The first Aerobility Touring Group trip was a great success, as Aerobility instructor Stuart tells us:
On Saturday, 15th March, 9 nine intrepid flyers from the UK’s best known disability flying charity, Aerobility, came together to start the 2014 summer season touring group with style. The mission? – fly 2 aircraft from Blackbushe to Duxford and back, in a day, round some of the most demanding airspace in Europe.
The preparation had begun in the weeks before with phone calls back and forward to Duxford Air Traffic to negotiate a special permission to land our pioneering party whilst the airfield underwent some improvements to its control tower. Builders came and went and permission was slow to come but when it did come - the flying challenge began.
Chatter, coffee and excitement at the great weather fuelled the flight planning from 8 until 9.30 am. 2 aircraft were needed to get the nine of us there, 6 people up in G-CHFK – the Cherokee Six in splendid Aerobility Livery and 3 up in the new, leased PA28, G-HARN, only on its second day with the charity.
Both aircraft departed at 10am for the hour long flight to Duxford. Our route took us due north past White Waltham and Heathrow at our bumpy cruise altitude of 2,200ft, on to our first turning point of Marlow to past between Booker airfield and the Heathrow zone. On we went past Chesham to the left as London appeared to the right out of the lifting morning mist.
In the PA28, long-time Aerobility flyer Brian Jupp hand flew the leg with instructor Stuart Redman Lusher taking the radio and Stewart Clarke map reading in the rear seat. Suddenly, crackling across the radio came Aerobility instructor, Nick Glover who was Pilot in Command in the Cherokee ‘Farnborough North, GCHFK, changing to Duxford 122.075’. It was good to hear the company traffic on the radio and nearly at Duxford because that meant they had safely navigated the narrow corridor between Panshanger and Stanstead, an aviation equivalent of the ancient pass at Thermopylae!
Back in the PA28, the same routing took us on through the gap 10 minutes after the Cherokee and we soon found ourselves looking for our entry point to the Duxford Circuit, the town of Royston. Stuart raised Duxford on the radio and we were given our airfield information and were soon on the runway and told to park on the apron where a pre-arranged bus was ready to take to our first objective – the cafe and secondly onto hangar 1 for our guided tour.
Suitably refreshed with tea, coffee and sausage rolls for some, new Aerobility flyer Richard Edwards offered to pay the landing fees and we all set off as a ‘Magnificent 10’ around hangar 1 with our tour guide. The story of early flight is housed here and we all saw an original canvas from of the Wright flyer and for the next 45 minutes we saw one of the best displays available in any UK aviation museum. Concorde was parked next to the Vulcan and a Comet 4 on BOAC colours. Overhead hung a wood framed, Merlin powered de Havilland Mosquito along with a late model RAF harrier and a Canberra, Nestled amongst the undercarriages of the bigger Lancaster and Shorts Sunderland we saw lesser known airplanes like the Airspeed Oxford and the similar looking Avro Anson.
The group of nine then dispersed for the remaining 2 hours of our visit across the other hangars with favourites amongst the group being the American air museum and Hangar 2 which housed the older aircraft still fit to fly. We reconvened at 3.30pm to brief and fly the return leg to Blackbushe.
The weather had settled when both the aircraft got airborne from the south westerly runway 24 at Duxford and a smooth, slightly shorter journey awaited us as we returned back to Blackbushe. Again the Cherokee 6 was first airborne piloted by Trish ‘the Dish’ Amess in her first flight in many months and first ever in the PA32. London was far more visible this time to the left of us and crew and passengers of both aircraft were able to pick out Wembley, The Shard and the Canary Wharf as we passed north of Watford and south of the Chess valley that seems to swallow Chesham when you look at it from the air. Turning south it was soon time to talk to Blackbushe and new pilot Richard performed some impressive straight and level flying in the PA28 for someone with 2 hours total time!
With both aircraft back at Blackbushe and the sun setting our band of flyers took care of the bill with the ever efficient/gorgeous Sue Dodds and enjoyed the 5th cup of tea of the day before we went our separate ways. Everyone left thinking of the next trip – and overnight to the Scilly Isles on Friday 16th May, just 7 weeks away!
My thanks go to Nick Glover for his expertise on the day, the amazing staff at Duxford for whom nothing was too much trouble, particularly the airfield manager Tom Turner for allowing the fly-in and finally all the Aerobility flying members for really making the day.
If you wish to be included in the Aerobility Touring Group for this summer please email firstname.lastname@example.org to add yourself to the flight you wish to be part of. Everyone is welcome, from non-flyers to highly experienced.
The flights are :-
Scilly Isles – 16&17th May 2014
Oban – 13-16th June 2014
Le Touquet - 19th July 2014