Skip to main content

A Day at The Shard

One of those days in a lifetime to remember.
Today, I had to fly a banner around London’s iconic landmark, The Shard.

The occasion was a marriage ceremony at the top of the building. Sonya and Paul were having their big day, courtesy of the ITV, ‘This Morning’ programme, and I had to cap-it-off with a large programme logo, followed by a ‘Just married’ message with a large red heart, at exactly 12:18.
The public and clients really don’t understand what a significant challenge placing an aircraft over central London involves. Why would they?
Other than the simple logistics of the aircraft - it has to be a twin-engine - crew and ground crew, one has to gain the permission of NATS at Swanwick, Heathrow, Special Branch and quite possibly even the Archbishop of Westminster. London is now an intense security space and the authorities are somewhat ‘twitchy’ at the thought of any non-scheduled aviation activity inside it’s tightly policed borders.
Bringing the plan together, involved borrowing the Islander BN2 from Headcorn Parachute Club, which is the only banner-towing equipped ‘Twin’ in the country, my friend and pilot, Richard, ‘Polly’ Parrott and another friend and pilot, John Waller as ground crew; a vital part of the operation in making sure we pick-up the banner in the first place and get to the target in time.
The circus, in two aircraft, arrived at Denham airfield, outside Uxbridge, at 10am and from there we set-out the banner on the grass and then waited for 11:30 to come around, at which point, ‘Polly’ and I departed into the airfield circuit and trawled the line, attached to the banner, strung between two posts, ten feet off the ground.
With lots of time to spare, we trundled off to an area North of Alexandra Palace, the official entry route into central London, received our clearance from Heathrow ‘Special’ and then went into a series of orbits until exactly six minutes past twelve, when we were cleared to enter the London control zone, with a direct route to the Millennium Eye wheel and Westminster, over the bridge and onto the South Bank of the Thames.
Arriving on the South bank, we did one orbit to bleed off some time and then headed straight to The Shard, you can’t miss it, and proceeded to orbit it for a good ten minutes before retracing our steps, out of London and back to where we started at Denham for a coffee and a nervous breakdown.
It’s hard enough to fly a banner with a single engine aircraft - see video - with a big heavy twin-engined tractor like the Islander, it’s much much more complicated, which is why, I assume, nobody else on the planet I know of, is actually crazy enough to try it.
Now we have been seen over London on a number of occasions; Wembley, twice for the FA Cup semi-finals, I’m expecting much more demand. However, the biggest challenge of all remains the management of client expectations, in that one simply doesn’t ‘Troll’ a banner over London without a huge level of scrutiny and preparations. Like most things in life, it’s simply not as easy as it might look

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…