Saturday, 25 September 2010

Aerial adventure

The Gordon Bennett balloon race gets underway tonight. To my shame I knew almost nothing about it, but it looks like a lot of fun and a real adventure. You can follow the progress here

Friday, 24 September 2010

Some lessons not learned

Another aviation school, Aussie Air at Fort Lauderdale Exec, has closed leaving students out of pocket. It seems that Aussie Air, which catered for quite a few foreign students, never quite got the required paperwork together.

It's not unknown for aviation schools to fail, often taking students' money with them, but to be blunt, it's not hard for potential students to carry out a little due diligence before enrolling.

For starters, according to the Miami Herald, some students were offered $20k discounts on a $45k course; that alone should have potential customers going deaf from the sound of alarm bells. Then of course there's the internet which is a rich source of information, even if the quality is a bit variable.

Then of course there's the golden rule... Don't pay upfront

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


I've been involved quite a few air-to-air photo shoots. They're a bit of a blend of photographic techniques - to a certain extent you can pose the subject by frantically waving a series of hand signals. You can change the lighting (the sun's relative position), by re-positioning the formation and although you can plan things on the ground there's often an unexpected element so there's a bit of sports photography in there too.

With good light, some interesting landscapes, a team of good pilots and a comfortable camera ship things are pleasant, with grey flat light, complex airspace, pilots not at the top of their game and an awkward camera ship things can get challenging.

The picture above was taken during a shoot that had its fair share of challenges (most of them do), but the light, pilots and camera ships weren't among them.

Engine woes...

I had an interesting chat with a couple of French pilots over the weekend. They were both longtime P210 owners, one had replaced his engine with a factory-new unit, the other with a factory zero-hour overhaul. They had something else in common, both of their aeroplanes were grounded with big engine problems. Both engines were making significant amounts of metal, and both would need to be replaced or rebuilt.

The zero-time overhaul engine had 450 hours on it and the factory-new had made it to 700 hours. P210 engines don't come cheap, and by the time they've been taken out, replaced and put back in there won't be any change from £30k. £66 an hour for an engine makes flying expensive; the pilot with the 450 hour engine was talking to TCM about a contribution to the cost.