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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Aeropuerto de Zaragoza: 2º del país en transporte de mercancías, por delante de Barcelona

El año pasado escribí un artículo en el blog donde hablaba del extraordinario crecimiento del aeropuerto de Zaragoza en transporte de carga desde 2003 (fecha coincidente con la apertura del centro logístico de Inditex).

AENA ha sacado hoy una nota de prensa con los primeros resultados consolidados de 2019 y para los principales aeropuertos españoles. Pues bien, ha ocurrido lo que se preveía: desde 2019 Zaragoza se ha convertido en el segundo aeropuerto de España en transporte de mercancía, por delante del aeropuerto de Barcelona y por detrás de Madrid-Barajas.

“Los cuatro aeropuertos que registraron mayor tráfico de mercancías fueron Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, con 558.566 toneladas (+7,4%); Zaragoza, con 182.659 toneladas (+9,5); Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat, con 177.271 toneladas (2,5%) […]”

Esos cuatro aeropuertos representan el 92% del volumen nacional de carga. Madrid y Zaragoza crecieron por encima de la media nacional (5,6%) respecto a las cifras de 2018, Barcelona lo hizo por debajo (2,5%) lo que, junto con el crecimiento de Zaragoza, explica el que haya caído al tercer puesto.

Dejo debajo la misma gráfica que realicé el año pasado actualizada con los datos de 2019. En dicha gráfica no se muestran las cifras de Madrid-Barajas porque al ser el volumen el triple que el de Zaragoza, si se incluyese no se apreciaría bien el crecimiento de este último.

AENA_Zaragoza_2003-2019

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Aviation safety evolution (2019 update)

Yesterday, the Aviation Safety Network released the 2019 airliner accident statistics showing a total of 20 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 283 fatalities.

Aviation Safety Network is a private initiative from the Flight Safety Foundation which curates an extensive database with aviation incidents, hijackings and accidents, from 1946 to nowadays.

The tweet with which they made the announcement is below:

Which includes the graphic below.

ASN_infographic_2019

If we take a quick look at the figures (which report commercial aviation flights (passenger and cargo)):

  • Number of accidents: 20, up from 15 in 2020, though still the 7th safest year in history (in number of accidents).
  • Fatalities: 283, down from 556 in 2018, the 3rd safest year in history (in number of fatalities).
  • There were 5 accidents with over 10 fatalities (details here).

The graphic above from the Aviation Safety Network provides the view of the evolution of accidents. However, in their database they provide some more figures with which I produced the graphics below.

Evolution of accidents per million flights

The database provides figures of the evolution of the number of world air departures since 1970, together with the evolution of accidents (above). The database includes a ratio: fatal accidents per million flights, which I have plotted below together with the evolution of flight departures. You can see that the ratio has decreased 12 fold since 1970, from 6.35 to 0.51 last year.

2019_safety_accidents_per_flights

 

Global air traffic vs fatalities

The database provides no ratio with the figures of fatalities, but they can be related to the amount of passengers carried. In aviation there is the concept of revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) transported, which is compiled year by year and can be found in publications from ICAOIATA or aircraft manufacturers. I have plotted below both the evolution of traffic growth and fatalities since 1970, together with a 5-year moving average for the fatalities.

2019_safety_RPK_vs_fatalities

Within the evolution of traffic there are two variables that have grown over the years: the number of passengers carried per flight departure and the distance covered. Therefore, together with the decrease in the evolution of fatalities (taking the 5 year average) I have plotted below the evolution of the ratio of fatalities per trillion RPK. You can see that the ratio has decreased 81 fold since 1970, from 3,218 to 40 last year (5-year average).

2019_safety_fatalities_per_RPK

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A380 transport convoy (Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit)

One of the most recognizable features of the Airbus industrial system, with factories in different countries, mainly in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France, where the main components and the aircraft are assembled, is the transportation of those components by the iconic A300-600ST Beluga aircraft.

Arriving TLS

Image credit to Brian Bukowski.

However, as most of the A380 components are too big to be carried onboard of the Beluga, a special transportation system was required to be put in place. It included transportation of the bigger components from the plants in Hamburg, Broughton, Saint-Nazaire and Cadiz by ship to the port of Paulliac, close to Bordeaux. From there, they travel by barge up the river Garonne to Langon. Then they are mounted on special purpose trucks to travel the road from Langon to the final assembly plant near Toulouse.

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Ever since I came to work to Toulouse nine years ago, I had wanted to go and see one night the A380 transport convoy on the road. I kept postponing it, until last month. Airbus announced in early 2019 that the A380 programme would come to a close with the last aircraft to be delivered somewhere in 2021. Therefore, not many such transports were left to be seen.

Fortunately there is a public website with all the information required to prepare the visit: Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit. It includes: maps of the route that is followed, a yearly calendar with the days in which the transport will take place, a detailed schedule with the time slot in which the transport will pass by the different villages along the route and support documentation.

IGG

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Detailed_calendar

With that information I set out to see the convoy last December on the night between the 18th and 19th. Firstly, I went to see the convoy at their stop at L’Isle Jourdan.

IMG_20191219_005940070

I then followed part of the route with the convoy, seeing how the team removed sign posts along the way and marked some points as reference for the truck drivers.

Route_google

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Then I drove to Lévignac, a village where the pass is rather tight and slow. At Lévignac I found a group of about a dozen enthusiasts dressed in yellow vests who come to see every single convoy since years ago out of pure pleasure of watching such a magnificent sight.

IMG_20191219_025342972

The convoy arrives at Lévignac at 2:23am and normally takes 12 minutes to pass by (see the detailed schedule above), but this time there were many cars parked in the streets which needed to be displaced: either by the tow truck or pushed by hand. Careful measurements were taken by the operators to ensure the convoy would pass.

IMG_20191219_024438095IMG_20191219_030121615IMG_20191219_030507962

With all the checks properly done and cars removed, we enjoyed the slow pass of the 6 trucks:

IMG_20191219_025911751IMG_20191219_025955330IMG_20191219_031452106_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032105262_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032242685_BURST000_COVER_TOPIMG_20191219_032822374IMG_20191219_033027266

I got to see the convoy of MSN (manufacturer serial number) 270, an Emirates aircraft. There will be just two more aircraft to be built after that one, MSNs 271 and 272, with their respective convoys, which dates remain to be announced in the above-mentioned website at the time of writing this post. If you have the chance, do not miss it!

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Summary of (my) 2019

Time to look back and reflect on how the year which is about to end developed. Brief recap of my 2019. (1)

The main event of the year: I switched jobs and started working at widebody marketing in Airbus.

Class of 2019_2

Having said that: other personal objectives for 2019 have been moderately accomplished to different extents. Now, let’s review the year in more detail.


Flying. It took me until March to make the first flight of the year, and did not fly much until September, I only then flew enough to renew the license for the next two years. In total I flew 13 flight hours, including 36 take-offs and landings. I also passed an exam to renew the radio communication qualification in French for another six years.

If I recall it well, this year my work colleagues Carlos and Aleks, my mother in law Wijnanda and fellow pilot Marc flew for the first time with me at the controls. I flew as well with my father in law, Meine, with Luca, Andrea and David a couple of times. Believe me, there are very few things more enjoyable than flying with friends. I am sure that in 2020 that will be the case with some more.

This year again I took part in the rallye aerien of our aeroclub ACAT. It was a great experience again, even if this time we had more trouble in finding ourselves. On the other hand I could not take part in any of the fly outs organized by our Aviation Society.

collage_flying

Other things aviation. This year, I visited the Polish Aviation Museum of Krakow which was a great discovery. On top of that, I read some aviation books: “Buying the big jets”, “Straight & Level, Practical Airline Economics”, “Nuts!” and “Skygods, the fall of Pan Am”. And at the very end of the year, and after having lived in or around Toulouse for 9 years, I finally got to see the A380 convoy in its route from the ship offloading in Langon to Toulouse:

A380_convoy

Airbus. After nearly 4 years working in the development of the Airbus A330neo, and seeing its entry into service, as mentioned above, I switched jobs within the company. This time I moved to the commercial side of it, in the product marketing team which regards at the positioning of our aircraft, future developments to be made and supports sales campaigns. Quite a fun job. The move started with a four-month-long training which felt very much like going back to aerospace engineering school; studying again aircraft performance, mission requirements, impact of aircraft configuration on the mission, aircraft economics, etc.

Believe it or not, there were other things than aviation in our lives in 2019:

Public speaking. I stayed rather active in our in-company Toastmasters public speaking club until I switched jobs. In this coming 2020 I shall re-start with it.

Blogging. This year I managed to write only 17 blog posts, well below previous years. The blog received nearly 34,000 visits in 2019 (less than in 2018) and above 402,000 since I started it in 2010.

Reading. Since moving to our new house, we have dedicated one of the rooms to be a family library (call it a pet project). We keep on buying books that we consider good enough and place them there, keeping our curiosity and the thirst for good reads always alive. This year I kept up with the reading pace, up until starting the training for the new job. I then faced some months of slow pace reading until the last quarter. In the end I read 17 books and nearly 5,000 pages (less than in 2018). For the complete list of books, see the post I wrote about my 2019 reading list with a brief description of each book.

Running. In 2019 I have run just below 1,200 kilometres, slightly higher than the previous year but a very low yearly mileage since I arrived to Toulouse in late 2010. I completed 6 races, less than in previous years, including 2 marathons (Krakow and Porto), a couple of trails (Ronde des Foies Gras (26 km) and Trail du Cassoulet (24 km)) and the Christmas’ races at the end of the year. I found myself with little training some weeks before each of the marathon and the running this year has been putting up mileage some weeks just ahead of those races to ensure that I could finish them.

2019_mileage

collage_running

Skiing. In 2019 we have repeated the wonderful all-family skiing week in the Alps (Vars) as we did in 2017 and 2018, and as we will do again in a few weeks in 2020. This year, Luca and I were placed in different groups and Andrea continued making progress, jumping two levels to earn her “Garolou” medal. In the afternoons we enjoyed going altogether to practice some luge near the hotel with David.

Vars

Bull fighting. This year again, I managed to attend a  couple of bull fights: the Feria de Pâques de Arles (France), at the great Roman amphitheater, and the Feria de Pentecôte at Vic Fezensac, a small lively village in the Gers (France) and later on in Arles (France).

Arles

Travelling. This year we visited Madrid, Aix-en-Provence, Digne-les-Bains, Vars, Orange, Arles, Vic-Fezensac, Krakow, Saint-Tropez, San Remo, Genoa, Vernazza (Cinque Terre), Tuscany (Pisa, Siena, Florence, San Gimignano, Vinci, Lucca), Alassio, Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, Millau, Porto, Blois, Amiens, Wijchen, Amsterdam, Fontevraud, San Sebastian… Many of these places have meant repeat visits, but they are lovely and we’ll continue to go there.

collage_viajes

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2020 to turn out. For us it will include David starting to speak English and skiing, hopefully lots of flying and running (including at least a marathon in Madrid), some books to read, museums to see, trips and excursions to enjoy… For now, I will close 2019 celebrating my sister’s birthday, running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2020, enjoy it!

(1) You can see here my 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 recaps.

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