Back to school last night, continuing Performance & Planning. The drive to Swansea airport was captivating, we have been blessed over the last few days with some incredible cloudscapes, a treat caused by this moment when spring decided it must go back to bed. Blue battled for space amongst burgeoning accumulations of nimbus and Strato, through it the evening sun sears and illuminates the depth and texture of the air and throws a warmth over the land that is leading me to our port - a launchpad the skies midst.
So what of this sky port - well it is nestled in Fairwood common, equidistant on three sides from coast, a near bullseye in the area of outstanding natural beauty that is the Gower peninsula. Like many, the airport was built near the end of the second world war - it served as a defence hub over the whole of south Wales and the Bristol channel. Post war it languished until the late fifties when commercial operations were run by Cambrian Airways. More recent decades sees it home to Wales Air Ambulance and act as a hub of general aviation that is spearheaded by Cambrian Flying Club - a fully licensed flying school. The club is run by father and son Derek and Ben, 2 of the kindest, most welcoming and hard working people I have the fortune of knowing. Their characteristics are reflected in the running of the operations - outstanding customer service is clearly high on the agenda, but it doesn't manifest itself in an over bearing attentiveness - there is a warmth in the club that makes you want to hang there, with the interesting folk. There are plenty of those too. Clubs of all types exist because a few people feel passionate enough about a subject to create a space and time in which to share their enthusiasm with others of their kind, and anyone else, for that matter, who strays too near its epicentre - this one is no different. An abundance of enthusiastic, passionate and beautifully eccentric aviators are on hand seven days a week to regale you with stories from the sky.
For those already certain they want to attain a licence to fly, here you can gain your EASA Part FCL (PPL), LAPL, Night rating and Instrument Rating. The club has 3 Piper Tomahawks (PA38) widely credited as the purest aircraft for basic flight training. For anyone that is called for the first time by the big blue there are a number of trial flight options - you can choose to be airborne for anything between 30 and 90 minutes and carried by the ever so beautiful and iconic Cessna 150 or share the experience with 2 more and take the 4 seat Reims Cessna 172. Your guardian in the air will be one of vast experience - true professionals with an even greater endowment of wit, charm and worldly knowledge. Many schools hire young instructors looking to build hours, Cambrian has a CFI and DCFI with log books that resemble the old testament.
In your own first log-able hour, from this launchpad on the moor, you will get an unrivalled aerial vantage of the Gower peninsula, Pembrokeshire coast, the Brecon Beacons, the valleys once mined, the industrious coast east to Cardiff and every tiny detail in-between. There can't be many sky ports from which you can observe so many of a nations most beautiful features in just one hour. An hour that will fly and most certainly change your perspective.