You may or may not know this, but many years ago Boofuls and myself used to be microlight aircraft pilots.
For me it was a case of, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,’ but I took to it like a duck to water and just like every other person who does it and likes it – I was hooked. Lashes was only a few months old at the time so I’d give her a quick breast feed and then leave her with Boofuls while I’d go off on my lesson with the late, great Tony Wells who came to be known as Uncle Dumper because Boofuls and me used to dump the kids with him while we went flying for an hour or so.
Eventually the time came for me to fly solo. My little plane was a solo striker like this one:
This isn’t my plane, mine was prettier than this with a gorgeous rainbow coloured wing.
But, you know what? That’s worth a whole post to itself. I’ll save that one.
Every free weekend for about ten years saw us loading the car up with the kids, food and warm clothes to go and spend all day at the airfield waiting for the wind to drop and make the weather flyable. As we waited we’d watch hardier souls than us fly in and out of the field, pursing our lips and taking a sharp intake of breath as we watched and passed judgement on the standard of landings and take offs. It was easy to judge if it was a good landing or not. If you walked away without either yourself or your aircraft being damaged it was a good landing.
There was of course the commentary that went with it: “Oh, there’s one coming in. Oh look at him he’s all over the place. OH!!! HE’S GONNA LOSE IT! OOF! He’s done it!. WELL DONE LAD!!” It was usually a big hairy arsed bloke. We female microlighters were a bit thin on the ground. Where we used to fly there were only three females, which made us a bit of a novelty. We were collectively known as ‘fanny squadron’ in our highly politically incorrect club. Being heavily outnumbered by the blokes we had to put up with much banter about us not knowing one end of a spark plug from another, fuel/oil ratios and our inability to single handedly lift a wing and rig an aircraft, which, most unlike me, I had to take gracefully as I did once manage to put the wing on my plane backwards. Dammit. I got ribbed about that for years!
Eventually, the novelty of standing on a cold airfield all day waiting for maybe ten minutes of flying at the end of the day when the wind dropped sufficiently, wore off. I think it must be a woman thing, I just kept thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of just standing around all day. All the men were quite happy to stand around all day just enjoying the atmosphere and the camaraderie. As exhilarating and breathtakingly beautiful as it was flying over Morecambe Bay for a few minutes just as the sun was starting to set, or circuit bashing on the beach on a clear day, the pain to pleasure ratio was all wrong.
Eventually I decided to hang up my flying suit and go to university to get eddycated instead. If I had spare time I used it to study, flying …it flew out the window. And that, as they say, was te end of that.
This week on television was a programme about the Round Britain Rally, a microlight race which, as the name implies, involves flying round the whole of Blighty in three days. It’s a rough, tough, gung-ho, Boy’s Own comic, gruelling endurance test of an event for those who fancy themselves as a bit of an Indiana Jones type.
There is some fantastic aerial photography and it truly captures the pioneering spirit of microlighting – and also some of the angst that the pilots go through but, hey! Don’t take my word for it – go and see for yourself!