Lindsay McLean’s epic trip

This is the story of glider pilot Lindsay McLean’s epic trip in an open-frame autogyro from his home near Ampleforth in North Yorkshire,to the Wallis Days event at Shipdam airfield in deepest Norfolk.Lindsay learned to fly autogyros with me,when based at Carlisle.

Lindsay was assisted by Alex, the young daughter of a fellow glider pilot,who,new to driving,was given the job of navigating her way to various airfields to meet Lindsay – towing a trailer which she had never done before.(Alex later went on the gain her Phd and so is now Dr Alex May!)

Alex, still a teenager, was trained up with the car and driving with a trailer which she had never done before and loaded her up with cans of fuel. We both set off together with the intention of meeting up at Winthorpe airfield at Newark. I had previously arranged with the gliding club, who used the airfield, to land and refuel there. However, the gyro would not carry sufficient fuel to reach Winthorpe on a direct flight and so a visit to Brieghton was necessary to top up with avgas and the oil I was carrying in my pocket. We both managed to arrive at Winthorpe around the same time. The cans of fuel were carried over the fence and the gyro refuelled before going into the museum there, for lunch. After a pleasant break Alex set off for Shipdam and meanwhile the gyro needed another refuelling stop, which was achieved by landing at Fenland. Visiting airfields, where they are not used to seeing autogyros, usually generates quite bit of interest and I have always found people generous and tollerant of my idiosyncracies. We both finally made it to Shipdam and camped there for the duration of the rally. You, no doubt, will remember the various lectures and the lengthy discertation by Bruce Charnov who banged on about gyros (endlessly but interestingly), as I struggled to fight off the demands of sleep. The return journey was planned to follow the same route and we were given a very good weather forecast of light winds and wall to wall sunshine by the Belgian guy(whose name escapes me at the moment). All went well to begin with and the refuelling stop at Fenland passed off without incident. The arrangement was to meet Alex again at Winthorpe for refuelling and lunch but as I got nearer I realised I was flying into an increasing headwind and darkening skies. Clearly if this wind increased much more it was going to be a struggle to reach Brieghton with the limited fuel that could be carried. It was clear that the forecast had gone badly wrong. We decided to take a break and see what the weather was doing after lunch. By the time we emerged from the museum cafe (incidentally well worth a visit if you are in that part of the world) the sky was black and a seriously strong wind had developed. We decide to ‘pull stumps’ and call it a day. Hastily we derigged the gyro and lashed it to the trailer and just as we tied on the last bits, the heavens opened. As we drove back up the Great North Road we were treated to a splendid display of lightening, whilst the rain came down in stair rods. It turned out that the atmosphere had unexpectedly and suddenly destabilised and Leeming had recorded some quite exceptional gusts. All in all, it was a good job that the decision had be taken not to continue as I think I would have ended up landing in a field and getting thoroughly wet through……….

Lindsay McLean.

(Roger’s note),

I well remember that particular trip to Wallis Days.Sweltering heat in the way down and during the event and then on the return trip,a very sudden change in weather.I was flying the VPM(Magni) with a student and we got as far as Bagby in North Yorkshire,on the way back before the sky went black with strong turbulence and heavy rain.We retired to the pub and flew the remaining bit over the Pennines to Carlisle,the following day


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