Jun. 16th, 2010

ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
I have been flying, for the first time in two-and-a-half years, in THIS thing with THIS chap.

The plane is a Pitts Special S2A. Specially designed for aerobatics, although we did not do any. The pilot is Dai Heather-Hayes, who flew Hunters in Aden with the RAF back in the '60s, and always wears corduroy and tweed—imagine a cross between Peter Wimsey and Roald Dahl (though he resembles HIMSELF more than either). We flew to the Isle of Mull, which is one of the Inner Hebrides. 42 minutes in a straight line there, a bit longer on the way back because we went sightseeing.

These are my pictures of the outing. They kind of have to be seen to be believed. The Highlands & Islands don't need photoshopping!

(and the Isle of Mull tourism site is here.)

I won this flight in a Christmas raffle ALSO about 2 and a half years ago. It was supposed to be a 20 minute aerobatic flight, I think, which would have been cool if I could in fact remember how to fly (straight and level for 40 minutes was not actually that difficult). However, spending a day out in the Western Isles with Dai Heather-Hayes is not to be sneezed at, however tame the flight! We landed at Glenforsa. There is a log cabin hotel with an aviation theme attached to the airfield. Coffee on the beach, scallops for lunch sitting outside a pub on the Tobermory harbour, and a visit to the Mull Cheese Factory. I am rather shy and adoring of Dai, and it is the first time that I have actually had him to myself for an entire afternoon.

Discussion topics included but were not limited to:

The Written Works of Charles and Anne Lindbergh
The Resurrection of the Body: Fact or Fiction?
The Soviet Union's Influence in the Yemen in the 1960s
Pearl Harbor from the point-of-view of the Japanese
Joseph Stalin makes Adolf Hitler look like a fluffy bunny
The Origin of Tea
Also: Tea—China vs. India?
The Origin of the Ballpoint Pen
Language Acquisition in Infants
The Air Transport Auxiliary

The weather grew more and more spectacular as the day progressed. We flew home at 5 o'clock, detouring down Loch Earn and circling a bit to take overhead shots of Sara's school.

Dai flies very low over the mountains!

-----------------------------------------

It turns out that Dai met Lettice Curtis in the 1970s, the woman who wrote The Forgotten Pilots, which as far as I'm concerned is the definitive (if impenetrable) history of the ATA. Dai was a young flight instructor based at Oxford and Curtis came along to do an instrument rating. He reckons she must have been in her 50s at the time (she was born in 1916, the same year as my grandmother). She ordered her instructors: "Now, I don't want any nonsense. If I'm not doing a thing right, say so. I'm here to get a rating and get it over with."

I was well impressed. I am a big fan of Lettice Curtis. I am not sure she would approve of me (in fact, I'm sure she wouldn't):

Of course, today, we asked the question, why were such clearly superb pilots [ie, women of the ATA] not flying in combat, instead of many of the half-trained young men sent up to die, particularly during the Battle of Britain? Whittell [the author of Spitfire Women of World War II] asked that question of the formidable Lettice Curtis, aged 90, who rolled her eyes and responded: “This is the sort of imagination I am very much against. There was no question of it, and it was not a question you asked. It just never came up.” But he asked a senior male air force officer if they could have, and the officer responds that he’d no doubt at all Curtis would have made a good combat pilot.

--from Philobiblon's blog, oct. 2007)

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For the not-faint-of-heart, I took videos as we approached Loch Earn, and overhead the seaplane base:



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