IF I HAD WINGS
What a stroke of luck. While searching through the old box of slides I discovered a couple of pictures of my old girlfriend, she was a Piper Colt called Golf Alpha Romeo Sierra Victor and way back in 1964 she and I spent many a happy hour together. For £7 an hour she would whisk you up into the clouds and perform all sorts of manoeuvres that if you weren’t careful would make you want to throw up. Joking apart sitting on the end of the runway at Fairoaks (or grass strip in 1964) was for me the ultimate in something or other that is impossible to describe. Fear was in there somewhere. Having completed your engine checks, looked around for other aircraft (no radio in 1964), checked your seat belt, check the door is closed, check that fuel tap is on (no flaps on a Colt) and with your sweaty hand clamped around that orange knob you would gradually push it in wait for the revs to build to 2,400 rpm and release the brakes. She would respond slowly at first. Keeping her straight with your feet on the rudder bar she would gradually accelerate to 65 kt and with a slight backward pressure on the control column she would break free from planet earth. Fields, cows, sheep, horses, houses, roads, rivers and railway lines would slowly diminish in size and float serenely beneath you. You would reflect that you and she were now one, alone together! in the ether. She would respond to the slightest input of movement on that control column and she would rely on you to have done your homework as to where you were going and how to get back to the airfield.
On this particular flight she would head for Knaphill Tower and then turn to port and keeping her head down as she flew across the end of the runway at Wisley, hoping that a Vickers Valiant or VC10 hadn’t just lifted off and was about to suck the pair of you in to its engine intake. She would continue floating slowly but surely over Hatchford and Downside heading for somebody’s back garden in Cobham. She would rely on you to keep an eye on her height as she knew that she was not allowed below 500ft over any building or structure – Cobham had a few!
Having taken a picture (keeping one hand on the control column, no auto pilot) of somebody’s washing line the pair of you would climb back up to 2,500ft and reflect together. How is that we are up here? What was it like to be a Spitfire pilot when some bastard is trying to blast you out the sky? Having reflected for a few moments on the wonders of aerodynamics the pair of you would then desperately hope that the visibility hadn’t closed in around Fairoaks. Phew! Then a quick glance at the signals area to check the landing direction (remember no radio), descend to 1000ft on the dead side and join the circuit over the upwind end of the airfield. The next 5 minutes or so requires a delicate juggling of her power, drag, lift and weight (can’t do much about her weight) which with any luck should bring the pair of you on final approach. You should have remembered to have done your landing checks on the downwind leg – (BUMPFHH) Brakes - OFF, Undercarriage -DOWN, Mixture - RICH, Carb Heat - ON, Fuel Pump - ON, Hatches and Harnesses - SECURE. Keeping an eye on her drift if there is a cross wind and another eye on the air speed and another eye on the perimeter hedge and another eye out for wayward crows ease the control column gently backwards and let the speed decay while trying to hold her off, if you have done it correctly you should hear the stall warning buzzer just as her wheels kiss the grass.
I make no apology for banging on, again, about aeroplanes and old girlfriends Sam. Sadly Sierra Victor met a sticky end in May 1967 when she plummeted into a field near Whitchurch in Hampshire and sustained damage ‘beyond repair’ fortunately there were no casualties – cause unknown, thank you Sierra Victor.
Somebody waving an item
of clothing from the washing line.
Camper Van with button padded roof
Cobham Village Hall
Taken from Piper Cherokee G-BFBR
22nd April 1978
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT (FOR ME)
She does have an electric starter!
Fairoaks May 1970
G-BCXH Piper Cherokee Warrior
Fairoaks 16th May 1976
It was a zoom lens, honest.
Now where did I leave my sandwiches.