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02-Aug-2020 17:41

You will look in vain for Elstree in the planet’s aviation schedules, because it is strictly a venue for General Aviation — private flying, in propellor planes, rather than those noisy jets.You and I would normally not get a look in to this world of reasonably well-heeled individuals.Anywhere significantly west of London would do, including South Wales and Somerset.On the basis of just one bid, I can’t say how fortunate I was, but one pilot - a businessman with commitments in the Somerset area - responded.But once the journey begins, your duty is to have the time of your life.The tiny control tower at Elstree cleared us for take-off; the motor did its best to roar; and we set off up a surprisingly steep gradient.While terrestrially those assets have traditionally been filled from time to time by hitch-hikers, pilots like to know a little more about potential passengers.

But the pilot, who has been flying since he was 17, turned out to be IFR rated — in other words, he can fly using instruments only in cloud.I don’t recall ever having heard the chirrups of sparrows at Heathrow, Britain’s gateway to the world.But 15 miles north-north-east from Europe’s busiest airport, Elstree aerodrome is a rural backwater whose tranquility is infrequently interrupted by the urgent rasp of a single-engine aircraft lining up to take off.But before the plane reached the 70mph that motorists on the M1 just ahead were doing, we were airborne. We flew over the morning misery of the motorway, traversed Watford and rose high above Rickmansworth — to the staccato soundtrack of controllers choreographing the busiest skies in the world.Once airborne, the private plane is a peer to the Jumbo jet and the Airbus A380.

But the pilot, who has been flying since he was 17, turned out to be IFR rated — in other words, he can fly using instruments only in cloud.I don’t recall ever having heard the chirrups of sparrows at Heathrow, Britain’s gateway to the world.But 15 miles north-north-east from Europe’s busiest airport, Elstree aerodrome is a rural backwater whose tranquility is infrequently interrupted by the urgent rasp of a single-engine aircraft lining up to take off.But before the plane reached the 70mph that motorists on the M1 just ahead were doing, we were airborne. We flew over the morning misery of the motorway, traversed Watford and rose high above Rickmansworth — to the staccato soundtrack of controllers choreographing the busiest skies in the world.Once airborne, the private plane is a peer to the Jumbo jet and the Airbus A380.But the pilot was ice-cool and professional, even as crystals of ice started to form on the wings and the windscreen.