It’s not the words you want to hear when climbing into the rear of a two seater aircraft. The pilot, a large bloke with a big ‘wooly pully’ as he might call it was heaving his not inconsiderable frame into the front behind the array of instruments and the all important joy stick. I was hoping he’s be able to see it among all the litter in the plane which consisted of many sweet wrappers and discarded fag packets. For those readers in the US we call cigarettes fags, amongst other things.
” I’ll drive” he joked and then said “strap yourself in then”, and then muttered something about “health and safety” as if strapping yourself into an aeroplane was ever not an option.
I’d gone along to this local gliding centre to take photos of gliders and people learning to fly them, and here I was with Wing Commander Sidney ” Sweetie” Pie ( Not his real name ) about to take to the air in a small but noisy German aeroplane in the hunt for the photos in question. “I thought I was going to just be on the ground” I chatted to him nervously as the plane bowled down the field that they took for a runway in these parts. ” No bloody good getting pictures of the things on the ground, let’s go and find some up here”, he answered cheerfully. As we took off with a glider attached I squeaked a barely audible “OK”
What followed put considerable strain on my undercarriage as well as the plane’s. Once we’d got to what he called a decent height and I called near space, he pulled a large lever and let the glider we were towing off to find some thermals. By this time the camera I had taken with me was higher than my face in the cockpit as I sank down as close to the seat as I could crush myself.
For the next terrifying fifteen minuets that felt like an hour, he chased around the sky like a demented Spitfire pilot chasing after a Focke Wolfe, the first of these words was akin to something that I muttered each time he dipped his wing and zoomed into another target.
He landed perfectly after the excursion and helped my gingerly out of the back, offering me one of his collection of sweet assortments. I can’t say the photographs came out that well, though I did get a good close up of the closing mechanism of a plane’s cockpit hood. More by accident than design.