If it was not so damn expensive I would do this every day.
I have been fascinated with flying simulators on PC since I was 8 years old. So what better way to spend my 40th birthday than seeing if my simulation skills work in real life.
This turned out to be not quite your average day.
We taxied to the runway after getting clearance from the tower as a old bi-plane was just taking off, we pulled up next to a spitfire while waiting for our turn on the runway. Our wingtips were a few feet from the magnificent bird, I was in awe.
My instructor didn’t look a day under 80 and she was so short she had two booster cushions so she could see out the cockpit of our piper warrior.
As she got the all clear to pull onto the runway we had a mayday call from the bi-plane saying hes coming back to land NOW while calmly mentioning he lost all power. We looked up and seen him on approach coming from the same direction as he had taken off from.
Over the radio everyone maintained silence as my tiny old instructor got our aircraft off the runway and ditched it on the grass.
To our relief he landed safety, and a landing I would be proud of in my simulator. Everyone on the radio let out a audible mass sigh of relief apart from the bi-plane pilot, he was as cool as a penguin after belly flopping in the Antarctic with a radio manor that made me think it happens to him every day.
My pensioner pilot made a comment about never seeing a mayday landing before and got us in position to take off.
She opened the throttle and the engine spluttered, followed by a frail old lady shrugging her shoulders while saying that don’t sound good, then we took off.
At that stage I realised my vertigo disappears at 400 feet, but my fear of dieing did not.
As soon as we got to a altitude of 1700 feet she leveled off and trimmed the aircraft then said to me “she’s all yours, see if you can maintain this altitude”
For the next 55 minutes I was living my life long dream.
I flew us over the Isle of White, down to Bournemouth then backtracked to bognor following the river East.
All too soon it was time for super granny to take back the yoke and aim us towards the ground. I passed over the controls after checking she was still alive.
She performed a perfect landing with the stall warning ringing out just as the wheels touched tarmac. As soon as that happened she passed over the controls once more to me so I could get a feel for steering with my feet and I taxied our light aircraft off the runway.
By this time the guys manning the tower have called it a day and gone home, so we were listening to the radio for other traffic just as the coast guard asked us to stop where we were. I found the toe brakes without instructions, I think the old gail was doing her nitting.
It turned out the coast guard was escorting someone in but was flying I a zig zag across the airfield. This was because he was flying one of those how-the-bloody-hell-does-that-work magical helicopter things and he could have turned our little plane upside down with the down draft from his blades.
We finally crawled out the piper and stepped foot on solid ground once more.
Then I got the confirmation I was secretly hoping for, my instructior asked me if u was sure I had never flown before as I performed each turn perfectly and stayed at 1700 feet the entire time.
My 32 years of simulation showed and I was a very happy student pilot.
Next flying adventure is gliding! watch this space.