My name is Ben Phoenix and I’m approximately fifteen and a half years old. The experience I’m writing about happened about three and a half years ago, shortly after my twelfth birthday.A deception was created to stop me from knowing about the surprise that they had in store for me. The surprise in question was an hour-long flying lesson in a two seater single prop light aircraft called a Cessna 152.In the following account of the experience I will do my utmost to stick to the realities of my feelings and the goings on around me but memories do get distorted over time so it won’t be a totally accurate description. Anytime I’m not sure about something I will duly mention it.
The night before the flight, of which I knew nothing, my father told me we’d be going to a frozen foods superstore fairly early the next morning. Apparently it was in east Kent but the name of the place I have long since forgotten. Was I even told? I don’t know but this is beside the point.
I wasn’t too happy about having to get up early next morning but who can blame me. Still I thought it would be better than staying indoors all day. Of course I didn’t really have a choice because otherwise my parents’ plans would have been ruined. But do I really know? I mean what if I did have a choice and I said no. What would happen then? Well that’s easy, I wouldn’t be writing this if that was the case.Anyway, the next morning I was awakened by a banging on my bedroom door and the words “Ben, get out of bed.
Come on…” until I answered with a grunt. At once I remembered we were supposed to be going to the frozen foods superstore that day so I got dressed in thirty seconds flat and rushed down the stairs.Three minor disasters befell me before I got in the car and they were that my porridge burnt to a charcoal lump, I fell over backwards on a chair while tying my shoelaces and I stacked it off the doorstep.
But apart from that the journey started without another hitch and we proceeded to rendezvous with the M20.The weather was nice, the sun not too sharp, the air nice and crisp. I was enjoying the drive. I only began to get annoyed when every direction I gave was misinterpreted and pretty soon my father said we were lost!About five minutes later my father pulled into Manston airport, a fairly small airport that used to be an army airbase, to ask for directions.
As we were going in I saw a display of army vehicles. None of this really awed me, as it usually would’ve, as I was annoyed at us being lost, even though I knew I had given correct directions.We pulled up to a hanger and my father spoke to a man for a little. As there were speaking I looked into the hanger and saw a multitude of light aircraft, including a pressurised Cessna, but none of it interested me as I had yet to fall head over heels for planes of all descriptions.I focused on what my father and the man were talking about but they were finished and all I saw was the man, a middle-aged fairly short man with a white shirt and loose trousers, pointing up the taxiway. My father pulled off and very quickly we pulled up outside a blue, metal building with the words ” Thanet Flying Club” written just below the roof.
We got out of the car and walked into the building. A description of the inside of the building will be fairly sparse, as I have long forgotten the detail due to the excitement of only 10 minutes in the future. On my left as I walked in was a beech style, curved desk and behind it was a white board with flight schedules written on it. At the far end, approximately one hundred yards away, was a small area with blue cushioned seats to serve, I hazard a guess, as a waiting area. I had taken no more than a few steps when a pilot, reading a newspaper, looked up.”Ah, you must be Ben Phoenix”, the pilot announced.I was taken aback with shock as, of course, I had no idea that I was to be expected ion a place I thought we had only ended up in as a result of being lost.
It then clicked into place and the ensuing conversation backed up my new revelation that all of this was set up. I remember the flight being planned. We were to leave Manston airport and fly west till we reached Canterbury where we would turn south and fly along the coast to Dover and then fly up too Manston in a direct line. The flight was written down on the whiteboard and we went off to do the pre-flight checks. Ten minutes later we were in the air. We turned one hundred and eighty degrees and flew west. Just after we had completed the turn a jet airliner landed on the runway we had just taken off from! We headed off to Canterbury and detoured slightly to follow a motorway where all the cars were tiny.
I was allowed to keep the plane steady then turn south when we reached Canterbury. Canterbury was just a mass of dirty greys and washed out reds with the cathedral spire peering out of the city. When we reached the coast I was again awe-struck by the sight of the sun glinting off the sea which resulted in a beautiful mix of reds, yellows and oranges. I looked down and saw the harsh glare of the sunlight reflected off the chalk cliffs. On the way back to Manston I gave more attention to the country side which looked like a patch work of green with not a road in sight, all hidden by hedges and to small to see from that height. The one thing I remember most vividly was how far you could see.All the scenes from the flight are imbedded in my memory and there started my love for flying.