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Thursday, 10 July 2008

Mind the bridge! County 9

**Before the bridge story, I must just give a HUGE THANK YOU to the HILLBILLIES Motorcycle Club for their donation of £100!!!! Thanks guys, that boosts the total so close to the magic thousand!

Woke up Thursday morning, rain and wind howling at the window. Good stuff, just fancy a trip north in that lot. Rained all the way to the Kinloss RAF base, where I met Andy L who had organised this visit to the Nimrod simulator as part of Cubbie's Counties. The county by the way is Moray, and it doesn't always rain there...usually it is quite tropical, compared to Aberdeenshire. Arrived about 25mins early so popped along to Kinloss Abbey, a ruin but rather intriguing and eerie in the misty weather. Pleased that Cubbie was running 'not too bad' although the smaller slightly more bumpy roads caused me to go a tiddly bitty slower than normal, for the sake of my internals and spine, you understand. Andy met me at the main gate, showed me in and a nice chap at the desk gave me a visitors pass. Through the sentry gate and over to the building where the Sim is housed. These days, the training is run by an international company called Thales, not the RAF itself, and I was somewhat humbled that they sent a special lady all the way from Sussex to Scotland to look after me for the day. She goes by the name of Jane Wakeford and is the Events and Communications Manager, and my 'pilot' for the day, was Gordon Laing, Site Training Manager. Andy L, Maritime Crew Trainer, had to stay in the office and answer the phones! With the formalities seen to, Gordon and Jane took me through a maze of corridors to the NDS. Oh come on, keep up, thats the Nimrod Dynamic Simulator of course. I don't think Gordon was impressed with my answer to his question "what experience have you of flying?" Well, said I, I've done a parachute jump.....and had a wee shotty of steering a light aircraft somewhere in the skies over Dornoch. Well, c'mon, thats more than most people! Luckily his sense of humour was up to scratch. So, into the Captain's chair (I don't think it's called that really) and Jane beside me as co-pilot, Gordon programmed the computer and we took off from Kinloss. One hand on the steering wheel - the one for the actual wheels, and the other paw on the up/down/left/right steering device. Power on (not my job) and then a good tug on the 'up' device (I need to get some proper names for these things) and we were airborne.

I was surprised how heavy the controls were, you really do need to have strong arms to be able to keep a constant altitude and steer at the same time. If you turn right, to straighten up you don't just return the 'thing' to the middle, but you have to give it a nudge to the left to balance it up, all the while, not pushing or pulling which would result in a nose dive or heading for a loop-the-loop.

Jane and I took it in turns to try various take-offs and landings, from Kinloss, Leuchars and Gibraltar . That was a particularly tricky one as the strip is only about 6000 feet long - the minimum for a Nimrod, with a sharp left turn just as you take off, or you end up in Spanish air, and we don't want that, apparently. Just for a giggle, Gordon suggested we fly under the Forth Rail Bridge, which would require a lot of skill, control, panache, delicacy....none of which I had at that precise moment! Just as I descended to the required height of something like 100 feet, I noticed I was still descending so in a bid to avoid an early bath I made an executive decision to pull the nose up, rather abruptly, which resulted in the aircraft coming into contact with a huge piece of metal, called the bridge. Drat. I should have done better there. Nearly had it. Another go, mister? Nope, Jane's turn. I could see she had done that before - right through the middle. A quick flip of a switch and Gordon had the sim in night mode. He then swung out over Edinburgh airport and around to face the A90 - the road bridge over the River Forth. It was quite a nifty manoeuvre as he dived in between the first set of cables, then swerved to avoid the rather solid pillars - a good move, I thought.
It was a slightly strange feeling as the computer generated scenery flashed before my eyes 'outside' the windows, and even without the motion thingy switched on, it still felt like we were actually flying. But I have to say its certainly the best way to beat the traffic. To finish off a cracking experience, Gordon proceeded to say "one wouldn't normally do this in a Nimrod...." before demonstrating how Gibraltar looked upside down.

It's funny how things pop up. Speaking to Captain Bill a few days earlier, he had suggested I visit Culbin Forest, in Moray, then, coincidence of all coincidences, during my time in the Nimrod, I flew over the forest - virtually of course. Decided to pop in seeing as I was only a handful of miles down the road. Well those miles soon doubled, and probably trebled as I failed to find the turning to Culbin. My excuse is I couldn't see through the heavy rain and spray. Found it eventually and it would have been a really nice place to stop for lunch (3 cereal bars and an apple) had it not been a) raining and b) full of children. In the early 1800s, this strip of land was a barren desert described by some as romantic and picturesque in its loneliness and desolation. The fact that when the sea breeze blew, the dunes shifted so dramatically that houses and acres of crops were completely covered didn't seem to matter to some people - alright if they didn't live there I suppose. By the 19th century, trees had been planted and were growing well, providing enough timber to contribute to the war effort. After that, the Forestry Commission took over and a full scale planting plan was put into operation, leading to the huge mature forest you see now. So there you have it, Scotland's only desert, now a lovely green space, busily and silently, helping all us polluters to breath more easily.

Got wet, cold too, which would probably account for this sore throat I'm developing nicely, but heck thats another county ticked off! Up to 9 now, nearly a third of the way through and , er, about three and a half months to go....and before you ask, no, I haven't fixed Cubbie's rear yet! Ah yes, nearly forgot to mention that on the way home, I stopped off at Rhonda's burger van - ordered a cheese burger, was about to pay but she said she couldn't possibly take money for it as it was the last one on the stove - tasted fine to me, but thanks anyway, that's your contribution to Cubbie's Counties!

I went to the footie - yesterday - Manchester United Vs Aberdeen, some sort of commemorative match to do with some game or other that happened in Gothenburg 25 yrs ago. Special birthday treat for Mrs BC. Followed by a nice nosh at the Buckie Farm in Bridge of Dee. The football experience was only slightly marred by the nerd in front of me who seemed to think the Man U players and Ref could hear his words of discouragement from the 500th row. Some folk should get out more. Or be locked up. Anyway, Man U won 2-0 so that's Mrs BC's pressie sorted, and I'm a happy bunny. Well I would be if my throat and head didn't hurt quite so much. Off to bed, thanks for reading, ciao for now.


Darrell said...

I love the area around Kinloss. I spent a lot of time there, when I was in the US Navy we operated with the Nimrod squadrons. Beautiful area.
And I can imagine great rides along those roads.
So have you joined the RAF?

john said...

This really is becoming quiote an event girly ..... the cubbie is still running and you are talking your way into some amazing places ... can't wait for the book/movie

Question, seeing as how you are in the know so to speak ...... how do I blag myself a shot of that simulator ......?

Excellent read (as usual I might add), can't wait for the next adventure .....

Anonymous said...

In the pic where Cubbie is parked in the official visitor spot, it looks like Cubbie's exhaust system is shined up....optical illusion or base regs? Great read and fine fotos...glad you're getting into some pics instead of being the mystery woman of yore...always glad to catch a glimpse. Keep up the good work and catch you later at (He said shamelessly) - BigBobW

Bantam Cub said...


Thanks for the link to the Hillbillies website. We have a Renfrewshire Chapter that meets in Greenock so if we can get the timing right when you come back down this way maybe we could meet up there.

Good luck with the rest of the counties.

(changed signature - just realised that signing off 'BC' might cause confusion!)

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Gordon Bennet, you are indeed SHAMELESS BigBob! Thats not me...did I say that was me? Haha! But you're right about the zorst, I made a special effort to clean it up, seems that the rest of it is gonna stay dirty cos it's quite well baked on.

Noooo Darrell...they didn't want me. Boo hoo. Too old I suspect.

Hey John, you have to know the right folk and be in the right place at the right time - thats only the second time I've managed to do all 3. Movie? Are you after a starring role - or maybe a Starry role!

BCub - tis the least I can do as you guys wee so generous with your sponsorship. Hope to be back in that part of the country one day in the not too distant future....still need to sort this rear end problem though!

Anonymous said...

Thats not me...did I say that was me? mistake, hope you tracked her down and got your hat



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