The best present I got last Christmas, thanks to my children and son-in-law, was an Atlantic Flight Training Academy gift voucher. This entitled me to a 60 minutes flight from their base at Cork Airport. I’m a bit of an aircraft and flight nerd so this suited me perfectly. Not that I was interested in flight training per se – I just wanted a pleasure flight and an opportunity to take some photographs. Most recipients of such vouchers are probably in the same, er, boat.
I had never flown in a light aircraft. The nearest I came to it were trips on the Aer Arann/Aer Lingus Commuter ATR 72s – twin-engine turboprops – and I was looking forward to the experience. When I phoned the company to make an appointment for the flight I was pleasantly surprised to be told they could accommodate me the following afternoon. This was perfect as the forecast was for a calm, bright day.
The formalities over – you have to complete a short form, get a visitor’s badge and a high-vis vest – I was led to the aircraft by my pilot for the trip, Alan Walsh, a fellow East Cork man. He asked me where I’d like to go and naturally I said the East Cork direction.
Then it was into the left-hand seat and Alan proceeded to carry out the pre-flight checks. This is something that aviators around the world do as a matter of course, whether they are flying a small aircraft like this or a jumbo jet, and it ensures that no risks are taken as far as safety is concerned.
We then donned our headsets, Alan started the engine, and communicated with Air Traffic Control giving details of our route and asking for permission for take off. Once this was given we headed out to runway 35, pointed the aircraft north, increased the throttle and in a few seconds we were airborne and flying over Cork City.
From there we made our way down to Carrigtwohill ( where he circled my house), Midleton, Castlemartyr and on to Capel Island. On the return leg we went along the coast to Garryvoe and Ballycotton and thence to Roche’s Point, Spike Island and on to Carrigaline before turning right to land at runway 35.
Alan checked with me throughout as to where I wanted to go (e.g. around Capel Island) and in turn he kept Cork ATC abreast of where we were headed.
Our speed was 100 knots – about 115 miles per hour – and we flew at 1500 feet. Conditions were perfect and ideal for photography. I was surprised at how calm the flight was; even though the day was fine I was expecting, given the size of the aircraft, some buffeting and turbulence but there was none. The headset kept noise to a minimum and it was a very pleasant experience overall. It is something I would recommend anyone interested in planes or sightseeing from a height to do. Christmas is coming and if you are stuck as to what present you should get for someone you should certainly consider an Atlantic Flight Training gift voucher.
Please click on any photo to see it in larger size. All photos were taken with a Canon 6D and a 24-105L lens. I was shooting through a window so there are invariably some glass reflections evident in some of the shots.
Youghal is in the middle distance and beyond that is West County Waterford. In the foreground, the River Womanagh flows into the sea.
Ballymacoda. I was christened in that church in the foreground by a namesake of mine (but no relation).