... How I Learned About Flying (Part 5)... 'Dark Night...'

by Peter Hunter

how I learned about flying (part 5)

' dark night'

    I had just cleared the Heathrow Control Zone - Special Visual Flight Rules - having departed in the dark from Elstree. The night was fading from its earlier promise of superb visibility under a clear sky

    I was not worried but I would be pleased to be back on the ground for a number of reasons none of them a particular problem, but all negative rather than positive - therefore adding up to a less than attractive sum

   Firstly the two coffees I had consumed in the Elstree restaurant were now having their effect on my bladder my own fault for not relieving myself before takeoff - I was now resenting the slight but growing discomfort I was feeling.

    Also I felt strangely lonely to my left about a half mile were the navigation lights and the flashing red anti-collision beacon of an almost identical Cherokee flown by my friend Ian also en-route Elstree to Blackbushe clearing the Heathrow Zone on an identical route

    in a loose formation with the permission of the zone controller

   As we cleared the western edge of zone boundary we switched to the Blackbushe frequency

    no reply Ian and I took turns transmitting with the same result.

   Below was only a patch of darkness where the airfield and runway lights should have been defined by the headlights of cars on the A30 and the lights of Camberley to the east. With the airfield out of normal operating hours, we had arranged for an airfield employee to switch the lights on at the agreed time of out return

   As we orbited - carefully keeping about half a mile apart, I chatted to Ian for several minutes on the airfield frequency - speculating whether the person who had promised to turn on the lights was still in the pub and the likelihood of us having to divert to another field, such as returning to Elstree or maybe landing at Oxford we both had plenty of fuel

    small airfields that stayed open for night flying being rare in 1972

    or even going Heathrow if things got desperate, but that would have been expensive and again I had cause to regret not easing my bladder before leaving Elstree diverting would strain it even more

   'Light aircraft over Blackbushe' our radios suddenly woke bright and clear 'this is BOAC Speedbird *** passing three thousand - en-route for Kennedy heard you speaking to the zone controller has Doug forgotten to pay his electricity bill?'

   Very funny - I thought, some grey haired four-ringer, warm and snug in the left-hand of his 747, three hundred plus passengers in the rear, looking forward to drinks before dinner - referring to the owner of Blackbushe, like that

    looking north I could just make out the lights of a large airliner over the Woodley beacon, near Reading

    through gaps in the lowering base of broken stratus

   'Good luck happy landings' as he signed off.

   Five minutes later - just as we were deciding to return to Elstree

    the runway lights came on

  Peter Hunter 2013

from Peter Hunter's too many miles

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