David / by Alexander Ward

I'm driving down a windy country road and peering out of the window at the gloomy weather. It's raining and there's big grey clouds rolling over the landscape. This was not a perfect day for my first time in a little plane.

I arrive at the airfield and I'm definitely feeling nervous - but I love an adventure and I'm enjoying the nerves a little. David is part of the family and dropped me a line when he knew I was heading down to Essex for the weekend. I find him in the main building finishing a flight with a trainee pilot and we catch up before he introduces me to the basics of how a plane works and hands me some headphones. 

I tell him I'm a bit nervous and he reassures me before we head out onto the tarmac. I point at a reasonable sized plane and ask if that's ours, he points to a much smaller one beyond it. This is a big step from the Airbus I just got back from New Zealand in. 


David walks around the plane, occasionally grabbing a bit of the bulkhead and giving it a wiggle, going through his external checks. I stand still taking it all in and letting the nerves settle and he finishes walking round; "Yeah, that should be alright." - I tell him that's very reassuring and he gives me a wry grin. 

We jump in, he explains all the instruments, what to touch, what not to touch, what definitely not to touch and it's immediate how connected you feel to the machine. You're tucked in, arms and legs against the cockpit, sealed in by a harness. 

"There are no parachutes, right?" I say, just to doublecheck I haven't forgotten it;"No, we land with the plane. One way or the other." Another smile that erodes the nervousness and gives you a glimpse at what an experienced instructor David is. 


There's more checks and before long, the engine starts and we begin to taxi, checking functions as we go before reaching the end of the runaway (no wider than a slither of tarmac) and gunning the engine until we liftoff and begin to climb. I come to learn rather quickly it's bumpy at low altitudes and we're thrown around a little - I'm happy to admit that at this moment I realise it's all a bit scary and it might not be for me, but then I remember I can't get out and quickly embrace the feeling. 


We take a flight across the Essex and Suffolk countryside, David showing me how to climb, dive and turn - it's incredible flying this thing. It's so connected and I quickly see how addictive it can become - you get a whole new perspective on things a thousand feet from the ground, an entirely new context of the land. 

Throughout, David is exactly what you'd expect from an experienced instructor - patient, funny and enjoying the explanation of how it all works. He's pointing out the familiar landmarks as we approach them and gives me control so I can really get into it. His patience comes through again as I ask if I can shout 'May Day' over the radio, which he denies me. 


Before long we're heading back to the airfield and he guides us in to a soft landing - I compliment him and he berates himself; his context is the hundreds of technical landings he's committed, mine is reaching the ground in the right way (not on fire, etc). 

If you're in Essex or Suffolk, give the Flying School a whirl.