A Bird's Eye View

I should imagine most of us have thought it at one time or another as we have laid back on the beach or walked along the cliffs watching the gulls effortlessly diving – “Imagine me being able to do that!” Well, I thought, “Yes, some day, somehow, I’ll do just that!”
My first airborne experience was at one of the last Battle of Britain air displays to be held at RAF Thornaby (mid 1950’s). I still have the ticket for that first flight – 10 minutes in a De Havilland Rapide, owned by Cumberland Air Taxis. It cost all of 10 shillings (50p) which does not seem much today but was a lot to me at the time!
Around 1960 a Sunday newspaper advertised adventure holidays and among the list was a week’s gliding at the Yorkshire Gliding Club at Sutton Bank. Included in the fee was accommodation at the pub in Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe and a week’s tuition. It wasn’t powered flight but it was going to get my bum off the ground, so I sent off my deposit and I was soon on my way.
It was during that week that I coerced the chief flying instructor, who incidentally had lodged in Brotton, to get the old Tiger Moth out of the hanger and take me over Skelton. I took a camera along and got some black and white photographs of Skelton High Street, Harker Street, Cleveland Street, Boosbeck Road, Park Street and Skelton Church.
After the week’s course was over, I joined the club and continued my glider pilot training. I would leave ICI on a Friday evening, pack a few things in my van, and then it was off to Sutton Bank for the weekend.
The first solo flight is most memorable as you get hurled into the air on the end of a 3mm piano wire and you are suddenly on your own! You drop the launching wire, do a couple of left turns and you are travelling parallel to the runway – time, in fact, to turn and see the empty seat next to you! I thought, “Wow! You’ve done it kid – you’re on your own now!” But before long you have to concentrate on getting down in one piece in the right place – no engine remember!
Well, all that soon became history, and many more flights and written exams later, I achieved my first Pilot’s Licence. Then girls, marriage, mortgage and a family tend to clip your wings a bit if you are not rich (and I wasn’t) and things went into abeyance for a few years.
About 10 years later, whilst living near Sunderland, I kept seeing small aircraft go by and once again, the bug bit. So I joined the Sunderland Flying Club and subsequently got my Private Pilot’s Licence. Well then where should I fly? Why, Skelton of course! My sister, Carole, lived and worked there, so off I’d fly into the blue yonder, through the smoke at Warrenby Steelworks, past Redcar and Marske and up to Skelton.
After a few low passes over Flowston and North Skelton (Dave Brown’s butcher’s shop) it was up to Hollybush – it used to stir up the natives a bit! After two or three passes over Bell’s shop, Carole would come out with a tea towel and give me a wave. My journey recognised, off I would depart back to Sunderland. Evidently, any pilot circling Hollybush got the same treatment, but it was not always me – I wonder what the other pilots thought!
Then disaster struck in two ways; first I was made redundant, then Sunderland airfield closed to make way for the Nissan car plant. After 4 years I rectified both of the aforementioned by moving to the south of England. By working here I now have a few airfields to choose from – Chilbolton, Thruxton, Popham, Old Sarum and Boscombe Downe to name but a few. I eventually joined the Army Flying Association which flies from Middle Wallop.
So now it is off to the Isle of Wight and the Needles and land at Sandown for a quick coffee – all in 20 minutes – mind it makes it an expensive cup of coffee!
Two or three years ago I had not done much flying that year, so I saved up my pennies and had a flying trip to Teesside – two hours by air, six hours by car! As I was taxiing for departure at Teesside, unbeknown to me, my sister Carole had come to see me off, but we had missed each other in the Met. office or departure lounge. Undeterred, she managed to contact the control tower who called me on the radio thus: “Lima Alpha is Mr Boyes aboard?” I replied I was so he asked, “could I wave out of the window as I passed the control tower, as my sister wished to wave me off!”
With the cost of flying slowly increasing, I do not know how long I can keep it up. As I did 20 years ago, I may have to build my own aeroplane again – but that is another story . . . !

Terry Boyes

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