All-time men’s best 400m hurdles – Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Following the 400m hurdles final race of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, four days ago, a race that has been qualified by some as the best Olympic race in history, I had the curiosity to take a close look at how both the winner and world record holder, Karsten Warholm, and the runner up, Rai Benjamin, had arrived to the competition and what was their track record in the past. For that purpose I used the website “Track and Field all-time Performances” (maintained since years ago by Peter Larsson).

With the data of all-time men’s best 400m hurdles times I plotted the chart below with the best 3,720 times (times below 49 seconds) and their dates, highlighting the times by Edwin Moses (the legend champion from the 1970s and 1980s, when he won the gold medal in two Olympics and two World championships, set the world record twice, and went unbeaten for a whole decade between 1977 and 1987 winning 107 competitions and 122 races in a row), Kevin Young (who won the event in the Olympic Games of 1992 establishing a new world record and being the first person to run the distance below 47 seconds, a record that held until a month ago), Rai Benjamin and Karsten Warholm.

Comments:

  • Of the fastest 102 times, those below 47.6″:
    • Edwin Moses achieved 20
    • Kevin Young achieved 5
    • Rai Benjamin achieved 10
    • Karsten Warholm achieved 14
    • Alison dos Santos (bronze in the Tokyo final) achieved 6
    • Kyron McMaster (4th in Tokyo) achieved 3
    • Abderrahmane Samba (5th in Tokyo) achieved 10
  • 43 of those 102 were achieved by 5 of the 8 runners in the starting line in Tokyo.
  • It took nearly 9 years for Kevin Young to beat Edwin Moses’ record by 0.24″.
  • It took nearly 29 years for Karsten Warholm to beat Kevin Young’s record, which he did on July 1st 2021, about a month ago, by 0.08″ at a Diamond League event in Oslo.
  • It took just a month for Karsten Warholm to beat again his own world record by 0.76″.

Since 1992 nobody had run below 47″ until the summer of 2018. Between 2018 and 2020, Benjamin, Warholm and Samba did a combined four times between 46.87 and 46.98″. In the last month and a half Benjamin, Warholm and dos Santos have also run below 47″. The first in doing so was Benjamin at the US Olympic Trials on June 26th, when he ran in 46.83″, short of setting a world record. But just five days later at the Diamond League in Olso, Warholm beat the world record with 46.70″ (see that race here). With those times the expectation for the final last Tuesday was quite high, with the roster as in the picture below.

Instead of commenting the race I suggest to review it in Youtube. You can find many videos, for example the one below:

The result of the race: a new world record, 45.94″, first time below 46″ (remember that nobody had run below 47″ between 1992 and 2018). Rai Benjamin, silver medal, also ran below the previous world record. Alison dos Santos, bronze medal, ran in 46.72″ which would have been a world record just 5 weeks before. Both Benjamin and dos Santos set continental records. Other 3 runners in the final set their respective national records: McMaster, Copello (matching his previous best and national record) and Magi.

In other words, six of the eight runners run their best times and set either a national, continental or world record. That is why some have called this race the best Olympic race in history.

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All-time men’s best high jump – Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Following the unusual ending of the men’s high jump event in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 a few days ago, with images of an official explaining to Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi the options they had to end the final, I was curious as to how both of them had arrived to the competition and what was their track record in the past. For that purpose I used the website “Track and Field all-time Performances” (maintained since years ago by Peter Larsson).

With the data of all-time men’s best high jumps I plotted the chart below with the best 2,224 jumps (jumps from 2.31m and above) and their dates, highlighting the jumps by Javier Sotomayor (who still holds the record), Barshim and Tamberi.

Comments:

  • Sotomayor holds 189 of the 2224 jumps (8.5%) at 2.31m and above.
  • Barshim holds 128 of the 2224 jumps (5.8%) at 2.31m and above.
  • Tamberi holds 19 of the 2224 jumps (0.9%) at 2.31m and above.
  • Of those jumps of 2.38m and above:
    • Sotomayor holds 25 of the 105 jumps (23.8%) at 2.38m and above.
    • Barshim holds 24 of the 105 jumps (22.9%) at 2.38m and above.
    • Tamberi holds 1 of the 105 jumps (1.0%) at 2.38m and above.
  • At higher heights the dominance of Sotomayor and Barshim is more relevant.

Tamberi had previously won some Europan championships medals and a World Indoor Championship medal in 2016 which is also the year he jumped is best jump of 2.39 in Monaco. Ever since, he had jumped at or below 2.33m until last Sunday.

Barshim had previously won 3 medals in the World Outdoor Championships, including the gold medal in the last two, and had also won two Olympics Games medals, bronze and silver, at the previous two Games in London and Rio de Janeiro. He has the best ever jumps after Sotomayor. While in 2019 he had also jumped 2.37m the last time he had jumped above that height was in 2018, when he jumped 2.40 twice and 2.38m.

Looking at that background, I can imagine that, when asked by the official about what they intended to do, Barshim wanted to secure the gold medal that had escaped him in the previous two Olympic Games (the gold was won in London with 2.33m and in Rio de Janeiro with 2.38m; heights that Barshim in theory dominated). On the other hand, Tamberi must have thought that he had little chance against Barshim, even if they had both already missed three times attempts over 2.39m, looking at how each one had been jumping in the past years.

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Flight excursion to the North Cape (Norway)

Two weeks ago, Jérémie and I took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes (the 160hp F-GUYA) to make a flight excursion from Toulouse to the North Cape (Nordkapp, in Norway) as part of a “Fly out” organized by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council, together with 2 other aircraft, the F-BERB (with Norbert and Dominique, who organized the trip) and the F-PANI (with Anne and Nicolas).

At the beginning of the post I will focus on the different flights and share some pictures (taken either by me or Jérémie and Dominique, the ones with more quality) and at the bottom of the post I will leave some more technical details helpful for the preparation of such a trip.

Day 1 (July 17th) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Verdun (LFGW)

We departed one day before the other airplanes to ensure that the engine hours of our airplane would not be consumed during a Saturday with good weather in Toulouse. However, North of Aurillac the weather was not so good so we waited until early in the afternoon to fly to Verdun. Even if not necessary we filed a flight plan and climbed to FL075 for most of the trip, to fly VFR on top of the clouds around the Massif Central and we just descended under the clouds some miles before the destination.

Once at Verdun we refueled the airplane, parked it for the night and booked a room at the Ibis budget hotel, which is however 5km from the aerodrome. A kind member of the local aeroclub gave us a lift to the hotel.

Day 2 (July 18th) – Verdun (LFGW) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Tønder (EKTD)

The morning after we did not have a transport to the aerodrome as apparently there were no taxis in the surroundings, so we had to walk to the airport; a hike that took us well over an hour with the bags and by some wheat fields.

We then made a short (~40′) flight to Doncourt, not without flying over some of the fields and memorial monuments of the WWI battle of Verdun. We then arrived to Doncourt, which has as A/A frenquency 123.500 and that was confusing as there are other aerodromes not too far using the same frequency, causing you to hear messages unrelated to the aerodrome you are about to land.

At Doncourt we refueled again and had a chat with a member of the local club. I went to pick some snacks from a local backery (less than 1km away) while we waited for the F-BERB. We then had a picnic at the aerodrome before departing for Tønder.

For the flight to Denmark we had to file a flight plan. We used a simple route based on the location of some VOR (DIK NOR BOT NDO). We were going to overfly Luxembourg and the whole of Germany. We climbed again to FL075 and were cleared (after the F-BERB) by the ATC (Langen radar) to fly through class C spaces around Cologne and Düsseldorf. Later, we listened in the radio that the F-BERB was descending to 3,000ft and below somewhere North of Bremen so we followed suit. From there and until nearly the border with Denmark the ceiling was at around 2,000ft, but since the ground is almost at sea level the flight was still comfortable. The West coastline of Schleswig-Holstein was wonderful.

When we arrived at Tønder the F-PANI was already on ground and the F-BERB landed shortly after. Our flight plan had not been properly communicated and we were not expected, nor could refuel as we did not have local currency (DKK). We booked rooms in hotels in the village which was at walking distance. We then gathered at the Cafe Arthur and enjoyed our first dinner together as members of the fly out. There Dominique offered us a bottle of Saumur red wine that he had brought to celebrate that first night.

Day 3 (July 19th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Bergen (ENBR) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA)

We woke up early as we wanted to be ready at the aerodrome at 7am to refuel the airplanes and had a 25-minute walk before to get to the aerodrome. The person in charge of the fuel station arrived a bit later but we were ready for departure at around 8am. We had filed another flight plan to fly to Bergen in Norway.

Flying over Denmark, despite its flatness, was nice, with the coast to the West, small crop fields and villages, including the coastal city of Esbjerg where my brother spent 2 weeks of the summer of 2002. We flew by the coast up until the village of Hanstholm (close to Thisted aerodrome) and then took a North West heading towards Norway with a transit of just above 30 minutes over the North Sea.

Once in Norway we continued flying along the Southern coast, overflying the airports of Farsund Lista, Stavanger Sola and Karmøy until we reached Bergen. During that flight of over 4 hours we enjoyed the good weather and the views.

At the tarmac in Bergen we spent some time between refueling and then waiting for the police to check our EU Covid-19 passport so that we were cleared to enter the country. We then purchased online the week pass covering the landing fees in all Norwegian airports, filed another flight plan and off we went for our next destination: Trondheim.

In that second flight, the sky was covered with clouds but the ceiling was not very low so it allowed for a relatively comfortable flight enjoying the views of the different islands. Once arrived at Trondheim we refueled, parked the plane, were taken in a small bus to the general aviation exit of the airport and walked to our hotel (Radisson Blu at the airport). We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and studied the weather which started to degrade.

Day 4 (July 20th) – Trondheim Værnes (ENVA) – Brønnøy (ENBN) – Bodø (ENBO) – Alta (ENAT)

In the first flight of the day we tried to reach Brønnøy overflying some fjords in the interior and flying over Namsos but before reaching that point there was no visibility and the F-PANI and us had to take a U-turn back to the fjord of Trondheim and get to the coastline overflying Orland airport. In flight we learnt that a NOTAM had been published informing that there was no Avgas that day at Brønnøy. Despite of that we landed there, which wasn’t easy as just when arriving there were some showers, so we had to hold first at the South and then changed our plan and approached the airport from the North West. At the airport we studied again the weather to the next airport where we could refuel, Bodø, a flight of just over an hour.

During the flight to Bodø we had a lower ceiling (at around 1,200ft, flying at below 1,000ft) and showers here and there. Though just at the airport the weather was clear. We landed, refueled, quickly ate some bananas and got ready for the next flight to Alta.

For the flight to Alta we would have liked to enjoy the view of the Lofoten islands, but seeing the weather and winds, we rather flew towards Leknes and then by the Western coastline of those islands. We passed by the West of Andenes. At that point the weather conditions were not very good, the flying was not easy. We counted with the help of the ATC and the messages exchanged between our 3 airplanes. Once we passed the latitude 70°, North of Tromsø, we got encouraging messages from the F-PANI, but as we were approaching Alta the weather was still not getting better, with very strong winds entering the Stjernsundet fjord to get to Alta. The airport in Alta was at the end of another fjord and at that point the wind was calmer and we landed.

The airport was closing so we just had time to get some help to get a taxi, book a room at the Scandic hotel and had dinner at Du Verden. The study of the weather during that dinner was not very positive, but we still gave us until the next morning to decide what to do the following day.

Day 5 (July 21st) – Alta

Before breakfast at 7am we looked at the weather and decided not to attempt to reach the North Cape that day, as the conditions were not very good with winds, rain and clouds. We booked another night at the hotel and the group split in two: Dominique and Norbert went to the airport to refuel the 3 planes, while the rest of us went to the museum of Alta to visit the Rock carvings (see related post). On the way there there was some rain but later on the sky became clear and we continued walking around for a total of more than 12km that day.

Back at the centre of the village we got some food for the plane (so we could have something to eat in the stops), we took a closer look at the iconic Northern Lights Cathedral and later met the group for dinner at a pizza restaurant, where again we studied the weather for the following morning, when we would attempt to fly by the North Cape followed by a flight to Tromsø.

Day 6 (July 22nd) – Alta (ENAT) – Alta (ENAT) – Bodø (ENBO)

We woke up early again, took breakfast together at 7am and got ready to go to the airport and wait for the weather to become more favorable. After about an hour, the F-BERB departed first by the fjord and then flying over the terrain to reach Porsangerfjord at the East and reach the North Cape from the South. A bit later the F-PANI and us left following the fjords (flying by Hammerfest) and reaching the North Cape from the West, took some pictures of it and then took heading for the South West.

The F-PANI flies much faster and at some point they reached a situation without visibility so they took a U-turn and so we did and both airplanes flew back to Alta, where we refueled again and stayed for some more time waiting for a front of clouds and rain to pass.

We then departed again, this time reaching the coast directly through the fjords to then follow the Western coast of the Lofoten islands on the way to Brønnøy. That flight was a very complex one. Already getting out of the fjords was difficult with very low ceiling, flying at 500ft, some showers, low visibility… flying with the help of the GPS to ascertain where the other side of the fjord or the next island would appear.

After 1h30′ the sky became somewhat clearer and just when we were going to fly West of Andenes airport we received a message from the F-BERB informing that the weather by the interior of the Lofoten islands was better and we could see some light from afar at that point so we changed plans and took heading for Evenes airport. We then enjoyed an hour of very pleasant flight over the islands and turquoise waters.

We flew past Bodø and exchanged some messages with the other airplanes about plans in Trondheim after refueling at Brønnøy only to find that some 40nm South of Bodø visibility was very bad and the ceiling very low. The difference now was that the area is full of small rocky islands, so at that point we made another U-turn and flew back to Bodø. The visibility at the airport was very low as well so we waited holding flying in circles at some 600ft for a few minutes about 20nm South of the airport until the controller offered to guide us to the airport under Special VFR.

We landed, refueled, called the tower by phone to thank the ATC for his help, booked a hotel by the harbor (Radisson Blu) and had dinner at Bjørk. Back at the hotel we studied the weather again and decided to go early to the airport to see if we could depart the following morning.

Day 7 (July 23rd) – Bodø

We reached the airport earlier than 7am to see if we could leave, but hesitated as the weather conditions were still quite degraded and were not getting better. After a couple of hours at the airport we gave up, called our colleagues at Trondheim (who then pursued their trip) and went back to book another hotel (Zefyr) and took the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (see related post).

In the afternoon I went to rest at the hotel, while Jérémie went visiting around the city. For dinner we went to Burgasm (with a very comprehensive variety and customization of burgers).

Day 8 (July 24th) – Bodø

This day the weather was still pretty bad, as another low pressure front was coming from the South West and expected to hit the coast. We went to visit the Salmon centre by the harbor and then to the airport to move the airplane and align it with the strong winds that would blow later in the evening (and hopefully clear the local weather so that we could depart the following morning). That evening we had dinner at En Kopp, with very good fish dishes.

Day 9 (July 25th) – Bodø (ENBO) – Kjeller (ENKJ) – Tønder (EKTD)

We left the hotel at 6am to try to be ready to fly at 7am and so we did. That day the weather was finally good, with just some clouds at 3,000ft around Bodø but clearing further South. We continued flying along the coast down to Brønnøy while climbing first to 4,500ft and then to 6,500ft in order to fly to the interior of the country, East of Trondheim, flying over Røros and approaching the TMA of Oslo Gardermoen from the North, flying by the East of the CTR and finally landing at Kjeller aerodrome (the first aerodrome built in Norway in 1912), where the weather was completely different, blue sky and hot temperatures.

Funnily enough, at the fuel station of Kjeller we met a local who had been in Toulouse learning to fly aerobatics and knew some members of one of the aeroclubs in Toulouse Lasbordes. We had lunch there, studied the weather again ahead of the crossing of the sea and the flight over Denmark, where storms were announced.

Shortly after we took off again from Kjeller, overflew Rygge and continued our flight to the South very close to the separation between the Norwegian and the Swedish FIR, while having the Swedish coast in sight for most of the time until we could see from afar the thin peninsula of Skagen in Denmark. This time we flew closer to the East of Jutland to avoid the storms that seemed to be more to the West. We left Aalborg to the West, then Billund and the ATC of Skrydstrup helped us in flying through some local cumulonimbus and showers, until we were finally in sight of Tønder.

At Tønder we met some of the members of the local club and later came the person in charge of the refueling station (as Norbert had called him to make sure they were aware of our arrival). This time we were able to pay in euros, so we refueled that same afternoon, before we were offered a lift to the Motel at the centre. We then went again to Cafe Arthur.

The following day would be a long one and the weather forecast wasn’t very good for Denmark or Luxembourg, but seemed OK to cross Germany. Following the example of the F-BERB we decided to go very early to the aerodrome to take off as soon as we could.

Day 10 (July 26th) – Tønder (EKTD) – Doncourt (LFGR) – Alès Cévennes (LFMS) – Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL)

We woke up at 4:30am and left at 5:10 for the aerodrome. While walking the sky was clear, but when the aircraft was ready mist was taking over. When we were about to align on the runway we could not see further than half of it, so we went back to the parking, switched off the engine and waited a few minutes.

A bit later, when the mist seemed to have cleared a little bit and we had good visibility of the whole runway we tried again to take off and this time we went to the air leaving the low level mist below us and we continued our flight on top to the South, immediately crossing to Germany.

We flew at 4,500ft until Nordholz and then climbed to FL065 to have better visibility of the cities ahead of us. Later, ahead of reaching the class C spaces around Düsseldorf and Cologne the ATC gave us clearance and asked us to climb to FL070 to stay in VMC conditions, as around Cologne the clouds became more numerous and were quite abundant by the time we overflew Luxembourg.

Once we had crossed to the French air space we looked for a hole among the clouds so we could get below by flying down in circles making a downward spiral, and so we did, until we were below the ceiling at just around 1,000ft above ground level. We then informed the ATC of Strasbourg that we diverted to Doncourt instead of flying to Verdun, in order to land sooner instead of flying longer at that low altitude.

We then called the BRIA of Bordeaux to close the flight plan, refueled the plane, ate a little and studied the weather in France, which didn’t seem very good around the Massif Central nor West of it. After some careful study we guessed that the safest approach would be to make a small detour and fly South towards Toulouse by Dijon, Lyon, Nîmes, Montpellier and Carcassonne, and so we did.

We only encountered some showers before reaching Dijon, but further South the weather was good and we only had to watch out for some glider activity at some points around Lyon. We made a refueling stop at Alès Cévennes before getting ready for the last flight of the excursion.

Flying to Toulouse through the corridor of Montpellier – Carcassonne is something I had done a few times, so we just focused on staying alert as the day was getting long and we were becoming tired.

We finally landed at Toulouse Lasbordes, where Dominique and Norbert (who had arrived two days earlier) were waiting for us. They brought a bottle of champagne which we drank by the airplane still on the tarmac. They then helped us getting the airplane in the hangar, we said good-bye, continued cleaning the plane, filled in the papers… and savored the moment of what we had just accomplished: flying VFR all the way to the North Cape and back.

Trip preparation and tips

  • We flew for over 46 hours, the other plane departing from Toulouse did 43 hours. On flying days the average flying time was almost 7 hours per day, with a maximum over 9 hours the last day. We completed 15 flights.
  • We were stranded 3 days without flying, the other airplanes only 1, but the F-BERB in a similar excursion years ago also lost some 3 days. We also had to delay our departure by 4-5 days due to heavy rain in the North of France, Belgium and South of Germany around the targeted departure date. Thus, it would be prudent to budget in your calendar at least 10 days for the trip.
  • The excursion was mainly about flying, preparing flights, refueling, studying the weather (at dinners, breakfasts and refueling pauses). We only had time to visit the places when we were stranded. Thus, it is trip for dedicated aviation enthusiasts.
  • We opened an account at the Norwegian Avinor site. It’s free of charge and it contains all the aerodrome charts, AIP, weather information and a tool to file flight plans. In that site you’ll be able to get a week pass to cover all the landing fees for about 94€ (in July 2021).
  • For the preparation of the flights and the navigation we relied on SkyDemon (I took 1 month subscription for 14€) from an iPad Mini (however I used an external GPS connected to the iPad, this proved tricky for the battery management in the flights over 4 hours). The good resolution of SkyDemon was very valuable to fly along the coast when visibility was low.
  • Special attention needs to be paid to where you can refuel. About half of the airports in Norway do not have Avgas 100LL. Most of the ones that do have Avgas do not accept cash or credit card payment, but are divided into those which accept the Air BP card (which we had) and the ones accepting the Shell card (which we didn’t have, those part of the AFSN network – there was an AIP from just a few months before informing about that). Therefore we were effectively restricted to about one fourth of the airports (that is an element when thinking about flight planning and potential diversions, whether they may occur at the end or beginning of a flight). The best would be to depart with both the BP and the Shell cards.
  • All of the airports we landed were of moderate size with long runways.
  • The Norwegian ATC was quite helpful all along the trip and accommodated to many of our requests. When flying low sometimes we did not appear in their radar and sometimes the radio reception was poor, but those instances did not last long.
  • There was not much VFR traffic in the North, most of the other aircraft in the frequency were commercial aircraft from mostly Widerøe, Norwegian and SAS.
  • We did not make any hotel reservation in advance, only when landing at each airport in the afternoon, as we were not sure of whether we would be able to make it to the intended destination (a couple of times we didn’t). Once landed we made the reservations via booking.com.
  • The overall budget (including the cost of the flight hours including fuel (the largest cost by far), landing fees, hotels, meals, etc) for our plane has been around 9,500€ (less than 5,000€ per person).

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Norwegian Aviation Museum

During our flight excursion to Norway we had to stop for a couple of days in Bodø and this gave us the opportunity to visit the Norwegian Aviation Museum (Norsk luftfartsmuseum) built on the site of the airport built by the Germans during World War II.

The museum is divided mainly in two sections, military and civil aviation, which are separated by a hall which leads to a control tower that enjoys a good view over the airport of the city. We spent over 2 hours visiting the museum (entry price was 175 NOK, around 17 euros) and found it quite interesting.

Control Tower

Military aviation

The exhibition is organized chronologically, starting with the use of balloons to gather intelligence over the enemy lines in battles, the first pioneers in aviation and military aviation in between the world wars, the aircraft acquired for the armed forces in Norway at the time, the first military aerodrome in Norway (Kjeller) which was also the site where military aircraft would be produced under license, exhibits about operations during the second world war (such as the first paradropping operation over Stavanger Sola), the training of the Norwegian armed forces in Canada in a camp called “Little Norway“, and then ending with more modern aircraft.

Some of the relevant aircraft they have in display are: Avro 504K DYAK (used during WWI), Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina (amphibian aircraft mainly used for reconnaissance patrol of German U-boats), De Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth (which was one of the aircraft licensed to be built at Kjeller between the wars and then was stationed at military bases in Kjeller, Værnes and Bardufoss), De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito (these were imported from Britain and several were lost during WWII missions mainly armed reconnaissance along the Norwegian coast and attacks on German U-boats), Supermarine Spitfire (the most important British fighter during WWII equipped as well two Norwegian squadrons which operated over 500 Spitfires between 1942 and 1945), etc.

Avro 504K
De Havilland DH 98 Mosquito
Supermarine Spitfire

Civil aviation

The civil aviation exhibition as well is organized chronologically, starting with the early pioneers who acquired some of the early models and studied aeronautical engineering in France, followed by the early development of aviation in Norway with emphasis on the role played by the former Norwegian Air Lines (DNL), Widerøe (regional airline connecting every corner of Norway and based in Bodø), Braathens and SAS.

The exhibition showcases as well some of the contributions of Norway to international aviation such as the development of navigational aids that enabled commercial traffic over polar regions (gyro compass, grid north and sky compass – read this interesting article on flying polar routes) thanks to the works of the navigator Einar Sverre Pedersen. The first polar route was operated by SAS in 1952 with a DC-6B, and then commercially from 1954 with Copenhagen to Los Angeles as the first route.

Another Norwegian breakthrough in commercial aviation consisted on Turi Widerøe (daughter of one of the founders of Widerøe airline) becoming the first female pilot in a major airline in the Western world in 1967, when she received her license; then she first operated seaplanes for Widerøe and later moved to SAS to fly Caravelles and DC-9s until her retirement in 1978.

Turi Widerøe
Junkers Ju-52

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Feria de Vic-Fezensac 2021

Este fin de semana tiene lugar la feria de toros de Vic-Fezensac, una pequeña localidad en el departamento de Gers (Francia). La feria normalmente se celebra en torno a la fecha Pentecostés (este año fue el 23 de mayo), pero debido a las restricciones en aquellas fechas a causa de la pandemia, y tras suspenderse la feria en 2020, este año se ha celebrado en julio.

Cartel de la Feria en 2021

La corrida a la que fuimos hoy, como en años anteriores, era la corrida concurso, donde se torean 6 toros de 6 ganaderías diferentes para elegir al mejor toro. Para ello el jurado puntúa la presentación, el comportamiento en cada una de las picas, en las banderillas, en la muleta y si el toro va a más o a menos.

Paseíllo.

Dado que el foco de la corrida está en los toros, y siendo ésta una plaza pequeña y torista, los toreros que suelen venir no son grandes figuras. En esta ocasión eran Manuel Jesús Pérez Mota (Cádiz), Sergio Serrano (Albacete) y Adrien Salenc (Nîmes).

1er toro, Rondino (ganadería Fraile), junto con Pérez Mota.

El día de hoy tampoco hubo mucha suerte con los toros. Los tres primeros toros no dejaron una gran impresión y las respectivas faenas fueron para olvidar.

4o toro, Belugo (ganadería Yonnet), con Pérez Mota.

Los tres últimos toros dejaron mejor impresión. Si acaso el mejor toro fue el 4⁰, Belugo, aun así el premio del concurso quedó desierto.

5o toro, Dichoso (ganadería San Martín), toreado por Sergio Serrano.

La mejor faena la hizo Salenc con el último toro, con el que arrancó unos aplausos, aunque también era el toro más pequeño y ágil de los 6.

6o toro, Barbatristes (ganadería Los Maños), toreado por Adrien Salenc.

Para acceder a la plaza todos los asistentes debíamos presentar nuestro pasaporte Covid (tras doble vacunación) o un resultado negativo de test de antígenos (para lo cual había una carpa haciendo tests a la entrada, además de en una farmacia a 400m).

Antes de comenzar y durante la corrida se hicieron varios homenajes a la víctimas de la pandemia, a los sanitarios voluntarios en la plaza y a cada uno de los ganaderos como muestra de apoyo.

Esperemos que en los próximos meses la situación de la pandemia mejore y con ello se multipliquen los espectáculos taurinos y se recupere la fiesta de este último año y medio de casi parón.

Selfie al final de la corrida con Luismi, esperando volver el año que viene.

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Flight excursion to Biscarrosse, Dune du Pilat and Cap Ferret

This weekend, with my work colleague Thomas and other 7 airplanes of our Aviation Society, we made a day-long flight excursion to Biscarrosse (~60km South West of Bordeaux), in order to visit its Seaplane museum (Musée de l’Hydraviation).

We took the opportunity of the excursion to overfly other interesting landmarks such as the water slope of Montech, the pont-canal of Moissac, the Dune of Pilat and Cap Ferret by the bay of Arcachon.

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below some of the beautiful pictures of the flight (most taken by Thomas), and at the bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip, and then I will briefly comment the museum.

Cap Ferret
Dune of Pilat
Dune of Pilat
Cap Ferret and Arcachon bay
Atlantic ocean
Lakes of Biscarrosse and Cazaux
Water slope at Montech
Aviation Society airplanes parked at Biscarrosse
Thomas and me

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Biscarrosse Parentis (LFBS) lasted 2h05′ including the excursion to the seaside to overfly the Dune of Pilat and Cap Ferret, a detour of ~20′. The return trip took us 1h48′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the fuel tank full (in theory up to 109l of usable fuel) and after each flight we did refills of ~55 and 43 litres; that would mean a fuel consumption per trip of ~26.4l per hour and 23.9l per hour.

For the first flight we filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eased the flying through different flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

Flying around the Dune of Pilat and Arcachon bay was quite busy. We flew in the area at an altitude of ~2,500ft and below us, at around 1,000ft, we saw quite a few airplanes flying by, not all in the same radio frequency. Thus, in days of good weather that is something to watch out.

Biscarrosse-Parentis airport was also rather busy, with airplanes, ULMs, autogyros, helicopters and gliders… and seaplanes, some of them departing from the water but others from the paved runway, making use of small wheels installed in their floats. Luckily all the restricted airspace areas in the immediate surroundings of the airport were not active that day, otherwise it would have been trickier to approach the airport and be forced to fly at lower altitude.

The museum is at the other side of the village, not at walking distance. We were taken there by car by the director of the airport and his partner, thanks to their acquaintance with some of our society pilots; that helped a lot with the logistics, otherwise we would have taken taxis. There is a restaurant by the airport and another one by the museum, though we organized a picnic this time.

Musée de l’Hydraviation

At the beginning of the XX century Pierre-Georges Latécoère chose Biscarrosse to set up a seaplane assembly factory with parts coming from Toulouse. Latécoère seaplanes were among the largest French seaplanes produced (Latécoère 631) and from Biscarrosse Les Hourtiquets flying boat base departed air liners piloted by pioneers like Mermoz, Guillaumet or Saint-Exupery. Those were the days when Biscarrosse was destined to be one of the main hubs in aviation until the second world war came and aviation developed in a different path.

To celebrate those days we have this small museum and a bi-annual encounter of seaplanes that takes place in Biscarrosse.

The museum takes less than 1h30′ to visit and it is mainly composed of models of the seaplanes of the early days (including the first attempts by Fabre and Curtis), the development and growth of Latécoère’s business, Boeing Clippers, the luxury of seaplane travel in those days, the role of seaplanes in the war, the dream that led to the single flight of the Hugues H-4 Hercules Spruce Goose, and today’s use of seaplanes in firefighting operations.

Grumman HU-16 Albatross
Fabre Hydravion model
Fabre Hydravion real scale model from recent years
Capronissimo CA 60
Hugues H-4 Hercules

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Summary of (my) 2020

Time to look back and reflect on how the year which is about to end developed. Brief recap of my 2020. (1)

If I had to pick three personal and positive memories from this 2020 they would be:

1. Skiing together with my daughter Andrea down some pistes (slopes) for the first time (in Vars, Haute-Alpes, Southeastern France). She was 6 years old at the time and had spent the last years’ skiing holidays in the piou piou kids’ garden. This year she obtained her ourson medal (following the French ESF system).

2. Seeing my son David learning to swim without the help of armbands. He turned 4 years in early April, and by mid May we set up the pool. Early on the swimming season he insisted on imitating his sister, who already knew how to swim, until he managed to do it on his own. Since then we enjoyed dozens of days of swimming together.

3. Flying with the family for a weekend excursion to Avignon.

Those were my most memorable moments, but as you can imagine this year 2020 was also a messy and uncertain one for us, to some extent. Indeed, some of the other good things of the year were those that didn’t happen: no one from our family or our most immediate relatives got infected with coronavirus nor had to go through hospitalization; despite of the bad turn taken by international travel, the aerospace industry and the generalized job cuts, we are all still working.

Not everyone was that lucky. In 2020 I lost an aunt and a close former work colleague. Other colleagues and friends lost relatives during the past twelve months, we have known dozens of cases going through illnesses (covid and others) in the past months. My thoughts are also with them today.

On a lower level, the fact of living abroad far from either of our families made that the lock downs and travel restrictions allowed us to only see my siblings or parents-in-law from Christmas to Christmas, or my sister-in-law and parents in summer for a short period of time.

On the contrary, the lock downs made us spend much more time with the kids. Having schools closed from mid March to end May was tough, a real balancing act. But it gave us the opportunity to see first hand the kids’ growth: David starting to pick up English or counting; Andrea drastically improving her reading, writing, maths and drawing.

Like most people we had to cancel many activities (including family visits and a couple of friends had to cancel their weddings). However, early on we switched to not planning much and opted for a quiet and laid back year.

Flying: Other than the above mentioned excursion, I only flew 9 flying hours, including 14 take offs and landings, the least in the last 9 years (we could not fly for months as a consequence of the emergency measures taken by the state and our aeroclub). And only my friend Javier flew for the first time with me at the controls this year.

Running: I completed one single race, the half marathon of Blagnac on March 1st (which already felt awkward as that same day was supposed to take place the half marathon of Paris but that one was cancelled). Since then, the marathon of Madrid was canceled twice, the Ronde des Foies Gras, as well. I didn’t subscribe to any other race. And this year I barely ran above 750km, the least in the last 10 years, far below the average of +1,900km per year from 2011 to 2016. A thing to improve in the 2021.

Blogging: This year in February was the 10th anniversary of the blog, but I didn’t manage to write much; only 7 blog posts in 2020. The blog received just above 26,000 visits in 2020 (the least since 2012) and nearly 430,000 since I started it in 2010.

Travelling: We didn’t travel a lot this year, but still we saw a few new and old places: Embrun, Vars, Vaison-la-Romaine, Lavaur, La Halle de la machine, L’Envol des Pionniers, Cuellar, Chartres, Oradur sur Glane, Rocroi, Rijswick, Kijkduin, Wijchen, Amiens, Tours, Madrid, some of the latest A380 convoy…

Reading: With so much time at home due to lock downs and cancelled plans, I found plenty of time to read and reading I did. In the end I completed 37 books and read above 13,400 pages (more than ever). For the detailed list of books, see the post I wrote about my 2020 reading list with a brief description of each book.

Investing: one of Buffett’s quotes is “opportunities come infrequently. When it rains gold, put out the bucket, not the thimble“. This 2020 was one of those years that presented opportunities and, despite of that, we didn’t invest much in 2020; on the contrary, we saw how having many eggs in the same basket compounds the uncertainty in testing times, as to the jobs’ uncertainty we added the steep dive of our employer’s stock price of which we own shares. As of today, it has recovered half of what it lost, but it was a good reminder.

NGOs support: Since we purchased our house in 2017, we had slowed down the donations to different NGOs that we had been supporting for years. We re started with some of them at the end of this 2020. With the economy’s dire prospect for the coming months many will require support, it will also be a time to spend.

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate with the family and hope for the best in 2021. This year there will be no running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with tens of thousands of other runners in the evening of this December 31st, but a lonely 10km run just my brother and me in our village. The only planned trips we have for 2021 are another skiing week in Vars and a booked weekend in autumn to celebrate my in-laws anniversary, let’s cross fingers so that we can accomplish those two plans.

Other than that, my wishes for 2021 are simple and basic: that the pandemic gets controlled in a few months, that the flying traffic recovers and the aerospace industry starts to get stabilized, and that the general public and economy can get to their normal lives.

I wish you the best for 2021, enjoy it!

(1) You can see here my 201020112012201320142015201620172018 and 2019 recaps.

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My 2020 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year (1) with a small comment for each one and links to some Twitter threads where I shared some passages that caught my attention while reading the books. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much I do recommend its reading.

  1. Le Vicomte de Bragelonne“, tome I (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): This is the second sequel, or the third book in the series of the Three Musketeers, where D’Artagnan, Athos, Portos and Aramis are portrayed ~35 years after the first adventures. The novel follows the same engaging style and the use of historical context at convenience, this time describing in France events with Louis XIV as king, Colbert as finance minister, or in England the restoration of Charles II. [Twitter thread].
  2. Julio. La biografía” (by Óscar García) (++): Nice biography of Julio Iglesias, written in a light style. It follows a chronological structure going from its beginnings, first songs, life in Madrid, describing his different albums, tours, collaborations, his successes abroad, the struggles with the family life.
  3. Ultralearning” (by Scott H. Young) (++): The book provides some principles and tactics to take on individual, focused learning projects. Some of those can be applied to any learning project and could be seen as common sense (investing time in advance in the what, how…, focus, directness, retrieval/memory check approach, feedback…). The book is though short of examples as it comes back once and again to the same few the author had gathered from his experience and some others.
  4. On the Nature of Things” (by Lucretius) (+++): Written in the first century BC, the book is a great exercise of observation and deduction. The author tries to describe the universe, matter, the forces, death, the soul, etc. [Twitter thread].
  5. Sense and Sensibility” (by Jane Austen) (+): Published in 1811 in this book Austen elaborates on the quest of partners for two sisters: Elinor who has much too sense and little assertiveness and Marianne who has more innocence than sensibility. I struggled with Austen’s use of never ending complicated sentences.
  6. Noticia de un secuestro” (by Gabriel García Márquez) (++): In this book written in 1996, García Márquez describes the kidnapping, life in custody and liberation of several journalists at the beginning of the 90s by the terrorist group FARC. It describes the nuances of the “extraditables“, how the FARC negotiated to secure that Pablo Escobar and others would not be extradited to the USA when surrendering. [Twitter thread].
  7. Business adventures“, (by John Brooks) (++): I bought this book years ago as it was highly recommended both by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Written in 1966, the book is composed of a collection of stories on product launches, insider trading, income tax, trade balance and devaluations, stockholders meetings, trade secrets, communication in business, etc. Some of them are very interesting and you can learn a lot about those subjects and business in general, but it is not for the faint-hearted reader. [Twitter thread].
  8. Managing uncertainty” (by by M Syrett and M Devine) (++): I had this book at home since years ago as a compliment from The Economist for answering to some survey. It was written in 2012, based on surveys and interviews following the 2008/09 financial crisis. The editing job was poor. Otherwise, I read during the first weeks of lock down following the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020 in Europe and it provided valuable feedback and examples. Elements discussed: flexibility and responsiveness, anticipation and scenarios, looking for opportunities, strong leadership, sense of direction, motivation, confidence in the organisation, transparency, accountability, governance, speed and informed decisions, engaging staff. [Twitter thread].
  9. La Peste” (by Albert Camus) (+++): This is a classic from 1947 that had to be read during the first weeks of the lock down following the Covid-19 outbreak. The book describes the development of a plague in the city of Oran (Algeria). The parallels to what we could live or learn from Covid-19 were many along the book: from the illness and desperation of the sick, to the confinement, the lack of resources, drastic measures, anguish, the loss of loved ones… [Twitter thread].
  10. A sangre y fuego” (by Manuel Chaves Nogales) (+++): The book was written by the author shortly after leaving Spain in 1937 to be exiled first in Paris. It is a collection of stories of the Spanish Civil War based on real facts. It conveys the horror of the war, the hatred with which both sides acted both in the front and in the rearward, the disorganization of the republican side (where the author was while in Madrid), the fights and disputes between militias from the republican side, the lawlessness… A must read. [Twitter thread].
  11. Glory Lost and Found” (by Seth Kaplan and Jay Shabat) (++): The book was written in 2016 and provides a very detailed review of Delta Airlines’ history from its creation and especially its remarkable turnaround post 9/11, including a year by year (2002-2014) review of the industry. When the Covid-19 crisis is past, the book will deserve a follow up. [Twitter thread].
  12. En el principio fue el número” (by Francisco Javier Mateos Maroto) (++): This is the first book of a collection of 40 short books on mathematics that my mother gifted me with in 2019. My idea is to read about 5-8 of those books per year. This book introduces the origin of numbers, numbering systems in different cultures, notation, numbers’ position, the origin of zero, etc. [Twitter thread].
  13. El infinito. ¿Es un viaje o un destino?” (by F. Rossell i Pujos) (+): The 2nd book of the math collection. Its beginning (discussion of Greeks, Aquinas, Bernouilli…) and its ending (Brunelleschi, Planck) were interesting but half of the book was too technical (Cantor set theories…).
  14. Tragedies” (by Euripides) (+++): The book I read is a compilation of 9 of the 18 tragedies that have survived to our days, the following ones: Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus, Hecuba, The Trojan Women, Iphigenia in Tauris, Iphigenia in Aulis, Bacchae, Cyclops. A must read together with Aeschylus, Sophocles, the Iliad and the Odyssey. [Twitter thread].
  15. Números irracionales” (by Bartolo Luque and Jorge Calero) (++): Another book from the math collection. This one offers an entertaining foray into the discovery of different irrational numbers (pi, e, 2^1/2…) throughout history and how they were estimated. [Twitter thread].
  16. Todo es número” (by Manuel Alfonseca) (+++): Another book from the math collection. This book takes the reader through a light review of the history of philosophy and science since ancient Greece till today. [Twitter thread].
  17. Pride and Prejudice” (by Jane Austen) (++): In this novel the story centres around the quest of partners for the Bennet sisters. I liked this novel much more than “Sense and Sensibility”. It has very good twists in the plot, it shows how the mistrust between social classes difficults open relationships from the outset, its reading is more fluid and it has a very strong protagonist in Elizabeth. And I loved this line by the end “Now be sincere, did you admire me for my impertinence?” [Twitter thread].
  18. Meditations” (by Marcus Aurelius) (+++): Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor in the late II century AD. This book consists of a collection of his thoughts, advice, quotes and reflections on several subjects. He wrote them as a guidance for self-improvement, being part of the Roman Stoicism school. [Twitter thread].
  19. Parmenides” (by Plato) (+): This is one of the dialogues of Plato, though it is a very difficult one to read. Either you are very motivated to attempt it or I would not recommend it. It discusses its theory of ideas, the one which is, the one which is not, the Others. A tough one. [Twitter thread].
  20. Argonautica” (by Apollonius Rhodius) (++): Written in the III century BC, this book tells the story of the trip that Jason and the rest of the heroes on board of the ship Argo make in search of the Golden fleece (which is in the region of Colchis in the East of the Black Sea), how they meet Medea and how they later flee making a detour around Europe. [Twitter thread].
  21. The brothers Karamazov” (by Fyodor Dostoevsky) (++): Lots of passion and difficult characters in this psychological novel from Dostoevsky, especially the father Fyodor, the older brother Dimitri (Mitya) and Grushenka. At times it gets a bit boring, especially the spells around the starets Zosima and the monastery. The last quarter of the book with the dialogues and speculations around the trial is great. [Twitter thread].
  22. The Clouds. Lysistrata. Wealth” (by Aristophanes) (+++): This book contained 3 of the 11 surviving comedies by Aristophanes. The first one is a critique of intellectuals in Athens and a caricature of Socrates. The second shows the bargaining power of abstinence as proved by the stance taken by the Spartan women of the play during the Peloponesian war. The third one portrays poverty as a virtue, a call for a fairer redistribution of wealth and shows the incentives that money creates. I found the comedy of Aristophanes quite direct and rich in double meaning. [Twitter thread].
  23. El archivero de la Lubianka” (by Travis Holland) (+): I received this book as a present many years ago but I forgot from whom. The story is based on a clerk working in the literary archives of the Lubianka. It depicts the fear, the lack of freedom and the arbitrary prosecution in the times of the Soviet Union under Stalin in 1939. [Twitter thread].
  24. Este no es el titulo de este libro” (by Nelo Alberto Maestre Blanco) (++): Another book from the math collection. This book discusses some paradoxes, axioms and fundamentals of mathematics. It touches the work of several mathematicians from the past: Euclid, Leibniz, Boole, Cantor, Frege, Russell, Hilbert, Peano, Gödel, Turing, Shannon.
  25. Los secretos de la defensa de Madrid” (by Manuel Chaves Nogales) (+++): This is another great book from the journalist Chaves Nogales. It describes the details of the defence of the city of Madrid during the first months of the Spanish civil war in 1936 while it was besieged by the rebels and defended by the republicans and other militias. It provides a very positive depiction of the general Miaja (loyal to the Republic) and a rather negative one of Largo Caballero (PSOE), and of actions carried by the unions (CNT and UGT) in the republican side, such as stealing food, weapons and ammunition either from the people of Madrid or the republican army defending Madrid at the front. The book provides a very detailed account of the fights and moves street by street, parks, bridges and around Ciudad Universitaria. [Twitter thread].
  26. The birds. The frogs. The assemblywomen” (by Aristophanes) (+): This book contained 3 of the 11 surviving comedies by Aristophanes. The first one is a comedy about gods. The second one mainly centres around a duel bewteen Euripides and Aeschylus in the Hades. The third one is a sexual and scatological comedy where women rebel and take control of the government. I found these 3 comedies a bit softer than the others I read from Aristophanes. [Twitter thread].
  27. Historia de la Guerra del Peloponeso” (by Thucydides) (+): For this work Thucydides is considered by some the father of scientific history or the first historian, as he applied a rigorous chronological description of the Peloponnesian war providing analysis without the intervention of Greek deities and from a neutral perspective, despite him being an Athenian general during the war. It covers the war between Athens and Peloponnesian League (led by Sparta). Some of the main historical characters appearing along the battles are: Brasidas, Pericles, Demosthenes, Alcibiades (a quite controversial character who changes sides a few times betraying his camp to avoid justice and advance in his career), Agis, Hermocrates… The books shows the importance of the naval power and dominance of the seas, and the ephemeral nature of alliances. [Twitter thread].
  28. Factfulness” (by Hans Rosling) (+++): The late Hans Rosling advocated for decades for a good comprehension of the World through knowing basic data about it and to improve the decision making processes. This book is organized around a series of 10 biases or “instincts” that we need to be aware of when analyzing data (e.g., size, gaps, linear extrapolations…) and provides some rules of thumb or tips to overcome them. [Twitter thread].
  29. The Rooster Bar” (by John Grisham) (++): A fine novel by Grisham, in which the protagonists are Law students dropouts illegally practicing law in order to get out of their student’s debt. It also touches on the difficulties of illegal immigrants in the US. [Twitter thread].
  30. The Rational Optimist” (by Matt Ridley) (++): Written in 2010, this book is a defence of exchanges, free trade, the value of ideas, the gains obtained from specialization, the advances achieved through technology, the importance of institutions, the overall improvement of societies thanks to continuous growth vs regression. It is an ode to the market economy in times when it is attacked from many fronts. [Twitter thread].
  31. The age of innocence” (by Edith Wharton) (++): Written in 1920, the book shows how was family and social life, and the morals of the old New York of 1870s. The change of that society at the turn of the century. At times the prose and language are rather baroque, and lack rhythm, but I want to remark the impressive last chapter with unexpected twists through the last sentence. [Twitter thread].
  32. This side of paradise” (by F. Scott Fitzgerald) (+): Written in 1920, the book portrays the young Amory Blaine forming his personality before and after WWI, throughout his years studying at Princeton, his attitude and relationship with girls, his first loves, the life New York, his failures… A fast paced first novel of the author.[Twitter thread].
  33. The wealth of nations” (by Adam Smith) (+++): First published in 1776, the book is for a reason a masterpiece of economic analysis. It covers in a didactic way and with several historical examples a large variety of economic subjects: the division of labour, competition and free trade vs monopolies, income from wages, land and stock, the relationship of the European powers (mainly England, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands) with their colonies, public finances. [Twitter thread].
  34. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo“, tome I (by Alexandre Dumas) (+++): I started reading this first part of the story to try to read it at the same time as my brother. It portrays the story of Edmond Dantès and his transformation through injustice inflicted upon him into the Count of Monte-Cristo. In his comeback he looks for the characters of his previous life to reward them or seek vengeance. All in the historical context of the escape from the island of Elba and the hundred days of Napoleon followed by the Bourbons restoration.
  35. Midiendo el cielo y la Tierra” (by Fernando J. Ballesteros) (+++): Another book of the maths collection. This one describes the evolution of estimating and measuring distances both in the Earth (latitudes, longitudes, navigation, the size of it) and in outer space (distances to the Moon, other planets, the Sun, other stars), including the triangulations used, Thales theorem, trigonometry, Kelper’s laws and the tools employed. [Twitter thread].
  36. The Guardians” (by John Grisham) (+++): This fast paced novel is centred on a small law firm, practically pro bono, which operates mainly in South Georgia and North Florida trying to get innocent inmates that have been wrongly convicted. In doing so they confront sheriffs, prosecutors, drug traffickers…
  37. Cambiemos el mundo” (by Greta Thunberg) (-): This is a short book with a collection of the speeches that Thunberg had given up to some point in 2019. It was a thought provoking present from last Christmas. The book in itself is badly edited as there are no references, bibliography or any support to the claims the speaker does, which may be normal in a speech but not so in a book. The editing job was poor. Other than that, in the speeches she did nothing but advocate for degrowth and forecast the doom. Surely solutions will come through technologies, policies and investments that she does not bother to go into.

During this year, with the lock-downs, confinements, etc., there was plenty of time to read and I have been able to read at a good pace thanks to the rigorous approach following these two tips:

  • a blog post from Farnam Street blog “Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day“, which was published well after I had adopted such an approach to reading but captures it very well,
  • the Wikipedia article about the Pomodoro Technique, which enables you to efficiently use the last hours of the day.

Another question that I have got a couple of times is about the source of the list of some of the classics that I read. That one comes from yet another blog post from Farnam Street blog. That post mentioned the Great Books curriculum for the bachelor in arts of Saint John’s College in Annapolis. You can get the list from the Wikipedia or directly from the college website. As I am not reading exclusively those books I advance at a pace of 5 to 8 books out of that curriculum per year, thus it will take me other 20 years to finish the program.

I wish you all very interesting reads in 2021!

(1) You can find here: my 2012 reading list201320142015201620172018 and 2019 ones.

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Flight excursion to Camargue, Provence, Avignon and Millau

This weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to Avignon, in Provence.

The main purpose of the trip was to fly over the flourishing lavender fields in Provence. Other highlights of the flight would be flying over the French Côte dAméthyste, flying over the Camargue region with the wetlands of the Rhône delta, watching the Mont-Ventoux from up close, seeing the Pont d’Avignon (from the plane this time, no dancing), flying over the Hérault Gorges, the Viaduct of Millau, the Viaduct of the Viaur and we attempted as well to see the Pont du Garde, but we missed it (next time!).

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below all the beautiful pictures of the flight in chronological order and at the very bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip.

Family picture before departing from Toulouse Lasbordes
Le Grau du Roi, Port Camargue. Montpellier.
La Camargue.
Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Mont Ventoux.
Mont Ventoux.
Final at runway 35 of Avignon.
Before the return flight.
Avignon. Pont d’Avignon.
Viaduc de Millau.
Viaduc du Viaur.
Sleeping…
Chuck Yeager and Georges Guynemer started as airplane mechanics…
Routes followed.

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Avignon Caumont (LFMV) lasted 2h25′ including the excursion to the regional park of Luberon to see the lavender fields (a detour of about 30′). The return trip took us 1h59′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the main and supplementary tanks full (in theory up to 110 + 50 litres, thus 160l) and before the second flight we did a refill of nearly 77 litres; that would be the block fuel for the first trip (thus 31.7l per hour just a bit below the 33 indicated in the manual at maximum take off weight (1,000kg for the DR-44)).

For both flights I filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eases a lot the flying through many different CTRs, class D flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

In these times of low commercial traffic we requested to overfly the coast at a rather high altitude (3,500ft instead of the mandatory maximum of 1,000ft from Montpellier to Marseille in normal times) which was granted without hesitation by the traffic controllers. That alleviated a bit the buffeting of the plane on the often windy French Mediterranean coast.

Avignon Caumont airport turned out to be a rather windy one being in the Rhone Delta. Most airports in the whereabouts had windy forecasts. We landed with winds announced by the controller of 15-20kt and on the departure the day after we had 22-32kt, though more or less aligned with the runway, 35 both times. The runway is however long (1,880m) and wide (45m). Had we had to abort the landing we had planned alternative diversion airports nearby, but most probably we would have gone away from the Delta region, all the way to Millau (thus the filling up the tank with more than double the amount of fuel we needed). The landing fees and 24-hour parking altogether cost 29.6 euros. The fuel station operated with the Carte Total.

We stayed over at the Best Western hotel by the airport at Avignon, at walking distance from the terminal (the reservation could be cancelled without charge up to 14:00 of the day we arrived, thus 2 hours later than our estimated landing time, in case we had to divert to somewhere else). We booked a family room with four beds and sofa bed with breakfast for 135 euros which could be paid in cheques vacances. The hotel has a swimming pool which was needed for the kids to relax in the afternoon. At walking distance there was as well a Courtepaille restaurant.

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10th anniversary of this blog

Ten years ago today, on the February 9th 2010, I started this blog. In the very first post. Since then, I have written over 670 articles.

For the first years I managed to write above 90 posts per year, or above 7 per month, but with the birth of the second child, job changes and other hobbies, in the last years I have struggled to write that much.

The main topics of the blog have been aviation, travelling, sports, book reviews…

Taking some words from a speech I gave in Toastmasters a few years ago about writing:

My friends and family suggested me to start a blog, and I gave it a try. At the beginning I mainly wrote about aerospace, about investing, then more about travelling, books, sports, personal experiences. […]

What is the main use I find in having a blog? I use it to reflect on some topics that I approach, forcing myself to research about them. To structure my thoughts. I use for record keeping. In the blog I keep a log of some of the routes I fly, or all the races I run, with the date, time, position… or a short description of the books I read. Today, there are very many situations in which I find myself talking about something and I say, “wait, I once read about this, or visited that… and wrote about it in the blog”. I look quickly for it and share it. It adds to the conversation.

Here’s to many more years of blogging!

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