Humanity rules at the APEX EXPO 2014


Why of course you’d expect to see this as the first clip from one of the world’s most advanced aeronautical technology shows.

This gratuitous shoehorning in of one of my favourite clips does have a (tenuous) link. Gladys Ingle performed the stunt in Los Angeles, reasonably near to where I am, and she performed an air repair, having seen what was going on from the ground. Easier to do from a couple of thousand feet than with regular eyes from the ground to 30,000ft, but still…

Gladys was a member of the barnstorming troupe, 13 Black Cats. The video shows what must have been a regular impressively crazy staged stunt as part of her act. She helps out an aircraft that had lost one of its wheels. Starting on the ground with a wheel strapped to her back, Ingles flies up on one plane, walks down the wing, and then transfers to the plane with the missing wheel. She then shimmies down to the undercarriage, only a few feet from the spinning propeller, and replaces the wheel.

Thank God for the Gladys’s of this world. I love aviation crazies, especially the women.

Meanwhile life on the road for this aviation crazy goes on. This time I’m in California for the Airline Passenger Experience Expo (APEX), reporting in my role as editor of Inflight MagazineSitting in the meeting rooms at Anaheim Convention Center it is easy to become a little blasé about concepts such as mass data transfer, the connectedness of everything, and personal and machine health monitoring. Indeed, the people on the cutting edge of today’s aviation technologies speak matter of factly about ideas such as immersive mobile communications; smart sensory networks; machine-to-machine communication; cloud and fog computing; Big Data; augmented, mixed, and virtual reality. 


So I sit in happy acceptance and awe, and occasionally pinch myself to remind me that the OEMs are now only producing IT-enabled aircraft – sometimes called e-enabled aircraft or digital aircraft – that enable secure IP communications to and from the aircraft. This will change the face of flying as we know it since, the technology will have a major impact on the way airlines operate in the cockpit, cabin and on the ground. These next-generation aircraft will revolutionise our travel experiences, by offering digitised cabin connectivity, aircraft operations and aircraft communications as a matter of course.

There were 18 sessions on offer yesterday – impossible to cover them all. I opted for passenger experience – see my reports on the Inflight Magazine news feed. Especially see Michael Childers’ call to action on closed captioning.

I’m easily pleased, and of all the presentations I attended, Patrick McEneany of BMWDesignworksUSA‘s appealed enormously. He showed us a future concept overlay for a tablet to help passengers navigate the pain points through an airport. Where are the bathrooms? Do I have time to go before my flight? Where is Duty Free etc. That was cool, but my heart leapt with joy at the kids’ version with Disney characters literally guiding you throughout the airport right to your seat. And then they sit there and play driving the plane with you.

lee silber

The one that hit me most though was award winning motivational speaker Lee Silber, best-selling author of 19 books, including The Wild Idea Club. He had some great advice for the audience, but stunned us all with a personal announcement after his presentation. One of his key messages was “Don’t miss your life.” A couple of us simply had to track him down backstage afterwards to invite him to lunch, but he was taking his own counsel and meeting up with his kids for the afternoon to go play in the sunshine. His humble vulnerability at that moment underlined his message, so thanks again Lee for that. It’s a keeper.

The fun finished with no less than three evening events. I attended the Avion Awards dinner in my capacity as one of the judges. Though am not sure I’m allowed to reveal my identity as an adjudicator, so I won’t, obviously. Virgin America cleaned up. Emirates took top prize as the best overall and Norwegian did pretty well, too, with the advent of free connectivity and a moving map.


Then on to a Global Eagle social, where I politely approached a man whose face I knew to ask whether I’d interviewed him or – and I quote – he was a ‘grand pooh bah of the industry whose face I just knew from the media.” Happily for my reputation as the person not to take out tired, he turned out to be Dave Davis, Global Eagle’s CEO and one of the most powerful people on the IFEC scene today. Fortunately he’s also a nice guy with a sense of humour and I am promised an interview, so things can work out well.

Then onto the lovely Runway Girl herself – Mary Kirby’s social in conduction with the fun folks at Gogo. Great evening at the Ranch with a brilliant band, good company and great food and drink, so thanks a million for that.

So this particular media was truly social yesterday. and I have to say no matter how technologically advanced we become with our communications, a man machine interface can never truly replace the magic of one human being reaching out to another. I sense Gladys would have agreed…

I’ve finally seen an elephant fly (and I kind of wish I hadn’t…)

This is a most heartwarming, but sad, story running on the BBC earlier this week. The tale of an inspirational missionary nurse pilot with a huge heart and plenty of guts, who has my full admiration and respect. In March 2013 Gary Roberts received word that 100 elephants had been killed near the border between Chad and Cameroon. He took off in a Cessna and headed to the massacre site.

He said to the BBC: “It was a terrible sight. It was really just piles of bones that were left because the meat had been extracted.” Poachers had machine gunned the herd to death then taken the tusks, and locals then went in for the meat.

One baby elephant, however, had survived. Max was a nine month old calf weighing in at about 160kg (350lb). He had been tied to a tree, and the rope had dug into his neck, giving him infected wounds.

He  was scared, angry, grieving, hurt, dehydrated and hungry.  In a misguided effort to help, the locals had been feeding him cow’s milk, which is toxic for baby elephants, causing severe diarrhoea.

Gary and his team loaded him onto a truck and drove two hours back to the airstrip. The rescuers – including Roberts’ wife Wendy – stayed up all night with Max, finally luring him onto the aircraft with a bottle of specially formulated food for him.

Max took up almost the entire inside of the four-seater plane. “It was a tight fit definitely,” Gary told the BBC. It was also heavy with cargo with an upset tummy that might panic and move around, causing CoG problems, so the special passenger had to be strapped in.

“He was quite interested in playing with my controls, he would put his trunk forward and feel my hand and touch the controls and of course feel my face,” said Gary. In the understatement of the year he added, “It was a bit of a distraction but at the same time a unique experience.”

When they got Max home he just collapsed, he was so exhausted. Gary and Wendy slept out under the stars with him, and kept people away so he could rest. Elephants can give up and die when they are mourning loved ones, which was an extra source of worry.

The Jumbo Foundation Elephant Orphanage in Malawi stepped in, but sadly despite their skills, and their best efforts, Max only lived another 10 days.

Although Max’s flight ranks as Gary’s wildest, he has also delivered a baby mid-flight in Guyana, South America, alternating between the controls and the birth to deliver a baby boy.

For the whole story go here:

Another fabulous video to watch is this one, which first ran in October last year, but which I’ve just seen. If you’re a pilot, or if you simply just love flying and aviation, sit back, relax and enjoy…

Lastly, one of my favourite regular news feeds comes from Avweb. I’ve lifted the openers for the next two stories from them – go there for the full report on a British (quietly proud glow here that something good for aviation is emanating from these shores) group of designers, which is cracking on with a great design for electrical propulsion. Also social stuff and Piper calling the tune in China.


Electroflight, a team of British glider builders, recently announced it has teamed up with Williams Advanced Engineering to build a single-seat airplane that will set a new speed record for electric aircraft of 300 mph. Team Electroflight has built a mock-up of its design, and said it will be powered by a “unique contra-rotating electric propulsion system.” Williams is affiliated with the Williams Martini Formula One car-racing team, which is developing technology to compete in a new fully electric car-racing series, called Formula E, that is set to debut this month. “We are certain that the combined expertise of the teams will enable us to achieve our goal and break the world speed record for electric aircraft,” said Roger Targett, of Electroflight. The current speed record for electric flight is 220 mph.

AVweb also reports that SocialFlight, a web and mobile app for finding events and interesting places to fly, is expanding worldwide. This includes international aviation events, airports and Points-of-Interest (POIs) within walking distance of airports and aviation events. Local aviation METAR weather is also provided for most airports. Following this latest expansion, SocialFlight now contains nearly 30,000 airports around the globe and 300,000 restaurants, hotels, attractions, transportation options, campgrounds and aviation businesses, all within walking distance of an airport or aviation event.

Finally, Piper Aircraft  has received a Validation of Type Certificate issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for its top-of-the-line M-Class single-engine aircraft. The Piper M-Class series consists of the turboprop Piper Meridian, the pressurized piston-powered Piper Mirage and the unpressurized piston-powered Piper Matrix.

Tragedy at 200ft – averted!

Oh dear, ’tis August and silly season. Seems northern UK isn’t the place to run a low fare airline. Poor old honeymooners Liz and David Garratt were returning from their dream holiday to Rome, which was trashed when, according to the Manchester Evening News, they say their Jet2-com plane ‘surged’ back into the air just before touch-down.

The wicked pilot did a precautionary go around when reaching Manchester Airport. Apparently there was a separation issue, an Airbus A380 had recently vacated the runway. Trust me, the invisible trails that leaves in the air COULD possibly be fairly brutal to another airframe. Such as the one the lovebirds were sitting in.

Given the *could* nature of the event, the pilot sensibly opted to abort the landing and make another attempt for a safer approach. Which means climbing back up into the air. 

Which  scared seven kinds of you know what out of the honeymooners, completely annihilating the week of sun and fun they’d had – erasing it from their memories. You can see in the picture below why I love my peers in the news photography industry so much sometimes. Nothing staged about this image :)

sad couple

They are both ‘regular fliers,’ they told the paper, and were ‘terrified’ and ‘mystified’ about what had happened. In truth I experienced those emotions last time I had a colonoscopy, but opted to trust the doctor performing the procedure to have had the requisite years of training to know what he was doing.

I’m being a bit harsh though since Liz, 54, a freelance marketer from Glossop, is quoted as saying: “We were about 200ft from the ground when there was a loud shudder and the plane took off again at full power.”

So she obviously realised the pilot was performing the procedure correctly. 

She continued, “There was a gasp around the cabin and there was no information until we climbed out so we didn’t know what was going on – it felt urgent and frightening.”

Again, she’s cottoned on to the safe airmanship displayed. 

Fair enough, the event could have been upsetting to lots of people on board, especially those who didn’t understand what was happening – but to call the paper afterwards…

They are lucky b*stards I say. I’ve only ever been fortunate enough to be in three go arounds on commercial airliners. Funniest was going into Friedrichshafen for the airshow a few years ago. Captain was well aware he had a plane full of airheads going to the show, so explained in reasonably graphic language how the Piper that wasn’t supposed to be on short finals at the time was responsible for our extra time in the air!

I nabbed the story from the Manchester Evening News via a friend on Facebook. Click for the full story and picture of the couple looking suitably disgruntled….

Looks like Liz and David will only be holidaying at home or places they can drive to in future. Liz said, “When we rang the airport they said it was common place. If this is common place I will never fly again.”

David, 49, a property developer, added: “All we wanted was a proper explanation, an apology and acknowledgement for how afraid everyone in the cabin was.” A spokeswoman said “ We apologise for any inconvenience caused by this routine procedure.” I so wish she hadn’t. 

An apology for ensuring everyone is safe? What next, someone suing the airline for ensuring its aircraft are airworthy before taking off with passengers on board. Well, um, yes, actually…


Manchester really isn’t a lucky spot for the airline. A local sued it for grounding an aircraft due to a fault with a fuel line. The passenger (not named in the paper as an aviation mechanic or engineer of any sort) got pissed off at a 27 hour delay. That’s understandable – he had his family with him and was stuck in Malaga for an extra day. But, he said, “technical faults were ‘inherent in the running of an aircraft’ and should therefore not be considered an extraordinary circumstance.” The delay was caused by a wiring defect in a fuel valve circuit.

I dunno about you. I hear some scary stories about airlines cutting maintenance costs in order to keep flying to increasingly tight schedules at lower prices. I’d still ALWAYS rather pay the extra fare than take a risk on getting into a potentially unsafe machine. And fares will go up for stupid reasons if there are a flood of spurious compensation claims. Which in turn could force carriers to make cost savings elsewhere…. 

Bonhomme swoops to victory. picture courtesy of Red Bull media

No Bull this time – just admiration for a great air race!

Last Friday evening saw me head out to Ascot with my former flying instructor Tim Baish (who’s setting up an interesting new business, which I’ll keep you posted about as it unfurls). We were guests of Cirrus at the pre Red Bull Air Race event, and the party was a casual yet deluxe affair with plenty of great food, drinks and most importantly, company. 

The pilots were all on hand to meet us and were unfailingly polite and happy to chat, despite the fact they were prepping for an intense weekend of competition.  I was happy to see my pals Greg Gibson (Mike Goulian’s support team) Nicolas Ivanoff and Jean Paul Kieffer (Nicolas’ team coordinator and photographer) and the fabulous Jim DiMatteo (Red Bull Race Director)  from Oshkosh a fortnight ago, who were perfectly happy to carry on larking around with me. 

redbullnicrbgregandmike rbtimandpaul


For those of you looking for more in-depth coverage of the fantastic event –  go to Jets Magazine or Flyer Magazine for those superb editors and pillars of British GA magazine journalism Steve Bridgewater and Ian Seager were there, too.

If you haven’t seen them, the Red Bull Air Races are a fantastic watch, comprising an international series of air races in which competitors have to navigate a challenging obstacle course in the fastest time. Pilots fly individually against the clock and have to complete tight turns through a slalom course consisting of pylons, known as “Air Gates.”

The races are held mainly over water near cities, but are also held at airfields or natural wonders. They are accompanied by a supporting program of show flights. Races are usually flown on weekends with the first day for qualification then knockout finals the day after. The events attract large crowds and are broadcast, both live and taped, in many nations.

At each venue, the top nine places earn World Championship points. The air racer with the most points at the end of the Championship becomes Red Bull Air Race World Champion. 

This Sunday at Ascot – (and discerning readers will note how much of this text is nicked from the Red Bull site..) in front of a 30,000 crowd – Britain’s Paul Bonhomme produced a stunning flight to secure victory in the thrilling Final Four round, stopping the clock at 1m 11.579s. His flawless flying edged fellow Brit and birthday boy Nigel Lamb into second place with a time of 1:11.750, while France’s Nicolas Ivanoff (1:11.884) claimed third.

The win moves him to within two points of current championship leader Hannes Arch after the Austrian suffered his worst result of 2014 to date. He now leads Bonhomme 43 points to 41 heading into the next round at the Texas Motor Speedway in Dallas on September 6–7, and with just three rounds of flying left in 2014, the championship battle between to duo looks set to be a thrilling one.

Bonhomme swoops to victory. picture courtesy of Red Bull media

Bonhomme swoops to victory. picture courtesy of Red Bull media

Am aiming to be at Vegas to watch, so will keep you posted!

Oshkosh wrap up. Abandoning the Wenzel…

Finally…am writing this from the comfort of my own home in London. The trip was a blast from start to finish. The Hilton evening actually marked the last night in the Wenzel. I was soooo beat after 8 nights camping in a tiny tent. Prepared to soldier on, but so many people saw the state of me on Friday morning that I had several offers of air beds for the evening. Hat tips to Amy Laboda and Paul Berterolli of Avweb for their generosity in offering me something more comfortable.  However, my knight in shining armour turned out to be Philippe de Segovia, the PR guy for Daher Socata. I had given him a book and interviewed him about camping for the epic opus that will be released next week. He was leaving Camp S for foreign parts (returning home to France) and wondered whether I might like to take over his trailer for the evening. I did actually kiss him – caught on camera for posterity. I was so exhausted by that point. The Wenzel had done sterling service, but had leaked slightly in the night (honestly it was it and not me. If I had, I had become so feral by then that frankly I wouldn’t have cared anyway.)

keys to the kingdomphilippe

forumsI did my best to remain around the show and act in a semi professional manner, but was so thrilled by the prospect of a real bed and a private space for the night that I was practically skipping around the ground. Which is my excuse for a very cheeky conversation I had with the Smoke n Thunder guys, particularly Steve the Sausage Man. See pictured. Wish I could ID Dax though. Steve’s pal told me he was really famous. I thought he was Emilio Estevez, but was in the resounding minority of one. That’s being a Brit for ya.

sausage man

I hoofed it over to Camp Scholle just as the heavens opened big time. A tiny beautiful Welsh lady called Jude hailed me over. God, I”m so witty, did you get that everyone? ‘hailed’ me over. Comic genius. “Hailed me over” Wow!  Anyways…Jude and her son Matt hefted me and the innards of the Wenzel over to 105 Shaik Avenue, off’ve 35th. I donated the plant and some sundries to them and squelched my way into my new home ecstatically.

jude and matt

I haven’t mentioned what else was going on all around the show. Press conferences, exhibits, lots and lots and lots of flying. Special areas dedicated to Warbirds, Ultralights and Innovation. Workshops. Forums. Restaurants. You name it, it was going down.

busy ol static

What was a real pleasure though was getting ready – having a shower in my very own trailer. I didn’t want to leave. But eventually wound up, courtesy of chauffeur friend Jeff,  at scheme designer Craig Barnett’s house for a lovely party. That I had to leave almost as soon as I arrived at since I had no clue how I’d get back to camp Scholle, so gladly accepted a lift from the Smiths, a kindly British couple who knew the ropes of scooting around Oshkosh.

The next day saw me up bright and early for the annual 5k run, which I ran in my best time ever. Huzzah, despite the Wenzel and another fun trawl around the show, getting in depth interviews with the likes of the famous Smoke n Thunder guys. Then another cozy night in the trailer after watching the night airshow with the lovely Borghi family, taking in the sounds and sights of the South African Camp on the way back – and on to the Hilton for my last night in Osh. The fabulous James W brought me back to NYC in his Mooney and I’ve been buzzing on the show since. If you’re looking for the hard news from the show go to or or or the EAA website itself If you’re looking for some entertaining prating about capturing some of the finest points of the show, come back here later in the week, where we’re laying it all down in glorious motion technicolour.

south africans southa frican ladies sweepstakes tower well sweaty betty 1408_oww

Oshkosh day 4 – Waking up at the Wenzel

waking up in the wenzel


Well, surprisingly enough to all concerned (i.e. me) I’m still hanging in at he Wenzel. Have given up a great deal semblance of civilisation now and become almost feral. If I’m hungry I insist on eating. Anything. Donuts, unidentifiable meat in white soggy bread, bright coloured cupcakes. Since there’s sugar in everything (especially the vegetables) I’m resigned to eczema on my face and a bloated stomach. Goes with the scruffy hair and damp clothes littering the Wenzel.

I don’t think I actually smell bad. I’ve been showering and wearing clean clothes, but if I do, nobody’s been impolite enough to tell me. What can I tell you about yesterday? The lovely neighbours Sherry and Clay left for Chicago. They were great fun and I”m missing them already. They did tell me before they left that we are parked in the handicap area of Camp Scholler, which is why we got such a great accessible spot. Apologies to all concerned. Yet another blooper. Once I got on site yesterday I was scooped up by the lovely Steve Els, a fellow journalist, who snuck me into the Harzell media lunch area. I troughed. I poked Simon Caldecott, CEO of Piper Aircraft, to share thumbs ups as we’re both from the Wirral in Merseyside, near Liverpool UK. As he was speaking at his presser yesterday all I could think was how familiar I am with that twang. I can recognise one of my own anywhere, no matter how long he’s been away from the homestead.

After some serious sugar filled meat and two veg, I headed over to talk to my pal Kate Dougherty of Kestrel. And roped her and Alan Klapmeier into my incisive hard hitting news video (to be revealed after the show when I can upload some files).alan k

I am delighted to report that one of aviation’s finest pioneers totally threw himself into the spirit of the thing, to the extent of arranging a ladder and directing me on exactly how to shoot it. The result was very funny, and if he ever decides to stop making aircraft, a new career in Hollywood beckons I’m sure…

Kate also introduced me to the secret palace of pleasures behind their booth. But my lips must remain sealed for now.



And then I hitched a ride with my pal Jeff up to the North 40 to go and stand on the roof there, talk camping to one of the veterans and enjoy the warbirds landing up close and personal on the runway. And a look at all the people camped out. A quick visit to the Mooney barbecue – they were generous enough to offer pizza, beer and coke, and then I snuck into the Hamilton watches event at the museum to meet Matt. Steve Pope of Flying magazine was there and gave me the lowdown on some of the cool aircraft on display.



We also played flying simulators and were privileged enough to see the trailer for the new film, sponsored by Hamilton Watches. They also showed a film about Air Zermatt, the Swiss rescue helicopter pilots. What those guys do is nothing short of heroic. Hamilton’s ambassador Red Bull pilot Nicolas Ivanoff was also on hand and joined in my ridiculous video – God bless him. Greg Gibson, director of business development at Sun-n-fun also joined in the jollities.

As if that wasn’t enough fun, we headed over to the famous Acey Doucey bar for the Gama event. The great and the good were on hand, and I spent a happy evening chewing the fat with Matt, Steve, Mark Phelps, and Philippe De Segovia and Wayman Luy test pilot for Daher Socata. Also checked with Captain Steve Taylor of Boeing whether he’d brought a Dreamliner along to camp out under the wing.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that I’d also been to a wonderful annual party hosted by Pat and Steve Owen at their house. They run it every year and God knows how Pat finds time to cook up a storm and turn her beautiful garden into a party place. But she does, and I’m entirely grateful for their hospitality.

pat and steve


And so back to the Wenzel…

Another early start on Thursday. Not because I have to, more because I have to if you get my drift . It’s not the kind of place you want to lie in. Sun’s up. It’s bright inside. There is a lot of noise outside. Time to get up and enjoy one of those invigorating showers at Cell Block H. Followed by a soapy cup of coffee at the Red Barn restaurant.  Horrible news on site when I arrived. A Breezy had crashed killing the pilot and leaving his passenger in a critical condition. Very sobering.

Matt and I then headed over to an annual event at Osh – meet the administrators. What a fantastic idea. I wish they’d do more of this in the UK and in Europe. All the major association heads were there, and evidently meet regularly with Michael Huerta and his team at the FAA. Jack Pelton led the discussion, asking about Class 3 medicals,. EAA and AOPA are petitioning to exempt recreational pilots from needing Class 3 medicals. Mr Huerta also talked at great length about the ADSB mandate for all aircraft flying in US classified airspace, and about the administration’s efforts (alongside the associations present) to improve safety with a monthly weather briefing.

michael and jack


It was a fascinating discussion, then Jack and Ed Bolen (NBAA chief) kindly also joined in my video game. Alas, I didn’t hit the record button on Jack’s speech, so will have to ask him again. Once more demonstrating what a total pratt I can be :)

And so to lunch with Matt, followed by a scoot over to see Amelia Earhart. I”m a big fan. I think she’s doing a wonderful job promoting flying to young people, and was lucky to hit the stand just as one of the scholarship winners Sheridan B Godfrey had arrived. I gave Amelia a copy of my book and she was gracious enough to pose for a pic with it. I watched her deal with the public and she really is a true ambassador for women in aviation. I’m very impressed.


another wander around the site, and lucky enough to bump into another young crew, who are promoting Aviation Careers Education. The kids were totally excited and about to get a tour of the tower, but generously posed for a pic for this. Thanks guys!



I missed seeing the God guy (he blesses flight plans apparently and has a booth). But met up with Matt and Jeff again (via a quick visit to Kate’s house of pleasure at Kestrel because Hall C was CLOSED).  Then nipped over to the Warbird’s cafe, where we got caught in torrential rain. Fortunately that gave me the opportunity to meet the fireworks crew, who add the pyrotechnics to the night display. Kathy Ploekelmann is the first female member and says the thing that keeps her thrilled is the roar of the crowd. They were all pretty psyched to be at Osh and I have to say from what I saw last night, the show is something else.


After the downpour I felt uncharacteristically subdued and headed to the Hilton for shelter from the rain and a bit of much needed downtime. Personal space is not that available when camping, and this place is so infectiously social that I keep getting sucked into great conversations and fun times with people. All lovely of course, but I usually need a bit of R&R on my own for a time.

I have two ambitions here that I cannot reveal until after they have been done. Now am about to sign off and wait for my chariot in the form of Mr Thurber to take me back to the mothership.