I seriously couldn’t pick a better day to take to the beautifully
bright blue skies! The weather was mild, the skies were clear (enough) and the
wind was calm. Perfect.
The first part of my adventure was getting to the Strathaven airfield where my trial was booked. Though Strathaven airfield is on the map there are no routes
available when you ask Google to give you directions to it, and I soon found
out why… As I turned off the main road and along a dirt track road full of pot holes, I ended up driving around the potholes the best I can in my small car in fear of my wheels or suspension going. I guess here I can be thankful there are no on coming vehicles. How many times I have come across an on coming 4×4 where the driver refuses to pull their precious vehicle onto the ‘off road’ part of the road, therefore forcing me and my small suburban car into the ditch instead. Anyway I digress as usual….
So I was driving around pot holes for at least the last mile of my journey, winding around this road not sure when and if I would arrive at my destination. Just as I thought I had finished dodging a couple of on coming vehicles, cyclists and walkers, the last 500 yards had me battling even muddier and more gigantic potholes! LEFT, RIGHT, small left quick right, 2nd gear, slow, I arrive, tyres intact, phew!
Parking the car at the local flying club, I look out onto the field where the (grass) runway is, except I did not realise I was looking at the runway at the time. The grass was cut short, think golf course and you can visualise just how short and well maintained the runway is. Beside the car park is a small office building come club house. Behind this building are two large hangers, presumably where private owners also kept their small aircrafts. Jim, who is the owner of the airfield, was to take me up on that day. He also told me what model of plane we would be flying but I have since forgotten. I simply did not do enough research and did not realise that there is also a difference between a fixed wing microlight and small aircrafts. I later found out that there are also flex wing microlights. The list of aircrafts are endless!
Hopping into the microlight already on the airfield, I jumped in, but only after I marvelled at just how light and small the machine was. The microlight could not have been more than ten feet long, it was tiny. As Jim literally pushed the microlight around to face the runway I had to duck to avoid being spliced by the wings.
Once inside the microlight it was suprisingly spacious, actually. This time think Mini Cooper and you get the idea of small externally but spacious on the inside. This aircraft also had a tiny boot to store luggage. Then came the disappointment, no steering column. The microlight is steered by a joystick, which would have been OK had I not watched that tv show and expected to see a steering column! Anyway, the engine was started and we were off, and then up. The microlight was so light that it must have only run one hundred metres along the grass runway before we were in the air, cool.
Once we were in the air Jim was telling me about the instruments and how the thing flew, how to turn and even let me have a go, except I was actually too timid and scared to do anything major or drastic. Then he talked about whether he should do some aerodynamic stuff. My reply, “do you have a sick bag on this thing?”
“No I don’t”
“OK, I’m just saying…”
And so we did not proceed to do any major dynamic moves. I say that lightly because even our small nose dive at twenty knots was enough to make my body scream. I attribute my feeling at that time with driving really fast up a hill before instantly coming back down again on the other side. Did I mention I do not like roller coasters? What am I saying, I am scared of heights too. OK, maybe this whole flying thing was not such a great idea seeing my disabilities.
We ended up flying towards Millport looking over the Isle of Cumbrae in approximately twenty minutes. Had the trial flight been longer, I was informed, we could have easily made the Outer Hebrides within a couple of hours. But I waas content with seeing the beauty of the West Coast of Scotland, and in the air. How many people can claim that?
As we flew towards the sea and off the mainland, the sun was setting and so the
rays were hitting off the water. Reflections and huge contrasts of blues and yellows glared at us and made the scenery absolutely stunning! Surprising seeing that it is the West coast, but I shall not complain. I also noticed that the aircraft also seemed to not need much steering at all, kinda like a car on cruise control and you are driving along a straight road, was it really that easy?
Lasting only a ‘short’ forty five minutes in the air, an hour in total, we were soon landing again. As we were coming back down to the airfield my ears started to block then pop, ouch! I went home that day with mixed feelings, mostly because I did not know really what to expect and yet had certain assumptions because of what I had seen on tv, so the steering column for one was a shock. All in all I put this experience down as another adventure tried and done, little did I know what was to follow…..
Oh, and if you decide to try flying yourself, wrap up warm as it can get quite chilly once you are in the air, and check out Sportflight Scotland.