Nothing makes you feel more like a celebrity than crossing an airfield towards a helicopter with it’s rotors whirring and your adoring fans cheering you on from the sidelines. Although in this case, my adoring fans were Ma and Pa Lee, and I was going on a 15 minute pleasure flight over the Gloucestershire countryside rather than to some glamorous engagement. Which was a good job as windswept, headset-flattened hair is not a good look on me.
Studies have shown that the best gifts are experiences rather than things, something that Ma and Pa Lee considered strongly when picking out thoughtful 40th birthday presents for me. To be honest, I didn’t even know a helicopter flight was on my bucket list until I got the Buyagift voucher last September, but Pa Lee, in cahoots with Mr Fletche, sometimes know me better than I know myself and I soon found myself excited about the prospect. Particularly when after four months I finally got around to booking my experience via Adventure 001, realising that there was an expiry date and time was running out – this was an experience I found myself not wanting to miss out on.
After a wonderfully sunny week, typically the weather turns as the Bank Holiday weekend approaches. Thunderstorms rumble all through Saturday night, and I check the weather app for Gloucester, our flight location. It’s fine this morning, but thunderstorms are likely around 2pm. Guess what time our flight is booked for? Still, with Adventure 001’s Twitter feed and Facebook pages loaded onto my phone for scheduling updates, Mr Fletche and I head down to Gloucester with Ma and Pa Lee along for the ride. It’s not often they get to see their only daughter and son-in-law take to the skies in a tin can.
The bad weather follows us down the M5, and the heavens open as we park up at Gloucester Quays. It’s a quick, soggy sightseeing tour of the docks and the cathedral before hunkering down in Bills for brunch.
Yet as we take the 20 minute drive from Gloucester to the airport, there is a break in the rain. Is that even sunshine we spy? We’re a little early, but after a short panic about not having the right ID and proof of address (that’ll teach me only to read the interesting bits of the booking confirmation email) we’re checked in. Proof of address and ID not needed, probably because I’d brought along every other piece of information relating to the booking. Including the gift box it came in. You never know. Turns out it is easier to check in for a helicopter flight from Buyagift than it is to get served afternoon tea.
Just after 2pm, Mr Fletche and I wave goodbye to Ma and Pa Lee and go through for our safety briefing. Gist seems to be, don’t walk behind the helicopter or you’ll get chopped to pieces. I make a mental note.
— Brummie H&A (@emfletche) May 27, 2018
After all the useful don’t-get-chopped-to-pieces advice, we’re escorted to our helicopter. I’m accompanied by Mr Fletche, and two other guys, both taking their first helicopter flight. I have the opportunity to upgrade to the front seat, but I worry that if I’m nervous I’ll try and clutch the pilot’s hand. Or pull some random lever. So Mr Fletche and I (and random stranger No 1) clamber into the back. Headset on, the pilot checks we’re all ok, and then it’s time for lift-off. The feeling is totally different from that of being on a plane. There’s a slight stomach-churning moment as you hover precariously above the ground, as if the helicopter is just testing out the load, before swooping off.
It is a total adrenaline rush. I am quite literally experiencing a high. The pilot comments on how quiet we all are, but the four of us are all taking in the rolling countryside below us. It’s a tough mental pull between wanting to capture every swoop and turn on camera, and simultaneously being “in the moment” – I manage a bit of both. We circle over the cathedral and the docks, now bathed in sunlight – unlike when we were there just an hour or so before. It looks like a model village from up here.
The flight was all too short and it felt like a matter of minutes before we’re setting back down, helicopter ready for the next batch of lucky passengers. There’s a wide smile plastered on my face, and we purchase the obligatory souvenir photo, not for us but for Ma and Pa Lee who made my unrealised dream to travel by helicopter come true.
— Brummie H&A (@emfletche) May 28, 2018
What an experience! If you ever get the opportunity, snap it up as it’s truly an amazing thing to do, and I’d love to do it again some time – maybe over an iconic city next time! Have you ever taken a helicopter flight? What adrenaline-pumping items are on your bucket list?