Adventures with G-AKDN - Chapter 22
The rain is pounding the metal hangar roof making it hard to hear each other talk. We are preparing KDN for the weekend of racing. She is wearing her number 54 and sporting a handsome Royal Aero Club decal. One hundred miles away at the race course, the 1000’ hills are hidden in the low clouds that are being driven along by a gusty wind. The forecast is not good for Saturday for the running of the Stewards Cup. We must fly this race to qualify to enter the Kings Cup which is scheduled to run on Sunday. It looks like the race will be postponed until Sunday and the Kings Cup may be delayed to another day or cancelled. We are, as they say in the UK, gutted.
Late Saturday night, we learn that the pilots who are there were able to fly one practice in the low cloud and gusty winds. It was very turbulent, knocking headsets off and flying below the hilltops. They tell us the plan is to fly both races on Sunday. This has caught us off guard. We are not expecting this change, and the weather here is still raining. We need to fly the 100 miles in the morning arriving in time for the mandatory briefing, then fly the two 100 mile races back to back and return home before dark. The hair stands up on my neck and that small voice I have learned to listen to over 45 years of flying is telling me to stand down. I delay my decision and decide to think about it overnight.
I think back about all the great adventures we have had with KDN and the wonderful people we have met. We have been very lucky considering the amount of bad weather experienced this summer throughout the UK. I think about KDN and the long life she has had, as a prototype aircraft, test plane, marketing star, air racer and sport flyer, and survivor. Fortunately caring, experienced pilots who have treated her right have flown her. Many other Chipmunks have been lost over the years due to bad decisions. KDN has always been ready to go when asked, and stands ready once more for what is beginning to look like a challenging day of flying.
In the middle of the night I wake Karen and tell her we’re not flying. KDN has nothing to prove. She is already a Kings Cup winner. She is seventy years old and has earned the right to bask in the glory of a lifetime of flying. She doesn’t deserve to be thrown about in gusty wings in the hills at low level. I am responsible to deliver her to a new owner in a few weeks. I am not going to put her in any unnecessary risk and decide not to race her again. KDN is staying on the ground and we will prepare her for her final special event next weekend at the Goodwood Revival where she is entered into the Freddy March Spirit of Aviation Concours d’ Elegance competition. This is not a race. It is a competition where she will be judged on her Historical Merit, Present Condition, Originality, Quality of Preservation, Effort Contributed to Attend Event. I think she will represent herself just fine and deserves any attention she will get.
As I go over her one final time with the polishing rag, I have time to reflect on our time together. The rain is drumming on the hangar roof, and a few tears are hitting the wings.
To be continued...