By Argentum Vulgaris
(RBU join date 04/07/2010)
When I was a kid, I flew in various aircraft. During the school holidays Mum would pack us up and we'd fly off to Auckland. It was a chance for her to catch up with old friends who had moved north and for us to play on the beaches. More than that, it was a chance for us to fly! While in the late 50s, early 60s flying wasn't unusual, not many of our school chums did, so we were lucky in that respect. The hour and a half flights were usually in a Vickers Viscount or a Lockheed Electra. It was this that made aviation a big part of my life; model airplanes, magazines, etc.
But it was my first flight in a small aircraft, which made most impression on me. That took place at cadets. I flew in an RNZAF Harvard, NZ1015 to be exact, I still remember the registration number; these planes were designated T-6 Texans by the Americans. A ten minute "air experience" flight for each cadet; we each anxiously awaited our turn as a group in front of the hanger.
Eventually, I was scrambling over the back of the wing, clambering to sit nervously in the front, helmet complete with earphones strangely heavy on my head, the pilot sat in the rear. I could hear him talking to the control tower, he gunned the engine, it growled briefly in defiance and we swung away from the hanger and taxied out to the runway, the pilot explaining that I could talk to him by clicking the button on the wire. We swung onto the runway, suddenly the radial engine howled loudly and I was thrust back into the seat as we accelerated, the runway became a blur beneath us and then began to drop away as we were airborne. No more runway, green grass; "thud" the wheels were up. Over the barbed wire fence surrounding the airfield, the sheep in the next field all took on a storybook appearance, like farmyard toys, Up and up, over the city he put the plane through some simple maneuvers talking all the time explaining, getting me to watch the instruments we had learned about in parade night lectures; my hands gingerly holding the controls as instructed to feel the plane's gyrations. It was wonderful, it was better than a flying carpet, it was just as magic.
Toward the end of the flight, the pilot asked if I had any questions, as we were near the domestic airport and had to fly across the city to Wigram, I asked if I could find my house. With directions, we circled over my house. My father was in the garden, hoeing the weeds, he looked up at the noisy Harvard, I had often heard complain about the noisy things. A full circuit over the house pivoting on a wing tip the world and time seemed to stand still, then back to Wigram joining the finals, "thud" the wheels were down. The ground raced up as we dropped over the fence the wheels rumbling as we hit the runway. We taxied to the tarmac where one of my buddies was taking his turn with the batons to marshal the plane to a standstill with the orange paddles crossed over his head, the next cadet running out to take my place. The pilot gave me a thumbs-up as I clambered out onto the wing, quivering with excitement.
I had had the longest flight of the day, nearly twice the other lads because of the detour over my house, but no one was complaining, least of all me.
I had flown, yes I had flown before, but this was really flying.
I got home. "Didya see me Dad?" as soon as I rushed in the door. My father's usually dry, "Oh was that you?" couldn't dampen my spirits that day.
I was thirteen and I had ridden the magic carpet!