Best seats in the house

Pilot - - CONTENTS - Philip White­man, Editor

They say the Shard of­fers the best view over Lon­don. We were snig­ger­ing at the pa­tent ab­sur­dity of this claim as we bim­bled past the city’s con­tentious new land­mark in some­thing that of­fers a far bet­ter vista than any build­ing: a light air­craft, and a sin­gle-en­gined one at that.

With­out the pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence above, most pri­vate pi­lots could be for­given for not believ­ing it. Other than the BBMF’S his­toric flighters, sin­gle-en­gined aero­planes have long been pre­vented from fly­ing over cen­tral Lon­don. The se­cret is to do it in a pri­vate he­li­copter, as our pi­lot for the day, Pat Malone was demon­strat­ing.

I must own up to be­ing in on this one for many years: Pat first told me about the Heliroutes — aerial paths that cross Lon­don and me­an­der, like a tow path, along the Thames — years ago, when I was edit­ing the AOPA jour­nal he used to pub­lish. How­ever, while I was in­cred­u­lous to learn that you could take an R22 — a lit­tle ma­chine with much the same per­for­mance as a Piper Cub — right into the cen­tre of Town, it wasn’t un­til late this Oc­to­ber that I got to ride the route my­self.

We started from, and re­turned to Den­ham — a fa­mil­iar launch­ing point, as I had done my PPL there in 1989. HQ Avi­a­tion pro­vided the R44 we flew in. (A word about Robin­son he­li­copters: don’t be­lieve the bar room leg­end or small co­terie of prej­u­diced nay-say­ers that still ex­ists — th­ese are ro­bust, exquis­tely en­gi­neered and ul­tra-re­li­able ma­chines with an im­pec­ca­ble me­chan­i­cal safety record.) Any­way, I di­gress: the day was won­der­ful and the view as spec­tac­u­lar as the pic­ture sug­gests. And HQ treated us to lunch on our re­turn (thanks, ‘Q’ — and thanks, Pat!) What a way to fly and what a way to see Lon­don. GA doesn’t get any bet­ter than this!

Pat takes the R44 back along the Thames from our turn­ing point at the Isle of Dogs. Off to the right we see the Gherkin and the Walkie-talkie, and to the left, the Shard. Tower Bridge is just pass­ing un­der the nose

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