Miscellaneous 25 Mar 2007 11:50 am

A nice old lady

Some readers would know that in recent months I have been made an ‘Air Experience Instructor’ at our gliding club. This is the bottom rung of the instructor ranking system — I’m not authorised to teach people to fly gliders, but I am authorised to take people on ‘Air Experience Flights’ (similar to a joyflight – but the passenger is allowed to take the controls during the flight if they would like to – under strict supervision, of course).

Anyway, yesterday was my rostered day. A famly turned up for a flight – young kids up to grandmother in age. The booking was in the name ‘Ben’.

“So, which one is Ben,” I asked.

“I am,” said Ben. “But I’m not going on the flight – it’s for my grandmother.”

My job was to fly 80-year-old Nancy!

I was allocated our club’s best two-seater (the DG-1000) – which is a lovely, comfortable, quiet ship – but which is a bit awkward to climb into. Nancy stood on Ben’s back as he kneeled on the ground, and Ben’s Dad lifted her over the side. Nancy’s only a little lady – and she looked almost lost in the front cockpit. We had to make special adjustments to the harness so that the straps would be short enough!

Well, we eventually got Nancy strapped in and comfortable. We took off into very stable air – nice and smooth, no bumps. Nancy and I floated around having a lovely time for 25 minutes. We looked at the delightful green on the ground (such a contrast from two months ago). We flew low over the Camden Show. We watched another glider and tug take off. Nancy seemed to love every minute of it.

I really enjoyed being Nancy’s pilot. I didn’t get to demonstrate thermals or steep turns or any of the other capabilities of a glider. Nevertheless, it was a joyful flight with a lovely, dynamic old lady who was prepared to have a go. I think Nancy took enough photos that we could string them together into a movie! When we landed and extracted Nancy from the aircraft, she had a big grin on her face – and so did her children and grandchildren.

It was a very nice experience.

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