River Wissey Lovell Fuller

What Does the Doctor Think - May

May 2014

I have just had a wonderful experience, flying a Boeing 737 from Salzburg airport, around the snow-covered mountains and landing back at Salzburg. Shortly afterwards, I took off from an airport near Hong Kong, flew around the harbour area for a recce (Time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted – John Markham) before landing at the old Hong Kong (Kai Tak) airport, which was the sixth most dangerous airport in the world. On the approach, we had to descend over the crowded harbour and the heavily populated skyscrapers of Western Kowloon. Then, two miles from the runway, at a height of less than 1,000 feet, we had to make a 47degree visual right turn to line up with the runway. This turn was known by pilots as the “Hong Kong Turn” and by many passengers as “Kai Tak Heart Attack”. Google the airport and you will find all sorts of horrors, lists of crashes and videos of aeroplanes whose pilots “got it wrong”.

OK, you have guessed correctly, it was all in a flight simulator and the experience was a Christmas gift from some of the family. Take it from me, once you are in the cockpit seat, looking through the front screen, it is 100% realistic. My previous flying experience was 50 years ago and it involved small, single-engined aircraft – nothing at all like the 737! The session started with a computerised instruction programme and we then moved to the simulator, which has been used to train many pilots, I sat in the right hand seat and an ex commercial airlines pilot, now an instructor, helped me to control the 'plane. We used ILS (Instrument Landing System) to help us land (except at Kai Tak, where it was not available). The ILS ground system provides horizontal and vertical guidance necessary for a safe approach and landing. Two lines appear on the cockpit controls, one vertical and the other horizontal. The trick is to fly the aeroplane, turning by banking within permitted angles and climbing or descending by pulling back the stick or pushing it forward, such that the aeroplane remains in the correct position on the screen, with the wings level and on the horizontal line (except when banking) and the vertical line through the middle of the aircraft. As the lines move to guide you, you must move the aeroplane to follow them – not as easy as it sounds. I am delighted to say that we took off and landed safely each time and did not hit any mountains around Salzburg or any skyscrapers in Hong Kong. The most frightening times were just before we touched down each time, as we were travelling at 150mph and it seemed really fast!

Deannie sat behind and had a full view of the proceedings, both inside and outside. Somewhat to her surprise, she really enjoyed the flights. We had a wonderful time and can't wait to go again.

LADIES: If you can't think what to buy your man who has everything, go to the website info@flyfsm.co.uk or telephone 08454 747 737. They have the 737 and, also, a Jumbo 747 and an A320. Be sure to book for an hour in the cockpit. It's not cheap – the full price is £195 but they sometimes offer a weekday deal at £125, so get your families to club together. The experience takes place at Coventry airport and one of the pilots, Pablo Mason, has a wonderful small hotel (The Adams, Royal Leamington Spa – 01926 450742 or bookings@adams-hotel.co.uk). The hotel is run by his wife, Alicia, and Deannie and I recommend it to you unreservedly.

Head office and I have just spent two weeks in our humble timeshare by the sea in Madeira. Our daughter, Alyson and her husband, David, joined us for a week. For a year or two, they have been heavily (now lightly!) into dieting and exercise. They both wear pedometers and reckon to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day to keep fit. I tried it and managed 2,500 steps or so daily. Both are really slim and should live for ever, unless something gets weak and breaks. They spent the time walking the levadas and through the mountains and had a wonderful time. I had been thinking for some time that my shadow was enlarging and that there was rather too much of me in photos taken sideways (all you have to do is gain a pound or two every year for 50 years and you'll have a similar problem)) and all this slimness and activity going on around me rather accentuated my discomfort. So, I started going to the gymnasium in the complex to use the walking machine. The first day, I got going and worked out that, if I walked at 5.7 kilometres per hour (it was a European machine) for 22 minutes, I would do 3,000 steps and use 90 calories – about the same as a Digestive biscuit, not bad before breakfast. While I was doing this, a fit looking bloke with a beard came in, did 50 press-ups, 50 sit-ups and a lot of weights, all in rapid succession. When I finished, he wanted to use the walker, looked at the screen and commented “That was a very good speed and time”. “Oh no” I replied modestly “I am not fit at all”. “Neither am I” came the reply! Yeah, right! I subsequently realised that he had only just arrived from England and thought the machine was calibrated in miles per hour.

The next few mornings, I was beaten to the exercise walker by a German lady who must weigh more than me. I went earlier the next day – she went slightly earlier, and so on. Management suggested that we should go out for a walk instead and that I should walk at the same speed as I did on the machine. We took off at a rapid clip, 100 yards on the flat and then up and down some massive hills. About a mile later, we had just ascended the final, steepest hill, known locally as 'cardiac hill', and, totally winded, with the cardiovascular system at full belt, all I needed was an intensive care unit. We sat on a bench. Suddenly, up the hill runs a slip of a girl, pony tail swinging. She gets to the top, runs back to the bottom and then runs up again at full speed – FOUR TIMES and not even out of breath! Later that morning, sitting on our balcony, we saw her running past again, presumably to repeat the process. We did this fast walk several times and, on the last time, we found the restaurant at the top of cardiac hill open. Full English and 2 cups of coffee – 50 calories expended, 1,000 calories ingested! The exercise must have helped because I only put on half a stone during the fortnight!

A wet day made us think of the cinema. We had both read the book “The Railway Man” and wanted to see the film (Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman). I hunted around on the worldwide cobweb (Devil's Window) and discovered that it was showing at a cinema in the mountains that evening, the title being “Una Longa Viagem”. We battered our way up the mountain in our little car, ate a meal in a Japanese restaurant (ironic considering the content of the film) and bought our tickets, which had to be handwritten as the machine was broken. We were shown a seating plan of the 200 seat cinema and asked to choose our tickets 7F and 7G. There were five of us watching the film, sitting in 1960 style seats. After 50 minutes, the film stopped and the screen showed Intervalo. 40% of the audience went off for a cigarette and the other three of us stayed put. The film was very powerful and reduced 20% of the audience (the 5th bloke, not me) to a tearful wreck. Deannie spent some time with him afterwards, calming him down. We both agreed that it was a really good film but it was not as powerful or as detailed as the book, which details atrocities associated with the Burma railway.

Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet

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