It is always a treat to visit our friends at The West London Aero Club at their White Waltham home near Maidenhead in sunny – particularly sunny today – Berkshire, and today (Sunday 9th July) was certainly no exception.
By the time we arrived at 09.00 having made the comparatively short trip from our home, White Waltham Aerodrome was already quite busy with a good number of aeroplanes moving around the airfield and quite a few queued awaiting their turn to take off. There was a marquee already erected for our Braves to use and the ground staff had put tables and chairs out for the reception area; all we had to do for ourselves was put out our wares and display material, which took no time at all and by 09.40 we were sitting back in the sunshine all ready for our first arrivals and enjoying our first “cuppa” of the day in rather lovely surroundings. It had that “good to be alive” feeling and we all felt that we were in for another great Young Aviators Day.
Just then the event co-ordinator from the club, Deny Batchelor, arrived in an unusually sleepy state explaining that she had just flown in from Spain on a very delayed flight that didn’t land until 05.30. Nonetheless, in no time she was checking everything was in place and organised for our youngsters and, despite her lack of sleep, she was just a chirpy as ever. One by one the pilots for the day began to arrive and introduce themselves giving us a chance to meet some new faces as well as renewing some long standing friendships. The usual pilots briefings were completed and then they were off to prepare their aeroplanes and line them all up in front of the clubhouse in good time for a spot of chin-wagging, sunbathing and, yes – you’ve guessed it – a cuppa, before the first of the Braves arrived to check in.
After being welcomed to the event, Jess set about ensuring that their paperwork was properly completed and handing out a few “goodies” and pointing them in the direction of our very efficient flight co-ordinators, Tessa & Arthur. It took no more than five minutes to pair pilots and Braves up, get them out to the waiting aeroplanes and engines were bursting into life. Pretty much smack on the scheduled start time the first departure was taxiing towards the end of the runway to complete final checks, obtain clearance from the tower, line up at the end of the runway and then speed off down the grass strip before rising gently above the trees and disappearing from view in the direction of Henley. Just a few minutes later the process repeated and flight number two departed on a similar heading.
The Braves and their families were now arriving thick and fast and everyone was very busy keeping on top of things trying to ensure that all was running smoothly, and run smoothly it did throughout the morning. As the number of waiting Braves increased, the first flights out were beginning to return and after disembarking passengers had been safely returned and escorted from the operational area of the airfield, it was a quick turn round. A quick hello to their next passengers and the pilots and ground staff were escorting them back out to their aircraft, repeating the safety briefings and checks and straight back into the action.
To the uninitiated keeping things running smoothly must appear pretty straightforward, but matching the right folk to the right aircraft and quickly sorting out weights and balances takes a bit of skill; it’s only when there is a hiccup in the system and a snarl-up occurs that people become aware something isn’t quite right. Thankfully today Tessa, Arthur and Jess, helped enormously by calling upon the experience of the pilots, kept everything on track.
Things were now in full flow and the morning seemed to whizz by. At around midday Deny and the catering team arrived with 108 picnic bags which they carefully laid out on a long row of tables ready for an attack from the Braves and it wasn’t long before the lawned area in front of the clubhouse was covered in little family groups all tucking in with great enthusiasm – all this flying makes a young Brave very hungry!!
By now the morning session was almost through and the pilots could take a well-earned quick break; a few could only fly for part of the day and were now handing over to friends who had arrived to fly through the afternoon session. Some of the Braves who had already taken their flights and demolished their picnic bags were also ready to leave, making way for the stream of afternoon Young Aviators who were now arriving en masse.
It was about now that a PA28 G-BSYY taxied to a spot right next to us, a significant arrival, as this is our very own aeroplane with the Bader Braves logo emblazoned on the tail fin and DBF markings clearly visible along the fuselage. The aircraft had arrived from its home at Blackbushe where it is operated on the DBF’s behalf by our sister charity, Aerobility, “The Home of Disabled Flying”; a great organisation focused on making it possible for people with disabilities to experience flying (click on the link to have a look at their website), and was flown in by one of the disabled students. Today, however, it was not here for lessons but to join the Bader Squadron with getting Braves airborne.
And so after the briefest of lunch breaks Team Bader were straight back into action and the whole operation witnessed throughout a busy morning was repeated in what was to be an even busier afternoon. The sun continued to shine brightly as embarkations and departures were taking about 45 minutes to being transformed into arrivals and disembarkations, and excited, if apprehensive, faces were being transformed into even more excited beaming, happy faces. And so it went on until one by one our Braves departed for their homes and the green grass, maybe a bit brownish after all this dry weather, of the clubhouse lawn began to reappear from under its covering of picnic blankets.
As the afternoon slipped towards early evening the aeroplanes of Bader Squadron began to fall silent for the last time as their mission for the day was very successfully completed. Pilots were doing final checks of their aircraft, checking fuel levels etc. before returning to control to complete their logs and various bits of statutory paperwork. G-BSYY was refuelled, gobbled up its student pilots who were now taking control of the aeroplane for its final flight of the day back to Blackbushe.
The last Brave had now waved us all good bye and set off home, Team Bader were busily taking down banners and packing the paraphernalia of the day back into cars. Suddenly things seemed much quieter and calmer; just time for that ice cold lager on the lawn and time to bid farewell and thanks to all the pilots and White Waltham team each of whom had worked cheerfully and tirelessly throughout the day to make sure that our BADER BRAVES YOUNG AVIATORS DAY with The West London Aero Club at White Waltham Aerodrome had been yet another rip-roaring success and they have all most certainly achieved their goal!!
No photos this time folks but great little video to watch on the link below thanks to Charley!!