“You do know this aircraft has no brakes” were the last words my abled pilot & owner of The Great African Time Machine Flying Company, informed me as we were about the cross the first of four busy runways at Port Alfred Airfield. “A bit late now “, I replied.
Captain Cliff Reynolds went on to tell me that this is one of the busiest airports in SA. This is largely due to the fact that 43 Air School operates out of here. One of the most highly respected flying schools in the Southern Hemisphere.
I had two thoughts that came in quick succession. The first was my hope that the Air Traffic Controller did not have a late night followed quickly by my hope that air traffic control has some understanding of the limitations of this vintage flying machine.ie no braking or accelerating capabilities.
But before I knew it – it was wheels up! And the gentle purr of the engine was a comforting sound as we headed for the coast.
Ecstatic! I have wanted to fly in one of these graceful flying machines since childhood and finally I was up in the air, wind blowing across my face, marvelling at the clarity of the world below me.
Flying high, then low, twisting and twirling along the spectacular Eastern Cape coastline made me feel so very small as I gazed down in wonder across the vast ocean where a pod of some sixty dolphin were frolicking in the waves. It was a buzz over the little sea-side resort of Kenton-on-Sea before crossing the Bushmans, Kariega and Kasouga rivers for a gentle touch down at home base.
This particular canary yellow little Tiger Moth was built in 1941, one of only 600 remaining in the world today. Made from bracing wires, fabric covered wings and wooden props these magnificent open cockpit flying machines are far simpler yet more agile in the air than I expected.
To take a step back in time, don the classic leather flying helmet and goggles to experience the freedom of open cockpit flying was a real privilege. A dream come true.
The Great African Time Machine Flying Company will be back in Port Alfred from the 20th December. Contact Cliff Reynolds for the experience of a lifetime.