December 17, 2010

Ice Pilots


I've been floating above the snow-covered Suffolk countryside this morning over a stately-looking pile at place called Ellingham, where WikiLeak's Julian Assange is hiding from a small army of satellite vans and press photographers camped among the trees. It's bitterly cold out there and I'm only just getting the feeling back in my hands after putting the aircraft away. Somehow, I don't think Assange is likely to break bail without someone noticing or him leaving footprints in the snow but I do feel sorry for the world's press as my aircraft's outside thermometer was showing -10 degrees Celsius at 1000 feet.


October 2, 2010

As High as a Kite on Margate Sands

It's the annual international  kite festival on Margate sands this weekend and Airads provided a little extra marketing for this popular event

At noon, in time to catch a good weather window, we were towing a banner advertising the event between Birchington and Broadstairs, with an orbit of Westwood Cross shopping centre thrown-in for good measure.

Some of the kites are pretty high up and needed to be treated with some caution, one small one in particular being at a thousand feet, which forced me to keep a very respectable distance from them all as I orbited between Dreamland and the harbour arm, before breaking off, from time to time to visit other areas of The Isle of Thanet.

September 2, 2010

A Surprise for Ulrika at the Big Brother House

Airads was back over the Big Brother House today with a surprise birthday banner message for Ulrika Jonsson.

The message said "Vi alskar dig Ulrika BCMM" which means "We love you Ulrika" in Swedish. BCMM are the initials of her children - Bo, Cameron, Martha and Malcolm - which she has tattooed on her wrist.

August 31, 2010

A Bank Holiday Blow

The gales had the better of us this August Bank Holiday weekend but at least we managed to see the two marriage proposals flying; one being very much a 'touch and go' affair with a happy ending for both couples.

With winds gusting as high as 40 mph at times, the conditions were far in excess of what was needed to fly the larger sheet and display banners and its always best for clients to remember that we have safety and performance limits to follow.

One more consideration for clients is that once an aircraft is en-route with a banner, it's simply not possible to call and ask it to hold-off for another half an hour because of a delay on the ground. There is no air to ground communications with the pilot beyond the air traffic control unit he is working at the time and we can only work to the schedule we have been supplied with; being unable to accommodate last minute changes once airborne.

August 25, 2010

Here and Now Flies over Henley Festival

A video clip of the 'Here and Now' tour banner arriving back at Brimpton airfield  from the Henley "80's Rewind" festival on Saturday:

August 22, 2010

A Busy Day at 'V'

Three flights over two music festivals made for a busy day for Airads on Saturday, made more challenging by strong winds and low cloud.

Amazingly in quite adverse conditions, we managed to have all three banners flying but two flights had to be cut short because of the high winds which made handling the aircraft, towing full size banners, very awkward indeed.


You can see the Nandos giant banner in the photograph (1000 sq feet) and we also did a little 'ambush marketing' for www.seennightclub.com as well as another giant banner promoting 'Here & Now' over the Henley 80's revival.

It's worth noting for clients that we will always do our best to fly if the conditions allow but if these are right on the edge  and we do fly, the overall results may not be as good as one might expect in perfect conditions.

August 19, 2010

Congratulations Harpal and Sunnie

Another special  message at Leeds castle in Kent this afternoon, to add to Airads unbroken record of success in flying marriage proposals.

Today, Harpal proposed to Sunnie, having driven her all the way from Coventry for the perfect romantic afternoon at the famous Kent beauty spot.

Congratulations to the happy couple!

August 4, 2010

Airads to Fly at the Henley 80s Rewind

With the festival season in full swing, Airads is to fly a banner at the Henley 'Rewind' 80's revival on 21st August.


In between, we've several more weddings and marriage proposals to complete and special congratulations go to Gurpinder and Nikki after she said 'Yes' at Fairlop Water in Essex on Sunday.

Coming-up, Simon will 'pop the question' to Samantha at the end of Brighton pier at 2pm on Friday afternoon followed by John and Allison at Leeds castle in Kent on Sunday!

July 28, 2010

Racing at Fontwell Park

Airads were at 'Glorious' Goodwood today but strangely enough, flying a banner promoting race days at the neighbouring Fontwell Park racecourse which now boast a new grandstand!

Lots of helicopter traffic going in and out of the races and very windy conditions for banner-towing

July 25, 2010

A Happy Wedding Day with an Airads Plane Banner

Another busy weekend for Airads, with a marriage proposal flown by Bhavesh for 'Sonal' over Leeds Castle in Kent, Claire and Henry's wedding in Hockley, Essex and Adam & Alana's wedding at Salmestone Grange on the Isle of Thanet, to name but a few of the flights we made on one of the hottest weekends of the year so far.


July and August are very busy months for us and so if you are thinking of booking your own wedding or romantic proposal flight, it's best to give us plenty of notice so that we can be sure to fit you into the schedule on any weekend.

July 22, 2010

All About Airads Flying Marriage Proposals

Here at Airads we are very proud of our as yet 'unbroken' record in flying marriage proposals as seen on TV and the newspapers. We gave up counting the number of successful banner flights a long time ago!

During the summer months in particular both weddings and marriage proposals are a big part of our business over the weekends and it's not unusual to have two or three of these in a twenty-four hour period spread around the south and east of England; the most popular spots being Leeds castle in Kent, Brighton pier and Southend pier.


The average cost of a plane banner proposal is about £450 (inclusive of VAT) but can of course vary, depending on where it's required. Of course, the closer to one of our aircraft it is (Leeds castle) the cheaper it is likely to be.

Once the flight is booked, we don't talk again until a day or two before the flight to check the weather with the client. If the forecast is bad, the client can either choose an alternative date or accept a full refund; it's as simple as that. If the day involved is absolutely critical, then the client can negotiate with us to 'have a go' if at all possible in the circumstances, without compromising flight safety.

Occasionally we can arrange for photographs of the banner in flight but this isn't always possible, so clients should ask us in advance if they are interested. Invariably, we find that in the excitement of the moment, the client rarely manages to get a good close-up photograph of the banner!


Finally, picking-up and flying banners is one of the more challenging jobs in aviation with less than ten people able to do it in the UK. We work very hard on delivering the proposal to the exact spot at the exact minute with military decision but with aviation, there's always room for the unexpected. We do our very best to keep the client informed by SMS and or phone and it's extremely unusual to have a delay. We recognize the client is under a great deal of emotional pressure and we try and make the entire process as transparent and stress-free as humanly possible. Invariably, we will give a ten minute morning before appearing, just so the client is ready on time to 'pop the question' and hasn't lost the ring in one of his pockets!

When she says 'Yes', send us a quick text, the pilot will waggle his wings and will leave you in peace to celebrate the moment quietly together!


July 15, 2010

All About Banner-Towing

This interesting video on banner-towing from an operator in the United States, neatly sums up the challenges and the nature of the market for aerial advertising and aircraft banners on both sides of the Atlantic.

July 13, 2010

Tolpuddle March 2010

It’s the Tolpuddle Martyrs Trade Union march again this weekend in the small village in Dorset that bears its name. Once again we’ll have two ‘ships’ over the top with banners for different Trade Unions, Joe Mann’s ‘Community’ and Bob Crow’s ‘RMT.’ I find it a little ironic at times that the Trades Union movement relies heavily on a Conservative-leaning pilot but they don’t seem to mind and last weekend I had a banner flying over the annual Durham Miners march.

Sunday’s march recalls the events of 1834, when six farm workers from the tiny village of Tolpuddle in Dorset were sentenced to seven years’ transportation, a massive protest swept across the country. Thousands of people marched through London and many more organised petitions and protest meetings to demand their freedom.

July 12, 2010

Thoughts for Prospective Airads Clients

It's the middle of a very busy July for Airads, with weddings, proposals and music festivals going strong. However, I wanted to write a few words for our potential customers to help manage their expectations a little.

You can find our condensed terms and conditions on our main website at www.airads.co.uk or simply ask us for a PDF copy with the full detail. However, very simply stated, if the weather is bad on the day of the flight, customers will normally receive a full refund, unless of course 'special conditions' apply, which normally involves sending us off to the location in the hope that the weather will be above our minimums at the specified time.

We normally have the same questions asked of us several times a week, so here they are with the answers.

Q. Can I have a banner flown over central London?

A. No. This is not possible between London City airport in the east and Heathrow in the west and a line approximately ten miles north and south, almost in line with the boundary of the M25.

Q. Why is it more expensive to have a banner near where I live?

A. It depends on where you are? There are principally five operators in the UK and these are widely spread out. Airads partners with all of these to provide a national service but some spots, such as the north-east, south-west and Birmingham have no aircraft within a hundred miles and so it costs an incremental cost in aviation fuel to provide a service and this can be expensive at £150 an hour for fuel!

Q. Why can't I have more than 32 characters and spaces on my banner?
A. Because of the aircraft's safety limit on drag. Any more and the aircraft may not fly!

Finally, towing banners is one of the most challenging jobs in aviation, which is why so few pilots actually do it. It is the aviation equivalent of rally-driving. Conditions are rarely perfect and so clients should be aware that while the great majority of flights go according to to plan and to the minute, there can be occasions when delays will occur in circumstances beyond our control.

July 9, 2010

Congratulations Emily Rose!

Another successful marriage proposal at the end of Brighton Pier today with Paul Davies popping the question to to his partner Emily Rose.

They certainly chose the perfect weather for their most romantic day out to the seaside. Brighton beach reminded me of the south of France and may have been hotter!

With that finished it was off to North London and Micklefield Hall for a wedding and congratulations to Nick and Jess on their marriage

Airads are back again on Sunday with a banner for 'Moshi Moshi' along Brighton seafront.

July 1, 2010

Banners from Heaven - A Papal Request

A banner for his Holiness, the Pope was the first request of the day but without a little divine intervention, it's not possible and I doubt the Lord himself could convince the authorities to allow me to overfly the Papal motorcade in either London or Birmingham.

Instead then, we'll be flying a banner for 'Moshi Moshi' over Brighton beach this Saturday and the weather looks  set to deliver another scorcher with some thunderstorms thrown in for good measure!

June 21, 2010

Margate's Big Event 2010

After several years of sunshine at this annual event, the weather was marginal for Margate's 'Big Event' at Palm Bay, with a howling north-easterly blowing for much of the weekend and bursts of rain.
Fortunately the display aircraft managed to struggle in for their performances, with thrills from the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain memorial flight arranging a mock dogfight with an ME109, pictured.

After being grounded by the strong winds at the beginning of both Saturday and Sunday, the weather cleared just in time for a Red Arrows finale on the second day and Airads followed in with a sheet banner behind them. Better last than never!

June 14, 2010

New Town Killers Goes High

A reasonably varied weekend for Airads with one wedding banner at Lewes in Sussex, a test  flight sheet banner for www.tradeshop.org.uk which will fly by before the Margate 'Big Event' air show next weekend and a banner for the New Town Killers band, at an event outside Milton Keynes.

Coming-up, we're scheduled for 'Superbikes' at Silverstone and a handful of marriage proposals with yet one more booked along Brighton beach. 'Captain Cupid' strikes again, I fear!

June 5, 2010

At the Races - Epsom 2010

Airads headed over to the races at Epsom today with a banner for Mercedez Benz. The racecourse doesn't like advertising around its airspace and the inclusion of an air traffic zone for helicopters working the races forced us to keep our distance from the spectacle and work the approach road instead.

When this was all finished, we headed over to Leeds castle and Brighton beach for marriage proposals, so congratulations to both Priti and Karen who both said 'Yes' on this special day for both of them.

May 14, 2010

To Norwich with Aviva

A successful welcome to Norwich FC over the city last night with an Airads banner, sponsored by Aviva, following the team bus. Meanwhile, this morning Airads was having a good look at the London 2012 Olympic stadium, which you can see has some way to go before it's ready for the athletes!

May 8, 2010

Sky Banners and UKIP Aircraft Accident

Airads would like to send the company’s best wishes to pilot, Justin Adams of Sky Banners Ltd and UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, following the accident involving the UKIP election banner on Election Day that left both pilot and passenger in hospital.

The aerial advertising business in the UK is governed by CAA regulations and enjoys an unprecedented safety record. In the last week, Airads was also towing banners for UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and the Independent candidates during the week and we were shocked to hear of the incident last Thursday and relieved to hear that both men survived the aircraft crash landing, which is now being investigated by the Air Accident Investigation branch in order to ascertain its causes. We all hope to learn valuable operational lessons from its conclusions.

We wish both Justin Adams and Nigel Farage a speedy recovery and return to good health!

May 6, 2010

Nigel Farage Plane Banner Incident

Airads was not flying the UKIP banner today with Nigel Farage in Northampton.The aircraft involved, from another operator, was involved in an incident and both the pilot and Nigel Farage are reportedly being treated for minor injuries.


Airads was in fact flying another banner for UKIP over Birmingham and Coventry over the weekend (pictured) but without any incidents.





May 4, 2010

Captain Cupid Strikes Again - Another Successful Marriage Proposal

'Captain Cupid' strikes again with more  happy couple this weekend with a marriage proposal from Dave to Emma which saw the banner fly over the Anfield stadium and the Liverpool vs Chelsea match and earn a special mention in the newspapers!
Congratulations to the two of them. Airads lost count of the number of  unbroken, successful flying marriage proposals a long time ago, once these passed the 100 mark!

May 2, 2010

'Tom and George Still Not Welcome' - Another One for Anfield

Another banner over Liverpool's Anfield ground this afternoon for the club's supporters with the message: 'Tom and George Still Not Welcome' flying behind it. A little later we had a marriage proposal going in the same direction for another of the fans, so very much a game of two halves for the crowds being entertained in the stadium below!

April 29, 2010

Liverpool v Atl├ętico Madrid - Airads & Channel 5 TV

Liverpool, Anfield this evening for Channel 5 Television with their bespoke banner, showing their logo and earlier today, I was over Reading in Berkshire towing a banner for Acorn HIPS.

The weather has been steadily breaking down all day and I had to cut short the Reading flight after I found myself flying through a 'car wash.'

Airads has a busy Bank Holiday weekend ahead, starting with a two hour detail for UKIP around the western side of Birmingham and finishing with a marriage proposal from the Isle of Wight on Monday afternoon.

Strangely enough, we have two more Anfield flights booked for Sunday, one for a fan who wants to propose to his partner and the other for the official Liverpool fans at Midday. I'm hoping that the weather in Cheshire will be rather better than the awful forecast now confronting me for south-east England from Saturday night to Monday morning!

April 24, 2010

Cameron 2010 - Flying the Flag

A surprise for David Cameron, with a banner message: 'CAMERON 2010@No10' this morning at Grays in Essex!

There was a large reception committee in evidence in the playing field behind the school or college below, with TV outside broadcast vans with satellite dishes on their roofs, parked-up outside. On teh way back to the airfield I passed a very smart looking Agusta helicopter, en route to Grays,, I asusme to pick him up for his next appointment.

I've some photos in my camera and will try and put one up later, as I'm typing this between jobs at the airfield.

Next-up is the pop concert the afternoon at Camber Sands, with a rather different message and one that to be honest ,as a simple pilot I'm too old to understand: "WHEN HARD CREW RULED THE WORLD."

Now, if only someone would tell us what Gordon Brown's schedule is, we could have a special election message flown for him too!

April 23, 2010

St Georges Day at Bradford

Airads was flying a giant St George's Day flag over Bradford today, following the annual procession with the huge banner that the city purchased for such special occasions, last year.

Jimbo Loves Jo Jo Over Leeds Castle

Another romantic flight over Leeds Castle again this week, with a special message for "Jo Jo" from "Jimbo" that he loves her with "ALL HIS HEART."

One of the finest days of the year too!

April 17, 2010

Airads Flies the Brighton Marathon

Airads was flying a banner over the first Brighton marathon this morning. On the way there, I found I was the only pilot in the entire south of England on frequency with London information, the threat of volcanic dust, having convinced many pilots to stay on the ground.

However, dust is only a real threat to jet aircraft at high altitude and not piston engine aircraft at low level with dust filters fitted to their engines as standard.

Brighton was basking in warm sunshine and haze, a glorious day for its inaugural marathon race and below, thousands of runners could be seen on a winding circuit through the town

Our client on this occasion was based in the United States and had a personal message for one of the runners:

"GOOD LUCK BIG BIRD - I LOVE YOU!"

Hopefully 'Big Bird' was insprired by the message flying overhead!

March 31, 2010

BBC's Newsnight and an Airads Banner Over Margate

Did anyone spot the Airads banner on the BBC Newsnight programme on Tuesday night?

A quick interview with Tracey Emin followed by an aircraft flying across the beach with the message: "Mad Tracey from Margate."

If you blinked you may have missed it!

February 16, 2010

Giant Aircraft Banners Don't Get Any Bigger

The embedded video may be a little larger than life but when an aircraft banner rolls past the shoreline, it certainly captures the public's attention!

February 14, 2010

It All Works Out in the End for Lloyd and Charlotte

There are times, when the weather gets so bad, that you have to be a little creative in having a banner flown!


This afternoon, while spring-like sunshine covered parts of Kent, Rochester airport was bathed in fog, drizzle and the occasional dusting of snow for much of the day and nothing was moving on the runways.

By lunchtime, it became clear that there was very little chance of lifting Lloyd's proposal to Charlotte over the cloud-locked hills towards Detling, only a few miles away and so I suggested that he drive her to Rochester airport, where at least I could have a try at picking-up the banner and working at low-level inside the airfield circuit.

Kelvin Carr, Rochester's operations manager, very kindly invited the couple into the control tower, while I quickly got off the ground to pick-up Lloyd's proposal. In the mixed drizzle and sleet, collecting the banner was nothing short of a miracle, given the poor horizontal visibility but fortune smiled on the couple and off it flew on the very first attempt. You can see how wet it was by the curl in the sodden banner,making it less than aerodynamic.

Airads would like to offer our congratulations to yet another happy couple on what has proved to be one of our busiest months for marriage proposals since before the recession began.

February 13, 2010

All The Way From South Africa for an Airads Flying Marriage Proposal

Another successful Airads Valentines' banner this afternoon at Leeds Castle in Kent.

Congratulation to Kevin and Veloshini who came all the way from South Africa to stay at the picturesque castle in Kent, for Kevin to 'pop the question' just after they arrived.

He called me in the aircraft to announce yet another successes in Airads unbroken record of flying proposals! Given the weather, they were incredibly lucky to find enough of a gap for us to operate in. Sixty minutes later, the weather had closed in again.

February 11, 2010

Over 100,000 see Dandy's Top Soil Airads Banner Plane

It is estimated that over 100,000 people saw Dandy's Top Soil's latest form of advertising, their 60ft Advertising Banner being towed 600mtrs high by a Plane.

The Plane, which was destined for Chester Racecourse, where 41,000 people where enjoying the City's Family Day while watching the world famous races, took off from Blackpool Airport at 1.30pm, flying down the Northwest coastline over St. Annes, Southport, Ormskirk, Liverpool, Widnes, Runcorn, Ellesmere Port and finally Chester itself arriving on the scene at around 2.00pm.

The Plane towed a 60ft advertising banner with the letters: DANDYSTOPSOIL.CO.UK behind it. After circling the City centre and Course for over an hour the plane then moved north to the World Famous Chester Zoo where thousands more visitors and tourists were enjoying the sites the Zoo had to offer.

After one final lap of the City Dandy's Advertising Plane headed north back over Warrington and Liverpool City Centres to it's final destination back at Blackpool Airport.

The total flight lasted two and a half hours and could not be missed by anyone who was outside and within 2 miles of the plane.

Adam Dandy commented "It was a great success! If they didn't know who Dandys Topsoil were, they do now!"

The Dandy's Banner Plane will be touring across other major UK Cities, Towns and high profile events over the next twelve months, increasing the National Topsoil Company's Brand Awareness

February 6, 2010

Another Marriage Proposal at Leeds Castle

The first fairy-tale proposal of the year today over Leeds Castle in Kent, which along with Brighton Pier in the summer months, is our most popular aerial proposal choice.

In fact, this February, we have three marriage proposals to do at the castle with one client coming all the way from South Africa to 'pop the question.'

Today it was the turn of Jaysen and Neelam and despite the damp February weather, the fog lifted long enough to maintain Airads unbroken 100% proposal record to date.

Congratulations to the both of you and a long and happy married life to come!