Tails Of The Fifties
Anthology edited by Peter G. Campbell
Contribution by Timothy R. V. Foster

ISBN 0-9515-5983-4
Click here to order:

1700 HOURS, BST.
Croydon Airport, runway 24.

"Would you like to try one on your own now?" he said.

"Yes, please." I replied.

"Alright, take it around nice and easy and bring her back in one piece. Just do one circuit." Rex Nicholls, my flying instructor, disconnected the intercom, clambered out of the front seat of the Maggie and secured the harness so it wouldn't snag the controls. I sat in the rear, brakes on, stick back, my heart thumping with anticipation at this, my first solo flight. Rex jumped off the wing and gave me a thumbs up. "Alright?" he shouted. "Right!" I yelled back. He walked away and, after making sure he was safely clear, I carried out the pre-take-off checklist. TTMFFGHH. I still use the mnemonic, some 4,000 flying hours and forty-odd years later. Throttle tension nut tight, trim set, mixture rich, fuel on and sufficient, flaps up, gyros and instruments checked, harness tight, hatches closed. I had no radio.

Any other aircraft coming in or taking off? Nothing in sight. The tower gave me a steady green light. Cleared take off! Brakes released, I opened the throttle enough to get her moving and taxied out to the centre of the runway. All runways at Croydon were grass, but this one had a tarmac apron at the beginning. I lined up on the tall chimney away on the horizon and set the directional gyro to 240. Then I gradually opened the throttle, holding the stick back for the first few seconds. I eased forward on the left rudder to counteract the tendency to turn right caused by the prop torque and brought the stick forward. The tail rose as we accelerated. Airspeed at about 50 knots, the Maggie leapt into the air. With only one on board, the aircraft performed as I'd never seen before. I climbed out at 65 knots. Solo at last!

 Miles Magister G-ALIO, one of two run by the club.


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