4 helis, 3 instructors, 3 pilots and 2 students & 400 nautical miles in 1 day – Capt White’s relives Day One of the epic UK trip earlier this year
Day 1 – Distance approx. 400 nautical miles (4-5 hours flying time)
On Monday 17th June those taking part in this incredible trip met up around 8:30am at Elstree for a bit of preflight refreshment, check the aircraft and to finalise our flight plans for the day ahead! The pilot teams were:
Myself and Student Frank
Capt Neil Day and Capt Chris Langdon
Capt Matt Storey and Capt Lee Smyth
and Team Phil – Capt Phill Speechley and Student Phillip Hahn
“Ever since I got my Helicopter Private Pilots License, I have always wanted to fly around the UK. However, organising such a trip proved to be a very difficult task, and it never happened. I did tell Paul White that this was something on my “bucket list” and thought no further about it.
I was very pleasantly surprised when Paul, Harriet and the rest of team came up with a plan for such a trip which I immediately signed up for. What a unique chance to see so much of the UK and to enjoy a weeks flying.”
The weather was looking good, so all the pilots were keen to get going. Some of the pilots had decided to go through the London city zone, passing London City airport and others decided to fly around it slightly more to the East Coast. Myself and Frank were piloting the R66 had decided to take the London City route for a bit of sightseeing before heading south. London City airport was extremely busy that day, but the crew allowed us to go right near the end of the runway for some incredible views!
Then we headed south bound, just missing Gatwick airport straight down to Seaford, just west of Eastbourne. From there the navigation became a lot easier, heading west along the Coast. Passing Brightlingsea, Shoreham, Worthing, Bognor Regis and Selsey point. As we approached Thorney Island, there were quite a few Apache helis on the ground. Frank and I wanted to see as many sites as possible, so we flew towards Spinnaker Tower before crossing The Solent to the Isle of Wight.
Some of the pilots decided to stop at the Isle of Wight to refuel but in the R66 we had enough fuel for around 5 hours flying time so we decided to press on going clockwise around the Isle of Wight, passing Sandown, Ventnor, St Catharine’s point, and then up close and personal with famous landmark The Needles before heading back to mainland UK.
“My favourite airfield would have to be Sandown- Isle of Wight because of the beautiful approach, facilities and staff” – Lee Smyth
Once back to the mainland we flew over Herse Castle continuing Westbound more or less following the coastline from that point. We did head inland at Lime Regis landing at Dunkerswell to refuel both the helis and pilots. It was a beautiful airfield with lots of wonderful memorabilia. The weather had taken a bit of a turn now but it didn’t dampen our buoyant mood.
After lunch, we all headed off together towards Sidmouth then again along the Coastline flying over some famous West Country towns such as Torquay and onwards to Plymouth. Over the Eden project which is fantastic from the air, St Austell Bay and down to Falmouth. From there of course we couldn’t miss Cornwall’s most famous landmark, the furthest South Western point of the UK, Lands End! The weather here broke slightly and we managed to get some great shots with the sun shining through the clouds.
Needless to say unless we wanted to head over to see our American cousins we had to do a U-turn and travel along the up the North Cornwall Coastline, with superb views of surfing heaven Newquay and Padstow before landing at Rock Heli pad. All pilots were flying a similar route, but some wanted to do a bit more sightseeing, so nipped into land to see some of the sights. Some pilots were faster, some were slower. Some stopped at Sandown for fuel. There was no formation at all, but all pilots met at Rock Heli pad within 15 minutes of each other, which was quite incredible. Then John Bray kindly gave all of us a lift in his golf cart down to the ferry, crossed the little estuary to Padstow and made our way to our final destination that day the hotel bar!
“It is odd that there are not many jokes about helicopters and trying to think about the funniest moment only brings back memories of Frank, desperately trying to buy a jacket in Padstow. The shop was closed, and on the walk to the helipad it started to rain, and Frank got soaked. However, the Postman in his van gave us all a chuckle.” – Chris Langdon
After some well deserved R & R we planned our routes for Day Two from Rock to Warwick and then to bed.
Follow Capt White’s UK Trip Memoirs again in next week’s blog #helisontourrelived or if you are keen to join our 2020 tour, maybe you have been inspired to learn to fly then please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 118 8998 for more info.