Like most people my first take to the skies was probably on a commercial jet. This isn’t really flying the way I think of it, with the freedom, panoramic views and combined sense of control and adventure.
Whilst at Imperial College London, I joined the University of London Air Squadron(ULAS). This was the most amazing experience. I had over 100 hours of world-class tuition in the Bulldog from RAF Benson. This was as close to Top Gun as I’ve been so far, blasting down the M4 on my Honda VFR 750 in a flying suite – awesome. I still envy my squadron mates like Kirsty Moore who stuck with it.
Once I left the RAF I converted to a civilian PPL(A) licence at Tatenhill Airfield in the East Midlands. Quite a culture-shock going from wearing a fire-resistant suit, full helmet and parachute and strapped in like a beef joint to flying in shorts and a T-Shirt with a lap strap! I flew the Cessna 152, Cessna 172, Archer Arrow, and the aerobatic Decathlon. Most memorable trip was to a tiny grass-strip in Suffolk with Lizzie and an old university mate, Hugh.
Next came the combination of power and paraglider. I bought an Adventure F3 Paramotor, with an Elle wing. It was blast flying this around the country, although physically quite demanding to get off the ground sometimes. I dropped-into a couple of public events like the Orford Flower Show, and the Thurston Festival.
With a paramotor you can fly from any hillside, or large-enough flat field. The winds have to be light, and you have to be quite physically fit. You can climb to 10,000′ and higher, stay up for hours and there is minimal red-tape around the sport.
This is the only aircraft I know of you can hope to carry (albeit for short distances). Everything packs down into 3-4 big, heavy bags. You un-pack, check everything, lay-out the canopy in a horseshoe shape, then run like crazy hoping to take-off before you hit that hedge at 20mph! Talking about it makes me want to take it up again!
Helicopter flying next, starting in around 2005. Now we’re talking. Not the cheapest way to take to the air, nor the safest, but MAN is it awesome. Flying across the country at 100mph, and landing in your friend’s back-garden. Now that’s a freedom that’s hard to match. I learnt at Central Helicopters in the East Midlands, and am currently qualified to just below commercial pilot level.
I started, like many people, in the Robinson R22. Them qualified on the 4-seat Robinson R44. We’ve had some amazing parties with a helicopter to hand to fly friends and family around the Suffolk Coast.
Unforgettable memories, and my current pinnacle. Looking forward to when EmbraceIT brings enough cashflow to get my commercial licence (for fun), and for me to fly rather than drive everywhere. Target is by 2016.
If you can afford it, book a trial lesson somewhere NOW!
Next step, spaceflight, I’ll keep you posted…