Super Saturday at Sensational Sandown

After what was a fairly dodgy start our first ever Bader Braves event on the Isle of Wight turned into a staggering success!!

I hasten to add that the “dodgy start” was nothing to do with Sandown Airport, the Isle of Wight Flying Club or the event itself; it was rather more down to Wightlink Ferries. As is common practice with our events, we always have to travel the day prior to event day for an Op’s meeting with the venue people and operating club and this weekend it had been scheduled for 16.00hrs. All the right plans had been made, the 14.30 ferry from Portsmouth enabled us plenty of time UNTIL, as we approached the terminal, a flashing sign gave warning of a 60 minute delay due to a fault. What that didn’t take into account was the fact that although an hour’s delay was probably OK for the ferry, the passengers along with the travelling population of Pompey, were stuck in gridlock! Thank goodness for mobile phones and a very patient Airport Manager, Chris, at Sandown.

By the time we eventually arrived the weather had become very blustery and some big grey clouds were looming in the west; not to worry Chris assured us, “it may be a bit bumpy tomorrow but we should get away with it OK”. So the meeting finished, everything was set and it was off to the hotel ready for an early start on Saturday.

When the alarm went off at 06.30 the sun was streaming through the window, oh yes, this was more like it. Off we set for the short drive to Sandown where the sun was still shining although there was definitely a bit more cloud and the gusting wind made erecting the banners quite a challenge. As we prepared for our first arrivals Chris and his colleagues were checking out the aircraft ready for action. First to arrive were our old friends, the Loosemores. Not only are they old friends but the two younger family members are seasoned Braves having been with us since we started the programme back in 2009/10 and it is they who opened up the door for this, our first IoW sortie.

09.40 and the first of our families arrived, just time to do the paperwork, go through the formalities when the call came in from Chris “right, where are they?? We are ready to go!!”. Family No 1 were collected by the ground marshal and escorted out to the waiting pilot Chris (who had now swapped his Airport Manager’s hat for a Biggles helmet) and his trusty AA5 Traveller aeroplane. After his passengers were settled, strapped in and briefed it was time to taxi out and down to the far end of the runway before throttle opened and away they went. As they departed for a flight that would take in a good bit of the Island, Bryan went through the same procedure in his Cessna 172 as too did Dave in his sporty little Wittman Tailwind.

Braves continued to arrive throughout the morning, paperwork continued to be completed, briefings continued to be given, flights continued to depart and, thankfully, flights continued to return!! As all this was going on a number of very smart and I mean VERY SMART Jaguar cars began to arrive for the Braves to look around although, to be honest, it was the dads who seemed to be doing an awful lot of drooling! The cars were very kindly brought along by members of the Isle of Wight Jaguar Enthusiast Club and there seems to be quite a few over there!!

Airport proprietor, Dan, provided a wonderful Virtual Reality piece of kit showing a short presentation on the history of flight starting from the Wright Brothers and ending with a head ducking moment when a giant Antonov AN225 – Mriya transporter lands;  a truly astonishing experience. The queue for this  treat snaked through the café all day long.

As midday approached it was clear that the wind was increasing and the pilots made the decision that rather than taking an hour break for lunch they would grab a quick cuppa and sarnie, which they ate on the hoof, ensuring that the afternoon group, who were by now arriving in force, would get a flight in. It was just about this time that a young chap turned up with a big black bag and what looked to be a microphone stand; not surprising really for that is exactly what it was. The “young chap” turned out to be Andy Charles, a first class singer and I believe, something of a local celebrity, and he performed endlessly throughout the afternoon in a marquee specially erected by the Airport for our Braves event.

By late afternoon, their flights taken, many of the Braves and their families were heading for home. The last two flights were in the air, banners were being taken down which was even more tricky than putting them up as the wind had by now really increased.  It was almost time to sit back for ten minutes with a cuppa and slice a magnificent homemade cake from the café.

The final flight of the day taxied in and once the Braves had shaken hands, had photos taken with their pilot and been safely escorted back to their family Chris, Dave and Bryan agreed that “it’s a good job we’re done because its far too rough to fly the youngsters now”.

And so, just in time, the first Bader Braves Young Aviators Day drew to a close and what a sensational day it has been. Seventeen new Braves had signed up and each left with goodies, a certificate, some great memories and best of all, a real big grin!!

Thank you Isle of Wight Flying Club and Sandown Airport for you, along with our entertainer and exhibitors, have made our first Island sortie such a great event.

(Keith Delderfield)

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