Since the 1st of September we have had four days – three flyable with sharks. These are great numbers and we hope a foreboding of what is to come. (Its funny to see how everybody is suddenly happy with lifted spirits now that the sharks are here. I know from experience that this is going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride.. ;)
Neil and I - he is in the front seat.
Flying out to sea in a single engine aircraft is not considered a kosher thing to do. Of course it is an adage which we inherited from our forefathers for good reason – back then motor technology was just not what it is today. You have to hand it to them though. Even though motor reliability was perilous, they never wavered from crossing inhospitable mountain ranges just to deliver post. (Back then post was thought of in a totally different light all together; getting a letter was really important…). But these early postal aviation pioneers crossed inhospitable terrain on an almost daily basis and often, too often, they would not reach their destination. Many where never found. (The list includes the likes of Antoine de Saint-Exupery - you can go look them up, written down in the annals of history). The chances of surviving when going down in mountains or over the ocean were slim to none –finding the wreckage of the plane afterwards had no better odds either.
It was a high risk occupation and the turn-around of pilots were not much different to that of the waitresses at our favourite pizza joint down the road. Certainly these men knew the risks and they were not stupid. Yet, the pilots never stopped flying. They never stopped working and they never looked for a different occupation. No, they kept at it – the lure of adventure in that seemingly void that leave no trace of visits too great to give up for the price of being mortal. As one such early pilot, Dean Smith put it. “It was so alive and rich a life that any other conceivable choice seemed dull, prosaic, and humdrum.”
Such was the era of unreliable engines and un-wavering human courage – brave men that had no place for the foolish.
These men were meticulous in what they were doing: They knew all about the weather. They knew their airplanes back to front and inside out. They knew the routes they were flying (OK, early on there were some exceptions…) But considering what they were doing they took care.
Neil has ventured out on his own today. We had a good look at windguru and at what the weather looked like outside the window (A wise thing to do!) Other than a small chance of rain, it looks just fine. We have also meticulously gone through the plane too, fine-tuning everything we can lay our hands on. We have gone through the emergency procedure drills – repeatedly. Of course over the last four days I have accompanied him on all the flights, familiarising him with procedures and getting him settled.
Neil is very experienced. Other than flying hang gliders and micro-lights, he is also a qualified commercial helicopter pilot. Even so he has been a bit nervous during our few days of training. His words have reminded me of the kind of flying we are doing.
“You must remember we are operating on the top end scale of the envelope. And while your judgments to say it’s a go or no have been fine-tuned, mine is not. At these scales the margin for errors are pretty small…”
It certainly is not your average Sunday’s flight.
Here we are on our way back from spending the afternoon in the isolated Conception Island area. We avoid flying long distanced over the sea with just one engine. Instead climbing high and overflying the island is the safest route. This is the view from 6000ft overhead the airport…
Oh, and did I mention that now-days our engines are pretty reliable too…
Wish you were here!