Lets get this tale onto a blog then shall we…
Back in 2005 I arranged a surprise 25th birthday treat for Chris. I told her that I had booked a top restaurant near her Dad’s place in Goodwood, but things were looking frantic at work…an air ambulance was desperately needed and I had to stay on to get it fixed….
I didn’t want the restaurant to go wasted, so told her to go to it with her mum, and I’ll try and get down there later…
On the Friday of her birthday (May 20th) her mum said that they had to drop into Goodwood to pick up a birthday present from her Dad on the way to the restaurant. This meant that Chris, her mum and her dad would all be at Goodwood aerodrome at a set time…
My good friend Sudeep “Soggy” Jacob is a pilot…He has a ‘plane based near Oxford and others that he can use.
The unflappable Sudeep “Soggy” Jacob. Ace pilot extraordinaire
I jumped in Eddies car with Soggy and Eddie (my long time buddy) and headed up to Soggy’s airfield. For the surprise we needed a 6 seater, and Soggy needed to get tested (checked out) on it before being allowed to take it. The weather was bad….and we had to wait for ages to get a chance for Soggy to get his chance to be checked out.
The Cherokee 6 that had a major part to play….and the dark clouds that threatened to end it all
Once all that was cleared and Soggy had the aircraft, we then had to wait for the weather to clear again so we could take off and head down south to Goodwood. The weather was rough, but nothing to really moan about (that would be Sunday’s trip back to Oxford…).
Time ticked on and the weather stayed bad, and it was down to just seconds before I called the flight off (I had planned for bad weather, so I had a set time to call the flight off and then drive to the restaurant)…Soggy came over to me and I let him speak first before I gave him the bad news. Luckily the news Soggy gave was…”I think we can do it…”
The weather was “Do-able” – Only just though….
We took off and headed south…throttle open and making good time. We flew over my (and Soggy’s) work place (Gama Support Services) and carried on down to Goodwood. The timing was spot on!
Gama Support Services, Farnborough. My car is not in the car park….Chris thought that it should be….
Ian, Chris’s Dad, pulled his part of the plan perfectly. Chris and Lauren (her mum) had arrived to “pick up the present”, but Ian had to go and sort out something on the airfield first (he works there on the rescue team, as well as being a race marshal). Chris and Lauren went with him…just in time to see Me, Soggy and Eddie taxi the aircraft in. Chris was really excited that I had managed to make it…and arrive in style!
I told her that we had flown down from my work place to get to the restaurant in time, and that it was lucky that Soggy had his aircraft with him that day. Eddie had just come along for the flight, and was going back with Soggy whilst I went with Chris and her mum to the restaurant. Lies, all lies.
As the aeroplane was at Goodwood, and we had time to spare, I offered to have everyone go for a quick flight around the airfield before we all did our separate things.
Soggy, Eddie, Lauren and Ian in the first 4 seats. Chris and I sat at the back for this trip.
So we took off….flew a circuit….and then carried on flying north to Blackbushe Airport, where we landed. A colleague from work , Steve, was at Goodwood to see us in, and then we jumped out of the ‘plane and walked over to where I had some transport arranged…
Steve, a friend and collegue from Gama, does his marshalling duty for us at Blackbush
Chris was delighted…as she had a good idea of what was going to happen next. She knew the area…and knew of a top Thai Restaurant nearby that she really loved…
At the restaurant I had arranged a quiet area….and a load of Chris’s
friends…and some top presents that Chris had been after for some time (“Oooh, I REALLY like those”…she said…every time we had been to the restaurant in the past…).
All in all it was a great day. Everyone played their parts superbly, and it was all down to the very last second and split second timing. Looking back, almost a year later, and I’m still surprised that we pulled it off. There was so much planning involved, and so much against us. A good job all round.
The photos are available on Flickr (MY PHOTOS link at the top of the page).
Chris….ready for the return flight….
The return trip to take the aeroplane back up to Oxford, and the Isle of Mann trip are stories for another day…