Saturday, July 14, 2007

Up, up and away ...

When I was a child, we mainly holidayed in Scotland. I didn’t actually leave these shores until I was 18 – and then it was by boat. Lift-off didn’t happen until I was in my early 20s and working in a radio newsroom.

I was rather delighted, if a little nervous, therefore when an invitation to join the RAF Falcons parachute display team at the local air show arrived on the editor’s desk and I got the gig. My first experience of flying was in a noisy Hercules, piloted by chaps who spoke evah so naicely. The display team members were lean but not mean, and harnessed we observers to the side when they dropped the plane’s immense back door and leapt out into the wild blue yonder. I was given a headset and went to the flight deck (not cockpit) to watch them, before the plane climbed then dived at a frightening rate of knots to swoop along the coastline and elicit gasps of awe from the crowd on the ground. My gasps, however, were of agony: I had never encountered ear popping before. The professionals handed out tiny cans of pop and boiled sweets. Sipping and sucking are supposed to alleviate the pain.

I had another interesting airborne experience at another radio station. As I finished an early shift, the engineer asked if I fancied flying to Bristol with him to collect some equipment. As he was a former RAF officer whose nickname was Wing Commander, I had no qualms climbing into the two-seater plane. Fingers of fear, however, began to prod my intestines when he sat with a book on his knee checking the instruments before we took off. I didn’t think much of his chances of getting us up – and more importantly down – if he had to consult a manual. Later I discovered that he hadn’t been a pilot in his previous life, but an RAF engineer.


My best flight, however, was in a balloon. There is something truly magical about floating along in a big wicker basket with the roar of the burners above you and people enjoying the sunlit evening below. Voices and laughter drifted up through the warm air like a lullaby; children shouted and waved; feeling like Phileas Fogg, I waved regally back. This was one experience that truly deserves the accolade of awesome. I returned to earth with a bump though: the balloon landed, the basket tipped over and the pilot’s binoculars smacked me smartly on the back of the head.

19 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

What was prodding your intestines? These military types -they have no scruples!

Orhan Kahn said...

I'm currently reading a book entitled The English by Jeremy Paxton and he has wet my appetite to visit Scotland.

Later I discovered that he hadn’t been a pilot in his previous life, but an RAF engineer.

Well, that is certainly a worry!

DJ Kirkby said...

A hot air balloon ride sounds lovely, though the landing sounded a bit tiresome.

Brom said...

At last, someone else who has flown in a Hercules. Yes, they are noisy! Good fun though.

The manual is standard procedure, going through a list means you don't forget stuff!!

Balloons - now you're talking. You must try a flight from Windsor, very, erm, interesting.

Gill said...

You've had some exciting flights-I've always wanted to go in a hot air balloon.

@themill said...

Are you old enough to remember the Nimble advert?

mutterings and meanderings said...

YP, behave yourself!

Orhan, Scotland is beautiful but Northumberland is better...

DJK, it was worth it even though it hurt.

Brom, er yes. When is the next balloon festival again?

Gill, fortunately, they have all been freebies that were perks of he job.

@themill, I certainly am! And I could probably do with some Nimble as well...

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I would love to participate in a balloon flight but my fear of heights completely takes over. In my imagination I glide smoothly and silently over the beautiful British countryside, sipping champagne and in the arms of my soul mate.

Omega Mum said...

I think somebody who actually knew how the plane worked (apparently the flying bit is quiet simple) would almost be preferable to pilot - but I take it he had a proper licence?

Mopsa said...

I hate heights - quite terrified - so am mightily impressed by anyone who is so chilled as to go on a balloon ride.

muddyboots said...

l love flying, always wanted to be an airline pilot until was told by a fat b*** of a man that women were not [then] employed as airline pilots. well it was the mid 1970's like. couldn't do parachuting or go up in a balloon though.

Arthur Clewley said...

I have terrible trouble with heights M&M. Debenhams at the metro has sick bags on the escalator on account of me

Crystal Jigsaw said...

You brave soul. I don't mind flying in a plane but you wouldn't get me in a balloon. Does it hurt when you land...

Crystal xx

mutterings and meanderings said...

I must say, I am rather surprised at how many people consider ballooning to be frightening - it never occurred to me that it might be a scary experience. Honestly it's not, it's totally fabulous and I would love to do it again one day...

OM, yes he did!

CJ, generally I believe landing doesn't hurt but it does when you're smacked with binoculars...

Jane said...

Our yellow dog is absolutely petrified of balloons: while I was standing in the field admiring one drifting past overhead, she had bolted, and must somehow have cleared the 5 bar gate as I found her in the drive. She didn't stop shaking for hours. Helicopters she doesn't mind at all. I do rather like the idea of going in one, and always enjoyed that Dick Francis where he escapes from the baddies in a balloon.

ziggi said...

Oooooo, I would so love a Hot Air balloon ride.

Marianne said...

Now that's my kind of flying, but can you do the landing thing with a sprained ankle? I guess it will have to wait a while, but it's definitely on my wish list.

mutterings and meanderings said...

jane, I don't like to think what the Grey Mare would think of them: she doesn't mind helicopters but kites are a no-no ..

Do it Ziggi, it's fab!

Marianne, as long as you had a man with strong, safe arms to break your fall, I'm sure it'd be fine ;)

Anonymous said...

"I didn’t think much of his chances of getting us up – and more importantly down – if he had to consult a manual."

You are referring to flying here, aren't you eminem ?