For Christmas, my brother gave me an “Experience” but suggested I choose my own so that it would be something that I wanted. I decided it had to be fairly local and reduced it to 4 possibles: a skid pan at Thruxton, a hot air balloon flight from near the leisure centre, a falconry day at the Hawk Conservancy or a flight/trial lesson in a small plane from Old Sarum airfield. I decided the first was too scary, the second was a waste of champagne (why do all balloon flights include champagne?) and couldn’t decide between the other two, so let my brother decide. I think he tossed a coin and it came out on the flight. He then arranged this (the voucher was only for 6 months so not until a about May) and GoFly phoned me up and sent me the voucher.
I then had to arrange the date and time with the company and they sent me confirmation by email.
The day dawned and it was quite windy and a bit rainy, but that gradually cleared so the flight went ahead, instead of being cancelled as I feared. The lad who had done the flight before mine, had his cancelled on 2 or 3 previous occasions. I arrived early – and managed to park in the wrong place so had quite a way to walk instead of just a few steps. The young man in charge showed me the weather map and the rain going and the wind decreasing. Then the instructor led me out to the plane.
He had to get on first to make sure everything was OK and to fit in the extra bottle full of water (seen below the wing) behind the back seats to give us extra weight for ballast. I think I am not heavy enough! The instructor then got on board and told me to follow him. I should only walk on any bits painted black. I got in, the door was shut, the seat belts done up and lots of pre-flight checks done. Then the instructor spoke to the “control tower” (2 huts on top of each other!) and we taxied to the end of the grass runway. He then did more tests, spoke to Boscombe Down air traffic control as they are in charge of the local air space and we had to clear the flight with them. Heights etc would depend on what aircraft they were flying. After waiting ages for the Old Sarum control to respond we were given clearance to take off.
We gathered speed along the (slightly bumpy) runway and were then in the air and banked to pass Old Sarum.
We then headed up the river, initially, and then up to the A303 and Stonehenge. We didn’t get very close to Stonehenge as I think we were not supposed to cross the A303.
I tried to take several pictures of it but the wing blocked out most of them. We then headed roughly southwest passing over the countryside where one can see some of the marks left from previous ages agriculture and settlements.
It is from the air that one can see how rural Wiltshire is and how the fields cover much of it and the houses and roads very little. There are a few wooded areas and the instructor pointed out that the flight was more turbulent when we were going over the trees.
Then it was my turn! The instructor pointed the plane in roughly the right direction and showed me where to aim for. Turn the wheel left for left, right for right(!!), towards for up and away for down. I was told the pedals are only for steep turns/banking.
I think I did OK – until it got a bit rough again and I wasn’t sure if we were going up or down – the control panels are all at the instructors side.
After that we banked and turned again so that we were heading for the Fovant Military badges.
We flew alongside these…….
…….and the headed back towards Salisbury.
We flew south of the city ready to turn towards Old Sarum airfield.
As we approached the airfield we had to look out for other planes, but we didn’t see any, which was good. The instructor contacted the airfield and got clearance and did a really good landing – then spoiled it by saying he doesn’t always manage such good ones! We taxied to the place where the plane was left – and that was my “experience” finished.
We went back to the headquarters of GoFLY – a wooden hut – and I was presented with my certificate!
Did I enjoy it? It was slightly scary at the start when I saw how small the plane was and that it only had one propeller/engine! But once we got up it was wonderful and it would have been great to have a bit more time doing the actual flying so I got a better feel for the controls. I would love an hour next time (hint, hint!!) when I understand one flies down to the Isle of Wight and round the Needles and back. With the sun out it actually got quite hot in the plane.
Many, many thanks to my brother for the experience.
- Posted in: Things to do