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Sportability flying day to be held at APT Old Sarum Airfield.
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APT & Sportability
The APT gave me the sky
I guess I've always had an interest in flying. I wasn't a plane spotter or anything like that, but loved visits to airports to collect family, but never took it any further. When I started working in Limerick my girlfriend bought me a flying lesson at Shannon Airport. I took to the skies in a Cessna 150 and was bitten by the bug. Over the following months I spent all I could afford on flying. Shannon was great fun, as a not very busy international airport I flew circuits with the really big guys- One Saturday morning Air France's Concorde was doing circuits as I took off. I was often number 2 to a 737 or 747 for take off and on one occasion had to hold on the ground while Air Force One landed.
I aspired to an airline career. Due to the job market in Ireland in the late 80's we decided to move to the UK to live. I made plans to keep flying when I moved and took a few lessons but just couldn't afford it. I put flying out of my mind. In 1990 I was diagnosed with MS and put flying even farther to the back of my mind. I assumed that I'd never get a medical anyway.
The years passed. I flew occasionally with a friend of mine who was a flying instructor but never thought I could take it farther. I moved back to Ireland in 1999. I watched a TV program one evening about flying and the memories came back. I decided to try flying again. Even if I could never get a licence I thought then I can fly with an instructor. I got on the Internet and found the AFT. Now it seemed possible but I was almost afraid to hope. I contacted the APT and spoke to Jack. He answered my questions and put me in contact with Sean Walshe who had gotten his licence with the APT a few years earlier and was also living in Ireland. Sean helped me decide that this was something I should do.
I made my travel plans. I took the ferry from Dublin to Wales and drove down to Old Sarum. I travelled in November and left Dublin on the last ferry before the storm! My timing could have been better, but I was here. I had my medical on Monday morning and passed! The weather was terrible, nothing flew all week. I got my head down though and finished and passed all of the exams I needed except one. On Friday just before I left I managed to get a flight in. It was brilliant. The Shadow is a great plane, fabulous visibility. It's easy to get in and out and the hand controls are very straight forward. If you drive with hand controls then it is quite similar.
The plane can be fully pre-flight inspected from a wheelchair so I could be largely independent. That first flight was great. Mike and I flew south looking at the flooded rivers and we did general handling exercises.
I left Old Sarum already planning when I would come back.
Over the following year I visited whenever I could, using all my holidays to travel to Old Sarum. Over the following trips my flying progressed. I made lots of friends at Old Sarum, went solo for the first time, watched 100 French microlights visit and had some great times. Finally it all came together and my GFT was upon me. Two very stressful days later it was finished and my licence application was in the post to the CAA. I thought this was the end of the excitement but I went back this summer to do some flying and attend the APT reunion. The day was extra special when Jack presented me with the Achiever of the Year trophy. I was so pleased. I have really enjoyed my times at Old Sarum, made good friends and got my licence- I go back whenever I can.
If you want to try flying I can highly recommend the APT. The planes are great, the mobile homes are on the airfield and adapted fully. The Shadow Flight Centre instructors are excellent and very patient. The whole place is relaxed and friendly and I enjoy visiting as often as I can.
Dave Collins -
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