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Ani t a Mays

F L Y G I R L A D V E N T U R E S :
An Autoflyography
AUSTIN MACAULEY
Copyright Anita Mays
Cartoons by Gray Joliffe
The right of Anita Mays to be identified as author of this work has been
asserted by her in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs
and atents Act !"88#
All rights reser$ed# %o part of this publication &ay be reproduced, stored in a
retrie$al syste&, or trans&itted in any for& or by any &eans, electronic,
&echanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior
per&ission of the publishers#
Any person who co&&its any unauthori'ed act in relation to this publication
&ay be liable to cri&inal prosecution and ci$il clai&s for da&ages#
A C( catalogue record for this title is
a$ailable fro& the )ritish *ibrary#
ISBN 978 1 84963 050 4
www#austin&acauley#co&
+irst ublished ,-.!!/
Austin 0 Macauley ublishers *td#
-1 Canada 23uare
Canary 4harf
*ondon
5!6 1*)
rinted 0 )ound in Great )ritain
AC7%84*5DG5M5%T2
Gray Joliffe for the e9cellent cartoons#
Mike Da$is for teaching &e to fly and opening up a special
world#
Caroline Da$ies for co&puter assistance and printing out &y first
copy#
hil To&kinson for lo$e, laughs, and loads of help#
Jack :ose for worldwide ad$entures, &y first break, and
teaching &e to land the 7-7; <keep her co&ing
down=#
:obbie &y friend and partner in &ischief, <shall we shoot
an (*2 at >eathrow?=
Mike 4oodley for teaching &e so &uch and for fantastic
opportunities, warbirds, air shows, and the seaplane#
My +ather 4ho flew in )o&ber Co&&and in 44-#
+lyast &aga'ine +or a superb publication#
@irgin Atlantic +or being inno$ati$e and progressi$e, and for so&e
great flights#
Cathy )urnha& +or teaching &e to be a flight instructor#
All &y friends who ha$e <DA%C5D T>5 27(52 8% *AAG>T5:
2(*@5:5D 4(%G2= with &e at one ti&e or another B they know who they
areC
!A"#$% &N$' ()tting Start)*
A Failed Air Hostess A Good Start
The sky called again that morning and this time I answered.
The views are great, come on up!
Okay, Im on my way.
DClear propCE the instructor shouted through the little window# The key turned,
the prop spun noisily into life, as the nose sunk a couple of inches on its strut#
DGolf Mike Charlie Fankee 8scar radio check and ta9i for local#E
DTwo four left hand, one 'ero two three,E ca&e the reply through the
headset ,whate$er that &eant/# >e turned the alti&eter knob, opened the
throttle, pushed his foot to the floor, which turned us sharply round and off we
went# ( was e9pecting hi& to &o$e the yoke like a steering wheel as we turned
the corner#
DTurning is all done with the rudder pedals,E he had detected &y surprise#
4e trundled off like a little duck which &o$es so&ewhat awkwardly on
the ground yet achie$es such grace ,as we would/ once airborne# >e turned
into wind by so&e trees, put the brake on and pushed the throttle to full tra$el,
we rattled and shook like a biscuit tin# >e chatted away about the &agneto
checks, as he went fro& high to low :M then aligned his direction indicator
with the &agnetic co&pass, dropped his hand between the seats and pulled the
flap le$er up one notch, then he s&iled;
D:eady?E
>e had no idea how ready ( was#
D8h yes (=& r)a*yCE
4ould this be the DrabbitGoutGofGtheGhatE &o&ent that ( was waiting for?
4e lifted off into a ginGclear %o$e&ber &orning# (t was the $ery best
autu&n could offer B crisp cold air, unli&ited $isibility and a lu&inosity and
clarity, which &ade you, glad to be ali$e# This was &y first e9perience of
<earthshine= and at that &o&ent ( li$ed to appreciate it totally# My heart was
cartwheeling#
)ut B and that=s a big <but= it had been long Hourney of disappoint&ent and
struggle to arri$e at this point#
( had been passionate about getting into a$iation because of a lightso&e
and innocent &e&ory fro& school days# ( would be allowed to lea$e boarding
school at the end of ter& a night early to catch the )8ACI )ritish Caledonian
flight on a 7.7 or a DC !. to *agos# The e9cite&ent was all consu&ing, Hoyful
anticipation flooded through &e# Gatwick was &agical in those days, the huge
Christ&as tree twinkled in the ter&inal and (=d stand at the gate with &y nose
pressed against the window, &es&erised by the roaring engines and the
flashing lights disappearing into the night sky# %othing had e$er filled &e with
so &uch longing#
The association was ce&ented B planes 3uite si&ply &eant happiness#
Aircraft and airports offered life changing opportunities for ad$entureJ in a
&atter of hours you could Hourney into the stratosphere and end up so&ewhere
B entirely different# @ast areas that would take all afternoon to dri$e around
could be Hourneyed across with one glance# D4owE ( used to &utter under &y
breath if ( picked out &y ho&e or a $illage ( had only known fro& the ground#
(t looks so different fro& up hereC
( was fascinated that these huge o$ersi'ed see&ingly cu&berso&e
&achines could defy gra$ity and so gracefully and with such agility, o$erco&e
their bulk and ascend, opening up li&itless hori'ons to us, shifting our li$es
and gi$ing us a whole new $antage point# (=d watch the& land B their weight
and speed are so cle$erly disguised on the approach# >ow could so&ething
that enor&ous be approaching so slowly without falling to the ground?
+urther&ore, airports were wonderful places in those days# (t was an age
when people didn=t need to be told by a robot that they were co&ing to the end
of a walkway or that the doors were opening B yes those >alcyon days when
we knew to stand clear of the doors because of our own natural instincts# A
ti&e when a grown &an or wo&an could be trusted to walk unassisted fro& a
door to a waiting aircraft without slipping falling or suing, getting lost or
walking into the engine# An age when the flight would be pleasant dare ( say
e$en peaceful B free fro& the <pneu&atic drill= A announce&ents harping on
about &ind nu&bing nonsense like scratch cards, special offers, loyalty points,
fre3uent flyers, o$erhead lockers, s&oking, electronic gadgets, what we can
do, what we can=t do, $egetarian options, duty free, how to read the &aga'ine,
new routes, and their chosen charities# ,This all deli$ered in a $oice which
could bone herring at twenty fatho&s/# Fes, Hust as the er&ian period ca&e
before the De$onian which was followed by the Ca&brian, ( hark longingly
back to our Golden age B the <Co&&onsenseGian=, which was post
<Getonwithit=era and pre <%annyGian=# Airports and air tra$el were shining
e9a&ples of this era#
2o, ( was deter&ined to beco&e a flight attendant because that was the
natural way in to the business# (t was a Hob ( yearned for# (t ne$er occurred to
&e to beco&e a pilot B yes, ( secretly would ha$e lo$ed it but ne$er fancied
&y chances# (t was a distant elitist world full of brainy <sciencey= people# The
only &ark ( got in &y physics 8=le$el was for drawing the white light entering
a pris& and dispersing into a rainbow and ( only got that because ( had ink
+loyd=s <Dark side of the Moon=# (n che&istry, the periodic table was
unfatho&able, and as for calculus B forget itC
2o, after graduating ( e&barked on &y first &ission B to beco&e a
stewardess# %ot $ery challenging so&e &ay say but it=s what ( wantedC (
applied to all the airlines, large and s&all and the long and short of it is K that
K ( got turned down by e$ery single one# That was well o$er ten co&panies# (
was de$astated#
NOT ANOTHER JOB REJECTION
DDarling, you=$e got a letter fro& )ritish Airways, shall ( bring it up?E
Those were the words fro& &y &u& who had tried so doggedly to
encourage &e during the <year of the Hob reHection=#
( thought by beco&ing a hostess, (=d get &y foot in the door, start
tra$elling, earn so&e &oney, see where the path took &e and then, you ne$er
know, ( &ight get ac3uainted with so&e pilots who would kindly take &e
along when they used the si&ulators# Anyway K ( would be happy as a
<hostie= working in the industry, near &y belo$ed aeroplanes learning all about
itC 2o&ehow, ( belie$ed ( would work it out# 2weet re$eriesC
( &anaged to achie$e so&ething which not &any people could lay clai&
toJ ( actually clocked up a da''ling and unprecedented ele$en Hob reHections#
That takes so&e doingC )A, )ritannia, )ritish Caledonian, and &any others all
said <no thanks=# ( was sure it would be a bree'e, but what ( thought would be
an easy starter turned into a <non starter=#
2o that &orning whilst standing in &y bathroo&, &y &u& handed &e the
letter, this was &y last chance, e$ery known airline in the whole of the A7 had
gi$en &e the <Dear John= treat&ent# ( ripped it open and, as was &y custo& by
then, &y eyes shot straight to the botto&# There in print, the by now, fa&iliar
words;
DMay we take this opportunity to wish you e$ery success in your future
career and thank you for your interest in )ritish Airways#E
( slowly lifted &y weary ga'e into the &irror and said sarcastically at &y
reflection, DThe world has &ore use for an appendi9, so do run along, and
don=t bother us any &ore, that=s what they really &ean#E
( was inconsolable, ( Hust slu&ped and sobbed, &y &u& tried so hard to
rally &y spirits# ( sputtered through &y tears, D4e better start a new file for all
&y Hob reHections#E
D8h don=t be like that darling so&ething will co&e up, co&e on cheer up#E
The con$ersation went back and forth o$er the net like that until &u&
ga$e way to her anger in typical &aternal style#
DThey &ust be fla&ing &ad, they don=t know what they=re &issingCE
Mu&s are great aren=t they? The only ones who think you are absolutely
brilliant and anyone would be darn lucky to ha$e you in their organisation,
when, you know in your heart that nothing is further fro& the truth, in fact, in
the e$olutionary traffic you are so&ething of a flat tyre# (n the ani&al world,
Hust out of the &olecular soup, not e$en a finned &udskipper at this point#
8ne which really hurt was the reHection fro& Jersey 5uropean, operating
fro& )lackpool to the (sle of Man on a 2horts LM. during which the su& total
of the catering ser$ice was to hand out a sealed packet of three oat&eal
biscuits and pour a cup of tea#
D4hy don=t you try the :A+ and see what they say?E &u& offered, trying
to lift &y flagging spirits# )eing pre (nternet, ( found the nu&ber in the phone
book and call, ( did#
D( see &y dear, and what e9actly is it you are trying to achie$e?E ca&e a
$oice fro& the other end of the phone# ( put a face to it instantly B a bli&pish
type with a big &oustache, grey hair, and specs on the end of the nose who
spoke like those bossy wing co&&anders of old black and white fil& fa&e
whose fa$ourite words were <frightful=, <insolence= and <hup to=# >is laugh
descended into a patronising spiral until it ca&e to a whee'y stop and he said;
DAnless you are of the feathered $ariety &y dear, (=& afraid there=s no flying
for you hereCE
DThank you 28 MAC> for your ti&e,E ( said replacing the recei$er#
DAny Hoy darling?E asked &y &u&#
D%ot unless ( a& a bu''ard#E
E!o"#$ o% t$e &ei#$t I Need So'e Li%t
D(=$e got a three day trip to %ice co&ing up,E was the en$iably casual
co&&ent fro& an air hostess ( &et at a party in town who worked on pri$ate
e9ecuti$e Hets for a co&pany at >eathrow# ( was enthralled by this prospect#
4e swapped nu&bers# ( so wanted her Hob# ( ac3uired a first aid certificate
with 2t John A&bulance knowing this was a pre re3uisite and approached
the& soon after# To no a$ail, it was the standard <closed shop= scenario# They
only hired their special friends and the network was cosy and nepotistic#
*iaisons between the hostesses and the captains or co&pany owners were B
shall we say <close=#
( &ade it as far as their offices and ( recall the $ery silky, groo&ed girl
who floated around in lots of tu&bling baby pink cash&ere running her
&anicured fingers through her long swinging hair# ,+or so&eone like &e
whose hair ne$er &o$ed when ( did a handstand, this is an en$iable acti$ityC/
The phone rang B a guy asking her out ( guessed, because she was, &uch &ore
interested in that than this freckly curly haired <wannabe= in front of her# 2he
giggled and played with her pearls, lowering her chin to nibble on the& and
running her finger along their length, swi$elling around in her leather chair and
whispering with a scrunch of her nose, D(=ll be with you in a sec#E 2he ne$er
did get <with &e= after a sec nor after a &onth for that &atter# As sure as low
tide follows high, the letter plopped through &y letter bo9# D4e are fully
crewed right now, we will keep you on file if anything should co&e up in the
future KE
Feah yeah yeah ( &uttered inwardly# ( understand now that this is how the
world works, but it used to hurt#
2o K &y life was beginning to look like the <botto& of the parrot=s cage=,
with all the blackballing# ( e$en recei$ed a couple of reHections in +rance,
where ( tried to take ad$antage of cross border e&ploy&ent#
<The Careers talk= is a feature of final year at uni$ersity# 4e sat in front of
the careers officer who politely asked what we were considering#
D4ell,E ( said throwing caution to the wind Hust to see what she=d say#
D4hat (=d really like to do is fly, &aybe be a bush pilot in Africa, or Hust fly K
you know K anywhere#E
D( see,E she giggled ner$ously pushing her glasses up her nose and
thu&bing through her neat piles of paperwork on accountancy, law, &edicine,
and banking#
D8h B ( actually don=t see& to ha$e aGnyGthing at all on pilots,E she said
feigning surprise as though she had Hust run out#
To earn so&e &oney ( got a Hob in a photographic studio ,( had a friend
there/# hotography was a hobby of &ine and ( fancied being an aerial
photographer and co&bining &y two interests# ( didn=t know &uch but (
e9peri&ented with &y Canon 2*:# ( thought the Hob &ight teach &e about
photographic e3uip&ent and one day perhaps (=d be heroically hanging out of
the side of an aeroplane fil&ing herds of &igrating wildebeest for Da$id
Attenborough# ( ended up stuffing suitcases with foa&, sanding gloss paint off
huge panels with a )lack and Decker and asse&bling really co&plicated dolls
houses and other toys B they were shooting the Argos catalogue# ( know we all
ha$e to start at the botto& but this was subterranean B ( &o$ed on B had to
stick with the flying drea&# +un while it lasted B ( did a &e&orable luggage
shoot at )rocket >all where ( held a huge light reflector at different angles for
si9 hours# Also &et the dashing cad *ord )rockett who showed &e the super
duper collection of race cars# 4ow he=s got e$erything ( re&e&ber &using
inwardly# A few years later he was in Hail# This taught &e $ery early on that
things are not always as they see&# (=$e dipped into that little pot of
knowledge &any ti&es B it was &ost usefulC
( answered an ad$ert for hostesses in a barIrestaurant# A partGti&e Hob and
a bit of cash were what ( needed before the break into a$iation ca&e# >a$ing
spent so&e ti&e in the 2tates ( thought it would be si&ilar to the bars o$er
there where girls are e&ployed to welco&e people, take coats, show custo&ers
to the bar, hand o$er &enus then shout down a &ike DMcken'ie, party of four,
your table is readyE#
%ot knowing *ondon at all ( set off B a little bundle of nai$ety#
Characteristically &u& told &e to wear a nice suit but &y dad said through
cigar cho&ps in his strong Forkshire accent; D(t won=t bloody &atter what she
wears <cause it=s a fla&ing knockin= shop#E
DDon=t be silly dad, it will be a really nice place in *ondon and (=ll &eet
new people#E ,DuhC/ ( found the address B 2t Ja&es=s of course &eant nothing
to &e# 2o ( walked down the cobbled street with thoughts of bars like <The
:usty elican= or <Carlos Murphy=s= full of fun lo$ing, <bon $i$eurs= sipping
cocktails, feeling sure this would be the *ondon e3ui$alent# ( hoped &y leather
suit wouldn=t be too racy or inappropriate#
( rang a bell and was shown in# ( couldn=t belie$e &y eyes, ( saw about ten
topless girls in stockings and suspenders huddled together round a bar# )ree'y
Californian cocktail bar it was not, howe$er, ( had to go through with it B
besides (=d ne$er see the inside of one of these Hoints again so ( could learn
so&ething# The &anageress who, to use an e3uestrian ter& looked like she=d
been <ridden hard and put away wet= ga$e &e the brief;
DYou need to e ale to eat and drink a lot, handle men, and outside
these doors youre not our responsiility, you get nothing i! you dont
get chosen, ut its "#$ i! a guy chooses to dine with you, then, you can
go downstairs and have whatever he uys you to eat and drink %
proaly lots o! champagne!E
( followed her clunking heels down the wooden staircase# Men were thin on
the ground upstairs so ( guess &ost of those girls stood around all night topless in
high heels, talked a&ongst the&sel$es then caught the bus ho&e, e&pty handed#
2he sensed ( was a bit taken aback B &ust ha$e been &y eyes like organ stops
staring at the incongruity of naked boobs flanking a prawn cocktail# 2o to
encourage &e she continued;
D4e ha$e great cabaret e$enings here, a group of girls who ha$e been in$ited
will sit with the guys at this big table and watch a show B so&ething a bit raunchy
ya knowCE
( glanced o$er and saw another girl scantily clad ha$ing dinner with a cruelly
unattracti$e &an#
DFea ( &ean look at 2usie o$er there B she=s on her second this e$ening and
will probably do another one after this#E 2usie was 3uite a girl# >e had a few
traces of froth in the corners of his &outh and looked like he was on the <&y wife
doesn=t understand &e stories= ( caught her looking at her watch discreetly under
the table#
( was trying to nod earnestly at her as she described the Hob#
D>a$e you done any hostess work before Anita?E
D4ell not e9actly like this,E ( replied trying to oo'e sa$$y and cool# D( a&
actually trying to beco&e a hostess K but K an K air hostess K and K well,
fly,E ( said &aking light of it#
D4ell we certainly fly high in here lo$e,E she laughed and flicked the back of
her hand against &y ar&#
DFou should start Monday Anita K (=& telling you, you=d clean up#E
8h well, ( thought as ( walked back to Green ark tube, at least (=$e had one
fir& Hob offer#
D4ell?E said &y dad when ( got ho&e
DFep, you were right#E
D2o when d=you start?E he teased
4e laughed and he ca&e out with one of his &any sayings B ne$er knowing
the real *atin he used to &ake it up#
D%on (llegitti&us carburundu& lo$eE, which was his utterly incorrect $ersion
of DDon=t let the bastards grind you downE# >e had the& in Ger&an and +rench
too, all totally incorrect but so&ehow you knew what they &eantC 2aid with a
Forkshire accent it had &e chuckling# ( say it to this day when e$er things go
wrong# )less hi& K he=s still &aking &e laugh#
4e can s&ile as we look back, but ( keenly re&e&ber the gnawing sense of
failure and acco&panying depression# (t is disheartening to find yourself
une&ployableC My anger was like an icy canal and all ( needed was a ship to steer
down it# ( thought, if ( can=t work in the back, hey, &aybe (=ll ha$e a shot at
working in the front# ( took the phone book and called e$ery flying school in the
area and started cal&ly asking about flying lessons# ( had to keep &y hopes up# (t
was a ga&bleC As Churchill said about this life of ours; (t is not about the failures,
there will always be those B what counts is finding the courage to carry onCE
( went first to )lackbush, then on to +airoaks in Chobha&, 2urrey# There (
&et tall lanky Mike who had longish <M
th
for&= hair# >e was the slightly geeky,
friendly instructor, who was <a happy soul= passionate about aeroplanes, a
co&petent a$ionics engineer and could solder or fi9 any electronic gadgetry no
&atter how &iniscule# >e was deter&ined that +airoaks would be &y choice
so he did a good sales Hob# 4e ended up falling in lo$e of courseC +ro& the
&o&ent we got airborne on that crisp %o$e&ber &orning ( knew ( had to do
this# 5$erything was clear and bright, the world had a glassiness and radiance
which filled &e with a new elation# The south coast was $isible fro&
Guildford, but it wasn=t Hust the south coast K so &uch &ore was suddenly
$isible it was that shift in perspecti$e which that little bit of altitude afforded
&e, B that=s what did it# (=d so&ehow cut the earthly tethers which were
keeping &e chained
4e cruised along, he ga$e &e the controls, e9plaining the basics of
attitude and heading in straight and le$el flight# Then he had a bit of a play,
doing la'y 8=s and chandelles ,a gentle wing o$er &anoeu$re/# >e could see (
was lo$ing it so he cli&bed a bit higher o$er )asingstoke and played around
with the edges of the clouds# 2eeing &y <God this is fantastic= e9pression, he
went the e9tra yard# 4e followed the contours of the cu&ulus clouds Hust
ski&&ing their nebulous edges, dipping into the canyons and $alleys, banking
sharply round, shooting down the tunnels treating the whole structure like it
were solid, yet, &agically, the whole playground is illusory, &ade of $apour# (t
is liberating to know that if you do knick the edge of a cloud, there is no
da&ageC 2o&e of the cu&ulus were building and ( could see faces and shapes
in the&, they looked like plu&p bearded sages chuckling at our ga&es# They
were welco&ing &e here# 4e cruised and di$ed around with the speed and
grace of a young dolphin around a sub&erged wreck# There was so &uch
energy all around &e both in the billowing clouds and the spinning propeller#
Da''ling flashes of sun bounced off the wings as we ca&e cruising out of the
spongy corridors of cloud and burst into the full sunlight again#
4e descended# +arnborough control released us,
D%othing known to conflict s3uawk -... call +airoaks !-L#6 B good day#E
>e talked &e through the landing and let &e think ( had done it ,a
techni3ue ( would learn &yself not long afterC/#
4e chatted, and he encouraged &e to start# (t was indeed because of the
kind ad$ocacies of people like hi& that ( found the confidence to proceed and
to learn# >e &ade it so <doable= and was a great support# 2hortly after, he ga$e
&e the book <Jonathan *i$ingston 2eagull=# (t had a deep effect on &e, ( lo$ed
the words and read it o$er and o$er#
D4ants to learn to fly K you what?E ca&e dad=s $oice as he dropped his
newspaper and looked at &u& disbelie$ingly o$er the top of his horn ri&&ed
specs#
DThere=s no bloody future in that B it=ll be a waste of &oney, then she=ll
want to be a golfer or a windsurfer ne9t &onth, ( &ean how can she e$er &ake
a career of that, girls don=t fly real planes like airliners B yer daft the pair of
you#E
>e flicked his paper back upright and lifted his head to see through the
bifocals, then did his trade&ark sticking out of lower lip B old habitJ and then
&uttered Dbloody nonsense#E To be fair he was only trying to be realistic and
in ti&e &y dad got on board#
DAlways ha$e your own bit of &oney darling, this is why#E My &u& had
been left a s&all a&ount of &oney fro& a deceased relati$e and now she
in$ested it in &y pri$ate licence# ( was on &y way and when Mike &y
instructor told &e that within two years ( could be doing his Hob, &y goals
were set and &y tenacity in that pursuit was utterly unflinching# ( was an
uneasy blend of fragile opti&is& and creeping doubt# )ut ( Hust wanted to do
this# 2o &uch#
As Jonathan said; D5$erything that li&its us we ha$e to put aside we=re
free to go where we wish and to be what we are#E
1
Ho"r B"ildi!# i! USA( &est Coast to East Coast
( ac3uired &y pri$ate pilot=s license in three &onths# Though tough at ti&es it
had been e9hilarating# ( learnt how to take off, cli&b, descend, land, co&e
down in a field after an engine failure, land on short runways, and reco$er
fro& stalls and spinsC ( &ust confess ( got a little lost on &y first solo cross
country and had to be rescued by &y instructor who set off at lightning speed
to find &e o$er +arnborough# (t was the final leg back fro& ulborough in
2usse9, ( held the track B adHusted for the wind, watched the ti&ing and was
supposed to end up o$er Guildford but ( saw a big round gas container#
DThat does not look like Guildford to &e,E ( whispered to &yself as (
peered out the window, so ( called the ho&e fre3uency at +airoaks of !-L#6-#
DJust fly three si9ties,E he said, Dand don=t go any further %orthCE ( duly
followed orders knowing that to the north lay the >eathrow 'one# ( know e$ery
inch of that landscape now, but back then B well it was still unfa&iliar# >e
found &e and escorted &e back# God, he was &y hero after thatC
To ac3uire a co&&ercial pilot=s licence in the !"8.s you had to ha$e 7..
hours# As e$ery student pilot re&e&bers this is tough and you literally take
anything you can to accu&ulate those hours# The <route= for &ost people was
to get a +lying (nstructor=s rating for which you needed !1. hours, then you=d
Hoin so&e flying school and instruct on little single engine planes, then those
hours rolled inC 2o&e people pulled gliders or towed banners, so&e e$en
borrowed &oney to buy a share in their own little aircraft#
!
:ichard D# )ach, &onathan 'ivingston (eagull ,*ondon; an )ooks *td,
!"7L/, pp# 7MG7#
>a$ing achie$ed &y pri$ate licence, ( was going for the !1. hours so (
could enrol in the (nstructor=s course at 89ford Air Training 2chool# A&erica
attracts )ritish students, hourly rates are lower, the weather is better and this is
why you will find a handful of )ritish trainees in nearly e$ery flying school
fro& +lorida to California#
(, like so &any a$iation aspirants went there, deter&ined to accu&ulate the
re3uisite hours and was fortunate enough to hit a ti&e of fa$ourable dollar
rates B it was nearly two to one# ( found the nearest airfield to &y sister=s
bedsit ,she was a student in 2an Diego at the ti&e/ and asked for a deal on as
&any hours as they could offer, for K
DThis &uch cash,E and plonked it on the table# My pockets were inside out
and e&pty but ( was off# ( negotiated a iper To&ahawk ,the teeniest trainer/
for so&ething cra'y like NL1 per hour B less than half the price that ( would
ha$e paid in 5ngland#
8nce in the 2tates, ( settled in to a routine of flying all day and each
afternoon eating all ( could at these &ar$ellous $enues called >appy >our
buffets where if you buy one beer for a dollar you can help yourself to a
s&orgasbord of Hunk food#
D4hat you &ean you don=t pay for the food?E ( asked &y sister
incredulously#
D%o it=s thrown in when you buy a drink#E
( couldn=t belie$e &y luck because ( had no &oney to eat of course, Hust to
fly#
( happily cho&ped &y way through cubes of cheese dotted with Halapeno
peppers, spicy )uffalo wings and plates of nachos with &elted cheese and
stodgy grey beans on top, fantastic# (t is a&a'ing how deft you beco&e at
budgeting when you=re hour building, the price of e$erything is always
translated into how &any &inutes flying ti&e# +ree Hunk food was a GodsendC
(t got a bit lonely flying solo each day# My sister gets airsick and she
wasn=t keen, so occasionally ( in$ited people ( &et in bars or shops or at the
beach to co&e with &e# (t is easy to strike up a con$ersation o$er there since
they lo$e the 5nglish accent#
D8h neatE or DAwesuuuu&E would be the response, when ( told the& of
&y &ission to beco&e an instructor, so, if they were keen (=d in$ite the& for a
flight up the coast to *aguna )each# ( &et all sorts of nice people this way#
( &et one rather strange lad who in$ited &e for a drink after we landed# >e
was a student pilot hi&self, always hanging around at the airfield#
DC=&on, Hu&p in,E he said fro& the dri$ing seat of his gigantic truck# (t
was Hust ridiculously high up# ( wondered if he went in for that strange sport of
s3uashing s&aller $ehicles with his <&onster truck= (=$e always struggled a bit
with that oneC
D*et &e show you &y baby first,E and with that he Hu&ped out and opened
the back to show &e a huge fat snake in a cage# (t wasn=t a wriggler B it was
definitely one of those which kills by s3uee'ing e$ery last gasp of breath out
of a grown &an# (=d seen enough, ( &ade &y e9cuses and thanked hi& for his
co&pany and Hu&ped s&artly into &y clapped out Datsun 2unny, which had
pieces falling off it each ti&e ( closed the door#
8h well it takes all kinds, (=d clocked up another hour of flight ti&e and
who knows, ( &ight ha$e &et one of those strange snake handling people who
think the *ord protects the& fro& $eno&# ( saw a docu&entary about the&#
@ery strangeC They talk in tongues that ha$e rather <alternati$e= beliefs# )ut
he, and other happy clapping loonies ( kept &eeting did reinforce &y desire for
so&ething a bit &ore $aried# ( was desperate for a long trip so&ewhere, well lo
and behold, God answered &y prayers because <Ta Daa= &y chance ca&e#
A wonderful opportunity cropped up to ferry a Cessna 2kyhawk ,a light
single prop/ fro& 2an Diego to *ong (sland %ew Fork#
My flying instructor B Mike ,now a )A captain/ ca&e o$er to Hoin &e, we
would do the Hourney together, he also needed the hours for his Co&&ercial
*icence# An 5nglish friend of ours had bought this plane %718+O and wanted
it in the A7# >e would change the registration to GGD(@A because his wife
was a fa&ous opera singer# (f we could get it to the east coast he would crate it
up and ship it to 5ngland# +antastic B e$eryone was happy, we would get about
-1 free hours and he would get a cheap deli$ery# 4e Hu&ped at this with all the
enthusias& of a young *abrador bra$ing a ri$er to retrie$e his stick#
8ur intended route would be 2an Diego, hoeni9, Albu3uer3ue, 4ichita
and then due east across Missouri, 8hio and ennsyl$ania to %ew Fork# Mike
ca&e out a week early and Hoined &e for so&e <Hollies= fro& Montgo&ery field
in 2an Diego# ( was so glad of his co&pany, it was great to ha$e a friend and a
fully 3ualified instructor with &e# ( had less than !.. hours, he had a few &ore
but what we lacked in e9perience we &ade up for in guts and bra$ado ,actually
nearly got oursel$es killed but &ore of that later/#
4e were two now B we felt bra$e and chanced our hand at a trip to the
Grand Canyon, we were taking on the whole country in a couple of days so
this would be a good war& up# 8ff we went in a piper Cherokee %671.8
,that=s the beauty of log booksC/ towards *ake Mead and )oulder City# 4e
naturally ignored all the warnings %8T to go into the canyon because of
downdraughts and other dangers like ha$ing absolutely nowhere to land in the
e$ent of an engine failure# 4e approached the edge and like &ad dogs and
5nglish&en flew straight o$er the cliff and into the glorious canyonC (t was
terrifying and wonderful all at once# The &ind boggling si'e of this aweso&e
red, $ertiginous abyss &ade &e feel like one of those tiny spacecraft in a <sciG
fi= &o$ie, dwarfed by the huge wall of a planet as it cruises alongside#
4ith all the responsible caution of kids playing on a railway track, we
descended right into the botto&# After about ten &inutes we heard a rather
unwelco&e bang fro& the engine# ( looked at Mike gripped with panic# 4ell
we were still going along B that was goodC
DThink it=s the alternator,E Mike said as he frowned at the instru&ent
panel# The alternator light was on and the gauge read 'ero# 2o there we were
&iles fro& ho&e and no electrics B e9cept the s&all a&ount in the battery#
D)etter drop into *as @egas,E ( suggested, looking at the &ap, Dit=s only
down the road#E
4e cli&bed the steep walls of the canyon, up to the $alley edges and off
we headed for @egas where we were treated to a priority landing because of
our <inHury=# 4e ca&e down onto the $astness of @egas Airport, which, with
all the cross runways and &iles of ta9i ways, was a big deal when you only
know s&all pro$incial airfieldsC 4e slowed her up to se$enty knots, tri&&ed,
put the flap down and prepared for the landing# The runway was so long we
had co&e to a stop before the first set of runway &arker linesC 4e followed
instructions to a parking bay, cli&bed out and Mike popped open the engine
cowling and put his hand in# 8ut ca&e a <catGo=nineGtails= the alternator belt B
it was in tatters#
Typical of A&erican hospitality, the guys fro& the ra&p or +)8 ,fi9ed
base operation/ ca&e to assist and greet us#
DFou guys need anything? +uel K oil K chocks K a tie down?E )ecause
we were Hust passing we didn=t need &uch, but not being able to do anything
for you sits unco&fortably with an A&erican so they ga$e us two
co&pli&entary baseball hats and a cooler bag with their logo on it, and a huge
torch which the guy held on his shoulder like a rocket launcher and said, D(ts
hea$y doooty, good for a two hundred yardsCE
8nly ha$ing a li&ited a&ount of ti&e on the battery, we didn=t want to use
up the precious power by starting the engine so we decided to hand swing the
prop# A couple of kids hand swinging a prop at *as @egas (nternational is not
a co&&on sight# The airline pilots who were peering down at us fro& the
cockpits of their DC!.s and 7M7s found it &ost a&using#
oor Mike, he was puffing and panting trying to start this thing, it=s not
like a tiger Moth, the direction of rotation &eans the body is going into the
propeller and the co&pression stroke is at the botto& of the swing so it was
awkward# (t finally fired up and ( was ready on the throttle and &i9ture le$ers
in the cockpit#
DFou guys take care now and ha$e a safe flight,E ca&e the $oice as we
said goodbye to @egas control and headed 4est#
4e had to sa$e our electrics for the landing back at 2an Diego, we=d need
the radio and so&e lights so we held off using the battery until we were ten
&inutes fro& the field# <)ig )ear= &ountain rises to abo$e nine thousand feet
and we had to fly o$er it Hust as it was getting dark# 4e were on the ho&e
stretch# 4e contacted Montgo&ery approach fre3uency and they $ectored us
round, downwind# This airfield is s&ack ne9t door to Mira&ar of Top Gun
fa&e# The &o$ie had Hust co&e out and ( was straining to catch a gli&pse of
<ice&an=, <wing&an=, or <any&an= for that &atter, but nothing seen#
The twinkling lights of &ountain ho&es and of 2an Diego in the distance
looked enchanting# 4e slowed up, lowered the nose and ca&e down# The little
tyres s3ueaked onto the tar&ac# 4e were back# ( walked in with the shredded
alternator belt and started bartering ,years li$ing in Africa/ for a reduced price
on the Cherokee due to the fact that we could ha$e been killed B and they
kindly ga$e &e a free hour in a To&ahawk, ( was as pleased as punch#
Definitely worth putting your life in gra$e danger if you co&e out of it with a
free hourC
2o two days later we set off on our >o&eric $oyage to the east coast# 4e
had two s&all bags, ,we wanted to be light/ a bunch of @+: &aps and these
hilariously funny <peeing= de$ices, which are part of the <ferry kit=# (t helped
that we were going out with one another because there=s not &uch turf left
untrodden after twentyGfi$e hours shoulder to shoulder in a space s&aller than
&ost people=s downstairs loo# 4e would crease oursel$es laughing when
perched on the back seat trying to pee into the <relief kit= and the other ga$e
the controls a da&n good rocking# +unnier still was when we cruised o$er $ast
open cowboy country, dropped down to low le$el and hopped o$er telegraph
poles gi$ing it a bit of <yee ha=#
5$erything was going swi&&ingly, we ad&ired the breathtaking <albu&
co$er= $iews of Ari'ona and %ew Me9ico# There was such a $ariety of
landscape B &ountains, desert, and golden forests of red and a&bers ,it was
%o$e&ber/# Anfortunately once we got to 4ichita we hit appalling weather
and couldn=t go any further east, we ga$e it a full day to see if it would clear
but there was no sign of a break so we decided to head south into &ore
cle&ent weather# 4e set off for *ittle :ock, Arkansas# 8nly cruising at about
!.1 knots we had ti&e enough to ad&ire the new countryside# 4e=d regularly
apply so&e carburettor heat to pre$ent icing and we=d keep realigning the
direction indicator which, being a gyroscope, suffers fro& precession and can
de$iate fro& the co&pass# )ut what occupied us the &ost was Hust good old
&ap reading#
After a two and a half hour flight we were ready for a cold beer# 4ell our
luck was out because K guess what? (t was 2unday and we couldn=t get a
drink on a 2undayC This was a rude introduction to the weirdness that is <the
A&erican bible belt=# The weather followed us south and soon we were
ensnared in the sa&e stor&y frontal syste& we=d escaped fro& in 4ichita# The
stor&s cost us two days in which ti&e ( learnt all sorts of things about country
and western culture#
+ortunately there was a happening Hoint called the A&arillo Grill, and we
soon got the knack of the $oucher syste&# (t was 3uite bi'arre, no wonder )ill
and >ilary headed off to DC# Fou had to pay for your drinks with a $oucher,
so&ething to do with God or te&perance# (t was the first ti&e ( saw wo&en
who actually looked like Dolly arton and also a beef steak the si'e of a
handbag# ( looked o$er as the waitress was approaching the table and thought (
saw a rugby ball slit down the &iddle and stuffed with crea&, <how nice, (
thought, so&eone who plays rugby is ha$ing a birthday and so&e enterprising
&ate has organised a cake in the shape of a rugby ball=# Then she put one in
front of &e and ( suddenly beca&e ac3uainted with the <(daho potato=# (t was
the biggest single e9pression of a carbohydrate (=d e$er seen# (t belonged in the
world of giant &utant &arrows seen at those country fairs where people
co&pete for decades with their neighbours to grow a $egetable that can only be
held with two ar&s outstretched like a forklift# To boot, there &ust ha$e been a
whole tub of sour crea& on it, but Hust in case that wasn=t enough for &e she
left fi$e or si9 pats of butter# As for the steak ( didn=t know whether to eat it or
cli&b it# ( spent the first fi$e &inutes Hust walking around it like you do an
unfa&iliar building when you=re trying to get in# ( kept turning it around on &y
plate with the &assi$e car$ing knife and fork they=d gi$en &e, battling to find
the <first point of cut=# )ob Cratchit would ha$e fed his whole fa&ily if this
single piece of &eat had been gifted by 5bene'er 2crooge#
The ne9t day the stor& raged on, we looked at the weather briefing, it was
not good, so we were &arooned another night# That e$ening &y cunning plan
was to ha$e what looked like the s&allest portion on the &enu B crab, B a good
idea, it would be like those s&all dressed crabs in the shell you find at the deli
in 4aitrose, there=s ne$er &uch bulk in a ser$ing of crab, 4rongC %e9t thing (
know there are two bu9o& blondes in &iniskirts and tights standing each side
of &e tying a plastic bib round &y neck, placing ha&&ers, &allets, spiked
instru&ents, and a great wooden board in front of &e and dropping a bucket by
&y feet#
D)li&ey,E ( said, D(=& not going to redecorate, ( Hust want to eat a s&all
crab salad#E
4ell ( sat there like %eptune=s bride, banging, s&ashing, gouging,
sucking, cracking and scraping whilst busy s&iling girls kept rushing past with
pens stuck in their hair balancing trays twice the si'e of the 4i&bledon
wo&en=s trophy high abo$e their heads with one hand, and saying, DFou guys
doin= ok? B need so&e &ore claws?E
2he &anaged, e$en with her hea$y load to pick up our giant Hug of beer
which we=d Hust struggled to e&pty# +i$e seconds later K <splosh=, down ca&e
another full one#
D59cuse &eCE ( said, Dwe didn=t order another Hug of beer#E
D8h aah know honey, but on the pitchers of local beers it=s two fer waaan
tonight#E
( couldn=t belie$e itJ suddenly the si'e of the backsides in Disneyland
started to &ake sense#
4e were Hust discussing our onward flight route to the east coast, when a
singer ca&e on the stageJ she was sli& and pretty and wore Heans, waistcoat
and western boots# Guys in cowboy hats were perched on stools, boot heel on
the rest bar, lifting the bri& with an inde9 finger with that <(=& cool B and
ready for action= type of gesture# 2he started singing, it was nice &usic, a few
people danced K About halfway through her repertoire she holds the &ike
with both hands, guitar round her shoulder on a strap and starts talking in that
char&ing southern drawl#
D>ow=s e$erybardy doin= dernite? Fa=ll ha$in= fuuurn K? 8k, (=& gonna
dedicate this ne9t sarng to an e9Gboyfriend of &aaan, we had great taar&s
togeether, alotta fuuurn, he &et so&eone else and K well, hey that=s life ya
know# ( was real cutup at the taar& but we=re still freends, no hard feelins, (
was gonna call it <Mo$in on= but ( changed &a &aand, it=s called K<+uck you,
pencil dick=#E
The waitresses all cracked up and cheered, there was &uch <whoopin= and
hollerin= fro& the bargirls, so&e &en shifted unco&fortably on their barstools#
(t was a da&n good night#
2o&e great fat A&erican &an patted &e on the back as he was lea$ing,
DGod (=& sure glad ( got rid of &ine when ( see the si'e of the&CE and
e9ploded with laughter as he pointed to &y crab#
The ne9t day we finally got the weather to continue, *e9ington was our
ne9t stop# ( will always re&e&ber the little statues of Hockeys in all their
bright, eye catching colours lining the ta9i ways# (t was a hell of a long flight B
L hours L. &inutes to be precise fro& Arkansas, o$er Tennessee and up to
7entucky# Colossal &eandering ri$ers and thousands of acres of woodland and
far&s &o$ed slowly beneath us# At least we were back heading northGeast# *il=
:ock had taken us way south of track, but it had been worth the e9perience#
4e fuelled up, checked the oils and all the flying surfaces, controls, flaps
and lights# 4e strained the fuel se$eral ti&es until the little bubbles of water in
it disappeared, then took to the skies again heading for Charlottes$ille,
@irginia# 4e were doing wellJ fro& there we could sniff the east coast# 4e
flew o$er gorgeous &ountains, noticing the change in landscape# The <fall=
was fir&ly established# Co&pared to the $ast open plains near 4ichita and the
desert areas of %ew Me9ico back west, this was wonderful# 4e were greeted
,the ne9t &orning/ by a full and brilliant array of toasty, war& colours#
(t was getting dark when we landed, we were the last &o$e&ent on the
s&all airfield that night# There was no ti&e to go downtown and find a hotel, it
was late, we wanted an early departure to&orrow so it &ade sense to stay by
the airport# Tony the owner of the plane had told us to be co&fortable, but we
tried to keep the price down by staying in little inns or &otels by the airport
which were ade3uate for our needs#
There was one guy on duty at Charlottes$ille that e$ening and he said
there was one hotel $ery near, brand new, Hust down the road, and he would
gi$e us a lift B perfect# >e dropped us at the door of what looked like a $ery
<sprauncy= establish&ent# (f &e&ory ser$es &e, ( think it was a >ilton# 4e
walked in to reception, looking pretty bedraggled# 2u&ptuous oak panelled
walls surrounded us# They were adorned with long oil paintings of gla&orous,
debutantes and heiresses in Hodhpurs with riding crops# They wore pearls and
dia&onds and had i&&aculate blonde locks tu&bling o$er crisp pink candy
striped shirtsJ they looked like Pueen %oor of Jordan# ( glanced around and
saw &ore paintings of wealthy s&oulderingly handso&e &en holding polo
sticks wearing ten thousand dollar watches with na&es like )rett 2a&uel
Macintyre Johnson# Then, the tellGtale sign of <high end=B a sy&phony of tall
e9otic flowers in a huge $ase on the central table B strelit'ias, lilies, curly
ba&boo, glorious wine red roses gesturing up towards the stucco ceiling# They
all whispered gla&our and lu9ury# 8h dear, ( sighed internally, we are in the
wrong sort of place but we were so tired and so hungry# ( looked down at &y
oily trainers and at Mike=s 2noopy sweatshirt which he ne$er took off K
<Da&n=#
4e did take a roo& which was beautiful with &ore wood panelling,
hu&ungous towels and logoed robes# 4e had nothing but Heans and sweaters
of which we pulled out the least grubby and went downstairs for a drink# (n the
bar, sitting on solid &ahogany ar&chair barstools we ordered a beer# The
bar&an in waistcoat and bowtie felt sorry for us and pushed e9tra peanuts our
way#
After a few &inutes, a &an in a suit approached, leant o$er and 3uietly
told &e they were deeply sorry but we were not dressed appropriately, there
was a dress code# ( think he was politely infor&ing us not to e$en conte&plate
the dining roo&# Totally unoffended, ( said, DFou know we=re sorry not to be
able to do Hustice to these elegant surroundings, but we=re two student pilots
fro& 5ngland building hours towards a Co&&ercial *icence, we=$e had this
great opportunity to ferry a s&all Cessna fro& west to east, so we ha$e to
tra$el light and this was the only hotel around# 4e=$e been staying in airport
&otels and didn=t know this was going to be so posh# (f it=s ok we=ll Hust drink
this beer and &aybe order a sandwich and take it up#E
That was it, he Hust thought this was the &ost terrific thing he=d e$er heard
and he was a dog with fi$e tails#
DJohn, gi$e these guys anything they want fro& the bar &enu K please
allow us to buy you a drink#E
>e &ust ha$e been a keen a$iator hi&self because a &inute later two
)loody Mary=s arri$ed in chunky cut glass tu&blers with a stick of celery like
a 2cots&an=s caber and a generous flotsa& of celery salt and fresh li&es# (t
was delicious# The i&pecunious state of a trainee pilot nor&ally precludes the
garnish of such drinks, so it was well appreciated# All the iceGcool, statues3ue
hotel staff see&ed to drop the for&ality and ca&e o$er for a chat# 4hat a
lo$ely place#
The ne9t stop was 4ashington, ,not Dulles/ but the s&aller airport# 4e
spent an e9hilarating day at the 2&ithsonian a$iation &useu&# (t was fantastic
seeing e$erything fro& early biGplanes to rockets and we both had a ball
looking at what was by far the best e9hibition we=d e$er seen#
All the airport staff were helpful and friendly, showing us where to get
weather, file flight plans and furnish us with the right &aps# They were also
keen to hear of our progress
4e were feeling pretty bra$e by now and decided to ha$e a go at a night
landing in %ew Fork# ,)ad, oh $ery bad &istake/ %718+O B our little Cessna
!7- was ser$ing us well, and our <Fes, we can do this= sort of attitude spurred
us on# 4e planned a departure for Mp#&# that night, it was only a couple of
hours away#
2o K back to the flight centre and into the @:+ flight plans# Mike had
what we call an (MC ,instru&ent &eteorological conditions/ B a basic
(nstru&ent rating, so we considered oursel$es up to the Hob of landing in
%ewark at night# ,(t=s truly cringe worthy isn=t it?/ God when ( think back, our
innocence and nai$etQ &akes &e look sky ward with a shake of the head# 4e
were the airborne e3ui$alent of those )ritish soldiers going into the battle of
(sandhlwana against the Rulus#
8ur flight would be @+: ,$isual flight rules/ rather than (+: ,instru&ent/
but all the other traffic would be (+: so they follow set routes, approach
patterns, and waypoints all delineated on their charts# As we approached the
busy ter&inal &anoeu$ring area around %ew Fork B ,bear in &ind there are
three huge international airports and a handful of regional ones/ the :T B radio
trans&issions got fasterC The nu&bers are not necessarily correct but (
re&e&ber it went so&ething like;
DContinental three cleared down one two 'ero, change approach one two
si9 point four, Delta four niner descend si9 'ero call tower one one eight point
one, so long, *earHet four nine papa bra$o e9pedite cli&b through flight le$el
niner 'ero, break Anited two one eight &aintain one si9 'ero on reaching call
center on one three four point fi$e#E
And so it went on, there was no stopping for breath, it was one long
continuous hurried urgent frantic trans&ission punctuated with the shortest
clipped read backs by pilots#
2o into this &elee we flew, e9pecting an unco&plicated set of steers to a
$isual final# My doubts began to swell# There were Hust lights absolutely
e$erywhere, ( had been used to the odd DTraffic in your ten o=clock range fi$e
&iles left to rightE, but this K this was so&ething entirely different, the night
sky was one of those huge rotating disco balls#
A bit of added &isfortune was the recent air traffic control strike which
&eant all the good controllers were at ho&e# 4hat we had that dreadful night
were the less e9perienced ones, the sort of K <Dads ar&y= part ti&ers# 2o it
was the one eyed leading the blind# 4hen we checked in with those words
D%o$e&ber 718 fo9 kilo, Cessna !7- with you at fi$e thousand feet @+:E we
could feel this wo&an=s despair B like her e$ening wasn=t tough enough# <Fou
ha$e gotta be HokingC=2he &ust ha$e thought B her gyros toppledC 4e were
ordered to go to point <'ulu= and hold# 8h God, we couldn=t find it on the &ap,
there were &illions of lights fro& other aircraft it was looking dangerous, and
to &ake &atters worse we had to ask her where point 'ulu was#
D8n the two four 'ero radial, twel$e DCE she yelledC This was gi$ing us a
radial and distance fi9 off a @8:# 4e were physically ducking and rotating
our heads around in the cockpit frantically assessing the pro9i&ity of the
surrounding lights# (t was &ore a case or which of the nine lights was a <head
on=B that was the one we would attend to firstC Things were certainly war&ing
upC
2he was di$erting planes away fro& us, screa&ing instructions like DDo
an i&&ediate LM.E# 2he suddenly asked us if we were able to accept an (+:
clearance# To release us fro& this pande&oniu&, Mike blurted Daffir&ati$eE
which was a bit of a fib, but we were in trouble and it was the right decision#
4e then followed $ectors to the (*2# 4e had DC!.s right behind us, 7L7 and
7-7s all around us as we went tearing down the approach, to hell with flaps we
dared not slow down ,always been good at flapless landings since thenC/# 4e
ca&e in e9cessi$ely fast but didn=t care, it Hust felt great that reassuring s&ack
,and it was a s&ack/ of the wheels hitting the ground# 4e were Hust told in no
uncertain ter&s to call ground on !-!#"# They were so busy we couldn=t
s3uee'e e$en our call sign out for &any &inutes#
DCessna 18 fo9 kilo go to holding area 9Gray,E ca&e an e9asperated $oice#
This was a sort of pen for the disobedient# ( think we hit a couple of ta9i lights
on the way, plus due unfa&iliarity, we had to keep asking instructions# 4e
heard a lot of D+o9 OGray 2TA%D)FE which roughly translated &eans; D8h
do shut up you irritating little 5nglish cretin ( ha$e big i&portant A&erican
airliners here with pilots who know what they=re doing B let &e deal with the&
firstCE )ut we finally pulled into this area and waited# This was the airport
e3ui$alent of &edie$al stocks for petty offenders, who &ust be re&o$ed fro&
the acti$e areas# That=s what it felt like# They sent so&eone o$er to us in a
truck and we had to sheepishly follow the& like ad&onished children to a park
area where we could cause no &ore troubleC
The best was yet to co&e, due to the e9pense of last night=s hotel, we
decided to Hust get the cheapest &otel ad$ertised on the big lit screen# 4e
called, and they said they=d pick us up# 4e waited and we waited# An hour
later a battered old $an with hub caps &issing and co$ered with stickers
coughed its way up# A $ery rotund black guy with his hat on backwards and a
huge track suit greeted us and dro$e us off at breakneck speed picking up
$arious <brothers and sisters= en route# Mike and ( had a serious de brief of that
flight and decided to celebrate li$ing through another day#
The &otel was B well without beating around the bush, a filthy, slea'y,
roach ridden, du&p, an eyesore of dirt and cri&e# (t was the three layers of
bulletproof glass through which you passed your &oney ,cash only/ which
first aroused our suspicions# They would ha$e been wearing crash hel&ets (=&
sure if it had not been for their turbans# The &icrophone down which you had
to co&&unicate had seen better days, so you only got the odd end or beginning
of a word# (t was the front for so&e scurrilous cri&inal racket ( felt sure, it was
shouting out <Ta9 dodge=#
A rather appealing hand written sign was sellotaped to the wall DN1 e9tra
for adult &o$ie in roo&E# They were running this place as a &otel but
basically it was a hall of residence for a technical college down the road so K
up to four students per roo&, and no doubt &ore on a +riday and 2aturday
night# +ortunately Mike had the aircraft=s crash a9e in his o$ernight bag and
we slept with it under the &attress# %oise, shouting and $eno&ous rowing
filled the air all night# Doors sla&&ed and argu&ents raged, &ost in 5bonics
so we couldn=t understand the finer details of e9actly who had stabbed who#
)ut there were Healous boyfriends, powerful &otor bikes and so&e sa$age
te&per loss# D)itchE was banded around a lot by the guys and DassholeE was a
definite fa$ourite a&ongst the girls but the out and out winner was, without
doubt D&otherfkerE which see&ed to ha$e no end of applications#
%eedless to say the night was not a restful one#
%e9t stop Danbury Connecticut# ( notice fro& &y log book it was the
earliest take off of the trip# %ot ha$ing undressed or used the rancid bathroo&,
we left at first light# (t was great to see our little plane again, partly because of
our attach&ent to it by now but &ostly because it was getting us out of there#
4e had a coffee with the friendly guys fro& the general a$iation ter&inal and
we all laughed about the &otel#
DGoddaaa& you went there? hell that=s cra'y round thereCE said the guy
behind the desk and shaking his head#
4e fuelled up, fired up, ran our checklist then sat with our little red
beacon flashing for &any &inutes, finger on the trans&it button waiting for
one free second to get our call in to the ground fre3uency# The ne9t bit took us
3uite by surprise and it was probably the highlight of the trip#
D+o9trot OGray, do you know where the statue of *iberty is at?E
D5r yes, we can find that#E
D8kay you=re cleared straight ahead to the statue of liberty#E
2o, one of the &ore unusual departure clearances, but that was the
unedited truth of it# 4e took off into a bright chilly &orning and flew away
fro& %ewark towards the statue of liberty# (n those days there was a @+:
corridor which took you right beside the world trade towers# 4e cli&bed to
-... feet and Mike asked for onward instructions#
DConfir& ( can fly @+: up the >udson :i$er?E Mike asked incredulously#
DAGfir& sir,E ca&e the yank $oice, Dcleared own na$igation you can take
the ri$er, you all ha$e a good one, so long#E
4e cli&bed sunward once again, enHoying the &ost breathtaking $iews of
%ew Fork, it was a real thrill being below the le$el of the sky scrapers Hust
absorbing all that K <)ig Apple=C
%ew 5ngland was a tapestry of rich colour# 4e cruised o$er &agnificent
stretches of auburn and russet woods# (=d ne$er seen so &any shades of red and
yellow, it was so&ehow $ery elegant and groo&ed# 4e &ade a blissfully
une$entful landing in Danbury, where we were recei$ed with war&th# The
plan was to crate the aircraft up here and ship it to 5ngland# (t would soon
change its na&e to GGD(@A and be parked on the grass at +airoaks# ( knew
Mike would ha$e lo$ed the chance to ferry it across the Atlantic in spite of all
the dangers of bad weather and icing#
DC=&on Mike wait <til you can cross the Atlantic in so&ething decent that
goes a bit faster and higher, E was &y offering as he nursed his coffee
drea&ing of a Charles *indburg type of welco&e on the 2cottish shores#
Tony the owner, contacted us B he=d found a better deal on the shipping
and asked us to do one &ore leg to *ong (sland# 2o after two subli&e days in
the <church steeple=,= apple pie= ha$en of %ew 5ngland=s suburbia, we flew the
final leg to Mac Arthur airfield on *ong (sland# There followed another scary
flight into airspace swar&ing with aeroplanes# ,The %ew Fork ter&inal
&anoeu$ring area is tricky for a beginnerC/
2o the Hourney o$er, we spoke to the shipping guys there who would crate
it up, and we busied oursel$es with hiring a car to get to the international
airport# ( was headed back to 2an Diego fro& %ewark and Mike was )A to
*ondon fro& 7ennedy# %ew Fork in rush hour was the &ost terrifying leg of
all# The traffic, the bridges, the freeways, the confusionC 4e were like ants in a
concrete labyrinth# ( was a co&plete ner$ous wreck by the ti&e we found
%ewark# 4e hugged like buddies who had been to war together#
DMike, pro&ise &e you won=t fly that bloody thing o$er the Atlantic, (
know what you=re like, don=t sneak back there and fit ferry tanks, ( don=t want
to read about you in the paper being disco$ered by an 5ski&o seal trapper,
87?E
>e tightened his lips and looked top left, grinning as though ( had really
read his &ind# Dear Mike there he was in his anorak, Heans, snoopy sweatshirt
and tennis shoes, ( don=t think (=$e seen hi& in anything else# >e had such
unbridled enthusias&, but he pro&ised &e, he=d go straight to 7ennedy# The
irony of it B he is probably sick to death of crossing the Atlantic now in his
767#
8n board the Continental 7-7 for 2an Diego, ( found &yself ne9t to a
lookalike rock star all in black leather with dark shades# 4e were both
wannabes of a sort, so we connected there, for a fleeting &o&ent, albeit
tangentially#
DAlriiiiightE and DcoooooolE were his fa$oured responses and he see&ed
perfectly able to sustain an entire con$ersation with Hust those two wordsC (
totted up &y hours in &y little log book, you can=t i&agine how i&portant this
ritual is#
D8%5 >A%D:5D,E ( sang triu&phantly, that last leg Hust notched up &y
one hundredth hour, &y God ( was on &y way# Foung Alice Cooper ne9t to
&e called the hostess o$er, ordered a &ini bottle of cha&pagne and suggested
that ( be allowed to $isit the cockpit with &y log book#
The captain congratulated &e and unpinned his wings and ga$e the& to
&e as a &e&ento# ( was beyond chuffed, when they said; D4e=ll be seeing you
up here then pretty soon#E ( returned to &y seat, wanting to Hog down the aisle
with &y hands in the air like :ocky#
Alice Cooper clasped the glasses and raised his tray so ( could take &y
window seat# >e ordered another round and ( Hoyfully sipped and giggled &y
way back to 2an Diego# >e told &e he was going to write a song about &e
called <2eat of her ants=# (=& sure he ne$er did but he was fun#
Just fifty &ore hours and ( could Hoin the (nstructor=s rating course# (
booked it for the co&ing spring#

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