Come fly with me
PUBLISHED: 10:38 15 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:38 15 September 2015
Lucy Etherington takes to the skies with Mid Anglia Microlights
It’s a beautifully clear Sunday afternoon in Beccles. A little bit windy maybe?
It’s funny how you become acutely aware of the weather when you’re about to get into a teeny aircraft. Especially one so small it looks like a bike with wings.
For a brief moment, I wonder if my thrill seeking has got out of hand. Perhaps I should walk calmly away from the airfield and assume my usual position on the sofa in front of EastEnders with a glass of wine.
But I’ve got to that point where I don’t want to let my instructor down. Gary Taylor seems more excited than I am, and he’s been flying microlights for Mid Anglia Microlights for over 12 years.
“It is the most amazing experience,” he enthuses. “Like you, I just started with a taster lesson, and that was it – I was hooked.”
It helps that he looks a bit like a 1930s Boys Own illustration of a pilot – a tad Biggles by way of Captain America. I’ve decide to trust him based on this rather than his CV. Gary is a former aircraft engineer, now full-time instructor and teacher with Mid Anglia Microlights. It says on the website that Gary flies weightshift microlights and light aircraft “with the occasional foray into the world of aerobatics.” No such forays today, I hope.
Beccles airfield itself is charmingly picturesque, surrounded by golden fields and skies. There are a few huts with a waiting room, reception and office, and a sweet garden with picnic tables. There’s also a resident rooster called Bertie.
I’m going up in two microlights today. One is the Ikarus C42 (brand new – I had to delay my lesson because they were waiting for the delivery). It looks like a small plane, the kind of thing weekend enthusiasts fly to France to buy wine. I’m ok with that one. The other, the GT450, is like a chair dangling from some wings with some kind of trapeze attached. Am I expected to do stunts?
“I describe the C42 as the car, and the GT450 as more like a motorbike,” says Gary, cheerfully. “Some people prefer being enclosed, whereas others – myself included – like being exposed to the elements.”
I like elements too. I’m just not so sure if I will at 2,000 feet. Maybe it’s good we’re starting with the ‘car’, as Gary says.
In the C42 I don’t need to wear anything special, just a pair of earphones so we can communicate. We sit side by side, like we’re off for a Sunday jaunt in a vintage banger. Take off is quite surprising. One minute you’re driving a long a bumpy road, the next the ground is a long way down. It is like a car – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I feel quite childishly thrilled by the whole experience, and somewhat over-excited by tiny cars and houses below.
Gary lets me have a go at steering, but he makes it look so easy and I feel like I’ve just got a new video game and can’t make it point in the right direction. However, after a couple of goes, it begins to make sense. After that I let Gary take control so I can gaze at the stunning scenery, the curve of the earth and distant sea. We fly over Henham Hall, and see the exquisite gardens from above. Then towards the coast, which is just spectacular from the air.
Gary takes over as we swoop down over my parents’ house in Walberswick so I can wave to them in their garden – how cool is that! I wish we could go all over Suffolk and wave to people I know.
“It’s fantastic seeing places that are familiar from the air as you discover things you didn’t know were there,” says Gary. We see huge lakes hidden behind trees and fabulous houses in the middle of nowhere.
We head back and I change into a suit like sleeping bags sewn together. Now is not the time to ask if my bum looks big in this. Gary suggests I put on socks as it can get really cold, even in July. The GT450 is like riding carrion, me with Gary between my legs (in the most chaste sense possible), him steering with the trapeze. We trundle along the runway then, almost miraculously, lift off.
I have to say, I love the GT450 the most. It might be the element of fear which makes it so thrilling, or the fact you can literally look at the ground dropping away beneath your feet. It might also be the way it swings about – the C-42 made me feel a bit car sick until I opened the window. The GT450 has no windows, nothing between us and the sky.
We swoop over Lowestoft and Oulton Broad. When we hit mild bumpy turbulence, I whoop and in a moment of madness suggest a loop-the-loop. Gary says we could if I wanted – I forgot about his ‘occasional forays into the world of aerobatics’. I demur (Biggles-speak for ‘chickening out’), but slightly regret it. Perhaps next time.
When we land (extremely smoothly I might add), another family are waiting with their son, who had been given flying lessons as a birthday present. His grin is a little too wide, as mine had been before I took off. Now I feel exhilarated and on top of the world, like a seasoned flier.
I begin to tell him how great it was, but then remembered Gary trying to describe it to me, and decide to let him find out for himself.
For more info: www.mamicrolight.co.uk