Winter Week-Ends in the Air.
Flying is no Seasonal Pastime but a Game for All the Year Round.
By E L. H. SEARL.
LAST Saturday morning I got up and observed to the world in general :—” I would like to play golf at Bude today.” And my wife said, “Lets,” so we went, playing two rounds that day and one the next.
Naturally we flew ; no vehicle other than the aeroplane or Sir Henry Segrave’s car could have got us there and back so satisfactorily within the scope of that short week-end.
In my pre-flying days, I infested the good roads of England in a species of explosive dustbin which got me about fairly rapidly, as cars go : its open body and” allweather hood” (the makers’ description), gathered in draughts and such rain as might be about in large quantities. A long journey merely provided food for thought as to the approaching return and left me a nerve-shattered wreck at the memory of narrow escapes from the gay-walker and the fool round the corner. And this luxury cost me about £150 a year to run, and probably more.
At the expense of the taxpayer I had flown for some years in the R.A.P., and as such I was inclined to think of all flying as expensive. Until one day I sat down and figured it out that I could cover just as much country in a light aeroplane for £100 per annum.
Within a week my sports car was in a Portland Street window, and I was the possessor of a second-hand aeroplane and a seven-horse power car as a tender to carry me to and from the aerodrome. The experiment has not yet worked a full year, but upon a completed six months basis I am definitely going to save.
A great deal has been said and written of the ubiquity of the modern light aeroplane, but there is still an inclination to regard it as prohibitively expensive : actually it costs about 31d. per mile to run, to reduce the cost to a more readily understandable unit than so much per hour. The modern sports car which can put up even half as good an average speed will cost at least that figure. The burden of ownership need not necessarily be assumed ; there are many excellent organisations which cater for the hirer, who can get as cheap flying as an
owner—there are some who maintain that it is even cheaper.
For example, a machine may be hired from one such organisation at as low a rate as one guinea an hour : at 80 miles per hour cruising speed, this works out at just over 3d. per mile—and that is a figure which covers the cost or all fuel and full insurance. Incidentally for two persons it is a lower figure than third-class train travel, between any two points in England.
The simplicity of the whole affair should constitute the main appeal of aerial week-ending.
Once in the air the holiday spirit gets a very definite grip : the absence of speed traps and cross-roads has a doubly soothing and exhilarating effect. Speeding to the west this last Saturday, one saw the arterial roads crammed with crawling traffic, steadily thinning as we put the miles behind. That sense of
getting away from things” alone makes air travel worth while.
Even at this season the west seems to bear some lingering traces of summer : there is no lack of interesting views, for the broader convolutions of the country are always visible from the air. The Roman country round Ilchester, for example, bears many traces of the civilising influence in roadways and earthworks. Here and there the country is straddled by prehistoric cart tracks.
Once arrived at Bude the problem of a landing place was solved by a field some half-mile from the sea ; and a well-disposed farmer soon solved the problem of housing for the night by lending us an empty barn, wherein the machine was rapidly stowed with folded wings.
Whatsoever one’s open-air interests may be—hunting, golf, or merely a desire to blow away some of the atmosphere of a town, the light aeroplane brings within reach of a short two-hour flight the uncrowded spaces of England. One’s week-end of golf might just as easily have been a day’s hunting in the Shires, or a day’s racing in the north. The ann-chair aviators begin to speak in the autumn of “next season’s flying ” ; they thereby show them
selves to be on a level with the motorist who jacks up his car and stows it away early in October, for the light aeroplane is just as independent of seasons as is the modern saloon car.
In its warmth, comfort and freedom from draughts, indeed, the exhaust-heated coupe machine is a more comfortable proposition than the saloon car : and its speed dwarfs it out of all comparison.