Every now and again, a fantastic opportunity presents itself for our members to have an experience of a lifetime. Over the years, one such activity has been aviation. It is always highly rewarding for them to learn the basics of how to fly an aircraft, but it requires a lot of hard work and commitment.
Over the past year, some of our Scouts have been completing a whole range of activities over several meetings, trips and projects to make one of their dreams come true; to take control of a light aircraft.
The foundation of their learning began with finding out about the principles of flight and applying these by making their own rubber-band-powered balsa wood model planes. This was much trickier than it sounds as a lot of care was needed to cut and glue the delicate wood together. With much perseverance, adjustments and some repairs, everyone managed to take home a working aircraft. Unfortunately, there was no air traffic control inside the hall, meaning that small aircraft were constantly buzzing past our heads!
Before moving on to their next major event, many Scouts took the opportunity to broaden their aviation knowledge by researching some of their favourite aircraft and experimenting on home flight simulators. At least in this environment, they could freely break CAA rules and land (or crash) their own 747 at Bournemouth Airport!
Powered flight was their next activity. Each took a lesson in flying a remote-controlled model aircraft with expert instructors. They realised it was harder than it looked and that made it all the more spectacular when they witnessed competition-level pilots flying jet aircraft and about 200mph and watching stunt aircraft do manoeuvres that looked simply impossible. Some of the models were very large, as big as a car!
Although these were models, many of the principles are the same as those that passenger aircraft must follow. The Scouts learned that they must operate from an airfield and in a specific airspace according to regulations, the models must have pre-flight checks, they must taxi in a specific circuit pattern and they need to take account of the wind with their take-off direction.
One of our Scouts enjoyed flying the model aircraft so much, he decided to take it up as a hobby. Since his experience with us, he has gone on to attain his model aircraft flying license and built his very own aircraft.
The plan was then for the Scouts to take a tour of an airfield and a flying lesson. This didn’t quite go as planned due to the long periods of poor weather that plagued the country at the start of the year. They had to wait until not only the weather got better, but also for the airfield and instructors to have availability. Waiting is never fun but it was well worth it…
Compton Abbas Airfield provided an experience not available to most of the public. Before taking to the skies, the Scouts got to see the inner workings of the airfield, exploring the hangers, touring the runway, inspecting historic aircraft up close and going into zones that are normally out of bounds. A pilot showed them how to interpret live meteorological charts and predict the weather. The ground crew taught them how to marshal an aircraft, which may come in handy when helping parents into a tight parking spot!
When it was time to get on board the aircraft for their flight, they couldn’t take to the skies straight away. They first had to help the pilot plan the route on the air-maps, assist with the pre-flight checks and learn what many of the cockpit controls & instruments are for and how to operate them. This was all-important as within a short space of time, they were going to be taking the controls themselves.
The instructor started the engine, communicated with the control tower, taxied them to the runway and took off. Once the plane had reached altitude, it was up to the Scout, under close instruction, to pilot the route they had planned. Every Scout succeeded and as they all got to ride as a passenger for another piloting, they complimented each other on their skills.
After handing back control to the instructor to land the aircraft, they received a certificate recognising their flight hours. This can legitimately be used towards a Private Pilot’s License, so maybe this will lead to some future pilots in our skies?
Many thanks go to all that made this happen: Their flying instructor, Harry Miller, the staff, pilots and volunteers at Compton Abbas Airfield, the members of the model aircraft club and the parents that helped support.