Painless inspired me to post this topic - having a natter on TS, conversation fell to the motorcycle thread; it then evolved to a similar for cars. At this point I confessed I've flown more different aircraft than I've owned cars and my car collection was decidedly under-whelming! So Painless suggested why not an aeroplane one? So here goes.
First, the aircraft I can legitimately claim to have flown, hands-on, didn't crash it!
My first flight! Headcorn, aged 11 and I lost my aviation virginity to... a Cessna 172 Skyhawk II! :
Then to the cadets, where I became a something of a ho' for aircraft - got the majority of aviating bed-post notches in my time (kind of) wearing blue.
My first true love - the de Havilland Chipmunk:
Many happy memories in this plane - bimbling around Cambridge on a hot summers day, watching the cumulus actually boiling up in the thermals and being overtaken by a P-51! Mock dogfighting with another Chippie over Whitstable; making the IP say 'Ooof!' and hearing the wings creak with a slightly over-exuberant pull into a loop over Pegwell Bay; orbiting the Capel le Ferne Battle of Britain Memorial and the Shakespeare Cliffs; and where I learnt that my favourite manouevre was the stall turn. I think heaven - if such a place exits - for me will be a warm summers day over Kent in a Chipmunk with unlimited fuel...
Then it's replacement - the Scottish Aviation Bulldog T Mk.I:
Pleasant enough but didn't like having to sit left seat (throttle on the right is just wrong!), having the IP overlooking what you're doing was disconcerting and there was a little deadspot in the middle of the stick travel where you could waggle the stick and nowt would happen! However, still have some fab memories - flying out of Manston and feeling my way through some very marginal weather and finding another Bulldog and flying a very loose formation with it under the scud; but my favourite was getting a ride with an AVM and upon being told what my level of flight experience, his comment was "well, that's pretty much everything. Done Spins? No? Well we're not supposed to do them in these..." Then spent the next 20 minutes getting up to 12,000ft (highest I'd then been in an unpressurized aircraft) and then tumbling down out of control and practicing recoveries! I had a blast. Thanks Bully!
Next - the Jodel D.11:
One word summed up my experience in this aeroplane: BORED! It was also unpleasantly hot.
However, this lowlight was more than made up for by my next non-standard outing. However prior to that, one more RAF training crate!
Grob Vigilant T1
This neat little powered glider was introduced to me on my trip to RAF Barnstaple for my Glider Course; a week in sunny(ish) North Devon with the goal of going solo! Wh00t!
Except after a spate of engine failures, and a period of grounding, the type was not allowed to be flown solo by cadets, so my 'solo' was with the CFI, but he sat there with his arms crossed doing a good impression of taking a nap!
Two things stick in my mind from this plane - one, being a tail-dragger it could get away from you directionally if you didn't keep on your toes, as I neglected to once - I learnt some choice new anglo-saxon words from the IP that takeoff!
Secondly, that we were under advisement to three point the plane, in case the tail down rotation that tended to occur on a two-pointer increased AoA to such an extent that the aircraft would takeoff again. It was pointed out to me by the CFI that I habitually I kept two-pointing the a/c, but that the balloon never occurred under my hand and all seemed under control. Whether this was an admonishment or a compliment was always something of an equivocation but I took it as a compliment and kept flying it that way cos it worked!
Boeing Stearman PT-13:
Glorious! My first open cockpit experience, and on one of the most breathtakingly gorgeous summer evenings you could hope for - the sky gradually fading to a deep pink with the odd tuft of lilac hued cumulus scattered about. Simply magnificent. The smell, the noise, the sensation of the wind racing around you was fabulous. Being flown by Charlie Brown - he of moustache and Spitfire renown - was another highlight. Though I misheard an instruction to make a 90 degree change of heading turn as a 90 degree angle of bank turn, so I think I put the wind up him a tad when I threw her over on one wing and ground around making holes in the sky for a few seconds... sufficed to say his next instruction was most clearly enunciated! I blame the boom-microphones...
My penultimate (at time of writing) powered ride was this little honey, the Piper L-21B Super Cub:
My girlfriend at the time, bless her, bought me a lesson out of Redhill in this lovely little aeroplane. I had a blast. No aeros, but some nice wing overs, and I got to practice some serious side-slips, something the Cub seems to do very well and really flatters the pilot. Gentle, forgiving, a delight. Coming into land at Redhill paralleling the heavies on approach to Gatwick was somewhat disconcerting , mind!
Then a sailplane interlude:
The entry level training glider of choice, it was staid, solid dependable, but responsive too and nigh impossible to spin unless you loaded a crap ton of ballast in the tail, which was regarded as unsophisticated if not downright unwise. Chasing thermals in this was both a challenge and a delight, and nailing a good landing very rewarding, if not very difficult.
PZL Bielsko SZD-50 Puchacz
I only flew the Pooch (as she was affectionately called) once to do spin training (since the ASKs were so belligerently uncooperative in this regard!) but flying this in the aero-tow was great fun, feeling your way around the wake & prop-wash of the tug - I was complimented by my instructor on my debut aero-tow flying, something I attribute to all the sim time chasing you buggers around! The spin itself was positively sedentary compared to those I had experienced in the Bulldog, so having geared myself up for some serious weightlessness and rotational adventures I was a little taken aback by the dignity and unhurriedness of the Pooches attitude to spinning!
And finally the big tamale:
Supermarine Spitfire T.9
What a day, one I'd dreamt of since I was 4 years old.
The start-up was the moment it crystalized into reality for me - this was actually happening, the airframe trembling (or was it me) with anticipation, the Merlins steady staccato chug like the breath of some impatient beast anxious for the chase...
Then the takeoff - good god the takeoff! I knew beforehand that it was going to involve significant levels of sound but despite this I still muttered a small gasp! Nothing quite prepares you, not just for the noise level but the entire nigh overwhelming blast of sensory input. Sound, vibration, acceleration, my adrenaline was maxed out and I went from excited but analytical (I had planned to watch the rudder input, boost settings etc for comparison to the sims) to a state of sensory overload and internally giggling like a little boy. Not a chance of paying any attention to the details I had so scientifically planned to monitor! It was the very essence of awe inspiring.
It was great to feel some 'g' again; not lot's but enough and to watch the world revolve whilst in the peripheral of your vision you see that wing shape... simply magnificent.
Video of it below for those who haven't seen it:
As well as the aircraft I actually got hands on stick time with there were some honorable mention rides:
Hawker Siddley HS.125
Hawker Siddeley HS 780 Andover
Westland Wessex HC2
This I have only loose memories of - partly because it was long ago (almost 18 when it happened), partly because I was so excited, partly because I had so little input - "do not touch ANYTHING!" - but mainly because I was overwhelmed! It wasn't a long flight, some 25 minutes, but sensory overload is a thing! I recall Welsh valleys going passed around me at some unfeasible rate of knots and some sustained and pronounced 'g'! My faculties, being accustomed more to speeds in the 90-100 knots range were somewhat saturated at the 400 odd I was told we were doing!
So guys, that's my collection - let's see your aviating bed-posts!