On a lovely sunny Sunday in August, Mr Foxy and I ventured to Wycombe Air Park to take a little jaunt in a 2 seater plane. Booked via Buy A Gift this was something Mr Foxy said he had always wanted to do so obviously only one of us was going up with the instructor and it certainly was not going to be me! I must say that when I gave him the envelope he greeted the contents with a slightly mixed reaction, excitement followed by nerves so I was not convinced he would do this! But he did and he is here to share his experience.

Up, up and away

Over to Biggins (Mr Foxy)

Not being the greatest fan of heights, receiving a flying lesson for Xmas will illicit mixed emotions. Not least a fear that your reaction on Xmas morning, has made the giver feel you’re slightly underwhelmed.

Not at all, I was overwhelmed with “how can I get out of this?”, “how long can I put it off for?”, “is my dignity at risk now or later?”.

So August arrived with the inevitability of a dicky tummy on a foreign holiday and curiously enough, with similar physical effects. However, having assured all the smirking family members over the last eight months that I was fine with the idea, I had little choice but to show a brave face as we pulled into the car park at Booker Aviation.

Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes, and the delay before I could get on with it because of a reason I was unable to focus on and still can’t recall, was nowhere near as helpful as the eight month delay I’d carefully managed to this point. Far from it. Now I was here I just wanted to get on with it.

Fortunately, we got talking to an enthusiast. I say enthusiast but this kid, 21 I think, was demented about planes. He was learning to fly himself, with a view to becoming a commercial pilot as soon as possible. How naïve was I not to know that most of our holiday pilots put themselves through a PPL?

This kid could identify everything from the 40 year old light aircraft that I was about to hop into, to the large passenger jets at distances that made the old fox squint. He even knew which plane I was using without knowing my name. He’d memorised all the flight plans and factored in the delay I was not enjoying. I must at this point thank him though. The sheer passion of individuals like this, and he wasn’t the only one there, was a useful distraction.

So the moment arrived when my tutor Dan came to get me. Dan the BA pilot was earning some extra cash and doing what he loved doing, was much older than the enthusiast who’d got me through the last 45 minutes with his encyclopaedic knowledge and dedication. Indeed, Dan the instructor must have been at least 24.

A Cessna 152 requires a number of checks while standing at the start of the runway:

  • Battery
  • Fuel and pressure
  • Is my door shut properly ( I checked that a few times)
  • And a bunch of other stuff.

Dan was talking me through all of this. I can only assume that pilots have trained themselves to listen separately with each ear. The tower and Dan are both coming through the headphones at the same time. Seemingly no problem for him but I couldn’t make out a word either was saying. Analytical in nature, I thought that letting him get on with his checks was more important than me knowing what they were, so the life skill of politely nodding seemed appropriate for now.

Finally, we’re ready. After a gentle acceleration to about 85 knots (don’t ask me!), we’re up.

The sun is shining and visibility fantastic. Almost immediately I’m asked if I want to take the controls. This act itself is formalised with “I have the controls” which should probably be in a smaller font, and a reply of “You have the controls” which has a silent question mark.

If you think that flying a light aircraft is point and shoot, you’re very wrong. The still air at ground level is replaced with something far more tangible in a light aircraft. It seems to change it’s affect on the plane at will. This requires huge concentration, from me at least, and constant input on the controls. If you’re ever in doubt of your ability to focus, take a flying lesson.

I confess to Dan at this point, that I’ve heard very little of what he’s said so far and he turns the volume down on the tower. That’s much better.

I’m enjoying this, though not exactly pushing the envelope at Miramar.

Confidence rising, it’s time to start asking informed and intelligent questions. “So how much time does one spend looking at the instruments Dan?”. “The windscreen is the most important instrument!”. Time to stop asking stupid questions.

So after a few gentle circuits, Dan wants to show me how responsive the plane is. I want to take his word for it, but allow him. “YOU HAVE THE CONTROLS!”, I calmly utter, and Dan proceeds to throw the plane around like a teenager in a one litre Corsa, trying to impress his girlfriend. In fairness, he’d obviously done this before.

I’ve taken many photos now and we’re heading in. The landing is even more gentle than the take off. I’m pleased with myself.

I get my certificate of achievement and the experience is over.

Would I do it again? Yes.

Would I convert to a flying geek? No.

However, if doing things you’ve never done before and stretching your confidence in doing so is something that tickles your fancy, I strongly recommend giving it a go.

Book this NOW via Buy A Gift!