Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Big Sis in a small plane!

Flying tonight.
And as her epaulettes show, she's a member of the Wide Awake Aviation Club. Her instructor's Timmy Mallett. I don't know what all those dials do, but it's reassuring to see that the joystick has a fire button. We were heading over Milton Keynes at the time, which is why her thumb's poised.

And here I am shortly after landing...

Totally grounded.
Compare and contrast with yesterday's photo. Happier, but much paler.

Anyhoo, I'm writing this from the middle of a farmyard in Wootton Green, holding Amelie with one hand, while a horse looks at me through the window, and Lisa sleeps off the effects of a bad night with Am's teeth. We discoverd last night that we have free broadband via a long lead behind the TV, so it's a good job I've got my laptop with me. I only brought it so that Lisa could play Mah-jongg.

As the photos above show, I not only went up in a plane with Big Sis yesterday, but also survived to tell the tale. There were a couple of mildly concerning moments, such as the flight over Cambridge, when Sis uttered the immortal words "Ooops, I nearly killed us all", but other than that, it was all good.

The plane we hired at a cost of just £302 an hour (bargain), was this one...

The jacket's bright. The jacket's orange.
It's a PA44 Seminole with two engines. Which explains why it costs twice as much as the other planes.

It's a well known fact that an aircraft's black box is bright orange to enable air acccident investigators to find it amongst the smouldering wreckage. So it doesn't exactly fill you with confidence when Sis hands you a day-glo jacket and tells you to put it on. But fortunately my sister's experienced instructor, who came along with us, put my mind at rest by asking if she'd shown me how to open the emergency exit. She said no, she'd just told me to follow him out of the door. To which he replied "But what if I'm dead?".

Anyhoo, the instructor's intention had been to send us to Coventry, but in a last minute change of plan, we decided to head for Cambridge instead. This was one of Sis's last lessons before her final exam, and she can do it all with her eyes closed these days. So the instructor decided to test that theory by putting screens up in front of her. They call it 'instrument flying'. I call it asking for trouble.

What do you mean we're losing altitude?But despite not being able to see where we're going, and relying solely on a bank of dials which could malfunction at any time, Sis not only managed to get us up into the sky, but succeeded in keeping us there for an hour and a half. I have to say I was very impressed. I struggle to operate a digital microwave, and from the look of it, this was even more complicated.

Having made it to Cambridge, we practised a 'missed approach', did a few 'holds' (it's a lot like wrestling) and cut power to one of the engines to see how she'd cope in a crisis. Surprisingly, I was fine with all that. In fact 99% of the flight was brilliant, amazing, cool, and something I'd definitely do again. The other 1% was a living nightmare.

It was all down to something called 'unusual attitudes'. I've known Lisa for almost five years now, so I'm used to some pretty unusual attitudes, but trust me, you've never experienced anything like this. The exercise essentially involves the instructor putting the plane into a position that planes have no right to be in, then asking my sister to save our lives. We did three of them. If we'd done a fourth, I'd have thrown up all over the back seat. It was like being upside down on a rollercoaster at 4,000 feet. I glanced out of the side window at one point, and found myself facing the ground. Suffice it to say, it was the longest two minutes of my life. Sis may have skillfully recovered in seconds. Personally it took me five hours.