Flying visit turned my world upside down

JONATHAN REDHEAD When the invite came for an aerobatic flight, the thought of doing stunts in a small plane shortly after breakfast time was not too appealing.

JONATHAN REDHEAD

When the invite came for an aerobatic flight, the thought of doing stunts in a small plane shortly after breakfast time was not too appealing.

But having volunteered, I was not about to pull out as I made my way to a steaming hot Seething airfield yesterday, to meet aerobatic pilot Denny Dobson.

Denny, who has been flying since 1986, assured me he would be "gentle" in a quick flight with as many tricks as he and I could handle in the heat.

He is possibly unique in the world of flying, having taught himself all the skills he knows since taking a flying lesson more than two decades ago.

Now, he is one of the country's top aerobatic pilots, performing at about 70 shows a year with his two seater, yellow-and-blue-painted Pitts S-2B plane.

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However, all that was of little comfort as Denny helped strap me into the craft as I tried to maintain my composure.

I held on tightly as we almost sauntered to the end of the runway, while Denny told me that I could stop at any time I felt bad.

What happened next had been described by someone as like "having a herd of elephants sitting on you", as we sped down the runway with quite serious G-forces.

But that was nothing as we made our way into the cloudless sky, and the plane banked round to the right, with what felt like huge weights being pushed into my chest.

Eventually, we straightened out and having muttered through the intercom to Denny that I was fine, he suggested we go into a barrel roll.

"I'll count down from three," he warned.

Three seconds later and my world was literally turned upside down for a fleeting moment as the green and brown fields of Norfolk suddenly became the sky.

Almost instantly we were back on the straight and narrow, and to my relief I was still in one piece.

More barrel rolls followed, each slightly different yet more thrilling than the last, and I found myself enjoying things as we pulled up to 6Gs.

But things changed as Denny took us through four consecutive barrel rolls whilst climbing and turning to the left.

Immediately, I felt the meal I had the night before was about to reappear.

Fortunately, I managed to hold back and we landed after what was undoubtedly the flight of a lifetime.

A few moments after climbing out of the sweltering cockpit and I was back to normal and ready to do it all again. No gibbering, no shaking and no fear. It was great.

"You should have had breakfast," Sandra Perkins, who looks after the operations side of things for Denny, said. "It would have helped against the adrenaline."

The next man to fly with the ever-modest Denny was Yves Delhommeau, general manager at theme park Pleasurewood Hills, who helped organise the day and are big sponsors of this year's air show.

Having taken in some of the world's most extreme rollercoasters, surely a quick flight would be no problem.

But as his flight time approached, it looked like the Frenchman might change his mind. Yet, he climbed aboard and enjoyed himself as much as I had earlier.

"It's better than any coaster you could have in the world," he enthused. "I was very afraid before going in, but it is so much pleasure."

And despite my initial concerns, I have to agree.

It was the most thrilling thing I have ever done and if there's ever a next time I want to go for a loop the loop.

And if you're planning to make your way to Lowestoft for the air show next Thursday and Friday make sure you give a special wave or cheer to Denny Dobson as he flies past - even if he is upside down.

For more information about Denny Dobson and his plane visit www.dennydobson.com. For details about the air show, go to www.lowestoftairfestival.co.uk.