Headcorn Airfield, Kent, England.
Tony Richards, of Aerobatic Tactics Ltd, recently said that if I was ever in the area I should give him a shout and he would take me out for a flight in his Cap 10 stunt plane. As Tony then said, “the bugger took me up on it”! We were due to be in the area on other business, so arranged to meet up.
It was a glorious day in late April. The sun was shining, and there were a few fluffy clouds in the blue sky. We had arranged to meet at Headcorn Airfield, near Maidstone in Kent.
When Rhona and I met up with Tony, he explained that he had recently had a chest infection, which had now made its way into his sinuses, which meant that he was not able to fly that day. Instead, he had arranged for one of his colleagues, Alan Garside, to take me up and do the business.
As well as the usual barrel rolls and loop the loops, Tony told me that I was going to have a go at flying the plane! The last time I had been in control of anything with an engine, I had driven a friend’s car at an amazing speed of 12 miles per hour, around an empty car park, but thought I was about to break the land speed record. Now I was going to be going at over 140mph and would be 2,000 feet in the air!!
With most of my adventures, I don’t get the slightest bit nervous until a few seconds before it starts. Also, as I had taken a flight in a stunt plane in New
Zealand, back in 2001, I kind of thought that I should be OK on this one. However, maybe it was my age, or the fact that I was told that I would be able to take control of the plane in flight. Whatever it was, as we started to run along the runway the nerves really started to kick in.
Until we took off, it had felt like we were bouncing along in some sort of beach buggy. We were sat side by side, with the sun baking down on us through the clear canopy. As we left the ground, it seemed to go very quiet and it felt like everything slowed down. We just seemed to float upwards. No real effort.
Once at 2,000ft, Alan explained how the joystick worked. It was very sensitive, and the plane would respond to the slightest movement. None of this yanking the joystick around like they do in the movies. In fact, he went on to show me, the steering could be done with the pressure of just one finger.
After a few minutes of Alan showing me this and setting the plane up, it was my turn to take over. Knowing that Alan could fly this plane with just a tap of his fingers, I grabbed hold of the joystick with both hands, as if my life depended upon it!! I was shaking. Really shaking. Driving the car in the empty car park had been scary, but this really got to me. After a few seconds of this, I started to calm down. Alan was very relaxed with me being in control, so I guess this must have been passed on to me.
Whilst cruising at 140 – 150mph, Alan got me to get the plane to gain height, lose height, and then turn left and right. I did this for a few minutes, and really started to relax. So much so, that one of my hands left the joystick!
Then it was time for some fun! Alan took back the controls, and asked if I fancied a barrel roll? Silly question. He told me to hold on to my shoulder straps and get ready. With a flick of his wrist, we did a sideways roll. It was over in the blink of an eye. “Would you like another?” We then flipped back the opposite way.
Then it was on to a loop-the-loop. This time Alan had to pull the joystick back towards him, to make the plane head skywards. As we started to climb, I could feel my stomach start to move. Before I knew it, we were upside down, and then heading straight down to the ground. The speed had increased to over 160mph, and my adrenaline was flowing!
A few seconds later we were back on the level, and I was given another chance to take control. This time I felt a lot more relaxed, and did actually fly the plane with a single finger. We did a 360 degree flat circuit to one side, and then one on the other side.
It was then time for one more roll, and one more loop-the-loop before coming in to land.
For something I was feeling quite blasé about, it really did get my heart pumping, and the adrenaline rushing through my system.
It was a fab experience, and would highly recommend it to anyone else. If you fancy having a go at this, why not contact the folk at Aerobatic Tactics Ltd.