Back in my small hometown, every summer, I’d crane my neck and stare at the sky, watching the Red Arrows twist and twirl as part of their carnival display. Red, white and blue trailed behind them, creating patterns and shapes across the blue, above the sea. I was transfixed by their skill and how exciting it seemed to be a pilot, and a much younger version of me once made her mind up that she’d grow up to fly planes.
Obviously, that was one dream of many that didn’t quite pan out. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find me in the boarding queue, not the cockpit. Until the chance appeared to treat my seven-year-old, wonder-filled inner child to achieving her dreams, and I took to the skies in quite a different way than I’m accustomed to.
Yep. I only went and flew a plane, didn’t I?!
I’ve always been a big fan of giving experiences as gifts – and for adrenaline junkies, there’s tons of awesome fun to be had out there. I picked out Red Letter Days’ Aerobatic Flying Experience (£150*)
I woke up early on the Sunday morning for my stunt plane flying experience, phoning ahead to check the weather wasn’t going to cause an issue. Luckily, it was a clear, calm day – perfect flight conditions!
My flight took place at Peterborough Flying School, at Sibson Airfield – which meant a train ride and taxi from the station. As you can imagine, it’s a little way out – but as the taxi made its way through green fields and picturesque villages, my excitement was building.
My instructor for the session introduced himself by saying “I’m only human…and occasionally, humans make mistakes”. Thankfully, his many, many years of experience were definitely on his side. His introduction to what we’d be doing was thorough and really put me at ease with what I’d be doing in the session.
Leaving my bags in the office, and donning a fetching flight jacket, we made our way to the aircraft and got all strapped in.
The cockpit is a pretty small place. With the two of us, there wasn’t any extra space to manoeuvre. Below the windscreen, a big wall of buttons, dials, lights and levers caught my eye. Luckily, I wasn’t going to have to know what they were all for…
Taking off, my first thought was that the plane was a lot smoother than I’d expected. The setting sun created incredible views, and I peered down out of the window at the green fields below. Apparently, on a clear day, it’s even possible to see The Shard if you know where you’re looking…
My first loop experience felt pretty much like an upside-down rollercoaster. Except, in the sky, with no tracks, and with a way more epic view than Thorpe Park can offer. The physical sensation was very similar though. We did some more twists and turns, including a barrel roll. And it was SO AWESOME.
Once I’d experienced some of the ups, downs, twists and turns, it was my turn to take the controls. It’s definitely less complicated than the dials and numbers would have you believe – a light touch up, down, left or right, keeping the horizon straight in front of you.
I even did my very own loop! And if you don’t believe I managed it…check out the video footage…
After a while up in the air, my stomach did start to feel a little wonky, so I enjoyed a little more time just flying around and checking out the sights, before heading back in to land after around half an hour of flying.
A stunt plane flying experience isn’t necessarily something I’d have thought to book for myself, but the kind of thing I’d absolutely LOVE to receive as a gift. Trust me, it’s SO worth it for the amazing experience of actually flying a plane, and the team at Peterborough Flying School are fantastic. It’s something I’ll definitely remember for a long time, and made me feel a little bit braver too.
If you’re looking for a unique gift that’ll get one major experience ticked off someone’s bucket list, I’d definitely recommend this one!
*I was a guest of Red Letter Days for the experience – all thoughts my own.