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  • I was a long standing member of the ATC or Air Training Corps, a military based cadet scheme for youths between the age of 13 - 21 in the UK. I've always been surprised that the USA doesn't have something similar because it teaches independence, team spirit, camaraderie and engenders an interest in following a career in the military later on.

    Since there is live firing practise with .22 ammunition, marching/ drill, sports and 'flight experience' as it is called, it is like an adventure paradise for such youngsters as I and my peers were at that time. It is to the flight experience part that I want to relate this story though.

    Having never been in an aircraft in my life, I had no idea what to expect other than the excitement at getting to fly. We had been briefed that we would be allowed to 'take control' of the aircraft (hold the joystick) for a short period when the pilot in charge deemed it was safe enough to do so. This was in small aircraft like the one in the photo.

    I should mention that the one in the photo is a 'Bulldog", the standard plane used for rookie RAF pilots for many years. The one used for the ATC was called a 'chipmunk' and the trainee (me) sat behind the pilot with a glass canopy above us.

    Come the day and up we went. The pilot, as expected, asked me if I wanted to take control but being too nervous, I replied in the negative.

    "Okay", says he, "we'll just do some aerobatics then."

    "Ok, sir!", says I. (Ignorance is bliss)

    He then went on to do a barrel roll, a loop the loop, a figure of eight, and some other moves that still remain unknown to me to this day. To my credit, I never used the sick bag once! (Although I probably would today!)

    When the pilot asked innocently, "Is that okay? That enough?"
    I replied calmly, "Yes, thank you, sir!".

    It was awesome and amazing though to see the world going through a complete 360 degree turn whilst feeling the effects of the G forces pressing against you. We did those aerobatics ABOVE the forth road bridge in Scotland which is, in itself, a momentous structure.

    From that first experience though, I have no fear of flying whatsoever and find commercial flight rather tame to say the least. I do love flying though and most of the time would rather be 'up there' than down here. Just a pity that I never went on to achieve my private pilots licence, despite serving in the RAF for three years.

    At least I'm prepared for when I 'get my wings' after I have shrugged off this mortal coil........ :)
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