When it comes to planes, I've only got one rule - avoid getting into anything small with propellers. That rule had to be broken yesterday in order to make the trip north from Stockholm to see Sweden's pioneering second-generation bioethanol plant - about which, more later.
Actually, as I discovered from a quick bit of web research once I was safely back on the ground, I shouldn't have worried because, as small planes go, the twin turboprop Beechcraft King Air 350 is a serious piece of equipment. Before take-off, I asked the pilot whether we would be flying at a lower altitude than commercial airliners and to my surprise, he said 'not really'. When I checked later, I found that the King Air 350 will indeed go all the way to 35,000 ft because it has a pressurised cabin. The take-off performance seemed pretty good as well.
That said, the King Air felt a bit small inside, and it did pitch around a bit when we hit turbulence - at one stage on the approach to Stockholm on the return journey, the entire contents of my teacup jumped across the cabin onto Ford's PR man, who, it has to be said, accepted this unwelcome development with commendable equanimity. All in all, though, a great trip that provided wonderful views of Sweden's lakes and forests on a beautiful clear day.
Al Gore has been criticised and even ridiculed for flying the world in a private jet to promote the message of his film about the dangers of global warming An Inconvenient Truth. I did wonder whether flying in a private plane to report on a bioethanol plant isn't similarly objectionable. Perhaps - but activities aimed at getting across the important message about climate change and the possibilities for a low-CO2 future probably count among the better uses of scarce fossil fuels.