To me Aerobatics is the pinnacle of aviation; performing stunts in flying machines that no flying machine has the right to be doing.
Since I starting flying, aerobatics is something that I have been wanting to do. Originally it was a desire for the thrill of it but after catting to a fellow pilot at my flying clubs christmas do I realised it isn’t all about the thrill. You see, Aerobatics is about safety, getting your plane into a stall, spin or upside down and then being able to safely recover from it is a hugely important skill. If I can do that I will be a much better pilot.
One story that stuck with me is from Neil Williams’ book on aerobatics was this: After suffering an pressure instrument failure on his military jet he was assisted in to a formation landing by another jet. The other jet overshot and on short finals accelerated away. Neil’s jet flew through the slipstream and flipped over by 90 degrees. He was saved by his default instinct to apply full rudder and push the stick forward. He only had this instinct through many years of experience as an aerobat. This stuck with me and is a great example of a reason why every pilot should go through a basic course in aerobatics.
My initial experience with Ultimate High was cut short by fog. But my second attempt proved to be much more successful! The sky was blue and cloudy. It seemed like great weather for aerobatics.
I had an initial briefing with my instructor for the day Jim Gosling. We covered Threat Error Management and the different manoeuvres we would be flying that day: The Wing Over; Aileron Roll; Barrel Roll and Loop the Loop. An unexpected surprise was getting into a flight suit and getting look like a fighter pilot for the day.
We headed out to the T-67 Firefly, a real beauty. Painted in yellow and it’s nose is covered with a shark grin that makes me think of a WW2 fighter. I was helped into a parachute and jumped into the left hand seat – which isn’t the captain’s seat in this plane – odd!
We took off from Goodwood and headed in the direction of Thorney Island. Flying with a joystick was a new experience I am not used to and the plane was a lot more responsive in comparison to the PA-28 I normally fly. We climbed underneath a small bank of clouds but as we reached the island the clouds disappeared leaving us with a large playground to make the use of. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
I don’t think I can do the feeling of aerobatics justice with words. My body is completely unused to doing anything like it, just simple manoeuvres made me feel like by inner organs were shifting and my face felt like it was falling off. I loved the feeling. There is something unnerving and addictive about nosing up well beyond the horizon. Going inverted for the first time made me feel giddy with excitement. Instead of seeing the sky above me I was seeing the sea. I’m sat here typing that and I just want to experience it again. The best way to see what I did is to watch the video below.
We landed back on the grass at Goodwood and I haven’t stopped smiling since. I know I will be back at Ultimate High to get my fix and improve my flying skills in the near future.