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Race Pilots meet after 11 years


Mark, Pilot Extrordinaire

Driving very excitedly, for other reasons, off the St Malo boat, this week, for my house in the depths of Central Brittany, who should shout out across the car deck but Mark Wilkinson, ‘Beechcraft Bananza Pilot Extrordinaire', one of the fifty odd pilots I beat to Sydney in the, ‘not without incident', 2001 London to Sydney Air Race. Well, I say 'beat' loosely, as I vividly remember back to those three shiny black police helicopters, as I approached the old 'coat hanger' bridge, high over the waters of    Sydney Harbour.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

Well, I say high, high for a cub! <o:p></o:p>

Just high enough to expedite the aerial manoeuvre so meticulously planned, a week or so earlier, in Singapore, taking into account, on the back of an old envelope, ‘g force' variables, ‘drag co-efficients' and the like, all first leant in an old RAFVR Chipmunk 4000 feet over Bristol's then very productive Filton airfield and her Brabazon 28 runway, now destined for Concorde 002's first flight.<o:p></o:p>

The Aussie ‘flying squad' quickly scrambled their machines and climbed to defend their precious prohibited air space surrounding the sailing boat infested harbour. They came at me like a swarm of angry bumble bees as if disturbed from some highly charged liaison or sexual encounter!<o:p></o:p>

But looming up on the horizon, through the heat of the mid day haze, was my ‘target'. I had failed to put my wheels down, to start the stop watch, on Amy Johnson's foggy clogged Croydon aerodrome (now playing field) , at the start of this race, to try and beat her record to Darwin and I was damned if I was going to be thwarted , this time, just by the ‘men in blue'.<o:p></o:p>

Also further flight variations were looming, for Maurice, to an already meticulously planned and precisioned flight to Australia, just in a tired old WW1 Piper Cub with a maximum air speed of 55mph, for hours and hours, when full of ‘motion lotion'.<o:p></o:p>

Strong rumour from my badgering questions to the Aussie pilots, over a 4 in the morning Singaporebreakfast table, re height of bridge from road to the top etc., may just have been the catalyst for me to now have two burly policemen, eye ball to eye ball with me at less than 100 feet, flying backwards! <o:p></o:p>

"Air Race 35 do you read, over?" answer....... the police man continues.....<o:p></o:p>

"That is as close as you get to the bridge". "Expedite a
180 immediately
" or words to that effect. <o:p></o:p>

Now the other two police helicopters had closed in but flying facing forewords, in the conventional manner. I could have sworn I could smell their after shave as they flew in neat 'vic' formation, one at 10 o'clock, the other at 2 o'clock. The original helicopter continued flying on backwards at around 60mph positioned at 12 o'clock with their rapidly changing expressions on their faces now causing me slight concern.<o:p></o:p>

OK, I thought, let someone else ‘loop' the old bridge. After all, ‘Liberty Girl' was only designed and built by the Yanks, in 1943, to last just six weeks after the D-Day Landings and here she was now approaching her 60thbirthday!


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  • Posted By: Maurice Kirk
  • Posted : 11-16-2012
  • Viewed : 150
  • Comments : 0


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