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Forever Wendy

Don’t say it with flowers, use a banner!

Twelve flights on Wednesday with Captain Bob and the Airads Cessna 172 culminated with a grand finale, a banner tow around the town of Kidwelly in Wales, bearing the message, ‘Wendy, I love you forever.

"So how do you spell Kidwelly"

The day had started early in Kent, with a refuelling stop at Headcorn, before taking in ‘Glorious’ Goodwood, Compton Abbas, Dunkeswell, Pembury, Swansea and then home again to Maypole, just as the dark and the sea mist were descending. In between, the Airads aircraft took in Weymouth, Bognor Regis and it felt, much of the South coast on one of the warmest days of the year, which made towing a banner in the thin air a challenge, as the engine strained to keep the Cessna 172 at height at very low speeds.

Going up... just!

Having never visited Goodwood before, one of the first things I noticed beyond the race track around the airfield perimeter, was a second motor-racing track, with Porsches hammering around at speeds that can’t have been much higher than the average motorway. Perhaps the owners didn’t want to damage their expensive toys on their track day out?

Goodwood airfield reminds me of the last days of the British Raj, and going into the clubhouse with its tented veranda I felt we should have been wearing shirts and ties and not shorts and t-shirts. Charming and polite, nobody actually asked us ‘Can you afford to land here’ and there was no painted sign with ‘No Riff-Raff’ anywhere to be seen but £52 for two landings suggested that working pilots, ‘Tradesman’ in shorts should keep well clear.

Glorious Goodwood

Off to a more relaxed Compton Abbas then, with its wonderful view and from there, we finally made our way towards South Wales, in a desperate attempt to reach Kidwelly by 18:00 to tell Wendy how much her boyfriend loved her and then hit Swansea by 18:30 to take on fuel for the long ride home before the airport closed.

The nearest airfield to Kidwelly is Pembrey, within sight of the town and its castle. We popped-in there at around 17:45 and it looks very much like a disused, deserted and overgrown military airfield with a single control building and a fire engine. Captain Bob asked the single resident if we could use the airfield and was promptly charged an outrageous £40 for an ‘extension’, which from our point of view was a complete ‘rip-off’ as no obvious service or control facility was being offered and it felt very much as if we were being taken for a ride!

Back over Kidwelly, all the world could see that Wendy’s boyfriend ‘loved her forever’ which was very sweet and very expensive, given that he had asked us to fly the width of Britain to give her his little message. Apparently, the boyfriend was off to Iraq the next day and this was his way of saying goodbye. Mind you, there’s a twist to the story. As we were on our way, we heard that the couple had had an argument and split-up the night before but the gallant young soldier decided to go ahead with the banner anyway. Who said romance was dead? In Kidwelly however, I suspect he’ll never live it down!

A quick dash to Swansea then to refuel and cadge some chocolate – our late lunch – from the very friendly firemen before setting course for Bristol, Farnborough, Ockham, Brockham, Biggin Hill and finally Maypole. A fantastic evening with the Sun setting behind the aircraft and a stunning view of South West England and Wales before we found the beginnings of a damp and rapidly thickening mist as we approached Biggin Hill and then felt or way down to the runway at Maypole as darkness closed in at 21:00.

The moral of this story? Well, if you want to tell your girlfriend you love her, then don’t say it with flowers, use a one hundred foot banner from Airads.


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