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Monday, June 21, 2010

The thrill of Flying

It all started on the 25 of Dec last Year (2009) when I opened the most unusual Xmas box you can think of. A small purple package the size of a Cd audio disk, and two somewhat lager packages in the same wrapping, but don’t be mistaken my family had the plot all worked out to the N’th degree.

My daughter Lauren had her camera ready to take whatever was to happen next. I had to open them in the correct order. The first gift contained a small plastic toy plane with the fuselage filled with sweets and the first picture was taken of a puzzled me.

Next I had to open the gift that contained what I thought was a Cd disk, still puzzled I had to read carefully before I eventually realized what they were giggling about, and then the second picture was taken.

I was totally supersized that they got me a flip in a DH82 Tiger Moth and I had to do this with in the next 6 months.

The last gift was a pair of flying goggles for the flight, along with the third picture been taken.
At first I was a bit concerned about flying in a just about 80 years old Tiger Moth and was putting it on hold until Lauren came to me 3 weeks ago and announced that “ Guess what Daddy?, you are going to fly in the Tiger Moth on Father’s Day".
Well there was no turning back for me now and all I could do was to count the sleeps (20 of them) as Father’s Day came closer and on the last two day’s I even started to look up the history of this once famous trainer.

So when the sun came up yesterday (Father’s day) I at least new that the Gipsy Major inverted 4 cylinder power plant of Tiger moth could deliver 100 KW or 130 Hp (well that is the same power as my car develop) and that over 4000 of them was built before and during the second world war with the main aim to be used to train pilots.

With most of the butterflies in stomach now under control (only just) we set of at 9.30 AM to Rand Airport where there are two Tigers Moths operating from. I was treated to a Breakfast in the Harvard Café (overlooking the apron).

We were just about finish with our breakfast when Lauren got a call on her cell phone that it was my turn to get ready.

First I had to get into a proper flying overall and then my wind breaker over that. The outside temperature was around 12 deg C. So I was expecting it to be colder once in the air and in an open cockpit.

Then all of us set of to where the bright yellow Tiger were standing and with the aid of a small step ladder I mounted the front seat of the Tiger Moth.

As you can see on the photos there is no fancy instrumentation and the original huge compass is still in place (Yes Sir No GPS!!). In the mean time Lauren and Celeste were taking pictures as much as they could while I was getting strapped in and making me comfortable.

Then the pilot Ken Cloete gave me a short flight briefing for the 30 minute flight( with some planed low flying included) before he step to front of the Moth and after the second swing the Gipsy major motor jumped to life(Yes , no self starter). What surprised me was that even with the open cockpit how smooth and relatively quiet the Gipsy Major was running.

We took off in a southerly direction and the headed towards the south. The Tiger Moth effortless gained height while the Gipsy Major motor hummed along. As we got close to Klipriver drive, we cut across the hill and Ken came so low down a narrow valley that I was able take a picture of our shadow on the ground.

When we got to the bottom of the valley Ken carried on flying just about ground level and flowing the Klipriver back towards Rand airport. Every now and then he would pull hard up if the reeds and trees would get to close for comfort. Eventually as we got back to the main highway( I think from Durban) and when we turn and flew parallel with it could not help to smile as we over took some expensive motor cars on the highway just below us.

Then all to soon the Runway at Rand Airport appeared before us and Ken Made a Perfect 3 point landing (I could hardly feel the moment we touched down) in the short grass next to the tar runway (due to the lack of brakes on the Moth) and a end to a flight that I will still remember for a long time to come.

To my family and all the staff at Classique Aviation ( ) many thanks for a Thrilling experience and to Ken Cloete the pilot for the excellent way he flew the Tiger Moth especially when we were doing the low flying. I highly recommend that if you can to have flight with them to do so as worldwide there are only 250 airworthy Tiger Moths left and they might not be flying for many years from now.

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