The airfield is a rough shod affair, a pioneer’s strip hewn from scrubland. The runway ends where the lake begins. After ¾ of a km the choice is stark- fly like a bird, or join the fish in the cold deep. Our airborne Indian is hiding in a ramshackle construction, which shudders as we drag it out, blinking in the sunshine. I digitalize its appearance for posterity, as the multitudes of checks begin. Tom wanders in and round the plane, clip board in hand, in a trance. Aeronautical gibberish, a code known only to the initiated, is read aloud and repeated. Nothing is left to chance; defying gravity has no long odds. In 1903, the Wright brothers started the engine got in, and pushed the throttle and prayed. Our tank is full, the prop has been spun. We alight in our sky steed.
Many years ago in a time of chaos and darkness, another Adair took a gamble with long odds, many times. My grandfather flew his camouflaged weapon of mass destruction to the heart of the third Reich’s Hades. As the abrupt runway ends, I too am truly airborne. Flying in an airliner is the Ariel equivalent of driving on a bicycle path with a robin reliant. With a puncture. Single prop, 4 seats is urgently real. Every twist of thermals is felt; you can almost invite the jet stream into the cabin to play. As we bank turning 180° the silver ruffled mirror of the lakes burnished surface floats up to meet us. This is an Aston martin DB9, on an empty autobahn. With a full tank, on a wind still day... This trip has provided me with more conversions than a Moonie convention. My transcendental moment with dry-flies has now been joined by gaining my wings. Sublime. . It is no coincidence that every great civilization has his god as Ariel beings, the lords on high. Commanding on powered chariots, masters of the air, were the Mayans and the Aztecs 800 years ahead of the Wright brothers?
“Oscar Papa, cleared approach runway 30, enter left downwind!” Control tower at ostersunds guttural squawk, the contemporary masters of the air. His word is law, in the language of my tiny green land. We have permission to do several “touch and go’s” at Östersund’s main airport. Neither an illicit handling, nor a cryptic innuendo “touch and go’s” are a true test of a pilots mettle. Once the under carriage, has made the briefest contact with terra firma, we rise bank, and climb and repeat the procedure. With a judder and bump we arise and soar up in circle over the inland sea that is Storsjön. After four contacts, Mr. Digbys Ariel credentials are intact and improved. His wings will not yet be clipped. Östersund tower warns us of the presence of North Rider, the aero avenger of the artic circle, a Swedish Adler in a Saab 340 turboprop.
"North rider one two two, number one, wind is three three zero degrees, one four knots, cleared to land runway three zero"
“Number one, copy the wind, cleared to land runway three zero, North Rider one two two!"
All hail the North Rider. We are humble in his presence. Under his wings he carries two molten cauldrons- mini solar flares, hotter than the centre of a sun. With the flick of a switch, he goes to hyper drive, leaving us to flounder in his wake. Air traffic control invite us for a cozy round of circle the island. Eons ago ice and fire formed the landscape, monolith granite slabs grinding the deeps and the highs. One benign glacier adjusted the mercury to leave the only level field in a 200 km radius. Hot real estate in a cold place. Into the artic blue yonder, a slip-stream signature is all that remains of the north rider. A modern day Icarus who returns to earth on his own terms.
10 Valleys away, my brother stands on the banks of the Ammeran. At 14.00 we shall appear for the time honored air-to-ground ritual – the wing waggle. Banking steeply, yawning across the sky, silver water, granite, autumn hues, all blur and tumble into a twisting kaleidoscope. Our wings groan, turbulences’ squall rushing up to meet us. White cumulus turns to ominous grey- guarding the head of the valley stand two intense showers. Elemental anger and nature’s refraction merge to form a Technicolor arch spanning the valleys gulf. Worthy of a Disney toon, the rainbows perfection flares, glimmers and fades. A microsecond of HD color clarity. What we cannot go through we go around. A momentary soaking as the showers’ precipitation hits us; we ride roughshod through bone-jarring thermals. Break on through to the other side, in the suns rays you shall hide. Descending to two thousand feet, summer smiles on the headwaters of the Ammeran below us. Rainbows end is in sight, the Indalsavlens vast expanse shines in the distance. On the ground, another Adair stands transfixed staring at the sky, as he hears the Piper’s drone approaching. I strain, searching for an ant like speck on the tiny shingle bank laid bare by drought. Negative, affirmative our juice is low, the valley is long. We waggle our wings to an un-seeing audience, and return to base, leaving the eagles to claim back their domain.
Acton angling, 185-187 Old Oak Road, East Acton W3 7HH