Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Oh For the Wings of a Dove ...

Or any other bird ...
We took a drive on Sunday to a place near Lincoln: Wickenby Airfield. This used to be a WWII RAF bomber station but is now a privately owned airfield. It was a gloriously sunny day and there were quite a few small aircraft and microlights enjoying the freedom of the skies.
We parked the car (free) and headed for the old control tower, which is now a small café and, up a small staircase, a museum of RAF and aviation relics.
Pat had a delicious fresh-brewed coffee and I had a good cup of black tea. It was a delightful, if a bit shabby, environment. Reminded me of a small NAAFI but with no uniformed Brylcreem Boys having chips with everything meals.
I nipped upstairs to view the museum room: some really great uniforms of long gone pilots, books containing names of all the RAF types who were once stationed here and other interesting items. I spent about fifteen minutes in this old room, which was quite small, and exceedingly nostalgic.
Rejoined Pat in the "NAAFI" area and met some wonderfully interesting chaps there. One was waiting for his 15-year-old-son to touch down from his flying lesson. This lad is hoping to get his private pilot's licence (PPL) in the months to come and, eventually, join the RAF. His dad is paying for all this, and it's not cheap!
I mentioned to this guy that my first trip in a biplane was in 1947 at RAF Kenley, which was on a Sunday, and courtesy of the ATC, to which I belonged in those days. It was only a short 'flip' around the airfield at Kenley but so exciting.
He said he was in the ATC and dearly wanted to join the RAF, but failed the eyesight tests and was rejected. I can understand why he wants his lad to succeed in his mission. Good luck to them both; I sincerely hope everything goes tickety-boo in the months and years to come.
An even more interesting chat was with two middle-aged men who were about to leave the NAAFI-Café. I collared them as they were about to open the door - asking the taller of the two if he was ex-RAF. "No, I'm a lawyer" he said. "We've just flown in from Ipswich, about twenty minutes ago!" I was impressed, and exceedingly envious.
"That's our plane, over there..." he said, pointing to a smart mono-plane about twenty yards away. "We built it ourselves, from a kit we bought in the USA. Took us three years. Our wives restricted us to three days a week on the project! Otherwise we'd have finished it somewhat quicker." I was now immensely interested and doubly impressed.
"Where is the fuel tank?" I asked. 
"Oh, in the wings; holds enough fuel for over six hours flying."
"Have you been far in it?" I enquired (interrogated might be a better word!).
"Well, the Arctic was one interesting voyage" he said. He also mentioned a couple of other far-flung countries, including Africa. "We had to stop half-way to Africa; needed to pee you see..."
Honestly, I could have spent a day or two chatting to these two guys. They too seemed happy to talk about their wonderful hobby but said they had to see somebody in Norfolk in twenty minutes or so and they had to (literally) fly!
Had to say cheerio to them as I followed them outside and walked to within a few yards of their aircraft. They hopped in the side-by-side cockpit, and the engine started perfectly. They taxied away and soon climbed smoothly into the bright sunny skies. Soon they'd be having a cuppa in Norfolk - in less than half-an-hour!!!!!
What a simply wonderful way to spend one's free time. Zooming into the blue yonder. Hopping from one city to another. Free as a bird.
I can think of NOTHING better. Perfick, as The Darling Buds of May would say.
Must close. Bit of a flap on. Chocks away, bandits at twelve o'clock high.
Wizard prang. Over and out!


the walking man said...

Airmen are comparable to submariners...something not quite right about them in the head...give me a small ship at sea though and a raft of fellows who have been there to have a day with and I would be as wingy as you were on that day Philip.

PhilipH said...

Yeah Mark, I've never been quite right in the head - so I guess I'm as normal as the next. I just find the exhilarating freedom that flying gives one. Not in the those massive jumbo jets but a two-seater trainer or a glider is just magic. However, whatever rings your bell is perfect, innit.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

two thoughts occur to me - firstly that you were able to find anywhere with free parking. There's a lovely park near me that i absolutely love and when i was a kid if you bought a ticket there and didn't entirely use the time then you passed it to the next driver as they arrived. Then they changed the tickets to be licence-plate specific, which says a lot about the changing world i guess

Secondly - one of the frustrating things about the TV programme Top Gear (other than the obvious ones around presenters like Jeremy Clarkson) is the things they don't bother to tell you - like the episode where they drive to the north pole and they pass by a crashed plane. I would love to know the story of the plane, but of course - being Top Gear - you never find out

The Bug said...

Sounds like a great day. I would have been interested to talk to those guys too. My uncle & a friend of his built a small plane, but he got grounded because of anti-depressants, which I must say didn't help his depression a bit!

Strayer said...

Hello Philip,

Besides rowing my raft about anytime I can, I can't keep my eyes out of the sky nor can I imagine any greater freedom than the ability to fly. Too bad you couldn't coax a ride from those two fellows and their plane. Thanks for your comments. I try hard here, and yes, will be sad when the nonprofit funding my cat wrangling is gone for good.

Cloudia said...

I smelt the coffee.
Do wish your daughter, and yourself
a new year full of gratitude and things to celebrate. Bless you

Happy Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral

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PhilipH said...

Monseur Pixie, Dear Dana, Strayer and the lovely Cloudia - thanks so much for your visit.
Best wishes, Phil

Snowbrush said...

I didn't know you had posted. I eagerly await your posts, and I am mortified that I missed one.

Have you read Howard Zinn's autobiography. He was a WWII bombardier. Even better is Moritz Thomsen's "My Two Wars." He was a WWII navigator. Both became soured on war as a result of their perceptions that much of the killing in which they participated was unnecessary. Thomsen became so disgusted with American materialism and militarism that he spent the last part of his life in Ecuador. Zinn stayed home but became a political activist.

My love to you, my friend. I value you a great deal.


What a wonderful-sounding Sunday in your neck of the woods! I can only imagine the adventures those 2 fellows must've been enjoying, and how evocative it was for you too. Thank you very much for dropping by, glad it led me here.

PhilipH said...

Snowy, thanks for your comment.
No, have not read Howard Zinn's autobiog but did read a good deal about him via Google. Great American would sum up Mr. Zinn, and no mistake.
I had a friend, Ken Whittle, who was a "WOP/AG" in WWII (Wireless Op and Air Gunner). He flew in Blenheim bombers in 1940 and later in other planes. I spent some six months transcribing his pencilled autobiog into a wordprocessor and farmed the final draft to various publishers on floppy disks. No takers; far too many military memoirs on offer. He eventually went to an ex-RAF squadron leader who did the 'vanity publishing' thing and Ken's paid to get it in book form.
I of course keep a copy, signed by not only Ken Whittle but also by his pilot and his navigator - the full Blenheim crew. These three guys were one of the few crews who survived after the war.
It must have been an emotional reunion when they all met a RAF Hendon museum to launch Ken's book.
Sadly, Ken died about four months later: pancreatic cancer.
I was privileged to have known him.

PhilipH said...

LONDONLULU, thanks for visiting. I was intrigued by your blogging name, 'LondonLulu' as I expected you to be a London gal. Glad I found your super photos, camera and phones! Jolly good shots, LL.

Cloudia said...

you and me BOTH!

Oh to fly!

Aloha from Waikiki, my Friend
Comfort Spiral
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Snowbrush said...

I hope you'll give us an update soon.

PhilipH said...

Snowy, I've just posted a small item about a dog!