A Dif­fer­ent Kind of Aerial Work

Aerial pho­tog­ra­phy of­fers CPL hold­ers the chance to build hours and earn money - and op­er­a­tions often in­volve char­tered com­mer­cial air­craft and crews

Pilot - - GO COMMERCIAL - Words Philip Whiteman Pho­tos High Level Pho­tog­ra­phy For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, see: high­levelpho­tog­ra­phy.co.uk

Iron­i­cally for a com­pany that was es­tab­lished thirty years ago with the USP that its mo­bile plat­forms were ‘cheaper than aerial pho­tog­ra­phy’, com­mer­cial prop­erty imag­ing spe­cial­ist High Level Pho­tog­ra­phy to­day uses air­craft in forty per cent of its op­er­a­tions and has a full-time staff pi­lot.

Largely this is due to the de­vel­op­ing de­mands of the busi­ness−but per­haps it has a lit­tle bit to do with owner Ian Les­lie, who bought the busi­ness in 2007, be­ing a pri­vate pi­lot who holds an FAA ME-IR. (At the risk of go­ing off on a tan­gent, Ian val­ues his US in­stru­ment qual­i­fi­ca­tion over the UK and Euro­pean equiv­a­lent− in­volv­ing more han­dling skills and less the­ory, “the FAA IR is all about safe fly­ing,” he ob­serves.)

High Level is lo­cated at Fairoaks aero­drome where it bases its own fixed­wing air­craft: Cessna 172P G-BIOB, painted up in smart dark blue and yel­low liv­ery; and−just added to the fleet−diesel pow­ered C172M G-BAEY.

There is more than enough work for staff pi­lot Paul Wells and the com­pany is al­ways look­ing out for com­mer­cial li­cence hold­ers avail­able to fly its pho­tog­ra­phers on a free­lance ba­sis – High Level re­ceived 270 ap­pli­ca­tions last time it ad­ver­tised, but the re­quire­ment to be based no more than an hour away dis­qual­i­fied a large num­ber (one ap­pli­cant turned out to live in Atlanta, Ge­or­gia).

There is not a vast de­mand for com­mer­cial pi­lots in aerial pho­tog­ra­phy or sur­vey world−only a hand­ful of com­pa­nies are ac­tive in the Uk−but it can be a good way of build­ing hours and earn­ing a bit of money. Not ev­ery pi­lot takes to it−it in­volves lots of ‘seat of the pants’ fly­ing, mak­ing turns at low level. For some this is well out of the com­fort zone, be­ing far re­moved from the kind of fly­ing done dur­ing com­mer­cial flight train­ing. On the other hand, thanks to the na­ture of the work−pho­tog­ra­phers re­ally only want­ing to be air­borne in CAVOK VMC−NO IR is re­quired.

It’s not just fixed-wing SEP fly­ing: High Level also uses he­li­copters. It has the use of a Robin­son R44 and char­ters in an AS355 as nec­es­sary. For op­er­a­tions over built-up ar­eas and in con­trolled airspace it em­ploys a Seneca and other char­tered multi-en­gine air­craft flown by ATPL hold­ers.

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