Tuesday, 11 December 2007


My boss has been flying planes for something like 20 years and today he took me and one of the students for a short flight. His club airport is only 15 minutes drive from work, so he came by my desk this morning and said that as it was a clear day we could go flying today. It was really awesome, this was my first flight in a small plane, and I mean small! There was one propeller and only 4 seats, I'm glad I have flown quite a bit before (even though only in commercial jets) because I don't think I could have handled it otherwise. I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat and there was quite a lot of turbulence around that day, so there were a few nervous moments. We only fly something like 300m above the ground too, the higher airspace is reserved for the main commercial airports. But the fact that we are so close to the ground means that you can really see everything.

The flight was only about 20 minutes long, it was an introductory flight to see how our stomachs handle it. I was alright, I have a really weak stomach but so long as I was looking out the window it was ok. The student was in a bad way by the end of the flight though. This was actually his first ever time in an aeroplane, and it sure was memorable, throwing up on the drive back to the office in front of your supervisor has got to be bad. He is meant to be flying back home for Christmas (in the south of France) but maybe he will change that ticket to a train instead. It really wasn't a great day for your first flight though, to give you some idea, when we were coming into land there was a 20 knot cross-wind (about 40km/hr) and so the plane was veering all over the place as we were coming in, I thought at some points we might miss the runway, but my boss actually got us down with one of the smoothest landings I think I have ever experienced.

He has learnt from experience to take first-timers on a short flight, before going on a longer flight further afield. There have been a couple of visitors to our lab in the past which he has taken for a long flight and they have ended up in real bad ways. One guy was from New York and they flew to Chartres (about an hours train ride from Paris, and a real pretty town) but when they got there this visitor just had to lie on the tarmac for an hour or so, and still after that time he couldn't fly back, someone from the lab had to drive out to Chartres to pick him up. So I think my boss wants to avoid any more incidents like that :). It would be pretty cool to go again, maybe next year when the weather is clearer.

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