wind tunnels project

It’s a curious thing to be sock in the middle of the world’s biggest commercial airshow, fighter jets screaming above your head, countless business meetings and “Hulloahs how are you? What chew up to?” and bump into a close personal friend in odd spots on several occasions. We are both there to work of course, but both profoundly affected by recent personal events and wanting to explore more than just cash and connections. We are happily look for the angels in our lives. I won’t embarrass her by naming her but we love what we’re finding.

Naturally I’ve been in the chalets, too, laughing with Thales and Panasonic pals and catching up with the lovely ladies of Bombardier. Planning new exciting projects with them, and with Vadim Feldzer and Jean Rosanvallon, Dassault Falcon Jet’s CEO. We’ve talked the various family of stretched X’s at Falcon. I also like the evolution of Evo at Piaggio and the new 350 strutting its stuff on the static for the Canadians. There are plenty of headlines about all this from my pals at Ain, AvWeek and Flight, so do go there for the technical news.

What I think it all means for the industry is that the business aviation sector is on the up. And wearing my inflight entertainment and connectivity hat, the world is reshaping around invisible forces. It always did – we’re just cleverer at naming them now. Data is the buzzword. Sending it from the sky to the ground. Harvesting it, curating it, analysing it – selling it on. Who owns what and how can we manage it? The questions of the day. No matter what, we’re still bound for the foreseeable future to the narrow metal tube that sits in the sky and takes us to our destinations. The imaginary world we inhabit is purely our own though and this is where the invisible forces are coming into their elements. The latest designers are moving beyond the big 5 – visual and aural, oral, tactile and olfactory to give us an entire sensory experience involving memory and fantasy to take our minds off the fact we are travelling through time at warp speed. A haven in the sky

So heading to heaven, I left the showground early on Wednesday afternoon to fulfil a promise I’d made to an extraordinary young woman who has thrown her everything at an art project that truly took my breath away. Tatiana Ojeh heads up Artliner, and has worked on the Wind Tunnel Project along with V&A curator Salma Tuqan: There’s plenty of press about it – it draws to a close this weekend, and I’d urge you to go and see it. I happened to arrive at exactly the time Tatiana was showing Gerald Howarth MP, his chief of staff Rollo Hope and Stephen Ball CEO of Lockheed Martin UK. They generously allowed me to join their tour and, despite our vast differences in lifestyles and job roles, I’d say we were all pretty united in our feelings about the experience.

The installation takes place in 1917 and 1935 grade 1 and 2 listed buildings, which opened to the public for the first time this summer. Q121 is the largest return wind tunnel in Europe, built to test aeroplanes from the First World War onwards, including Spitfires and Concorde.

It consists of two big concrete circles facing each other. One contains an enormous mahogany fan with 600kg blades to suck air through the space between the two holes, and across the frames of aircraft placed in the middle. The fan backs onto a corridor segmented into three different rooms, which returns to the main hall, circulating the air in a continual smooth loop.

More concrete screens separate each room, comprising equally placed aerodynamic concrete fins to maintain the undisturbed airflow. A small amount of daylight plays around the chambers, adding to the ghostly presence of past technological hope and obsolete machines.

However, the installation starts with a wander into the mouth of the old Q121 tunnel, which is left largely untouched. There’s a cardboard collection of handprints of local children and workers who’d spent their careers in the tunnels. It was light and grey and dusty and enticing, with old adverts and equipment abandoned for decades. We were all in a jolly and curious frame of mind, as we entered the main artery to look at the enormous propeller, which was facing specially installed speakers, all done up like an old gramophone and equivalent boxes, suspended from the ceiling chains like a nineteen thirties schoolroom. Some naughty soul had once clambered up to the top of the round bricks surrounding the fan and graffitied his name on the ceiling. Ladders or a rope, I wondered? It is dusty, but still light, with the daylight from the opening creeping around the corner. The fan and its opposite cave were protected by large nets, which felt like they were preventing the beast from escaping and crushing us in its maw. Underneath the fan was anti torpedo chain mail netting, coincidentally left there. Gerald and I wandered over to feel it in our fingers. It was almost too heavy to lift, yet looked like simple coils of heavy twine. Nothing to do with the function of the tunnel, but felt absolutely in keeping with the nature of the project. Artist Thor McIntyre-Burnie had added seats facing the fan blade and played us a haunting piece of history.

19 May 1942, the BBC recorded the song of a nightingale in a garden in Surrey. They had done this annually since 1924, when it was the world’s first outside broadcast. However, at the heart of the war the microphone had accidentally captured the roar of bomber engines heading out to attack Mannheim. They stopped the broadcast in case the enemy got wind of the RAF’s intentions. The combination of the two birds, war and natural evokes chaos and piece, fear and faith, life and death.

Interestingly we listened to this piece at the exact time the F-18 was screaming overhead. And yet that worked perfectly for me, in a perverse way. The cumbersome dials and test switches housed in booths littering the building are the exoskeleton of today’s fast jets and data driven devices screeching around today’s skies. This is the evolution of aviation and we were sat in its bones.

Tatjana then led us into an anteroom behind the back of the fan. To reach this you walk through the beautiful curved pillars that look like a series of 40ft high fish gills. You are then at the back of the workings of the machinery and right into the pipe. A huge dusty empty room. The beginning of the ironed out airflow.

Another turn through more monstrous gills and you come to the best bit. The soul of the installation, in a long dark womb, with a door opening into the propeller hall. Tatjana closed the door and instructed us to turn off our cell phones or anything that gave artificial light so our eyes gradually got accustomed to the gloaming. We leaned back against the wall, which was covered in foam and supremely comfortable and comforting. There was silence. And then they played a moving rendition from a local male voice choir, some of whom were original engineers from the tunnels. The F-18 was blotted out. I did not want the moment to stop. Stillness in the heart of darkness, lighting up the chaos outside.

We paced back through the test lab and into the daylight. Said our goodbyes. The bus driver who took me back to the station told me that he had ferried generations of local families who had worked at the tunnels and wanted to show granddads and grandkids what it was all about.

Tatiana and Victoria asked me what I thought. That would be hard to articulate in a quick blog, and do an injustice to the installation. What I felt afterwards was stirred and joyful. For me, I can safely say your project was a success.

Thank you so much for inviting me to share the experience.

Well, well, well…there appears to be a major world airshow on my doorstep practically and I’ve not mentioned it in my blog at all. There are plenty good reasons, most of which centre on the fact this is a HUGE military and commercial show, and my little sphere of influence in the aeronautical world spans business and general aviation and cabin management for commercial.

Bumped into aviation’s favourite rockstar Bruce Dickinson at the Textron Aviation chalet. He was admiring the new Bell 525, but had apparently been incredibly impressed with the new Scorpion cockpit and was waxing lyrical about its capabilities. Am hoping to interview him (preferably while flying with him!) for my client Arabian/African Aerospace soon.


He’s fairly fresh off doing his dogfight stunt during the last Iron Maiden tour – so would be good to catch up on that, too!

Bruce Dickinson dogfight

Bruce Dickinson dogfight

Also had a great chat today with Rockwell Collins’ head of digital research Jeff Standerski about the way the industry is shaping up. You can read the results of that in the next edition of Inflight, the magazine I edit, at Essentially, Jeff reckons that connectivity is not what airlines are looking for in Asia today -rather they are looking ahead to when that becomes standard and how they can process payments effectively and sell more stuff on board.


gratuitous totty



Other hlights and lowlights, according to my wonderful friends at AIN, Aviation Week, and Flight Global, who are sweating it out putting together the humungous daily newspapers at the show – are enormous 777 orders,  a sad loss of the F-35, which won’t be making an appearance at the show, and David Cameron’s visit pledging more power to aerospace’s elbow.

My own personal favourites are:

  • Cessna’s Citation X+ has made its European debut after making its first transatlantic flight on Sunday.
  • AgustaWeestland has sold an emergency medical services version of the AW169 to the UK’s Kent, Sussex and Surrey Air Ambulance Trust, to be delivered next year.
  • Evektor has secured a $200 million investment from Malaysian company Aspirasi Pertiwi giving the Czech design and engineering company badly needed investment to complete certification of its flagship EV-55 Outback utility aircraft.
  • Italian airframe Piaggio announced a record $370 million order for Avanti EVO, from HK investors Bravia Capital for up to 50 of them.

Other stories that will affect my IFE world are the new proposed 200 seat variant of the Boeing Max 8 and the debut of the Airbus A330 NEO (Air Asia X has already ordered 50 of these). Both are upgrades to already flying types that will require better IFE and CMS. Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems have both scored wins on the cabin and avionics for the new 777X and Panasonic announced it had major success with screening the World Cup live on screen in the air during the games.

Big thanks, too, to Vadim Feldzer of Dassault Aviation, for hosting me at lunch today – alongside several other crazies he’s roped into extreme sports – and to Brandon O’Reilly and Elaine Turner at TAG Farnborough for yesterday’s extremely civilised affair at the Aviator on site hotel. Felt like a proper journalist – larding it about at lunch, chewing the fat with pals and watching the airshow, while others slogged. Singing for my supper now though folks!

I leave you with this  - an image that tickled me so much I had to get the iPhone out and video the movie – the Airbus A380 decimating the Boeing branding – or is it the other way round? :)


bessie coleman low res

Alas Bessie Coleman was not on display at the Dusable Museum of African American history in Chicago. And there were only a couple of mentions of the Tuskagee Airmen. They are all touring in an exhibit called “Black Wings.”

Turns out curator Charles Bethea’s grandfather was involved in setting up one of the first African American airfields in Maryland, and will share more about that with me at a later date via email. (Coz I’ll be quizzing him for sure!) 

So no Bessie and not much aviation, but what an education I had.

Charles asked me was I enjoying the exhibition. “No, that’s not the right word,” I said. He agreed, and suggested “Moved by” would better describe it. He was exactly right. It was a powerful and profound experience and I’m so glad I went. Some of the exhibits and displays moved me to tears, and I was deeply affected by the courage and the grace displayed by many people in the stories told there. And appalled by the inhumanity also on display.

Near the exit there’s a poem by co-founder Dr. Margaret T. Burroughs. She asks what will your legacy be? And points out that we all have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, whatever that is.

Food for thought indeed.

If you get a chance to visit, go.

2013 EBACE Photo : Darrin Vanselow © 2013 / 2014

First time visitors to the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, be warned – ensure you wear comfortable shoes, remember to eat, drink and go the loo during the day (could be just me on that one) and be ready to enjoy the magnificent array of aircraft on display. More than 50 aircraft of ‘em at last count. These guys are all out on the static park, which is conveniently situated outside the formerly full Hall 7 in Geneva’s Palexpo convention centre.

It is the second largest event on the international business aviation show circuit, and an important marker as to what’s going down. This year I’ll mostly be looking out for what the interiors guys have on show – both concepts from the big houses: AMAC, Associated Air Center, Jet Aviation, Lufthansa Technik, Gore Designs and the like – and some of the whizzy technical gear from the inflight entertainment and connectivity providers.

One of the most important hot topics is the advent of the next leap forward in satellite communication services, due to take place this year. This is Inmarsat’s new Ka-band GX (Global Xpress) satellite constellation. There are already several resellers, including industry giants Rockwell Collins and Thales. Panasonic Avionics, meanwhile, has news of its own using the Ku-band system. It says it can now reach hitherto unavailable areas of the world in subtropical regions. For more info, read the mag I edit – Inflight – online later this month at

Otherwise, take the time to enjoy the delights of Geneva. Expect to pay five times as much as you usually would for something as simple as a hamburger. But then revel in the fact all the hotels give out free public transport passes, and if you’re at the show as a serious visitor, chances are you’ll get fed and watered on site anyway!



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.


Liz Moscrop

Public thoughts on private jets


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