Just Andy

Life is the greatest challenge of all

Flight In Awe

More ramblings from a PPL of the Class of 2004.

Don't know why, but the last couple of weeks has bought me so much pleasure I just can't avoid telling people about it.

Maybe it's because my flying is flowing better, maybe it's just because it has been an above average fortnight, I really don't know.

If it bores you then don't read it, if it helps as encouragement to someone to complete what can be a hard slog in gaining their PPL then good. If it helps anyone to appreciate the joy in their flying that maybe they had forgotten, whether an enforced absence or for other reason, surely that can only be a good thing.

Been a while since I went for a bimble. Looking out the window at lunchtime I figured I could do with a shot of the "grins" before the long weekend at work. I grabbed a victim from the office (it's always a shame to go flying with an empty seat I feel) and off we went to Shoreham.

Tall_Guy was there pre-flighting for a similar flight and even offered to wash our windscreen for a quid - looking into the sun down the taxiway I began to wish I had taken him up on his kind offer. One short field take off later we were heading east over the Downs to the north of Brighton and then headed to the coast to do a bit of house spotting for my passenger. That over, we headed toward Eastbourne, climbing all the while, until I spotted a gap in the cloud to aim for, with a suitable bit of blue sky further west so I could get down again.

I have found myself intentionally above cloud before, but very scattered and only about 50' high. Today they were about 200' high, with the odd one peaking higher still. Being careful to keep the land in sight I decided to play in the cloud tops. My passenger was spellbound............. so was I.

We played up there for about ten minutes, weaving in between the higher clouds, marvelling at how we could almost reach out and touch that cotton wool right outside our windows, wing tips almost touching the edges of the soft fluffy cloud. The impression of speed really is heightened when so close to the surface of the cloud. Diving through another gap and heading back west again, a large hole appeared with Beachy Head showing clearly in the distance.

Down we went, back below the cloudbase, with me grinning as much as my passenger about the last ten minutes of fun. From almost a mile high, we gradually descended to 700' about half a mile off the coast and had a birds eye view of the coastal strip towns. People scurrying about like ants, oblivious to the two grinning aviators staring down at them. Cars moving slowly along, nothing to see but the rear of the car in front, not realising what they were missing out on.

The cliffs were almost glowing in the soft afternoon light, the sea lapping against their base as we climbed back up to listen to the ATIS and jolt us back to reality.

There is very little that silences this particular passenger, very often we have considered issuing him with a gag, but this afternoon he just gazed in wonderment at the scenery unfolding beneath him, passing only the odd comment to confirm what he was seeing.

Back to the busy circuit, shattering the peace and tranquility, extending the downwind forever it seemed to try and avoid cutting in front of number 3, eventually holding the speed right back and weaving on final in order to avoid a go around, before kissing the tarmac once more and ending another fantastic flight. I am so lucky to be able to fly. We all are. Let us hope we never forget that.


The recent rain shower had washed the sky and sharpened the outlines of the gently rounded clouds, puffy and white.

As we turned east along the coast the water reflected back the blueness of the sky, the occasional glint of sunshine waving back at the ‘plane flying above.
The low autumn sunshine wrapped its softness around the buildings on the sea front, giving them a soft warm glow as the pastel colours were interspersed with the odd startling bright red and blue fronted property.

The beach was busy with people from all backgrounds.

Children playing, frolicking in the warm sunshine, playing dare with the breaking waves.

Couples out for a lunchtime walk, hand in hand, breaking their cloak of romance to look up at the aviator kissing the air above them.

The breakwaters were being lapped by turquoise waves, as fishermen sat astride the gnarled wooden beams, hoping for that elusive catch to match their proud boast.

Boats flirted with the waves just as I teased the air around me, gazing at the white cliffs ahead, outlined in golden sunlight against the green of the land and the blue of the sky. The cliffs are almost like Neptune’s crown from a distance, dazzling in their splendour, regally standing proud, resolute and sure.

As we guide our wings inland, the scenery changes, soft greens of the downland broken by patches of brown, freshly ploughed fields attracting the seagulls, solitary farmers working til dusk, happy in their solitude, surrounded by nature.

The walls of a castle reach upward unbeaten, in contrast to the fresh red brick of housing estates so new, so brash, so out of place from the view up above. Beautiful mansions enclosed by even more resplendent gardens, chlorine stained pools shouting out their presence, sheep grazing peacefully, their white coats like daisies against the deep green of the pastures.

Ablaze with colour, so red, so orange and yellow, so fiery, the trees are a sight to fill eyes with joy. Their leaves scatter the fields, a carpet fit for royalty as we reach our destination, suddenly busy, hectic, frenetic.

A silver and yellow Moth performs for us as we approach downwind, looping with delight at winters respite. We land our mobile viewing platform and wander to quench our thirst, surrounded by people enjoying the sun’s welcome radiance.
The café is busy, full of colour and chatter, the nerves of aspiring parachutists mixing with the adrenalin of those already brave enough to have jumped. Wives, girlfriends and husbands congratulate their partners, that faraway look pervading their eyes, ‘I wonder, just wonder, if I could have done it too’.

Our eyes look skyward and watch the next jump plane disgorge its contents, bodies barely visible falling earthward so fast, before colourful canopies open, like multi coloured tulips against the pale blue sky, the descent arrested, the relief from the crowd all consuming.

A warbird appears as the drop zone is cleared, a lustrous red and silver machine, engine growling as it reaches for the sky. Before arrowing earthward it rolls its splendorous wings as it fights with the air, propeller twisting to keep it in place. Loops, rolls and stall turns accompanied by the background symphony of that wondrous engine, the sound from the radial music to all ears. A low pass to show off her belly, the Russian dancer of the sky waves us goodbye and we realise this day for us, has also to end.

Clawing the still cool air, we head for base, throttle back, level off and smile.

This is why we fly, these perfect days were just made for it.
If I achieve nothing else I have achieved my ultimate dream.