A day watching planes and meeting brave people…

Leave taken, bag and tent packed, pick up my mate Olly and head for Culdrose Air day. Olly is my very good friend Sgt Olly Tayler from #TheHonestTruth road safety initiative as well as a Traffic Sgt who I have known for the past 20 years. After several fatals attended in the past 3 days, Olly and I needed this break. His brother used to be an instructor there and we may have blagged a flight in the Merlin some years back. He had to spoil everything by flying for the New Zealand Air Ambulance now, however fortunately there were several good contacts from those days still!

One of the contacts, meant we manage to pay for some BBQ tickets just for the pilots. We’ve attended this over 12 years, and it’s an incredibly experience, meeting Chris Gotke, the pilot who so expertly crash landed the Sea Fury in front of me last year at Culdrose when his engine failed, and who has since received The Air Force Cross. I remember his comment to me last year when I showed him a photo of his undercarriage collapsing, “Well who’d do that to a plane?!” with a big beaming smile. Typical Forces humour making light out of a very dangerous experience.

Stephan, are wonderful German pilot who flies in the Navy 771 Squadon, Air sea rescue Sea Kings, speaking with perfect English saying during a conversation, “Yes, we nearly ended up in the Ogin” Now that’s taking on the local language. That conversation also showed me how these people save lives that few hear about. Plucking sailors from raging seas from sinking ships, and wondering whether they too, will make it out. That is true bravery.

Okay,and then I may have met a certain female Polish MIG 29 Co-pilot. She allowed me a photo for my social media! When I said I wanted the gold badge as a memento, she recoiled saying her husband had given the badge to her, who was also a Mig Pilot! Sunday afternoon drives must now be so dull for them. The polish display team were fascinating to listen to, and very funny. I saw them leave from my camping field this morning, taking off in two’s, then straight up to above the clouds, and gone from sight, for a 5 hour cruise home.

An era is over. My great friend at Culdrose and contact is now retiring, my local Helston friend has sold up and is moving away, and time moves on with him. You just have to go with it, nothing stays the same ever. We had some good times, and some beer was drunk along the way too. But with one last glass to Culdrose, I would like to salute these fine men and women, not only the British Forces, but our good friends across the waters too.


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