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Showing posts from 2008

Birds-eye View

I was up over the Bluewater and Lakeside shopping centres at noon today as a photo flight for one of the national newspapers. While everyone, the media included, appears to expect a record number of shoppers, I can tell you that neither one of the two shopping centres had what I would describe as an unusual amount of traffic and I did actually wonder if John Lewis was closed.

If I hadn't known it was Boxing Day, I might have thought of it as being a normal Saturday afternoon's trade!

According to the Dail Mail: "At Bluewater near Dartford, Kent, bargain hunters began queueing at 7am for a 9am start, clogging up surrounding roads. The centre's 13,000 car parking spaces were full by mid-morning."

That's not what I saw with my 'Birds-eye view' at the same time and not much traffic on the motorways either!

Xmas Eve Snaps

Captain Snap was flitting about just before noon today, taking photographs of the Christmas Eve activity below and particularly at the Westwood Cross shopping centre on the Isle of Thanet.
I've uploaded some of my photos which take in Westgate, Margate and Westwood Cross on to Flickr and you can find these here.
I can't admit to seeing as many people shopping as I would have expected at the peak time of the retail season but judge for yourselves!
My apologies for the quality as they are not as sharp as I would wish. The light is very poor today and the best my camera could offer for a high-speed aerial setting was ASA 500. I'm tasked with going over Bluewater for one of the daily papers on Boxing Day and so I'm hoping for rather better conditions then.

Falling with Style

Not for the nervous flyer perhaps but the video below displays such outstanding airmanship on the part of the pilot, that other than gawp with admiration at his skill and fast reactions, I can't really pass comment!

Hot Flush - Warm Mac

When I first had an Apple 'MAC' Powerbook, some years ago, I wasn't really that impressed but since then, I've started using Windows Vista and I keep looking longingly at Macintosh adverts, wishing I could afford one.

There was a time that Apple could boast that the Macintosh platform was a pretty safe place to hide from computer viruses and malware but not anymore. So best post this YouTube advert quickly before Apple tries to deny it ever existed!

Buy Now - Pay Later

I ventured out into the gale and the near-zero temperatures for a run along the coast this morning. What three kayakers were doing in the bay was anyone's guess; members of the Special Boat Service practising perhaps? I didn't last long as the appearance of sleet drove me back inside but from the direction of Margate, I could still hear the muffled roar from the 'Big Sky' beach races taking place on the sands. I'm not convinced that the end of November is such a great date to put on a public spectacle of this kind but I take my hat off to everyone involved in such a spectacular battle against the forces of nature.

Summer is now a long way off and there's not much flying to be had either. The embedded video is from another weekend, Radio One's 'Big Weekend' last May, where the weather was warmer and kinder and I had two aircraft sitting over Maidstone. You can see from the video two banners laid out between two sets of poles as one aircraft after the …


Plans for the 2009 ecrime congress seem to be coming along nicely. We now have an outstanding selection of speakers from companies that include Rolls Royce, Daimler Chrysler and France Telecom and now we need to start refining the agenda in time for Christmas.

It's that damp and miserable time of year which invariably keeps pilots on the ground. I narrowly avoided being stranded at Rochester on Sunday afternoon, when the cloud and persistent drizzle descended on the airfield but just managed to escape underneath it before sunset. Looking at the price of aviation fuel, I notice that my bill was £2,400 in the last financial year for Avgas and £500 higher for the car, which runs on diesel; so a noticeable bump in the cost of doing business which is impossible to pass on in the present economic climate.

Some things are of course cheaper. I bought a new pair of good running shoes last week, reduced from £75 to £24 which I thought was a bargain. I've found I can run again after six ye…

Unwilling Passenger

Remembrance Sunday and I noticed that the sound of the canon from the ceremony at Margate echoed toward the war memorial on the clifftop here at Westgate.

I'm reminded of three members of my own family who took part in World War I. There was my paternal grandfather, pictured as a young officer fresh from public school, who was wounded and never spoke once about his experiences.

My maternal great grand-father, who lived here in Westgate and London and who volunteered, like the novellist Ernest Hemingway, to be an ambulance driver for the Belgian army at the very start of the war in 1914. From there, he became one of the first official war photographers, working for the Illustrated London News and survived, unscathed, retiring back to a quieter life in Westgate on Sea.

I still have his small Kodak camera, in excellent working condition, in its original leather case sitting on the shelf opposite, marked with the magazine's name on the inside.

Then there was Arthur Carr Osburn DSO, my…

Captain Snap

'Captain Snap' was in the air for the Daily Mail yesterday, the target of interest being Heather Mills' swimming pool in Sussex.
I had been to the house once before about two years ago, when the local authority asked for some photos of an outbuilding extension but this time, there is reportedly some kind of planning dispute involving the lovely Heather's new swimming pool - I assume she received the house as part of the divorce settlement with Sir Paul - and at least two newspapers asked for photos with the Daily Mail seeking an exclusive.

Friday was the first decent break in the weather for a week and offered just enough time and sunshine to take the required photos. No sign of Heather though. If she's any sense she'll be far away in the sunshine. Captain Snap would be too but needs a larger aircraft to get to the West Indies without a stop!
Photo copyright Airads 2008


I just realised that I haven't written an entry for ages!

It's been a busy few weeks but isn't always so?

I've been chairing the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Europe event in Brussels and the e-Evidence conference in London. Somewhere in between I also had to sit two of the six exams I have to take for my commercial pilot's instrument rating at Gatwick.

Fortunately all of these passed without a hitch other than almost two weeks of an appalling cold caught somewhere in-between.

Today, I'm supposed to be doing night circuits at Manston and photographing Heather Mills' swimming pool for the newspapers. However, with the clouds down at around 600 feet, neither are going to take place and poor Heather will have to wait to see any aerial shots of her swimming pool in The Sun. Ironically, I was over the same house in Sussex a couple of year's ago - I think I made a Blog entry then - when the local authority asked for photographs of the extension to the barn I think.…

Welcome Fusion Man

Out this afernoon for the The Sun Newspaper and was the first to welcome pilot Yves Rossy today as he became the first person to fly between France and England on Friday with a jetpack strapped to his back.

The simple kerosene-burning jet turbines propelled him the 22 miles between Calais and Dover at speeds of up to 120 mph. The journey took just under 10 minutes.

The 49-year-old Rossy, who calls himself "Fusion Man," ignited the jets inside a plane before jumping out more than 8,000 feet above ground.

After a period of free fall he opened the wing and soared across the water. With no steering controls, the only way to change direction was like a bird, moving his head and back.

When he reached Dover, he released his parachute and drifted down gently before landing in a field with The Sun newspaper's welcome - the banner behind my aircraft - right behind him.

Rossy traced the route of French aviator Louis Bleriot, who became the first person to fly across the Channel in an ai…

Vision On

Floating over Premier League games today with the BT Vision banner.

Our presence clearly didn't help the score between Tottenham and Wigan; a nil, nil draw but arriving as I did just before the match started, I'm sure lots of people saw the banner; the same being true of the match at Middlesborough earlier.

It's a really big banner and 30 feet high and you have to appreciate the effect it has on the performance of a small aircraft. You have to watch something that big very carefully indeed and even the simplest manoeuvers demand considerable effort and attention; particularly to the aircraft speed and the potential for a stall.

It's certainly not an occupation for nervous flyers or even nervous pilots. Today with a nice collection of power lines situated on the climb out, attention to both detail and aircraft performance were absolutely vital.

Back to work now on the 2009 ecrime congress in complete contrast to being a flying advertising platform. Without a doubt, variety …


So, I've decided to go after an instrument rating; more money, more exams and even more stress but perhaps I'll be able to fly something much bigger at the end of it all, rather than simple banner tugging, who knows? I've got to get through more navigation and maths work first.

I've spent several sweaty hours over the Reading festival today and I probably look as tired and bedraggled as the pilots in the photo.

Ironically, I saw a couple of Spitfires and two World War I fighters, a Nieuport and an SE5A in close formation this afternoon, a wonderful sight from a bygone age.

On Auto-Pilot

It's almost as if I had forgotten to post to my weblog completely in recent weeks!

I guess I've been busy with the Airads business and just as importantly, finishing-off my commercial pilot's license.
Having passed the final flight test (GFT) , with no more right to fly in God's clean air than a weasel or at least I'm sure the CAA examiner thought so, now what? The GFT and the pre-test, the 170A were each two hours of stress-filled torture that left me wondering why, at my age, I was putting myself through it. Almost two years of my life has been lost in cramming for the exams and learning to fly with the absolute precision demanded of a commercial pilot.
After over ten years of flying about, you might think that I could fly already. True, but rather like taking an advanced driving test, one has to be able to demonstrate control and knowledge of a complex aircraft in a manner which is acceptable to the CAA and their examiners as a public transport pilot. It comes as a…

In the Twilight Zone

I’m living in the twilight zone or at least that’s what it looks like to me.

Do you remember, Mitch Kapor, Ray Noorda or even Philippe Khan? If the answer is ”No”, then I’m showing my age as the fourth and greatest software Musketeer, Bill Gates leaves the stage vacant for Google, to spend his retirement doing good works for humanity with the wealth of his Windows revolution.

There was of course a time before Microsoft ruled the earth and today I can look back at episodes of the industry’s history with real nostalgia; such as when four of us started a small company called Novell (UK) in London’s Regent Street or when I shared a Boston taxi, with a chap called Ray Ozzie, who had just been demonstrating a product called ‘Notes’ to the senior management of Lotus Development.

“I’d rather see the Red Army marching down Wall Street than a thousand Visual Basic programmers” Borland’s Philippe Kahn once told me when I met him in California. It didn’t quite happen as he predicted but the 80’s i…

Alex Allan - Get Well Soon

I'm very sorry to hear that my old friend, Alex Allan, the present chair of JIC, the Joint Intelligence Committee has been taken seriously ill.

Alex, was of course the original e-Envoy and I dropped into to see him for tea and a chat at the Cabinet Office a few of months ago. Until most recently, he was in charge of the Ministry of Justice and last week, I gave a technology presentation to the Ministry's IT people at the QEII conference centre in London.

Anyway, I do hope that Alex recovers swiftly, he's a charismatic character, with a passionate interest in new technologies as well as the pop group, 'The Grateful Dead'; an unusual mix for a senior civil servant.

Get well soon!


Two busy days at the Isle of Wight Festival over the weekend, which meant that I missed the Margate Airshow, which is a pity. However, lots of good coverage over the Isle of Wight and two marriage proposals, so a good result.

I've been working on the presentation to the Ministry of Justice next week. It's a personal view on technology, eGovernment and the overall meaning of life, well almost but 'Scrat' from the movie, 'Ice Age' does put in a brief video appearance to help the presentation along.

Which reminds me, as I'm typing away here, I have to write a column for the local newspaper, "YourThanet" before I forget!

In Search of Justice

So far June is turning into a disappointment, at least where flying weather is concerned. I had to abandon a marriage proposal over Canterbury yesterday on account of the low cloud and the drizzle. One feels desparately bad for the client but even trying one's best and warning that "It's very iffy", the ordinary man in the street doesn't understand what's involved in the operation and that I'm certainly not going to risk crashing an aircraft in a futile attempt to "pop the question."

I suspect it's all because the public are used to stepping on board the occasional Easyjet flight to Barcelona, whatever the weather and expect to arrive without incident. There's a world of difference however between a Boeing 737, flying at 35,000 feet with tens of millions of dollars of instrumentation and a Cessna 172, flying ten feet off the ground trying to "hook" a banner in poor visibility and a strong crosswind. The one involves mostly press…

Who Am I Today?

It's one of those week's where I start to exhibit a split personality!

I was in London on Wednesday, chairing a very succesful "IP Risk 2008" conference but at the same time, the banner advertising season is starting to peak, both in terms of booking and enquiries. As a result, swapping hats and personalities, picking up aircraft and delivering speeches, is all a little challenging at times, leading me to wonder, "Who am I today?"

"Variety" is of course "the spice of life" but whoever said that can't have had an aviation business to run while simultaneously worrying over rising fuel prices and the global economic implications of growing Chinese intellectual property theft on a scale which is hard to imagine!

Red Arrows About

Not a great Bank Holiday weekend. Two days work in Skegness postponed until July and a Saturday wedding at Quex park, 'Blown away' by the strong winds. It's always annoying when the 'Great British Summer' starts playing its tricks but let's hope that June wll live up to expectations and that July won't be an unhappy repeat of 2007, with its constant rain and flooding in the South West.

With no scheduled flights on for Airads today, the youngest member of our team, thirteen-year old Charlotte, managed to persuade the Red Arrows to sign her logbook at Manston today. As she's been flying with me since the tender age of seven, she's planning on her own career in aviation and from the photograph, she's obviously making the right friends!

Cannes 2008

No flying today, far too windy and lucky that nothing was booked in the flying departments I have one aircraft out for its annual service until at least Saturday and the second rapidly running out of working hours until it's own 'Annual' in two weeks.

As these are working aircraft, they are subject to 50 hour servicing and a complete annual maintenance regime every twelve months. Very expensive and they never work out to suit the schedule. Once you reach 50 hours, that's it. Everything stops until the full maintenance check has been done at an authorised engineering facility; and you can't just roll-up like QuickFit!

Seriously though, we were asked by a client if we could fly the event but French 'Red Tape' stood in the way, which is ironic, in a way, as both my grandparents were big 'Stars' of the pre-war French cinema and one is buried there.

A Big Weekend

Worn out with flying today! I had two aircraft up simultaneously for several hours above the Radio One 'Big Weekend' today at Mote Park in Maidstone, both promoting different music events for a client.

We are back again on Sunday morning and lunchtime and I hope to be able to put together a short, 'YouTube' video at some point.

In the meantime, here's a link to all today's aerial photos of the event, taken as we circled it. The weather was great!

Meanwhile, I hear that all the free photos I took of the Isle of Thanet, which I placed in a Flickr library under a creative commons, non-commercial license, for people to share, appear to have found their way on to eBay, sold on CD's. I can't say that I'm happy with the idea.

Easy Tallinn in Estonia

I've been too busy to 'Blog' of late but at least I'm now home, after a very pleasant business trip to the lovely city of Tallinn, capital of Estonia.

It's a very easy trip to Tallinn. £43 each way with Easyjet out of Stansted airport and then, arriving at the other end, it took about thrity minutes, to work through immigration, find a taxi and arrive at the city's splendid Radisson SAS hotel.

I was chairing the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Europe conference and with two hundred delegates from banks and businesses across the Baltic states, there's a visible thirst for knowledge.

The old town of Tallinn is delightful, packed with bars and restaurants and massage parlours too, should such a thing take your fancy. I highly recommend 'Troika' the Russian restaurant in the main square. Expensive but great service and wonderful food helped along with ice cold local vodka and Russian beer.

English is spoken fluently. So well in fact that it puts the cast of BBC…

Backing Boris

A frantic rush to an airfield on the Eastern edge of London this morning in time to fly a banner supporting Boris Johnson's campaign for Mayor, today being the big day of the London and local elections.

The thunderstorms presented a bit of a problem, very unusual so early in the day but we got there, flew the banner and hopefully had the photos back in time to meet the Eveing Standard's deadline.

Short Story

A short cybercrime story on Al Jazeera TV on Sunday, reminded me that the Infosec show in London had passed me by, almost unnoticed this year. I had been speaking at the IDC conference in Milan and missed my annual pilgrimage to the great security bazaar at London’s Olympia.

I can’t honestly remember how long Infosec has been running but an observer from another planet might be forgiven for asking why, after all this time, the security industry and government between them, have failed to deliver any sure-fire solutions for dealing with a global problem, beyond throwing ever larger amounts of money at it?

In time for Infosec 2003, I wrote a Microsoft-sponsored report entitled ‘A Matter of Trust’, which as I’m sure you will guess, focused on the company’s ‘Trustworthy Computing’ initiative. Five years further into the search for this elusive digital equivalent of the Holy Grail, I’m reminded of one of my comments:

“This problem brings us to where we are today, at the beginning of 2003, loo…

Bang Face

A frenetic day on Saturday, with the Churchill Estates banner to fly over North London and a second, over Camber Sands, in the afternoon. I won't pretend to understand what the message on the latter: "Bang Face Hard Crew" meant, I just fly them on demand and I certainly wondered what the people on the beach below made of it all.

We used Lydd Airport for the first time in ages to operate from and they were extremely helpful. Below, there's a small YouTube video of the view back into the airport when the job was done.

I'm tempted to fly a banner with "I'm Backing Boris" over London this week. If only to annoy Ken Livingstone!

Final Approach

Up above the Isle of Thanet this morning with friends, testing out my new video camera and having a quick practise session in TG's Piper Arrow. It's a bit quicker than my sedate, banner-towing, Cessnas with a constant speed propellor and a retractable undercarriage but alot of fun once one has the measure of it; it's a bit twitchy at first.

The video, shot by Alasdair Bruce, shows Thanet from above and the approach in Manston airport's runway 28.

St George's Day 2008

Staying with a football theme, The Sport Academy in Loughton, North London, called me at short notice, yesterday, asking us to fly a banner promoting their St George's Day football, 'Fun Day'.

Given that Monday's weather was dire, I didn't have any great hopes that we might be able to do it but today, by remarkable contrast, was like an early summer's day, with glorious sunshine over the south-east of England.

And so it was back to Daymns Hall, now renamed as Hornchurch airfield, to set-up and collect the banner for the 'Fun Day' which all went to plan and included a short YouTube video as well.

I really must buy a new camcorder with so many customer videos now going online.

The Hitchhiker

A trying day. The weather was pretty awful until late afternoon and this morning I had to fly one aircraft to Rochester, to collect a second to take to Deanland for a maintenance inspection.

It was hard enough to find Rochester in the first place and when I did, it was to find my my old friend 'Captain Bob' there as well, having arrived in the big 'Long Ranger' helicopter a little earlier. Nobody else it seems was crazy enough to be flying.

After a delay of an hour while I waited for a predicted improvement in the weather, which never came, the wind was now gusting close to 30kts and so I decided to make an initial try for Deanland. All well and good until I reached Maidstone when all of a sudden, I felt I had been rammed by a truck in mid-air and dropped several hundred feet. My head slammed into the aircraft roof and any loose item was flung across the aircraft. This was turbulence of a kind that I have never experienced before but fortunately it was gone as quickly as…

Margate - Struggling on the Fringes?

I see that I'm given a quote in today's Observer newspaper story on Margate, a fair account, I thought, written by Home Affairs Editor, Jamie Doward, who paid the town a visit last week.

Jamie has clearly used several local weblogs, as well as a meeting with our local council leader, Sandy Ezekiel, as the backdrop for his story, which shows Margate fighting for a future of urban regeneration and an arts renaissance, against an uncomfortable backdrop of arson, deprivation and crime.

I commented: "The seaside towns of southern England increasingly find themselves struggling on the fringes of the London-centric economy, ill-prepared to meet the harsher economic realities of a changing Britain" and I think this is true but with Margate at least, having a vision of what it wants to be once the Turner Contemporary gallery is built.

The future of Margate is however a subject which stimulates strong emotions and you may recall I suspended my popular ThanetLife weblog for just t…

Fabulous Fabio from Milan

I wondered at first if I was the only person who recognised the man in the seat across the aisle on my Alitalia flight from Milan yesterday?

On the most frantic day trip abroad I have ever experienced, I was outward bound – almost an hour late – from Heathrow at just after 10am to the home of the Italian fashion trade, Emporio Armani or that was what it said on one of the giant aircraft hangars.
I had a speech on ecrime and cyber-terrorism to deliver to an IDC conference at the city’s Marriot hotel, followed by a newspaper interview with a leading Italian daily but I hardly had time, between arriving at Milan airport and beginning my presentation, to drink a small cup of espresso.
Equally rapid was the departure back to the airport followed by the flight and a two hour late motorcycle ride home from Heathrow.

Milan was not what I expected. It could perhaps have been any other large European city, like Lyon, I thought. Lots of migrant beggars plying their trade at the traffic lights, graf…

Ask Churchill

Great coverage, I thought, on Sky News this morning for my AIRADS client, Churchill Estates, to support the business story on the expected Bank of England interest rate cut and the decline in the housing market.

We were up at Rochester yesterday, filming the piece with Sky News editor, Joel Hills and on a glorious spring morning Sky captured some excellent footage of the Churchill banner before we flew off to North London to display it.

I will be very interested to see if this level of coverage attracts more business.

Monarch of the Glen

An interesting partner in the Manston circuit today. It would be rather good for the airport if it were a permanent presence rather than a simple training flight. I did notice however that one can now fly to Italy and visit the ruins of Pompeii from my local airport. Rather pricey though. Only a fraction cheaper than a week in Cuba. Perhaps the strong Euro is to blame?

Dream Gone Dreamland

When I was told that the famous, 'listed' roller-coaster, Margate's 'Scenic Railway' on the Dreamland site had gone up in smoke yesterday, I was shocked!

Like many Thanet residents who have expressed their own opinions on local weblogs, I was not that surprised. Why? Because given the track record of 'unfortunate', fire-related events that have surrounded the site, it seemed almost inevitable. On reflection, perhaps I should have put a bet on it happening at the local bookies but I suspect that I wouldn't have been given good odds.

Anyway, while I was working overhead today, I took some photographs to pass to the local media. Here's one of the better views of the fire damage. Kent Police are of course treating the matter as 'Suspicious'.

Skies Call

These last hours of training in preparation for the final CAA flight test is proving to be very hard work indeed. I've been two hours above Kent today and I'm drained. To overcome this final hurdle one has to fly very accurately indeed to +/- 50 feet and dead-on heading,when one is climbing and descending and making steep turns. This is very challenging indeed. At present, it's all about getting the hang of the aircraft that I will be using for the exam, which is fast and demands a good level of anticipation during manoevers.

If the weather holds-up this week, Sky News is set to join Airads for a 'mission' over London and to film a piece on aerial advertising. It's going to take a little arrangement, having the Sky helicopter, the banner aircraft and of course a camera crew and the client, all working together out of Rochester. The latter is presently recovering from the weekend's snowfall and is closed and so we are rather hoping that it will be dry in time…

On Two Wheels

Today proved to be a disappointment, weather-wise, with the strengthening winds behind the cold front putting today's banner flight over North London out of the picture. I haven't heard back from 'Free Tibet' either, after having arranged a late landing before Sunset at Rochester on Sunday and so I suspect that any idea of 'Bouncing' the Olympic flame ceremony has gone out of the proverbial window.

Mind you, I don't think the weather will be good enough anyway.

So instead of flying, I joined several of my other motorcycle-riding councillors and their wives, for a ride to Dover. That's us looking rather windswept on the seafront at Palm Bay, outside Margate and Cliftonville. And if it looks cold, then it certainly was!

Terminal Decline

The Terminal 5 story caught up with me again today, in the shape of the BBC. Apparently one of their journalists had been trawling through earlier coverage and came across my 'Kalashnikov Theory'. As a result they want me to talk about it in relation to the ongoing Terminal 5 problems on the radio tomorrow morning. In fact, I can't remember which BBC or whether I actually asked, but from the time, it could be Radio 4, who knows!

Coincidentally, I have two business trips coming up in coming weeks. One to Milan, I'm taking Alitalia and the other to Talinn in Estonia, which is Easyjet out of Stansted. The only flight that appears to service the country. And that's at 6am. As a matter of choice, I think I'll pass on British Airways for a while or at least until they have repatriated twenty thousand lost bags!

I can't be that popular with the company anyway. After flying the banner for the pilots union to Heathrow and then, wearing my other hat, taking a swipe at …

Beards are Back

Beards are back. A nostalgic IT industry fashion statement, which I’m certain will find favour beyond the present generation of Linux programmers and may even present an opportunity, along with the baseball cap and the ‘hoodie’, of concealing one’s identity from the expanding and intrusive surveillance society in which we live.

Following in the wake of Vogue magazine and the introduction of the stylish ‘Information Taleban’ look, there are signs emerging that spreading every minor detail about one’s personal life across the internet may be on the wane, as a lifestyle choice, at least among the over twenty-fives.

With identity theft now rife and steadily rising, keeping one’s online personal information to an absolute minimum is starting to look increasingly attractive. While large businesses use services to monitor corporate reputation, a niche may now exist for a similar model, able to measure both personal reputation and exposure to the internet; capable of linking into one’s credit r…

Impossible Missions

Sunday morning and a bit of a challenge, with a telephone call from Abu Dhabi. Apparently, the ruler of this wealthy state wants a special banner flown for him this week, to celebrate his son's birthday but while I'm delighted to have been asked as having the most visible operation outside the United States, the logistics required present an enormous challenge, even with our partner banner operation now operating in Dubai.

The impossible we can achieve but miracles can present us with a real challenge!

Kalashnikov Theory at Heathrow Terminal 5

My "Kalashnikov theory" of technology found itself into the Observer newspaper this morning to describe one element of the chaos at British Airway's new Terminal 5.0.

"Systems analysts talk about the Kalashnikov theory. 'We speak all the time about people, processes and technology, but people are steadily being eliminated from the equation and a large organisation can't do away with them altogether,' said Dr Simon Moores, a veteran IT expert who advises the likes of Microsoft and the Conservative party. 'Hence solutions should be like the Kalashnikov rifle: modular. You can buy an AK47 that has a Chinese receiver, a Czech barrel and a Russian frame in an African bazaar and it still won't jam because all the parts fit together."

I originally used the expression in my frequent eGovernment trips to the Arab world. I think the last occasion may have been in Bahrain with a speech entitled: 'The eGovernment Challenge in the Middle East', as …

Up and Away

It really is quite restful, not 'Blogging' as much as I have done. There is a danger that weblogs, much like the rest of the internet, can become obsessive and giving it a rest for a while is not such a bad thing, as one re-discovers other interests in the real world. Being published in hard copy is also a little more productive and has a much greater reach than waiting for the occasional weblog visitor to chance upon my rambling thoughts.

From my own point of view, this has been an important week in my life, with the publication of my last CAA exam results. I had worried about navigation; I consider myself pretty useless at math but was pleasantly surprised at the result I achieved, when I was only praying for a simple 75% pass. I wasn't convinced I would get that either.

So now, I have fifteen hours preparation in a complex aircraft to do and then its a sweaty ride with a CAA examiner. Perhaps then, I can have my life back after almost a year and a half of exam stress, get…

The BALPA Flypast

Despite pretty daunting conditions this morning, with fog and low cloud, we decided to "have a go" at getting to Brimpton airfield just north of Farnborough, to launch the BALPA banner to support the British Airways pilots union march at Heathrow today. (see BBC)

Departing in minimal visibility, we were in the cloud past Rochester and pretty much until Ockham, remaining "VFR on top" at 2000 feet but found, to our surprise as we passed Blackbushe that the weather, although not great, looked good enough for the flight.

While one of us filmed, AIRADS Chief Pilot, John Waller, took BALPA's Head of Flight Safety, Carolyn Evans, along as co-pilot. (Pictured) Off first towards Reading and then with the approval and control of Heathrow ATC, along the M4 towards Slough and the Burnham beacon.

By then the rain had started and the cloudbase was starting to fall but John, as you can see from the video, bought back a very wet and "draggy" banner to drop at Brimpton …

Undercover Blogger

The next big 'Hurricane' of the winter is on us this morning. There may be a record number of ships in the bay in front of me. I'll have to venture out to see if in fact more than seventeen vessels have squeezed past the Margate Sands! (20 in fact)

I have removed this weblog from general sight for a while. The attention that forced me to close my local weblog has also followed me here and its best I think, to remove the fuel from the flames until those involved find another subject to chew on. At the same time, As readers will see, this weblog/online diary, existed quite happily until I chose to become involved in local politics and elected as a ward councillor but now its perceived as something other than it is; so best keep it out of view and allow a small group of fascinated individuals to move on.

Yesterday was, I hope, the last of my commercial pilot exams at Gatwick. As one other candidate commented at the end: "That was nasty, really nasty" and we all agree…


Sitting across from the runway at Gatwick this morning, I was watching the landing traffic with some interest, as the gusts of wind became intense. I didn't have to wait long before I watch one A400 "Go around". The wind shear was not as severe as that in the Frankfurt video, shown below, but was enough for the pilot to think twice in the circumstances, as I estimated that the wind was almost 90 degrees off the runway and at least 45 knots.

I did feel rather sorry for the passengers, who must have realised at that moment how difficult the landing was going to be and had to look forward to a second attempt, which obviously proved a success.

When people climb on-board a modern airliner in all weathers there's always that blase confidence that nothing can go wrong and that accidents only happen once in a million flights. But up at the 'sharp-end' there's always a very different view of the prevailing conditions and pilots are trained to watch themselves and ea…

The Google Dilemma

No, it wasn’t me who took down Google last night but something obviously happened, severe enough to cause a lengthy outage across their Blogger servers.

The column I wrote for Silicon “Just whose legislation rules the internet” last week, was of sufficient interest for me to include it in a meeting at Westminster. on the evening before the ecrime congress. With luck, it may provide a little background detail as a foundation for an adjournment debate on the internet and law, which I think is planned for next week, Parliamentary time permitting.

It has placed Google in a slightly awkward position and as one observer told me (paraphrased), “I don’t think that when pressed with a UK court order, Google UK will refuse to comply with a proper request for information. However because of the brand and the sheer volume of potential complaints they might receive, they are more likely to hide behind the smokescreen of US law in order to discourage such enquiries.”

This view reflects an earlier conv…

945 and Falling

I can't recall ever seeing a pressure front of 945 millibars on the forecast before. That's an 1,836 foot pressure difference from normal!

935 mb was the lowest ever recorded, I'm told, which is another 270 foot difference but to place it all in context, imagine standing on the beach and then imagine descending another 2000 feet.

On the left, you can see the chart for later today and I can see why the Met Office are worried by this storm. If the arrival of this approaching cold front coincides with the tides and the wind direction on parts of the exposed coast, then once again, there is a risk of damage and flooding.

It didn't happen last time but it is the the same combination of natural forces that led to some really big storms in the past and so it will be interesting to see how I describe the result in Monday's blog entry!

No Take-offs - Just Go Around

Flying is "Off" for today. It very much looks as if a significant Atlantic depression is hurtling in our direction and so by the end of tomorrow, it could be time to secure children, pets and loose objects against the forces of nature.

Monday appears to be the day of the big storm and that is predicted to coincide with some very high tides and so I will be curious to watch how far the sea comes up the road outside my home.

I'm down at Gatwick, visiting the CAA on Monday, and so it will be interesting to observe how the big passenger jets deal with the bad weather predicted. Most of us have now seen the lucky escape of an A300 Airbus landing at Frankfurt at the end of last month. Great credit to the crew for reacting so quickly on the throttles. The video of what happened also illustrates the tremendous thrust a modern jet aircraft turbine can produce in an emergency go-around situation.

A Long Time in Politics

Looking back through this weblog, I see that at the end of last month, six years had passed since the front door of No10 Downing Street closed behind me.

I was seeing Ed Richards that morning. He was the senior policy advisor to Tony Blair and I had been asked along to talk about ideas for the new "Broadband Britain." Since then of course, Ed has been made Chief Executive of OFCOM and I've become a member of the Conservative Party.

Something changed in Government after 2002. In some ways it resembled George Orwell's story, Animal Farm and today, after a decade of the same Government, it is far more pronounced and indeed visible to the broader population. Peter Hitchin, in his book, 'The Abolition of Britain' started to worry about this cultural revolution as far back as 1999 and I really started to notice its influence in the corridoors of power in 2002. Things were not quite as they seemed in the new politics and I doubt they will ever be the same again.

We ar…

Down Under

I see that I'm getting referral traffic from my Wikipedia entry, possibly from people who wish to see whether I really exist or not. Maybe I'm only a figment of my own imagination?

With ecrime 2008 finished, I've six months before I have to start working with the team on planning ecrime 2009 and inviting speakers to attend. This year was seen by many as the best yet - certainly the best attended - and took a tremendous organisational effort from everyone involved. I would really like to see the Home Secretary pay us a visit in 2009. To date, we have had MPs' Jim Paice, Vernon Coaker, Caroline Flint, James Brokenshire and David Davis and by the time it comes around again, perhaps government will have adopted a firm new policy on the subject?

Up and coming, I've got Milan, Talin and Frankurt conferences to work on, with the first of these coming-up very quickly indeed.

With strong winds forecast for tomorrow, it looks as if the banner-towing is out for tomorrow but the …

Identity Parade

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis (Pictured) used the ecrime congress to launch the Conservative Party's ecrime policy this morning. I'm back too late to see any of the coverage and Channel 4 News told me that they are making it into a package, having interviewed a number of people, so I'll look forward to watching it when it eventually appears.

Regardless of any political affiliation, I have to admit that David is very good, it was universally agreed among those in an international audience that I spoke with today. He made an excellent speech full of very precise detail about the problem we all face from online crime and what needs to be done by Government if we are to try and turn the tide.

Caught in a second mugshot, FBI Director Finch, over from Washington to share in confidence with the audience, one of the agency's latest initiatives in tackling organised crime on the internet.

The Underground Economy

It's been a long day, starting with the Chief Security Officer of Paypal and concluding with an address from the head of NATO's incident response centre. Visions of author, Tom Clancy's 'Op-Centre' which does exist.

The internet underground is alive and well and thriving and Gartner Research estimates its value as being around $3.2 billion annually. Contrast this with the estimated annual value of the United States and South American narcotics trade at $5.6 billion and you'll see why the internet is so attractive to serious and organised crime groups.

Tomorrow is going to be a hectic start. Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, is going to start the day with a keynote address on the ecrime problem facing our society and I'm juggling bids from Sky News, Voice of America, the BBC and Channel 4 News to squeeze into an already packed auditorium to film his speech and interview some of the experts from business, industry, banking and law-enforcement, here at the ecr…

International Pubbing

I dropped into Westminster this afternoon to have a chat with MP, Jeremey Hunt about internet content and child protection. Is it feasible to even consider some kind of government action which places the responsibility on internet service providers to be more aggressive in filtering out inappropriate, illegal or downright unacceptable content or should we simply surrender to the American model of everything or nothing? There's a powerful moral argument for more direct action but it's a subject that makes politicians uncomfortable, with its tacit implication of internet control in a free society. Now's not the time, it being very late, for me to start thinking out loud about a problem which is starting to show signs of provoking a political confrontation with a moral dilemma.

With the world's law-enforcement gathering for the ecrime congress, en masse, now busily engaged in the pub across the road, I'm struck by how many I now recognise on first name terms. The head …

Low Down

In the days when the island of Zanzibar was still an exotic destination, I can recall tree-top flying in a twin, many years ago, when on safari down the Rufiji river, in Tanzania. However, in contrast with this video I just stumbled across on YouTube, the tree-tops look like extreme altitude. Some crazy French fighter pilots in action! Whether the RAF would sanction this level of "low-level" work for our own dwindling inventory of fighter aircraft, I wonder? Simply having sufficient fuel budget to keep up the training hours is a challenge, I'm told by cynical fliers, who look enviously at the time available to their American and European opposites.

Back in the bunker though I've had an enquiry for Farnborough 2008 - we opened the airshow very day in 2006 - so we may be lucky again. In the same week, I've also taken several calls for one major publicity stunt which will demand an eye-watering series of permissions if it's going to happen. However well-placed t…

Spitfire U2 at Manston

As today's strong winds have put a stop to any flying work I had, I've been having a quick look through some of my videos and remembered this one, that I took of Spitfire U2. Corgi even produced a special collector's edition scale model of the same aircraft that I have on the shelf in front of me.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can now share this short clip with any Spitfire fans or history enthusiasts. The original story on the weblogwith photos can be found here.

The rain that day was so bad that the fresh blue paint on the Spitfire started to wash off!

Strike or Spartacus?

I made the mistake of watching the BBC’s story of “Spartacus” last night. A programme that reminded me somewhat of the 90’s Comic Strip production of “Strike” – see video – with Al Pacino in the starring role of Arthur Scargill.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it looked to me as if the whole attempt at portraying the epic gladiators and slaves struggle of 70BC was in fact a thinly disguised polemic for a contemporary class-war theme, populated with thick regionally accented extras and actors from East Enders and aimed directly at that enemy of the BBC, the political middle class. “What did the Romans ever do for us?”

As a bit of a history buff and given the example of “Gladiator” and “Rome” I wouldn’t have minded if the BBC had made even a small effort at keeping the script as historically accurate as possible but it did rather get carried away with its political message and Spartacus, more Geordie than Thracian, didn’t quite look the part of lean mean gladiator material.

Was I the only one t…


A few years ago, the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, "Sir John Stephens" told me he'd make me an honorary detective sergeant in "The Met". "Will I get pension rights too" I asked. "Unfortunately not" was his reply.

I read today that 20% of all council tax bills are now going to pay public sector salaries and this will steadily increase to crisis point past 2010. It makes me think that rather than having had a mispent youth, which involved an education that uncannily paralleled scenes from National Lampoon's movie "Animal House", I should have joined the police, like the four other working pilots I know, who retired and now have the benefit of a police pension as well as their second careers.

Mind you, I shouldn't complain. Today I received a nice professional reference from the FBI, ironically, from the agent who shares the same name as the special agent hero of the series "24". He really does exist af…

Wing on the Wild Side

On the wild side out there this afternoon but divine providence helped one young lady propose to her boyfriend at Bluewater a little earlier, although I had told her that the chances of getting a banner overhead were slim.

It's not much fun when it gets that turbulent and the temptation is to simply say "No" than give it a try but miracles sometimes happen and I hope they'll both be happy together!

You'll see how close we have to work to the ground in this picture from this afternoon.

Captain Bob Returns

Two flights out of Rochester today, bringing the legendary 'Captain Bob' out of self imposed retirement to fly a banner for Trade Depot to announce the opening of their Croydon store.

Since 'Captain Bob' decided to start flying a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, with its leather fitttings and generous mini bar, fixed wing aircraft have become a little passe but the old skills were very much in evidence, with a neat pick-up and an even neater drop, right between the posts.

The day started 'Murky' and didn't really improve greatly. Much of North Croydon had a fog bank sitting neatly over the top of it and so we had to be a little imaginative moving around the outskirts and the M25 to avoid it. Hopefully, the visibility will be a little better tomorrow.

Here's a quick video of the return to Rochester airport.

The Big Question

I found a spot this week on ITV's Meridian News Tonight special story on Leap Year proposals.

Friday may be a busy day then. The weather forecast is not promising but we do have one young lady, all the way from Germany, proposing to her boyfriend at Knole Park! Here's wishing her luck!

Light in the Tunnel

Under a week to the ecrime congress and now the different presentations are starting to arrive by email as requested. I have to run through them and estimate whether I think they will run to time, otherwise I need to revert to the speaker and suggest a little editing to size.

The congress itself normally runs at a blur. The agenda is so tightly packed over the two days that my biggest challenge is ensuring that it runs to time and be the end, rather like a talk-show host, I'm a little washed-out, normally falling asleep on the train between Victoria and Thanet.

Four day later and its off to Gatwick for what, with luck, will be my last CPL theory exam of nine. It could mean that I get my life back after a year of intense studying to a level I've never experienced before. I found, as I started the last course modules of aerodynamics, navigation and aircraft systems, that the urge to panic was almost overwhelming but somehow, I managed to get this far, so there's a light at the…