Stories from The Sky with Friends: Andrew Scaramanga

I hope you have been enjoying Stories from the Sky! We also have stories from friends I would like to share with you and hope you enjoy the piece written by Andrew Scaramanga who was one of SkySchool’s first ever students back in 2005.

Before we get on to Andrews rendition of his X-Race in the UK, it would be great for you to share Stories from the Sky with your friends and colleagues, which you can do here.

So, up, up and away...


Andrew Scaramanga & X-Race UK - by Andrew Scaramanga

"I was going to be racing with a full tank of fuel, a reserve and speed bar none of which form part of my usual set up…

I arrived at the top of a remote hill in Dorset at 6 in the morning to find the race start shrouded in fog. I’d been a bit concerned about the race all week, particularly my launch technique. I had spent my evenings leading up to race day plotting my route on a map, locating possible refueling stations and fretting over my kit.

So…as we waited for the fog to lift I talked tactics with other racers and worried that everyone else was using cunning electronic navigational aids as opposed to my trusty map and compass. My reasoning had always been that I would be in the air for about 7 hours and that having something to do on the way would make the race more interesting for me.

The fog sat stubbornly on the top of the hill and we kept kidding ourselves that it was getting brighter. I tried to settle my nerves with yet another delicious bacon butty from the organisers BBQ to no avail.

Andrew Scaramanga - Friend of SkySchool

Eventually, the sun burnt through and we were given a start time over 4 hours after our scheduled departure. I tried to set up into the wind but it kept switching about and there was a lot of rearranging of kit going on. A couple of pilots got away but none at the first attempt as they battled light twitchy winds.

For my third attempt, all went well and after a protracted run I was airborne. I soon got the hang of it and watched as fields skipped past my boots. Now I began to reflect on the wisdom of the bacon butties and my stomach became more and more dodgy. I didn’t really enjoy this stage of the race and was definitely of the opinion that this would be my last.

I navigated my way over some stunningly beautiful country often using pylon lines to guide me – they are well marked on the air maps and it’s as well to identify where they are If only to avoid flying into them. There was a good animal-free field just to the west which appeared to face the prevailing north westerly wind. I managed to land without too much drama, stuffed my wing in the hedge and set off on foot to collect fuel with just under a litre to spare.

I was accosted by a number of holiday makers and grilled about what I was up to, when on my way back to the field, I could see from a flag that the wind had swung round to the west and that there was going to be no chance of taking off from where I was.

I decided to walk through the village and find something better, and saw a beautifully mown hay field gently sloping towards the westerly wind. I asked about the field at a house that backed on to it. They said that the owners weren’t there but said they wouldn’t mind. I then used all my charm to persuade the rather attractive blonde lady of the house to take me back to my landing field in her Range Rover to collect my kit. This she seemed delighted to do (Hmmm…I’ve still got it!).

A nice easy take off into the wind and down the hill, plenty of vigorous waving to the blonde and I was off again. I flew back over my take off field and then climbed to avoid any rotor coming off the top of Dartmoor. The country was littered with wind turbines but sadly my map predated them so they were not marked. As I climbed up the foothills of Exmoor it became more difficult to identify features as everything looked the same but the turn-point soon appeared as an obvious lump on the horizon appeared, and I made a beeline for it.

As I turned for home, my ground speed increased noticeably with a lovely tail wind I slightly lost my bearings at this stage but quickly worked out where I was when I recognised my cousin’s house at Wiveliscombe. I settled back in the calm early evening air and in no time at all, I was over the M5 services and launched into a lovely evening breeze to get me home.

An ideal flight in perfect conditions at full speed soon had me skirting a course straight back towards the landing field, over some of the most beautiful countryside you will ever see.

This is what it’s all about!

As I approached, I saw other pilots take off to welcome me home. They guided me in perfectly and I landed to be told that I had finished second. Now, in normal circumstances, I would have done a little showboating for the crowd but I was thoroughly exhausted after standing on the speed bar for nearly 7 hours and just wanted to get down for a beer.

I really enjoyed the whole experience and felt a great sense of achievement. My only regret was that because I managed to complete the course in a day I did not have the opportunity to knock on someone’s door to beg a bed for the night."

Finding out what type of adventure you are keen to pursue , is pivotal to the depth of information in the later episodes of this series. As such, I would greatly appreciate you taking a few seconds to fill out our short form to update your details and let us know what you would like to hear more about.

Happy landings.

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