Hobby Horses

Another kind of flying doctor

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6970.1745 (Published 24 December 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:1745
  1. Iain Macintyre, consultant surgeona
  1. aDepartment of General Surgery, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU

    My first reaction was disappointment, particularly as the hints from the family had suggested that the Christmas present was to be different that year, and somehow special. It was certainly smaller than usual. My family looked pleased with it, expectant, waiting for my reaction as I unwrapped … a cheap toy aeroplane mounted on a card! Which unthoughtful act had merited this snub? Disappointment turned to pleasure, then curiosity when the card proved to be a voucher for a flying lesson. Then excitement … a pilot—the imagination took flight; this was the stuff of schoolboy daydreams … but back to earth: this was only a 30 minute trial flight. Would the reality be like anaesthetics was supposed to be—95% boredom and 5% panic? Well I was going to find out—but not just yet. Enthusiasm waned as a I experienced the first (although in reality about the only) frustration of this pastime—the British weather. I'd almost forgotten about the Christmas present by the time the weather seemed good enough for me to enjoy it, some five months later in May. Excitement returned as I drove into the airfield. Then came more disappointment the aeroplane was tiny, flimsy, much older and, well, scruffier than I'd expected (we've since become good friends and I hope she'll forgive this confession—as with so many serious relationships first impressions aren't necessarily reliable).

    These cosmetic considerations were soon forgotten as we taxied out to the first of a series of surprises—you steer with the rudder pedals, the car driver's instinctive turning of the control column being contemptuously ignored by the aeroplane. Speeding down the runway is like driving at speed on a deserted motorway—only more slowly. That was the next surprise. We took off at only 60 mph and cruised at 85. The next half hour was …

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