A Little Story

Discussion in 'Personal Gallery' started by Vic Balshaw, Oct 18, 2009.

  1. Vic Balshaw

    Vic Balshaw Well-Known Member

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    Most Memorable International Flight

    It was a balmy August afternoon and our scheduled flight had been delayed due to the threat of gathering thunder clouds over the Essex countryside, but as the summer sun was setting, the early evening sky cleared and we passengers were directed out to the waiting aircraft. With my mother, I walked across the apron carrying my small bag of treasures and was amazed as any boy of 9 would be, by this gleaming silver giant aircraft that was about to take us on a journey of a lifetime. As we climbed the steps and entered the rear of the passenger cabin my anticipation and excitement grew.

    Suitably strapped in our seating and the cabin door closed, one by one the four powerful engines coughed into life. From my window seat at the rear of the passenger cabin, my excitement momentarily turned to fear as I saw explosions of giant flame jump from the starboard engines as they fired into life. However this fear was soon dispelled when the steward came around offering a big bowl of boiled sweets, from which I took a handful.

    The engines had settled to a steady rumble as we started to taxi out to the end of the runway and the whole airframe buck and yaw over the tarmac as the pilot tested brakes, rudder and ailerons. Sitting at the end of the runway, the engine noise increased and the whole aircraft vibrated violently as the power of the 1280 hp Merlin engines increased. With the mighty propellers biting into the evening air the aircraft lurched forward, it’s engines belching flames and smoke as we trundled and bumped our way down the runway. Gradually the speed increased lifting the tail and with the change of airflow over wing, the bumping stopped as this lumbering silver bird took to the wing.

    As the aircraft turned south and headed towards France, I was mesmerised by the sights below, the orderly lie of the English countryside, it’s roads, rail, towns and small villages gliding smoothly past. Crossing the coast, the ships were clearly defined as they steamed in the channel leaving a frothing wake in their path. We were soon out over France where the roads, villages and fields were so clear in the late evening twilight. As we weaved our way around the French Alps, they seemed so close that one could almost touch them, but the long shadows of night were falling fast, leaving only the sparkling lights of towns and villages as they passed below.

    The year was 1954, mum and I were flying in an Avro York of Scottish Airlines on charter to the Royal Air Force. Because the York aircraft passenger cabin was not pressurised or fitted with oxygen masks the flight ceiling had to be limited to between 5000 and 8000 feet (1500 to 2500m). It was also and still is the custom of the Royal Air Force to fit all passenger seats, charter or otherwise, facing the rear of the aircraft. We also did not have the luxury of in-flight catering facilities and for this reason were offered an afternoon tea while waiting for the weather to clear. During the flight, our only sustenance was the basics of a flask warmed tea and coffee or water. Though I did not realise it at the time, being the only child on the flight, the steward had somehow conjured up a large piece of fruit cake for my supper. So full of fruit cake and with the droning of the mighty Merlin engines lumbering us at 400kph across the star filled sky I was soon asleep.

    I was awoken by the aircraft vibrating violently and a great roar in my ears like nothing I had ever heard, the aircraft cabin was pitch black as I fumbled for my mother frightened and alarmed, what was happening, what is that great noise. Reassuringly my mother told me that we had landed and that we would soon be able to get off the aeroplane. I learned in later years that the great roar was the propellers of the Avro York being thrown into reverse pitch and the engines brought to full power so the aircraft would slow down smoothly and quickly. Excitement dispelled my fear for we must be at our destination and I was going to see my Dad again. But this was not the case for we had landed at RAF Luqa in Malta to refuel and have breakfast. The fact that I was still sleepy and it was something like four in the morning seemed not to matter as we were directed into the transit lounge and offered the traditional English breakfast in a hot and steamy café traditionally called a Mess Hall.

    As the light of dawn approached, we again took to the air and still heading south flew on to the North African Coast. I must have fallen asleep after the big breakfast and excitement of Malta, for when I woke we were flying over this great expanse of sand, an area so vast, that as far as I could see it was all sand. My mum said that it was the Sahara Desert and that we were over Libya. We were flying along the North Africa Coast at a very low altitude closer to 4000 feet (1200m) and for reasons of safety, just in case of mechanical trouble, keeping in sight the small villages and Bedouin camps and occasional airfield that frequented the coastal regions. Naturally, I was not aware of these reasons at the time, but I was fascinated by the contours and the variety of colours and contrasts seen in the desert sands below. We flew over vast sand dunes, deep gully’s, rocky outcrops and skirted mountains and we were flying low enough for me to even see clearly a herd of camels wandering over the empty sands.

    I was so taken by the vastness of this new and unusual landscape, that the remaining hours of flight were eaten away. As dramatic as the desert landscape was, it was abruptly halted as we crossed into the fertile and very productive Nile Delta. One minute total sand, the next total vegetation, the transformation was amazing. Gradually the aircraft decent brought us closer and closer to the expanses of date palms, maze, cotton and my father. The sun of the mid afternoon reflected startlingly off the aircraft tri-tail, blinding me from time to time as I gazed, nose to window at the white painted mud dwellings of the villages nestled between palms and strange tall deep blue-green trees (now know to be eucalypts). Then the expanse of an airfield came into view, an area of flat dull yellow dusty looking sand, an area bustling with activity as with a screech our wheels touched down on the sun reflecting tarmac of a scorched runway at RAF Fayid. With a mighty roar of protesting engines the Avro York was slowed to a crawl as we taxied towards the arrival building.

    We were bumping and rattling along, not on solid tarmac but on hard packed centuries old sand. We seemed to be taxying for ever before coming to a standstill and I watched impatiently while the steps were rolled up to the aircraft door which had been opened and was letting in a blast of very hot dry air. I was almost overwhelmed with my excitement and the heat as we waited by our seats so close to this open door. I was out of my seat trying to look out the door for a sighting of my dad but mum pulled me back and told me to behave. Finally after the formalities of flight arrival were complete we were able to leave the aircraft and as I bounded through the door, I grabbed the step handrail not knowing it would be scorching hot from the blistering of the midday sun. With a squeal I let go and scrambled down the steps to my waiting father.

    I had arrived in Egypt.
    :hotsun: :hotsun:
     
  2. lesofprimus

    lesofprimus Active Member

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    Greast stuff Vic, when u starting Part II???
     
  3. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

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    Aye, come on!
     
  4. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Awesome story!
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Great stuff!!
     
  6. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Great story, thanks for sharing.
     
  7. Butters

    Butters Member

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    A great story and very good writing to boot. Nice job, Vic :D

    JL
     
  8. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    Great writing, Vic!

    Hopefully, there's more!
     
  9. Vic Balshaw

    Vic Balshaw Well-Known Member

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    Hey guys, thanks very much for that, most unexpected
    :hotsun: :hotsun:
     
  10. mudpuppy

    mudpuppy Member

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    Agreed Vic, an interesting story and well told. Good job!
    Derek
     
  11. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Excellent Vic.....more, more, more!:D
     
  12. Aaron Brooks Wolters

    Aaron Brooks Wolters Well-Known Member

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  13. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting Vic, thanks for sharing.
     
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