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Come fly with me

Rosemary Martin faces the ultimate challenge 

It hadn`t been a life-long ambition of mine to learn to fly, especially with my fear of heights, but a trial flight in a Cessna 152 decided it for me. 

I was 55, I didn`t feel that my wild oats had yet turned to all-bran. So together with my husband, I decided to embark on the 45 hour training course necessary to obtain a Private Pilots Licence. He took to flying naturally, being mechanically minded, whilst my instructor took great delight in telling me that  if women were meant to fly the sky would be pink… 


I threw myself into the lessons and started studying for the six written exams. It somehow became a full time commitment and our home became littered with flight training manuals, videos and flight computers.

Oddly enough, you don’t need a sense of direction to fly. Since I don’t have one, this was a useful discovery.  Air navigation does, however, need precise calculations. You make a flight plan, using a handheld computer. There’s a tower thingy at the airport that gives you wind velocity and direction. Charts help you decide the heightof the flight and the compass heading. If this system fails and you get lost, you can call up the air traffic controller in the area you are flying over. He will know damn well you are lost, but will be too polite to say so, and will guide you to your destination. I was once lost practically overhead our airfield - all green fields looked the same. 

Eventually the day came when, whilst taxiing to the runway for more circuit training, my instructor told me to stop. He proceeded to unbuckle his harness and climbed out of the aeroplane saying casually that I could manage without him for this trip. With sweaty palms and dry mouth I did power checks, taxied to the holding position, did the pre-flight checks, announced to the tower in a squeaky voice that I was departing, and opened the throttle before I could change my mind.

The aircraft thundered along the runway with all instruments reading OK, and rotated at the correct speed.  I was aware of the landscape receding beneath me, a sight which usually never failed to thrill me. On this occasion however, sightseeing was not advisable, as it was my responsibility to fly the aircraft for one circuit of the airfield, and land it safely, with an audience on the ground watching my progress - word soon spreads of a first solo - and the obligatory fire truck on standby, just in case.

All was going well, base leg came all too soon and it was time to set up the instruments for the descent and landing.  Carburettor heat off, power off, pull back on the control column until speed is low enough to drop 20 degrees of flap, add enough power to give the correct speed, adjust  trim wheel to maintain speed, switch on landing lights, turn onto final approach at 500ft, engage more flaps, call final approach on the radio, check speed and approach are OK, 400ft, 300ft, 200ft, 100ft, 50ft, 20ft and flare out, back, back, back on the control column, and touch down  -   a perfect landing,  phewwww……

Having got the short solo flying sessions out of the way, I was ready to embark on cross country trips, first with an instructor, then solo. The last of these was the qualifying cross country flight with stops at two other airports to have a certificate signed. On the homeward leg I was diverted to a new heading by the RAF as there were jets training at the military base I was flying near. Consequently I rather lost my bearings and had to request help to get me home. I was never so pleased to see our airfield …

In due course, I passed with flying (!) colours, having already got through all the written exams, Human performance, Meteorology, Navigation, Technical, Radio Telephony and Aviation Law.  I obtained my wings just a few weeks after my husband got his, and ten months after our trial flight....

We’ve have had some magical moments. It is unbelievable to jump into an aeroplane on a cloudy, dull day, and climb up above the clouds to emerge in dazzling sunshine, floating on a bed of fluffy, cotton wool clouds.....

The photo above is of my husband and myself taking possession of our own aeroplane G-BNST a Cessna 172, which we acquired shortly after getting our licences.  

So don`t dream it, do it...

If you have always wanted to fly and can afford it, my advice is just do it.   To obtain your PPL you will need to complete 45 hours training including ten hours of solo flight, take about six written exams and have reasonable health. About 5000 would easily cover the cost of training, but shop around, as prices vary from club to club.


For more information why not visit our own flying club



laterlife interest

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