“My friend Sandy and I go out for a pub lunch and an outing once a week or so – usually on a Tuesday. We don’t usually plan where we’re going, we just head off somewhere based on the weather and wherever we haven’t been for a while. However, at the end of July 2018 we decided to go to Anton Lakes near Andover and set off accordingly.
There was a lot of traffic on the road we needed to take so we turned off along a small side road, which would take us to the lakes from another direction. We drove past Popham Airfield and saw from the sign on the entrance that there’s a cafe. We turned in, intending to have a coffee and watch the planes, while I took photos of them. As we were walking out of the car park, we saw a poster on the wall of the office advertising flight experiences.
Sandy had been up in a microlight several years ago, but I had never flown in a small aircraft. We went into the office to ask when they held the flights, expecting slots to be available in the next few weeks. However we were told that they could “go up in about half an hour” if I wanted… and yes, I wanted! I paid for the experience eagerly and we sat in the cafe with our coffees, waiting with anticipation. Eventually, I was called through.
If I’m going anywhere that might be photogenic, I always take both my cameras with me. I gave my little one to Sandy and took the other up into the air with me. The very nice Pilot told me to put the headphones on, buckled up the harness and then ran through his pre-flight checklist. He then told me not to open the door!
To my alarm, I said I had no intention of doing so and asked him why he had said this. He replied that he has had people go into full-scale panic attacks and try to get out of the plane in mid-air! I assured him that I’m ex RAF and do NOT panic in planes! In fact, I was so fascinated that I could have stayed up a lot longer!
I took some photos and he told me to put my hand under his on the stick then took his hand away, saying I should keep my eyes on the horizon and try to maintain the plane on an even keel, going straight ahead – which I did! He pointed out various landmarks to me: the Isle of Wight in one direction, Didcot Power Station (near Oxford), and we could even just about see London in another direction! He said he often took archaeologists up in the air so they could see the outlines of buried buildings and other structures.
We circled around Highclere Castle a few times because I was keen to take some photos to put on a Facebook photography group that I belong to.
Half an hour after take-off – FAR too soon! – we began our descent. We landed and Sandy took photos of me, the instructor and the plane. I received a signed certificate – a memento to comemorate what was the end of a wonderful experience.”
– Caroline, St John’s Resident on her recent experience in an Ikarus C42 FB80
Check out some more of Caroline’s photography of the day here.