It was a beautiful, clear and sunny day with views stretching as far as my eyes could see. To the south, Loch Leven was glistening in the distance and in the north east, the Tay Bridge and the Firth of Tay stood out from the landscape. To my right, pilot and flight instructor Sean Taylor said to me, “not a bad office up here don’t you think?”
Having already launched myself off the Garry Bridge – purely for journalistic purposes of course – I was looking for my next challenge. One Saturday afternoon, while out in the garden, my neighbour’s son-in-law popped his head over the fence to offer me an opportunity I just wasn’t going to turn down.
Sandy is an aircraft engineer out at Scone, and he was raving about the flight simulator they have at ACS Flight Training who are based at the airport. As someone who isn’t the greatest flyer, the chance to see how a plane actually works and how it’s flown was something I was very keen to experience. By the Tuesday I was in touch with Sandy’s boss, Graeme Frater, who wanted me to come along and find out more about what they do and what they can offer.
“We’ll get you to have a go in our flight simulator and you can learn the controls,” he said on the phone, “and then we’ll get you up in a plane flying yourself.”
Hold the bus. Here I am thinking that I was going to have a wee go in a simulator and write about it. Now, Graeme’s talking about getting up in the air for real. I always remember being told by my dad that the best way to get more comfortable with flying would be to see how safe it is first hand, so I accepted the opportunity and was booked up for a flying lesson on the Thursday morning.
I hadn’t really been out to Scone Airport before, with the exception of a one-off school event that was held at the Hanger. It’s actually quite a big and impressive place. As I pulled into the car park which overlooks the runway and control tower, I could see the various planes on the tarmac and I have to admit I was feeling very nervous. It was a glorious day but it was blowing a hoolie! I’d heard about light aircraft and how you can definitely feel the movements a lot more than in the comfort of a Boeing 737, and I knew that the wind probably wasn’t going to help matters. It was a glorious day but it was blowing a hoolie!
Graeme and his team greeted me at the door of ACS Flight Training and introduced me to my pilot and instructor, Sean Taylor. Sean is a pilot for Loganair – a Scottish regional airline – but also works for ACS as an instructor too. We got chatting about flying and how you become a pilot, and Sean told me all about the different courses and training that can be provided at Perthshire’s airport.
Basically, it’s one of the most highly regarded training centres in the country and they help aspiring pilots to realise their dreams of joining a commercial airline and seeing the world. They also provide flying experiences to those who simply want to see first-hand how a plane works, or anyone who just wants to see picture perfect Perthshire from above.
Sean got me into the flight simulator which is a very impressive piece of kit. The controls mimic that of a twin-engine aircraft and position you on the tarmac at Edinburgh Airport. After going over the basics of what makes the plane move and how it all operates, he fiddled with the computer and had the aircraft in mid-air, flying over the Forth Road Bridge.
From here, he taught me how to turn and navigate the plane and also how to position myself with regards to the horizon. Then, it was back to the airport runway to do some mock take-offs before Sean decided that it was time for us to get into an aircraft for real.
Shades on, looking like Goose and Maverick from Top Gun, we headed out to our plane for the morning – a Cessna 152 G-BGLG – the sun beating down on the runway but the wind gusting around the wide open space. The two-seater aircraft with twin props looked great and the adrenalin was starting to kick in. With our headsets on and both of us inside the plane, Sean talked me through the safety procedures and radioed into the control tower to make them aware of our flight path.
He went through the final checks and before I knew it, we were racing down the runway about to take flight. Sean had warned me it might be a little bumpy as we climbed up over the trees at the end of the runway, but by now I was over the worst of my fears and was just excited to be airborne. My stomach did do a few somersaults as the wind shook the plane but it didn’t take long before we were safely in the skies of Perthshire and the views were even better than I could’ve imagined.
Sean then uttered the words that I’d never have expected to here – “you’re in control.”
I was actually flying a plane and it was a brilliant feeling. Sean had told me to use landmarks and points on the horizon in order to steer the aircraft, and as he named the different places from Dunblane to Loch Leven that were visible, he instructed me to turn the plane towards Luncarty as we headed towards some of the villages along the A9.
Our flight path was from Scone, into Perth and then out by the A9 over Luncarty, Stanley, Bankfoot and Dunkeld. Everything was in such clear view, with the River Tay twisting and turning through the green country landscape. Then it was a right turn over to Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus, with Dundee visible in the distance and by now I was beginning to feel like this could be a new career path for me! Everything was in such clear view, with the River Tay twisting and turning through the green country landscape.
Just as I was beginning to feel comfortable with the controls and felt like I could fly all day, Sean told me we were heading back towards the airport and that I should position the plane towards the Hanger ready for landing. We had been up in the air for about around forty minutes but it felt like five – time flies when you’re having fun (pun intended).
Sean took the controls from me and I was able to kick back and enjoy the last of the views before we started descending down towards the runway. As we landed, I could see another flying enthusiast heading out to his private plane and I couldn’t help but feel jealous and wonder if I could have my own pilot’s license one day.
We headed back inside for a final chat where Graeme asked both Sean and I about my flying skills, and whether I was a natural. According to Sean, I had good control over the aircraft and perhaps with a few more lessons I could be well on my way to getting my private pilot’s license. Maybe one day!
The whole experience has given me a new found appreciation of flying and how planes operate. The next time I get on a plane it will be to Thailand next month, and I’m sure the anxiety that I normally feel while in the air will definitely be reduced thanks to ACS Flight Training and Sean giving me the chance to fly high.
ACS Flight Training is based out at Scone Airport and offer flying experiences, simulator experiences and courses to gain flying qualifications.
Flying experiences start from just £95 for 30 minutes for one, or £115 for two. Simulator experiences start from £85 for 30 minutes.
ACS Flight Training also offers the chance to gain flying qualifications, ranging from your private pilot’s license (PPL) to training as a commercial pilot.
For more information on the flying experiences or training, contact ACS Flight Training on 01738 550003 or visit their website.
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