If you’ve ever switched on your TV and caught a glimpse at the aerobatic competitions with the professional pilots doing crazy stunts in the air, you might have felt your belly do a somersault just sitting on your sofa. So why am I telling you this? It’s because I went to Coventry Airport two weeks ago and experienced an aerobatics flight first hand and I was the captain.
I’m a window seat girl. Peering out of the window at the clouds feeling myself jump when coming across a spurt of turbulence, that’s me. But I never thought that I’d fly a plane and there were definitely some twists and turns along the way.
Aerobatics involves flying manoeuvres that involve aircraft altitudes that are not used in normal flight. Upon arriving to Almat Aviation at Coventry Airport, I was greeted and taken into a room where a pilot talked me through the simple manoeuvres and controls of an aircraft using a model plane. My flight was in the Robin 2160, a two-seater that was perfectly adequate to give the novice trickster a thrill and my, did it give me a thrill and made me feel slightly nauseated after my Half Cuban Eight!
Climbing into the cockpit, the only way to describe the feeling would be the word snug. The aircraft was tiny and I was sitting next to Mark, the professional aerobatics pilot who was showing me the levels, buttons and switches that were surrounding me. I was told that I would be in control for most of the flight and my anxiety-ridden self thought that this was it. This is how I was going to plummet to my death and I mean, it wouldn’t be a terrible way to go, but I didn’t want to die!
The canopy above us was pulled forward, our headsets were on and most importantly we were wearing our sunglasses. I used the pedals to navigate onto the runway and when we were cleared by air traffic Mark took us off into the air and 10 seconds later I was in control. My flight was a duration of 30 minutes, but that’s quite a long time when you’re learning twists and turns something-thousand feet in the air.
We tried three different manoeuvres and firstly Mark demonstrated how it was done and then it was my turn. The Barrel Roll was first. This manoeuvre involves both looping and rolling the plane by pulling the nose up slowly to 45 degrees above the horizon then rolling it 90 degrees away from the original direction with the nose falling through the horizon and the plane rolling back towards wing level. This was an easy one to start with, but I only knew it’d get more complicated with the Half Cuban Eight.
If you’ve seen any air shows, then you’ve probably seen the aircraft tracing the path of a figure 8 on its side. It looks like two loops with half-rolls as the aircraft flies down the back side of each loop. Last but not least came the classic Loop. Starting from level flight, I pulled the nose up ensuing that the wings were level and I flew through a complete circle. And after coming back to level flight, I was all twisted out! We made our way back towards the runway where I was told that I would also be landing the aircraft and talking to Coventry air traffic control to make that happen. Mark guided me through what I needed to do and as we descended, I was ready to take the runway and land the plane safely and take it back to base.
As I sat there in the aircraft 30-minutes after we took off, I took off my headset, unclipped my belt and gave Mark a high-five and kept saying to myself, “you just flew a plane!” And if that wasn’t enough, I even got a certificate saying that I had completed the aerobatics flight and had been assessed and that I’m suitable for further training. This was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life and I’d definitely do it again. I’ve caught flying fever and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be standing there with my pilot licence!