A few years ago, if you had predicted that I would be fascinated by old aircraft and that I would carry out a substantial amount of research into flying boats and early aircraft carriers; would be a member of the SVAS, the Shuttleworth Veteran Aviation Society and also regularly attend air shows, I would have been highly amused.
Don’t misunderstand me. I have always been interested in history, especially social history, and thinking about the lives of the people who flew in, worked on or maintained these aircraft, has made them even more precious to me.
On Saturday I was privileged to attend a Meet the Pilot Flying Day at
Shuttleworth, and if you enjoy air museums and have not already done so,
visiting this airfield in the heart of the Bedfordshire countryside is a must.
Firstly we strolled among the aircraft, pulled out from their hanger museum for our delight. When I look closely at the 1938 Hawker Hind, I thought of my elderly friend Norman who, at 102 years of age still remembers being a Capstan machine operator, making nuts and bolts at Hawkers back in the thirties.
Then, reaching further back in time to the 1918 Bristol Fighter F2b, I can’t help but look closely at the wings and admire the webbed stitching, probably carried out by the first women allowed to work in the factories during WW1.
It was an amazing day. Half way through the superb exhibition of flight, the commentator willed us to concentrate on the air sacks across the field, and within an hour our wish was granted and the air was still; perfect for flying the Old Edwardians.
As the 1912 Blackburn Type D Monoplane, the oldest British aircraft still capable of flying in the world, took off we gasped with pleasure, enjoying every moment of the display. Then, as the sun dipped below the cloud line, leaving a sunset of many coloured hues, the 1909 Bleriot XI lifted off the ground, filling us with a collective sense that we were experiencing a never to be forgotten moment in history.
My next novel to reach the press will refect my growing interest in the history of aviation.