Tag Archives: airbus

Vulcan XH558 takes the Gloucestershire Copywriter back in time…

It’s a short but sweet reminiscence this week, prompted by the chance sighting of our only flying Vulcan G-VLCN (military identifier XH558) as it headed for the Weston Air Festival on a recent Sunday afternoon.

Seeing  G-VLCN (I thought our personal number plate was a good one!) flying over was a wonderful experience. I only just caught her, saw her heading south from a bedroom window, rushed to grab the camera and snatched a shot at full zoom just as the V bomber was about to disappear over our neighbour’s roof.

The Vulcan took the Gloucestershire Copoywriter back in time...

Avro Vulcan XH558 about to fly into my neighbour’s open Velux window!

Why the emotion? Well, the last time I saw a Vulcan flying for real was back in the early 1960s when we lived in Bristol. I must have been about five then, when Vulcans – at that time part of our main nuclear deterrent – flew over regularly.

Seeing G-VLCN The Spirit of Great Britain again reminded me how far I’ve come in 50 years. Back then I drew and wrote little stories, made aircraft and hangers out of plasticine. Now, as well as doing all those things (!) the writing’s taken on a whole different meaning.

It’s been a fascinating journey from a Bristol childhood to working as a freelance copywriter just up the road in Cheltenham. I think back over growing up in Bristol, then in Northern Ireland through The Troubles. Then uni at Cambridge (and pistol shooting under the wing of a retired Concorde at Duxford) followed by years in technical selling, marketing, business development, technical writing,, copywriting and PR across southern England. I developed a passion for Switzerland and British Columbia, got married, got divorced, married again, wrote a novel with an aviation theme and settled under the Cotswold escarpment with the two loves of my life – my wife and my words.  It took nearly 50 years from sitting in that garden looking up at the Vulcans, but I finally got back to where I’m meant to be – a passionate creative who loves using paper and pencil (or a word-processor now) and has been known to do aviation and defence-related copywriting.

Over the years, my interest in aviation sustained, probably helped me get into an aviation tech pubs firm where I worked for Airbus (including doing my bit on the A-380 Tooling & Equipment Manual) and Rolls-Royce (manufacturer of the Vulcan’s Olympus engines) and worked alongside people who maintained and flew Vulcans in those halcyon 1960s days… including one who carried the Magna Carta to the USA aboard a Vulcan.

Vulcan XH558

Beautiful! Simply beautiful!

Looking at the Wikipedia page for G-VLCN/XH558, I see that the aircraft first flew on 25 May 1960, which makes me a few months older than her! We’re both going strong after all those years: me with my marketing, website, brochure, technical and case study copywriting; the Vulcan as the only surviving flying example of a bygone age when Britain’s airborne nuclear deterrent really was something to be respected and admired.

That particular branch of the RAF may have gone, to be replaced by a handful of sinister, prowling missile submarines. But the Vulcan continues to rouse the passions of virtually everyone who sees (or hears) her.

Talking of passions, there’s more copywriting to be done…

Al Hidden is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.

An Airbus, a ‘barking dog’ and a Cheltenham copywriter…

It’s amazing how a little bit of understanding can calm the nerves and make sense of something that at first appears unfamiliar. On a recent flight back to the UK, we were aboard an Airbus A320. If you know anything about the A320 you’ll know all about the so-called ‘barking dog’ that sometimes makes itself heard during push back from the gate, especially if you’re sitting somewhere around the centre of the aircraft – as this Cheltenham copywriter and his other half were last weekend.

a320 airbus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it was last Saturday. As the aircraft was pushed out onto the taxiway and the engines spooled up, the distinctive sound of ‘barking’ filled the cabin. As I immersed myself in Influence by Robert Cialdini, I couldn’t help overhearing a conversation in a nearby seat. With some concern, another passenger asked one of the cabin crew what the noise was and what was going on – and whether the plane was okay.

As I’ve heard many times, the flight attendant smiled and explained that it was the jet’s hydraulics – not a stray mongrel in the freight hold – and completely normal. The passenger looked relieved and settled back with his newspaper. All was right in the world and a few minutes later we were climbing out over the Med and heading north.

An interest in aircraft and several years working as a technical copywriter around Airbus has taught me that the mystery ‘barking dog’ is actually the power transfer unit between the aircraft’s green and yellow hydraulic circuits. It’s particularly noticeable during push back when one engine is running and the PTU drives the hydraulic circuits on the other, as yet unpowered, side of the aircraft. If you sit down at the back, you’ll barely notice it – try it next time you’re on an A320. (Even better, learn the answer and impress friends, family and fellow-travellers with your knowledge…)

barkingdog

There’s a parallel with certain aspects of copywriting. I’ve lost count of the times a client of my freelance copywriting business asked me about the questions starting a website page, a conversational writing style or the use of ‘and’ or ‘but’ at the start of a sentence. To some people, perhaps those brought up on a certain (misguided) understanding of English, such techniques sit as uncomfortably with business writing as the idea of a collie-cross running loose in the hold does with the idea of international flight. Usually, all it takes to set the client’s mind at rest is a clear explanation: questions are a way of engaging the reader’s attention; a conversational style is important for similar reasons; while conjunctions and sentence fragments add pace to website copy that should replicate spoken communication as much as possible.

Just as there must surely be travellers who will remain convinced that their plane is malfunctioning, occasional stick-in-the-muds won’t be told. But generally, people get what I’m doing with words and appreciate the benefit for engaging communication with their audience. That’s when they sit back with their metaphorical cheese toastie and Starbucks Italian Roast and enjoy the flight (read writing project) – while their Gloucestershire copywriter does what he does best from the ‘flight deck’…

Trust your copywriter. By all means ask questions, but be ready to be surprised because business writing is often rather different to the writing we were taught back at school…

And like the ‘barking dog’ on the A320, it’s nothing to be afraid of at all and merely shows that everything is happening just as it should.

is an experienced Gloucestershire based copywriter specialising in Marketing, Web/SEO, technical and PR copywriting.