photos.edparsons.com

Take a look at my portfolio of aviation pictures if you are interested – it”s the summer so I will be spending some of my free time with fellow avgeeks who have all spent large sums of money on long lenses !

photos.edparsons.com

It’s harder than you might imagine, I’m doing well if I get more than one good image in fifty, thank heavens for digital photography although I’m old enough than I remember when every exposure of Kodachrome mattered !

 

I’m back… talking aviation films…

It’s been a long time, but I’m back adding a few more Kb to my hosting account, this first post of 2016, has little to do with the world of Geo but is all to do with my other passion aviation.

As is the trend in almost all forms of online journalism and blogging (not much difference these days you may say..) I present to you a list of my favourite aviation films for you to watch on Netflix, Amazon , NowTV etc..

So in no particular order ,

Top Gun (1986)

Of course, Top Gun had a significant impact on me as student, resulting in me wandering around college in a flying suit with genuine US Navy VF-84 crew patches – I was always keen on authentic details.
A best selling 80’s soundtrack, Tony Scotts high energy direction, US Naval aviation at its peak and Meg Ryan – how could you not like this..
Completely missed the the homoerotic subtext at the time !

The Battle of Britain (1969)

Edward Fox parachuting from his burning Spitfire into a greenhouse and been offered a cigarette by schoolboy, “Thanks awfully, old chap!” he responds, there is the perfect encapsulation of the Battle of Britain to the British psyche. Guy Hamilton’s film needs to be seen in the full 70mm Panavision version to really appreciate the aerial sequences of (mostly) actual Spitfire and Hurricanes dogfighting with admittedly Spanish built  Messerschmitts and Heinkels. Contrast these wonderful scenes with ludicrous dogfights of Pearl Harbour or Red Tails,  why has nobody managed to do a realistic dogfight using CGI ?

The Dambusters (1955)

Another film deeply ingrained in the British consciousness, this famous film tells the story of  Operation Chastise the bombing of German Dams in 1943. The film to be honest is not great from the perspective of wonderful aerial sequences instead it masterfully illustrates the development of mines by Barnes Wallis and the sacrifice of war experienced by crews of 617 Squadron.  Despite it’s position in popular culture this is quite a serious film that examines the effect of conflict on the people involved especially Barnes Wallace played perfectly by  Michael Redgrave.

Hells Angels (1930)

Howard Hughes epic of 1930 so of course rather dated to modern eyes full of melodrama and over acting but the aerial sequences filmed  using real WW1 surplus aircraft and pilots are extraordinary.  The scale of these sequences are amazing, 80+ aircraft in the air flying around the camera aircraft, just imagine the results using modern GoPros !

Strategic Air Command (1955)

The early years of the Cold War when the American Defence Budget seemed to have no limit, and Propaganda was produced at a similar scale.  Jimmy Stewart, a genuine 8th Air Force Bomber Pilot, does his bit playing a baseball player recalled to serve in the Air Force.
The storyline is nothing to write home about, and the contrast with “The Dambusters” released the same year is notable, but the real stars are 1950’s B-36 and B-47 Bombers.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

The Korean War has not featured very much in cinema and this 1950’s version of Top Gun stands out because of this and because it’s actually quite a cool and serious film.. The film builds slowly and despite some light relief from Helicopter Pilot Mikey Rooney, it develops into grim war drama with an unusual ending !

Always (1989)

The polar opposite  of  “The Bridges of Toko-Ri”, this is a romantic Steven Spielberg movie with WWII firebombers! A pilot is killed on a firefighting mission and his ghost then has the task of getting his girlfriend together with a younger fire bomber pilot….
Well thank heavens for the glorious old and battered A-26, Catalina, C-119 and Bellancas .
A remake of the 1943 “A Guy Named Joe”, this should not work, but I have a soft spot for Holly Hunter and warbirds… so there you go!

Missing in Action ?

The film I would not watch might surprise you; 633 Squadron,  great music – terrible everything else, the use of Airfix models on wires is unforgivable !

Fellow aviation enthusiasts.. what have I missed ?

 

10 years ago today at 50,000 feet !

At just after 9:00 am on the 29th May 2003, I achieved a lifetime ambition and flew  Concorde ! Concorde had six months of service remaining with British Airways so the rush was on for fellow Aviation geeks to organise the trip of a lifetime.

The journey was perhaps the last occasion that I could describe as an example of glamorous air travel. The dedicated Concorde lounge at JFK’s Terminal 7 had a real buzz about it, although the usual compliment of banker and celebrity passengers was supplemented my people such as myself who were here for the ride..

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Clearly visible through the wall to celling windows was the flagship of British Airways fleet, G-BOAC. After the obligatory glass of champagne it was time to board and I took my seat 6D inside as everyone says the rather cramped cabin, similar to a modern Embraer E jet .

I had specifically chosen to fly back from New York to London on flight BA002 as my Concorde experience for what happened next.. Anyone who flew on Concorde will tell you the take off was like no other experience  after all it was the only commercial airliner to take off using afterburners ! But the take off from New York was even more special, because of the need to carry out noise abatement procedures very quickly after take off, Concorde made a hard left turn, enough to make you feel both pushed down and back into your seat from the acceleration – very roller-coaster like !

This video give you some sense of this unique departure..

 

Very quickly after take off the afterburners are switched off and there is a noticeable deceleration and reduction in noise. After a few minutes and another glass of Champagne and canapés, it was time to really get going.. the Captain made a short announcement switched on the afterburners again which felt like a kick in the back  and we rapidly accelerated to Mach 2.0 1330 MPH and an altitude of 56,000 feet.

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At such a speed and altitude there was no real impression of speed, other than perhaps from the heat felt when touching the small windows, the heat a product of air friction.

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Looking out of the window produced a view quite different to the 747 flying only half as high as Concorde. The sky was much darker and it is possible to just about see the curvature of the earth, and the thin blue line which represents the vital but very fragile part of the atmosphere in which we all live.

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I will never in all likelihood be as high or travel as fast again in my life as I did for those couple of hours ten years ago,  indeed the captain made the point at that moment there were only five people higher than the 100 passengers in Concorde, and they were on the International Space Station !

I completely understand the economics of why Concorde no longer flies, but is still seems wrong that the technological masterpiece on which  I flew now sits in a Museum at Manchester Airport !

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

 

 

When a map tells a story..

Last weeks tragic accident involving the crash of a Augusta helicopter in London, which claimed two lives is still fresh in the minds of most Londoners. Yesterday the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) published their initial accident bulletin, which describes the facts surrounding the accident as investigated without the analysis which will come in a later report in some months time.

The AAIB report illustrates the last few minutes of the flight of the helicopter using this graphic produced with Google Earth.

 

G-CRST track

The track data comes from the reported radar position and Mode S altitude data produced by the helicopters transponder. The helicopter an AW 109E G-CRST was flying south after attempting to land at Elstree, and from the track you can was flying east while waiting for clearance to land at the London Heliport in Battersea a few miles to the west. According to the AAIB report at 0759 clearance was received at the helicopter began a turn to the south to head back west towards Battersea.

G-CRST at Fairoaks (image flickr: billy_mcnally)
G-CRST at Fairoaks (image flickr: billy_mcnally)

In the turn the helicopter hit the crane on top of the St. Georges Wharf development, shedding it’s rotor blades and crashing to the ground on Wandsworth Road.

While the graphic above is itself powerful of course it does not tell the full story, a key contributing factor to this accident will be the weather conditions at the time of low cloud and freezing fog with a cloud base lower than the 700ft high crane.

Written and submitted from home (51.425N, 0.331W)

Where did I park the car ??

So this weekend, I indulged my passion for Aviation and went along to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. Arriving just after the airfield opened, I was directed to park, as is usual at airshows, in a field alongside 20,000 other cars in an environment with no real landmarks – how was I going to find my car again at the end of the show ?

The Problem

As a geospatial expert of course I had the solution to the problem in my bag, my trusty garmin GPS receiver within a minute or so I knew my car was parked at 51.67922,-01.81322.

Great I could now navigate back to my car at the end of the day, and be talked in by my Garmin.

The Solution

BTW My car if you are interested, was parked here as shown in Google maps..

And the show.. excellent, star for me was the Boeing MV-22B Osprey tilt rotor. As a child the major influence on my understanding of technology was the TV series Thunderbirds, so I’m really pleased to see a design of aircraft that Gerry Anderson would appreciate.

Boeing MV-22B Osprey

To see my other pictures from the event just click on the picture above…