Saturday, March 26, 2011

That sinking feeling

In my list of little victories I am proud to have defeated my addiction to watching blog traffic statistics every day. To be fair, visits to this blog have become very predictable, with around forty visits per day, half of them coming from Google searches and the other half from aviation bloggers kind enough to link to some of my posts. I get an automatic notification when this blog receives more than a hundred visits in one day, which only happened a few times in the past when A-List aviation bloggers such as Aviatrix or Ben Sandilands linked to one of my stories.

One such spike occurred earlier this week, this time caused by Google searches. What search keywords drove visitors in (relative) droves to my blog? And why did most of them go read my $100 burger at Wollongong story? The answer was VH-NRF, the Archer we had flown on that day. And that's where the sinking feeling started.

A Google search on "vh-nrf" later I realised my story appeared as number 4, while the number 3 search results was an ATSB investigation report. The Daily Telegraph has the story with a few photos of VH-NRF upside-down on a suburban street in the suburb of Smithfield.

The Archer II suffered an engine failure while approaching Bankstown at the end of a flight from Ballina. It performed a forced landing on a street and both occupants and their dog walked away from the wreckage with only minor injuries. The incident happened 5 miles north west from Bankstown, which is consistent with using Prospect Reservoir as the entry point to Bankstown coming from the north. Congrats to the pilot, a forced landing in a populated area from a height of 1500ft at most is what many pilots' nightmares are made of.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Fly and Earn Aerial Photography Business Kit

At first I didn't completely get the tagline on the front page of Your “$100 Hamburger” days are over. Let your “$1,000 Saturdays” begin. I mean, sure, we can all find a way to spend $1000 in one day of flying, but earning $1000? While flying? As a private pilot? We've all spent hours dreaming up schemes for lowering the cost of flying, let alone making money out of it without a Commercial license, so I was pretty sure I had explored every possible loophole. But maybe not.

Jay Taffet is the man behind and was kind enough to give me a copy of the Fly and Earn Aerial Photography Business Kit ebook for the purpose of this review. This ebook is available for $35 through the web site and describes every aspect of how Jay, as a private pilot, started an aerial photography business without a CPL, and without breaking any law or regulation. Jay lives in the US so obviously the business concept he describes in the book has only been tested there. I think it's a great idea, but I still have doubts it would work in Australia.

In short, since shooting aerial photography for profit is clearly not within the privileges of the private pilot licence, the idea is to have a Commercial pilot on board to cover for this. Jay even suggests enrolling an instructor and combining flying lessons with photography. This way even student pilots can start their own aerial photography business and support their flying addiction at the same time.

I have to say the book is a pleasure to read and Jay's enthusiasm for his idea and clear, friendly writing style will get even the most sceptical private pilots thinking. A large part of the book covers the basics of setting up and operating the business, but the aviation side of things is not forgotten, with instructions on how to fly a pattern around the site to be photographed, and how to communicate with ATC in order to maximise the chance of getting a clearance should the site be in controlled airspace. And of course the ebook also addresses aerial photography and post-flight photo processing.

I am not sure at all the concept would work in Australia though. First, there is a difference here between holding a Commercial Pilot Licence and being able to operate a business that sells services linked to the use of the CPL. The latter, as far as I understand, requires an AOC (Air Operator's Certificate), which means an immense amount of paperwork with CASA. Ask any Chief Pilot. From my limited understanding, the rules in the US are a lot simpler, which allows for self-employed flying instructors for example, a concept unheard of in Australia.

If you think the idea might work in the country you fly in, this business kit is a very good use of $35 and will save you tons of time. And if your local aviation regulator killed the idea in the bud, well, you still have the $100 Burger, which is not such a bad way to spend a Saturday or Sunday either after all.