Take four pilots, two drones, one sensational sunset… Result? A flying dream made real
Words Sarah Nadia
9 September 2022
By the time I got my licence at the end of July 2021, I was desperate to fulfil one of my dreams of flying while the sun sets on a calm summer’s evening. I was desperate to do it myself as I had seen stunning footage captured by so many friends who had taken advantage of the lengthening summer evenings.
I had managed only one sunset flight in 2021 but fast forward to summer 2022 – and with 140 hours under my belt and a healthy level of confidence, I was ready to go!
It was the afternoon of 15 June. The weather was beautiful, the winds were low and I thought, “Bingo! This evening is too good to miss!”.
I was keen to capture some footage of the Eurofox in-flight with the use of drones, so I messaged three friends, as well as fixed-wing pilots who couldn’t resist an evening soiree at the airfield!
The squad was made up of Sheldon and Simon who operated the drones and Mikey, my co-pilot for the evening. We were also joined by one of Simon’s friends, Emma, who is a professional photographer.
Mikey and I took off from Deanland with a couple of knots of wind at 1945 and headed to Kittyhawk. The journey was long, tiresome and lasted an entire… three minutes!
I had prior permission from the manager at Kittyhawk to operate the drones at the airfield and carefully monitored Kittyhawk’s frequency to ensure it was safe to operate, and that we had no confirmation of any aircraft PPRs.
There was barely a breeze but I assessed the windsock and chose to land on Runway 10. We taxied to the main hangar where we met the others. We had a ‘drone-off’ to see whose kit was cooler and I tried on a pair of FPV (first person view) goggles… and felt nauseous in less than 10 seconds.
We had a thorough safety briefing which involved considering and mitigating potential risks and agreeing on strict safety rules we would obey, such as drones landing immediately if any other aircraft were seen or heard (we checked with the airfield owner that there were no other aircraft PPRs).
The boys had a handheld radio so they could listen to my detailed and frequent radio calls. Briefing complete, Mikey and I taxied to Runway 10 for a take-off.
I flew a circuit and landed back down on Runway 10 where I was given instructions to do it again because someone had forgotten to press record (all the gear and no idea, hey…).
I hadn’t flown the tailwheel EuroFox for a couple of weeks and it felt great! Taildraggin’ appealed to me very early on in my training and I’m chuffed to have been able to fly this machine for more than a year.
I call it the ‘little rocket’ – it climbs like a bat out of Hell and handles beautifully. I learned early on during my tailwheel rating that tailwheel flying requires a certain respect and definitely some more focused concentration.
During final approach, I sing, “Feet, feet, feet, remember your flippin’ feet!”. You know what they say, you haven’t finished flying a taildragger until it’s in the hangar!
I took advantage of the low winds and with nobody else flying I decided to land on every runway at Kittyhawk.
I landed on Runway 10, back tracked and taxied down to Runway 16 to take-off.
After landing on Runway 16, I swung the tail around on one wheel (ah, the beauty of the taildragger) and took off from Runway 34!
I came in to land on Runway 34 and had to side-slip down to short final to lose some height. I was floating and decided to go-around since I wouldn’t have made the first third of the runway… I had a slight tailwind!
After an hour of circuits and a full stop landing on Runway 10, the crew said they had some good footage. It was 2100 and I offered to fly the photographer Emma back to Deanland with me, it was her first time in a light aircraft!
She climbed into the small cockpit of the Eurofox and I briefed her on emergency procedures. It was getting dark at this point and with sunset at 2115, I had until 2145 to be on the ground at Deanland.
I decided the three minute flight to Deanland wouldn’t be enough for a ‘first timer’ so we took off and routed towards Lewes to extend the flight.
We landed at Deanland at 2132 which is the latest I have ever landed! The sky was a beautiful pink at this point.
The evening was a success and definitely one to remember!
I practised my tailwheel take-offs and landings, got some amazing footage and witnessed the most beautiful sunset.
An evening in the sky is an evening well spent. Thanks must be said to Mikey, Sheldon, Simon and Emma for their company and expertise!