Fixed Wing Fun – A Day In A Plane

Microlight Flight - Header

Aviation has obviously played a major part in my life, but as I’m sure you will have guessed, aviation in my eyes is lighter than air, and apart from a single passenger flight in a “Lightship” 15 years ago, unpowered and of the hot air variety.

Recently, however, an old childhood friend got in touch through the wonders f modern social media. He’d just moved back to the area, suggested we meet up for a catch up and instead of the usual “let’s meet in the pub” offered up the idea that we swap air time. A qualified fixed wing pilot, his idea was simple – a flight in a plane for a flight in a balloon with a bit of chatter thrown in for good measure. Seemed like a fair deal to me.

Now, sadly, due to my ongoing personal problems, our “Swap Shop” deal had to be put on hold, but with the sun shining and life winning the battle currently against Anorexia, Grant offered to keep up his end of the deal and take me flying for the afternoon. And considering it was either go flying, or spend the afternoon bored at home, I didn’t need asking twice.

Grant has a share in a microlight plane: a Cosmik EV-97 TeamEurostar to be exact, which I must admit means absolutely nothing to me. It’s a plane: with wings and a propeller and that’s about as far as my knowledge goes! In a strange twist of fate, Grant’s plane lives at Wycombe Air Park, which is where I sat my Radio Licence exam many, many years ago, and while I haven’t been back since, arriving on site everything seemed strangely familiar.

Microlight Flight - Outbound (Wycombe To Leicester)

The plan was set, we’d take off from Wycombe head north up over the sites of the Chilterns and East Midlands, stop off at Leicester for a quick can of Coke before heading home again. And after a few checks, a stop for some petrol and a bit of taxiing around we were sitting at the bottom of the runway waiting to clearance to take off and begin our Captain Biggles adventure.

Clearance came, the engine screamed into full voice and as unexpectedly as you get with a balloon the little plane soared into the post lunch sky before I had had time to realise we were off. We were on to airspace new. Having only ever been in a fixed wing plane once before in my life, and then in the corporate commercialism of a Boeing plane on a short hop from Gatwick to Geneva, I truly didn’t know what to expect, and yet while totally different, it also felt totally familiar. There were no nerves, no panic, I was just back in the air.

As we climbed to our cruising altitude, it honestly felt no different to being in a balloon. Looking out through the glass cockpit at the world below, the sights, the shapes, the miniaturism was exactly what I always see. And then boom, the plane did a hop, skip and a jump. And my brain went “You what?” before rationalisation kicked in – it was a thermal. Balloons avoid them like the plague: they steal all control and are dangerous when surrounded by wicker and nylon, but propeller and metal plough head first into them. It’s totally alien to me, and for the whole flight a little unnerving, but as a sensation it was identical to the way a small boat rides the waves: serenely and effortlessly tracing it’s path forward until the next crest, peak and fall of a way hits the bow and interrupts it’s journey. Reminding all those on board of the unseen forces at work around it.

Continuing North, we were just past Aylesbury when Grant offered to show me a “steep turn”. Having been passed stories of the girl and her handbag in the car on the way to the flight, and seeing the collection of paper replacements stashed next to my seat, I wasn’t sure agreement was the best of ideas but hey, you only live once and so, round to the left we went, and as the G-force increased, I am pleased to say, my insides stayed inside. However, having low blood pressure and a rubbish heart rate as a result of Anorexia, there was a short time afterwards that my head was a little light to say the least.

Posted on by 5WC in Aviation First Edition

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