A few of you have asked me how I manage to fly solo with a young child on board. In this flight, my son and I tackle the first leg of a 372nm trip from London to Scotland with my 9 year old son.
‘Bertie’ (not his real name) is a very talkative 9 year old boy. He enjoys flying with me, but sometimes his questions and interruptions can be distracting. At the end of May 2017, he and I flew together from Biggin Hill to Dundee – my furthest flying trip to date. Anyone would find 3 and a half hours in a small, noisy aircraft cockpit a challenge. Bertie copes admirably, but we’ve worked up to this point.
‘Bertie’ has always been good in the car. That’s a useful clue – if your child can handle long road journeys, chances are they’ll be okay in a PA28 for a bit. I make sure ‘Bertie’ has things to read, games to play, water (not too much), food (not too much), a sick bag and some cushions for him to sit on. I always have a pre-flight chat with ‘Bertie’ to remind him that flying isn’t always straightforward, and it’s important for our safety that I have time to concentrate when I need it. He respects this, and if I ask him to be quiet, he invariably will be. I would recommend having a modern intercom though, that allows you to isolate your audio from your passengers.
I make sure ‘Bertie’ has plenty of opportunities to empty his bladder before flight, and make sure there’s enough time between fluid intake and take off, to allow the fluid to filter through. It may sound a bit regimented, but you don’t want a toilet emergency 15 minutes from any runway. For this reason also, we carry a He-wee…a plastic bottle with a wide neck…wet wipes and a towel, just in case. We’ve had to make use of this once, on a long trip up to Hawarden.
I’ve learnt the hard way, that splitting your journey is really very necessary. Biggin Hill to Dundee is a 3 and a half hour trip. Yes, it could be done in one go, but is it really humane? In this case, we stopped at Humberside, roughly half way up.
I introduced ‘Bertie’ to flying at the age of 8. It was a short 30 minute trip. He loved it, then got bored, and played his games console. Knowing that he could handle this, we took a long 2 hour trip, with my husband in the back with him. He handled this just fine. Next we did the same trip, but just he and I. Again, he managed brilliantly, although chatted all the way down an ILS approach in IMC! I think you learn as a dad to tune the kids out when necessary! You also have to be alive to their needs to. For example ‘Bertie’ still struggles with earache during pressure changes. I have to talk him through the technique of getting his ears to pop.
Our trip up to Humberside was very straightforward. We had perfect VMC, with just a few clouds at about 3500ft. With a flight time of about 1hour 30 minutes, toilet worries were non existent.
The arrival at Humberside was easy. A downwind left hand join to runway 20 was obvious. We managed to time our descent well, to descend at a constant rate, reaching circuit height at the start of the downwind leg.
ATC was smashing, and a nice calm wind for touchdown made it a satisfying arrival.
Video: Biggin Hill to Humberside with Bertie