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Interesting Links for July 2nd.

These are my interesting links for July 2nd:

New Bumper On Focus

As some of you will know, I was recently attacked by one of those sneaky nasty lamp posts. The sneaky being snuck up on me from behind while I was reversing my 4 month old car out of the gym car park, and viciously attacked my rear bumper.

The Damage
The Damage

In all seriousness I was reversing out of a tight car parking space at my friends gym, Pure, and the lamp post was behind my C pillar and I didn’t see it until I reversed into it at full pelt. This resulted in a very badly dented rear bumper and a smashed rear fog lamp. The bumper was so badly dented that it had hole in it where it had pushed against the chassis of the car.

Parts

The reason I drive a Ford is that a relative works for Jaguar Land Rover (a former Ford subsidiary) and so I am entitled to the employee discount scheme – called Ford Privilege. This also applies to parts, and so I knew it would be cheaper for me to get the parts myself.  Then I’d have to decide whether  to repair the car myself, or get a bodyshop involved.

I won’t use my local Ford main dealer, Allen Ford, because they are truly useless and I’ve had many bad experiences in the past; so I rang the really nice guys at Arden Garages in Stratford.

Once again they were super helpful and ordered the bumper and fog light for me, and to my surprise confirmed that the bumper would come painted. This meant I wouldn’t need a paint shop! Phew. A couple of days later the parts arrived and I picked them up. I had to take a ruck of paperwork in though to prove my entitlement to the discount – a small price to pay for over £100 worth of saving.

Fitting.

As I have mentioned before my brother is a mechanic and has a motorcycle workshop… so I elected to have a go at fitting the bumper myself. Turns out it’s easy if you have all the right tools. I reversed the car into his workshop last night at 18:10, and said to myself I’d be happy if I had the old bumper off by 18:45.

Old Bumper Off
Old Bumper Off

Removing the bumper was surprisingly simple; made easier by having taken the wheels off so I could get at the wheel arch lining and remove the 10mm nuts behind it which hold the bumper on. Then two more bolts by the boot closure and two underneath and it was off. The reverse light popped out and in conjunction with new fog light was popped in.

The only challenge was that on each corner of the bumper is a structural moulding which helps the bumper keep its shape, and this was pop riveted in and needed to be transferred to the new bumper. Again though, having the right tools helped, the old pop rivets were gone in seconds and 12 new ones installed. If I had tried that at home I would have been stumped (not having a pop rivet tool!).

As Good As New!
As Good As New!

The new bumper was offered up, secured and lights tested. I reversed the car out of the garage at 18:50. It took 40 minutes and cost £247. Considerably less than the £490 that Allen Ford wanted for the same work!

Jumping Through Hoops

Having just read a blog post about having to jump through various hoops to attain something you want I thought I might share some of my experiences so far with trying to arrange flights to and from The British Grand Prix this summer. The Formula 1 British Grand Prix is held at Silverstone, which has a licenced aerodrome in track. Silverstone Heliport, according to Wikipedia holds the world record for the most busiest airport on a single day; for some 4,200 aircraft movements during the 1999 British Grand Prix.  The video below gives a good flavour of Silverstone through the weekend.

This year I want to fly into the Grand Prix – its only about 50 nm from my local airfield, and about 15 from my favourite airfield. Added to this my step father and his friends are all going the F1 this year as a bit of a boys day out; so I thought we could fly in.

Cost.

Silverstone isn’t exactly known as being a cheap place to land; but this year a new operator has been appointed for the heliport. Heliair are the UK’s largest Robinson dealer, so they might be a bit more friendly to smaller helicopters.  I already deal with HeliAir, so I got in touch and they sent out the pricelist as soon as it was announced.

There is a £200 landing fee, a £75 handling fee and a £200 departure fee.. meaning a total of £475 for each trip in; and then a £75 parking fee. I have 7 friends who want to come, so it would mean two “runs” into the circuit. A total cost of £1025. Not for the faint hearted; but in fairness to HeliAir they did say if I was departing with no passengers to collect another lot they would not charge me the departure fee.  They have also arranged a special deal for private owners through the HCGB.

The other option is to fly into the nearby Turweston Aerodrome who will then take you and your passengers across the fields between them and Silverstone in 4×4’s. They charge £85 per person for the transfer, no landing fees and no fuss. They drop you off at the gate and pick you up from it too. Most of the fixed wing folk fly into here and do the transfer as Silverstone has no runway, just a FATO.

Speaking to my friends it turns out the older chaps want to fly into the grand prix itself, for the once in a lifetime experience thing; and the younger lot are more concerned about cash. As a compromise I have decided I would fly the older chaps into Silverstone, and the younger lot into Turweston then leave the helicopter at Turweston and do the same in reverse for going home.

Silverstone FATO
Silverstone FATO (FATO for F1 in Red)

Oh, and the real sting in the tale is that if the weather falls out of limits and I can’t fly in I still have to pay. I have yet to find anywhere where I can buy insurance against this – any suggestions greatly appreciated.

The Slots.

Silverstone, because of the volume of traffic runs a system of slot times for arrival and departure. This is when you should be ready to land and take-off. Turweston are less fussy and accept traffic as it arrives. As the holder of “only” a private pilots licence, and a non commercial operator, I am the lowest of the low when it comes to priorities for Silverstone.. and this was revealed by the slot times offered. Arrival at 0807 and departure at 1747. The race is at 1300. I was almost first in the queue for slots and these were the best available.

So, I have opted for the 0807 inbound, but will take both sets of passengers back from Turweston to save waiting until almost 3 hours after the race. Turweston were super about this and applied a pro-rata amount for the one way transfer.

More hoops.

With that sorted and invoices raised, it then turns to more hoops. As a private pilot a condition of my slot at the circuit is attendance at a “Practice Day” in May, where practice approaches to Silverstone will take place (and we’ll be given a briefing etc). I actually like this idea… I’ve never flown into Silverstone before and I don’t want to be the guy getting wrong on the day and making everyone else’s life hard. Its good for Safety and its also an opportunity to go flying and learn something new.

Then I have to attend a mandatory briefing for all pilots (including commercial operators) in June. This will concentrate on procedures on the day. This will be interesting this year, because the circuit and thus the FATO have changed substantially from last so even experienced operators will have things to learn.

CAA Logo

Not Commerical.

If you thought this was just the operator of the heliport and the circuit being picky then you’d be wrong. Recently the CAA published FODCOM (Flight Operations Division Communication) 15/2010 detailing the measures they want to be undertaken by anyone operating to or from Silverstone. Thank the lord I am not a commercial operator – they have bucket loads more paperwork and submissions to make.. they have to detail feeder sites (and have them approved), ops manuals to update (and have approved), Rule 5 (3)(c) exemptions to secure and no doubt much much more.

Not Forgetting The Police.

Having jumped through those hoops (happily as they all seem sensible and with the greater aim of making things safer), I mustn’t forget the various emails I have had from Northamptonshire Police Special Branch. They are obviously charged with making sure that the high profile event passes off peacefully with no interference from terrorists and that sort. Again, happy to help. However they have requested that the pilot and passengers all carry photographic ID on the day. It is easier to comply with this request than challenge it; however it is interesting to note it is a request and not a requirement. They don’t have the legal power to insist on ID being carried for flights internal to the UK any more than they do to request it in the street – but the wording of all their emails is very draconian and leads to you believe it is a requirement.

So… some hoops I have had to jump through lately – all in the aim of attaining something I want! The practice day was last weekend – read about it.

Speak As You Find

Firstly, apologies for the gap in blog posts – I have been away from the computer for a week or so learning to ride Motorcycles.  More on that later.

When I started this blog I was particularly conscious that I didn’t want it to turn into a whole series of rants about the seemingly continual stream of annoyances which seem to plague modern (my) life; I wanted a distinctly upbeat tone and to provoke some good discussion.  There are already plenty of websites on the net where you can bad mouth leave feedback  of companies & products you’ve had dealings with.

However I do have a bit of a reputation for “speaking as I find,” which normally results in my saying something inappropriate or somewhat less than politically correct.  It is though, as I have found; unless I am deliberately playing devils advocate.  So, here is today’s speak as I find:

Autoglass are a very good reliable, professional company.  Almost the diametric opposite of Auto Windscreens (who co-incidentally are no longer part of the RAC) who should not be trusted with so much as a goldfish bowl.

Autoglass have possibly the most annoying radio & TV adverts and jingle in the world, and “Gavin” is clearly a very irritating chap – luckily the guys they sent out to me to attempt to repair and then replace the heated front screen on my 2010 Ford Focus were brilliant.  Super polite, very efficient and most importantly they turned up when they said they were going to, and did the job they said they were going  to.

I am so impressed with them not only have I overlooked the annoying adverts, I have sent an email to ask them to thank the chaps who came out… its very rare for me to do that!

Interesting Links for March 25th.

These are my interesting links for March 25th: