Tag: Cessna 152

Celebrating old connections.

A great catch-up from many years ago.

A few weeks ago I had a comment left on a blogpost, “Hello Paul.. all the very best ex, 1234 lol“. The comment had been left by a Martin Lowe. That won’t mean anything to anyone until I explain that I have a pilot’s log book and the very first entry reads:

March 3rd, 1984/Cessna FA152/G-BGAF/Capt. M. Lowe/P u/t/IPSWICH – LOCAL/1325 Departure/1355 Arrival/ 0:30 mins dual/ Ex 4,5.

That was my very first flight in a powered aircraft and my instructor was Martin Lowe of the Suffolk Aero Club based at Ipswich Airport in Suffolk, England.

Yesterday, Martin and I had a great catch-up over the phone and I’m republishing an earlier post of mine as a way of saying how fabulous it was to remake contact with Martin once again.


Keeping a balance on one’s state of mind.

Don’t know about you but I find that it is all too easy to get wound up by so much that is going on in this crazy world. That’s not to marginalise the threats to society that are all around us and there are some powerful writers out there who work so hard to inform the world as to the truth of those threats. (As an aside, one of my favourite authors is this context is Patrice Ayme, just see this recent Post of his as an example of his depth of analysis.)

But my dear friend of over 40 years, Dan Gomez, recently sent me a link to a video of the 10 most extreme airports in the world. That stirred some memories from my own flying days.

First settle back and enjoy 7 minutes of reasons why you don’t want to think about flying! 😉

The YouTube video has this information, which I republish below,

Pictures and videos of the top 10 most extreme airports in the world!

San Diego: Busy airspace lots of buildings on approach
Madeira: Difficult approach and did have a short runway
Eagle Vail: High altitude, short runway & mountainous approach & departure
Courchevel: Short runway, bumpy runway, high altitude
Kai Tak: Difficult approch, fly through tall buildings, short runway
Gibraltar: Short runway, building on approach, winds from the Gibraltar rock
St Maarten: Short runway, has to fly over the beach with alot of people on there, steep takeoff because of mountains
St Barts: Short runway, has to dive.
St Barts: To land, the low approach on that hill thingy
Toncontin: Difficult approach, short runway
Lukla, short runway, only was cemented a few years ago, no go around, if land too low you land into a cliff

First song: La Perla by Kobojsarna

Second song: Feel It – Explicit Album Version by Three 6 Mafia vs Tiesto with Sean Kingston and Flo Rida

Now to a personal recollection.

I was a private pilot for many years, first learning to fly at the Suffolk Aero Club at Ipswich Airport in Suffolk, England. My first lesson was on the 3rd March, 1984!

Some twenty years later, on the 13th August 2004 to be exact, I was checked out to land at Courchevel Airport in an aircraft type known as a TB20, a French-built aircraft. Here’s the page from my log book with the necessary authorisation stamp affixed.

Cleared to land at Courchevel, LFLJ!

The following year, 19th July, 2005, I added my wonderful Piper Super Cub to that authorisation. (See here for a part picture of the aircraft.)

So thanks to YouTube as someone has uploaded a film of a light aircraft operating into Courchevel. It really is rather thrilling!

Finally, back to Dan. Here’s his recollections included in the email that he sent with that first film.

Just found this. I’ve landed at two of these. Eagle Vail was a piece of cake compared to Toncontin as Marty and Bruce know. BAE146 and small Boeing jets. I flew in and out of Toncontin 5 times in the 90’s and had no idea it was as scary as it was. That is to say, I knew it was scary because my palms sweated and heartbeat was about 140 but when I look at it now I go “what was I thinking?”

Take offs were like Orange County, Full brake power straight up. The big difference was you were shuttling along the runway and then down the runway and finally, up the runway to get the wheels up.

One time, on a connecting flight from Medellin, we taxied in, were boarded by military police with drug dogs who sniffed their way through the aisle. Bags were searched while everyone waited in intense heat. It took about 2 hours, three time longer than necessary. Then the interior was fumigated with everyone aboard. All the big machine guns too. Nobody said a word!

There’s one thing about flying a light aircraft, especially into ‘interesting’ airfields, you don’t have a moment to worry about the state of the world!


March 3rd, 1984 to August 2nd, 2016 – more than thirty-two years – just like that!

P.S. I had a 15-minute solo flight on April 25th, 1984.

Take your hands off the controls

Is that what I heard?

“Take your hands off the controls.”

We were climbing after take off in a Cessna 152, and I was applying significant control inputs to keep the aircraft level. Before the flight, there had been some conversation among other pilots on the ground about there being some turbulence at low level today, and I had just remarked that this seemed to be true.

In response to this gentle instruction, I took one hand off the control column, but continued to concentrate on maintaining the attitude of the aircraft in the bumpy conditions. Then the instruction was repeated, still gently, but with a little more emphasis:

“Take your hands OFF the controls”!

Now, whether one follows instructions like this does depend to some extent on who is issuing them! On this occasion, I was honoured to be flying with the most capable pilot and flying instructor I have ever met, or am ever likely to meet.

As it happens, I was not formally under instruction, being qualified to fly and my “passenger” having lost that privilege on medical grounds. Nevertheless, when flying with other people there is always something to learn and, when flying with someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Dickie Dougan, one is learning all the time! Dickie had a very long flying career during which very many people learnt a tremendous amount from him. Sadly, he passed away in 2007, at the age of 89.

So, in this case, the instruction was being issued by someone for whom I had the utmost respect and trust. Nevertheless, it was contrary to my instincts and seemed to me to be decidedly risky.

Very gingerly, I let go of the controls which, now free from my grasp, moved more violently and over a much wider range than I had been moving them. My instinct was to grab them again, but my trust in the instruction that I’d been given was just sufficient to hold that instinct at bay for a short while.

The aircraft seemed to be rolling more than it had under my control, but it was returning to level flight fairly consistently. It was, at least, stable and seemed to be flying satisfactorily without any input from me (to be accurate, I was continuing to apply some right rudder to compensate for the yaw effects of the single propellor in the climb, but it seemed to me that I was not controlling anything!)

After I had realised that the world was not turning upside down and my level of anxiety lowered slightly, Dickie then said quietly, in his soft Irish tones:

“There you are; you’re working too hard! The aircraft can fly itself!”

Incidents like that teach us something quite profound. The world functions without us.

We are not the centre of the universe!


This post was inspired by Trey Pennington’s description of his conversation with his daughter about Copernicus, as described in his interview of C.C.Chapman.

Further information about the legendary Dickie Dougan can be found in this document in an obituary for him written by Chris Martin who was the Chief Flying Instructor at Exeter Flying Club during the time that I was trained there.

By John Lewis