Scout Flying Day at Wickenby 8th October
Previously a few of us had been based at another airfield and for reasons that we don't need to go into here we were forced to leave. At the former location we had twice flown groups of scouts from Doncaster and Kirton-in-Lindsey mainly because of connections different club members had.
Both days had been highly successful and very popular with the kids and their parents. One scout said to me it was the happiest day of his life. You can imagine how pleased I was at that comment. On these two previous occasions the power of Facebook had yet to be harnessed and we only had three or four aircraft doing the flights.
A couple of years passed, I had retired, my RV had been traded in for a Jodel 1051 and my group of flying acquaintances had enlarged dramatically. By chance I met the scoutmaster visiting a neighbour and he asked if we could do another flying day. I said yes but because we were not in direct contact we never progressed any further. Another chance encounter with a scout helper and one of our group led to telephone numbers being exchanged and a definite promise to do something.
The first problem was finding a suitable airfield. The local gliding club has a HUGE grass airfield but, although very helpful, they were unwilling to mix powered and gliders. They did offer to put on a gliding day for the scouts and that may well go ahead. The next nearest airfield was a parachute club and they were not even considered, they are just too busy. This left Wickenby, about 35 minutes by car away. Our group has a strong association with Wickenby, indeed Jodel 119, GATJN resides there.
Wickenby was extremely helpful, they knew us and we knew them. Not a single obstacle was put in our place. They arranged extra air-ground radio operators and the cafe got extra supplies in to cope with the hordes.
So this is where the dreaded social media took over. A call went out for volunteer pilots and ground control. I was overwhelmed with the response I got. Within a couple of hours I had six aircraft and 10 pilots, some happy to act as ground control. When the date changed one pilot dropped out due to farming commitments and a couple of ground control folk could no longer assist. I had two Jodels (a 1051 and a 119) two RV6s and Sonnex, plenty for 30 scouts.
Of course the weather let us down on the appointed day with wind, rain and low cloud. Plan B came into operation and we decided that the next Sunday was the best option, not too far in the future, just to keep everything focused.
Then a bombshell was dropped. A second scout group had been invited and all of a sudden the 30 became 60. I blinked, took a deep breath and thought 60/5 =12 flights each. Of course it didn't quite work out like that....
Anyway Sunday arrived, the scouts were now scouts, cubs and beavers with an age range from about 6 to 16. They had sensibly decided to arrive in two groups, one at 10 and the second at 12:30. When the aircraft assembled, from Gamston, Netherthorpe, North Coates and a nearby farm strip, the first group was getting tucked into bacon rolls to the delight of the cafe. They kept this up all day eating almost everything in the cafe.
In the club house one pilot, Dawn, introduced the scouts to the joys and perils of aerial navigation. Although familiar with maps and compasses they were introduced to winds and triangle of velocities, albeit at an age appropriate level.
We could not have asked for better weather, light winds and no thermals because of the cloud cover. One by one the youngsters were introduced to the delights of the air. Each time we landed a new eager girl or boy was loaded up. No one was ill although I had one lad who decided he was not to be an intrepid aviator.
The RVs behaved as RVs do, "missed approaches" and rolls seemed to be most common. The Jodels being more sedate managed quick tours of the North Lincolnshire countryside...Market Rasen, Belmont mast, RAF Stenigot and Caldwell Park.... not all on the same flight.
So how did we do? There were no unhappy scouts, everyone flew that wanted to fly, everyone I asked would fly again, the lads and lassies all left smiling and their parents took a zillion photos of their loved ones strapped in. We told them we didn't want money for fuel but if they felt so inclined they could make a donation to the Wickenby museum. This they generously did.
Final total was 67 flights, the two Jodels did 42 flights between them, the Sonnex had a couple of wee issues and were not happy risking their passengers and they and one RV managed 6 flights each. The final RV did 13 flights. Would the pilots do it again, a resounding yes was the answer.