Tag Archives: London

Flight excursion to the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford.

Two weeks ago, Albert, a work colleague, and I took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 airplanes to make a flight excursion from Toulouse to Northampton Sywell, Old Warden and Duxford (England) as part of a “Fly out” organised by the Aviation Society of the Airbus Staff Council, in which 6 aircraft would make the trip.

The main purpose of the flight was twofold:

  • Visit the Shuttleworth collection and their evening flight display on Saturday 14th July.
  • Visit the Flying Legends airshow at Duxford, hosted at the Imperial War Museum, on Sunday 15th July.
Mont Saint 34_Michel

Mont Saint Michel.

During the trip we were to make 6 flights: Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) – Cherbourg (LFRC), Cherbourg – Sywell (EGBK), Sywell – Old Warden (EGTH), Old Warden – Fowlmere (EGMA), Fowlmere – Laval (LFOV), Laval – Toulouse Lasbordes. In all about 14 hours of flight time, which we split among the two of us, together with sharing the navigation and radio communications workload.

Flights_picture

We prepared the flights using Mach 7 online tool, with which we generated the flight logs and routes for GPS, which could only be charged onto Albert’s smartphone, I replicated them in my Air Navigator app on my phone as well, however we did most of the navigation by way of following the paper charts.

Chart

Having to fly most of France from South to North, we decided to overfly some castles of the Loire Valley (Chenonceau, Cheverny and Chambord), the racing circuit of Le Mans and Omaha beach in Normandy (which we couldn’t see well due to the presence of clouds at the time we passed). See below some of the pictures we took of those places (with the smartphone, no pro cameras on board).

1_Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau.

2_Cheverny

Château de Cheverny.

3_Chambord

Château de Chambord.

4_Le Mans

Racing circuit of Le Mans.

We then made a stop, refuelled the airplane, ate some energy bars and departed for England. The weather seemed uncertain and there were several air traffic restrictions due to the Royal International Air Tattoo going on at Fairford, preparations for Farnborough air show, and the visit of Donald Trump, staying at Buckinghamshire. However, our colleague found a corridor through which we could fly smoothly past 15 h local time. We over flew the English Channel (La Manche) and approached the islands by first flying over the Isle of Wight (where I stayed one month during the summer of 1999 working at Camp Beaumont in Bembridge, at the eastern corner of the island, pictured below), the Hayling island leaving Portsmouth to our left, then up North by way of Winchester, Reading, Oxford and then Northampton. But as you can imagine, as there are not sign posts in the sky we were flying following the instruments and different navigation references close to those places. We took the opportunity to over fly Silverstone racing circuit.

5_Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight.

6_Silverstone

Silverstone racing circuit.

We then landed at Sywell, where we stayed for a night at the Aviators hotel, by the aerodrome, an ideal place to make an overnight stop.

 

The following morning we made a short flight to Old Warden, a small grass aerodrome where the Shuttleworth collection is based.

I found about the Shuttleworth collection some years ago in Twitter and started following their account (@Shuttleworth_OW). They happen to have arguably the largest collection of flying aircraft from the 1910s and 1920s. They do have the oldest flying machine in airworthy condition, a Bleriot XI from 1909. Rather than introducing the collection with a few paragraphs, I share here this video from their site:

For me, visiting the collection was a dream come true, moreover on a day in which they would fly most of their airplanes. See below a few pictures.

10_Bleriot XI

1909 Bleriot XI. The original oldest airplane in airworthy condition.

11_Triplanes

1920s biplanes (DX60X Moth, Southern Martlet).

12_Bristol Boxkite

Bristol Boxkite 1910 replica flying.

9_Avro Triplane

Avro Triplane 1910 replica.

I wanted to share a short video I took of the Bristol Boxkite 1910 replica flying just after taking off (a replica built in 1965). It took its time to gain some altitude, always at quite low speeds. It never went much higher than 50 ft. It was wonderful to see it flying.

We stayed the night over at the camping by the aerodrome and in the morning we departed for Fowlmere, another grass aerodrome a few miles from Duxford. The taxiway at Fowlmere was fully packed of small airplanes (including the Antonov An-2 coming from Germany that you can see below) and tents of pilots that had been camping the previous night or would camp the following one, as we did.

 

We got a faboulous breakfast at the airfield and then drove to Duxford to attend the Flying Legends air show and visit the Imperial War Museum.

Flying-Legends-2018Our Fly out was organised by a fellow British colleague, Derek. He recalled how being brought to Flying Legends as a child by his father had been a marking moment. He only came again decades later. The air show is one of the biggest and best classic aviation events in the world. If you have the chance to visit it once, do not hesitate, go.

This year the show commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force and the 50th anniversary of the filming of Battle of Britain which had Duxford as one of the locations and some of those very airplanes as main characters of the movie. Other locations of the filming were the Tablada airfield in Seville (where Airbus Defence has facilities), the coast in Huelva passed as Dunkirk or San Sebastian as if it was Berlin.

There are plenty of aircraft to see up close, from the flight line, many exhibitors come with  books, models, clothing, memorabilia, etc., you’ve got the museum in itself (!) to visit, you have literally dozens of WWII birds flying, among them: Supermarine Spitfire (we saw a formation of 11 of them flying), Hawker Hurricane, North American P-51 Mustang and resident Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B (only B-17 in flight in Europe)… By the end of the day you will be more than overwhelmed, exhausted, but with that smile of wonder when watching those jewels fly up in the air while you hear the engines roaring, the music and the explanations from the commentator of the show.

21_Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B.

20_Flying Fortress

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B.

 

See this short video of the Balbo formation flight at the end of the display with 25 single engine WWII birds flying…

After the show we headed back to Fowlmere where we had dinner with three other colleagues (French and German) before walking to the airfield to camp by our airplane, which felt as the aviation of the beginning of the XX century.

22_camping

Fowlmere_4

Monday 16th July, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, was the day to come back to Toulouse. The weather seemed good in England and to cross the channel but not so in France, so we took it with calm. We flew through the East of London, crossed the channel and then overflew all the coast of Normandy down to Omaha beach, then we headed South West to the Mont Saint Michel and then to the airport of Laval. There we rested for a couple of hours, ate more energy bars, studied the meteorological conditions to go further South and finally departed back to Toulouse Lasbordes.

24_London

London skyline.

25_Qeen E II bridge & Littlebrook Power Station

Queen Elizabeth II bridge and Littlebrook Power Station.

26_Thames

Thames river estuary.

27_Cliffs d'Etretat

Cliffs of Étretat, Normandy (France).

28_Le Havre Pont de Normandie

Le Havre. Pont de Normandie.

29_Oil tankers

Oil tanker ships departing from Le Havre.

30_Sword beach

Sword beach (British). Normandy Landing.

31_Arromanches

Remainings of Arromanches mulberry bridge.

32_American cemetery Omaha

American cemetery at Omaha beach.

33_Omaha beach

Omaha beach.

Mont Saint 34_Michel

Mont Saint Michel.

Main takeaways and afterthoughts:

  • The airshows and visits were totally worth it. Dreams come true.
  • Over flying those castles, circuits, beaches, historical landscapes… you can imagine, breathtaking.
  • Radio communications: much easier than expected, in England as well (even if the there were lots of radio frequency changes to be made around London). French in France, English in England.
  • We made ourselves follow in each air space. It forces you to interact more with the control but it adds to the safety of flight (traffic information overflying Saint Michel or the castles is advice-able).
  • Flight plans: in France they are not required for the long flights we did South-North flying spaces E and G. But we filed them. It allows the control to better follow you. They know your plans, they give clearances for D spaces without hesitation.
  • All the terrains we visited in England required PPRs (a colleague took care of this).
  • To fly into England a GAR report must be submitted in advance.
  • We didn’t touch a single sterling pound in the four days, credit cards almost did the trick for everything. A colleague had to pay for a taxi and a meal. We could have avoided that by selecting alternatives which accepted credit card payment.
  • We had to divert due to the meteorological conditions when arriving to one of the destinations. Clouds and fog were closing our visibility. We found ourselves with no more than 3-4 km of visibility and flying very low, so we turned back. The two diversion aerodromes we had initially selected would not do the trick (in the middle of the cloud region). We had to look for a third one in flight. That was stressful. Luckily we were two pilots on board: one keeping the airplane on air, the other navigating, looking for a suitable aerodrome and downloading the aerodrome chart (we carried about 30 on board, but not the one we finally needed). Lessons learnt: never spare charts, you may need them; ensure you’ve got batteries and chargers on board (you may need them in the worst situation), if you are the only pilot on board, but have passengers with you, try to get one of them briefed in advance of what can he or she do if something happens.

After this excursion I have completed just above 120 flight hours, and I am quite happy with the flight training provided by the aeroclub and system in France. Before the excursion we had some uncertainties about some aspects of the flight. In the end all of it was much easier than expected.

 

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London 2012 Olympic Games (project management)

Yesterday, I attended a conference by Ian Crockford on project management based on his experience at the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), the public body responsible for ensuring the delivery of the infrastructure, design and construction of buildings, transport and the legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

london-2012-olympic-games4During the conference, Ian showed a couple of videos, several key figures of the project, and some insights of the best practices that were used, the main challenges they faced, the stakeholders they dealt with, the themes they worked on in parallel to achieving the project objectives and some anecdotes. Let me show some of the notes I took during the conference even if not in a very orderly fashion:

  • Time is the enemy”, even though he conceded that having such an immovable deadline (summer 2012) helped a lot. However, they aimed at completing the project one year in advance (summer 2011) to allow for 1 year of testing.
    • “80% of the value is gained in 20% of the time”, this is risky as it leaves you with 80% of the time to only achieve the remaining 20% of value… and the chances are that you screw it up:
      • it’s easy to lose value,
      • hold onto time,
      • increasing value is very difficult.
  • “Nail down the scope and budget early and stick to it”. After the designation of London in 2012, the ODA took 2 full years to plan everything, including the budget, which was only completed in June 2007 and published in November 2007. From the beginning they announced a plan along the line: “2 + 4 + 1”, 2 years of planning (allow enough time for planning), 4 years of building (including demolishing, construction, etc.) and 1 year of testing.
    • Even if he mentioned that changes are inevitable” he advised to create a culture of not accepting changes easily, only if very well justified.
  • Strategic themes (in parallel of project objectives): increase health and safety of the works (x10 times the British works H&S average), sustainability (local lobbies, Greenpeace, WWF…), equity (gender, race…), development (creation of apprenticeships linked to contracts with suppliers), etc.
    • Emphasis was on the increase in health and safety. It started as a bold objective,  with an open environment with all suppliers where they were told that the ODA would welcome every initiative that increased safety. This had many reinforced effects: lower employee turn over, better productivity, good atmosphere, etc.
  • Size (contracts, figures): the ODA had,
    • 150 NEC3 tier-1 contracts (valued at 2.5bn£) for the Olympic Park,
    • 160 JCT contracts (valued at 1bn£) for the Olympic Village,
    • up to 3,000 tier-2 contracts,
    • 10 concession contracts (utilities)
    • spend peaked at 180m£ per month in the Park,
  • Size (people):
    • The Olympic Park would host about 300 thousand people per day: 250k visitors, 25k media and 25k athletes. This lead to the provisional sizing of some of the infrastructures for such capacity and to provide for the removal of some temporary installations after the Games (e.g. bridges which during the Games had a width of 50ft, today are narrower than 20ft).
    • 47 thousand people worked on the project. Given the short-term nature of the project it was a challenge to attract and retain the people, to motivate and inspire them.
  • Decision making with emphasis on empowerment. “Let the partners deliver”. Asked about things that were underestimated he mentioned “the innovation capability of suppliers given the right environment” (examples given: new system to introduce handicapped into the pool, green plastics…).
  • Documentation: focus from the beginning in getting all the paperwork right (otherwise it may prevent the delivery of completed buildings, etc.).
  • Asked about the impacts of the crisis, he mentioned:
    • need for insolvency management,
    • 2 projects that were to be privately financed in the end were publicly financed (a housing project and the media centre),
    • as the budget was planned prior to June 2007 and the completion of the project ran from 2007 to 2011, many of the costs had been overestimated. This turned in a positive impact (opportunity). Forecasted inflation was not correct, expected bubble in property prices in East London did not happen, etc.
  • “It turns out that if you follow all the bits of Project Management manual… it works!”, even if he conceded that the last 6 months were spent micromanaging through completion.

Finally, there was a question that I wanted to ask before even going to the conference but that in the end I couldn’t ask (nevertheless I asked another one – on budgets). My home city, Madrid, has been a candidate city to host the summer Olympic Games for 2012, 2016 and 2020, coming as losing bidder the three times (London, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo). Trying to put the blame on someone or to find explanations for the painful defeats, the Spanish press has been prolific and ingenious in finding reasons. On the other side, the Spanish press was also quick to find the explanation for the selection of London for the 2012 Games either in the great last speech by Sebastian Coe or the last-minute lobbying by Tony Blair in Singapore (these explanations fail to explain why other speeches by remarkable athletes or lobbying by other high-ranking politicians go unrewarded). I wanted to ask Ian what was in his opinion the key winning argument or the strongest point of the London 2012 bid, but it turned out that he offered it right away in his speech (“won the bid for London”): the sustainable legacy, the tilting of London centre of gravity towards the East (Stratford), the recovery of a deprived area, the cleaning of polluted areas around the river, the effective use of facilities after the Olympics (a project which still runs until 2014). He pointed that in the cases of Sydney and Athens, the legacy had been a failure…

One of the videos he played, “Great Britain delivers” (3’32”):

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The British Museum

During the last trip to the United Kingdom I visited for the first time The British Museum (free). The museum itself is without any doubt amazing.

However I had conflicting ideas of whether the breadth of pieces mostly coming from other countries should have been better displayed at a museum in the country of origin or there in London.

I found it curious that the museum has a dedicated brochure explaining why the collection of Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon is hosted in London instead of Athens as the Greek Ministry of Culture claims they should be. The British Museum claims that the pieces were taken with permission of the then authority of those territories: the Ottoman Empire. It also gives account of an internal investigation carried by the Parliament. And even points at other 6 museums around the world hosting sculptures from the Parthenon as if trying to divert the attention.

The museum’s brochure concludes that the taking of the pieces was legal and its location in London is good as it believes the museum is a unique resource for the world, but offers the reader to check the counter opinion at the Greek ministry’s site.

I still haven’t made my mind yet: is it the World’s looting museum or most of the pieces are better off being conserved there that they would be in Greece, Egypt, Syria or elsewhere?

To end the discussion I found it comical that in order to introduce Stonehenge to the museum’s visitors a poster of it was deemed enough. In this case it wasn’t necessary to bring one or two stones from the site, as has been the case with pieces from many other places.

Besides that discussion I enjoyed seeing some items missing in previous trips. Find some pictures of some of the museum highlights below:

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The origins of football and The Freemasons Arms

As a fan of football (soccer) and having read in the book “366 Historias del Fútbol Mundial“, by Alfredo Relaño (in Spanish, 768 pages – I posted about it here), about the English pub in which the Football Association was founded on the 26th October 1863, I set out to visit that place in my last trip to London.

On that first day the first rules for the game were drafted, such as the ruling out of the use of hands for the field players. That moment marked the departure between football and rugby.

A view of what and how it happened can be seen in the documentary “Fútbol, el nacimiento de una pasión”,  by Jesús Sánchez (2005, in Spanish – an acquaintance of the family), which covers the origins of football from prehistoric games.

The explanation given by the book has an error. It states that the creation of the football association took place at The Freemasons Arms located at Great Queen Street. That pub in fact is not there but in other street: Long Acre street, about 100 metres away.

The Wikipedia provides a plausible explanation: the foundation of the Football Association took place at the Freemasons’ Tavern, but that pub apparently was demolished and to continue its business the Freemasons Arms was built, which is not the same but apparently claims the legacy of the former. The Freemasons’ Tavern would have been indeed located at Great Queen Street where the new Freemasons Hall is located today. If that is the case, the Wikipedia article or the book may have another error since one states the foundation took place in 1863 and the other says that the original pub was demolished in 1860

I went there to check the pub and to enjoy myself worshipping the origins of such a game as football.

I was quite disappointed with what I viewed; as there is only a small shrine in a wall with some pieces remembering the relation of the pub with football. I asked one of the bar tenders and she barely had an idea of what the relation was.

Sadly, a piece of history seems to be lost.

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Same Old Game! (Banking)

During our last trip to London, we visited the Bank of England’s Museum (free). We enjoyed very much that visit and I may post longer about it in the future. This time I just wanted to share with you the following comic strip on display at the museum:

Comic strip from "Punch" magazine found at Bank of England's Museum.

It was published by the weekly magazine “Punch, or the London Charivari” on the 8th November 1890 issue. In it you may see an old lady (representing the Bank of England, situated at the Threadneedle Street in London) reprimanding some young boys (commercial banks) for having played fool and got in trouble. Although the image is not very good you may read (the emphasis is mine):

Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. “You’ve got yourselves into a nice mess with your precious ‘speculation!’ Well – I’ll help you out of it, – for this once!!”

The rest is history… what is referred often as moral hazard.

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Book review: How Soccer Explains the World

I was given the book “How Soccer Explains the World” as a present by Luca & her mother about 2 months ago. They bought it in the London bookshop Daunt Books, and it came with a bookmark of the shop… impressive. Take a virtual tour around the book shop, it definitely deserves a stop in the next visit to London.

The book… since I have been questioned about it many times: no, soccer does not explain the World. However, it is a very interesting book drawing parallels about historical moments in recent history and how they were connected with football issues going on at the moment in the same places.

The first chapter for example tells about Serbian paramilitary groups, their connection with football and how they were instrumental in the Yugoslavian wars. In that chapter you read lots of names that ring a bell from having followed football recently: Obilic, Arkan, the great Red Star of 1991 (Prosinecki), Ognjenovic (a singing of Real Madrid), Zvonimir Boban… all these names let the reader connect with the story. In my case, having been in these locations and having good friends from both Serbia and Croatia increased the interest of it.

Luca & I attending the game Dinamo Zagreb vs. Medimurje (Croatian league) in 2007... because Dinamo offered an open-doors day after having made a good selling of tickets against Werder Bremen the previous week...

There are other chapters that may draw the attention of many: a whole chapter dedicated to F.C. Barcelona (the favourite team of the writer, Franklin Foer… an American, you see), other to Celtic-Rangers rivalry, disdain for soccer in the USA, Ajax, racism in football…

I recommend this book, especially in times of a World Cup.

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