ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
This was our Sunday afternoon excursion on 8 May. I was kind of charmed by the pictorial record including our flight path! I did most of the actual flying, but not the take-off or landing – or indeed, any of the radio work. We were amused by the French accent that called in to let Edinburgh know they were going to put “a wing” into their airspace. (Just one!)

We took off from Glenrothes in Fife and headed for the Forth bridges. We followed the M90 and the M9 nearly the whole way. The plane’s path tracks to the right of the motorway going out and back on the flight map! And see how nicely I can hold my altitude?

It was a very hazy day and I’ve had to touch up the photos for brightness and contrast, but you’ll get the idea.

Here are the bridges from the ground, taken on our walk across the Forth Road Bridge last January:

And here they are from the air, two weeks ago. The Queensferry Crossing is really starting to look like a bridge! It is scheduled to open to traffic later this year.

It’s not all scenic, but it’s jolly impressive even when it’s not scenic. Here’s Grangemouth, a bit further inland:

And what’s a tour of the M9 without a glimpse of the Kelpies, “the largest equine sculptures in the world”?

The water visible in the photo is where the Forth & Clyde Canal meets the River Carron, just before the Carron enters the Forth.

A couple of minutes (by air) beyond the Kelpies, the Forth & Clyde meets the Union Canal via the Falkirk Wheel – “the only rotating boatlift in the world.”

(I LOVE THE WAY SCOTLAND ALWAYS HAS THE BIGGEST OR THE ONLIEST THING IN THE WORLD OF ITS KIND: “World’s narrowest hotel” “Fastest mascot dressed as fruit” “Largest open air salt water Art Deco heated swimming pool in the world.”) (NOT MAKING IT UP.)

We headed back the way we’d come, but as we approached Fife Airfield we were informed that there was a parachute drop going on. You don’t really want to come anywhere near that in a small plane, as humans are actually very difficult to see in mid-air. So we set the GPS for Dollar and took a detour to find Castle Campbell. We’d been there in October:

And this is what it looks like from the air – it’s the shining roof in the center of the wooded valley, right in the middle of the photo. The castle was originally known as Castle Gloom, apparently from an old word meaning “chasm.”

That killed exactly the right amount of time. We flew back over Loch Leven, which is just the other side of Vane Hill from Fife Airfield, and buzzed Loch Leven Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567/1568, during the time she was forced to abdicate.

Last October (not quite 550 years after Mary Queen of Scots escaped dressed as a servant girl) I had my birthday picnic here with my friend Kathryn.

This could have been a Mary Queen of Scots tour if we’d thought about it, as she once stayed at Castle Campbell, and we also flew right over her birthplace at Linlithgow Palace. But we were distracted by poor visibility and Edinburgh air traffic control at that point and forgot to look down!

ewein2412: (verity text)
I wrote this 15 years ago today - before I'd learned to fly, before I'd written anything other than The Winter Prince, ten years before I wrote Code Name Verity. We hadn't been in Scotland for a full year. It seems appropriate to share it this week, 75 years on from the Battle of Britain.

We went to the Leuchars Airshow yesterday. It was fun - Sara went on a bunch of fairground rides, we watched lots of noisy flying displays and incredible team aerobatics, Mark and Sara took turns in the backpack. But the best part was after we left - old Lancaster bomber, a Hurricane & a Spitfire swooping in and out of the air show. They kept making these long circles, parting and coming together again, over the golden stubble of the mown corn fields, in the long northern afternoon September light. No sound but twittering birds and the low whirr and chug of the aeroplanes, swooping low over the yellow fields, the old warriors, the survivors, remembering sixty years ago.

"...and the old men still answer the call
But year after year
the numbers get fewer...
Someday no one will march there at all."

But this, I think, we should not forget. It scares me that we may forget.

-E Wein, 17 Sept. 2000

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Leuchars Air Show, 2010

ewein2412: (maddie as WAAF)
Our children have been embroiled in a school production of Fiddler On the Roof, meaning they were out of the house at 8 a.m. and not home till 10.30 p.m. all week long, so we’ve been taking advantage of a relatively empty nest. Also, IT IS SUMMER, all glorious three days of it, with cloudless skies and temps hovering around 20-25C – or as the Guardian called that in 1969, “The sizzling seventies.” Tim and I went flying yesterday afternoon. Tim flies a lot more than I do, mostly during the week when he’s in Kent – I still don’t have a current rating, so have to take an instructor and do some training. Anyway, yesterday we hired a plane together from Tayside Aviation in Fife.

“Where do you want to go?” Tim asked. “To the Bridges, to the Kelpies, along the Fife Coast?” All twenty-minute jaunts and very pretty.

I said, “How about Bamburgh?” Because I know it isn’t far, especially in the air, and the coastline is wonderful and it is my favorite holiday destination. We have now had a week-long winter holiday there three years running.

“Great idea!”

So that’s what we did, Tim doing the flight planning and the radio calls and all the hard work getting around Edinburgh’s airspace, me doing nothing. As we approached Berwick-on-Tweed, twenty miles north of Bamburgh, he handed me the controls and said, “You can fly us there.”

And as I took the controls I remembered this, from Code Name Verity.

Maddie on fabric wings flew low over the long sands of Holy Island and saw seals gathered there. She flew over the great castle crags of Lindisfarne and Bamburgh to the north and south, and over the ruins of the twelfth-century priory where the glowing gospels were painted, and over all the fields stretching yellow and green towards the low Cheviot Hills of Scotland.

Holy Island and Lindisfarne

the causeway to Holy Island... tide is out

That passage is, I think, the most oft-quoted of length from all of Code Name Verity – to my utter surprise and delight, as when I wrote it I worried it was going to be considered such hooptedoodle that I’d be asked to edit it out. And then I remembered that Maddie also dreams about flying over the sands at Holy Island, later in the book, with Julie. And then I got kind of choked up.

Fly the plane, Maddie.

So I did. I let Tim take all the pictures, because he takes better pictures than me anyway. This meant that I did all the flying the rest of the way down and all the way back. Afterward Tim said, “I’m sorry you were doing all the flying – you didn’t get the best view!” and I was like… “DUDE. I DID ALL THE FLYING. I flew over Holy Island and Lindisfarne Priory and Bamburgh Castle and the Farne Islands. I was HAPPY.”

Bamburgh, looking north toward Budle Bay

(I mean, a little bit of choking up is manageable in flight. I honestly didn’t think about the CNV connection until I was approaching Holy Island with my hands on the controls.)

Nothing to be afraid of, nothing to battle against, just the two of us flying together, flying the plane together, side by side in the gold sky.

the cottage we stay in is at the right of the little square near the center - Sandham, Armstrong Cottages

PS At least one reader on my twitter account connected flying to Bamburgh with Code Name Verity FASTER THAN I DID.

ewein2412: (maddie in headset)
This is what. I went to the 60th Anniversary conference of the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA). That is such an understatement in terms of the emotional roller coaster the event put me through. It was held at White Waltham airfield, the home of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), and where the BWPA was founded by half a dozen ex-Air Transport Auxiliary pilots in 1955.

Clubhouse at White Waltham

The thing is, White Waltham airfield is also the home of the West London Aero Club, and long before I’d ever heard of the ATA, for five years this was my flying club. My husband kept a plane at White Waltham. I had my first flying lesson here. I took a flight in a Tiger Moth from White Waltham, and looped the loop in an open cockpit over Henley-on-Thames. I was on the airfield at White Waltham when I went into labor, ten hours before giving birth to my daughter, my first child. She had her first flight five weeks later, also from White Waltham, in an Antonov AN-2.

That's me and Sara on the right! Tim is next to me. He flew this thing under instruction from the pilot in the pink shirt in the center - an ex-Concorde pilot. As a result of this flight Tim has a taildragger rating. 0.o

It is more than 15 years since I last set foot on White Waltham airfield, so just being there was a huge nostalgia trip for me. But of course, since then, I have written two novels about ATA pilots. I know the names and faces of the women who flew there seventy-some years ago. When people use photos of ATA pilots to make Code Name Verity fan art, I can identify “Maddie” as played by Pauline Gower, or Joan Hughes, or Maureen Dunlop.

Original ATA flag in the West London Aero Club clubhouse. The flag is on permanent loan from the ATA Museum in Maidenhead.

The West London Aero Club logo incorporates a pair of ATA wings with the ATA’s motto – “Aetheris Avidi” – eager for the air. I didn’t notice this on the souvenir mugs in our kitchen until after I’d written Code Name Verity, ten years after we’d left White Waltham. Now I have this whole other level of historical interest and association with White Waltham – in many ways, just as emotional as the personal association for me.

The BWPA conference this weekend was a delight, inspirational and informative and convivial. I met one of the first members, Muriel Tucker, which was a thrill; I caught up with people I knew from other aviation events; I met older women who have achieved dizzying firsts and younger women struggling to build hours. Pilots, poets, historians, adventurers, astronomers – men and women both – all turned out in their evening wear for the gala dinner on Saturday night. I was SO glad I went!

We got a display from a visiting Spitfire!

And Saturday was just so darn gorgeous, with unlimited visibility, that it would have been ridiculous not to go flying. So I paid for what was essentially a “trial lesson,” but was really part sightseeing and part familiarization – my last logged flight in control of an aircraft was three years ago. Highclere Castle – aka Downton Abbey – was definitely the highlight of the trip. I said to the instructor, “OK, you have to fly so I can take pictures. You have NO IDEA what this is going to do for my street cred back in the States.”

Highclere Castle

Greenham Common and Berkshire

The highlight of the conference, for me, was probably Candy Adkins’s talk about her ATA pilot mother, Jackie Moggridge (nee Sorour). Candy had brought along a ton of her mother’s memorabilia – her original logbook was amazing. For fans of Code Name Verity, here’s the page where she first flies a Lysander – there are “Puss” flights (as in Puss Moth) also on the page! (I took a ton of pictures of entries in this log book.)

Candy told a wonderful story of how her mother used to give her “Spitfire flying lessons” under the duvet before bed. “Now hold the controls and close your eyes – just think you want to turn right. Just think it, and you’ll turn.” When her mother died, Candy – not a pilot herself - was given the opportunity by Carolyn Grace to scatter Jackie’s ashes from the Grace Spitfire, which has dual controls. Halfway through the flight, Carolyn said to Candy – “Hold the stick now – you have control! Just turn her gently right – ” Candy said, “I thought of those lessons under the duvet, and I just held the stick and thought… I want to turn right. And I did.” When they landed, Carolyn said to her, “You certainly are your mother’s daughter.”

It was much, much later in the day that I remembered why the name “Jackie Sorour” – Jackie Moggridge’s maiden name – is so familiar to me. She inspired an accident and an incident in Rose Under Fire. She is the ATA pilot who, while ferrying a Tempest, encountered a V1 flying bomb in mid-air and went after it – though she failed to get close enough to tip it before it detonated and destroyed a village.

Jackie Moggridge, nee Sorour

ewein2412: (osprey hair)
We had our bank holiday early and are working today, but on Friday we drove a couple of hundred miles across the country to see THIS PLANE in flight.


It is a Catalina, a flying boat (you pronounce that like one word, with the emphasis on the first syllable: “FLYingboat”), the oldest airworthy amphibian plane in the UK. It can land on water or land. This one was built in Canada in 1943 – it spent part of its life as a waterbombing firefighter! (Full details of its history here). It was in Oban on Friday as part of a five-day tour around Britain to commemorate, and indeed to recreate without incident, the 100th anniversary of the Circuit of Britain Race flown by Harry Hawker in 1913. (More on its progress here.)

I once had a lesson in a seaplane – this Piper PA-18 Super Cub, which also happens to be the oldest aircraft I have ever flown, built in 1954 – I flew it from Loch Earn to Loch Tay and back again, and used the experience (with added spice) in my short story “Chain of Events” (in Rush Hour: Reckless, edited by Michael Cart). I have a secret desire to become an accomplished seaplane pilot, buy my own amphibious aircraft (possibly a Teal), and spend the rest of my days loch-hopping. So when I heard the Catalina, one of a dying breed, was coming to Oban, I put the date in my diary and Tim and I took the day off work to go see it.

We arrived at Oban Airport just as the Catalina was finishing its flying display and coming in to land!

catalina in flight

There were a ton of people out taking pictures (where did they hear about this, anyway?), and there was a little craft sale going on in the hangar. The flight school was open and… well, one of the instructors, Graham Dawson, used to work at Perth so we knew him, and Tim had brought his flight bag and his license is current, so we hired the school’s Cessna 172 and went for a flight around the Inner Hebrides.

catalina and cessna 172

Like you do. Because you’re there and the plane’s available.

Guys, it was just unbelievably beautiful, and one of the coolest spontaneous days off we’ve ever had. We flew over the grass airstrip on Mull.

glenforsa airfield

We saw Staffa


and Fingal’s Cave

fingals cave

[cue Mendelssohn] all from the air. We flew over Iona and saw the abbey.


iona village

iona abbey

There is a whole lot of nothing out there, just sea cliffs and inaccessible white beaches and green mountains and ruined castles.

beaches on mull

castle on island

And all within a hundred miles or so of home—accessible if you know how and if you are careful.

I was so glad we had Graham along, partly because he was extremely conscious of where the good fields were to glide to if the engine failed and which passes to avoid in case the clouds closed in, but mainly because he knew this landscape like the back of his hand and could point out things like the Dutchman’s Cap and the Atlantic Bridge.

We landed just as the rain started and then stood in line for about forty minutes to get a look at the interior of the Catalina. The “blisters” are an original feature (though the glass has been replaced) and were used for loading and unloading crew when the plane was parked on water. We climbed in just as a pair of nonagenarian former Catalina crew were climbing out. They were awesome. (Very agile, too.)

Bonuses: Catalina and pipe band.

bagpipes and catalina

Also, I just love this shot of them refueling - so many caring hands crawling all over this old plane.

refueling catalina

We got home just in time for me to make supper for Mark before driving out to Jane Yolen’s house in St. Andrew’s for Bob Harris’s book launch—his hilarious The Day the World Went Loki has just been released by Floris Books.

A pretty darn awesome day of skiving.
ewein2412: (osprey hair)
In the last week I have tried two things I never did before - gliding and curling. Yeah, I know, call me THE RANDOM WOMAN! Or maybe not so random. Tim gave me the gliding voucher as a Christmas present last year and it has taken me this long to get around to redeeming it (I have been trying, but the weather has not been cooperative). And curling… why? I don’t know. Because it is Scottish.

My gliding “mini-course” took place at the Scottish Gliding Centre at Portmoak a couple of days ago - one of the clearest, coldest most glorious winter days we can ask for in these parts, perfect for flying in a powered aircraft, but not quite windy enough for good gliding. I got to take over the controls and practice my soaring skills for about an hour but that was pretty much it (which means I get to go back and have another go!). I did get to go up twice, but the second time we had a rather interesting experience alongside this lump of rock...

benarty hill

... where it was pretty obvious to me that we weren’t going anywhere but down, and it also felt like we were being blown closer and closer to these crags (I don’t have my own pictures of being up-close-and-personal with these crags, because I figured at this point the pilot really didn’t need the distraction of me being a casual tourist). All was well in the end, and we even managed to land in the right place, but my instructor, Chris, willingly pointed out all the “Plan B” landing places.

This is the plane I flew:


(It is a Schleicher ASK-21, and it makes me ridiculously happy that the first glider I have ever flown is a state-of-the-art training glider from Germany.)

There was another guy on the course taking turns with me, and he got lucky with the wind, which is why I didn’t get more gliding action. So I spent most of the day on the ground working as a gopher. Which was HUGELY fun. I did the radio to the winch operator at the other end of the field, telling him when a glider was ready to be launched - the radio is in the little caravan you can see behind the plane. You can’t really see it in the photo, but there is also a 4x4 jeep-type vehicle with tractor tires parked behind the caravan, used for towing gliders from the hangar to the launch site and back. It is a measure of my supreme geekiness that the most thrilling thing I did that day was DRIVE THE 4x4 TOWING A GLIDER BEHIND ME. (The glider remained on the ground, people, on the ground. I towed it across the field-turned-ice-rink from the hangar to the launch site and back.) Actually, part of the thrill of towing the glider was the matter-of-fact way they roped me into doing it - “You need to drive, because I have to walk beside the plane and hold the wing. Just keep it in second and take your foot off the clutch and it’ll go at walking speed.” You have to hang your head out the window to watch the guy behind you in case he wants you to stop - the 4x4 is too muddy to see out the back window or in the wing mirrors. “Thanks, mate.” (“Thanks, mate.” Maddie hugged herself with pride and pleasure. I’m one of them.)

I was absolutely frozen afterward. It was actually colder flying the plane, because you’re not moving (or only moving your hands and feet), than it was running about on an open field for 4 hours in below-freezing temps. My hands, which were gloved the whole time, are chapped. If I were to do it again I would wear long underwear, snow boots, and ski gloves. Although I’d dressed warmly, of course I’d dressed as I would for powered flight in a marginally heated cockpit!

You know what’s neat about gliding? You wear a glider. It’s an accessory, like skis, not a thing you sit in and drive, like a car. You can steer it with your head under the right conditions. And you can see absolutely everywhere, all the sky above and around you. It is much more like flying than any flying I’ve ever done.

I don’t know if I will take up gliding. Everyone I talked to at the gliding club confessed to being autistic. (I think they were joking.) Hanging out with bell ringers does prepare you for this type of personality, and they were an incredibly friendly bunch of people, and I really liked the way everybody on the airfield had to jump in and help each other - when you’re flying a powered aircraft you’re very much on your own on the ground unless you pester people. But my gosh, the amount of fluffing about involved. What a time suck. You don’t just go for a buzz for an hour. I think I need to retire if I am going to get serious about this.


Back on earth, I have now had two curling lessons at the ice rink in Perth, and I think I have finally found my winter sport. Every single bit of it is fun. Even when you aren’t doing anything, sliding around on the ice is fun. (There is an art to walking on the ice in your curling shoes - or rather, Mark’s curling shoes - that I was previously unaware of.) It is incredible how sweeping can keep a stone going. And once you figure out what is going on, it is all so strategic. I am really hoping it will enhance my shuffleboard skills for next summer...

It’s also cheap and convenient (I can walk to the curling rink); and, as winter sports go, fairly low risk. Plus it is WARMER THAN GLIDING.
ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
It is 10 years this spring since I started taking flying lessons, and 5 years since my license was current. For the past six months I have been working on revalidating my currency. I am SO SLOW, partly because of my persona as ‘The Flying Housewife’, partly because of the dratted weather. I was slow to get my license in the first place and I am slow to recover it. However, I do a practice test on Thursday. Today I was working on navigation and a diversion. In the rain. What fun! (My instructor said, ‘I love clouds. I really love clouds!’)

Honestly, I spend so much time working on handling, on practicing steep turns and stalls and forced landings - i.e., what to do in an emergency - that it always takes me by surprise when I find myself flying straight and level in the cruise, in trim, hands free, holding a heading toward a destination which won’t appear for another 15 minutes or so. Take a deep breath and look around! The sky is gray and full of cloud, but you can see the squalls and the hills and stay away from them. The fields of eastern Scotland are unbelievably green, except for the bright gold patchwork of oilseed rape here and there.

As I was doing the outside aircraft checks before take-off, a lark was singing over the runway, and I stopped to watch it - rising higher and higher, trilling constantly as it went, until I lost it. They seem to fly straight up.

I have been re-reading some of my notebooks in real time, from 10 and 20 years ago. I hardly wrote anything down during the first six months of 2002, and that is because I had a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old AND I was learning to fly. But sometime in August I did comment on the flying. Bear in mind, reading this, that I hadn’t even soloed yet when I wrote it.

You know what’s missing from this notebook? My flying lessons. Partly I feel like having a few measly old flying lessons doesn’t actually qualify you as learning to fly, and partly I am so swamped with learning it all and studying the books and doing the lessons that I haven’t got time to write anything down, and partly I am just scared out of my wits by it. Although I am not actually scared of the flying: I am scared of doing it wrong, of being on stage, of performing, of Looking Stupid. Isn’t that weird?

My flying is
nothing. I have about 15 hours behind me. I can’t navigate, I can’t work the radio, I don’t know the law, I can’t do anything by instinct, I grip the control column in a death grip. But two things: steering the plane on the ground (I mean, how dull and prosaic can you GET?); and landing. They give me enormous satisfaction. In the last two lessons I have actually caught on to landing; and now I’ve been kind of walking around occasionally marvelling to myself, ‘Hey. I can fly a plane.’

Because it’s not cool; it’s massive hard work, and concentration, and boring reading, and humiliation, and disappointment (rain, failure) - and then, suddenly, ‘I can fly a plane.’

A bit like writing a book.


And here’s part of my notebook entry for 20 years ago today. No kidding:

8 May 1992, Park Town, Oxford. I dreamed that I caught Loki at the tail end of my father’s funeral and, while not exactly outwitting him, managed to make a deal with him. He said, ‘I don’t make deals,’ and something to the effect of, ‘You’re playing with fire and you’re in over your head,’ and I said, ‘I happen to know that you made a deal with the Lord of the Dream World and that he took your hand in exchange for your freedom. Well, I can give you back your hand’ - which I had, right there, this disembodied hand - ‘But it’ll cost ya’ - thinking, Not a bad thing to have Loki in yer debt! …Hmm. I suspect that my part of the bargain has something to do with this short-story I was going to write. Note that my soul was NOT part of the bargain.

I want to say something like… Really, I just write the same thing over and over and over, don’t I?

And no, I’ve no idea what the short story in question was.
ewein2412: (mini carte d'identite)
Thank you to all those who have sent me links to obituaries for Raymond Aubrac, the French Resistance leader who died on Tuesday at the age of 97. Aubrac was much in the news yesterday here in the UK, but it was only while watching the BBC News at 10 last night that I made my own connection with him, which I thought I’d share. It was someone casually mentioning that he’d been rescued from the Gestapo by his “pregnant wife” that made me recognize him.

Here’s the story I know—Aubrac’s escape from France in early 1944, as told by Hugh Verity in We Landed by Moonlight (Ian Allan Ltd., 1978):

On the same night of 8/9 Feburary, [John] Affleck completed [Operation] ‘Bludgeon’ at his second attempt. They landed at their target at [11:30 p.m.]. The field was waterlogged and the Hudson [aircraft] was bogged while taxying back to the take-off point. Affleck had to stop the engines and call for assistance from the team on the ground and the passengers. They all manhandled the heavy aeroplane back to the take-off point and turned it into wind. It was trying to snow.

Once the loads were turned round Affleck started the engines but the Hudson would not move as the tail wheel had sunk in. They manhandled it again to clear the tail wheel. When this was done they found that the main wheels had sunk in up to the hubs so the engines had to be switched off again. A crowd of villagers arrived to help with the digging and pushing. The only French words the crew could muster was the navigator’s ‘Allez-hop!’

Some oxen and horses were then brought to the scene and hitched to the Hudson to drag it forward out of the mud, but they could not move it. At one point all work ceased as a German aircraft flew overhead. Affleck worked out that the latest safe time to take off would be [3:00 a.m.]. If not airborne by then the aircraft would have to be destroyed. He said to Paul Rivière, who was in charge on the ground: ‘If we have to burn the aircraft we’ll stick to you and run like hell for the Spanish frontier.’

He also decided that channels should be dug out in front of the main wheels so that he could taxi forward on the engines. This was eventually achieved. Meanwhile he had to stop the men from the Maquis [French Resistance guerrillas] removing all the guns and ammunition from the Hudson. Affleck attempted a take-off but could not build up enough speed and had to throttle back. While taxying back to line up for another attempt they were bogged once more, but this time managed to extricate the aeroplane quite quickly. He decided to take the minimum load and confined his passenger list to an RAF evader, one Frenchman [Aubrac], his wife and their young son. The man was a resistance worker who, under the sentence of death, had been rescued from a police van by his wife and friends. His wife had attacked the Gestapo in the van, tommy-gun in hand, when eight months pregnant. He seemed to be a nervous wreck. His wife was now within hours of giving birth. She just sat there in the mud.

At [2:05 a.m.], after they had been on the ground two and a half hours longer than intended, a final attempt at taking off succeeded—but only just. When very near the boundary of the field the Hudson hit a bump and bounced into the air at about 50 knots [quite slow for take-off]. Affleck just managed to keep it airborne, build up a safe speed and climb away. He had taken off with rather more than 15° of flap [helps in a short-field take-off but slows flight]. He was cold, wet and covered with mud from head to foot. After half an hour he realised that the Hudson was going very slowly, wondered why and realised that he had forgotten to put his flaps up.

He had no aerials left—they had all been broken off in the struggle on the ground. They found their way home without being able to identify themselves to the air defences of Great Britain. Eventually they landed at base at [6.40 a.m.]. The Hudson, covered with mud and ‘looking like a tank’, was greeted by the Station Commander, Group Captain ‘Mouse’ Fielden. A few days later Flying Officer J.R. Affleck was promoted to acting flight lieutenant and awarded an immediate DSO [Distinguished Service Order].

When he was describing this incident to me in 1975, John Affleck had two thoughts to add. Firstly, that, had he thought about it, he should really have flown all the way home with his wheels down. In the wisdom of hindsight, towards the end of his career as a professional airline pilot, he realised that there was a great danger of that mud-covered undercarriage becoming stuck or frozen up so that he would not be able to lower it for the landing at Tempsford. The other afterthought, looking back, was that he could have almost died of laughing at the struggles of the crew to communicate with the crowd of French helpers without any common language and that his main pre-occupation during this time was to stop these helpers damaging the Hudson.

The evader whom he brought back was Flight Lieutenant J.F.Q. Brough, of Carlisle, who had been with the Resistance since he crashed in France, in a 138 Squadron Halifax on 3/4 November 1943. In his letter to the author, Brough wrote:

‘As well as myself, we also carried Mr and Mrs Aubrac, two top members of the Resistance, and their young son. Mr Aubrac had been elected to the French Consultative Assembly in Algiers; Mrs Aubrac was nine months pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London the day we landed at Tempsford.’

This baby girl was named
Mitraillette (sub-machine gun).


Some of you may recognize the name Mitraillette. (I made an LJ post quoting some of this passage in March 2010, when I was deep in the throes of writing Code Name Verity: http://eegatland.livejournal.com/72287.html)
ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
On Saturday 10 March 2012, over a hundred small aircraft and their pilots joined in a fly-out from Headcorn in England to Le Touquet in France to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first flight across the English Channel by a woman, American Harriet Quimby.

I just love the photo of the woman dressed in Harriet Quimby’s purple flying suit.

Meanwhile, other women around the UK and the world participated in Women of Aviation week through an initiative known as 'Fly It Forward'. As a worldwide show of unity, women pilots have been introducing other women to the joys of flight.

Unfortunately I’m still not qualified to carry passengers as Pilot 1, so we had to get a flight instructor to come along so I could let my friend Sarah Carstairs get her hands on the controls. The cool thing about this was that the lovely instructor, Montse Mas Arcos, is Spanish, which made our flight a multinational thing - Sarah being British and me being American.

Sarah In Control

Appropriately (though we weren’t actually crossing the Channel ourselves), we flew north from Dundee to Montrose by way of the North Sea - had a terrific view of the cliffs and Lunan Bay. Scotland is really a very beautiful place to fly. Sarah got to fly back most of the way from Montrose right to the reporting point at Broughty Ferry.

Dundee looking good!

The Angus coast

I handed out the requisite Cadbury’s Dairy Milk after the flight - everybody feeling pleased with themselves. Me for organizing it, Sarah for flying, and Montse because she’d just heard she’s been accepted at Loganair as a commercial pilot.

‘A flying girl! A girl flying an aeroplane!’

That’s me on the left, with Montse (the pilot) in the middle and Sarah on the right. The plane is a Piper Warrior.

For more information about Women of Aviation Week, visit the site at http://www.womenofaviationweek.org
ewein2412: (verity text)
My personal encounters with wartime aircraft on I Want to Read That:


(I am such a nerd)

Also do check out Tanita's rants/riffs on "war stories" and the term "historical fiction" over on Finding Wonderland, using CNV as a case in point:



last week

Nov. 28th, 2011 03:59 pm
ewein2412: (harriet writing (text))
I give you guys so little of how I actually work, and I would really like to do a better job. But I am just so darn disorganized. Here is an actual page (two pages, really) of text that I wrote last week. It is from the middle of what is kind of an unrelated sequel to Code Name Verity, with a fresh main character who doesn’t appear in CNV.

ETA: It has been pointed out to me that this picture ought to come with a spoiler warning. So: SPOILERS EXIST in this picture. If you zoom in and get out your magnifying glass and your decoding pen, a determined reader may find it possible to read this. And then you will wish you hadn't. (Now you will all be tantalized. I can't win. RANDOM ANNOYING SPOILERS! just admire it from a distance! I'm sorry.)

The bit in the middle of the right-hand page says, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I was capable of writing in the CONVENTIONAL WAY - from left to right and top to bottom down ONE SHEET OF PAPER??

This page is making me laugh.

I bet that’s the last time this particular part of the story makes anyone laugh!

I went flying last Tuesday. I had a real flying lesson for the first time in FOUR YEARS, which is really too long. Time and money have been scarce and the local flying club has become more expensive and less convenient, and although I have renewed my license and kept my medical up to date, I just haven’t logged any hours.

Part of the “sell” for CNV is connected to my own authenticity, if you will, as a pilot, and with the publication date looming (6 Feb 2012!) I am starting to feel a bit fraudulent. So I decided I was determined to start fitting in at least one flight a month. Three weeks after I’d made this decision I still hadn’t done anything about it and November was beginning to creep away… Got to get some kind of motivation going. If you were an Air Transport Auxiliary Pilot, you were given a 2 oz bar of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate for every successful aircraft delivery you made. So I am rewarding myself with a Dairy Milk every time I go flying.

I am doing 2 things - going over all the handling and emergency drills with an eye to taking a test to get my "certificate of experience" up to date (my license is valid but not my certificate of experience), and I am doing it in a different plane (slightly bigger and more powerful, a 4-seater PA-28 rather than a 2-seater Cessna 152) to get a new "type rating." Unlike Perth, where I trained, Dundee has got actual commercial flights operating out of it from time to time, so it is a bit busier and more professional and I hope will help me build my ridiculously low radio confidence.

It should take me about 5 hours' flying to get the type rating and pass the test, and then I can rent a plane and go where I like and take passengers (ahahahaha).


Also last week was Thanksgiving, of course, and many whoopie pies were consumed:

These are vanilla. They are a lot like homemade Nilla wafers, so we don't bother with filling. Pumpkin whoopie pies were also available.

I thought people might also be entertained by these Evacuee Day photos... one of me and my boy, and one with fellow mad mums:

And finally, Mark’s Junior Brass Band won the Scottish Youth Brass Band Championship on Sunday. He plays trumpet. I am very proud of them!
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)


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

ewein2412: (harriet writing (no text))
My aunt gave me a pair of Hee!ies for my birthday. (Best birthday present ever! I wanted them very much.) It is amazing how NOT like skating it is to skate on your heels--I am also amazed that I ever managed to work out how to use them, which involved a lot of being pulled up and down the Promenade on the Deal seafront by my husband and children. Today I seriously brained myself with them for the first time. Skinned knees again at 42!

This is what I did this summer:

1) Flew small planes in NJ/PA/VT and got a US pilot's license. I can now fly planes registered in the US as well as those of 23 European member states. Or something like that.

2) Attended the 20th and final Children's Literature New England (CLNE) institute.

As a direct result of schmoozing at CLNE, I have been asked to speak at Children's Literature Midwest, the infant offspring of Children's Literature New England. If it goes ahead as planned, it will be held sometime next August, possibly in Ohio. The theme is "Conflict and Resolution." I have to come up with a reading list of relevant children's books to talk about. Suggestions are VERY, VERY WELCOME.

On the home front:

1) My grandmother (who is 90, remember?) visited us for 3 weeks in October. We took her to Bamburgh and Lindisfarne and Hadrian's Wall and Dover and the Lake District… everywhere, really. I did not manage to take her flying.

2) The bunny died while we were in the States in July--of old age, apparently, but it was very traumatic for Sara especially. She did such a stellar job of taking care of Bru while he was around that we let her choose a new pet. So now we have Laura [Ingalls Wilder] (….), a black and white female kitten, 11 weeks old.

3) A friend's child (the little brother of Sara's best friend) had a malignant brain tumor "the size of a tennis ball" removed ten days ago. He appears to be making a remarkable recovery, much to everyone's relief, but it has thrown the neighborhood into a state of high-strung emotion.

4) There are BABY DOLPHINS in the Tay. We went to see them on a boat.

Work-related bad news:

Both The Winter Prince and A Coalition of Lions are now officially out of print. The headache I am getting over trying to purchase remaindered copies of Coalition in paperback would make your eyes cross. None of MY children have brain tumors that I know of, so I am mellower about the fantastic administrative snarls that dog my books than I perhaps ought to be.

Work-related good news:

The Lion Hunter is scheduled for publication in summer 2007 (14 June 2007, if the crystal globe that is Amazon.com is to be believed--they also appear to know that it is going to be 208 pages, although we have not finished editing it yet!). The Empty Kingdom is set to follow in spring 2008. Together the books are parts 1 and 2 of a thing called The Mark of Solomon, which in my brain I always refer to as "The Adolescence of Telemakos." "The Mark of Solomon" is probably a better title.

I have seen lovely cover sketches for Lion Hunter, by the fabulous Cliff Nielsen.


A very funny link (ok, my sense of humor is a maybe a little warped). This is what happens when you get Google to translate the entry for "Mordred" on the German Wikipedia site:

In which Plumb Bob is married to Mrs. Morgause, and Guinevere takes Lance Plumb Bob as a lover!


and apologies to all for being such an inconsistent correspondent.


Mar. 22nd, 2006 01:18 pm
ewein2412: (Default)
The Metoffice is NO LONGER MY FRIEND. Excuse me, that last forecast did NOT say "SNOW OVER THE ENTIRE TAY VALLEY AT 12.00."

The plan was to fly to Cumbernauld (not very far) and have lunch there today, but I wimped out about 5 minutes outside the circuit when the visibility dropped to about 3 km at 2500 feet and it was snowing inside the cockpit. God, I hate it when that happens. I went scurrying back to Perth and landed in considerable murk. It was very weird weather; forecast clear, and the airfield where I was headed had said they had clear skies when I called to tell them I was coming, yet as I walked out to the plane I thought, geez, if I didn't know any better I'd say it was about to snow. The airfield staff at Perth agreed that it was impossible to tell what the cloudbase was just by looking--it could have been 1000 or 4000 feet; you could see the sun shining through the cloud, as though it were fog. There was no wind. Someone had taken the plane out earlier without any hitch.

It's not major snow, just flurries, but sheesh. I don't do snow. It is nice to fly over, not in.


In other news....

Apparently we offered to babysit a rabbit for a year while the owners travel around the world on their honeymoon. They are bringing it here on Easter weekend (I think this is very funny). It is probably a good way to acquire a pet, since the couple's parents, our neighbors, will look after it whenever we go away, and we won't need to feel guilty about asking them. I was thinking maybe we'd keep it a secret from the weasels--or drop dorky hints like, "The Easter bunny is coming to live with us!"

in still other news....

A friend of mine who has a boy in Mark's first grade class wanted to know if it was true that I was planning a sleepover for Mark, Joe, Kira, Vicky and Benjamin this weekend. Apparently Mark has been taking everyone's breakfast orders. Needless to say I have already told Mark this is NOT HAPPENING!

It is still snowing.
ewein2412: (cessna shadow)
There was military maneuvering scheduled "throughout the Highlands," according to Scottish Information and the NOTAMS ["NOtices To AirMen"], snowclouds over Aberdeen, and a little corridor of clear, empty sky over the snow-covered Cairngorms in between the clouds and the fast jets and parachutes. I flew due north from Perth for twenty minutes at 5,500 feet, nothing below me but snow-covered glen and mountain and forest.

The sense of accomplishment is fantastic. I'd never flown so high on my own, mostly because it's never clear enough. The typical cloudbase keeps you at a maximum of about 3000 feet. Consequently I've never flown over the mountains, at least not by myself.

In pilot terms it's a modest accomplishment. But today, as I pulled on long underwear and woolly socks, I realized I have come to a new perspective on my flight preparations. You know how you always worry about an engine failure in flight, and how you'll manage to survive it? Today, really for the first time, I realized that I was more worried about surviving the conditions on the ground in the Cairngorms than in surviving the forced landing.

Another first for me is the pictures, which I am proud to say I took myself, and yes, I was flying the plane too.

snowy scotland )

There are more here.

I just love flying over snow.

...I am flying
over mountain and meadow and glen
and I like it so well
that for all I can tell
I may never come down again

I may never come down to earth again
ewein2412: (Default)
I went flying today for the first time in 5 months. That's the longest by FAR that I've been grounded since I started flying 4 years ago. While I would not agree with my instructor that it is exactly like riding a bicycle, I was pleased to discover that I could still manage steep turns and stalls--my stalls were a ridiculous thing, as the last time I tried any was in the States last summer, where they make you do a simulated "stall on climb-out"--basically you point the plane straight up in the air and wait for it to try to topple over. Sheesh. They don't make you do that in Britain, but as a result of having done it in the U.S. I was overdoing it a bit. What fun. (I might add that I do not enjoy this exercise.)

I failed to do a reasonable landing without power over the trees and onto the short runway… we tried at least 3 times and I didn't once lose enough height to make it down. It was very annoying and humiliating, because I'd just done my best ever "practice forced landing" where you pretend you are landing in a field with no power. Finally I begged to be allowed to land on the long runway, with power, in spite of the crosswind; because the clouds were closing in to the point where you couldn't see the horizon, and the windscreen was covered with rain. Just like being in school again. (I vowed that once I had my license I would only go flying on sunny days--HAH.)

Oh, and the other excitement was that while we were up, somebody out there sent out an "urgency" call which turned out to be of no consequence, but startled us into high alert for a moment or two; and my instructor mistook a skein of geese for a military jet and wrenched control out of my hands for a moment. The birds in V formation did look a bit like a Tornado as they passed below us, quite close by.
ewein2412: (Default)
Tim's back from his week in California at the big games trade fair, E3. And this is what he brought home for me: Saiyuki vols. 1-7, Angel Sanctuary 5-7, Descendants of Darkness 3 and 4, Fullmetal Alchemist 1, and the FMA DVDS 1 and 2. WOW. Good bye brain cells E Wein!

He went flying while he was there (at a quarter the hourly rate it is here)--got checked out and hired a Cessna 172 and took off for Catalina. I just saw the pictures and I am SO impressed... How can this man fly over sea fog, talk to ten different ATCs, and TAKE PICTURES AT THE SAME TIME??? He had this bizarre picture of a sort of whirlpool in the fog, a hole in the cloud below him with clear blue water below that. And of course, pictures directly overhead LAX, because it's uncontrolled airspace if you fly straight overhead at 3000 feet (or something like that... don't quote me).

Meanwhile, I discovered he'd installed some WWII combat flight simulator on the upstairs computer, and I'm so clueless at the controls that I can't even fly straight and level ("Your right wing has been strafed. You have lost your rudder. You have taken a direct hit on your engine." etc). I managed to turn on the oxygen before the screen went black, however.

LiveJournal Username<input ... >
favorite drink<input ... >
weapon of choice<input ... >
do you like the taste of envelope glue?<select ... ><option ... >yes</option><option ... >no</option><option ... >probably too much</option></select>
the evil ninja mastermind hellbent on world dominationminayi
the bewitching and sexually ambiguous one that no one knows anything aboutrachelmanija
the scarysmart one, eerily calm even in the midst of chaosrachelmanija
the tiny, seemingly-delicate one with a deadly temper and awesome strengthkatranides
the pale, quiet one who turns out to be really, really scarytelophase
the sexy, smirking anti-villain who joins your side at the last momenttelophase
the snarky punk mercenary who's only there for the money and coz they love a good fighttelophase
the distant arrogant aristocrat who wants to bring down the society they were born intosartorias
<input ... >
This Fun Quiz created by charlotte at BlogQuiz.Net
ewein2412: (E Wein age 7)
I drove out to the airfield again the Saturday after the hailstorm, and couldn't make myself get in a plane. It was very windy. Death Darcy-Wilkes (Death as in Peter. Darcy as in Mr., and Wilkes as in Ashley. Not his real name, but very like it), the white-haired ex-RAF stunt pilot who wears a tweed three-piece suit when he dresses up, offered to fold his 6 foot 4 inch frame into the passenger seat of a Cessna 152 and hold my hand. The wind was "straight down the runway," but it was the runway I've only used once before, at least two years ago; it's not very long, and you have to come down steeply over a forest. I bailed out. DDW told me I was "showing lack of moral fibre." I said, No, just lack of spine. I suppose from an RAF point of view it amounts to the same thing, but gosh darn it, I'm not shooting down the Luftwaffe. I'm supposed to be doing this for FUN.

The following Wednesday I went back, and braved the same runway in a wind that was almost as stiff as Saturday's had been. Following a truly embarrassing circuit of the airfield (I never came close to the runway), I nailed the next two landings, then flew off over Loch Tummel and Loch Tay. It was a glorious day; there was melting snow on the Cairngorms; I had the sky to myself. And it all seemed worth it.

I booked a flight for the following week (i.e., this week). Now, what I haven't bothered to chronicle here is that the flying club is in the middle of a wee bit of organizational turmoil. The club committee (of which I am a member) has decided, for various reasons, that they are no longer going to use the services of the folks who previously provided them with aircraft rental and instruction. However, because I don't own my own aircraft, until the club provides another rental service, I'm stuck with the old one. So now. The committee are annoyed with me because I'm still hiring planes from the old rental service. The old rental service are annoyed with me because I'm on the committee that gave them the boot. The ex-RAF stunt pilot thinks I'm a coward.

Bleh. I have actually started to have nightmares about the whole thing.

BUT!!!! (This is the punchline.) I've just become the flying club's new NEWSLETTER EDITOR! I am the soul of discretion and diplomacy.


Incidentally, I didn't get to fly this week after all. It was pouring.

I promise to talk about something other than flying next time I post.
ewein2412: (Default)
I wimped out of flying again today. The weather was marginal all morning (raining and misty) but around noon it started clearing up a little; Fiona who manages reception at the flying club was very encouraging on the phone and said to come do some circuits (of the airfield, i.e., landing practice; the clouds are so low at the moment that it would be rather pointless to try to go anywhere). So I headed on out to the airfield and on the way it started raining. Then it started pouring. Then it started to hail. I got to the airport, parked, considered going in to say hi (but it was still raining)... so I called Fiona from the parking lot and said, in the immortal words of Tim, sod this for a game of marbles. Fiona said, "but Ari's just taken off, and so-and-so's about to go up." OH--what a wimp I felt like! But it rained all the way home, too.

EVEN THOUGH I would have been landing in a crosswind, and it was raining, I WOULD have gone, if it hadn't been for the HAIL.

ewein2412: (Default)
I haven't been flying since the beginning of December, and Tayside Aviation won't let you rent planes without a check flight, and I am such a wimp anyway, that I thought I'd get someone to take me up and make me do all the things I hate most: stalls and steep turns and the dread Practiced Forced Landing (or PFL, for short--basically, you cut the power, pretend you've had an engine failure, and land in a field. Well, you don't *really* land in a field, but you come within about thirty feet of it). Simon Barr, who was my very first instructor, went with me. He has been through a number of job changes in the last couple of years (he is no longer half my age), and I have not been flying with him since 13 December 2002--a week before I did my first solo navigation. How strange that is, somehow.

Anyway, Simon and Fiona (my friend at the front desk) had plotted between them that they were going to turn this flight into my Biennial Review, a fine thing, since if I'd known ahead of time I would have probably not been able to eat breakfast.

Quite a lot of gibber about flying )


ewein2412: (Default)

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