I’m writing this on one of Mr. Branson’s express trains – having successfully not flown to the Isle of Man for the TT races. The blokes at Autocar, especially Cropley, were dead impressed when I announced the other day that I would be flying to the ultimate motorbike event from home in about three hours.
The little light aeroplane that I fly (owned by James May and borrowed on a regular basis by Goodwin) was built in the 1940s in Texas during the boom in light aircraft. Aircraft manufacturers thought that everyone would travel in their own personal aircraft to go on holiday or even commute.
First off, the weather forecast was a bit out. This doesn’t really matter in a car, even if there’s a virtual monsoon. Granted, storm clouds can be a bit of a nuisance in an Ariel Atom – but the worst you’ll get is a wet bum. The low cloud and poor visibility around Manchester was much more serious in the kite. And then the radio went on the blink.
Losing Radio 4 in the motor is a bit of a nuisance, but you can always listen to a Neil Diamond CD or even hum. Losing the radio in an aeroplane brings on a scary detachment from the helpful voices that guide you around the sky.
We landed at Manchester Barton to try and fix the radio and for the delight and relief of being on terra firma again. It seemed to be working alright so we headed off again. It wasn’t, so we landed at Blackpool. Tired and nervewracked we stayed overnight.
Fog in the morning meant no TT so we flew back to Manchester and left the plane there to have its radio fixed. Which is why we’re now on a train.
I love my new hobby of flying, but my old one of cars is far more practical and less scary.