You may think that flying a light aeroplane is something terribly complicated, and also quite difficult for the untrained novice to do. But in fact, it's actually much simpler than you may imagine. Use this 'cut out and keep' guide to enable you to pilot a light aircraft without the need for expensive flying lessons.
You will need:
1) Someone else's aeroplane. Choose a small one with only one engine. (We don't want to make it more difficult than it has to be now, do we)?
2) A packed lunch, and a flask of tea. Note: If you suffer from air-sickness, it's a good idea to pack food that hasn't got any sharp corners, just in case you un-pack it twice.
3) A packet of cigarettes.
4) A lipstick - Dark shades are best.
5) A large sack of potatoes. If you can't get hold of potatoes, then turnips or carrots will do.
6) A fold up bicycle.
7) A set of wire cutters.
Place the bicycle and the wire cutters in the back of your chosen aircraft, and put the sack of potatoes, your packed lunch and the lipstick on the passenger seat, then light up a cigarette. Once you've done that, make a note of which way the smoke from your 'gasper' is drifting. Then grab hold of the arse-end of the aircraft, and swing it round so that the front of the aircraft is facing into the wind. - This is the direction that you will be travelling in.
At this stage, make a note of any land-marks in the distance such as large buildings, church spires etc. That way you will know that you're going in a straight line and haven't made a total balls of things when you fly over them.
It may be worth pointing out at this juncture that moveable things such as cattle, cars, clouds, other aircraft etc are NOT land-marks.
Get into the aeroplane and make yourself comfy. Turn the ignition key until you see movement on some of the gauges in front of you. Find the one that has 'Fuel' written on it, and if it isn't in the red, turn the key a bit further and the engine will start.
At the pointy end of the aircraft a big fan will be whizzing round. Do not be afraid. This is completely normal.
At this stage the aircraft may start moving forward. If it doesn't, it means that either the engine isn't going fast enough, or someone has left the brakes on. Have a play with some of the levers until you find the brakes and the throttle. Put the throttle on 'full' and release the brakes. The aircraft will then shoot forward like a startled nun and anything not tucked away will fall on the floor. IT IS IMPERATIVE AT THIS STAGE THAT YOU DON'T TOUCH ANY OF THE CONTROLS.
Modern aircraft are intrinsically stable, which means that they will always try to fly straight unless you attempt to get it to do something else. So provided that you are going fast enough, and have nothing in front of you, and also refrain from messing about with the controls it'll eventually lift off the ground of its own accord.
Now that you're in the air, take the lipstick and write the time of departure on the windscreen.
As the buildings below you start getting smaller, take time to enjoy the view. - Kick off your shoes. Relax. Un-pack your lunch and treat yourself to a scotch egg.
As you climb higher and higher, you may also find that it's getting noticeably colder as well. This is the signal to warm yourself up with a nice cup of hot tea from your Thermos flask. The reason that it's getting colder is because the air is becoming thinner, and at around 12,000 feet you will run out of oxygen and pass into a state of unconsciousness. There is a gauge somewhere on the instrument panel that tells you how high you are, but I find that the time it takes to finish your tea is pretty much the optimum moment to think about turning round and going home.
Tack the sack of spuds from the passenger seat and haul it onto your lap. This will upset the centre of gravity of the aircraft and you will find that you are now flying lop-sided. The aircraft may start to do a slow turn at this point. If it doesn't, give one of the pedals on the floor a shove with your foot and that should do the trick. Once you are pointing back the way you came, stick the spuds back on the passenger seat.
Now reduce the throttle and the aircraft should stop climbing and start descending.
Using the time on your watch, less the time that you wrote on the windscreen will tell you roughly how long it will take to get home. Give yourself a pat on the back, and light up a cigarette as a reward.
Once your home airport is in sight, fly past it and use the sack of spuds technique to turn you back into wind. You are now ready to land.
Landing is always a bit of a bugger, and it's likely that this is the point where things start to go slightly askew. Therefore it's generally a good idea to make contact with the ground at the lowest speed possible, so at this stage it would be prudent to throttle the engine back to tick over.
It might also be a good time to put your seat belt on.
However, don't worry, gravity is on your side and you're bound to get down one way or another.
Once the houses start to get really big, switch off the engine so that bits of propeller travelling at high speed don't come through the windscreen on impact. Close your eyes and try to think of something pleasant.
Landing is normally signalled by a loud crunching noise, followed by the cockpit filling with dust and smoke. After which generally comes the smell of spilt petrol.
Now is the time to exit the aircraft.
Take the folding bicycle from the remains of the aeroplane and make your getaway. If you were fortunate enough to actually land back at the airport, use the wire cutters to chop your way through the perimeter security fence.
Keep doing this each weekend and provided that you live long enough, and don't get pulled by the Rozzers for stealing other people's aeroplanes you will find that your flying skills will rapidly develop. And within three months you will be able to pilot any military fighter aircraft that isn't properly locked up.
Next week: Sailing a submarine - 'the easy way'.