Gone Flying while Busy Forgetting
A Sunday afternoon at 1000ft over County Meath, Ireland.
It's just gone teatime on Saturday evening. I've just woken up from a 2 hour deep sleep, you the know the one, aye, brought to you by Mr. Chemo, my new afternoon sponsor.
"How are you feeling" is the opening line of the text. I just then fired back a reply with a 👍. Seconds later and a follow up text from the same person:
"Fancy coming for a flight in the helicopter in the morning?".
It's these type of inviting texts that, in their reply, can and indeed do break world record timeline and reflex actions in the speed of their reply.
"YES, Wow, Thanks", I think it took about 3 nanoseconds for that reply of mine to be both written and sent.
With the offer of being picked up in the machine from outside my house (what an offer !), I decided I would drive to the hanger, just 30 mins drive away. It wasn't long before our preflight checks were complete and we had our radio call put in to the tower for 'engine start'. It has been over 10 years since I did my helicopter flight training, but the memories just came flooding back. Just minutes later and Capt. Gerry had our T's and P's (temperatures and pressures) all in the fields of green. One more call to the tower for 'permission to lift' followed by a final visual check that our aircraft is clear from all persons and any (late coming) obstructions, Gerry eases some left pedal, increases the throttle and gently pulls the collective and in doing so lifts us all into a gentle hover, ready for departure.
Minutes later and we are routing out towards the metropolis of Maynooth. A right turn towards the Summerhill mast duly follows, then a visual, quickly followed by a competent verbal reference radio call to Dublin Air Traffic Control advising that we are remaining outside Dublin Airports Controlled (Class C) airspace and onewards I fly in Capt. Gerry's whirlybird. We fly over Kilmessan, leaving the Hill of Tara in our sights to our right, and then moments later we overfly Bellinter House Hotel, home to where many of my wheelchair balloon flight adventures have launched from and will do in the future.
Next stop on our map is Navan Airfield (EIHH), a licensed aerodrome and registered training facility positioned due East of the toxicated Tailings Pond that is located just North of Navan town. It didn't take long until we were landed at this very friendly Meath family facility. With our shutdown checks completed, Rhys Kellett was out to meet us and escort us in to the clubhouse. Heat on, coffee ready, plenty of aviation chatter between us and I even got to meet another fixed wing pilot who had just landed after completing some local flying detail, a gentleman called Neil Van Lonkhuyzen. A very small world, but many moons ago, it was Neil's brother Peter, then a neighbour of my parents farm (and pilot with Aer Lingus) that treated me to a flight in his own plane. I was not more than 12-13 years of age at the time. That is very possibly when the aviation bug hit, or rather pounced on me. I think from that very day with Peter Van Lonkhuyzen, a certain 12 year old kid who dreamed big (and still does), decided he would some day fly his own aircraft. Little did I know way back then what aviation adventures lay ahead for me and more importantly, the fun that would be had in doing them and the pure magic that would be abundantly shared by all along the way.
Departing Navan airfield and heading back to Weston, I had a lot to think about on the flight and I did.
How lucky am I, that I was/am able to get involved in a pastime I am so passionate about?
How lucky am I to have such beautiful friends as Helicopter Pilot Gerry Reidy ?
Last Sunday morning, I left the house here in Dunshaughlin grinning like a 5 year old child getting ready to go to the circus.
I was wearing a big smile and my hi-viz jacket together with bucketloads of excitement.
But you know what? That morning I left a big thing behind me, my Cancer !!
It didn't come with me. I abandoned it.
But I could only do that because a beautiful friend the night before, made a very thoughtful decision, not just inviting me on a fantastic helicopter flight, but for that whole afternoon which also meant letting me forget about something too, my cancer...
... and I did.
Thank you Gerry.