As part of a new series of guest blogs, we will be introducing you to some of the North East’s personalities and some fantastic experiences you can enjoy during your Coastal Retreats holiday.
First up is Storm Smith, owner of Northumberland-based flying school Purple Aviation and our seafront Retreat Harbour Master’s House in Craster.
When did you start your flying career and when did you purchase Eshott Airfield?
In 2002, I purchased Eshott Airfield with the aim of creating a centre of excellence for sports aviation in the North East of England. On purchasing the airfield I set up Purple Aviation Flying School and qualified as a flying instructor. To begin with we started with just one aircraft, which is still serviceable today and one instructor. We now have a fleet of five aircraft and five instructors and are continually expanding.
What types of aircraft operate in the fleet? Which is the most popular for a first flying experience?
We fly two types of Aircraft – Fixed Wing and Flexwing. A Flexwing is an open cockpit aircraft consisting of a wing resembling a hang glider and a trike unit containing the engine, seats and landing gear suspended below.
A Fixed Wing is the more conventional type of aircraft – we currently have four modern, high performance aircraft in our fleet.
Everyone has a different preference when coming for the flight, Flexwing flying is more popular with thrill seekers and people who want to experience the freedom or open cockpit flying, whereas others prefer the comfort of an enclosed Fixed Wing aircraft.
How long do you take people up flying on a trial flight and what areas of Northumberland do you fly over?
Our trial flights range from 30 minute flights up the stunning Northumberland Coastline taking in places such as Amble, Alnmouth, Craster and Dunstanburgh to adventure flights up to three hours long allowing you to travel further around Northumberland towards Holy Island or even a flight around the Cheviots with an option to land at another airfield. We are happy to tailor any flight to our customers’ needs and recently flew over Newcastle City Centre and the Roman Wall.
How many people do you instruct to become a pilot each year and how many hours of flight do they need to complete?
We currently have over 60 students who are all training to gain their National Private Pilots Licence (NPPL). Our students come from many different backgrounds with an age range of 14 through to 70 plus! Each student must complete 25 hours of flight training of which 10 hours will be solo flight including cross country navigation flights.
What’s the best thing about flying?
The best thing about flying has to be the freedom you experience in the air, I can’t think of a better place to be than up in the clouds looking down over Northumberland. Not many people can say they have done that!
What’s your favourite place in Northumberland?
We’re very lucky to be in an area of such natural outstanding beauty with a breathtaking coastline stretching as far as the eye can see, stunning castles, little villages nestled into the hills and ancient monuments such as the Duddo Stones near Ford. One of my personal favourite areas would be Alnmouth, situated at the mouth of the river Aln, once an important grain port, hit by a huge storm on December 24th 1806 which altered the course of the river.
Maybe I am biased but I think Northumberland is the best area in the country to take to the skies!
What do you love about Harbour Master’s House?
The view over the harbour towards Dunstanburgh Castle is breathtaking.
To enjoy a flying experience with Purple Aviation visit www.purpleaviation.co.uk