On a Wing and a Prayer
On Wednesday 15th May I did the most terrifying
thing I have ever done in my life. I flew on the top wing of a 1940’s Boeing Stearman Biplane, strapped on in a harness, a bit like a parachute harness and then bolted on as well. The plane taxi-ed across the field building up enough speed to take off, with me on the top. We flew at a height of 1000 feet (roughly five times as high as Worcester Cathedral Tower) across the fields around the picturesque village of Rendcombe, near Cirencester at a speed of 80mph for around 10 minutes. Here are my thoughts afterwards.
‘I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.’ Psalm 34
Thursday 15th May was the most beautiful day it could have been, blue sky and not a hint of any breeze or cloud, just plenty of sunshine. Loads of people from both churches and family and friends came along to RFC Rendcombe, near Cirencester to cheer and support me which really made a difference. Jan Hayden had made posters for evertyone saying ‘Go Jo Go!’ The friend who challenged me to do the Wing walk in the first place, the Reverend Maureen Dew, was there too which made it very special, Maureen is undergoing chemo at the moment for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She said a prayer for me before I took off. I didn't feel anywhere near as terrified as I thought I would, just determined and focused. Climbing up on the wing was really hard but once I was up and in the harness and perched on the little seat, I felt quite secure. Thanks to the BBC, the whole flight was videoed from start to finish and I am hoping to show it to everyone at church and the Claines Community Cafe as soon as possible so people who couldn't come on the day can watch it.
Taking off was amazing, very smooth and a gentle climb up
and away. Flying straight wasn’t too bad but when the plane banked to turn I didn’t really like it, at one point I felt like I was tipping over so I just
kept praying the Jesus prayer ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. The pressure of the wind in my face and against my body was massively powerful and quite alarming but I had been warned by my daughter Claudia who rides a motorbike what to expect. I had no helmet though just goggle and ear plugs. At one point my foot moved off the wing and I thought my leg was going to get blown backwards. The highlight was flying over the crowd of friends and being able to let go for a moment to wave to them, and them all waving back. I could hear them cheering.
The plane flew all around the village of Rendcombe for about
10 minutes. It's a beautiful Cotswold village with a large Independent School. The countryside was splendid especially in the sunshine. I believe the plane went up to 1,000 feet and flew at 80mph. The worst bit was how cold my ears became, the ear-ache was painful, and also I found that if I turned my head away from the direction we were flying in, the pressure of the wind stopped me breathing so I just had to look straight ahead. I can't say I enjoyed it, and I definitely wouldn't do it again, but the sense of achievement was wonderful. After I landed and I managed to climb down again, I felt quite sick and went a bit wobbly, so I had to pass on the Prosecco and just have water! Shame!
Thank you to everyone who came along, we had a fabulous day. Everyone stayed and had a picnic together which we all agreed we should do more often. I feel so grateful to have had so much support. I now have a very treasured T-Shirt which says 'WINGWALKER' on the back which I shall be wearing at every opportunity, with my dog collar too of course!
These words on my calendar have encouraged me over the weeks and months I have been preparing myself for this challenge: ‘May the Lord’s mercy make you feel like a new person today, ready to face everything that comes your way with a heavenly perspective.’ Thanks to everyone who has prayed for me. Looking back it was as though on the day I was anaesthetised from the fear and anxiety I had expected, and held securely by God. It just shows what you can do, what you can overcome in God's strength.
I'm delighted at how the fundraising is going, and overwhelmed at people's kindness. Thank you. If you haven't donated but don't want to give online, please send a cheque payable to Claines PCC to the Claines Parish Office. It is on the corner of Cornmeadow and St Anne's Road. 10% of the money I raise will go towards Bloodwise, a cancer charity which pays for research into blood cancers like non-Hogkins Lymphoma, and the rest will go towards the 20/20 Vision Project to help update the facilities in church. Nothing extravagant, just normal everyday things that visitors expect, like a toilet! And facilities so we can offer refreshments at school events, concerts and community activities and make the church more accessible for people. I hope my Wing Walk has got the Claines 20/20 Vision project off the ground!
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