Oxford From The Air
By Dan Channer
If you are stuck for a present for someone you care about, or alternatively someone you wish to scare, I can recommend an introductory flying lesson from Pilot Flight Training at Kidlington – it is wonderful. Well, it is once you have landed.
On turning 40 this year, our North Oxford team presented me with a ½-hour flying lesson and on an overcast May day I sat down for my briefing. The instructor smiled, said “You’re going to do all the work” and ignored my pleas of ignorance. Before you know it, we’re taxiing up the runway and my hands are on the controls. This was not the plan.
We accelerate and the instructor’s delegation skills are so exceptional that I feel as if I am almost flying the plane. In fact, he is allowing me, the passenger, to do only minor adjustments but the feeling of terror (turning to satisfaction) is visceral.
At 1,500 feet, we fly from Kidlington to Marston and Oxford is beneath us. The vast expanse of green floodplain inside the ring road hits you immediately– it seems that Oxford is more fields than houses. Heading towards the John Radcliffe mothership, the sparkling white stone of the new mosque on Marston Road is prominent. Turning right and flying up St. Aldates, I find it hard to believe that anyone is allowed to fly over a city centre at such a low altitude. The classic University quads look fantastic and you can see all the shoppers idling up Cornmarket.
30 minutes goes in a flash and suddenly I am being told – you guessed it – “You’re landing the plane.” At this point I realise the instructor is good at flattering his clients and is actually doing 99% of the work. Back on terra firma I now understand how people get hooked on flying.