It is a bit of an extraordinary coincidence that the Bader Flying Events 2017 started and finished with the Moray Flying Club at Kinloss Barracks (formerly RAF Kinloss); what is NOT extraordinary is that, just like the brilliant Bader Braves day back in May, the Returning Wounded Day was another outstanding success for our friends at the club always pull out all the stops ensuring that everyone has a really memorable day and a fantastic flight experience above the outstandingly beautiful Moray Firth.
At 08.30 on Saturday 9th September event co-ordinator George McKenzie welcomed all of us who were privileged enough to be in attendance to Kinloss and very quickly whisked through the security procedures which, due to the heightened state of alert on site, took rather more time than usual especially as there were a number of we “civvies” in attendance. Our focus group of Returning Wounded comprised of eleven servicemen/women, some still serving and others now “retired”, all of whom had suffered some form of injury whilst on active service around the globe. They represented the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines and all, bar one, were based in Scotland; the odd one out now lives within a decent drive and a 5 iron from the border!!
Our group was joined by Major D Dunford MBE and four servicemen from the 39 Engineer Regiment, now based here at Kinloss,as well as by Major Dunford’s dog, Sasha, who seems to have become a bit of a regimental mascot!!
The purpose of the day was not just to offer the group a good day out and a flight in a light aircraft, but to present them with some real hands on experience of flying a small aeroplane, in this case a Cessna 152, and present them with a real opportunity of embarking on an exciting new venture which could be achievable with determination and despite their injury; after all there is no finer example of doing just that than Douglas Bader himself!!
By 09.30 briefings had been completed and aircraft readied for operations. The weather was OK, nothing more right now, but met reports promised an improvement later in the morning. It was certainly flyable and at 09.45 Airfield controller Mick Dry despatched the first flight soon to be flowed by the second. Back in the clubhouse there was much banter and chit-chat as well as the ritual tea quaffing and sticky bun consuming.
George, more than ably supported by the band of club volunteers, was directing the waiting throng to flight simulators and arranging visits to the very impressive Morayvia Museum which involved a trip from the barracks to the nearby village of Kinloss and as a consequence, two lots of security! Everything ran perfectly throughout the morning but rather than improving, the weather worsened to the point that a temporary cessation of operations was ordered. It’s amazing just how many weather experts there are in a group of guys when things grind to a halt!! As Mick was striding up and down the apron gazing skywards he was joined by a couple of club members and, between them, they soon reached a conclusion based on years of Kinloss experience that flying would be resuming in 20 minutes time. Pilots and aircraft were prepared for the restart and pretty much smack on the predicted 20 minutes, the first 152 coughed back into life and operations restarted – what a wonderful skill local knowledge is!!
And so our day continued; apart from one more brief weather cessation and aided by the fact that the pilots elected to continue flights throughout the scheduled lunch break, everything went absolutely perfectly until around 15.45 when quite suddenly, the wind increased dramatically leading to a departure having to abort at the end of the runway. After a quick check with the main met office at nearby RAF Lossiemouth it was clear that this delay was likely to be far more lengthy; at least an hour it was announced. This was something of a serious threat as there was still more flying to be done and some of the group had substantial distances to cover, once to be disappointed thanks to Mother Nature, then to return to Kinloss on another occasion to enjoy the flight experience that she had denied them today.
And so, with darkening skies and ever increasing wind velocity it was time to bid farewell to our guests. There was much back slapping and good humour; new friendships had been forged and we had achieved one of our goals in that at least one and possibly two, of our Returning Wounded Regiment made a firm undertaking to continue flying and attempt to get their PPLs.
Time for us to load the car now and bid our own farewells to all of our great friends at The Moray Flying Club. It had been yet another brilliant day to which we have become accustomed at this most friendly of flying clubs. As we left the club, drove around the perimeter road and out through the guard post there was time on the way back to our hotel to reflect on not just today but the whole Bader Flying season and the fact that not only had Kinloss provided us with a great curtain raiser for 2017 it had also brought the curtain down in spectacular fashion.
Moray Flying Club, RAF Kinloss, Returning Wounded