This weekend just gone was a momentous one for me as on Saturday I hit another turning point. This was no ordinary flying Saturday but the one that heralded the true beginning of my career as a display pilot – this Saturday I performed my first ever, real flying display – at a wedding no less!
I’d just like to say a massive congratulations to Ross and Caroline on their marriage. I’d also like to say a massive thank you to them both for allowing me to add a little bit of extra flair to what must have already been a truly fantastic day.
Getting to the airfield on Saturday morning to see nothing but grey skies, rain and drizzle, things didn’t initially look too hopeful for my transit down to the south coast and the beach wedding venue in Bournemouth. Several hours of sitting and drinking cups of tea, stagnating, worrying and thinking to myself that I’d really much rather just knock the whole caper on the head and go back home to bed eventually gave way to a set of plan changes. These plan changes eventually led me up into the skies in trepidation. Immediately after take-off I began skimming my way around storm clouds and beneath waves of mizzle, hoping that everything would just work out and I’d make it to the sea without having to turn back with my tail between my legs.
As the journey progressed (at some rate of knots courtesy of a stonking tailwind), things started to look fractionally less grey and I managed to pop out of the various drizzle and hail showers I’d mostly been encountering, another wave of doubt and concern washed over me in the way of a cold wind chilling you to the bone on a crisp autumn evening – what if all the weather I was running through caught me up again? What if it all conglomerated whilst I was displaying over the sea? Where on earth would I go? What would I do?! After a couple of minutes of what essentially mounted up to just ‘getting a grip’ I managed to conclude that I really was being ridiculous and that as the wings had stayed on and I could still see it probably wasn’t the apocalypse…
The sight of the coast instantly banished any thoughts of failure that had been niggling away – by this time I knew full well that I’d made it to where I needed to be and that I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to manage to get the display done on time. And so I did!
The display itself went without a problem (barring a very annoying camera failure that I’m still cursing about) and was actually really rather enjoyable. Drawing shapes in smoke over the sea, flying along a coastline with lines of people looking up watching and spotting the happy couple stood out at the front of the crowd were experiences I will never ever forget. The weather didn’t matter, the trauma of the journey melted away into insignificance and in those few minutes all I knew, felt, saw and became was the performance.
Perhaps that all sounds a bit melodramatic, but with every big step forward come big feelings for me. The journey back from the display was a bizarre experience – bad weather still plaguing and actually scaring me at times (ever seen rain ‘falling’ upwards? Nor had I unti Saturday…), and a total focus that didn’t leave until I finally shut down the engine back home at Gransden.
I received a telephone call the next day, from Ross and Caroline, both telling me that they’d loved the display. I can’t even really convey how I felt when they told me they’d mentioned me in the speeches and all the guests had cheered on being told who I was and where I’d come from. I’m not sure if I’m simply proud of how far I’ve come, or scared about how far I want to go, but this week my flying life has started coming into another kind of focus and is once again something I’m determined to never let go of.
Roll on the next display!
Just in case: if you’re at all interested in whether a display could work at your own celebration or event, then please get in touch with me! Take a look at my other site Biplane Displays.