About 20 minutes into the flight, Annabelle asked if I’d like to loop the loop. Well, there’s an offer you don’t get every day. Yes please.
We looped, wiggled our wings and waved to Lizzie in the Puggs Meadow field below. It was a magnificent day to be flying, particularly in an open-air Tiger Moth above the quilted meadow patchwork of the Blackmore Vale.
There are four of the biplanes based at the old WWII airfield of Henstridge Airport, just three miles away. There are only around 200 registered Tiger Moths still flying, and this is the biggest group in the country. Not only that, but they date back to the war and are all still flying in their camouflage livery.
They are owned by Kevin Crumplin, who set up Tiger Moth Training with equally experienced pilots Clive Davidson and Annabelle Burroughes. “We do it for pleasure,” says Kevin.
Their enthusiasm is infectious, and their working week an envious mixed bag of flying. Last week, a father and son flew in formation. “Formation flying is one of the last skills,” added Kevin, “now only occasionally seen, usually at air shows.”
And events. On September 17, three of the biplanes will fly over Bovington Tank Museum and drop poppies to mark the 100th anniversary of the first tank battle. They will also drop half-a-million poppies at Bovington on Remembrance Sunday (minus the plastic bits). It will be something to see.
The planes have featured in films and, most recently in a BBC documentary about the weather, Storm Troupers. The planes normally fly around two or three times a day (if the weather is right), usually carrying people like me – people who have been given gift vouchers for an introductory flight (thanks Lizzie).
From our field, we usually wave as they fly overhead, so it seemed only right to stage a flypast on my flight. Annabelle had kitted me out in a sheepskin flying jacket and leather helmet and we took off for a 30-minute jaunt.
The noise of the wind is deafening, and I appreciated the tiny windscreen which deflected the headwind. Annabelle sat behind me, explaining over the helmet microphone how the joystick and foot rudder controls worked before allowing me to ‘take control’ to swing left and right while maintaining height and balance.
The joystick is surprisingly sensitive to touch. I blamed the gusts of wind for a few wobbles but the guffaws of laughter from the back suggested otherwise… Then came the loop, back near Puggs, by which time Lizzie had gone in for a cup of tea and missed the acrobatics. Pity. Perhaps I should go back up again…
- Tiger Moth Training operates trial flights lasting 20, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, with prices ranging from £140 to £400. Far better quality videos of Tiger Moth flights from Henstridge are on YouTube – make sure you also watch a magnificent video on Tiger Moth Training on Vimeo