Thursday, 15 September 2011

Still Alive!

Hello!  Haven't been here for a while.  The summer holidays were a mish mash of blowy weather and children, so not much flying to be done.  However, have been up twice this week (and my instructor's already regretting it).  See, trouble is, I'm now at the stage where my instructor's not saying anything and so a) I'm having to concentrate really, really hard until my brains start seeping out of my ears, and b) I'm making mistakes. 

I made quite a big one today.  A nice, hard, flat landing on the main runway at Staverton.  When you do something like that, you imagine that Air Traffic Control are all pointing and laughing at you.  Well, come on, wouldn't you?  There's the female driver, can't get her stick back (they'll be saying).  However, I'm taking heart in the fact that I did three nice landings at a beautiful strip near the Malverns (gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous) and some stall recovery practice.  And I didn't injure myself OR anyone else AND the plane is still intact.  (Although I did draw on the wing by mistake.  Not sure how I did this but will no doubt be given an airport equivalent of an ASBO for graffiti-ing at some point down the line.

I leave you with this little pic of my boys, nose to nose with a Gloster Javelin. 

School run beckons!

B xx

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

It's been a while...

Yes, it's been ages.  This happens every year.  July peeps around the corner and suddenly everything's in 5th gear.  Since I last wrote I've been flying at least twice more and, maybe even more excitingly, have been to Barcelona with the girls.  It's amazing how regular flying in a microlight really settles your nerves on a big commercial plane.  Any turbulence feels like undulating pillows...grinding noises are immediately recognisable as flaps or landing gear, turns are fun rather than fear-inducing.  So anyone who is afraid of flying...get yourself some microlight lessons!

I've been struggling a bit recently with my landings.  In fact, I've earned myself the nickname of 'Becky Balloon' - which means I bring the nose up a bit too early on landing and start lifting up again ('flaring').  However, today was much better.  Microlight Mike, my instructor, took me to a little strip at the foot of the Malverns and we did a couple of practice circuits and landings.  As the last one was my best so far, he let me zoom off up the Malverns ridge and do some really steep turns around a school party at the top.  God knows what they thought we were doing - but it was FUN!!!

Radio is coming along too.  I'm gradually gradually getting to the point where I don't feel absolutely petrified talking to Air Traffic Control (am constantly repeating the mantra in my head, "they are here to help me, they are here to help me..").  I like to posh it up a bit, proper pilot-stylee, although when I'm qualified I think I'll revert back to my Brummy accent and see what they make of that.  "Alroight Gloucester, am on final approuch, ready for a bosting landing."  I suspect there'll be a lot of "Say again, Golf Mike India, say again."

Til the next time...

Becky Balloon.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Loads going on...

Oh Lordy Lordy, where has the time gone?  Since the last post, my mate Siobhain and I have done the London to Brighton bike ride (along with 27,000 others - bit busy en route), and I've been flying TWICE (count em).  The bike ride was good fun but dangerous at times.  All sorts of riders took part, from Sunday Cyclists to cycling teams clad in full lycra strip - and in fact it was the teams who were causing the problems, going far too fast and occasionally taking out your more run-of-the-millers (like us two).  Any cyclist wearing clips (you might not know, but if you ride a road bike you can clip yourself to the pedals so that you pull AND push) had problems as there was constant stop/starting, and when a clipped-in cyclist stops....down he or she goes.

Here we are safely at the finish.  Please note Siobhain in stewardess outfit and me as pilot, which is really false information as Siobhain was firmly in charge and even conquered the dreaded Ditching Beacon.  I'm afraid that when I realised people were walking faster than I was pedalling, I dismounted with a long face.

So that was the bike ride.  And my two flights this week and just now were fab - great weather and not too many scary moments.  I'm practising my circuits now; that's when you go around the airfield and make your preparations for landing.  There's LOADS to think about; flaps down, throttle off a bit, descend, nose up, nose down, bit to the left, GET YOUR NOSE UP, radio call, turn right, third stage flaps, coming in too steep, POWER ON, radio call, stick back, stick back, stick back, WILL YOU GET YOUR STICK BACK....bump...bump.

I think I'm getting there.  Today I got told off for taxi-ing too fast on the apron.  This is a massive step up for me, who is usually Mrs Slow McSlow.  Next time I'm going to see how fast I can go on the ground without actually taking off.  Then there'll be some real shouting.

B x

Friday, 17 June 2011


Well, now I'm working part time, it's harder to fit the flying in.  And the unsettled weather means that there will be days (like today) when I'm booked to fly but the 'cumulo says no'.  This, coupled with the fact that my little boy was up for half the night with a cough and I can barely say my own name, never mind fly a plane, means that the lesson is postponed :(

Never other news, The London to Brighton Bike Ride is on Sunday.  My friend and I are travelling down to Brighton on Saturday and getting up at 4am (YES! 4AM!!!) to catch a bus with our bikes up to Clapham...and then cycle all the way back.  I suspect I may need some recovery time after that.  Here's what I'll be wearing:

I need to find some way of affixing the pilot's cap to my bike helmet in a way which doesn't make me look like an eejit.  Any suggestions?

Ok, wish us luck.  Next blog update will be after the ride.  I will be typing standing up.


Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Holy Sh*t!

I said this phrase a lot today.  I don't know why I chose this particular one - it's not like I'm on a 1960s TV series of Batman or anything - it just seems to come out of my mouth whenever my plane does anything unexpected.  And there was a lot of unexpected today.

The first thing was that we were practising slow flight.  Slow flight is fine until it gets too slow and the plane stalls.  This too is fine if you know what to do...but today we talked about what happens if the plane starts to dive off to one side and, if that's not corrected, how it starts to spin downwards.  If this happens...all together now... HOLY SH*T!!

So we're not allowed to practise an actual spin in the plane I'm in (thank the Lord of holy microlights) but we can simulate the start of one.  Believe me, it is terrifying.  I never, ever want to ever do that without an instructor beside me who allows me to panic and say "Holy Sh*t" many times whilst he saves the day.

The other "HS" factor today was the wind.  Before you take off, you listen to this thing called an ATIS recording which tells you interesting stuff about the airfield, including how windy it is and where the wind is coming from.  The trouble is, this is recorded every half hour or so and things can change quite dramatically in that time.  Anyway, we listened to it and the wind didn't sound that bad so off we went.

Holy Sh*t!  Take off was ok but immediately after we left the ground we started to be shunted all over the place.  It's interesting - when you're driving along and buffeted by a side wind you feel as if you've been pushed sideways but, unless you're driving a very high sided vehicle, you generally feel pretty stable (as I guess cars are heavy and most of the weight is anchored low down).  Flippin' 'eck Tucker.  In a plane you're shoved sideways, up, down, rolling, yawing,'s very hard to keep the damn thing going in a straight line. 

So that was a challenge.  But the scary bit was coming into land.  The plane just wasn't going in the right direction.  And we were having to come in at a steep angle.  These two things in themselves were making me sweat.  But when Pilot Phil said, as we were about 50 feet from the runway, "I HAVE CONTROL!"... and was obviously having a bit of a struggle with the wind himself (although I have to say made an incredibly smooth landing), I didn't feel too bad in letting the odd swear word escape.

A bottle of coke and some chips later, the terror is fading and the joy of battling with the elements is rising.  I need to knuckle down and do some study now.  Air Law here we come!!!

Wishing you a less windy and very stable week,

Becky xx

Friday, 3 June 2011


After yesterday's debacle, I flew today.  The sun was out, the air was clear, the views were magical.  Unfortunately, the high temperature, coupled with the fact that today I was practicing stalling the plane, meant that I sweated like a pig.  Honestly, it was so hot, and I was concentrating so hard, and I was, admittedly, perhaps the tiniest bit scared...when we landed I realised that I was sweating from parts of me that I didn't know could sweat.  It was that bad.

I loved it.  I loved, in essence, breaking the plane, and then mending it again.  To stall it, you slow it right down and point the nose up until you feel it wobble....and before you know it, your sinking like a stone.  Bugger, you might think.    But all you do is point the nose down and give it some welly - you're off again!  You've saved the day!  You're a hero!!

I'm going to say night night now as being a hero seven times in one hour is absolutely knackering.  I don't know how the likes of Spiderman ever did it. 

Night all :-)


PS Tomorrow I will tell you about Sylvia. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Don't do it!

Someone was telling me not to fly today.  This is how it went...

Last night I had a headache and slept badly.  When I got up at 7am, I thought to myself... am I fit to fly?  Yes, I decided, take a couple of pills and I'd be able to get by.

My two sons got up, full of phlegm.  Are they too ill for holiday club?  No, I decided, I've bloody paid for it. 

I bundled them into the car and turned the ignition.  Our old and tatty Renault vibrated like a Rampant Rabbit (sorry, mother) and an orange warning light came on.  I shall not be beaten, thought I.  One taxi ride later, and the boys were dropped off.  I limped the car to the Renault Garage and pleaded with them to take a look at it while I waited.  Ok, they said.  £121 and an hour later, I drove back home to collect my piloty gear.

It takes an hour to get to the airfield but I usually leave an hour and a half.  I'm a bit anal about time.  So I set off in my usual way, far too early.  Then suddenly, the M4 stopped.  It just stopped.  Ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes went by, without moving.  Another 5 minutes, I thought, and I'll phone the flying club to say I can't make it.  And then the phone I dare answer it?  Am I breaking the law if I'm stationary?  So I answer it, but crouch really low to fool any police watching (see how clever I am?).  It's the flying school.  The plane has broken down.  So the flight's off.

So now I've been stuck in this jam for 40 minutes.  Now here comes the bit where I'm incredibly stupid.  When I eventually pass the accident, I'm vaguely aware that traffic has built up on the other side of the carriageway too.  Does that stop me from getting off at the next junction and turning round?  Of course not!  So 5 minutes later, I'm facing the other way, stuck for another hour.  What an eejit I am.  I was busy cursing myself, hitting my head on the steering wheel and shouting things you really wouldn't like to hear when I passed the cause of the accident.  A lorry, completely overturned, cab smashed to bits, all sorts of other wreckage strewn over the carriageway.

Ah, thought I.  Perhaps it is my lucky day, after all.

And to doubly cheer me up, here's a pic of my cockpit.  Hooray!

Enjoy the lovely weather :-)


Friday, 27 May 2011

Flying over Bath

Today....flying AND singing :-)   Had a great lesson for over an hour and a quarter...we flew south from Gloucester to my home town of Bath and bumbled around over The Royal Crescent, The Circus, the Abbey...and my house!  It's amazing how you can just mosey about in a can go pretty low and fiddle faddle about to your heart's content - I suppose as long as you don't bump into anything (or fly into someone else's airspace) then no one gives a hoot.

I had to talk on the radio again.  This is a real hurdle for me.  The 'Tower' at Gloucester is pretty busy for a tiddly airport and you have to be quite assertive to say anything.  It's quite a male domain - am yet to hear a female voice.  And of course, I don't fully understand what I'm saying yet so when they ask me a question I panic and plead with my instructor to answer for us.  Patheticly girly - one to work on.

And speaking of being girly, note to self for next time - do not wear low slung jeans for flying as there's lots of bending down to be done in pre-flight checks and the sight of someone's 'butt crack' (my son's term) on the apron is not nice for anyone, let alone some poor student pilot.

And's Bath's Party in the City and our choir (The Bath Chorus) is singing in the Abbey.  Lots of fun to be had afterwards, with bands and choirs and groups performing here, there and everywhere.  I can already feel my hangover coming on...

Happy Friday everyone!


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Domestic Stuff

I've been painting today.  Not landscapes - I'm as artistic as a lump of rock - but skirtings, door frames, doors...  Part of me thinks it's tedious beyond belief.  But another part of me quite likes it.  It gives me thinking time which I think we probably get little of these days (listen to me, I sound like my Granny), what with email, Facebook, TV and radio insidiously whispering "come dibble with me", and also the Flight Simulator saying "you need practice, lady" (although I grant that that might just be me).

So I sort of enjoyed it.  But I am not enjoying the thought of my dear husband's face as he comes through the door tonight and studies every drip that I've failed to clear up.  48 hours of sweaty effort will be ruined with his small tut and a shake of his head.

Flying tomorrow! It's been windy this week so I had to cancel my lesson on Monday.  And look what I bought!

S'marvellous.  I do like a nice hat.  Wishing you a windless, ash cloud-less few days....

Captain Becky x

Saturday, 21 May 2011


Hooray!  (I hear you shout) - a flying-free post!    Yes...and no.  Someone wise (I know they were wise becaue they were on Radio 4) said recently that cycling is the closest a human being can get to the sensation of being able to fly.  If you don't cycle, I can hear you scoffing already.  Scoff scoffity scoff. Scoff.  How ridiculous.

And yet....have you ever cycled up a long traffic free hill in the springtime, put so much effort in that you were panting like a good 'un, your heart pounding and the sweat running down your back?  You're almost ready to get off, but the brow of the hill comes into view like water in the desert, Friday payday, termtime after the very long school holidays.  At the top there is a moment of relief where your muscles slacken and your heart rate starts to return to normal.  And then the smile comes....  Feet off the pedals, hands lightly touching the brakes...wind in your hair (helmet), time to admire the flowers, insects in your mouth and sunshine on your back.  And the impulse to shout "YEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSS!" at the top of your voice.  See?  You're flying!!!

There's a book written by Cadel Evans, a great Australian cyclist, called Close to Flying (  I've never read it.  But I like it already.

Happy (and safe) cycling.


Thursday, 19 May 2011


I was flying again today.  It was quite an anxious sortie because the air was pretty 'thermic' (bouncy) and I found it hard to control the plane.  And when, after an hour, I eventually landed, I was ravenous.  Is there a connection between stress/worry and your metabolism?  Here's what Mr Google reports...

In terms of the metabolism, adrenaline makes the fat cells more efficient at turning fat into energy. Adrenaline also increases the metabolism. Cortisol has the effect of increasing the amount of glucose in the blood and creating more energy.
How cool is that?  Flying makes you lose weight!  And possibly parachuting, gliding, riding rollercoasters, chasing criminals, and all sorts of other scary things too!

And guess what?  I used the radio!  "Golf Charlie Echo Hotel Lima requesting somethingorother...." Ha ha ha!  This must mean that I'm a proper pilot.  Although it was a bit like learning a foreign language - you can learn a phrase to say but haven't got a clue what they mean when they start spouting back at you.  Perhaps it will come...

And finally, saw this article in the mail.  It's a bit like I feel, so I wanted to share....

Enjoy the thermic weather! xxx

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Monster Munch

I have a penchant for beef flavour Monster Munch.  I am a crisp person; offer me crisps or chocolate, and I would go for crisps every time.  The trouble with this is that they are pretty much worthless in terms of 'good stuff' (scientific term), and incredibly high in fat - almost 10% of my yummy MM bag is gloopy sloopy oil. 

When I was under the Watchful Eye of WeightWatchers, I didn't eat any crisps.  It was sad.  I mourned them.  Oat biscuits just didn't have the same pzazz.  But now that I exercise more and probably am fitter than I have ever been (I even saw a bit of muscle recently in my a certain light), I figure I'm allowed the odd bag or two.

Did you see this lady on the telly recently?  I worry for her.  But scarily, I totally understand her obsession.

The moral of this story?  A little bit of what you fancy is good for you.  But a lot of what you fancy makes your hair fall out and your gums bleed.  Euw.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Swinging in the air

I don't really want this to become a 'learning to fly' blog but it's such an important part of my life at the moment that I'm afraid I'll have to share bits and pieces with you.  Today, lesson 2; it felt less scary even though it was a bumpety bumpy day, my taxying was more in-line with the runway AND (fanfare please) I took off AND (more trumpets) I landed - even though the plane was swinging sideways like a hammock on the approach.  No time to be petrified though - knobs to push and sticks to wobble, instructor shouting merrily - some of what he says sinks in and the rest floats towards the top of the cockpit, ready for another day.

The scariest bit of the flight was when Phil stalled the plane (on purpose).  He slowed it right down to about 35kts, with the nose up.  The poor old plane gave a little shudder and then gave out.  This is not a great feeling when you're 2,000 feet in the air.  But nose down a bit, speed picks up, and the engine comes to life.

And talking of the engine...Instructor Phil popped the rivets so I could have a look.  Bear in mind please that I have no idea what I'm looking at - don't know the difference between a carburetor and an exhaust thingy - but I did spot a couple of bungy ropes towards the back.  'What do they do?' I ask.  'They hold the engine in.'  Oh. 'So, basically, the engine is held up with rubber bands?'  'Yep'.

Lesson 3 on Thursday....

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Weston Super Mare

Hmmmm.  I will share something with you and perhaps you can decide if the balance in my life needs some fine tuning.  Today, there is a flight simulation conference in Weston Super Mare.  I am tempted to go.

That is all.


Friday, 13 May 2011


I'm learning to fly.  There it is.  Black and white.  I can hardly believe it myself.  And whilst this doesn't, on the surface, seem to have anything to do with losing weight - you can bet your bottom dollar that I wouldn't be learning to fly if I was heavier.

Why?  Because losing weight gave me more confidence.  So much so, that just over a year ago I told myself that I would say yes to everything - within reason.   And this positive attitude has led to a more adventurous spirit, and desire for challenge...where before I would have been happy (very happy, in fact) to sit on the sofa watching daytime TV and eating crap.

So, I've had two lessons now.  The first one was for just half an hour, which was mostly spent squeaking in fear  and saying "No!  I can't do that!"  The second, yesterday, was for an hour and the fear had subsided slightly, but I still made meep noises followed by 'sorry!' everytime the plane dipped around in the thermals.  And every time I meep, I jump a bit and hit my head on the roof of the cockpit.  God knows what my instructor thinks...although I like to think - hope - he's seen worse.

The most difficult thing so far is taxi-ing down the runway.  The steering is controlled with the feet and I can't seem to make them work properly, so I veer from left to right like a loony.  "Keep in the middle!" shouts the instructor.  "I'm TRYING!" say I, feet frantically working at all angles.  I foresee tempers fraying in the future.  But for now....I'm absolutely loving it!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Street Party Cakes

Second post, and we're already onto cake.  I'm making Union Jack cakes for our street party tomorrow.  I'm not a great cake baker, but I'm happy to eat whatever mush I produce as I have such a sweet tooth. 

When I was seriously trying to lose weight, I had to concentrate hard not to eat too much sweet stuff.  However, top tip - meringues.  No fat - all sugar!  I'm not advocating eating a ton of them...but I used to allow myself a meringue at the end of the day as a treat.  It was absolute heaven with a cup of mint tea.

But I think on such a special occasion as a Royal Wedding (which I'm rapidly losing my British cynisism about and have bought bunting/flags to decorate the house and even {whispers} a red, white and blue hair clip for tomorrow's do) you should be allowed a cake or two.  Even if they do look like colourful mush.

Enjoy the preparations.... :-)

B xx

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

First steps...

Well, here we are then.  My first entry in my blog and I'm finding it difficult to know where to start.  How about I tell you why I'm here in the first place?

December 2008.  I'm at the Docs, having just been diagnosed with a very minor hole in the heart thing (don't feel sorry for me - apparently it's very common).  Trouble is it's all spaghetti'd up with a family history of stroke and the Doc is obviously concerned.  He looks me up and down and says, "You could do with losing a few pounds."

I felt like I'd been booted in the face.  How dare he?  I'm a svelt size 12!  Well, I would be, if they made clothes properly these days.  I mean, so I don't fit into size 16s anymore, but that's all to do with the fashion industry, isn't it?  I mean, for goodness sakes!  Harrrumph!  (etc etc etc...)

When I got home, I took a good look at myself in the mirror.  The Doc was right.  My arse was the size of a B52 bomber.  Action had to be taken.  It was time for...duh duh derrrrrrrr!  WeightWatchers.

And on that cliffhanger, I'll leave my first post.  Laters, Lighters!

Becky xx