Norfolk pilot hopes to break the record for the shortest-ever truck landing

Brendan O'Brien with his aircraft and the truck. Brendan O'Brien with his aircraft and the truck.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
2:36 PM

Will he or won’t he? Will there be a record broken at Old Buckenham Airshow later this month when flying supremo Brendan O’Brien attempts to land on the back of a truck?

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O'Briens Flying Circus attempt to land a Piper Cub on a moving trailer at the Old Buckenham Airshow. Photograph Simon ParkerO'Briens Flying Circus attempt to land a Piper Cub on a moving trailer at the Old Buckenham Airshow. Photograph Simon Parker

He couldn’t do it last year, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The crowd watched as Brendan’s steered his little plane within a hair’s breadth of the perfect spot on the flat bed truck, the wheels skimming the cab as the truck was driven along the runway.

Now it’s fingers crossed this year to break the record for the shortest ever truck top landing and it’s that runway – along with Brendan’s piloting skills - that holds the key.

While it was once long enough for World War II American bombers to take off and land, it’s since been shortened and in the world of aviation, it’s actually pretty short. This doesn’t give Brendan long for that record attempt.

That’s one of the reasons he loves Old Buckenham and Norfolk.

Brendan O’Brien's Flying Circus will be performing at the Old Buckenham Airshow in 2013. Photo Paul JohnsonBrendan O’Brien's Flying Circus will be performing at the Old Buckenham Airshow in 2013. Photo Paul Johnson

“I like Old Buckenham because it is not the Paris or Farnborough airshow. It is a proper lovely country show, it’s about entertainment. It’s about barnstorming and that’s what I do.”

Barnstorming harks back to the 1920s when pilots used to love to show off their first planes, landing pretty much anywhere they could, gathering a crowd and taking people for flights.

“After World War II there were these young guys, pilots, back from the war, pumped up with adrenaline. They were buying these old wartime planes and going around the country, landing and taking people for a ride, looping the loop and trying to outdo one another.

“They were barnstorming, they were performers and that’s what I do. It’s all about entertainment and Old Buckenham Airshow is a brilliant places for that,” says Brendan.

He says the Old Buck audience seems to clearly enjoy his flying.

“They’re a good crowd.

“Landing on top of a truck takes 90% bottle and 10% skill,” he adds.

Watching him put his aircraft through their paces, it clearly is entertainment.

Airshow crowds love aerobatic aircraft, looping and spinning and diving and smoke-trail-writing in the sky, and the historic aircraft with their oh-so-distinctive engine noises. They applaud the novel craft too whether super shiny, super quick or such a strange shape it’s hard to believe they’re actually airborn.

But there are few eyes craned very far skywards when Brendan takes off, he seems to barely leave the ground before his plane is sideways, or upside down, just eeking over the trees and seeming to disappear.

“I am low and close. To me it’s much more exciting than being 3000 feet up,” he says.

An aviation veteran, some would say legend, Brendan has been to well over 1000 air shows, either as a commentator or performer or visitor.

“I never fail to be amazed by the stoicism of the British public. I have been there when it has been lashing with rain and they sit there with their umbrellas over their heads waiting. I feel if they can do that I have a commitment to do a show for them,” he says.

If he gets the record, it’ll be another to add to his clutch of aviation medals, trophies and achievements.

• See him at Old Buckenham Airshow, July 26-27. www.oldbuck.com

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