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The Sywell Strut (SS), with the help of the Fenland Strut (FS) and the Milton Keynes Aviation Society (MKAS), organised a Young Aviator day at Sywell Aerodrome as part of the PFA’s National Young Aviator initiative (May12th). The following is a brief report of that day.

About 33 prospective YAs, plus four teachers for some “Fly-a-Teacher” flights, accepted our invitation to fly. We had nine aeroplanes “booked” to take part, four from FS, three from SS, Stewart Luck’s Bolkow and the “Build-a-Plane” Rans, with 10 pilots (two sharing an Auster Arrow from FS). On the preceding Friday, however, one FS aircraft scrubbed having been unable to get an inspection after maintenance.

Saturday morning dawned with a stiff south westerly breeze of about 15-17 knots, about four octas of cumulous cloud with a base at 1500ft, excellent visibility but with rain and gusty winds forecast by mid-afternoon – typical “April showers” weather, but in May! With the number of pilots and aeroplanes `booked’, there was every chance of completing the flying programme by lunch time, so the decision was taken go ahead; we had no alternative date and some youngsters were travelling quite a distance. A second (FS) aircraft called before 9 am to withdraw with a faulty ignition system. We were now two aircraft down, but still with plenty for the expected number of passengers.

I arrived at Sywell in my Jodel 1050 at 9:30, the allotted time for the first YA and pilot briefings, to find I was the first pilot to have made it!

Alan with his Jodel and some Young Aviators fuelling up (Richard Lambert)

Alan Gray (FS) arrived about 10:15 in his Auster Arrow having battled in against the wind from Norfolk. However, his second pilot had elected not to come (so we were now three pilots and two aircraft down). Stewart Luck, with son Henry, had left a message that they would be arriving about 11:00, and no-one else had telephoned to cancel, so MKAS briefed the first youngsters and we got them airborne.

Young Aviators listen to the safety briefing (Richard Lambert)

The Luck duo was pressed into service immediately they arrived in the Balkow. It was decided that it would not be safe to rig the “Build-a-Plane” RANS in the wind, so we were now three pilots and three aircraft down – still not a problem, or so we thought!

In the event, no more pilots turned up. I can only assume they were put off by the wind and the forecast, as none of them telephoned in.

So we had two 2-seaters and a 4-seater to cater for an expected 37 or so passengers. We decided to postpone the “Fly-a-Teacher” flights and just fly their pupils. With a couple of “no-shows” and a couple of local youngsters that I offered to fly at a later date, the three aircraft and four pilots flew 18 sorties for 30 youngsters.


The three young aviator mounts (Richard Lambert)

In the morning the wind was generally 15 to 18 knots, blowing straight down Sywell’s runway 24. By the time the first YA flights took off at 10:35, the cloud base had lifted to 2,500 ft. The few clouds lingering at 1300 ft in the morning provided ideal “obstacles” for the budding “first officers” to negotiate and excellent views of the “cloud canyons”.

Although low down there was a fair bit of turbulence to concentrate the mind, above 1300ft the air was remarkably calm. The last YA flight was completed by 15:40, somewhat later than had been planned, by which time, as forecast, it had turned rather gusty. The highest gust reported by ATC was 30 knots, although we were all rather well practised by then!

During the day we saw many isolated storms blow through, but Sywell was only in the way of one, and it blew through in a few minutes!

Young Aviators on their hangar tour (Richard Lambert)

Many thanks to the four pilots – Alan Gray, Stewart & Henry Luck and Alan Jackson for braving the conditions and giving all the youngsters a memorable flight experience.


Thanks also to Andre Faehndrich and his colleagues (Russell Osborn, Richard Lambert, Dave Beetham and Jacob Hinson) from MKAS. They provided the escorts, gave all the safety briefings, Young Aviator guides and associated paperwork and organised guided tours of the excellent hangars at Sywell, which just about everyone took advantage, children and their accompanying carers and teachers. Thanks also to MKAS for refreshments and a snacks for the pilots from the “Pilots Mess” café. All the children left with a “goodie bag”, fond memories of an interesting and unusual day in the open air and, of course, a pilots eye-view of the Northamptonshire countryside.

Report very kindly written by Alan Jackson – PFA Sywell Strut Co-Ordinator

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