Thursday 29th October 2020

An amazing trip from Dalcross Airport to home not on my scooter, not on my BSA C15, not with my bus pas and not even in the car but in a light aircraft (95 miles).

Anne and Mairi gave me an amazing birthday / retirement present on Wednesday March 18th when I hit 65 – a gift token for a flight with Highland Aviation. In less than a week, on Monday 23rd, we went into ‘lock-down’ due to the COVID19 virus. So I wasn’t able to redeem the token for an hour’s flight. I could have done it a bit earlier than today and maybe I should have to get better weather. They did reopen on 15th July! However despite bad weather this was the most amazing experience.

My flight was at 12.30 and I had to be there 20 minutes early to deal with paperwork. I had dropped Anne off to shop in Inverness.

Inside Highland Aviation’s premises.

During most of the morning there had been bright sunshine and blue skies but by the time my flight started things had changed radically. You can see the rain drops on the canopy. I was introduced to my pilot, Hamish, and he was just super for such an experience.

The old man managed to get into the cockpit and here is my view.

This is taxiing out to the runway.

After some pre-flight checks air traffic control gave us the go-ahead to go onto the runway and take off.

And this is the point of take off.

We headed out to Munlochy Bay, you can just about make out the Kessock Bridge in the picture. I was really surprised at how the small plane lurched as it hit turbulence.

Then we crossed over the Black Isle. This is approaching the Cromarty Bridge.

Here is my pilot, Hamish. He already, just minutes into the flight, let me have the controls.

Heading straight at Fyrish. I didn’t really enjoy controlling the aeroplane at this point. I didn’t realise that the aeroplane would drift round as you steered it and then over steer. I am a slow learner and Hamish could not have been more helpful or assuring.

Hamish then took a fantastic loop round Fyrish. I have been up it so often and never, ever, thought I would see it like this. The monument is quite clear.

Then we flew on to Contullich and around our house, it is just to the left of the wing tip. You can see Contullich Farm House, Contullich Farm and Helmsdale Cottage. The Contullich Water Tank is beside our house.

Then we headed to Invergordon.

And here is the town where I lived for two years and worked in for 39 years. It is a very industrial part of Easter Ross. At the bottom is the port. Beyond that are oil storage tanks for the navy. The oblong buildings whose roofs are reflecting the light are the bonded warehouses for Invergordon Distillery.

My school coming into view just in front of the wing with the green roof. I have looked out on these oil tanks from the First World War for 39 years and never realised there were so many. A lot were removed quite a few years ago to give land for housing plots, now at the area known as Cromlet.

Then we flew out to Cromarty. The next photo is looking down at Nigg across from Cromarty. It was all a lovely sandy beach when I was a boy. Now oil rigs are built and serviced here. There is also an oil terminal at Nigg where oil come in from the Beatrice Oil Field out in the North Sea.

A good view of Cromarty, below.

We went back up the Cromarty Firth.

We came back down over the Black Isle towards Cromarty. This is Newhall Mains. Newhall Mains was my granduncle Alick’s farm at Resolis. I worked every summer and Easter there from the age of 16 to 22. It has now been converted from farm buildings to an events venue and hotel.

You can see why the farm buildings were always referred to as the ‘Square’.

Alick and Granny’s house, now called Burnside. I spent such happy times there. If you had given me a choice of Heaven or Newhall I would have taken Newhall. But I never could have thought back then that the day would come when I just couldn’t walk in the back door and be given the best of welcomes. My granduncle was so good. A bachelor letting all these children stay there. I have such affectionate memories of him.

Newhall House and gardens.

We flew out then back to Cromarty and round the South Sutor. I got to fly the plane most of the way from Newhall.

This is having rounded the Black Isle at the South Sutor and heading down towards the Beauly Firth.

And the evidence!

Hamish has no hands on his controls. He nicely took these pictures for me. In fact I got a bit concerned as he filmed all round the aircraft. I started to enjoy this and was getting the hang of making small adjustments. But my hands were sweating.

Looking down to Chanonry Point. Fort George is on the end of the peninsula at the top but the weather was so poor you could barely make it out.

We flew back to Munlochy Bay and round Ormond Hill. Hamish took over once round the hill. The steam being belched out from Norboard at Ardersier can be clearly seen.

Approaching the runway.

And down.

We then taxied back in to Highland Aviation’s base.

This was such a great hour. I actually got 65 minutes! But, all good things must end.

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white—then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. (Tam o’ Shanter, Burns)

This is what I found out about the aircraft – it was a Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk.

We reached 90 mph at takeoff. That is astonishing for a single propeller to push that much air to get the vehicle to that speed.
The maximum speed reached was on the way over to Fyrish at 115 mph.
Our speed at touchdown on landing was 60 mph.

This information was extracted from the GPS trace. I recorded it on my phone using Locus Map.