On May 12 2005,
two disabled people John de
Frayssinet (Pilot) and Jennifer Ayres (navigator) broke the absolute World Air
Speed record (piston) from Lands End to John o'Groats to support the
British Disabled Flying Association. The
previous record was at 138.553 mph. In the Pilotfriend
Glasair, John and Jenny flew the same course at 207.3 mph, taking
some hour and a quarter off the existing record.
Blame it on the
John de Frayssinet
the route taken
Flying a light
plane to the North of Scotland on the face of it does not seem to be
a huge challenge. Organising a sponsored world air speed record is
another matter entirely: hours of work on the telephone to persuade
sponsors to support the effort, paperwork to get the record
challenge accepted by the Royal Aero Club, press interviews and a
lot more besides.
Having done all
this, we were left with a sword of Damocles that hovered over our
heads until the deed was done. We had declared that we would fly as
early as possible in May. Homebuilt planes registered with the
Popular Flying Association (UK) are not allowed to fly in
cloud so the attempt would be completely weather dependent. As the
days went by, the long distance to be flown over very empty water
seemed even longer. We were unable to include a life raft due to the
additional weight involved. We were only too well aware that in the
event of having to ditch, our chance of surviving would be very poor
indeed. It really
made us understand the pressures felt by long distance record
breakers, albeit on a small scale.
The idea came
after reading in Flyer magazine about the record set by Nick Lambert
who flew the course from Lands End to John o'Groats last year in a
diesel powered Diamond DA40 D of 135 hp. at 138.553 mph.
For a number of years, I have been
a technical consultant for the British Disabled Flying
In order to further raise awareness of the possibilities of flying
for the disabled, we thought that it might be a good idea to try
to break Nick's record.......after all, our aircraft is a lot
faster than the Diamond.
The Glasair RG is a fast kit plane
which took 7 years and over 7500 hours to build. Its construction
was a saga in itself prompting me to suggest that all kits should
come with a free Zimmer frame! The aircraft won top awards for
home built aircraft in the 2003 PFA(UK) and RSA(France) rallies.
Jenny is a stiff pensioner
grandmother with mobility difficulties.
I am a fat one legged granddad deep in male menopause. While
flying in the UK and Europe we had realised that despite
legislation, little has been done on many airfields to accommodate
disabled pilots. What better message
could there be that disabled folks take to the skies on equal
terms with the able bodied but need a bit more help on the ground?
After all the preparation had been completed,
we waited for
our weather experts at
SkyBook to give us a green light. What we
wanted was of course clear skies and a strong following wind. What came on offer was reasonable weather with perhaps a
small component of following wind over part of the course. British
weather being what it is, we decided to take the chance.
in Herefordshire, on
the 11th of May, we had an uneventful flight to RNAS Culdrose, close to
Lands End. We are reluctant to operate our Glasair from grass strips
such as Lands End so Royal Navy Culdrose came to our rescue. We were
given a very warm welcome there and were able to stay at their
wardroom. Sleep evaded us for much of the night due to nerves and I must have
redone the fuel calculations at least three times!
The morning of the
12th was not at all promising, with low clouds and a freezing cold Easterly wind but
we soon discovered that further North the weather was clear so the
attempt was on.
And was Culdrose
cold! A long pre-flight check left us chilled to the bone. Finally, everything
was ready and the three of us took our places in G-BMIO. That's
right, three of us.......we were also taking along Go Bear, a charity
initiative by the Northamptonshire School of Flying to raise money
for disabled flying. Go Bear has been in all kinds of planes, even
with the Red Arrows and has his own log book. He will eventually be
auctioned off to the highest bidder. There he sat, on top of the
luggage, glaring at us in his dark goggles. It seemed only natural
that any problems we experienced would be blamed on the bloody bear!
To be honest, we
were more than a little concerned about being taken short on such a
long flight. I always say we fly a fast plane because we cannot hold
on for so long any more! This was one flight that could not be
interrupted by a 'comfort stop'. To be on the safe side we had
provided ourselves with geriatric diapers....just in case............. and was that
was an embarrassing visit to the chemist shop!
On takeoff, we
groped our way beneath low clouds to Lands End Airport where we were
officially timed and then headed across empty sea at low level.
Despite cockpit heating, we shivered for the first hour of flight. Gradually the weather cleared and before reaching the tip of South
Wales we were able to climb to 6000ft and get the airspeed settled
down. We were also going for a class record which is dependent on
the weight of the aircraft (1000kg max). This meant we had to be sparing with
the fuel on board so we were unable to go flat out and therefore flew the course at
a more economical 75%
of power. At 6000ft in smooth air, we were registering 193 kts over
the ground. Even the simple task of passing control to the other
reduced our speed by ten knots. Intense concentration was need to
keep the aircraft flying at maximum speed.
ranges of Wales were a magnificent sight rising from cloud, grey
and mysterious. It was a pity that we had left our camera in the car
of one of our sponsors!
at Bardsey Island to RAF valley, we continued North towards a patch
of cumulous cloud that had to be the Isle of Man. I.O.M. ATC worked
us across the island and on leaving their frequency, ordered us to
'keep the pedal to the metal'; a great moral booster to two lonely
people in charge of a bear!
All too soon we
were over Scotland and transferred to Scottish FIS. Sadly a layer of
cloud forced us to descend through the Glasgow area and much time
was lost being bounced around and climbing again to clear the Scottish Highlands. We flew
over majestic mountains covered in snow and at last began our slow
descent towards RAF Lossiemouth where we were cleared for overflight
and on to Wick.
appeared on the Garmin GPS map and we were really able to begin to enjoy
the flight. We had not been prepared for the vista that met us. The
Orkney Isles laid out like jewels in a blue sea circling the famous Scapa Flow, home of the Royal Navy Atlantic fleet for a century. We
were cleared to cross Kirkwall airfield at 1000ft at VNE and turned
downwind to land. We were told that this was the best weather the
Orkney Isles had enjoyed so far this year.
Proudly we were
able to declare that our comfort preparations had remained unused.
Comfort was regained for me after a brief (pardon the pun) all-in wrestling match
with my monstrous elasticated geriatric bloomers and Jenny was rushed off to
the loo and by the way, we had broken the record!
the Orkney Isles (photo by Alan Moar)
click for high resolution
arrival at Kirkwall
click for high resolution
arrival at Kirkwall
The welcome we
received at Kirkwall was overwhelming.
Following press interviews and after completing more paperwork we were
able to leave the airfield and spend the next 36 hours enjoying this
island. The Orcadians are warm smiling hospitable people who clearly
love their beautiful islands. The food was fantastic! I enjoyed the
best steak I think I have ever had and discovered a beer called
Island....a true elixir of the Gods.
Skara Brae pre-historic village....one of the best centres we have
We sadly left on
Saturday and returned to Shobdon in clear weather with a Northerly wind behind
us. We have had our few minutes of fame and must say we found it all
a bit overwhelming. It is an adventure that we will remember for a
long time to come and will no doubt bore many people with it. As
life now returns to normal, it already seems a long way away. The
cats were glad to see us home and celebrated by being sick on the
We now have plans
to return to the Orkney Isles, but this time, (don't tell anyone)
with a caravan!
We would like to
thank every one involved with the record attempt....... from
our sponsors to all those who gave us so much hospitality, help and kindness.
A special thanks to
Kirkwall Airport for their welcome and assistance, John Cowie of
Crantit House for the generous use
of his luxurious holiday flat and to Nick Lambert for his gracious gift of a bottle
click for high resolution
safe arrival at Shobdon airfield, Herefordshire the pilotfriend
If we had carried
more fuel and had enjoyed slightly better weather, we could have flown
100% power and completed the run at over 200 knots....buts who's
counting? We are being asked "what's next?". The answer is "no
idea". We do not see ourselves as members of that special group of
record breaking pilots and usually spend our time worrying about
finding the money to pay for hangerage! We intend to continue to
actively campaign for better airfield access for disabled pilots. We
did in fact fly further than John o'Groats as we had to land at
nautical miles (621 statute miles)
time in flight
Land end to John o Groats 3 hours 40 seconds
speed 180.14 knots
The record could
be broken by a fast twin engined aircraft or a faster single such as
the Glasair 3 or Lancair 4. Nick Lambert still holds the record for
class C1C while we will hold the record for class C1B, hopefully for
some time to come. The record has been
formally ratified by the
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in
to see record
certificate click here
To see video click on links below:
high resolution (6.06mb)
medium resolution (1.72mb)
low resolution (0.96mb)