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As well as a compass, the additional essential controls to watch are altitude, airspeed and what is call the ‘artificial horizon’ which shows how level you are flying, or not if you are ‘banking’ (turning). There are other dials but there is no need to worry about those as the instructor keeps an eye out on everything. I looked down and saw that


here I was, flying like a bird over Exmouth, towards Teignmouth and Torbay. The sky was bright and I could


see Dartmoor to the north, south across the English Channel, to the west beyond Plymouth, and ahead, our destination, the winding River Dart Estuary. I’m used to travelling at the


more leisurely pace of just six knots in our small classic yacht, so to find myself at the helm of a little plane flying at a speedier 120 knots (222 kilometres an hour) was exhilarating. In no time, it seemed I was


banking to port just south of Totnes and heading down the snaking River Dart; our height rewarding us with far reaching views of the familiar sights of home, laid out shrunken beneath us.


If you think of an OS Map in 3D


you can soon pick out a favourite walk, watering hole or friend’s house. The River Dart and its hinterland


is a bucolic quilt of wooded valleys and miles upon miles of green and brown patchwork fields, interspersed with clustered settlements. Dartmouth and Kingswear came


into view, forming a charming model village display.


Gazing at the miniature setting thousands of feet below we picked out other unmistakable landmarks.


Toy-sized yachts formed


regimental lines on the blue-green glassy water, and the impressive Britannia Royal Naval College dominated the Lilliputian scene. As you fly over the port, the ever


vigilant chip marauders soaring below, you can appreciate the skill and precision of those Red Arrows pilots who once roared at nearly five times our speed down the Dart to the thrill of regatta crowds.


Gazing at the miniature setting thousands of feet below we picked out other unmistakable landmarks – verdant Coronation Park; Community Orchard trees marching towards the river; the not-quite-square Boatfloat and the mud brown Kingswear Creek at low tide.


I flew out towards Little


Dartmouth and the coast, circling our house a couple of times and marvelling at the sparkling beauty of it all under luminous blue skies. All too soon, it seemed, it


was time leave our sortie of the Dart and retrace our steps to Dunkeswell. My shoulders (and grip on the


yoke) were relaxed; it had been a fantastic experience and confirmed what I had always suspected - I would love to take up flying. As we approached the airfield


Mark took control once more to land the plane… it felt like we were going in sideways. Arriving at mission control


Mark presented me with an Air Experience certificate and I was pleased to discover my first hour- long aerial navigation will count towards flying hours whenever I can afford more lessons.


The mouth of the Dart showing Kingswear and Dartmouth.


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