…for ‘utterly knackered and utterly refreshed at the same time’.
I need such a word because it’s how I feel after every Young Aviator event! (And I only pitch up, help out and wander off again, so goodness only knows how the actual organisers feel!)
Have done two Scout Aerocamps on the trot this weekend and last so the effect is doubled and I’m in a sort of giddy daze of grinning, post-flight faces, mobs of kids launching balsa gliders and water rockets, tangles of maps and pens as they learn navigation, muddly cheerful crowd control as they clamber in and out of aircraft, sheer bedlam as they all talk at once learning r/t, the Battle of Britain-esque scramble for aircraft when the weather lifted, floating around the summer evening sky in a pair of 194os Aeroncas and scoffing bacon butties at midnight in the hangar.
The first event was at Kemble, the first time they’d run such as event, and the weather wasn’t especially kind. Shortage of pilots to fly the kids was also a challenge (the experience and currency rules for flying Scouts are relatively strict and as a relatively new PPL I don’t tick the boxes for P1 time.).
The general idea for these events is that the day is split into a series of groundschool session which cover the topics required for the badges the Scouts are aiming to get – (typically, Aeronautics, Meteorology and Navigation). These should be easily familiar to any pilot as they are very like a cut down version of the theory exams for the PPL.
At the Kemble event I was sharing the delivery of the navigation workshop — a fun one to do since the high motivation factor is that they will actually go out and fly the route they plan! (Normally a 10 mile leg triangle).
Other groups learned the basics of r/t with a handy simulator (available to build yourself from the LAA Youth and Education Support site), Marshalling, Effects of Controls and Instruments with the help of some of the aircraft and cockpits in the Bristol Aero Collection, and Met (we saw a lot of that!).
The Scouts themselves were responsible for the logistics of feeding everyone and it’s safe to say no one went hungry!
The evening was taken up with a glider building competition where two bits of balsa and the uninhibited imagination of a 30 youngsters produced the most diverse and amazing results (both succesful and less so!). I was heartened to see craft knives treated sensibly and amused that the superglue, in contrast, was guarded like a biological weapon!
Later still there were water rockets, and roasted marshmallows.
The original plan was to interspersed the grounschools with the flying, but drizzle all day Saturday shifted things to Sunday, where one group managed to get airborne before the wind increased outside of “Da Rules”. The others will be flown at a future event.
I hadn’t quite realised when blithely agreeing to help that I’d landed myself two weekends on the trot, but this weekend gone saw me off once again, this time to Devon and the lovely Belle Vue airstrip and another 24 Scouts.
I had the Instruments & GPS session this time, and the services of the much-adored G-SPDY, the second Build a Plane “Spirit of Devon Youth). As this was largely built by Scouts it holds a certain affection and after they’d all “had a sit” there was a certain amount of horse-trading going on when it came time to fly, as to who would get to go in “Speedy”.
The Devon Strut have a truly mighty and dedicated collection of pilots and 6 aircraft flew all 24 Scouts as well as finding time to get in flights for the Leaders, and muggins 😉
I was shepherding the Leaders to and from aircraft when I suddenly found I’d run out of passengers for Pete and the lovely G-IVOR.
“What about you then?” he asked and…
Well… Would have been rude not to wouldn’t it! 😉
IVOR is a 1940s Aeronca Chief and just bubbling with charm and character. I’m afraid my Tommyhawk trained feet did the poor thing no favours at all but I’m very much enjoyed the flight. The more so since the first approach to land was waved off with a general feeling there was no real need to stop just yet and was followed by the idea of catching (“mating with”!) the other Aeronca G-BPFM.
This was slightly easier said than done as they were some way ahead of and above us and there’s only so fast you can climb behind 65 horses… Accelerating level and zoom climbs were the order of the day, but that was fun in itself and we were soon a lovely pair of vintage machines bimbling across the Devon countryside.
I suspect it was only hunger that eventually drove us back to the airfield, by way of a run and break that was as spirited as could be managed by those 65 horses and an acute desire not to wrap one round the windsock and the other round the mast in the fairly close confines of the strip!
The buzz in the hangar over dinner was indescribable. I wax lyrical about flying on a reasonably regular basis and I can’t quite finds words that capture the sheer elation of the youngsters there, or even the leaders, especially those who had been nervous about going.
In fact the delight seemed to be in direct proportion to how nervous people had been before the trip!
Eventually the Leaders took the Scouts off down to the camping field to run off some of the pent-up energy before bedtime and the pilots settled down to an evening of chatter and flying talk and those afore-mentioned bacon butties, superbly cooked up by SPDY’s pilot (Cheers Jim — above and beyond the call of duty there!)
The following morning saw the dishing out of the badges they had achieved and at the age of 30 I got my first Scout badge with the gift to all the helpers of the brand new “Young Aviator” badge! Have to find a good place for it now.
So now I’m trying with some difficulty to settle back to a normal working week, waiting to see how the photos came out, and generally breaking out in a grin whenever the memories cross my mind.
I’ve said it before, but…
Lucky aren’t we?
On a related (i.e bacon butty) note, I also had a whale of a time at the Bourn Burned Children’s Club fundraiser fly-in, but went and wrote that up ‘yn Gymraeg’… Flying is good motivation for me too when trying to find something to write about that gives me a reason to strive and express myself in my rather flaky Welsh. The post is here and Google Translate makes a ragged but broadly accurate attempt at it.