Saturday, 22 December 2012

Happy Christmas Everyone

A blocking high pressure system from Scandinavia last week gave several days of calm
sub-zero temperatures causing a build-up of very pretty hoar frost in our 'back garden'
Happy Christmas everyone! Sorry it has been a while since I wrote anything here. Life has fallen in to a demanding routine of continuous study and revision as we crawl inexorably towards the end of our phase one text books and our first batch of 'real' exams. I find it difficult to sleep properly during the week and — as it says in our Human Performance lessons — the fatigue is cumulative. The holiday break is extremely welcome.

Also extremely welcome are the new batch of cadets that have just arrived at the school, including another group of British Airways Future Pilots. It's hard to believe that we have been studying for only two months, seeing the keen fresh faces makes it feel more like two years. The first group of British Airways cadets is now in Arizona having started their fair-weather flying training and the second group will be following very soon. In May, it will be us — and so the wheels keep turning.

Burning oil

A few weeks ago I attended a careers fair at BA's Waterside headquarters, helping to man the school's exhibition stand. Despite the current doldrums in airline recruitment, it was really inspiring to see several hundred motivated and well-informed young people all hoping to find careers in aviation. I talked to lots of hopeful applicants to the second round of the Future Pilot Program and guys, if you are reading this, best of luck and I really hope I see you again.

In what I thought was a fairly brave move, a presentation and debate on climate change was included. Aviation is often seen as the enemy of planet in terms of global warming, and it's not hard to see why. Passenger aircraft consume massive quantities of tax-free fossil fuels daily and deposit the waste products including 700 million tonnes of CO2 per year, unprocessed, directly into the upper atmosphere. This much I knew.

What I didn't realise was the extent of the industry's commitment to cleaning up their act, whose targets go much further than any other industry or indeed government to reducing unsustainable consumption. Through a combination of more larger, more efficient aeroplanes, sustainable fuel technologies and carbon trading, the aim is to halt growth in emissions by 2020 and half it by 2050, despite expected growth in traffic.

Only time will tell if this is feasible, but there is real commitment. Witness British Airway's recent investment in a new biofuel plant. This plant will use space-age technology to process about 500,000 tonnes per year of organic waste into bio-kerosene  for use in their aircraft at Heathrow, and as a by-product 20MW of electricity. Granted, this is only a few percent of their needs but it is a step in the right direction.

That's all for now, I am off on a much-needed holiday with my wonderful wife. When my brain is rested I will put together a properly written piece on.... automation. Can planes fly themselves? Are computers better than people? Do we really need pilots at all? Tune in next time to find out.

PS Thanks to all my loyal readers, this blog has now been read over 2000 times. Makes it all worthwhile!

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