Monday 23 July 2018

How I View Aviation Differently Now

This wasn't the Across The Pond segment I was preparing to record last Saturday.

I write this on Sunday 15th July and what a week I have had. Now, before anyone gets worried, I am absolutely fine and recovering well. To all of those who sent me healing messages, I am extremely humbled by the whole experience, that I will talk about in a moment.

A week ago, on Saturday 7th, I had a fabulous day out with my wife and our seven year old daughter. It was my annual pilgrimage to Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton for the 2018 Air Day Air Show. (This year though it was going to be a different experience for me. We decided that although I would still carry out my duties for Xtended and The Airplane Geeks (as I have always brought material back to the podcasts), this time we would experience an Air Show as spectators. 

I had forgotten how much one could enjoy the experience without either a recorder, (or like many listening here) a camera glued to my face. Always trying to get a good angle, always thinking about what the listeners or our social media followers would like. 

Whilst I enjoy doing this (and we get amazing feedback for our efforts), it makes these days pretty hard and demanding. 

Last week I reconnected with the Air Show. We wandered through aircraft like the Canadian C130 and talked to the crew, my daughter amazed at the size and complexity of the inside belly of this aircraft. 

We looked at foreign visitor displays stands and peruse their merchandise. Beatrice bought a red arrows cap and model of a Hawk. We met Red 10 (the Red Arrows Supervisor and commentator) Squadron Leader Adam Collins and we snatched a quick selfie even though he obviously had pressing things to do, he was an absolute Gentleman, making my daughter feel like a VIP. 

We wandered the crowds and I saw lots of other families enjoying a summer day out. Not aviation geeks, photographers or press just families enjoying aeroplanes and the other attractions. 

I remembered what Air shows are about on that visit. Yes, I'm a part of a system that air shows need, I am a part of a group of avgeeks there to see the latest scheme, manoeuvre, air-frame or registration. 

But, we are a minority and we should remember this sometimes. It's the families, the kids and getting them to see the wonderful world of aviation and our military services, that are really important at Air shows. 

When I really took this in, when I watched my daughter and wife in awe of the RAF Typhoon display, I sighed with relief that I haven't become a fixed avgeek junky and I felt so much more grounded by the experience. You look around at some of those so called avgeeks at air shows, I am sad to say that some of them are unlikeable. Pushing to the front, blocking everyone else with their constant tubes pointing to the air, blocking kids views.

I saw fascination in every display, I saw elements of displays I had missed before, chasing an interview somewhere. I just had a fabulous day.

We talked all the way home about how hard the pilots worked, how much effort the volunteers all put in and the amazing effort by the many visiting air forces from Denmark, Holland, Lithuania, Canada, USA, Germany, France, Belgium, Jordan and many others. We all went to bed happy and exhausted.

It was a short drive for us but still quite long as we live in a remote village in the south west of England, in what most describe as the beautiful county of Dorset.

Air Day Facebook and Twitter 

The next day still buzzing but with the garden chores to do, I set about them with vigor. 

Unfortunately just after lunch in the blazing heat, I stumbled and fell, the ladder broke and I had a badly injured leg. I won't go in to detail. However, severely injured laying in my front garden, floating in and out of consciousness my wife desperately needed assistance. The emergency telephone operator kept her talking and working on me, but it was clear we could not wait for the ambulance to arrive which would have been over 30 minutes. 

This is when my next aviation experience of the weekend occurred. Not one I would wish for but the arrival at the back of our garden of the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance. There's no time for detail so I will get to the point. Without their intervention there was the possibility of a bad outcome for my leg and of course me and my family. (I will do a feature on the role of emergency air services another time).

But my second lesson in aviation came from this and again it made me take stock. You see that aircraft (an MD 902 Explorer a temporary air frame being used by the service whilst their AW109 is on its annual), reminded me that aircraft are tools for us humans to use.

Yes, they can be recreational, fighting, lifting, carrying or in my case emergency tools, but nonetheless not really there for my entertainment. 

Again, not many receiving this service really are avgeeks like us. 

So, I remembered that those air frames we all drool over, we photograph, we examine, we talk about, we analyse are actually there for a purpose. In my case life changing and in many cases life saving.

So, a rather interesting weekend last week, but for me personally I have re connected with aviation with a different view of it. 

I still love them and still have the passion. But I recognise most people in the world do not share this. I also recognise that they have a role, a role in this world we must always be aware of, grateful for and considerate of. 

I went though a potentially life changing experience last week and without that aircraft coming to my service, my life may have turned out differently. I am very grateful for our military, our emergency services and to all of those volunteers in the aviation industry. Beatrice played a role too. The doctor and paramedics realising my families stress got them to work and she held up two drips and for her services got a personal look around the MD 902 whilst I was moved sedately by ambulance to the ER. What wonderful people.

I have more cause than most to be grateful but never forget why we have our passion serviced. Take a few moments next time you are at an air show to take in what is around you, if that military aircraft flies overhead (they are probably not playing around) and if you see the emergency services in action, just think that they are probably on a life or death call.

Hear Pieter on his Across The Pond segment on the Airplane Geeks Podcast Episode 512 at 56:00mins

Monday 11 December 2017

Book Review - Days Out At The UK's Premier International Airport (Kevan James)

If like me you watched aeroplanes 'with your fingers through the fence' when you were a youngster and were fortunate enough to be able to get to Heathrow Airport in the seventies onwards, then this book is probably for you. It certainly will be for you if you have an ongoing interest in airlines, airlines and airports because within this book are some unique photos that might appeal to you.


Admittedly, there is not too much to read as the book is a collection of visual pictures with short words to support them. The author Kevin James takes the reader on a journey through time from the fifties to present day. Photographs embellish the journey many of which were taken by the author himself. On that basis the reader can either be swept along with the pictures of Pan Am 747's or BEA Tridents and get lost in the nostalgia of the early days of the jet set or, learn about Terminal 5 the newest addition to the Heathrow family of terminals.

I like the book because it fits my demographic but if you are an enthusiast, I cannot see that it will not appeal to a wider readership.

The copy and quality of some of the pictures is not as high as one would expect in the modern digital age but thank goodness the likes of Kevan took their film cameras with them to the airport in the past as we would not be able to look back at the heritage of the UK's premier airport. So this gives an authenticity to the content.

Finally then, the real question is why bring out this 'companion guide' to Heathrow Airport an Illustrated History? Well, apart from the obvious statement by the author to bring previously published black and white content to life in colour, it also brings another option for the the reader.....Do I buy both or just one of them? For me, I am pleased I have both but at least you have a choice now.

Pieter Johnson (Producer and Presenter on Aerospace Radio Station Xtended)

Wednesday 12 November 2014

IS SUCCESS ALL ABOUT THE BIG PLAYERS IN AVIATION? (Originally published on Sept 2014)

Last month I visited a success story in the aviation business hidden away in a rural area of the UK. Growing from nothing a decade ago, ParaJet is now a market leader in the powered parascending sector. 
I can already hear some of you switching off, saying 'this is not aviation, rather some extreme sports fanatics pushing the boundaries of the aviation sector and interfering with flight rules as laid down by the authorities'.
Source: Parajet
A year or two ago, I might have agreed with you. Now I think differently, having had the chance to meet some of the people in the sector and the chance to better understand the complexities, regulations and sheer enjoyment many are getting from the low entry costs into getting airborne. I am also impressed with the business model they have implemented.
Tom Prideaux-Brune is the Managing Director for ParaJet and having met him at Farnborough earlier this year, I wanted to find out more about the product and the business he runs. I had started to become fascinated at the success story that ParaJet is writing, whilst its sister businesses also look set for success with the Rotron Engine, the Skyrunner car and some (as yet secret) products in development. 
Recently Rotron announced a partnership with CybAero AB to power their Apid 60 Helicopter with both its petrol and 'heavy fuel' engines. This is a significant step forwards in UAV operations as rotary engines have traditionally been too unreliable, too heavy and inefficient. Rotron's patented technology overcomes all of these issues with its innovative power to weight technology and will hopefully be another market changer for the Gilo Group.
I wondered as Tom walked me around their design and engineering facility near Shaftsbury in Dorset, what makes a successful aviation or aerospace business these days? 
We have become familiar with the Boeing, Airbus, SpaceEx type giants and their long standing stories. It has taken some of the global giants in the aerospace sector many decades to grow into the multi-billion dollar concerns of today. With shareholders driven by returns and with employee, supply chain and customer orders to full fill they are the archetypal super tankers that need time and of course lots of money and talent to find their market penetrating products for today and the future. Some suggest that the sector is becoming risk averse with a lack of innovation resulting in less new aircraft and businesses coming into the sector. The Airbus NEO concept and the Boeing MAX concepts suggest that 'old new' is safer than 'new new'. Both however are head to head with recent product releases in the A350 and B787 and as an enthusiast I'm grateful to see some variety creeping back into the market. But, both of these aircraft have taken many years to design, develop and launch and this massive undertaking is both costly and highly loaded with risk.
The 787 mobilisation proves that nothing can be taken for granted in the launch of a new aeroplane and as a result, the market has become steadily defiant in developing new or more innovative solutions to flight. Cost driven developments rule, when we know from history that with taking risky innovative moves; the sector moves forwards.
However SpaceEx, along with innovators such as Virgin in the Airline sector have something different. They are new, fresh and shaking up their respective market sectors. In fact Airbus could be said to have done this two or three decades ago with the introduction of the first Airbus A300 aircraft. 
Back to Parajet. 
What is it that makes powered parascending and in particular ParaJet so successful I ask Tom. "It's bringing flight to everyone. For less than £10,000 you can have your equipment and training completed and weather being generous to you, that's it you are off". 
Fantastic as this sounds, anyone could possibly have built the ParaJet business given a little foresight and inventiveness, but the team at Gilo Industries, ParaJets parent company has something different, like those larger organisations Virgin and SpaceEx.
Continuing to walk around the facility, we get to meet the inventor, energy and drive behind the business, Gilo Cardozo MBE himself. Before meeting Gilo, I had pictured in my mind an older gentleman, slightly eccentric and self-absorbed in engineering and technology. My preconceived picture was broken when around the corner lead by his engaging smile strode this energetic, casually dressed young man. He is easy to talk to and the passion for what he does oozes out at every opportunity afforded him. I have to say I was genuinely taken in by his enthusiasm. I wanted to fly there and then. We shared stories and he told me about the journey from working with Bear Gryliss flying over Everest, to the current day as he headed off to the Rotron facility to no doubt create something new and exciting.
From ParaJet, to heavy fuel UAV engines, to Skyrunner the flying car (it's so futuristic looking one might think it was from a James Bond movie), how has this business become so successful in such a short time? 
Could it be from the Chief Executive of Gilo Industries, the leader driving the group forwards. Surely he was the ruthless financier and project driver helping keep this ship steaming forwards. Like those big cousins in aviation, surely no risk taking here. 
Jim Edmonson welcomed me into the 'boardroom come meeting room come CEO office', with a strong handshake and a smile to warm the Artic. 
We discussed the group plans and the investment needed to fund the business growth. Jim was in between meetings and very busy but kindly afforded me the time to investigate his business and to quiz him on the Company's success. 
Although this facility and office has to be set in one of the most beautiful areas I have ever come across for an aerospace engineering company, this is no cottage industry. The facility includes several CNC manufacturing machines, large assembly and stock holding areas and of course the 40 people now employed in the group. It's a large business to run. (I believe there is also an area close by they can fly from which most of them seem to do).
Jim was just about to go on an important conference call but took time to explain the dynamics in the business and sector and how Gilo Industries was over coming them. But as quick as we had started, the commercial drivers pressed on and Jim had to leave. 
Before leaving the Boardroom I had the chance to soak up the energy of the room. Large, white walls and with impressive furniture I guessed were made from aeroplane parts, it felt like the hub and nucleus of the organisation. With white boards covered in engineering and financial notes, aviation photographs and air of creativity, I started to understand what makes Gilo and its subsidiary ParaJet successful. 
Whilst it is a commercially focused business with investors and shareholders to satisfy, it's energy, and creativity balance the commercial focus with an engagement and enthusiasm that starts right from the welcome in the main office, to the engineers working in the workshop. I get the impression they all feel committed to this aviation success; of bringing flight to us ordinary folk through ParaJet through to more commercial endeavours with Rotron. The products are selling well and with 25 ParaJet units to get out the door that week, it was time to move on.
Back outside in the sunlight, Tom and I walk past his car. I knew it was his car because it had a ParaJet Zenith attached to the back. How cool is that?
Source: Skyrunner
"Yes, I was flying this morning before work and last night as well, although it got a little windy".  Gilo and Tom had swapped flying stories as we passed by earlier. I was becoming envious of that simple capability one has in this sector; to just 'go fly'.
So what do I need to get going apart from a few thousand pounds and a week’s training.
"Permission from the land owner or some open public space and you are off". It's that simple. 
Apart from (of course) strapping a ParaJet to your back. Tom is a little taller, a little younger and certainly more strapping than me and I asked him what it was like to 'put this on your back'. He lifted a ParaJet Zenith with two hands and asked me to see for myself. I will warn you, it took a little more effort from me but the moulded body case and aluminium casing would be no problem for most. 
It was time to go, I had enjoyed seeing behind the scenes of this aviation business.
As I left, I actually felt like I was a part of this story. I have no reason to say this other than the place has a feel for the future, a positive energy which can only be welcome in the UK and European aerospace sector. 
Innovation and creativity are often used phrases in the sector, but I could see and feel them in Gilo. With Jim and Tom driving the commercial aspects and the 40 other staff genuinely engaged in its success, it feels they have it right here. They have got the balance between risk, investment, innovation and the most crucial aspect, customer service. Customers love their products. 
They have the 'right stuff' and I for one will be intrigued to watch them grow into new areas, develop new products and continue the success story the aviation industry in the UK and Europe can really be proud of. So, to answer my own question on success in aviation, Success will come through when the product, business model, market need and people all come together at the ‘right time’. Now, seems to be the ‘right time’ for ParaJet.
Pieter Johnson is Presenter and Producer of AeroSpace radio programme Xtended
If you want to listen to the full feature interview on Gilo Industries and ParaJet Click Here
About Xtended 
Xtended is an internet radio station producing programmes covering the aerospace and aviation sector. Produced and presented by Pieter Johnson from XTPMedia, it is co-hosted and supported by Gareth Stringer, Editor of Global Aviation Resource (, and Tim Robinson, Editor in Chief of AeroSpace Magazine, the flagship publication of The Royal Aeronautical Society.
The programme has been highly commended from within the industry and covers topics from the latest aviation news to the exploration of space. The programme can be downloaded directly from our website
Contact - To learn more about the Xtended, please contact
Pieter Johnson, Producer – XTPMedia +44 7746 838442

"There's an aeroplane geek in us all" Originally posted on Flight To Success

Friday, July 25, 2014

Aeroplane Geeks World Wide!

"There's an aeroplane geek in us all"

"That was the title of an email sent to me by a friend. Attached was a photo taken from the window seat of an aircraft. It was sent because my friend appreciated my interest in aerospace. I never tire of watching aeroplanes or anything about them.

I am not a pilot, (well not a fully qualified one) but I do love aviation. But what is it that brings people together when the topic is flying? People that may not have much in common are suddenly bonded together with their interest in aeroplanes (and rockets I might a). Well, I think it’s that amazing feeling of being in the air, of flying like a bird, soaring and watching this world from above. It can be almost a spiritual experience for some.

 Pieter Johnson

Strapped in to a modern airliner is not dissimilar to sitting in a bus. It's a metal tube and is often filled with people who do not know each other and whose sole aim is to get from one place to another. What bonds us is when the wheels leave the earth and whether it's 10 feet or 30,000 feet, the view out of the window and our own perspective on the world changes.

We see it differently. We see planet earth and our impact upon it. For some this awe inspiring view brings strength through goals and achievements such as wanting to a pilot and do this more often. For most of us though, it allows us to continue to be amazed that the tube we are sitting in is actually suspended in the air, racing along at 500mph.

I indulge my interest through work on my aviation and aerospace podcasts. Since 2010 I have had the privilege of meeting many people in the aerospace and aviation industries. This makes me a very fortunate individual. My first 'big interview' was with Karelen Pettit. In the 45 minutes we talked, I discovered what an amazing career she had manifested; and learned of the stories and experiences along the way.

If you ever get the chance to listen to Karlene then do so, she is both an ambassador for the industry as well as a darn good story teller. I also learned much from that discussion apart from her being a lovely person of course. It dawned on me that the mysticism around the sector is something created by me to admire those I thought had something I could never achieve. Karlene helped me see that her journey is one we could all take if we chose to. If we want to achieve something in the sector, then go out and do it.

Four years later I have interviewed over 150 people in the industry. From astronauts, pilots, engineers and leaders, to those who have survived the pain and distress of disaster. Author Earl Moorhouse a survivor of the first Boeing 747 crash, remains still one of the greatest interviews I have been lucky enough to deliver. What an amazing man.

"My programme is called: Xtended"

Its an audio programme you download from our website (or through iTunes). Produced out of the UK, we bring international aviation and aerospace news, stories and debate to the listener. We love our Top 10 lists as they get great debates going. Its hard work but enjoyable and gives me my aviation fix. We hope you can get some of your through the show. If you like hearing great interviews and aviation discussion, give us a try, I do not think you will be disappointed. It's free, what else could you ask for.

Remember there's an aeroplane geek in us all. Let us help you to enjoy your journey through the skies, wherever it's taking you."

Pieter Johnson
Presenter and Producer

Pieter also sent me a couple links where you can listen to our interviews. He's an amazing man and fun to chat with. You have to admit the second link has a pretty catchy title.

In addition, he added a link to an interview with Earl Moorhouse, the survivor of the first B747 crash.
Teamwork and Flight 540  You won't want to miss this one. 

Enjoy the journey!!
XO Karlene

- See more at:

Friday 1 February 2013

Fairey Barracuda

Barracuda - Courtesy IWM

This week Naval Air Historian Matt Willis joins us on the show to discuss his new book on the Fairey Barracuda a mono wing fleet air arm torpedo bomber from the second world war. Designed to be a mulit functional aircraft, the ‘Barra’ suffered reputational challenges from its perceived weaknesses. However, it proved itself many times and flew well into the ‘50’s.

This is of course the aircraft my father flew late in the war and relayed many of his memories and stories to us in his segment a while ago

Not a single complete airframe is left of the 2,600 Barracuda’s built but there is a project being delivered by the Bluebird team and supported by the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton to recreate a lasting memory to this both beloved and sometimes sneered upon aircraft. To Pieter, it is of course the chariot on which his father flew the majority of his fleet air arm missions and activities and therefore remembered with a little more fondness than others.

Matt can be found at and on Twitter@NavalAirHistory.
Matt’s published books include: Blackburn Skua and Roc andJunkers Ju 87 Stuka.
Naval History Links:

Thursday 17 January 2013

Southampton Airport Mini Series 'Charlie' Innovations in lighting

New Aircraft Stand Lighting at Southampton Airport

Back at Southampton Airport well talk again to Dan Townsend who tells us that once again Southampton is leading the UK’s airports with its innovative and sustainable approach to lighting. Work was recently completed on the replacement of the lights on all 14 of the airport’s aircraft stands with LED lighting.
British Airways’ Olympic Torch liveried Airbus A319 ‘The Firefly’ at Southampton 
Having successfully used LED and solar lighting around the airport for other projects, when the lights illuminating the aircraft stands at night were reaching the end of their lives the airport’s projects and engineering teams were keen to explore the same technology.
Dan tells us the benefits of using LED and solar power in the airfield environment.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Southampton Airport Mini Series 'Bravo' Avian Management

Southampton Airport has become the first in the UK to bring a hand held laser bird scaring device into regular operation on the airfield following successful airside trials.
Continuing with our series from the airport we talk to Dan Townsend, Airside Assurance Manager.  
Being a relatively small airfield, it’s important that vehicle movements across the runway are kept to a minimum, especially during periods of higher traffic, when the risk of bird strike increases. It’s also vital at these times that birds are dispersed quickly and the laser allows the airport to accurately disperse the birds in a safe direction, from a distance of up to 2km, the full length of the airfield.

Southampton Airport will use the laser in conjunction with the airport’s other active bird control measures which should reduce overall costs associated with pyrotechnics and ammunition. During the trial the operations team worked to develop a detailed risk assessment and to gather evidence on the effectiveness of the laser on a variety of different bird species.

In order to safely bring the laser into the daily operation a suite of safety management documents has been put together including a comprehensive training plan, local operating

Although it needs to be closer to the birds at dusk or dawn, it is still effective up to a distance of about 800m.