Flying through

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Other Oddities

Oryx Jet?
Someones sense of humour? The Oryx, as I remember it, was the South African version of the Super Puma, made because South Africa was ostracized by the rest of the world over their apartheid policy and so had to create their own war machines.

Day One Festival of Speed

Look closely and you will see two interesting things. This is not a SeaKing but a Commando! And it is Royal Navy, while the van is Royal Air Force - why? Mixed services or just that with the defence cuts they can only afford one vehicle each?

Festival of Speed set-up day

Aviation Festival of Speed
Today is the set-up day for the Festival of Speed at Goodwood. It is still possible to get tickets and come to the festival... should be a good one and the aviation side alone looks vibrant.
More when the show starts....

Tomorrow there is a moving Motor Show - no idea what it is but it sounds good and, whatever else, there is always a chance to buy a copy of Helicopter Life and get a flight in a helicopter.
Helicopter Life booth

Monday, 25 June 2012

Battersea Heliport changes hands

Barclays Battersea Heliport
Battersea Heliport was bought by the Ruben Brothers on February 23rd 2012. It remains an essential service for helicopters in London, and now has a longterm future.
It is now to be known as Barclays London Heliport owing to its new branding sponsor! Just hope they don't have the same kind of computer gliches as RBS or there will be helicopters all over the place : "..can the EC135 from Southend to Battersea now come in from Wales, please." Etc

It is now the only landing site in London with full ATC and fire and rescue service. It has had 470,000 movements since it opened in 1959.
Today, we had a meet the press day at Barclays London Heliport (BLH). I wonder if they changed the name so people flying into London didn't realise they were going to be stuffed out in Batteresea and nowhere near central London?

Anyway, they are 100% booked for Silverstone, and did more flights to Ascot than last year by 30%.
They are arranging a shuttle service from Oxford London Airport, which is also owned by the Reuben Brothers.
They are now intending to increase the amount of light helicopter traffic by reducing landing fees - up to 20% they said, although an exact price is not yet determined.
For the Olympics they are hoping to arrange a helicopter to boat service with a company Water Chariots to take punters right up to the Olympic Park. They are looking for a service which starts with a jet and ends with the Water Chariot.
See Helicopter Life magazine Autumn issue for more on the Barclays London Heliport and this site for this weeks Festival of Speed at Goodwood.
David Learmount with an EC135

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Pilots and photographers - Kenya

Marco Brighetti
Marco Brighetti, pilot and owner of KIDL Helicopters, flying between Karen in Nairobi and the Maasai Mara. He is in the AS350B3 Squirrel, also known as the Astar. This is one of the best helicopters for Kenya and it works well at high altitudes and low density. The Astar is a weight-carrier and can take five passengers - depending on their weights . Check out for sel-fly-hire flights in Kenya and see the Autumn issue of Helicopter Life for the story of our hands-on flight in Kenya across the sometimes barren, sometimes fertile plains and mountains to the tented bliss and animal heavens of the safari parks.
Leopard in a tree - Mara

Photographer photographed

Tented camps in Kenya

Ol Seki in the Maasai Mara
This is the tented camp of Ol Seki. It was originally started in 2005 and after a couple of different owners was bought in 2011 by the Hemingway Group, which also owns a place on the east coast of Kenya,Watamu.
Hemingway have made a lot of changes and upgraded the showers and decking.
This is a particularly popular site because the Wilderbeast migration from the Serengetti to the Maasai Mara comes through here in July to October.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Game animals

On Ol Seki conservancy there were loads of giraffe, while in Loisaba there were herds and herds of elephant. Flying the helicopter between both places means you get the best of both worlds.

Survival techniques in Kenya

Cutting the fruit of the cactus
At Loisaba, where they have a lot of community input, we learnt a few techniques to help us survive if the helicopter went down and we had to look after ourselves until we were found. This is eating the fruit of the cactus - you roll the fruit to get rid of the silent pains (the silky looking thorns) then cut through the hard skin and eat the flesh beneath. Yummy.

Lion tracks
We also learnt to track lions - see below.

Some of the lions are taking part in a survey! They wear radio collars and can be tracked using a large aerial. We were given a crash course in identifying individual lions.

Friday, 15 June 2012

On and up to the Middle of Kenya

Day three, we flew from Lake Naivasha to Nanyuki for re-fuelling. We then flew on to Loisaba in Laikipia... I will write more but after 5 hours of flying and learning and admiring I am actually wacked and have to get some sleep...

Kenya flying day two

Day two, jambo! We flew from the Mara across the plains and over the Aberdare Mountains to Lake Naivasha. A sensuous flight, which included flower farms, termite mounds and weaver birds making their nests. This is the bird breeding season so the widow bird males have long tails to attract the females and protect their nest, and the weaver birds fight for tree space and their women!
We flew across the swamps around Lake Naivasha and saw the hippos moving around in their paddling pools! Water buck ran away from their movement but were undiminished by ours.
The squirrel is a beautiful but (sorry) squirrelly machine to fly, until you get used to it. Since I am a left-footed anti-clockwise pilot I am used to one way of taking off and landing and my first take-off involved a lots of shilly shallying and nearly ended with us facing the bush 90 degrees to the left of the nose! They got better... I am learning. Each hour gets a little easier.

We stayed in Lake Naivasha at a really beautiful place alongside the lake.

kwa heri!

Self-fly hire in Kenya

AS350 taking off from Lake Naivasha
I have just spent the last six days in Kenya, helping Marco Brighetti publicise his new hands -on flying in Kenya helicopter company. This is a totally new concept; that a rated pilot can go out and hire a helicopter, with a safety pilot and navigator, and fly him or herself around Kenya in the AS350 Squirrel. The safety pilot is there to help, give advice and navigate if required. We actually had a very good Garmin, so navigation was easy, but the concept is totally brilliant.
In my case I flew from Brighetti's helipad in Karen in Nairobi across Lake Magadi to the Maasai Mara. It was incredible flying: high - not so warm - about 23 degrees but with a variety of heights from 6200 feet down to sea level and back up again. We flew through lakes with pink flamingos, over untenanted plains and for a while into 'softer' lands where the tribesmen have been persuaded into farming communities. The flying itself was wonderful: up and down escarpments, over lakes and dry land and then into hills. And the animals.. well - you can see things from a helicopter you would not see from any other transport.
An elephant family in the Mara
Cheetah seen on a night drive
We stayed the night at the tented camp of Ol Seki in the Mara conservancy and the next day flew into the triangle to visit the Maasai Mara game reserve.
In the evening, we left the tented camp and went into the bush on a landrover to see game. We spotted many of the big five but the real piece de resistance was after sun-downers when the wardens were out with their lights and we spotted a cheetah ready to hunt.

The cheetah actually had three attempts to catch game - all unsuccessful but all witnessed by us and wow - what a change from flying around the circuit at Biggin Hill!