kev at ginnysHalf way down finals for runway 24 at Fairoaks today I handed back the controls to Alan. “You do it,” I said.  I just knew I couldn’t land the aircraft today, despite the fact the wind was straight down the runway, he had set it up for me perfectly (though I was in the right hand seat) and I really, really want to land a Cessna 172, which is somewhat heavier than my usual steeds, the C150 or C152.

But today is different. We got a beautiful morning for our little sortie from Thurrock to Fairoaks, flying at around 2,000ft over the glorious London surrounds with near perfect visibility. London was sparkling beyond the Thames, and the view of the river around Tilbury was stunning. Coming back with a 30kt tailwind and bumping from the clouds above I feel just about as peaceful as I can do, drinking in the landscape below.

But I’m near useless as a copilot today. On the outward leg I’m okay experimenting with the plethora of technology Al’s got stuck around the cockpit – trying to figure it out and flying to the lines unravelling themselves on the electronic charts in front of me. I have a little difficulty with the height and trim, but am already aware my head is closing down from the skull inwards. Al takes control for the entire flight back – I can just about muster changing the frequency on the transponder, which is right in front of me.

I’m enormously grateful to be airborne today. It is exactly the right thing for me to be doing. Client and friend Alan Peaford can’t know how important it is. I didn’t even know myself.

The drive home is interesting. I turn the wrong way down a one way road on a busy intersection in Southeast London and feel the rest of my body, shoulders first, pressing in from the outside in, gradually compressing me, muscle by muscle, sinew by sinew, cell by cell, until I am spent. I get home, exhausted and crash out on the couch for an hour.

And then it comes – the thing I’ve been swerving for weeks now, that’s been coming out in strange ways – tears, tiredness, enormous sadness. And I know I have to live it again tonight.

On January 2nd 2013 I drove up to the Wirral, my hometown, to celebrate a belated Christmas with my sister, niece and brother. I was looking forward to seeing them. Last time we’d been together was at my mum’s funeral on September 3. It’d been a harrowing summer waiting out her death – she’d been ill for years, and the end when it came was a relief, though, of course, terribly sad. We’d all had peaceful holidays and were feeling positive and excited that at long last we’d been able to let her go and move on. There’s something about a significant loss that does that – makes you reflect on your own mortality and what to put into your life, these precious few years we have to explore the world we’ve pitched up in.

The drive was tiring – around 5 hours thanks to grotty London traffic at the start of it, and I deliberately would not eat, knowing my sister had been cooking up a storm to welcome me over. I stopped en route for coffee and picked up a couple of daft gifts from a service station to accompany the desired, but practical duty free offerings I’d bought for them all in Dubai a couple of weeks previously.

When I arrived, pretty knackered, we drank tea and she expressed concern that she hadn’t heard from my brother for the entire day, that he’d felt ill and may have gone to the doctors and got some antibiotics. Unusual. I felt grumpy, convinced he’d been up all night drinking and was sleeping off a hangover with some strong pills, but agreed to go round and see if he was okay & if he needed me to drive anywhere to get him anything.

Fortunately she had a key – which didn’t work in the lock, since it was shut from the inside, and we could see the lights were blazing. We started to knock, ring and bang. The neighbours came out to see what was happening, and told us that it was possible the door had just caught. That it had happened to them, too, the week before. They also gently suggested we call the police. We were reluctant, but eventually agreed to do so. I texted him to let him know. Didn’t want to fall foul of his wrath if he was just sleeping off a heavy night, or had gone out with his mates.

The police promised to come as soon as possible, and told us to make as much noise as possible to rouse him. I went downstairs to keep the front door open, which was accessible by entry phone. My sister remained upstairs with the neighbours. She banged and hollered, I called both his phones – incessantly. I rang my niece. Would he be with pals? She burst into tears and said she knew something was dreadfully wrong. I rolled my eyes, irritated by the drama and wanting to be at Ginny’s tucking into roast beef and yorkshire pud.

Blue lights screamed past. For the first time I felt fear. Was my poor brother lying upstairs unable to get help. I called the police, once, twice, ten times? I dunno. After an hour they arrived. Two jolly young folk, a man and a woman, who discussed whether they needed to go away and get a battering ram. In the end the guy just lifted his boot and kicked the flimsy door right through. They both went in. And there was screaming silence.

Ginny and I instinctively held back, with our audience of old people, getting high on the drama. We weren’t. There was no noise whatsoever coming from that flat. The police were in there a beat too long. And then we knew.

“I’m really sorry, he’s passed away in there.”

The young policeman looked grim. And our worlds imploded. I sank to my knees and howled a howl I never even knew lived inside me. Ginny collapsed sitting on the stairs. The young man tried to soothe me. I shook him off violently and sobbed at him not to shut me up. Ginny held my shoulder. After how long, again I dunno, we asked could we go in and see him. An anxious glance between them – a quick check – and then yes, yes we could, but mustn’t touch anything as it was a crime scene. Too right it was a crime scene. Our beautiful brother had been robbed from us, suddenly, unexpectedly, devastatingly.

He looked so peaceful sitting there in his computer chair – a little smirk playing on his lips. Apparently it would have been so quick he wouldn’t have known or suffered. Such a blessing.

The paramedics arrived almost immediately, so we were ushered to his front room to sit on the couch, surrounded by his airing washing, and my christmas present, ready to wrap with scissors and sellotape next to the fire. I wanted to drive us home, but was absolutely not allowed to do so.  I asked could I go in to see him one last time. Yes, but I mustn’t touch him. I did/didn’t want to. Wanted to shake him back to life, like he’d just left the room for a minute and I could just bring him back. Yet repulsed by the mask of death on him.

We went back to Ginny’s to deal the body blows to our sister Alex, and Ginny’s daughter Sarah. It was awful to hear their pain.

And now it is almost exactly a year to the minute of that awful first shock of the policeman walking out the door. And I understand why my body and soul shut down today. I feel so sad. Ginny and I have spoken twice already. The only people in the world who lived that harrowing two hours. And I want so badly to write it out. Have had so much of my professional writing to do, which has got harder and harder over the last few days. But this is the writing I need to do. It doesn’t even feel optional today. The story I want to tell, and have felt afraid to do, though it’s broiling inside of most of the time.

The two hours in particular are drawing to a close. I’ve been dreading them for weeks and didn’t even know it. And now they’re passing too. And I’ve survived – and with grace for the most part.

My two sisters and I were magnificent in the following weeks. My nieces and brother in law, too. A hard time. Then another sad postscript in March when an old friend couldn’t take being in the world anymore, and took herself out of it. God love her, and thank you, too, Karen. You, Kev and mum taught me lessons I could get in no other way – and I love you all fiercely.

2014 has already started brilliantly compared to 2013. No one I love died. I’m feeling quietly positive about the coming months. My secret is out, and like Kev would have said, it can be just a paper tiger if I let it be.

Last year showed me strengths I didn’t even know I had. 12 months is not long, but it’s a big cushion away from the rawness and agony of this time last year.

I found out how much my brother loved and championed me. And learned how to let my loved ones know that while we’re all alive, sharing this crazy journey together. Things that would have been major issues before have become trivial, leaving me free to focus on what really is life affirming. And have been blown away by the kindness of family and friends. Truly humbled by just how wonderful people really are. And my curiosity for life is sparked again – fired in a way that had stagnated. An awareness of my own mortality and how much exploring there is to do is another big, big gift. Plus compassion for myself and others. And my God I’ve got fabulous family and friends – I’ve been so held for the last twelve months.

I needed to say this. If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you for your time.

Halfway down finals for runway 24 today I handed the controls to Alan. “You do it,” I said. He took charge willingly without question, landed the plane and didn’t push me for an explanation.  Back at Thurrock I explained why I couldn’t fly any major phases of flight today – I simply wasn’t fit. Any sensible pilot knows their limits, and I am a sensible pilot.

And a good friend will step in and help out without asking why. If I’ve learned nothing else this year, I’ve learned how to let them.

So happy new year, I hope it’s a good and peaceful one for you. There’s a lot to celebrate in this world of ours. Most particularly each other.

My friends at Avweb posted an interesting story today (, which has far reaching possibilities for more creative tasks than simply killing people. Unmanned air systems (UAS) – or, the aircraft formerly known as Drones – can clean windfarm sails, film fast car chases, or even fix your cellphone aerial.  Make no mistake, it won’t be long before these vessels are a certified feature of the aeronautical airscape – and far less likely to make errors than their human-flown counterparts.   

According to Avweb, the US Navy said Thursday that it successfully launched the XFC folding-wing drone from a torpedo tube on the USS Providence, while the submarine was submerged. The all-electric, fuel-cell-powered aircraft has an X-wing configuration in flight that folds for storage and launch. The UAS was delivered from the submarine to the water’s surface using a canister system first developed for Tomahawk missiles. Once at the surface, the canister appeared “as a spar buoy,” which floats upright in the water.  It then launched vertically from the canister and flew a mission that lasted several hours while delivering a live video feed back to the sub. 

The XFC is fully autonomous. Its all-electric fuel-cell-powered system provides it with an endurance of more than six hours. Once free from its canister, and after “achieving a marginal altitude,” it deploys its X-wing airfoil and initiates horizontal flight. The vehicle can also be used for land-based operation and is capable of being launched from a truck bed or “small surface vessel.”between the Navy laboratory and industry.

your life is your life

don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.

be on the watch.

there are ways out.

there is a light somewhere.

it may not be much light but it beats the darkness.

be on the watch.

the gods will offer you chances.

know them.

take them.

you can’t beat death but you can beat death in life, sometimes.

and the more often you learn to do it, the more light there will be.

your life is your life.

know it while you have it.

you are marvelous

the gods wait to delight in you.

But my OTHER blog – holy moly!  I did go flying today though. And it was good. That’ll have to do for your aeronauticals today.

This has interested me enough to update my annual blog today :)

Pilatus Aircraft Industry issued a release today following on from December’s news that it was to set up shop in China. It formally opened up on  August 5th in Chongqing. The new joint venture with TXJY – Beijing Tian Xing Jian Yu Science has an  initial contract to supply  50 PC-12s/PC-6s – but the release doesn’t say where they’re going.

One of the reasons cited for the move is the gradual opening up of Chinese air space – indeed this has been part of the current five year plan. Latest Chinese aviation authority (CAAC) growth figures cited say there is an expectation of  average growth of over ten percent “in the next few years.”

The key interesting point is that Pilatus says it has a majority shareholding in the new company. My understanding is that Chinese JV’s have traditionally been a 51% ownership by the Chinese partner, so am interested to hear how this could be. Pilatus does say that it would not be able to sell its aircraft in China without the new company.

The new entity will produce aircraft components for the PC-6 and PC-12 only, both civilian aircraft.  Unsurprisingly it will not be involved in the production of components for military training aircraft (PC-21, PC-9 M and PC-7 MkII). There is no mention of the new PC-24.

Oscar J. Schwenk, Pilatus’ Chairman said, “”The PC-12 and Pilatus Porter PC-6 are optimum aircraft for this booming market, and we are confident our products have great potential. China has many small airfields with short runways – our aircraft are ideal for operating in and out of them.”
Markus Bucher, CEO, added, “”We believe that a partnership with a local sales partner is the key to success. It also ties in with our strategy of ensuring optimum customer service through the closest possible geographic proximity.“

According to Pilatus, the newly created company and associated activities in China will not impact negatively on production operations in Switzerland.

This does seem to be a strong indication that the turboprop market is gearing up for takeoff in China.

More info when I have it…

Was suddenly getting a lot of comments on a post I wrote 2 years ago. All very complimentary – then I realised this must -sigh- be spamming. It has nudged me into a quick update today. Sooo busy finishing a book on private jets, writing a couple articles prior to heading to Hamburg next week for the Aircraft Interiors Show ( for Inflight magazine ( , which I edit , then to China for the Asian Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition.

Hamburg’s going to be very buzzy. Thales, Panasonic and Lufthansa Systems have kindly invited me to go visit them for an update on their latest cabin innovations, while our technical editor Steve Nichols will be chewing the fat with the likes of Inmarsat and Cobham to find out what’s new in the world of connectivity. With Ka coming online later this year, there’s going to be a LOT of new info on satcomms.

Apart from that of course, there’s the joy of good convivial company and the general ambience of Hamburg. itself. Home to the early days of the Beatles, worldwide shipping and a men only road in the red light district, it’s an eclectic mix of sophisticated international culture and well…trashy tourism.  I’ve always had a fun time there though, and this April promises more of the same.

Note to self – update this blog when u get to Hamburg…:)

The first thing you need to know is don’t arrive at the airshow shagged out from jetlag, too much travel and partying with friends in town from over the other side of the world. The second thing is that it is almost impossible not to do so. So on to point 3 – remember that almost everyone else is in exactly the same boat. Hence you’ll get some singularly good quotes at press conferences.

Yesterday saw me make a dozen or so calls on the train from London to Farnborough confirming meetings – at least 50% of which were bound to end in no shows because both parties were running late thanks to previous meetings running late – or hastily prepared affairs whereby both parties are frantically trying to remember pertinent pieces of information. The two gentlemen opposite me overheard, so enquired whether I was going to FIA. “Oh yes,” I said politely, “And what are you guys doing at the show?” “We’re representing the Canadian Government” came the response. “Really?” I said, “And what country is that from then?”

For some strange reason they trusted my judgement when I confirmed that the train had arrived at Farnborough Main and hopped off. I make that journey at least a dozen times a year and was pleasantly surprised to see British Rail had added a third platform and expanded it for the Olympics. I remarked as such to one of the station wallahs. He informed me I was in Woking and hastily bundled me back onto the train. I do hope my fellow travellers made it, too.

The day turned into a blur of meetings, including an ill-advised session in the media centre with my client HMG Aerospace, for whom I edit Inflight magazine. The great and the good of aviation journalism interrupted us constantly – including one man who let me know the fact I’d told his wife I’d met her at a party last year somewhere exotic – she was dancing with him – had landed him totally in the doghouse. Tiredness you see…

…afternoon culminated in a two hour lunch at the Aviator hotel on site, watching the airshow. I was with renowned defence journalist, close personal friend and total kidult Jon Lake, so had a proper commentary on the fast grey aircraft with afterburners. Along with some pithy political points that were totally lost on me. I was far more comfortable talking Hong Kong business aviation with Carlos Gomez, Tag’s Asia head.


Day 2 I brought my super bright and efficient PA Fernanda with me. Her first airshow…we started the day with Bombardier’s head of comms for business aviation, Danielle Boudreau, who arranged for us to go see the Global 6000, making its Farnborough debut.  Was happy to see my mate Johnny at the static park. His job is to go round the world making sure that no winglets are chipped  and there are APU’s etc on site. Last time we saw each other was in Shanghai in the sun, so we had a good bitch about the rotten July weather.

Whirlwind of meetings/interviews later, including stealing cake and champagne from East Midlands Aerospace Consortium ostensibly for the award winning team picture for Arabian Aerospace. (we won best digital media at the RAES on Sunday). A quick meeting with Allan Pelligrini – ceo of Thales and finally schlepped over to see Ernie Edwards – Embraer’s head of Executive Aviation. Results of that one will be online at Arabian Aerospace this weekend.

Then home, footsore and head shot to pieces. Wee respite tomorrow as I try to get on with real life, but back with a vengeance on Thurs.

What’s that you say – you want headlines?

Well go here then:

or here

or even here!

Liz and Fernanda in Global 6000

Slumming it in Global 6000

With Gulfstream G450 at SeletarWorking weekends really sucks. Except last Sunday when Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. invited me to sample its demonstrator G450, which has winged its way to Singapore for the Airshow. The aircraft features the Elite interior, an all-new optional package, incorporating elements from the company’s flagship G650. It is also available for G550 aircraft.

The day started pretty well. Journalists on the tradeshow daily newspaper circuit generally leave for the show site at horribly-early o’clock. The joy of the lie-in, plus the pleasure of knowing my colleagues were already at hard it in the newsroom set a solid foundation for a good trip. An amusing taxi ride, and a meander through the burgeoning developing Seletar Aerospace Park to the Jet Aviation business aviation terminal bolstered my good mood.

So what of the flight? The cabin is frankly lovely – and totally appeals to my taste. The sleek clean design features white leather seats (“stone grey,” according to Gulfstream, but to my untrained eye they looked “white”). These are offset by black high gloss wood and matte silver finishes on the window controls. I knew the invisible stuff was working well as one of my fellow passengers managed to tweet from the cabin. However, user ineptitude meant I didn’t log on to the WiFi with my iPhone, so I couldn’t send my incisive commentary to Twitter. I also knew from the press release that the company’s new Cabin Management System (CMS) includes digital control through Apple devices, meaning passengers can download an app that allows them to manipulate lighting, temperature, speakers, monitors, entertainment, window shades, and even call the flight attendant. I didn’t do any of this, but can testify the flight was exceedingly quiet, the window shades worked beautifully and the lighting was superb.

Apparently there is an option for motorized seats, too, although since I was in the jump seat for most of the flight I didn’t play with these. The passenger seats sport heated cushions, a massager, and press-and-hold controls for full upright and full flat positions.

However, mostly I was in the least comfortable chair in the house, fascinated by what the pilots were doing with the Honeywell-based PlaneView cockpit, and enjoying the super-lightweight Telex headset they gave me to wear. I shan’t pretend any great technical understanding, but I recognized some flight instruments on the three multifunction display units, plus various ATC instructions and the fact that the climb out was smooth and incredibly fast.

We were at our given departure altitude of 3,000 feet in seconds, and Captain Heime and First Officer Wendy kindly showed me some of the functions on offer in the cockpit. These included fault diagnostics, the Enhanced Vision System, and the Jeppesen database of maps.

After hogging the pilots for the best part of the flight, I meandered down to the galley in search of some of the fancy food on offer. Fans of gourmet cooking would appreciate the spacious kitchen, which houses a stainless-steel appliance stack with two coffee makers, a microwave and a convection oven, plus a refrigerator with freezer and removable shelves. There are touch controls built into the walls and the hinged doors on the crystal storage unit can also double as an added work surface.

With such opulence on board, the flight was all too short. Trust me, if every working weekend were like this, I’d pay to go to the office.

Upcoming Chinese financial superstar Minsheng scooped one of the top accolades at the  Corporate Jet Investor Awards. The conference of the same name held in London last week culminated with the inauguration of the annual Corporate Jet Investor awards. Presented by Alasdair Whyte, Editor of, the awards were presented to an illustrious set of winners from the international aviation finance sector who have shown outstanding ability and achievement in the field of business jet and helicopter financing or lending during 2011.

Reflecting the increased importance of the Asian market, Minsheng Finance Leasing, a subsidiary of China’s ninth largest bank, collected the award for Asian Business Jet Financier 2012. The award recognised the importance of Minsheng’s decision to focus their aviation finance wholly on general aviation, leaving other banks to pick up commercial aviation needs. By the end of 2011 Minsheng had placed orders for 87 aircraft, worth over $1.3 billion, and taken delivery of 28 business jets, about a third of the Chinese mainland fleet. The company’s chief aviation advisor London lawyer David Tang was on hand to discuss the company’s strategy with attendees. 

Recognising his significant contribution to the industry, The Special Achievement Award went to Brian Johnson and the launch team of the Isle of Man Registry. Collecting the award Johnson commented how the timing was perfect – the registry has just added the 450th M-registered business aircraft. Whilst the register is less than five years old, it is now the world’s seventh largest private aircraft registry and has established the Isle of Man as an important business jet centre.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch collected two awards – Best Global Jet Financier and Best North American Financier – thanks to its consistent delivery of well structured corporate aircraft acquisition and refinancing, serving businesses and high net worth individuals. Credit Suisse were the only other institution to pick up two awards recognising it as Best Private Bank for Business Jet Finance and Advisory and European Business Jet Financier.

The Corporate Jet Investor awards aim to support increased understanding of the importance of appropriate finance to the aviation sector and hope to encourage new lenders to the market. They also reward committed lenders and help aircraft buyers recognize the best in class. Selected by industry specialists at OEMs and leading brokers, the awards are set to become a quality bench mark for financiers as they are nominated and voted for by those working in the sector every day. 

minsheng team

Despite fears that there will be no capacity at London’s business aviation airports for executive jets during the Olympics, it seems that only 2% of slots have been booked so far for the July festivities.

Speaking at an event to launch the new Execujet managed FBO at Cambridge Airport, managing director Archie Garden said, “According to the WS Atkins slot booking system fewer than 2% of slots have been booked.” This is likely to include the 240 diplomatic flights scheduled to enter the country in July.

Of greater concern is transport onwards to the Stratford site. Private aviation users tend to employ bodyguards and high security and to date there is no helicopter airbridge approved, so airports are looking at alternative means of transport. Possibilities include river and red routes, which will prove inconvenient to many Londoners. (She says with vested personal interest…)

On a brighter note for Cambridge, Swiss aircraft management and maintenance services firm Execujet has appointed Karen Hein-Jones to manage its new FBO Manager at the airport.

Nicole Gut, director European services said,”We are delighted to welcome Karen to the team at our new FBO at Cambridge. We are looking forward to developing business aviation at our first full-service FBO in the UK. Having someone with Karen’s experience and knowledge will help us tremendously in realising our plans, especially as London will host the Olympics this year and we anticipate an extremely busy summer at Cambridge.”

The Cambridge facility and other development work at the field is slated to bring a further 150 jobs to the site over the next year.


Sometimes life just sucks ;-) My work day yesterday included the privilege of meeting Embraer’s brand ambassador Jackie Chan. He was at the OEM’s headquarters in São José dos Campos to take delivery of his new ‘baby’ as he called it. The delivery ceremony was typically Brazilian – upbeat and fun and incorporating a traditional Capoeira martial arts sequence. Afterwards both Jackie and Frederico Curado – Embraer’s CEO – danced to to the podium in a spoof Kung Fu standoff for the official gift exchange. Which is exactly why I love the Brazilians. There’s a huge sense of fun and energy complementing the sheer hard work taking place in Sao Jose.

The following press conference was punctuated with laughter and questions about Jackie’s many  injuries sustained during his pratfalls. Since he was born in the year of the Dragon, the aircraft is painted in Jackie’s own distinct dragon livery. And of course this year is the Year of the Dragon in his home country.

Hong Kong born Jackie has won worldwide acclaim with numerous film awards, both in China and internationally. He is now recognized, worldwide, as the most influential Chinese kung fu movie star. In recent years, he has shifted his focus more and more to charity causes. In recognition of his contributions to social welfare, Jackie has been presented with awards by various public institutions, including “one of the 48 most philanthropic people in Asia” by Forbes Asia in 2010, and was named the International Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF/UNAIDS in 2004.  As one of the best-known Chinese citizens, Jackie Chan also commits himself to promoting Chinese culture around the world and was named Goodwill Ambassador for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Promotion Ambassador for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

He will help Embraer to promote its entire line of executive aircraft. Ernie Edwards, president, Embraer Executive Jets said,“This delivery is a moment of historical importance to Embraer because it solidifies an already long and successful relationship between China and Embraer. To have the first Embraer Legacy 650 in China go to Jackie Chan, a world-renowned movie star, business man and philanthropist, illustrates how the cutting-edge technology, comfort and productivity of this aircraft allow operators in China to travel throughout the world with more efficiency and ease.”

Jackie pointed out that the aircraft will help him with his business and personal life, especially with his charitable work. He said, “I chose the Legacy 650 because its large three zone cabin, offering incredibly quiet performance and luxury.  I am honored to join the Embraer Legacy 650 family of users. I believe that Embraer is poised to become a major player in the Chinese executive jet market and thrilled to fulfill my role as brand ambassador for this great Company.”

The Legacy 650′s range is 3,900 nautical miles (7,223 kilometers) meaning it can fly nonstop between Beijing to Dubai, or Hong Kong to Adelaide, carrying four passengers. The cockpit is equipped with the Honeywell Primus Elite  avionics suite. The aircraft also features advanced Wi-Fi technology and significantly reduced cabin noise.  The cabin also includes a fully equipped wet galley and the largest in-flight accessible baggage compartment in its class. In addition to Jackie Chan’s delivery, Embraer has taken orders for 13 more of the type from China’s Minsheng Financial Leasing.

I had a fabulous day, which wound up kung fu demonstrations and  a big hug from Embraer’s new brand ambassador. Did I mention I love going to Brazil?

Like many in the aircraft sales business Steve Varsano is a pilot by inclination. He has eschewed flying for a living in favour of making bigger bucks buying and selling bizjets. However, his love of technology and all things aeronautical permeates his new showroom in Grosvenor Place London. Doorhandles are designed to look like engine cowls, branding is based on isogonal lines on aviation charts and his business address includes the shop’s latitude and longitude  coordinates.

He prefers today to sit in the back, as he says, “sipping wine and enjoying the journey.” (Just as well he’s not in the cockpit then). What he’s offering clients is a supercharged broker experience and “raising the game” for aircraft sales and acquisition. 20% of his business is from new customers, so he is working with bizjet manufacturers.

People new to jet ownership, or even old hands, can source an aircraft that meets their needs in minutes, rather than months, courtesy of an app he’s designed that offers graphical comparisons projected onto a huge screen the size of a Gulfstream G550 cabin. The design is simple and takes the viewer easily through a series of questions, such as ‘how far do I want to go?”, ” How much should I spend?”, and  “how many people will I have on board?’ .

Aircraft floors and cabins are overlaid on top of each other and the viewer can stand in front of the screen to get a true idea of cabin height and width. Once the field is narrowed down, Varsano pulls up a list of available aircraft on his books, for which he has lots of photographs and specs.

Like any brokerage, there is a full time team of analysts sourcing aircraft. Varsano is also offering his showroom to manufacturers should they wish to take their clients there to take a detailed look at their product range.

The back of the shop contains a full-size mockup of an Airbus ACJ, outfitted by Design Q (they of the camper jet fame), which is stunning. Varsano took me through the differences in dB levels on board, with an app that does just that. Each 5 dB really does make a huge difference. I mean I knew that – but I never really knew how much difference each increment makes. 10 minutes of playing – er testing – was a revelation.

More wizadry and fun comes with a special secret entrance behind the shop for clients who really don’t wish to be seen, and a dimmable window that clouds the front window, hiding what’s going on inside from prying eyes. Expect startled drivers for the next wee while as the hologram beaming out from the reception window engages people driving past. With offerings from each of the major bizjet manufacturers, the planes seem to fly out to the road. In the five days the room has been open Varsano has pulled in two prospects on spec -a Canadian and a someone from the Middle East.

The Jet Business is aimed at upping the customer experience. If clients are unable to meet at the shop, the team will travel to any destination in the world and bring a mobile version on a specially customised IPad. Next stop is China. Varsano is also keen to develop the app further, moving into interiors, with what he calls the “Star Trek” version.

Will it work? Having invested what he says is ‘the price of a small jet’ into the concept, Varsano believes so. If it does, it will change the face of used aircraft sales forever. Well worth a look.

Just had one of the best lunch dates of my life. I got to interview John Travolta over sushi rolls and wasabi as he joined the Bombardier Team as a Business Aircraft Brand Ambassador. We talked about flying, his new Challenger 601, disco dancing and the joy of aviation in general. All of which I’ll write about for various outlets in the near future.

John Travolta is licensed to fly 11 different types of jet, and has flown iconic planes from the Vampire to the A380. With a busy schedule of filming, publicity and charity work, he also embodies the persona of the true business traveller – making him an ideal representative for Bombardier Business Aircraft.

“John is both a film icon and knowledgeable aviator,” said Steve Ridolfi, President, Bombardier Business Aircraft. “He also recently added the Challenger aircraft to the impressive list of 11 different jets he is qualified to fly, an aircraft that offers him the ability to meet his passion for aviation and demanding business travel requirements all in one. We are thrilled to have him as our brand ambassador.”

With an acting career spanning over 30 years, John Travolta has starred in 60 films and has been honoured with a number of prestigious film awards and award nominations. He has received two aviation awards – the American Institute of Aeronautics Foundation Award for Excellence in 2003, and the Living Legends Ambassador of Aviation award in 2007. He currently holds 11 pilots licenses for both commercial and business jets.

“Business aviation has always made sense to me in that it offers flexibility, privacy, security, and most importantly, timesaving – meaning I have the ability to keep up with my busy schedule and have more time for my family, which is very important to me,” said John Travolta. “On top of that, I’m a pilot – I love to fly. Bombardier designs aircraft as much for the person flying them as for the passenger. I’m proud to represent their aircraft.”

Having a fabulous day and am off to Rodeo Drive shortly, followed by an evening event somewhere swanky tonight. Then onto China for AOPA’s first GA summit. Busy times!

Not strictly bizav – but this issue affects anyone who goes up in an aeroplane in Europe.

Ulrika Lomas of Tax News in Brussels reported today that the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) is calling for  the European Union to stop pushing through its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for aviation and  instead pursue a global agreement of aviation carbon emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Connie Hedegaard, TIACA’s Industry Affairs Committee wrote to the EU Climate Action Commissioner to criticise four key points arising from the upcoming legislation, due to be enforced from  January 1, 2012. Any airline landing or taking off inside the EU to take part in the regional bloc’s emissions trading scheme.

This has gone down a storm with the rest of the world – NOT. Any carriers flying to Europe will be have to buy permits to allow them to emit additional tons of carbon dioxide above a predetermined cap.  Worst case scenario if they don’t comply could mean they would be fined or even have to suspend operations into the EU.

Hedegaard says, “By directly regulating conduct outside of EU airspace, the EU ETS encroaches upon the sovereign authority of each State over its own airspace. The Chicago Convention also prohibits any levies on international flights except on a cost basis ‘related to the provision of facilities and services for civil aviation’.”

IATA reckons that the cost to airlines of purchasing the necessary carbon allowances will rise from USD1.3bn in 2012 to USD3.5bn in 2020. Additionally,  EU member states do not have to use the taxes levied  to reduce carbon emissions.

She points out that this will hamper the aviation industry’s “ability to continue investing on its own in greener technologies.

There could be other knock on effects, such as carriers choosing to fly less direct routes, that would actually increase carbon emissions. She cites the case of a direct flight from Hong Kong to Amsterdam, which has 5% lower emissions than the same flight with a stopover in Moscow. A stopover would sharply reduce the airline’s emissions charges.

Lomas writes that at an aviation seminar held on August 1,  the Vice President of Environmental Affairs at the Air Transport Association of America, Nancy Young, noted that the scheme is ludicrous as analysis has showed that on a flight, for example, from San Francisco to London only 9% of emissions are emitted in EU airspace; the majority instead is emitted in US and Canadian airspace, but would face the same amount of taxation as an internal EU flight.

Japan, Australia and New Zealand have all announced they are considering their own cap-and-trade emissions schemes, and China said in July that it planned to commence regional pilot schemes, with the aim of establishing a national cap-and-trade regime by 2015. This would lead to double taxation for carriers.

Unsurprisingly from the country that loves to litigate, United States airlines have already begun legal proceedings, arguing that the system violates the Chicago Convention, which grants individual countries the right to complete and exclusive sovereignty on taxation issues within their territory.

Hefty airline  taxation is already impacting the British tourism and airport industry directly with the rise of departure tax from the UK. I recently spoke with Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of Air Asia X, who told me that Asian passengers are frequently now opting to fly into the UK, and take the train to Paris and stay there for a few days, which costs roughly the same amount as UK departure tax on premium seat.

Most people would agree green is good.  It’s time for the Brussels Eurocrats to take a proper look at the impact of ETS and carve out a more effective way of cleaning up an industry that is already working hard to clean up its act.

The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) is promoting the European Commission’s new draft of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Monitoring and Reporting regulation, which raises the threshold for small emitters from 10,000 tonnes of CO2/year to 25,000 tonnes of CO2/year.

This means that many more Business Aviation commercial and non-commercial operators will be able to report their emissions through the simplified procedure or use Eurocontrol’s ETS Support Facility, as EBAA has strongly been calling for and making the case for the last 3 years.EBAA cautions, “Please note that this does not raise the threshold at which operators have to comply with ETS. This remains at 10,000 tonnes for commercial operators and 1 tonne for non-commercial, although we shall continue to lobby for the non-commercial threshold to be brought in line with the commercial threshold. However, because this will require a change in the underlying directive, such a change cannot practically be implemented before 2014 or even 2020.”

It is important to note that contrary to what has been reported in the press, this regulation has not yet been adopted and the new threshold is not yet in application. EBAA spoke to the Commission this week and the EC estimated that the new 25,000 tonnes of CO2/year should be adopted without problems at the next committee as most member states also support the new higher threshold.

The EC also told the EBAA that it had not gone to a higher threshold since there is already a 25,000 tonnes of CO2 per year threshold for fixed installations and it wishes to remain consistent. It is expected that the committee woud adopt this proposal in late September/early October.

EBAA will continue to publicise new developments.

For more information contact


EBAA chief operating officer
Phone: +32 2 766 0070


MT, LC the manufacturer of the SJ30 light jet, has announced it will operate as SyberJet Aircraft. Earlier this year, SyberJet purchased the assets of Emivest Aerospace out of bankruptcy. Since the acquisition, SyberJet has moved the Martinsburg, West Virginia assembly line to its facilities in Cedar City, Utah and is continuing its operations in San Antonio, Texas.

The SJ30 is the first light jet that can fly non-stop from New York to Los Angeles and non- stop across the Atlantic, giving unparalleled flexibility and convenience for owners. The SJ30’s ability to fly faster (Mach 0.83), farther (2,500 nm), and at higher altitudes up to 49,000 ft gives the freedom to fly above the weather, avoid traffic congestion, and fly more direct routes. The SJ30 is the only jet that maintains a sea level cabin to 41,000 ft.

Mark Fairchild, SyberJet’s San Antonio General Manager, adds “I am excited to be part of the future success of SyberJet. As a pilot, the SJ30 is an exhilarating jet to fly. SyberJet has a solid operating plan to deliver new SJ30s to the world marketplace. I look forward to providing more people the unique opportunity to experience the high performance capability that SJ30 affords its owners and operators.”

The company says additional details will be released as they become available.


Places Britain at forefront of £60bn global market

West Wales Airport welcomes the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) announcement today that it has sanctioned an Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) for new segregated airspace for the sole use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in West Wales. Set to become operational on 28 July 2011, it is the first time an area in the UK has been designated for this purpose. Centred on the airport, which is located at Aberporth, the airspace extends inland 40nm miles to the east and covers an area of 499 square miles.

The new airspace will only be activated when unmanned flying is scheduled and be subject to stringent safety requirements, regulated by both the CAA and the Military Aviation Authority.

Ray Mann, the airport’s managing director said: “The CAA announcement to allow this specialised airspace is now the strongest recognition that West Wales is the focal point for UAS development in the UK.”

He continued: “The airspace adds significantly to the many specialised assets that already exist at the airport and gives Britain further opportunity to benefit from a market that is forecast to be worth £60 billion annually by 2020.“

The Welsh Government sponsored the proposal for the airspace as part of its ongoing initiative to encourage economic development in what has become a burgeoning aerospace sector. In line with CAA requirements, it conducted a full public consultation in 2009.

Over the past decade Mann’s company has invested nearly £4 million into West Wales Airport. Mann said: “The British aerospace industry, research organisations and academia now have an even greater opportunity to succeed in this sector, so gaining benefit for themselves and the wider economy.”

UAS have both military and civil applications. Mann said: “An unmanned aircraft has many useful applications, for instance it would be perfect in situations such as monitoring and reporting the recent ash clouds.” The new ruling means that West Wales Airport can now supply UAS operators with an extended range of flight options for systems approvals, training, payload integration and demonstration.

While West Wales Airport has a leading position in enabling unmanned flights, as a CAA licensed facility with a 1200 metre runway it will continue actively to encourage general aviation.  Air traffic management of the airspace has therefore been developed to ensure flexibility and ease of access, while maintaining the highest degree of flight safety for all users.

My dear friend and aviation journalist par excellence Brendan Gallagher died a week ago today. I wrote a tribute to him in my capacity as editor of Inflight magazine, (a job he held for many years – huge shoes to fill). You can read that here if you wish.

As this is a less formal medium, I’m posting a happy picture of him from a particularly fun trip.

I can hear his voice in my ear now…(I’m on deadline for a job). “Come on Betty, stop fannying around, there’s time enough for this later.”

I’ll crack on then.

Badger – you were  one of nature’s true gentlemen, and I was privileged to know you.

Badger tips his cap to the world

Lines from


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!


Liz Moscrop

Public thoughts on private jets


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