was launched. It is currently supported as a public service of Holland Aero. The basic flight plan filing, route catalogue and weather briefing services will always be free. Premium subscribers ($EU100/yr) will have access to SMS service, JAR-OPS certified wx services, flight notifications, and other value added services.

Current features include: Route catalogue with search capabilities, built-in validation, guaranteed ACK within one minute of filing, RTEPOINTS from CFMU delivered via email, CTOT delivered via email, support for DLA and CNL from Blackberry or iPhone and the ability to send ARR from Blackberry or iPhone when landing at uncontrolled fields.

There are loads of other bits and pieces including internet-based live route tracking. Quite frankly it's a bloody great little website that makes European IFR flying that little bit easier.

Take a look www.eurofpl.eu

Electronic plates























I've done a little flying with the SolidFX Plate reader recently. It's based on an Irex ebook and comes loaded with software that's the fruit of a partnership between Jeppesen and SolidFX.

Initially it failed at the first hurdle, i.e. I had to have a quick look at the manual to get it to work. I didn't have any trouble displaying the plates, but rather the super-sensitive external controls kept scrolling and switching and doing all sorts of stuff that I didn't want. A quick read explained how to disable them.

Once I'd got to grips with the basics the unit worked well - the display size is slightly too small for my 47-year-old eyes to read easily, but a stylus enlarges and scrolls with ease.

There are price deals for the Jepp data if you already have a JeppView subscription and the unit itself sells for $1600 - not cheap. If you do a fair amount of IFR touring, the the ability to access plates in the air without having to carry bags full of laboriously updated books is worthwhile - I would still take printed copies of my departure, destination and alternate airports, but having anywhere else at hand in a small, lightweight package is a win, at least if it fits in with your kind of flying, and of course your kind of flying budget.


Saturday, 26 September 2009

Missing VG

I took the C182 to Henstridge today. The DME had been taken out and sent away to be fixed and was now ready for refitting. The 121.5 ELT is being replaced by an AmeriKing 406Mhz box, and the wings - black with dirt thanks to being parked near a train line used by diesel-powered freight trains for a few weeks - needed a bloody good wash.

Henstridge is a happening place these days with new hangars and both of the larger buildings now being completed. I parked next to my maintenance hangar and was kindly lent a water supply, electricity and a power washer. The wings were so dirty that it took ages to get them even vaguely clean. The paint, thanks to being exposed to sunlight and other elements is in poor shape. I fear a respray will be needed in the next year or so. While washing the aeroplane, I also noticed that one of my VGs has gone missing, not entirely sure how, but the job has been added to the To Do list. (The STC approval for the VGs states that the aeroplane can be flown with up to 5 VGs missing.) Justin (top A&p and IA) gave me a lift back to the strip and my car in the C182 - during the short flight it became obvious that the DME repair hadn't resulted in a functioning DME, so something else to sort out.

Hey ho, the fun of ownership.
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Rotax Katana

I'll be spending some of the weekend writing up a flight test on the Diamond Katana. It's been at least thirteen years since I've flown a Katana, and back then it was one that was powered by an 80hp rather than 100hp engine.

As with all other Diamonds, the handling is solid safe - a fairly slow roll rate with those long wings, but very, very safe when it comes to stalling characteristics. The price for the DV20, which is certified as a VLA, in (very) basic form, is sub €99,000. That's more expensive than other VLAs, but I don't doubt that it will hold up better than some in the tough rental market.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Gyro back-up

I have been testing a back-up gyro for the last few days.

The eGyro is a fully portable, self-contained unit that provides attitude reference in case of failure of the primary instrument. It is powered by plugging in through the usual cigarette lighter socket, but battery power is an option.

The unit contains solid state gyros and accelerometers, and has no moving parts. No calibration is required, and according to the photocopied instructions that arrived with the unit, it only needs mounting with the right orientation. The unit will fit in the panel, but has no approval status (so homebuilt only). It can also be mounted, as here, by velcro.

I've only flown with it once so far, and after powering it up the unit self-aligned within a few seconds - in flight, however, it was very, very twitchy in pitch - so much so that it was necessary to mentally 'damp' the oscillations to gain any benefit.

I'll fly some more with it over the weekend to see if a different position will improve things. I shoud add that the black bar in this picture is a result of the photography, and when viewed without a digital SLR, the screen displays correctly.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A day trip to Wycombe























I spent a large part of the day at Wycombe Air Park. It's not my first time there by a long way, but I was once again struck by what a nice place it is. From my PPR phone call to every last bit of r/t the place was welcoming and friendly, with the guys at the pumps being particularly helpful and cheery.

The airfield was buzzing with training, gliding and some corporate entertainment too. It was all taking place harmoniously and without the need for jobsworths. Brilliant.

We (I was there with FLYER contributor Nick Lambert) grabbed a drink and a late(ish) lunch at The Pad. The sign on the door was appropriate.

That apart, it was good to see an aviation facility buzzing with aeroplanes and happy people.



Monday, 21 September 2009

SkyCatcher nearly here

The Kings have taken delivery of the first customer SkyCatcher, (nicknamed Flycatcher or Spincatcher by some) and the first Chinese-built example has made its first flight. The SkyCatcher should offer a decent(ish) cruise, bags of room, modern instrumentation, i.e. glass cockpit, and that 'new aircraft experience'.

Before long, deliveries will start en masse - over 1,000 have been ordered - and the face of aviation training will change, or will it? If clubs and schools have decided how much they're going to charge for an hour in the SkyCatcher, they're playing their cards close to their chests; but whether in the UK or US, it's going to have to offer a decent saving over the new C172s that are on offer.

Talking of the UK (the SkyCatcher is an LSA in the US), Euro versions will either have to be certified, or go down the EASA LSA route. That will mean a Permit to Fly until EASA gets it all sorted. It'll be interesting to see how conservative Cessna deals with this issue. Deliveries over here will probably start in the next three to six months.


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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Gone cycling...

Sorry, back with more on Monday 21st

Monday, 14 September 2009

Want to fly over the Grand Canyon?

I'm glad to say that I've flown over the Grand Canyon twice. With a bit of luck I'll do it again at some stage, but recent mumblings from the US have me a little worried.

For a while now, and when I say a while I mean eight years, there's been a GCWG (Grand Canyon Working Group) meeting and talking about the future of scenic tour operators flying over the Canyon. The discussion has been driven by the desire to reduce aircraft noise over the national park. The FAA has recently withdrawn from the group, leaving the job to the NPS (National Park Service).

The NPS has a reputation for being somewhat sympathetic to the environmentalist cause; in terms of aviation over the Grand Canyon, that translates to a 'substantial restoration of natural quiet'. Last September the NPS explained what that actually means, which is...

Noise from aircraft operations at or below 17,900ft msl should be reduced over 50% of the park. The reduction in noise should be between 75 and 100% all day, every day. The 50% of the park is the minimum target.

Should that happen, and right now the NPS is working on a proposal for the FAA to consider from a safety point of view, it's clear that aerial operations from fixed- and rotary-wing traffic will be severely curtailed. Non-commercial traffic, which is already subject to some operating rules, will also be affected. AOPA US and others will no doubt work with the NPS and the FAA to try to protect access, but if you want to experience the view from above, you might not want to wait too long before planning that trip.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

..and the doors are closed

The Dublin show has been and gone. I'm glad to say that it went well, and that the numbers were good. There are still a lot of people considering a career on the flight deck, although many of them are, for now at least, hanging on to their money.

A common question at the show - apart from 'How do I pay for the training?' - is 'When should I start my training?' Of course, the real question is 'When should I finish?' Everyone wants to finish in time for an economic upturn. If you can predict that with any accuracy and offer a guarantee (+/- six months is fine by me) I'd like to hear from you!

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Saturday, 12 September 2009

The doors are open

We opened the doors at 9.30.

I really don't enjoy the waking hours before the show opens. My recurring nightmare is to have a hall full of exhibitors, but through one simple mistake, such as the wrong date on a ticket or an advert, get not one single visitor. It's never happened, but I suppose we all need something to worry about from time to time.

This morning, thanks to that unrealistic concern, I was as stressed as usual, but obviously there were visitors when the doors opened. I don't yet know what the total visitor count will be; the professional pilot training market is down on last year. But the show is taking place under sunny skies - something they haven't seen in Dublin (over a weekend) for a good few weeks. Talking to the exhibitors before the show, and at the drinks reception last night, it seems that while overall enquiries are down, those making them are slightly older, and (in the main) have their financial ducks in a row.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Marking out

Marking out the floor the day before the night before the exhibitors arrive is a strange experience. The huge spaces are often cluttered with chairs, tables and other hotel detritus, but what will (hopefully) be a heaving room in a few hours is eerily quiet. I must get myself one of those indoor radio-controlled aircraft...

The trip to Dublin (Ryanair rather than C182) worked, assuming you define working as arriving in time.

Ryanair do a good job of getting you from one airport to another at a competitive price (in this instance it was about 50% of the next lowest fare), but there's not a great deal of joy involved. I always get the feeling that Michael O'Leary's staff have their hands in my pockets when buying online - £10 for web check-in, £20 debit card charge... The airport experience is OK as far as it goes, and once on board it's efficient enough, although there are often no smiles from the cabin crew (I guess I failed to tick that cost plus option when booking).

The end result was that after three hours and five queues we were in Dublin, car hire keys in hand, which is, I suppose, what I signed up for.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The troubled path to the flight deck

I'm heading to Dublin later today to get ready for the third Professional Flight Training Exhibition on Saturday.

I'm very happy to say that all of the stand space has been sold and ticket sales are looking healthy.

With the route to the flight deck being long, tortuous and expensive it is no surprise that any dedicated airline pilot-to-be (and frankly, if you are not dedicated and tenacious you should find another career) wants to avail him or herself of the best information possible.

Quite apart from anything else, choosing the right school is bloody important, and these events give future students the opportunity to talk with schools from all over the world. They also provide a forum to meet fellow students, and cadets, and to talk directly to airlines (Aer Arann will be in Dublin) about the kind of thing they look for when recruiting.

What the events can't do (sadly) is to guarantee future pilots a job when they qualify, or an easy way of paying their way through flight-training. Now if I could do that...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Award for Norman






















I went to a BDFA committee meeting last Saturday. After the usual business (I'm discovering that committee meetings have certain similarities whatever the subject matter) we all gathered on the terrace at Lasham to enjoy a BBQ and the last of the summer wind and rain.

During this pleasant meal, Norman Tench, a BDFA Trustee was given an award in recognition of his hard work and dedication. Norman is one of those tireless people who just gets things done. He's focussed, persistent and not easily fobbed off.

One of Norman's current battles is lung cancer, and he's fighting that in the same way that he fights anything else, head on and with a huge amount of determination.

For now at least Norman's got his hands full, so he's reluctantly decided to sell his beloved aeroplane. If you're in the market for a Gardan Horizon, take a look at this example. You can bet that it has been well looked after.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Rotax thefts

Lock up your Rotax. It seems that they are being targeted by teams of thieves. Three engines were stolen in Staffordshire, with another engine being stolen from Croft Farm near the Malverns.

The thefts aren't restricted to the UK. Philip de Winter had his aeroplane savaged when thieves stole the engine, and in France, after establishing a countrywide task force, three Romanian nationals were arrested last year after being caught stealing engines and avionics from microlight hangars.

In the UK, DNA evidence has been secured and Staffordshire police would like to hear of other similar thefts. See this thread for details.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sharing our passion

I've been doing a little bit of work with the BDFA and am honoured to have recently become a trustee. As a small example of some of the work they do, here's a video shot at Elstree on February 26th where a group of people from Barnet Mencap come along to fly. The weather turned bad (much worse than it looks in the video), but despite no flying actually taking place, the day really did make a difference to everyone.

If you're wondering what you can do to help, then start by coming to the Aviator's Ball (there's an ad for it on the right of this page), or get in touch with me or the BDFA.

BDFA AT ELSTREE AERODROME from Focus On Events on Vimeo.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

LAA Revival Rally

I went along to the LAA Revival Rally today, and I was quite impressed.

The history of the 'revival' event has been a little turbulent. The LAA was... planning to run the event, then it wasn't, then it was off, then it was on, and eventually Sywell stepped in and decided to run the event, taking the financial risk on its shoulders.

The weather was good. Yesterday, there were 500+ aircraft, mostly LAA types. There were a few stands and a bunch of interesting aircraft. The FISO (how many were there?) did a decent job, almost everyone was friendly, and it ran smoothly with the minimum of hassle.

So where now? Assuming that Sywell didn't somehow catch a big financial cold, I imagine that next year's event will be the LAA Revival plus a little bit.

Congratulations to everyone from the LAA and Sywell.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

...and another issue is finished

This is how the office looked at 1800 last night. At the time there were a dozen or so pages of the October issue of FLYER still to go. Some were waiting to have corrections done, some had gaps waiting for pictures to be dug out of dusty digital libraries, and others were in the queue to be made into a pdf, or uploaded to the printer's server.

Things were sufficiently under control for us to break out some cold beers (courtesy of Ian Waller).

Ollie (Art Ed.) will be in later today to check the pages on the printer's server. Assuming that all is well, the plates will be made and sometime on Monday the presses will start to roll. By the time they do, we'll have already started work on the November issue.

If you are planning to fly to Sywell on Sunday, come and say hello.

Friday, 4 September 2009

More Part M woes on the way?

I was talking to an aeroplane operator today. His maintenance organisation has just told him that his fixed-pitch propeller has to be sent away for an overhaul.

According to his engineer, the CAA has told its surveyors to ensure that propeller time-in-service limits are strictly adhered to. It's an area on which they'll be focusing apparently.

Neither of us is 100% sure the information that's been passed on is correct, so I'll be contacting the CAA early next week to do a little digging.

While I'm talking about Part M and its associated ARCs and controlled (or uncontrolled) environments, I have to say that I'm hearing a lot of complaints from owners about repeatedly high maintenance bills as a result of the changes. Time for a bit of a survey I think.

If you know anything about the prop. situation, or if you are 'enjoying' unusually high invoices as a result of Part M, please leave a comment, or send me an email if you prefer.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rain, and lots of it

I hate this weather. Not because it's cold, not because it's wet, not even because it turns flying into a pure mode of transport (IFR) rather than a semi-recreational scenic tour. I hate this weather because I hate the thought of the aeroplane sitting out in the wind and rain with no protection other than a Cambrai cover.

The cover's fine, but it isn't a replacement for a nice, dry hangar. I know that I could move the aeroplane to an airfield with hangarage, and I know the decision to become a strip flyer was mine, but it doesn't stop me feeling somewhat sorry for the collection of aluminium bits that I've shared many adventures with.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Birmingham landing fee: £3.80* One day only

Birmingham Airport is celebrating its 70 birthday - and to celebrate the anniversary, the opening of a new pier and the arrival of the Airbus A380 they're offering a landing fee of just £3.80 for any vintage aircraft flying in on September 9th. What's more the landing fee even includes handling by Signature!

*You'll need to pre-arrange a slot by calling or emailing Andrew Davies on 0121 767 7073 or email andrew.davies 'at' bhx.co.uk
This has to be done by September 4th. No aircraft will be accepted at this special rate without an official slot number.

Here's the full press release

Auster, de Havilland and Miles, all names synonymous with the exciting, glamorous early days of flying in Birmingham.

For one day only, Birmingham Airport is inviting classic aircraft to visit on September 9th, to help celebrate the Airport’s 70th anniversary, the opening of the new International Pier and to contrast with the arrival of the Airbus A380, the world’s biggest airliner at Birmingham. And the best part is the price; help us celebrate for a landing fee of just £3.80, including handling by Signature Flight Support – a super jumbo bargain!

For seven decades the Airport has served the UK’s second City, as well as the wider region, and while Birmingham is now home to some of the most environmentally-efficient fleets, it all started off with a Dragon Rapide touching down at what was the old Elmdon terminal.

There are a number of events planned to help mark what is a true milestone in the history of Birmingham Airport and you could be part of what will be a memorable day. In fact there might even be a surprise or two in store as well!

Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s Chief Executive Officer, explains, “September 9th promises to be a significant day in the history of Birmingham Airport as we celebrate our 70th anniversary and the opening of the International Pier. At £45 million the Pier represents the biggest single investment the Airport has made in the last 20 years and it is fitting that its opening coincides with the marking of our seventh decade.

“It would be great if, on the day, people were given the opportunity to see some of the aircraft that were once regular visitors to the Airport in the early days of operations. We are all anticipating a day to remember and we hope those with interesting old aircraft can make a visit.”

So, if you think your aircraft could help set the scene on Birmingham Airport’s 70th anniversary and opening of the new International Pier then get in touch. To request your slot and operational details contact Andrew Davies on 0121 767 7073 or email Andrew.davies 'at' bhx.co.uk, no later than Friday 4th September. No aircraft will be accepted at this special rate without an official slot number.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

and the weather for the LAA weekend...

...at Sywell is looking, err different every time the BBC update their forecast. Yesterday they were predicting rain on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but today it is looking like sunshine which will be nice...

Norwich joins Strasser scheme

As a result of the following from CAP 667

“There were a number of fatal accidents where a timely diversion or precautionary landing could have avoided an accident. In the UK there is a ‘culture’ of pressing on and hoping for the best rather than accepting the inconvenience and cost of a diversion. This ‘culture’ needs to be changed, firstly by educating pilots and secondly by persuading Aerodrome owners that there should be no charge for emergency landings or diversions. It is recommended that all Aerodrome owners be persuaded to adopt a policy that there should be no charges for emergency landings or diversions by General Aviation aircraft.”

Charles Strasser, AOPA rep for the CI launched a project to get airfields to comply. Norwich recently became the 203rd airfield to join (although some see that as a cynical move to go along with their requested airspace grab).

The scheme applies to all unplanned diversions (i.e. it doesn't apply to flight-planned alternates), and in theory at least removes any financial consideration from the diversion decision.

Monday, 31 August 2009

A bank holiday video

Renaud Ecalle, who won this year's World Aerobatics Championships


Sunday, 30 August 2009

A quick guide to Chapter 11

Chapter 11 relates to US bankruptcy law. It's a legal tool that gives a company, in difficult times, a period to reorganise. Either the company itself, or one or more of its creditors, can file a petition in a US bankruptcy court for Chapter 11 protection.

In many cases it will be the owners or managers of a company who continue to run and reorganise the company during Chapter 11. This is known as Debtor in Possession (DIP). Any reorganisation needs to be approved by the bankruptcy judge, with a creditors' committee being influential in the planning of the reorganisation.

Chapter 11 provides protection from creditors. Any legal moves made by creditors are basically put on hold, and inevitably a negotiation concerning those debts will be part of any reorganisation. Should the debts exceed the assets, and reorganisation prove impossible, then Chapter 7 is the next step. Chapter 7 is effectively a liquidation. A court will appoint a trustee who will sell any remaining assets and distribute the funds.

So why the words on Chapter 11 in a UK General Aviation blog? Most US airlines have been through Chapter 11 at one time or another, and some of the big names in GA have also used its protection. From what I'm hearing, there may be a couple more before too long.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

EGNOS arrives

EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) is due to be given the green light in October, with full approval for it to be used for 'safety of life' applications (i.e. approaches) in 2010. This clears the way for RNAV approaches with vertical guidance - known to be liked by the UK CAA!

Full story here

Friday, 28 August 2009

RNAV Approaches

There are more precision GPS approaches in the US than there are ILS approaches. There are non-precision GPS approaches all over Europe, and of course in Iraq and Afghanistan too.

In the UK, until very recently, Shoreham had the only GPS approach. Gloucester has recently been approved and Lydd is almost there, so things are moving, albeit slowly. The approaches at Gloucester and Shoreham both require an ADF as the NDB is used for the missed approach procedure. What possessed the designers or regulators to mandate the use of an archaic, unreliable navaid in a modern approach is beyond me.

It doesn't really matter if much of the rest of the aviation world thinks that we have a third-world aviation infrastructure, but if we don't do something to at least start to catch up in this, and other areas, GA's utility will be reduced even further.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Very Little Joy

I can remember the earnest look of concern on regulators' faces when talking about VLJs. How would the ‘system’ cope with thousands of light, slow jets being flown by non-professional crews? Some suggested new rules that would require a crew of two for any jet aircraft, some suggested banning them from certain high-volume airspace and some just attended lots of conferences and meetings, many in exotic locations. For the foreseeable future, the regulators will have to find something else to fret about. The skies, be they in Europe, the US or anywhere else for that matter, aren’t about to fill up with business or personal jets of any kind, let alone small, slow ones.

I suggest that the term VLJ no longer refers to Very Light Jet, Very Little Joy seems more appropriate. Truth is, the dream of thousands of small jets leaving aircraft factories has turned into a bit of a nightmare for the companies seduced by the dream.

In no particular order…

Eclipse: The daddy of all VLJs. Vern Raeburn’s baby promised disruptive technology. The Eclipse promised a new aircraft with new engines, new avionics and new systems, all of it built in a (you’ve guessed) using new manufacturing techniques. The company succeeded in building and certifying the aircraft, burning their way through $1.7 BILLION on the way. Early, unfulfilled promises of good performance mated to a sub $1m jet caused a stir and undoubtedly made selling existing aircraft like the Piper Meridian much harder. One strange episode involved the (brief) launch of the Eclipse 400 - a single-engine, V-tail, four-seat jet designed, in my opinion, purely as a spoiler for the Cirrus Jet. According to Raeburn, the E400 'only' cost $10m.

Adam: A good bunch of people with an interesting centreline twin that probably belonged to another era. I always felt that the A700, a twin jet version of the A500 was a slight panicked response to Eclipse’s announcement. Had they started with a clean sheet of paper I’m pretty sure that their proposed VLJ wouldn’t have had the twin boom configuration.

Diamond: Christian Dries, the man behind Diamond has enough energy to run a small European country and the D-Jet is just one of his many projects. Traditionally, Diamond’s aircraft development takes place in Austria, but Dries moved the jet project to Canada, partly because it is closer to the prime market, but also because of grumbles over the difficulty of working with some European regulators. A while ago, Dries told me that he had spent €80m on the D-Jet; I expect that figure has risen considerably. Diamond is still talking about deliveries in mid-2010, but the high cost of development must be hurting, and there are rumours that Dries is looking for a company to partner with.

Cessna: Not so long ago, the Citation Mustang commanded a premium, now, if you have the cash, there are some great deals to be done. The Mustang is a good aeroplane and a safe bet. None of the VLJ players are smiling right now, but Cessna at least aren’t crying.

Cirrus: Alan Klapmeier’s enthusiasm was infectious and over 400 people sent the manufacturer $100,000 deposits without even knowing the proposed specification. The economy changed, but so did the politics at Cirrus. Last year Brent Wouters took over as CEO with founder Klapmeier remaining as Chairman. In June Klapmeier announced that he was putting a team together to buy the jet project from Cirrus Aircrfat/Arcapita. That deal fell apart during Oshkosh, and last week Klapmeier cleared his desk. Many of the deposit holders sent in cheques because they believed not only in the jet, but in Alan Klapmeier. There have been quite a few people asking for their deposits to be returned and they are being gradually refunded as cash flow allows. Yesterday, Cirrus Aircraft announced that it was closing ‘Cirrus North’, the building that housed the jet project. Wouters insists however that the company is fully committed to completing the jet. Should there be a ‘run on the bank’ from deposit holders I find it hard to see how the company could avoid a spell of legal protection from creditors.

Piper: Until recently, I was pretty sure that the Piper Jet would prove disastrous for the Florida-based manufacturer. The wing looks gorgeous, but the fuselage with its rear-mounted engine could only be loved by its mother. I’m no aerodynamicist, but I didn’t reel with shock when I heard a rumour that the nose baggage locker contains a block of concrete. (I’ve never been able to/allowed to open it when I’ve seen the jet on public display.) Notwithstanding the above, the Piper team were in fine form at Oshkosh, and Piper undoubtedly the most upbeat manufacturer.

Epic: This Epic LT turboprop kit was real, but the company announced loads of other projects. The house of cards eventually collapsed and as I write this there are plenty of people still looking for Rick Shrameck, Epic’s CEO.

Eclipse II: Mason Holland and Mike Press recently paid $40m for the liability-free assets of Eclipse. Given that those assets set others back $1.7b, I’d say they got a good deal. Initially, the plan is to provide support, spares and upgrades to existing owners. When the economy changes, production could start again.

There are of course other, even smaller players and there are still visionaries (?) pounding the streets, getting thrown out of VC offices the minute they mention 'VLJ'. I’m willing to bet that the ongoing projects at Cirrus, Piper and Diamond are causing more headaches than joy, and in this economy it is only possible to guess at the damage being done by any lack of focus resulting from what many will only think of as a millstone.

I’d be willing to bet that Eclipse Mk II will do OK. It's often the second or third owners of a set of aviation assets that make the money. I suspect that there’s some money out there... waiting for one of the existing companies to go bust in order to acquire a debt-free project... or three.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Why real maps should remain on paper


I'm a devoted GPS user. Even if I try, I can't imagine touring without one. In fact, I have two units - an installed and approved GNS530, and a Garmin 495. Both have current databases and both are very good, and both will one day get upgraded when the next wave of whatever comes along. I hardly ever fly without them, and I never fly without a paper chart.

I might love the latest and greatest, but my heart sinks when I hear of another GPS that displays a digital version of a CAA, Jeppesen or other paper chart. Showing real, georeferenced charts on screen is seen by some as the holy grail, but I just can't understand why.

When you go flying, how small do you fold your chart? I enjoy a fairly spacious cabin in the C182, and have become a bit lazy when it comes to chart folding, so it's at least A4 in size and perhaps bigger. I've been looking at what other other pilots do and most seem to fold their charts down to about A4.

That provides an area that would take at least 45 minutes to fly through in an average GA aircraft, and it's a nice size to help with the bigger picture, giving situational awareness.

Contrast that with the displays that are showing digitized charts. Even the biggest are just too small. Of course, it's possible to zoom out, but then it's a struggle to read the 'chart' - and zooming in so that any notations are clear just makes the immediate area far too small.

Charts were designed and drawn to be on paper; vector charting was designed to appear on screens. Having the real thing on a screen with a moving symbol of an aeroplane showing exactly where you are may seem comforting, but with the very minimum of effort the combination of a real (big) map and a moving (vector) map GPS is the way to go.

The weather today was mainly...


No, they're not mine.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Epic lawsuit grows, Shrameck still missing

The original lawsuit filed against Epic by Rich Lucibella has been extended to cover two of Epic's sister companies - Aircraft Completion Servces and Aircraft Investor Resources - and Rick Shrameck, Jeff Sanders and Michael Shealy.

Epic's Bend facility remains shut with Epic's landlord holding lien against the property inside. Meanwhile Shrameck's whereabouts remain a mystery.

Running on empty

Ever been tempted to stretch a flight, or take off a little tight on fuel? It seems that the pilot of this Piper Comanche pushed it a little too far and ran out.

The pilot reportedly told Santa Barbara controllers that he was 'out of fuel' before gliding to a landing on Highway 101 in California. Apparently he intended to land with the traffic in the northbound lane, but ended up landing into oncoming traffic. The aeroplane hit two cars before spinning around and hitting a third. Luckily for everyone involved no-one was seriously injured. The only passenger was the pilot's wife (also uninjured) and I can only imagine what she said (and probably continues to say).

I've occasionally taken off from the strip to pick up fuel with less avgas on-board than I would like (and I like to land with one hour of fuel left in the tanks). My limit for a 'reduced' fuel margin means landing with thirty minutes in the tanks, but with this incident sparking a re-think, I'm now in the market for a couple of 20l jerrycans that'll take me back to the general rule of one hour's worth of fuel in the tanks on landing.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Shuttleworth Collection threatened























There's a thread on the FLYER forums concerning a letter received by the Shuttleworth Collection. It's shown here, but a larger version is available over on the forums.

As you can see, it contains a threat against the aeroplanes in the Collection, and it is a threat that is rightly being taken seriously.

I have no idea if there's a genuine risk to the Collection's aircraft, but it does bring home the fact that in the UK, for the vast majority of the time, aircraft are pretty safe whether they're left outside on strips (fingers crossed), on airfields or in hangars.

Of course, there have been some well-documented criminal acts, like the five substantially damaged aircraft at Redhill in 2003, and latterly there was some damage to aircraft parked outside at Wycombe Air Park just prior to AeroExpo, but to date (and the fingers are still crossed) we've been lucky.

That said... crossing fingers is not really a serious crime-busting strategy, so despite the relative safety we need to remain vigilant, and to encourage other airfield and strip users to join us in aviation's version of Neighbourhood Watch.

I hope the threat to the Shuttleworth Collection is spurious, I hope they catch whoever is sending the letters, and I hope that it isn't, as the police wonder, an 'inside job'.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Some good and bad UK destinations

I was being quizzed by a non-flying friend recently. He wanted to know where pilots went in the UK, and what they did when they got there. I somehow failed to describe the eau de damp building and stale chip fat that permeates some establishments and concentrated on some of the nicer or more interesting places I've been to...

  1. Blackpool. I know, not an obvious choice, but it's so different that landing there and then walking along the seafront when the summer season is in full swing just transports you to a completely different place.
  2. Oban (photo). Situated in some of the UK's most stunning scenery Oban is well worth a visit. At one time Paul Keegan would welcome you with tea and jammy dodgers, but local political nonsense may have changed this.
  3. Compton Abbas. Great views, air/ground the way it should be done, good food and a real buzz.
  4. Bolt Head. Amazing strip perched on the cliffs of Devon. Land, park and walk into Salcombe for a bit of sophisticated (compared to Blackpool) seaside fun.
I somehow failed to mention...

  1. Lydd. Glad to say that Ms Frosty is no longer there and the welcome is, well, welcoming. Trouble is, when I tried to buy a meal (at lunchtime) the spotty yoof told us that he was on his lunch break and couldn't serve us any food!
  2. Newquay. Good ATC but expensive and a pain to use. Go to Perranporth instead.
  3. Blackpool. I know it features in the good to visit list, but just don't get stuck there on a Tuesday night in January!
  4. Alderney. Great island that's well worth a visit. Sadly it is spoilt by some of the unfriendliest ATC this side of the Urals.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

How's your Sprag clutch?

The Rotax 912S is almost certainly the world's best-selling aviation engine at the moment. It's the power plant of choice for almost every LSA in the US (Cessna's SkyCatcher is powered by Continental's O-200D) and can be found in all sorts of microlights and homebuilt aircraft. It's a four-stroke 100hp engine and has a reputation for being both highly reliable and frugal.

Recently however, I've heard of a few owners who have had to replace sprag clutches much earlier than they would like. The engine has a TBO of 1,500 hours, but some sprag clutches (used to engage the starter) have needed replacement at 150 hours.

If you are a Rotax 912S owner, drop me an email or leave a comment about your experience with the sprag clutch.

Friday, 21 August 2009

2009 Burned Children's Club

Today was a good day. Today was a day when a few of us could get together, give a little time and/or fuel, and give some pleasure to a group of children attending a local camp. All of the children have been seriously burned, and all are on a holiday organised by the Burned Children's Club.

Of course a day like this doesn't just happen and Jim & Pat Dalton put a huge amount of work and effort into making it all run smoothly. There's a group of volunteers who work alongside them organising and recording what's going on, while others provide food, entertainment and safe passage to or from the aircraft.

It's great to be involved in something like this, it's great to see people enjoying flying so much, and it's great to see everyone pulling together to make this happen with the minimum of fuss.

Eclipse lives again

As expected, the bankruptcy judge dealing with the demise of Eclipse accepted the only bid for the company's assets yesterday (August 20).

The $40m bid was put together by two deposit holders, Mason Holland and Mike Press. The way is now clear for the company to reopen on September 1 with Eclipse's assets and no debts. The 'original' Eclipse burnt through an estimated $1.7 billion before closing down.

Holland and Press have no plans to restart production immediately, but will concentrate on bringing the existing fleet up to spec (the assets include the DayJet fleet), and on supplying parts and service to existing owners.

Klapmeier clears desk

US aviation news service ANN is reporting that Alan Klapmeier, Cirrus Design co-founder, has cleared his desk at the company's Duluth, Minnesota offices.

Klapmeier founded Cirrus Design (now Cirrus Aircraft) with his brother Dale, who still works for Cirrus, twenty years ago.

Over the past twenty years, he has built a reputation for passionately promoting GA as a business tool, and for his efforts to promote aviation to a non-pilot audience.

He recently put together a team to buy the Vision SF50 jet programme from Cirrus, but negotiations broke down during Oshkosh. It's not yet known when or where he'll reappear in the aviation world, but there's little doubt that he'll be back.

Charity begins with an Aircoupe

This blog doesn't usually carry ads for aircraft for sale, but this one is a bit special. It's a Fourney Aircoupe F-1A, and what makes it special is that the proceeds from the sale will go to the Burned Childrens Club. Tony Crowe is looking after the sale and has posted a lot of details on the FLYER forum here.

I flew the aircraft earlier this week and it's a good, honest little aeroplane that handles well, and sips avgas at about 4.5gph. With a price tag of £14,000 ono (and with no VAT to pay) it has the potential to provide extremely low-cost flying for a small group.

Email Tony at aircoupe@bobcroweaircraft.com for more details.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Photo shoots

Yesterday afternoon we did a photo shoot for an upcoming feature. One of the variables that makes an air-to-air shoot interesting (by which I mean a pain in the backside) is any performance differences between the photo ship and the subject aeroplane. At the slow end of the scale we've photographed flexwing microlights, at the fast end a Cessna 421 and even an Eclipse Jet.

There are things that can be done to help minimise the differences. If the subject aeroplane (or helicopter) is much slower, then putting it on the inside of a turn helps. If it is much faster, then a wide descending turn gets the speeds closer together - there's nothing worse than a picture of a jet with gear and flaps down and at a high angle-of-attack, or a speck in a blue sky that's actually a microlight lagging a mile or so behind.

Yesterday's subject, a BN Islander, was ideal - the Islander will fly at stupidly slow speeds or will fly at up to 130kt (which is also stupidly slow when you consider that it takes 600hp and the associated fuel burn to do that). It was also being flown by someone who teaches formation flying, which made things even easier.

ATC and 'pretend' clearances

OK, you are flying along minding your own business. Somewhere between your present position and your destination is a chunk of tiered, Class D, controlled airspace. You call up the relevant unit and make your request. In return you're given a squawk, the QNH and a Basic service. You are also asked to remain outside controlled airspace. So far so good.

Plan A is to continue on track, Plan B to remain on track and continue below the airspace or Plan C to turn east to avoid the airspace.

A couple of miles before the boundary you get a call, "G-ABCD cleared on a direct track to XXXX (where X = your destination), remain below 1,500' on a QNH of 1018."

The trouble is the controlled airspace starts at 1,500', so below that altitude you are outside controlled airspace - so what are you being cleared through? I would much prefer, "Unable to offer transit, please remain below controlled airspace which starts at 1,500', QNH 1018," to a pretend clearance that has the potential for confusion.

Any UK ATC out there?

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A great little strip...

There are some great farm strips and some great people. Today, I needed somewhere green and quiet to meet Tony Crowe, to go flying in an Aircoupe that he's selling, and to take some pictures.

I emailed Jim Thorpe, PPL/IR member, part-time instructor and strip owner who emailed straight back with a 'no problem'.

Tredunnock is 800m of easy-to-use, slightly-uphill grass, there are only a few rules (to keep everyone happy) and it was just the job for today. So thanks Jim, the 'loan' of your strip is much appreciated.

..and there are good airports too

OK, I might enjoy the relative freedom and lack of complication that strip flying brings, but sometimes an airport is required. Today that airport was Gloucestershire (EGBJ).

Gloucestershire Airport (aka Staverton) is a bit of a favourite of mine. The opening hours are good, the people friendly and helpful, the facilities are good and the pub/cafe 'The Aviator' provides decent food at a decent price.

What's even more impressive (to me) is that they manage to combine all sorts of aviation from microlights to business jets without a problem.

Now - if only they could get the CAA to approve their GPS approach it would be even better.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Cirrus Jet video features...a Cessna

I know, small things and small minds, but the shadow of a Cessna 337 in a video from Cirrus Aircraft made me smile.

The video is part of the SF50 promotional material on the Cirrus Aviation site and includes a technical update on the project. I assume that the C337 was being used as the camera ship, and that the video's editor couldn't resist including the footage.

The Vision project, or more accurately negotiations over ownership of the programme, provided some interest and a fair few news stories during this year's AirVenture at Oshkosh.

A date for your diary

On 28th November I'll be attending the Aviators Ball. It's being held at the Holiday Inn, Regents Park, and if the last couple of years are any indication it will be another great event.

The organisers have worked to keep ticket prices reasonable in the current climate, so for just £58 per person you'll get...

Arrival drinks, a three-course meal including half a bottle of wine, a live jazz band, guest speakers and an aviation auction with some stunning prizes and a lot more.

Better still, profit from the event will go to the British Disabled Flying Association. Click here for more information and to book your ticket.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Lydeway, a perfect little fly-in


The annual Lydeway fly-in took place today. Despite being based at the strip for the past three years, this is the first event that I've been able to make and it was brilliant.

Nigel, the strip owner, limits the number of aircraft to about fifteen to keep things manageable. He also invites non-flying friends and local residents - everyone brings along some food to accompany the provided BBQ. A good time is had by pilots and visitors alike.

Any non-flying visitor is offered the chance to go flying with the pilots, enjoying short local rides. It's great to be able to share the sheer joy of flying and of course the event works well for building local relationships too. The combination of good weather, great food and pleasant company is hard to beat on a summer afternoon.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Hudson mid-air

Alongside the speculation and rumour, the facts of this accident are starting to emerge. According to the NTSB, the Teterboro controller working the Saratoga called the pilot 40 seconds before the collision with a frequency change instruction (Newark on 127.85). Also according to the NTSB, there were several potential conflicts ahead of the aircraft that the pilot wasn't told of. While the Teterboro controller was confirming the Newark frequency, the Newark controller was calling the Teterboro controller to ask him to give avoiding instructions to the Saratoga pilot. Although calls were made there was no response.

The Teterboro controller was engaged in a 'non-business related' telephone call at the time of the accident. That call is widely reported to have been to his girlfriend. Both the controller, and the ATC supervisor who was not present at the time, have been suspended by the FAA. Although the FAA has stated that there is currently no reason to believe that the controllers' behavior led to the accident, they are both likely to be dismissed.

The area is covered by TIS, traffic data that is uplinked via a Mode S transponder and displayed in the cockpit if suitable equipment is fitted (typically a GNS430/530 in older aircraft). If the traffic is seen by radar (as it was in this case) then it too would be uplinked. The equipment fit of each aeroplane has not been released.

There's a YouTube video of the collision, reportedly made by friends of the five Italian tourists who were in the Liberty Tours Squirrel.

Tough times continue for business jet employees

There may be some talk of green shoots, but even if they are real they'll be of little comfort to many working in the jet world, particularly if they are involved in building them!

Hawker Beechcraft last week sent out letters to employees warning of further significant job cuts.

I hear that Wichita is the world's biggest parking lot for unsold jets right now. A year or two ago people were prepared to pay a premium for positions near the head of the delivery queue, and sales people wouldn't negotiate, now all you need is a pocket full of dollars to do some spectacular deals at your local Business Jet store.

NetJets, the world's leading fractional ownership company, is restructuring after Chairman and CEO of 25 years Richard T Santulli resigned with immediate effect. The company lost $350m in the first half of 2009 following an 81% drop in aircraft sales and a 22% drop in revenue hours.