With exams behind us, planning for ‘Evie’s Grand Tour’ could begin in earnest. With a map of Britain pinned to the wall, and a nice fresh clean white board alongside it, we began to compile our ‘to do’ list for the next month. Within minutes, the whiteboard was covered in scribbles, and the ‘to do’ list was lengthening exponentially.
Deciding on what route to fly, seemed like a logical place to start. Having initially noted down everywhere we would like to visit on the trip, we realised that we were going to have to narrow our selection considerably. Visiting 154 airfields may seem like an interesting adventure on paper, but, aside from the desire to return to Dundee with the major part, at least, of our sanity intact, is neither practical nor feasible. Instead, we picked out a few key airfields and tried to adapt the route to that.
RAF Syerston – with an invite to attend a VIP day celebrating the launch of an Aviation Skills Partnership Academy, Syerston became the first fixed place and date in the diary for the tour. With that as an aiming point for the first day, we realised that with a stop en route, as well as giving us an opportunity to stretch our legs and refuel, would allow Claire to complete the requirements of her CPL qualifying cross country. A tick in the box for Day 1.
Norwich – alongside Tayside Aviation and Syerston, Norwich is also home to an Aviation Skills Partnership Academy. The opportunity for a tour around the academy seemed like an interesting opportunity, especially with Tayside Aviation looking to expand it's school into a similar ilk in the near future.
Compton Abbas – as soon as discussion for the tour began, Compton Abbas was the airfield on my lips. Regardless of where else we ended up, if we were going to fly these distances, we were not going to do it without a stop in at Compton. This was the airfield which inspired my choice to become a pilot (Grandpa still gets the blame for it) and the decision to land here was further confirmed on the discovery that this was Evie Saunders’ home airfield, from where G-EVIE had originally come.
Bournemouth – with Evie Saunders being the inspiration behind the tour, an opportunity to meet with Lorraine Richardson, Evie’s niece, is one that we do not want to forgo. Lorraine looked after Evie in her final months and was responsible for setting was responsible for setting up the G-EVIE legacy. Bournemouth, the nearest airport, was quickly added to our list.
With these airfields circled in permanent marker, working out the rest of the route became something of a ‘join-the-dots’ puzzle. While Claire and I have flown several cross country routes together, and have logged a good number of airfields between us, it quickly became apparent that neither of us had undertaken something of this scale before. It seemed that every time we settled on a route, there was some other issue would materialise to alter the plan – no overnight parking available, for example, or few suitable diversion aerodromes if things didn’t quite go to plan.
So far, the key airfields remain unchanged but the rest of the route has been altered and re-altered time and time again. Part of the joy of General Aviation, is that it is continually throwing up surprises and with weather considerations yet to come, in reality, the chances are the route will only be finalised once we are back in Dundee at the end of G-EVIE’s Grand Tour.
Now with event days to attend, we decided to adorn the aeroplane, and ourselves, with a logo symbolising the tour. With Mark Finlander, the logo guru on board, an exchange of ideas and designs began.
Initially depicting G-EVIE flying in a circle around the British Isles, the logo has been developed into a more symbolic depiction of the key features of the trip – a circular aircraft instrument enclosing a British flag (Round Britain) with G-EVIE at the centre. Thankfully the design had already been finalised before someone pointed out that the logo could be produced in pink...
The Flight Suits
If flight suits were available in pink, then the suit may go on tour, but I wouldn’t be inside it. As it is, blue being the available colour, I am still committed. After failing to locate a measuring tape, and attempting to work out our sizes using a metal metre stick, either we hadn’t chosen the correct measuring device, or flight suits are made to extremely generous proportions. With one flight suit big enough to hold both of us, we spent the morning contemplating how many biscuits we would need to consume before the commencement of the trip, before realising that, aside from being detrimental to our health, the mass and balance calculations would just become too difficult. Instead, it became a task for the tailor.
With the aesthetics of the tour out of our hands while the tailor, hopefully, works his magic, attention returned to the more practical aspects of the trip. Flying from Tayside Aviation comes with certain advantages, not least the team of engineers ready to solve our maintenance problems. Without our dedicated team on hand while on tour, Claire and I thought it would be worthwhile spending an afternoon in the hanger in an attempt to pick up vital bits of information to help us en route, even if all it achieved would be coherently explaining a problem down the phone using some of the right terminology.
Robbie was completing a 50 hour check on one of the aircraft when we popped our heads around the door, and he diligently showed us what was involved, talked us through the internals of the engine, and highlighted to us some of the pitfalls and problems that we could encounter, and avoid, on our travels.
Returning to our white board, with slightly oily hands, and a green marker ready to tick off all the jobs we had accomplished throughout the week was extremely satisfying. We looked at our remaining tasks, still a significant number, but realised happily that the next set of tasks was impossible to complete without going for some flights. ‘Clear Prop’ for Phase Two...