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An Aviator Passes.

It’s with a very heavy heart that I read reports this afternoon that one of the Red Arrows has crashed, and the pilot hasn’t survived.  The Red Arrows are a true credit to The Royal Air Force and are nothing short of absolutely awesome to watch — it’s impossible to describe just how skilled these aviators are.

I’m a happy chap if I can keep my airspeed and height within the standards expected of a newly qualified commercial pilot (which I am not, but no harm in aiming high) — these guys and girls fly fast jets at almost 4x my speed, often only inches apart.  It’s a real treat to watch.

I have had the privilege to see this years Red Arrows (part of the team changes every year) twice.  Only earlier this week they overflew my home town and my son had to ring me straight away to say he’d seen them again; and wanted to know why they had no smoke on – I was 150 miles away; but this gives you an idea of how inspirational they are; my 3 year old adores them.  I haven’t the heart to tell him one has crashed.

My thoughts are with the pilots family, friends and his colleagues; it’s always awful when a fellow pilot passes, especially when flying.  Rest In Peace.

Flying West

Capt. Michael J. Larkin 

I hope there’s a place, way up in the sky,
Where pilots can go, when they have to die-
A place where a guy can go and buy a cold beer
For a friend and comrade, whose memory is dear;
A place where no doctor or lawyer can tread,
Nor management type would ere be caught dead;
Just a quaint little place, kinda dark and full of smoke,
Where they like to sing loud, and love a good joke;
The kind of place where a lady could go
And feel safe and protected, by the men she would know.

There must be a place where old pilots go,
When their paining is finished, and their airspeed gets low,
Where the whiskey is old, and the women are young,
And the songs about flying and dying are sung,
Where you’d see all the fellows who’d flown west before.
And they’d call out your name, as you came through the door;
Who would buy you a drink if your thirst should be bad,
And relate to the others, “He was quite a good lad!”

And then through the mist, you’d spot an old guy
You had not seen for years, though he taught you how to fly.
He’d nod his old head, and grin ear to ear,
And say, “Welcome, my son, I’m pleased that you’re here.
“For this is the place where true flyers come,
“When the journey is over, and the war has been won
“They’ve come here to at last to be safe and alone
From the government clerk and the management clone,
“Politicians and lawyers, the Feds and the noise
Where the hours are happy, and these good ol’boys
“Can relax with a cool one, and a well-deserved rest;
“This is Heaven, my son — you’ve passed your last test!”

Heli Lanes

One of the most challenging, but equally rewarding, pieces of flying available to a helicopter pilot in the UK is whats colloqually known as “The Lanes.”  To give them their proper title:  Helicopter Routes In The London CTR and London/City CTR.

Heli Lanes
Heli Lanes

London has essentially two control zones which join, the London CTR to the west and the London/City CTR to the east. They can be controlled by different controllers although often not, and in any case they sit next to each other.  The airspace is Class A, however a special VFR clearance is issued to allow VFR flight.  Some time ago, specified routes were established throughout the zone with the aim of keeping single engined helicopters abeam open ground or the river, and to a large extent away from the Heathrow traffic.  These routes were designated H3, H4, H5, H7, H9 and H10; and all have “standard operating altitudes” you are expected to adhere to in addition to the location.  (Twin engined helicopters are not confined to the routes, although they tend to use them in the vicinity of Heathrow).


So, its a high work load environment for the pilot – with a lot of (large) traffic around, a set routing and varying altitudes.  I’ve flown the lanes a number of times and if I am doing as a sight seeing tour for my friends I tend to fly the same route: join at Northwood, H9 to Heathrow, cross Heathrow between landing traffic, H9 to Sunbury Lock, H3 to the river at Barnes; H4 along with the river and out at the Isle Of Dogs returning home via the Lea Valley.  And thats what I had planned to do on this occasion.

I contacted Heathrow Special shortly after lifting from Wycombe, a nearby GA airfield, for clearance.  I was a little surprised when the intended routing was refused due to Heathrow using runway 09.  Every time I have done it before they have been using 27.  This meant that H3 was unavailable to transit from Sunbury to Barnes.

Not doing this!

The controller was really helpful offered an alternative clearance of H9 all the way to the edge of the zone, across to H7 and back into the zone following H7 north to rejoin H4 at Barnes and complete as planned.  This would mean my passengers get the two bits they enjoy the most (from experience) – the Heathrow crossing and the river.  However, I hadn’t planned that route, and didn’t have in ready in my GPS.  I did have the chart to hand though, and some rapid replanning was done while at 2,000′ abeam High Wycombe.

Site seeing.

The rest of the flight passed off without event,  and I was reminded just how impressive it is… the look on passengers faces once we have done it is always amazing.  If you fly regularly you get complacent and forget about how exciting an experience it is.   The Heathrow crossing was, as always, exhilirating for me.  800′ above one of the worlds busiest airports and cleared to cross a runway threshold after a landing British Airways Boeing 777, but before a 737 and over an Airbus A380 is a nice site for an aviator.

The passengers love the view of London from the air as you get to and traverse the river.  You can pretty much see everything of note as you go down the river, The Houses Of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, MI5, The Dome (O2 Arena), the 2012 Olympic site and many more.  Some of my friends have taken some photo’s (while flying and with less than brilliant camera’s) which I have put in a gallery here.

Heli Lanes Gallery

Interesting Links for April 2nd.

These are my interesting links for April 2nd:

Interesting Links for March 29th.

These are my interesting links for March 29th:

  • Non-Doms Have An Unfair Advantage – Duncan Bannatyne eloquently sets forth the case for changing the UK tax regime which allows "non doms" to pay little / no UK tax on their earnings and leaves UK businesses at a disadvantage. Lawyers tried to restrict this article – says a lot!
  • Inside GCHQ: ‘Caution: Here comes the BBC’ – Insight into how the BBC were treated when they were allowed privileged access into GCHQ. The documentary which this was in aid of is broadcast at 2000 on BBC Radio 4. Looks like it'll be worth a listen.
  • How do they do IT?, Formula 1 – Computerworld – Fascinating look into the IT which supports the Formula 1 teams, as it makes a whistle stop world tour! Can you imagine setting up IT equivalent needed to support a medium sized enterprise in 7 days, then taking it to bits again and moving to the next location?
  • RAF fighter jets scrambled amid terror plot fears – The RAF have again been scrambling fighter jets, but this time to accompany "suspicious" civilian airliners through UK airspace; with ministers awoken in the night who could have had to make a decision to shoot them down! Scary stuff, surely never to happen?