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Cross Country – Alex Bradbury

Date: 15 March 2018

Throughout November, the weather hadn’t really been on my side. The overcast, windy days were making it impossible for me to complete my Qualifying Cross-Country Solo. However, when a clear calm day was finally upon us, I jumped at the chance! Waking up and seeing the bright blue sky, made me realize that this was finally a reality. I got down to Fairoaks and spent the morning planning my route and then carrying out all the pre-flight checks. Once the plane was fuelled up to over tabs, I decided it was only right to fuel myself as well… with bacon sandwiches from the café, of course!

I strolled up to the parking spot of G-ELZY and did the final walk around. I clambered into its metal shell and began getting ready for the unforgettable 156 nautical mile round trip that was about to take place. I taxied out via taxiway Bravo and as I sat at B1 waiting for clearance, my nerves started to build. I had to wait for a King-Air to touch down and vacate, before it was my turn to hurl both myself and this tin can down the runway.  As I line up, I realize just how clear the day is and I now have a new enemy… the sun.  Although being prepared with my stereotypical ‘I really want to be or at least look like a pilot’ aviator sunglasses. it was still a thorn in my back, or I assume the aviation equivalent is the oil dipper lid being done up too tightly and the change in heat during the previous flight in the engine bay causing it to essentially be welded shut, so as you have to get a pair of plyers to try an undo it. Although that analogy was most likely unnecessary, you get my point.

 


It had just gone 11am by the time I was in the air and making my way towards my first destination: Lydd, Kent. The circuit height at Fairoaks is a lot lower than most airfields due to its proximity with Heathrow, (The last thing they need is a 152 or a Warrior encroaching their air space!) so this makes landmarks a lot easier to spot. Of course, the first one I did see was in fact Heathrows Terminal 5. I could see their traffic all lining up on final, and one Emirates a380 was still close enough to make me feel very small. I continued my journey, flying above the m25 and before long the picturesque London Skylines was in view over my left wing. The London infrastructure is always impressive, but seeing it from the sky was something else. The Shard towering over the comparably small Gherkin and The National Stadium arch gleaming in the sun, all added to the unforgettable experience.

 

 

I continued at 90 Knots heading towards Kent. By now the City was long gone, and all I could see below was miles of green British Countryside. I was in contact with Farnborough radar the whole time (First West LARS then onto East), but when my first stop was firmly in sight, they handed me over to Lydd Information. Traffic was quiet on a Tuesday Afternoon, so I conduct a normal entry into the circuit and join the downwind leg. This was all taking place over the Sea, which was another first for me! I land on the Runway, and couldn’t help but think that it would have been perfect for the Shuttle if it ever had to land in the UK. I was down to taxing speed by less than half of the runway, and I proceeded to vacate and tax in.


Once parked up, I sat in Elzy for a few minutes and realized that I had just completed something I will never forget. Confirming every instinct I ever had, the ‘I want to be a pilot’ had now shifted into ‘I need to be a pilot’.

 

Alex Bradbury

 

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