There are times when the stars align, someone bends a knee and chants Wiccan oaths, because Samhain is drawing near. Was it Ant Jervis, or were others arrayed in the Pagan circle? Whatever the reason, the last Sunday in October dawned clearer than expected, the forecasted harsh wind had calmed and the sun shone. The PSS competition was ‘on’ and the cars needed loading; all thoughts turned towards the usually benign Edge Top slope and what joys were about to unfold.
My soup and sarnies were prepped in short order, cameras checked and warm clobber loaded, along with a couple of ‘just in case’ toys, hoping I could ‘play nicely with the big boys’ during the day. Splashing through the puddles left over from recent inundation I ruminated on the possibility that the fractious forecast might have put pilots off. Not a chance! I arrived before 10:00 to find many cars already being emptied of treasures. A steady amble past the parking and through into the top field showed that enthusiasm was in plentiful supply, even if the wind wasn’t. The breeze was the main topic, as there wasn’t too much of it, but the meteo mention was of it strengthening as the day progressed. Some nadgery flying was on the cards!
As the wall-side pits began to fill it became obvious that variety was the name of the game, from the tiddly fighter of Phil Stone – an Alphajet? – to the big 3m flying Foxes, one later to be the subject of ill-use allegations. My own non-PSS playthings echoed many others that had brought models unaffected by the description of ‘scale’; no matter, we were there to fly if the breeze would support our offerings. An early finger into the wind saw Phil Stone put up his very decorative black BAE Hawk, which lapped up the light breeze and dodged around all over the place. His distinctively different Latecoere seaplane, a recently finished refurb, unfortunately ‘sat on its laurels’ all day, a victim of not enough puff. John Vaughn’s Belgian Magister got the heave-ho and performed admirably, converting minimal wind speeds into furious flight – a joy to watch. Pete Garsden hefted Simon Jenkinson’s L-39 Albatross out into the void, just as the breeze decided to take an unearned rest; an outlanding near the stock fence part-way down the slope gave rise to some clenching of the nethers, but all appeared to be well with the plane.
Seen stooging along the slope side was a rather lovely Canberra, confidently flown by Mark Ollier. With lots of wing area this is a perfect candidate for PSS and didn’t Mark show us! None of your rivet-popping non-scale stunts, simply ‘of the type’ aerobatic flight – perfect. ‘New boy’ Alan Gorham – contender of furthest travelled – put up his rarely modelled version of the Hawker Henley, recently re-covered and being tossed into the motley for both testing and enjoyment. A deceptively ‘nice’ model, we saw where Hawker got the fin shape from, when it was offered up against Bob ‘Nimrod’ Jennings’ bonce.
Whilst Simon ‘wring the bugger out’ Cocker was torturing his flying Fox, young Jennings was attempting to fit big fingers into a small Jet Provost body; ‘’I’m tryng to find some more up trim’’ he explained. It all looked a bit too personal to me, so I left him to it. The Provost finally got the big bung and Bob rewarded us with a bit of trainer gambolling.
Another pretty jet was the white/red trainer Hawk belonging to Andy Gough, soon to be known as ‘The Worm Whisperer’. A big lunge saw me trying to follow the damnable thing whilst convincing the camera to focus – and then it wasn’t there, nor was Andy. A while later man and model were reunited, down in the valley floor, where the little flyaway had attempted to follow its wriggling prey. Said model was found near-vertical, the nose subterranean by several inches. It looks in reasonable condition but needs retraining to follow airborne targets. Ant launched his glass Dragon into the valley void, had a whale of a time, then brought the beastie back for a landing that all went a bit Pete Tong – those repairs will need repairing, again.
The breeze gave many lightweights good lift, failed to buoy some and would never have supported some of the bigger stuff, yet fun was had by all and the weather was kind enough to stay dry until mid-afternoon, when Ant took the pilots votes and pronounced Mark Ollier and his lovely Canberra as the ‘Best of the Day’ and thrust the ceremonial banknote into his hand. Most had read the runes and began to pack their charges back into the varied chariots. A last check saw me back on the lane heading towards Flash Bar, rain sprinkling the windshield – yep, the rain was back.
Thanks, Ant, for yet another super playtime – we’ll have to do it all again next year!
PS – to view all the photos from the day click here