03 November 2009

Building the Brand

It's been several months since my last post here, however, as most of you would be aware, my online time has become completely hijacked by the podcast. To be honest, it's been a lot more work than I'd anticipated, but I've become completely engrossed in the project and it's been a total blast.

Being a self confessed podcast junkie, I listen to a variety of different styles each week. What I find most interesting is the variety of attitudes toward editing and production quality. Some do almost no editing at all, right through to those who go "all out" to get the show wounding as professional as they can. Me? I like to put myself closer to the "all out" side of the ledger. The down side of this means that the edit can take hours & hours & hours to complete. At some point, I know I'm going to have to accept that "Um" & "Ahh" isn't such an evil thing, and that some are OK to leave in.

My latest experiment has been to vary the bit rate on the mp3 files in an attempt to reduce their sizes. Initially I'd planned to release shows of about 30 - 45 minutes in length. However, to date this has only been the case on the first 4 shows. The rest are an hour or longer, and at 128kB, this makes for huge files. Our last show went out at 96kB with no discernible reduction in sound quality. I have noted that nearly all of the shows I listen to are released at only 64kB, so I may experiment next week with that rate and see how it sounds.

At this point, we have released 15 episodes. Most are news & comment, some include short pre recorded inhterviews, and others are "In Profile" episodes where we have focussed on local aviation identities. This has been the absolute highlight for me. Meeting people such as Owen Zupp & Matt Hall has been just amazing. Their knowledge & insight has been fascinating to soak in, and their willingness to appear on the show has been wonderful.

Now comes the next challenge. To build the brand and increase our listener base. Marketing is an area in which I have virtually no experience, so it's yet again something new to learn. Do we fork out a bucket load of cash to advertise in the aviation press? Probably not in the short term. Google ads perhaps? Or is the maxim true about just focussing on producing quality content and letting things build by reputation? Owen & Matt have been more than generous in promoting our show on their websites and Twitter feeds, and we are very appreciative for that.

We spent last weekend handing out some hastily prepared business cards at Moorabbin & Albury, so we'll see what becomes of that.

This process has been so positive in so many respects for me on a personal level. It has allowed me to re-engage with the aviation community, and often in ways I'd never thought I would. Moreover, we have started to build a community of our own, and many new friendships have already ensued. The standout of all of them is my podcast partner, Grant McHerron. His energy & enthusiasm seem to know no bounds, and he's become a good friend in a very short time. Without his constant energy & positive attitude, this project would never have made it past the first couple of shows.

To to Grant, I simply say thank you & long may the show continue. To the 300 - 400 people who take the time each week to listen to our show, I can only say that I feel truly humble and I hope we can continue to live up to your expectations.

12 August 2009

A Day At The TWiT Cottage

Those of you who follow the podcasts I'm in will be aware by now that I've just spent a couple of weeks visiting friends in the United States. The primary purpose of this trip was to attend my high school 20 years class reunion in Quitman, Arkansas. As a bonus, I was granted permission to visit the centre of the podcasting universe, the studios of This Week in Tech, otherwise known as the TWiT Cottage, and to meet Leo Laporte.

Located in Petaluma, California, I had to negotiate some pretty nasty freeway traffic in San Francisco (thankful for the decision to rent a GPS along with the car). It's about 100km north of the city. You have to look carefully to find the studio, as they like to keep things low key, but once found, it's a fascinating place to visit. For those who don't follow the TWiT Network, it's the home of about a dozen technology related podcasts, both audio & video, and also where Leo broadcasts his weekly Tech Guy radio show.

Being an amatuer podcaster, it was fascinating to sit back and watch the master at work. Leo live streams everything he does, and if you ever watch him at work, you see him from shoulders up. What you don't see below camera level are his hands constantly flying across multiple keyboards getting information off the net, adjusting sound levels, switching cameras, making each show looking effortless. It was great to watch. Just as impressive is his work ethic. In the four hours I was there, Leo recorded four seperate podcasts - one immediately following the next. This day he recorded episodes of TWiT Fit, Roz Rows, Maxwells House and Dr. Kikis Science Hour.

The facility is managed by Dane Golden, who took the time to show me around every nook and cranny of the cottage. The studio is on the ground level along with the main office, and upstairs is an editing suite, a green room and another room for building computers and other infrastructure.

It was a great day and a highlight of my trip. A big thanks to Dane & Leo for allowing me to visit and for being so open and welcoming.

07 July 2009

We're just Plane Crazy

Plans for our new podcast are now well advanced. Grant & I are working with the title "Plane Crazy Down Under" and we're hoping to post up a "pilot" (no pun intended!) episode later in the week.

We hope to make this podcast a hybrid mix of some of our favourites, such as Airplane Geeks, Uncontrolled Airspace, Airspeed and the Pilots Flight Podlog. In short, discussion and comments on airline news, general aviation issues, training, aviation politics, aircraft photgraphy, flight simulators and so on. Where we hope to be unique is in our focus on these subjects from an Australia Pacific perspective. As best I can tell, there aren't any Australian aviation podcasts on the net at the moment, so we're pioneering the concept here.

The website is just a blank page with a Twitter link at the moment, but Grant is a wiz at web pages, so it won't be long before something great appears there. For now though, we'd appreciate your comments & advice, either via this blog, or at www.blog.flymefriendly.com . You can follow our podcast at Twitter at @pcdu

Our email for the podcast is planecrazydownunder@gmail.com

03 July 2009

The beginning of a podcast adventure

It's been great fun of late producing the Australia Desk report for the Airplane Geeks Podcast along with my friend Grant.  Its been a sharp learning curve, and getting the reports down to a short segment for the Geeks has proven to be more of a challenge each week.

We're finding that each recording session produces close to an hour of talk, perhaps half of which is usable for the podcast.  The problem comes when I have to make the decision over what stays in, and what goes out.  I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that a 30 minute show is become quite feasible.  I have wanted to do a podcast of my own for a couple of years now, but didn't think I could do it to any reasonable standard, however, many of the positive comments we've received lately have encouraged me to think that maybe, just maybe, I could do it after all.

Along with Grant, the plans for an Australia Pacific centred aviation podcast are beginning to take shape.  I hope to do a "pilot" episode in the next couple of weeks and see how it goes.

Any suggestions and feedback would be more than welcome as we go along.   We'll keep you posted on developments.

10 June 2009

Oh no! Airplane Geeks slightly less geeky??

Airplane Geeks of the World lament! Coutney Miller, one of the founders of the Airplane Geeks Podcast has left in search of employment opportunities up in Canada.
I hope that we'll still be able to hear him occasionally on the podcast - I think we'd all agree that his experience in the industry helps to give great insight into its workings, and his friendly style on the podcast is one of the factors in making it an easy show to listen to each week.

I'm sure I speak for all listeners to the podcast in wishing Courtney every success in his future endeavours. Speaking as a pilot who spends far too much time on the ground, I can only envy him and others like him who are able to fly regularly and make a living doing it.

I'd also like to thank him for allowing me to try my hand in the podcasting game by running my "Australia Desk" reports. It was Court who came up with the name - and the Tee Shirt -and if I'm somehow able to come up with a decent podcast of my own some day, I'll owe a great deal of gratitude to him.

Of course, the format of the show will change a bit now, and it's up to listeners to help Max out by sending in articles, or better still, by having a go at recording yourself reading local articles like I do each week. There is plenty of free software around to do it with (I use Audacity), so give it a try.

Best wishes Court. Hope it all works out perfectly for you & your family.

21 May 2009

Airplane Geeks Episodes 47 & 48 - I'm Still Here!

Yes, fear not!  I'm still alive and kicking here in Melbourne.  Still scouring all the local news sources I can think of to find material for the Airplane Geeks Podcast.  

Sadly, or perhaps not depending on how you want to look at it, it's been very quite here in Australia for aviation news the past few weeks.  The doom and gloom of the global recession is making it's mark here on the local carriers, but it's happening so frequently in all sectors of business that it barely rates a mention among the tidal wave of bad economic news.

As I type this, there have been a few little trickles of information coming off the wires regarding troubles for OzJet.  It seems the people at Perth Airport are a little unhappy at not being remunerated by OzJet for landing fees.  If they're not paying these rather essential fees as required, one has to wonder what else they are struggling to pay.  Sadly, it seems the relatively recent entrant to Aussie skies may soon be going the same was as the likes of Ansett & Compass.

From the beginning, I was curious to see how OzJet's approach to the local market would fare.  Flying refurbished Boeing 737-229Adv aircraft with build dates going back to the late 1970s, OzJet pitched itself to the business market, hoping to snare a slice of the busy east coast routes between Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane.  The concept didn't last very long and the airline quickly reverted to charter operations.  Apparently they'd been operating flights between Perth & Bali, but with Perth now refusing them landing rights, it appears all is not well.  I'll be watching with interest to see how things play out for OzJet.  It would be a shame to see them leave our skies permanently.

So, thanks to the Geeks for their concern, but despite my stunning lack of fitness, it's not quite time to warm up the defibrillator yet!  As soon as news worthy articles come to hand, I'll forward them on for all to hear.  Check out the Geeks website this week & have a look at their tee shirts.  The "Australia Desk" ones look the best, don't you think??

10 April 2009

Podcasting - Netcasting. My thoughts on the concept

Depending on your loyalties, it's either a Podcast, or a Netcast.  Call it what you will, I discovered this medium in mid 2007.   I'd heard of the concept before that, but had not really bothered to see what it was all about.  And of course, I'm now a devotee.

The idea that you can sample whatever content takes your interest, whenever it suits you, is revolutionary.  However, the aspect that really impresses me is that it creates a real online community.  And more than just a community for the tech geeks, it encompases virtually any field of interest you can imagine.

The most appealing aspect of this medium is that it's not only for the media professionals.  Anyone can have a go at it with the minimum of equipment.  You can take in the excellent and professionally produced tech content from podcasting god, Leo Laporte, right through the spectrum to the completely amateur shows made on laptops with USB mics.  And it's all free to download whenever you choose.

Having an aviation background naturally swayed my interest in that direction when searching for content.  There are many excellent shows to be sampled here, covering everything from airlines to general aviation, news to politics and technical issues.  And the best part of it is the active encouragement by many podcasters for their audience to participate in the community.  Posting in the forums at Uncontrolled Airspace has allowed me to communicate with many others who, although I've never met them, share a common bond - people who "get it".

Relative newcomers to the aviation podcasting sphere are the Airplane Geeks.  These guys cover the aviation news of the week, and have a guest each week to cover various topics.  Of all the podcasters I've listened to, these guys offers the widest range of ways to participate in the online community they're building.  Email, voice mail, even audio files.  I recently decided to send in a couple of articles from local newspapers here in Australia which I thought they might find newsworthy, and was thrilled when the "Geeks" included them in an episode.  They appeared to appreciate the participation, so I sent in a few more articles & links, and now I'm the "Australia Desk".  

This is the greatest aspect of the new media era.  Allowing regular people to be active in their fields of interest, rather than just being spectators.  I'm really enjoying it, and I'm very grateful to Max & Courtney at the Geeks for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to their show.

04 April 2009

Australian F1 Grand Prix - ADF Aircraft Displays

Australian Army
Sikorsky S70-A9 Blackhawk

Royal Australian Navy
Sikorsky S70-B2 Seahawk

816 Squadron RAN

01 April 2009

LCC & Customer Service - Mutually Exclusive Terms

As is the case with countless others around the world, I recently engaged in an Internet expedition, travelling through various & sundry websites, seeking the best deal for a return flight from Melbourne to Perth. Up until recently in Australia, you had three choices. You could go with QANTAS and received full service, try it's low cost offshoot, Jetstar, or it's low cost competitor, Virgin Blue.

I say until recently because now we can also choose the ultra budget Tiger Airways. To cut a long story short, the "low" fare isn't so low once you add in charges for bags & seat allocation, and then airport taxes & charges, plus GST.

Despite this frustration, we manage to survive the four hour transit squashed into the smallest, most uncomfortable seats I've ever experienced - the type that would had to have been specially engineered to afford such lack of comfort. A great time in Perth is had, taking in the atmosphere of the Red Bull Air Races....until....approaching the airport for the trip home, the phone rings. It's Tiger Airways "Customer Service" people telling me that my return flight has been cancelled due to a defective aircraft. You're booked on the same flight tomorrow, I'm informed, followed by the line going dead.

After taking a few seconds to process this information, I call back and request further information. I'm promptly told that NO, you can't go on the next flight, NO you can't have a refund, NO we couldn't care less that you have no accomodation for the night (oh, and NO, we won't provide you any either), NO this, NO that, but take the flight we offered you or go away and don't bother us. Abrupt, rude, and utterly maddening. I inform this person that I'll speak to her at the airport in 10 minutes time.

Arriving at the check-in counter, I find that the person I spoke to does not work for Tiger Airways, but for a contractor, and doesn't know anything more, and won't be offering any further help. She finally suggests that I call their "customer service centre" for help. This is negated by a fellow passenger who says he just tried that, but the call centre closed at 7pm Melbourne time! She even had the gall to challenge my knowledge of airline practices, which at least afforded me the small pleasure of outlining my pilot ratings, assuring her that my knowledge was probably a little better than hers.

Pathetic. We eventually made it back to Melbourne 24 hours late, no apologies from Tiger Airways, no good will, nothing. And to think this two-bit operation is partially funded by Singapore Airlines, one of the wealthiest airlines on the planet!

After reading and listening to dozens of similar stories just like this regarding Tiger Airways, and other airlines of it's ilk, I'm convinced that these operators embody everything that's negative about the airline industry these days. Poor service and poorer attitude. To date, Tiger Airways have never returned my complaint call.

Welcome to the era of the LCC, Australia. Use them at your own risk!

25 March 2009

DHC4 Caribou - RAAF

These old workhorses are being retired at year's end
after 45 years of service to the nation

It was great to be able to see them in action one last time

F16 Falcon - USAF

USAF F16 Falcon
Based at Misawa AB, Japan

19 March 2009

Ground Vehicles at Avalon 2009

Airservices Australia Aviation Rescue

Rosenbauer Panther 6x6

Helicopters - Avalon 2009

Ambulance Service Victoria
Bell 412EP
VH-VAS (cn 36504)

Professinal Helicopter Services

Eurocopter AS350BA


Channel Ten Melbourne

Bell 206B Jetranger III


Channel Seven Melbourne

Eurocopter AS350B2


RAAF - General Dynamics F111-C - Avalon 2009

Royal Australian Air Force
General Dynamics F111-C

6 Squadron, RAAF Amberley, QLD

The RAAF is the only Air Force in the world still operating these awesome aircraft. This example has been in service since 1973, and sadly, along with the remainder of the fleet, will be retired in 2010 to be replaced by F/A18-F Super Hornets.

Of all the aircraft I came to see fly at this show, it was this guy. Unfortunately the weather was less than favourable and it stayed on the ground. We'll miss the famous "dump & burn" that concludes every show the F111 attends. It was a shame we couldn't have seen it this day.

These less than perfect shots were the best I could manage while it was on static display

18 March 2009

Heavy Metal - Avalon 2009

Douglas DC3  VH-OVM "Gooney Bird"

RAAF - Lockheed P3-C Orion
A9-664 Based at RAAF Edinburgh, SA

QANTAS Boeing 747-438/ER

USAF Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
70028 - Based at Travis AFB, California

McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40
Omega Tanker - A private aerial refueller

This arcraft was originally operated by Japan Airlines before tanker conversion

Boeing KC135R Stratotanker - 58-0063
An old workhorse here, ordered by the USAF in 1958
Based at Tinker AFB,Oklahoma

Hornet City - Avalon 2009

3 Squadron RAAF, based at Williamtown, NSW

3SQN RAAF heading out to show their stuff!

B1-B Lancer - Avalon 2009

Rockwell B1-B Lancer
An extremely rare visitor to Australian shores, this aircraft is based at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

USAF C17 Globemaster III & USAF F15 Eagle

90-822 from the 35th Fighter Wing, based at Misawa AB, Japan

Avalon 2009

RAAF Lockheed C130-J Hercules

RAAF Beechcraft 350 Super King Air
32 Squadron, RAAF East Sale, Victoria

Ausflier's local weather