Updated: Apr 6

Rays of hope for a better year and more flying days ahead

In this issue:

Shaw's Report - our Chairman Ian's Reflections on 2020 and his New Year's resolutions

Club Night Report - the talk, the video, the quiz, the cocktails and Ian on why CF is the best flying club in the world

Sue Beesley describes her first solo

Daniel Langton thanks the flexwing fixers of Rochdale

The Flying Bard a.k.a. Dave Moore plays rhymes with the LLR


Shaw's Report

Welcome to the first edition of Cheshire Flyers 2021 and of course a very Happy New Year to all our lovely members.

First up – my New Year’s resolutions and this year I'm determined to master the art of Aeros, start my Instrument Rating as well as stop drinking those cheeky glasses of wine mid-week (except 3rd Monday of course), get fit(ter), finish those outstanding projects I never get around to - songs, motorbike/ car rebuilds etc, produce Shaw's report on time... In fact, virtually identical goals to last year – all of which I failed in miserably…

For those who missed our glorious zoom Christmas bash we enjoyed a superb night of fun and antics. A huge thanks to all those who assisted in making it a very enjoyable evening – you know who you are! I gave my customary Reflections of 2020 chat which, for those who missed it (and are in need of a brief nap), is reproduced in its entirety below.

Safe Flying for 2021....

Reflections of 2020 (delivered on the Christmas Club night zoom call)

Welcome to Cheshire Flyers – soon to be the most stylish flying club on the planet! But what a weird year, strange times for us all…

A year when Cheshire Flyers were treated by baptism of fire to our new social media channel - I am of course referring to’ Cheshire Flyers Whats App Chat Group’ – often fondly referred to as the ‘the Nick & Garry experience’

And who can forget with such blockbuster movies as ‘Missing fuel cap’, promptly followed by the much- awaited sequel ‘Found the fuel cap’…Such was the public response I’ve heard they are secretly working on part 3 ‘Where are my keys?’

All that to come in 2021…

But frankly talking – and let’s be honest - without their constant Tom Foolery, our cyberspace would be a much duller place to hang out…

2020 - the year when corona juice hit our shores causing multiple lockdowns, missed flying opportunities, massive bacon butties deprivation and the loss of our monthly Wheatsheaf get together.

But did we give up and let these sad unusual times get the better of us?

NO – Of course not, in fact we did exactly the opposite – we prospered!

Now, has anyone heard of the Infinite Monkey Theorem? It's a true theorem that says if you give a monkey a typewriter and sufficient time, the monkey will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare. Scientists have actually worked out the probability. Granted the chances are very low - it could take billions of years, possibly longer than the age of the universe but it would eventually happen as the probability is 'technically' not zero.

Well against all the odds that evolution could throw at us, bypassing billions of years - Cheshire Flyers have effectively beaten that probability in one month!

John Bradbury, who is still mourning of his NOKIA 6310 mobile phone (coz its battery lasted for a whole year or something…) - John actually got to grips with Zoom, which involved online stuff, computers, the t'internet and everything. He can host our monthly show with 'almost' no technical problems whatsoever. Scientists are in uproar; it’s wrecked years’ worth of 'monkey type' research.

Before we knew it the Cheshire Flyers monthly meeting was reborn ‘online’ – which in fact brought a whole new dimension to our monthly meetings.

Firstly, and most importantly, I could have a drink!

Secondly, lots could join in the fun which would otherwise be unable due timing, distance – whatever!

Numbers went up from our usual 30/40 or so to 50 / 60 / 70 tuning in to listen to guest speakers which included Wing Commander Chris Pote from RAF Valley, Kevin Edmunds - M/cr ATC Controller, David Bremner operating a WW1 aircraft the Bristol Scout and Eddie McCullum bonkers pilot who flew to the USA from the UK in a CT microlight.

And who is responsible for organising this little lot – our unsung hero who is a constant source of inspiration to me, beavering away quietly, diligently in the background - Steve Rosser!

And when we got the opportunity to go flying, we did – which included death defying trips around the UK coastline, almost socially distanced trips to Sandown and the fabulous Anglesey outing with ‘live music’ hosted by Sarah and Nigel Musgrave.

All of this of course has been faithfully documented in our fabulous monthly newsletter by Sharon Cox. This publication goes from strength to strength and is a regular source of material for Microlight Flying magazine. Sharon has the amazing gift to make me feel the laziest person on the planet given her ability to organise, procure, produce and publish monthly content running into pages and pages. How she does it for the money is anybody’s guess?

So, there is much to celebrate in 2020 and one of the ways in which we do this is with our annual club awards – which are awarded to our most deserving members and this year we have 4 prestigious awards to present….

So that’s it from me for 2020.

I’d like to say a massive thanks to our guest Rob Hughes, the quiz hosts for this evening Nick, Garry and John Skelley, our Committee for helping to make all this happen and of course you - our Cheshire Flyer members who do a fantastic job of making this truly the finest flying club in the country.

Let’s hope we get some cracking flying days next year and we hope to see you on one of the many planned flyouts.

Happy New Year and safe flying for 2021!


Club Night Report - 21.12.20

Surpassing my hopeful expectations, Christmas club night in 2020 was a memorable occasion, fun-filled and uplifting in a way perhaps only Cheshire Flyers can be. I am sorry for those members of the club that missed the evening for whatever reason. We had a very interesting talk from the Chairman of the BMAA, Rob Hughes, on FAI competitions and his own flying history; it made quite a few of us make a mental note to consider some competitive challenges next flying season. Rob also reminded us about the BMAA Wings scheme, designed to encourage pilots to build upon their airmanship and skills. Thanks very much Rob for the efforts in putting together the video clips and photos to make an entertaining talk for us all. We heard Ian's state of the nation speech on the Club's flying year where he also thanked the more lively members on social media for their amusing contributions and he showed off the club merchandise which we are all looking forward to wearing. The Awards were duly presented virtually (summarised in the next section). Nick Buckley showed his very funny video of Freddie and Megz enjoying a clean up session to Queen's music complete with strobe lighting. Available to watch on Youtube, thanks to the generosity of Nick. Feel free to donate to his charitable cause if you haven't already.

And then there was the fun quiz, cleverly put together by Nick Buckley, John Skelley and Garry Roberts, featuring quite a few Cheshire Flyers in the questions which made us all laugh a lot. And I bet quite a few learned some interesting facts about other members. The questions are included at the end of this section. Those that didn't attend, test yourselves. The answers are also included at the very end of the e-zine. The score to beat is 14 (Ian and Sharon shared joint honours).

Dave Creedy captured one page of the zoom meeting - there were another 2-3 screens of everyone in addition to this.

Cheshire Flyers awards 2020

Each year, potential recipients for the prestigious Cheshire Flyer awards are nominated by the committee and voted on where several nominees have been put forward. It is then customary to let the winners know during the Christmas bash with the previous year's winners making the award to the new recipient, reading a script given to them.

This year of course has been the strangest for everyone. Ian has already noted that while he was initially sceptical as to whether remote club get-togethers could work, they actually have, and often with as good or better turn-out than the physical meetings at the Wheatie. "Let's Zoom" has become common parlance in everyone's language this year and so it has been for Cheshire Flyers Club Nights too. The one thing that really cannot work is handing over a cup or trophy. Still, last year's winners did a fantastic job delivering the scripts and waving the trophies at this year's winners. Goodness knows when the worthy recipients will have the various trophies in their hands.

For those that couldn't make club night, the Awards and reasons for winners' successes follow.

Noel Alms Memorial Trophy

The Noel Alms memorial trophy is awarded to ‘That member of the Cheshire Flyers Microlight Club who, in the opinion of the Committee, best fits the criteria of dogged determination, tenacity and triumph in the face of adversity’.

This year the committee has decided to award this trophy to our most tenacious pilot. A 2-stroke engine and dogged determination has taken him on flyouts where only fixed wings normally tread. He has earned the BMA silver wings and is an exceptionally gifted writer of flying exploits. During an interminable wait for spares to arrive from India for his Quantum, he refused to remain idle; with unstoppable enthusiasm he elected to learn to fly a 3-axis aircraft just for fun. However, he professes to remain committed to the purity of flex-wing flight. The deserving winner of this award is Daniel Langton.

The 2019 winner was John Bradbury who will make the virtual presentation and a very, very, short speech

Ray Garnham Cup

The Ray Garnham Cup is awarded to that member of the Cheshire Flyers Microlight Club who, in the opinion of the Committee, has shown the most enterprise, or made the greatest contribution to the sport, in relation to his or her capabilities, during the past year.

For several years, Nigel and Sarah Musgrave have kindly hosted a superb fly-in at their house on Anglesey. Their enthusiasm to do the same again this year was enhanced by many other events having being cancelled due to Covid. As soon as was legal and practical, Nigel sprang into action and prepared the adjacent field for our arrival, including a last-minute cutting and rolling of an extra runway due to potential cross winds. Lots of CF members flew in and transport was even laid on for those with heavier aircraft having to land at Mona. With the pizza oven fired up, the party took off. Nigel and Sarah’s ability and willingness to do all the catering, including breakfast the next day, is legendary. Nothing ever seems too much trouble; their hospitality and welcoming nature is appreciated by us all. It could be that the Cheshire Flyers were the only visitors from England welcomed to Wales in 2020. They are, without doubt, very worthy winners.

The 2019 winner was Daniel Langton who we ask to kindly make the award.

Senior Mug

Noel Alms received a tankard in 2002 as the oldest pilot to attend the IOW Rally. His Family has asked that this inscribed award is made to the oldest pilot at any occasion of our Committees choosing. We have called this award the “Senior Mug.”

Senior members of the committee attempted unsuccessfully to give the award more gravitas by suggesting that it should be renamed the Senior Tankard.

This year’s senior mug is being awarded to an extra special member indeed: someone who has the cunning financial prowess of Warren Buffet; who can seemingly invent cash when there is none to be found; who keeps our glorious club solvent when there is no income whatsoever; who single-handedly flies through some of the most atrocious weather you can encounter – without drama or fuss or soiled trousers; who decides to reinvigorate his flying by throwing out his tried & trusted, much coveted, aircraft and move to a more challenging hotship; who takes part in virtually every club flyout without ever eating a bacon butty; who is always the voice of reason and considered decisions and who is ‘most importantly’ an inspiration to us all.

…and all this at the tender age of (cough, cough)…

Whom am I referring to? That person is of course the one and only Ken Watt!

The 2019 awardee was Mark Jealous, our oldest Concord pilot and he presented the award to Ken (who sadly wasn't able to attend the club night through illness (but he is recovered now and looking forward to the new flying season)).

Bent Stub

This award is highly prized and, most years, our pilots compete wholeheartedly to find new ways of destroying their aircraft. Due to lockdowns, high training standards, the growing skills of our pilots and a miracle, there have been no serious contenders in 2020.

For one year only, the Bent Stub has been temporarily replaced by the Bent Arm award which has been won decisively by Stewart Prentice.

Stuart, having sufficient solo hours to gain his license and having completed both qualifying solo cross country flights, was preparing for his GST when disaster struck. Stewart was out walking his pet dog when he fell over the said dog, fracturing his arm and dislocating a shoulder. As Stewart is currently still unable to return to flying, he certainly deserves this award and is to be congratulated on his novel approach to the bent stub accolade.

Mike Gilman is currently the holder of the bent stub and, for reasons beyond our control, it looks like he is stuck with the offending article for another year. We ask Mike to make the necessary virtual presentation to Stewart.


That Quiz

Put together by Nick Buckley and John Skelley, with Garry Roberts allegedly helping a bit.

Q1: How far apart were the remains of Dave Creedy’s mobile phone and his apple after they passed through the prop of his flexwing on take-off?

A. No idea but the apple and the iPhone had made a nice crumble

B. About 5 metres

C. Could be many miles, a surprised looking crow had collected the shredded apple and flown off with it

D. At least 50 metres

Q2- What did Mark Atkinson say to his student Tony when they returned to DHF to find the runway littered with paramotors? Was it:

A. Go around, do it now!!!

B. Why aren’t they using the radio?

C. I quite fancy having a go at that

D. All the above

Q3 - When requesting information over the radio for landing at Headcorn in Kent, a certain club member (Ian Shaw) failed to note the wind strength and direction. Confirmation was requested with the message:

A. Say again

B. Confirm wind

C. Pass wind

D. Do you have wind?

Q4 - Whilst ordering an all-day breakfast in Wellesbourne airfield café on a club flyout, a certain club member (Ian Shaw) having a dislike for eggs, asked the chef if he could have ‘what’ in exchange for an egg?

A. A rasher of bacon

B. Half a sausage

C. A piece of toast

D. A poached tomato

Q5 – On FAF 3 2020, what fundamental mistake or mistakes did Garry Roberts make at Compton Abbas?

A. He left the toilet door open and a bemused man walked in on him doing a number 2

B. He landed with his tail strobe hanging off, only still attached by the power cable

C. He took off from the taxiway instead of the runway

D. All of the above

Q6 – Charlie Appleby is posing in front of the “Welcome sign” for which airfield?

A. Cromer

B. Skegness

C. Barton

D. Sandown

There was a bonus point if you could identify another Cheshire Flyer in the picture above.

Q7 – In 2009, Steve Bettley flew his GT450 to the beach and subsequently crashed, winning the Bent Stub award that year. How did he crash?

A. On landing a nude bather ran out in front of him; he veered off to the left into the dunes

B. On take-off a nude bather ran out in front of him; he stalled into the sea

C. In a low-level turn

D. All of the above

Q8 – Whilst Gordon Verity was converting to fixed wing on a C42 at Barton in 2006, what “incident” took place?

A. The aircraft had an engine failure and Gordon was recovered from a llama sanctuary in Staffordshire

B. The instructor forgot to put enough fuel in the aircraft and they had to land in Blackpool

C. A wheel, yes, a wheel fell off the school plane whilst in flight

D. Gordon used the wrong radio frequency (now known as doing an Ian Shaw) and reported “final” at Manchester international airport

Q9 – In 2004, Gary Cliffe was so determined to win the Bent Stub award, he had how many attempts at it?

A. 1

B. 2

C. 3

D. 86

Q10 – Our wonderful Sharon Cox has had an accident of her own in recent years and holds a “Cheshire Flyers record” because of it – what is this record?

A. the only member of Cheshire Flyers to ever land a plane backwards?

B. The only member of Cheshire Flyers to land on her own car?

C. the first ever Cheshire Flyer to land at two airfields at once?

D. All of the above

Q11 – Nick Buckley received a text message off Charlie Appleby with a reason as to why he was running late for their 3-day camping trip around the east coast. What was this reason?

A. Charlie had forgotten to pack his shrimp for the barbie and had to find a fish shop

B. There was an altercation with a shop assistant who tried to sell him “Fosters lager” because he is Australian

C. He lost the oil filler cap on G-CFTZ

D. Charlie arrived at Hawksview to find his neighbour’s cat asleep in the back of his car

Q12 – Who hosts wonderful parties and prepares this great strip every year?

A. Captain Bradders

B. Mike Gilman

C. Nigel & Sarah Musgrave

D. Mark Jealous

Q13 – Carburettor icing is the result of?

A. Flying in very cold weather

B. Pilots watching The Great British Bake Off

C. Moist air and low revs

D. Flying at high altitude

Q14 – at Caernarfon airport with Geoff Hill, John Bradbury decided to play a prank on Nick Buckley how?

A. He took his phone off the table and hid it, resulting in 20 minutes of panic

B. He arranged for the security guard to fine him for wearing his hi-vis vest inside out

C. He managed to convince Nick he was in big trouble for not filing a flight plan/GAR for leaving England and crossing into Wales

D. All of the above

Q15 - Once upon a time, a long time ago, Gordon Verity had a beautiful yellow Mainair Rapier. Trying to impress Karen with the safety of such machines he arranged her first fly out from Ashcroft to Caernarfon. Twin fuel tanks full and instructions given to change tanks halfway, what could go wrong?

A. “The Fxxxxxxg engines stopped.”

B. “Can you swim?”

C. “Silence?”

D. “Don’t worry my dear, Bradders has trained me for this very moment?” We will glide back to the shore and land in a smooth field”

Q16 - Carrying on from previous question… What was Karen’s response?

A. “I’m never getting in this Fxxxxxxg thing again”

B. “I can’t swim”

C. “The fields are full of sheep!”

D. All of the above

Q17 – On a CF flyout, Alistair Price attempted a bit of ”pole dancing” at Bolt Head, Salcombe by almost destroying his wing tip on the obstacle in question. Which Cheshire flyer also attempted to clout their starboard wing on the same pole?

A. Ian Shaw

B. Nick Heywood

C. Gary Cliffe

D. Peter Brennan

Q18 – Whilst Fred Beeson was flying back from Austria in convoy with John Bradbury and Ian Shaw, he asked said second aircraft if they wanted a 2-ship transit from ATC through some complex airspace in Belgium. The second ship replied with what?

A. Yes please, Fred – that would be sensible

B. I will contact them shortly - Ian is just doing a wee

C. I would rather sneak under their radar

D. Airspace? What airspace?

Answers at the end.


Club Night coming up... 18.1.21

Steve Rosser has organised another exciting guest speaker

We will be joined by David Cyster, an ex-RAF fighter pilot, who flew Tiger Moth G-ANRF from England to Australia, in 32 days, in 1978. It was literally front-page news. The RAF pilot flying a Tiger Moth solo from England to Australia kept the press occupied for a few weeks in early 1978, chronicling the ups and downs of a suitably intrepid tribute to the exploits of Bert Hinkler half a century earlier. His success in reaching Darwin was cause for celebration. “Weary, Elated Cyster Arrives”, said the headline on The Northern Territory News. “Cyster Makes It!” declared the Daily Mirror. It even merited mention in the House of Commons. “I was tempted to think”, said Conservative MP Neville Trotter during a debate on the RAF, “that in next year’s White Paper we might see Flt Lt David Cyster’s Tiger Moth added to the long-range force as an additional commitment to NATO.”

Be sure to log in to listen to this and Club news and views. Ian will hopefully be waving the club merchandise that was ordered just before Christmas too but the National Lockdown will probably prevent distribution of the goodies any time soon.

Future Club Nights....

Steve has arranged for Irv Lee ( to speak to us on weather that can catch us out. Ian also hopes to get his views on pilot licence privileges post Brexit. And we have our own Stewart Prentice who has offered to talk to the club about his experiences flying as an Air Electronics Operator in Nimrods in the early noughties. The exact dates for these will be announced soon, as Steve is waiting for GASCO to advise if they will run a safety evening for the club in the next few months.


That first solo - what it's really like

Sue Beesley relives her memories of that momentous 'First'

Going solo is a huge moment for every trainee pilot. I finally reached that moment this autumn in the C42 and, while the experience is still fresh in my mind, I thought I would try and capture the moment for you.

Learning to fly requires endless patience, doesn’t it! I started in May 2019 and I knew my flying would be hampered by fog/low cloud/rain/wind but I hadn’t reckoned with having to land on half a runway to avoid the mud back in February 2020 (yes, I’ve pulled G-CJBE out of the clag with John at least once) or a four-month Covid-19 lockdown. But also, I’m closer to sixty than I’d care to admit and perhaps learning just takes a bit longer.

In late August John suggested I should get my medical form done which I figured was code for ‘you might be going solo soon’ but I knew better than to ask outright. I flew pretty well for the next two lessons, but conditions weren’t right so Mark and I did a lovely cross- country flight out towards the Peak District and practiced map and compass reading. Then another crosswind day and another… Three more weeks went by. And then I had an evening lesson booked with John in fine weather with light winds and I thought ‘If I nail this, it might happen…’ While I was driving to DHF I mentally ran through all the pre-flight checks. I flew the circuit in my head, avoided the farms and horses, turned after the farm with the big green ‘boobies’, stayed at 700ft, kept the speed in the white band when the flaps were out and bang on that little yellow triangle on final approach. Flying in my head is easy!

My first circuit with John was a bit rough and ready but the next two were fine. We parked up at the top and John and I sat for a moment with the engine running. It was up to me, if I felt confident, he said. He wouldn’t suggest going solo if I wasn’t capable, but in the end, I had to assume control and make the decision. He briefed me about the differences flying solo, especially the effect of the weight reduction with only me in it (I’m barely 5’4 and the light side of 60 kilos). “I’ll do it.” I said. “Fine” said John. “The plane’s fully insured but if you prang it you owe me the excess.” I hesitated. “How much?” “About £500”.

He opened the plane door and got out into a worryingly howling gale, which it took me a moment to realise was from the propeller and not a sudden storm blowing up. I taxied it to the top of the runway, put the brake on and steadied myself. There isn’t usually anyone else at DHF but it was a beautiful evening and three planes had just flown in and were parked up at the top. I glanced over to see a line of 7 experienced pilots watching. No pressure then. I stared down the runway and did my final checks again. Then I did them again. And glanced at the Ts &Ps once more. There was nothing left to check, it was decision time.

I pushed the throttle firmly away and the plane shot forward and lurched to the left – the prop effect was much more marked without John in it. I quickly pressed the right rudder to correct it, and 5 seconds later I was airborne. Immediately I realised that at my normal climb angle I was flying much faster than usual and right on the flap limit. As I picked the nose up to slow it down I noticed the altimeter showing 400ft at the spot that I’m usually at 200ft so I released the flap and turned left towards Leighton Hospital. A few seconds later I was at circuit height, which of course I overshot… Everything happened so fast! Once I’d levelled out and caught my breath it was obvious that flying the lighter plane was a bit different so I took a slightly wider circuit to give myself more time to figure it out. The revs were a bit lower, the trim setting a bit more nose down in level flight. And the controls seemed lighter too. All the training can’t fully prepare you for that moment of realisation that it’s down to you to fly the plane on your own now and make whatever adjustments it takes, rather than flying to familiar patterns.

All-in-all it felt wonderful to be up there on my own, if scarily exhilarating. I tried to enjoy it for a minute or two, gazing around me at the patchwork fields and the distant hills glowing in the afternoon sunshine, but within a few moments I had to focus on the serious business of getting back. I turned onto the downwind leg and could see below and to my left the windsock and the little figures standing by the planes. I knew no-one would hear me, so I warily pressed the little button on the joystick for the first time... ‘Dairy House Traffic, Bravo Echo downwind to land on three-zero’. The radio crackled gently. As expected, and to my relief, no-one replied. I slowed down over the road, turned onto base leg, kept my speed in the white arc, put the first flap out. I knew it was going fine, but with no-one alongside me to check, my heart rate and mind were racing. ‘Check the speed, don’t lose too much height yet, bit of throttle, haul that heavy second flap out, turn onto final, nose slightly down to keep the speed up in the turn, little bit of throttle. And here we go. The runway is steady through my windscreen – that’s good. Am I too high/too low/too fast/too slow? Just keep the runway growing but steady’. The needle is bang on the yellow triangle but it feels so fast. And now I’m over the tree so I knock the power right off, and the mown grass strip is a few feet beneath me and I’m trying to keep the wings level making tiny movements and I know this is where it can all go pear-shaped. It still feels too fast really, there’s no headwind at all. I round out and the back wheels touch down before I pass the oak tree and I’m so relieved that I let the nose down a bit too early and now I’m basically steering a plane at 50 miles an hour up a grass strip using my feet like a go-cart driver.

But it’s OK, the plane slows in plenty of time and I brake and gently turn the plane onto the grass in front of the possé of pilots, who are all saluting me. And I have the biggest, stupidest grin on my face – I punch the air and start undoing my harness before remembering that I still need to switch everything off and stop the propeller spinning. And I’m still grinning from ear to ear.

I’d done it. John shook my hand and Mark took photos. The group of pilots walked off to get themselves a coffee. I was still grinning like a kid at Christmas. ‘Do you want to go up again?’ John asked. Of course I did. This time I started up from scratch for the first time on my own, working my way methodically through all the checks from scratch. I knew what to expect on take-off and was ready for the rudder with my right foot and kept the nose up in the climb-out. I knew to level out a bit earlier and drop the revs a bit earlier than usual to avoid overshooting the circuit height. Flying the circuit was fine but, as before, when I turned onto base, my pulse rate shot up, and mind went into overdrive again; there’s such a lot to think about! I landed it fine but once again let the nose down too quickly, giving me a slightly panicky fast bit of steering to do, before safely bringing it to a stop. This time I was glad to get out – two solo circuits had drained my brain of every drop of energy.

It took about 20 landings for it to feel less stressful and I do now hold the nose up on much longer on landings to let the wings do the braking for me, so I’m improving. Hopefully I’ll pass my GST in the next few weeks… I’ll let you all know how it goes!


Life Lessons from The Little Prince: Patience and the Pilot

Daniel Langton shows his gift for literary analogy and thanks his saviours - Denise and Ian at Pennine Flexwing Services

The French aviator Antoine St Exupéry (1900-44) was the philosophically-inclined author of a number of romantic tales of flying in the 1920s and 1930s. His most famous book was actually written for children: The Little Prince (1942). Based on his own experiences, it tells the story of an unnamed pilot who crash lands in the Sahara Desert and meets a space child who is in love with a narcissistic rose whom he left behind on his home planet. The story ends with the tragic death of the alien sprog from a bite from a talking snake. Perhaps I should clarify that when I say, ‘based on his own experiences’ I am referring to the 'crash lands in the Sahara Desert’ part of the story rather than, you know, the space child, the self-obsessed flower, and the evil snake. Although if he’d ever had to deal with the CAA for a radio license renewal, then those other parts would also make a lot of sense.

Most of The Little Prince is taken up with conversations between the pilot and the alien child as they discuss his adventures flying around the stars. The conversations take place while the long-suffering pilot tries to figure out how to repair his plane and survive his predicament, stranded hundreds of miles from help in hostile terrain. As far as I can tell, it’s a parable about existential angst and the yearning for authenticity and dignity in the face of French surrender in 1940. Or something like that. The point I am trying to make is that the pilot is stuck in a desert and cannot fix his plane for eight days and 103 pages.

St Exupéry came to mind recently while I was waiting for parts for my little Quantum 503. Having returned triumphantly from this year's Cheshire Flyers tour of Anglesey in August, I decided that the leading edge looked a little ragged and probably warranted some attention. True, the plane had recently passed its Permit to Fly and responded as well as any starship in a child’s fable. But the wingtip adjuster was also too stiff and the bridle trim adjuster was a little too loose, and, now I came to think of it, there were rather a lot of peeling patches in the sail. It could do with a general tidy up.

I contacted the wonderful Denise