Some­thing of a con­trast...

Pilot - - PREFLIGHT - Philip White­man, Ed­i­tor

Very much by de­sign, this is­sue em­braces air­craft from the ex­treme ends of the scale of two-seat gen­eral avi­a­tion types: the dear old Air Cadet T61 Ven­ture/sf 25 Mo­tor Falke and the Fol­land Gnat.

The Falke is a kind of fly­ing VW Bee­tle, not just be­cause it uses the same en­gine but be­cause it is slow, out­dated and, let’s say, a lit­tle chal­leng­ing in cer­tain as­pects of its han­dling. I should know: my first car was a ’68 1200 Bee­tle and be­fore that ar­rived in my life I’d spent sev­eral hours fly­ing in the Thames Val­ley Glid­ing Club’s Mo­tor Falke with my fa­ther. The abid­ing mem­ory of those happy days is drag­ging across the grass at Booker, won­der­ing whether the thing would ever get air­borne — this was the first time I heard the phrase ‘re­lies on the cur­va­ture of the Earth’. Sit­ting in a heav­ily laden Mo­tor Falke on a hot sum­mer’s day, this old saw seemed like an en­tirely ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion of how the thing might even­tu­ally leave the ground.

I don’t know whether he ever ex­pe­ri­enced the joys of Mo­tor Falke fly­ing, but former Pi­lot Ed­i­tor James Gil­bert was a Bee­tle owner. The story I cher­ish is that when the thing broke down out­side a Jaguar deal­er­ship on Park Lane, James marched in and bought the E Type they had on show in the win­dow — which takes us neatly to the Gnat, which in many ways is the air­borne equiv­a­lent of that car.

A clas­sic, high-per­for­mance twoseater, the Gnat is an air­craft any full-blooded fly­ing en­thu­si­ast would like to get their hands on. Colin Good­win cer­tainly jumped at the opportunity when it was of­fered by the Her­itage Air­craft Trust and Ed­win Bren­ninkmeyer. For the story that ap­pears on p.24, I flew up to North Weald with Col in his RV-7.

I think it is fair to say that there was a lit­tle ap­pre­hen­sion at the idea of climb­ing into an old jet air­craft with a pi­lot nei­ther of us knew — ap­pre­hen­sion that evap­o­rated rapidly when we met Ed­win and the ex­pe­ri­enced and highly pro­fes­sional team that look after the Trust’s Gnats.

Over lunch after his flight with Colin, Ed­win talked about the dif­fer­ent air­craft he’d flown. It turned out that he’d logged lots of tail wheel time, not least in Cubs — he’s not only a skilled jet jockey but very much an­other full­blooded en­thu­si­ast, as we re­ally should have guessed right from the be­gin­ning. For all the rich di­ver­sity of GA, there are strong bonds that unite us pi­lots.

I hope the early prom­ise of this sum­mer is re­alised, and that you are all avi­at­ing in mo­tor glid­ers and fast jets, and all things in be­tween, dear read­ers.

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