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.