IN REACH OF THE SKIES
ONCE IN A LANC TIME
Arriving home from work one evening in February 2014 I checked my email and found a news letter from the Canadian Warplane Heritage. There was nothing unusual in this as I was on their mailing list since booking tickets for the 2012 air show in Hamilton. However, the contents of the news letter were certainly note worthy - the CWH were bringing their Lancaster, the only other flyer, to the UK for a summer tour with the BBMF. Wow! Reading further about the intentions was mention of the possibility of becoming a Bomber Crews member with the implied benefit of being able to take a flight in the Lancaster. Gulp! This wasn't going to be cheap but the good lady wife agreed that I could check it out with CWH and a short while later I had an invoice, payable within 24 hours! I checked with the better half once again, approval was granted and so the scene was set.
Effectively my personal 'Once in a Lanc time' experience started at the 2012 Hamilton air show with my first sighting of VeRA, the CWH Lancaster. Late in the afternoon, two days before the show I stood on the museum viewing balcony with a good friend and awaited her arrival. In time, there she was, as part of an impressive formation.
A couple of days later it was show day. The weather was impressive and so was VeRA, even up close on the ground was encouraged.
So the show ended, we said goodbye to the CWH and all too quickly were back home not expecting to see VeRA again any time soon. But, less than two years later we knew we would see her in the UK and by the time we were watching the BBMF Lancaster display at Flying Legends in July, her arrival was only a few weeks off.
So August arrived and on 4th VeRA was sceduled to depart Canada for the first leg of her trip to the UK. Although I was at work I clicked on to Flight Radar 24 and kept tabs on the local news feeds but, despite the ceremonial send, off VeRA wasn't playing ball and had to be taken back to the hangar when one of her engines failed to fire up. However, a day later it was a different story and flight radar confirmed that the Lanc was on her way. This was also the day that I received a special delivery. Game on!
Keeping tabs I excitedly sent a text to the other half as VeRA made landfall over Scotland on 8th August. I don't think she was quite so thrilled! Unfortunately a planned in air reception by the BBMF had to be shelved due to a thunderstorm over Lincolnshire but I kept watching VeRA's track as she safely landed at Coningsby.
Just over a week later and it was show time. We headed for Headcorn. The weather forecast was spot on and the day was dry and largely bright and in mid afternoon the BBMF arrived with their special guest. And what a sight it was, the sound was awesome and it really did bring a lump to my throat.
The next day we headed from Kent to Lincolnshire as the 'big day' was almost upon us - my flight in the CWH Lancaster. The flight was taking place from Humberside airport on 18th August so we stopped over nearby the night before. I was a little concerned as the weather was quite breezy but the forecast was for calm on flight day and, again, it was spot on.
Arriving at Humberside we were greeted by CWH staff, I was led to a briefing room upstairs and the better half to a private bar area. Upstairs I met my fellow flyers, signed a contract or a disclaimer (I can't admit to having read it!), produced my passport and received a boarding pass. Then the briefing. Safety features - none, in flight services - none, access to front and rear turrets - no! Take off - sit down and buckle up. And then there was a roar and we dashed to the window to see VeRA low and banking over the airfield - what a sight. Then it was downstairs and a first glimpse of the Lanc sitting out on the tarmac.
Then it was up the steps, into the aircraft and a window seat on the port side.