Category Archives: Movies

Landing at a car racing circuit

Albi is small city close to Toulouse. It is mainly famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site Cathedral Sainte Cécile and the museum of the painter Toulouse-Lautrec. I had been there twice, but I hadn’t yet written a post about the city. Today I’ll write about another special feature it has.

In Albi there is a car racing circuit. I have a colleague who likes cars, motor-bikes and has been already using that circuit in one of its open days.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the stall exercises we performed in last Saturday’s flight lesson.

Let me connect the dots. On Saturday, while having lunch, our colleague told us that the circuit in Albi was having an open day that precise day. He encouraged us to propose to our instructor to fly to Albi. And here comes the catch: “Why?” Because the aerodrome of Albi, our colleague explained to us, is embedded in the car racing circuit!

We gave it a try, demanded our instructor to go to Albi and succeeded. See below the flight path recorded with my Garmin:

Flight route Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) - Albi (LFCI).

In the following screenshot of the Visual Approach Chart (carte VAC) you may see how when the circuit IS active the runway of the aerodrome is shortened as the circuit crosses the runway! (You may download the chart here, PDF, 360KB).

Visual Approach Chart (VAC) for Albi aerodrome when the car racing circuit is active.

You may see it better below, in the Google maps view, how the circuit intersects the runway:

Albi car racing circuit and aerdrome.

Finally, enjoy the video of the final approach of our flight. If you pay attention to it, you’ll notice the cars racing in the circuit while we are approaching and how we are in fact touching down only within the allowable space when the circuit is active:

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Stall exercise

Yesterday, I wrote about a documentary on the AF447 accident. Within the video, a flight instructor performs a real stall exercises and he mentions that this is taught in the first lectures of flight instruction.

As I mentioned in the post, I learnt about the documentary while having lunch with 2 colleagues. I was telling them “I’d like to perform those stall exercises to see what feeling does your body have and how you instinctively react to it and how you have to consciously correct that reaction”.  As the old adage goes “be careful what you wish for ’cause you might get it”.

After lunch, we headed to the aeroclub to have our class. Thierry, our instructor, opened by asking whether we had seen that documentary we had been talking about. Then, he mentioned “let’s do today stall exercises!” 🙂

Shortly, from the Wikipedia:

[…] a stall is a reduction in the lift coefficient generated by a foil as angle of attack increases. This occurs when the critical angle of attack of the foil is exceeded. […]
Stalls in fixed-wing flight are often experienced as a sudden reduction in lift as the pilot increases angle of attack and exceeds the critical angle of attack […].

The theory of the exercise was easy: fly up to 3,000 ft, reduce the power of the engine down to idle, try to keep the altitude by pulling the stick backwards (nosing up), keep pulling the stick backwards when the stall alarm sounds off, wait until the aircraft starts buffeting, cannot maintain altitude and falls off… then push a little the stick (nose down), recover speed (above stall speed), start nosing up again while increasing power up to max rpm, get to 3,000 ft again. Easy.

The practice… well, my colleague was doing his exercises first while I was sitting at the back. I went from being warm due to the sunny weather to feeling uneasy to experiencing this cold sweat…

You may see the video below with one of the stall exercises performed by my colleague. You’ll notice the stall alarm (in this case it is just an alarm, not a voice saying “stall”):

Apologies for 1) bad quality of the video performed by my not-so-smartphone and 2) for not having recorded a video of my own stall exercises… I was too stressed with them 🙂

Note: For the record, in the documentary it is mentioned that pupils get to practice stall in their first lessons. Yesterday’s was my 10th flight in order to obtain the PPL (private pilot licence), up to then I had completed just slightly above 6 flight hours.

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El Cosmonauta

Hace algo más de un año acudí con un amigo a la conferencia TEDxMadrid. Allí fue donde por primera vez escuché hablar de la película “El Cosmonauta”, por voz de su director, Nicolás Alcalá.

Desde entonces he escuchado y leído varias veces hablar sobre la película. Lo novedoso de la misma radica en su planteamiento como proyecto de crowdfunding. No me quiero extender sobre ello, ya que se ha escrito mucho sobre el asunto y podéis encontrar mejores explicaciones (por ejemplo aquí – PDF). En definitiva, como las palabras indican en inglés, el crowdfunding se trata de financiarse a través de muchos pequeños inversores que realizan pequeñas aportaciones y reciben contrapartidas en proporción a su inversión.

En aquel primer momento no invertí ninguna cantidad. Sin embargo, ya hace algo más de un año escribí en este blog también acerca de este proyecto, del crowdfunding y de otras iniciativas que había encontrado en internet (Kickstarter y GrowVC).

Desde hace meses le tenía perdida la pista al proyecto, pero ayer, por casualidad, vi un tweet donde se enlazaba el tráiler de la película.

No sé qué os parece a vosotros, pero a mí me causó una muy buena impresión. Volví a leer en su web acerca de la situación actual del proyecto, de la financiación que les queda por conseguir y de las formas que había de colaborar.

Esta vez no tuve que pensármelo mucho: me hice inversor y productor de la película aportando 132€.

De esta forma colaboro con una nueva forma de hacer cine, me inicio en el crowdfunding (aunque la experiencia de Kiva también es crowdfunding, aunque sin ánimo de lucro), me mantengo al corriente de una forma más directa con el proyecto, me acerco a un sueño de la infancia y cumplo uno de mis numerosos objetivos anuales (invertir en algún proyecto de crowdfunding – esta vez también con ánimo de lucro).

¿Os animáis a colaborar?

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Space Shuttle last ride

I already wrote that my childhood dream job was to be an astronaut and that led to pursuing aerospace studies. In the same post I recalled a small toy of the Challenger Space Shuttle and how this toy contributed to that dream. Well, this post is just an homage paid to the Space Shuttle, or officially the NASA Space Transportation System, STS.

The last mission of the STS is scheduled for next Friday, July 8th. When the Atlantis is supposed to make the last lift-off for the mission STS-135 which, after 12 days, will end the 30 years of Shuttle flights.

During our last visit to the USA, Luca and I had the chance to see one of the Space Shuttle vehicles at the National Air & Space Museum (NASM). The vehicle at display there is the Enterprise.

I already mentioned in that post there that the Enterprise is the only vehicle of the fleet which never went to outer space. It was used for training purposes, to let the astronauts train the gliding descend they would have to make once the vehicle re-entered in the atmosphere. Thus, some parts of that vehicle are dummies.

The Enterprise hasn’t got the same thermal protection tiles since it wouldn’t need them, however its surface replicates the tiles with some kind of rubber ones so the flow of air around them would be the same as in the other vehicles. Another difference is in the engines at the back. The 3 engines that the Shuttle has at the back are its orbital maneuvering system, which allow it to adjust its orbit (they’re not atmospheric engines to propel the Shuttle in its flight back to Florida). Again, since the Enterprise would never go to outer space it wouldn’t need to adjust its orbit and the engines it has are just dummies to provide the same distribution of weight and forms in the vehicle.

I also mentioned in the previous post about the visit to NASM that the vehicle was going to be named Constitution until a public campaign achieved its goal of naming it Enterprise after the spaceship featured in Star Trek.

Find below some pictures of the Enterprise at NASM:

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The Economist features this week 3 articles about the Space Shuttle program. I found parts of them very critic of the costs of the program, but nevertheless they give a somewhat complete picture of the history of the Space Shuttle and what may lay ahead for space exploration.

The different Shuttle vehicles (and other related materials) will be distributed among several museums and educational institutions. The Enterprise will leave the NASM and will go to the USS Intrepid in NYC while the Discovery will be hosted at NASM. You may find other locations in this article.

Finally, NASA just unveiled last Friday a wonderful documentary (80 minutes) about the history of the program: its launch, the vast engineering undertaking, the first mission, the Challenger and Columbia accidents, the improvements that the accidents brought, etc. To close the circle, the documentary is narrated by William Shatner, an actor of Worldly fame as he featured James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise in Star Trek. See a small trailer of the video:

PD: In the full length video, in the images shown of the mission STS-95 which brought John Glenn back to Space at age 77, appears Pedro Duque a Spanish astronaut that coincidentally was my teacher at the aerospace engineering school.

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A ride into the Sahara (video)

During our holidays in Tunisia, we took a 2-days excursion to the South-West; into the Sahara. We had never been in a desert before.  We loved it.

In those two days we lived many new experiences. We felt like in a roller coaster. Yesterday, I posted a video about the amphitheater of El Djem. Today I am posting another video about some of the other things we did. I truly believe that it will give you a much better idea than a thousands words…

I chose UB-40 song “Higher Ground” for the sound track of the video because indeed this is what we listened during our ride in the Toyota Land Cruiser: plenty of UB-40 songs chosen by our Tunisian driver to our delight.

Regarding the cars, I would say that around 90% of those venturing into the desert were Toyota; the remainder, mainly Nissan. If you saw what they did to those cars… they must be reliable cars.

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Amphitheater of El Djem (video)

Last August Luca and I visited the amphitheater in El Djem, Tunisia. It is the biggest one in Africa and the 4th in the World. It could host up to 35,000 spectators who came mainly to watch chariot races and gladiator shows… and as some of you may know, it was used to film some parts of the movie “Gladiator“, by Ridley Scott.

As I have done before, instead of just sharing some pictures of the amphitheater, I prepared a small video, I hope you like it. I did enjoy preparing it.

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Ethical Banking

I attended yesterday a conference by Joan Melé at EOI Business School. It caught my interest by its title Dinero y conciencia: ¿A quién sirve mi dinero? (Money and conscience, who benefits from my money?), even though I didn’t know the presenter nor the bank he works for.

I want to make some reflections of yesterday’s experience:

  • The first one as a Toastmasters member: I applaud the decision of the speaker to stand up, not using notes or a power point presentation and managing to get the focus of the audience on him and his message for over an hour and half… we witness many conferences in which the experience is not so enjoyable.
  • The next reflection is to praise the move by EOI Business School towards web 2.0 made some months ago. As an alumnus of the school I must say that it’s very motivating to see the number of activities organized, the topics covered and it’s very convenient the way they are publicized in the different channels: EOI web and blogs, Facebook, streaming TV channel, Twitter… and because of that, because you can actually watch the whole of the conference or catch a glimpse of the main messages, I will just add very few ideas that I took for reflection and some sources the presenter cited.

Regarding money itself, the speaker structured his speech in the three main uses of money: to buy, to save and to donate.

  • When buying: he proposed the exercise of thinking “what”, “why” and “where” to see how our purchasing decisions affect others (low wages, pollution, exploitation…). He made the case for an economy based not so much in consumption of material things but cultural and intellectual ones: e.g. we happily pay 30 euro for a dinner, would be pay the same to be read poetry?
  • Regarding saving he noted the positive side of it: planning for future expenses. The other side of the coin being “fear of the day of tomorrow”: what will happen that we won’t be able to face? Nothing: Whatever comes, we will be able to face it. This reminds me to Charlie Munger comment on Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting when he said that he became comfortable […] after he realized he could survive hardship, “Maybe you should get your feet wet with a little more failure”. We lack some entrepreneurship…
  • The speaker did not want to go in deep about donating, except pointing that handing large inheritances to offspring can be more harmful than positive to them and society.

Some ideas to take away:

  • There are no leaders to solve our problems; it’s the turn of civil society to take action. It’s the time for the Globalisation of conscience.
  • The responsibility for what happens around us is ours, we need to first change ourselves.
  • We are the crisis of 3 billion people since dozens of years ago.
  • Need to bring back the role of banks as agents that relate people: savers with entrepreneurs in order to create wealth with profits as a by-product not as the one and only end.
  • Need to start and epidemic of courage and enthusiasm.

Finally, some reports, articles and documentaries he cited:

One final quote from Charlie Munger to end this post: “The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations.”

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Video of Iguazu from a helicopter

In this post I want to write the least possible.

Enjoy the short video (5’20”) prepared in my first ever trip on helicopter (a Bell 206) around Iguazu falls… an unforgettable experience.

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From Ramstein to Pandora moon

At the beginning of December 2009, I took part in a conference on Military Airlift Operations in Frankfurt. The day after, we were offered a visit to Ramstein US Air Force and NATO base. In the different ramps of the base, there were several C-130Js Super Hercules (first USAFE squadron), the last remaining C-130E, half a dozen C-17 Globemaster, the same amount of C-5 Galaxy and some other contractors B-747 and DC-10. So far, so good.

Some weeks later, back in Madrid, I went to the movies to see Avatar, latest James Cameron film. The movie went along well… but it really got me when in the final battle appeared the huge airship carrying a pallet with a bomb to be air dropped. As soon as I saw the seats within the cargo hold, I thought it had to be a C-17. Then came a view of the ramp, and when the plane was crashing, the rear fuselage.

Since then I have tried to find evidence in the web, searched in forums, etc., but I have not found any evidence of it. Then I reviewed the movie and went back and forth through those last minutes. In fact it is a C-17.

Here I post some pictures of the C-17 for you to compare…

Compare the interior of the cargo hold with the seats seen in Avatar when soldiers start pushing the pallet.

Compare these other pictures with the ramp seen in the movie.

Now see the rear fuselage and compare it with the images seen when the plane in Avatar is about to crash.

Luckily the Na'vi did not face with these fleet of C-17 loaded with bombs...

… I wonder when will the A400M make its debut in Hollywood?

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