Our Friday journey north from Dunwich on the Suffolk coast towards our scheduled meeting with the team at Sherburn Aero Club at 2.30 wasn’t altogether the happiest of ways of spending five hours. Firstly the traffic was horrendous; once we had struggled the 132 miles across the country roads of East Anglia which seemed to be playing host to every single tractor, trailer and weird piece of agricultural equipment in the whole of the UK, the waiting A1 at Newark was flowing at little more speed than a snail with a double hernia. Secondly the weather forecaster on BBC Radio 2 was spreading more bad news than one of the East Anglian muck-spreaders and thirdly we had run out of sweets!!
We soldiered on trying to ignore the threat of Saturday rain – surely the forecaster would be wrong; the traffic hold ups – that’s life; lack of sweets – my shape will tell you that they are probably surplus to requirements anyhow!!!
Despite all these setbacks we arrived pretty much on time and were met by Team Sherburn already brandishing cuppas. It was great to catch up with some old friends from our 2016 event and to meet some new members of the team who were to be hosting Bader Braves Young Aviators the following day and managing the event for us. An hour later most of our weather fears had been dispelled by the fact that met forecasts for the airfield were that rain was little more than a threat and even if it did arrive it would be in the form of light showers and short lived. On the operational front no stone had been left unturned; everything was in place, everyone had been briefed and, apart from determining the final flight plan which could only be done on the day, things were all set and ready for Saturday 15th July. An hour and three cuppas later we set off for our hotel feeling far happier than we had on arrival.
Saturday dawned and whilst not the brightest of mornings, it appeared to OK. After a quick breakfast we set off for the short drive to Sherburn Airfield, it seemed to have turned a bit more grey but on arrival we were met by Brian, co-ordinator for the day, who informed us that recce flights had already taken place and that there were no problems with the weather which would improve by late morning-midday. It was an hour and a half before our scheduled start time which allowed plenty of time to set things up and prepare ourselves for the first of our guests for the day; it also allowed sufficient time for the Saturday “cuppa-quota” to start!
Most of the aircraft employed on todays mission were PA28’s belonging to the Aero Club although there was a 172 and a Robin that were in private ownership and whose owners had generously volunteered to fly for us today. They were all parked majestically on the apron in front of the hangers adjacent to the club house from where we were working and one by one the pilots arrived for their flight briefings and final aircraft checks in readiness for the first arrivals which didn’t involve much waiting time for the morning youngsters and their families were now queued waiting to complete paperwork, read instructions and prepare to take their flight.
In no time at all the ground stewards started to call names and escort the excited Braves out on to the tarmac and into the waiting aircraft. After watching pilots deliver safety briefings to their passengers doors were closed, engines started and then, after the familiar procedure of “finals” by each pilot in turn, the aeroplanes gently taxied to the end of the grass strip where, after a brief hold either to allow an incoming flight to land or their place in the short queue to come, they lined up before engine pitches rose to take off levels and away they went. Most flights took a route governed by the more favourable weather heading eastwards towards Selby and Hull before turning northwards to overfly the historic city of York; one or two however, selected an alternative path along the Humber to take in the Humber Bridge. Whichever one. the young Braves were treated to a flight of 30-40 minutes before returning to base.
And so it was about an hour before the first flight to depart taxied back onto the apron where the waiting ground stewards sprang into action helping disembarkation of the beaming youngsters; there were plenty of “thumbs-ups” to waiting parents and carers as well as excited shrieks of pleasure as Braves and parents were reunited! No respite for the pilots though for as one Brave was escorted from the apron the next was being embarked and the whole procedure was repeated.
Our “flight-desk” operation was actually located in the corner of the club’s Digby’s Restaurant, a very friendly, welcoming and comfortable venue where youngsters mingled with friends and enjoyed snacks, drinks and even more substantial meals all provided by DBF. It’s a great place to work from too as you are never very far from “the cuppa”!! It wasn’t long before our afternoon group of Braves began arriving and so the day continued; just a very brief pause in the flying operation as some pilots swapped with others or took a quick refreshment break but, in all, we just kept going until the very last flight of the day had been completed.
As the last of the families were trying to convince their youngsters that the day was now over and it was time to leave, the aeroplanes were beginning to be checked over by ground crews and readied for the next day’s operations before being towed into the safety of the hangers; their work for Bader Braves Young Aviators now completed. Pilots completed their logs before calling on us to bid us farewell; it seemed that they had enjoyed flying the Braves almost as much as the Braves had enjoyed their flights and all asked to be included in our team of pilots for 2018. Brilliant Brian and his team were now tidying up their own bits and pieces before returning to “normal duties”! Brian in fact went flying in his own aeroplane!!
As Jess and I packed our stuff away and cleared up Braves HQ and had loaded the car, there was just time for a quiet cuppa and five minutes to reflect on yet another fantastic Bader Braves Young Aviators Day at Sherburn Aero Club.
As we looked around a now somewhat quieter Digby’s we noted that hellos had become goodbyes, sandwiches had become crumbs, plates of pies and chips became washing up and Fifty Shades of Sherburn Grey had become a SUPER SHERBURN SATURDAY!!
Hopefully you will have us back in 2018.