My Dad’s first flight was a King’s Flight.
Today Dad recalls his first flight in a plane which took place when he was a teenage sailor and it was the King’s plane!
All the aircraft received a lot of attention and maintenance as they had to be constantly available and in spic and span condition. I recall one occasion when the King was to use his personal Dakota one weekend. We, that is our Safety Section, were detailed to polish the aircraft. The Dakota was an unpainted version meaning that the outside consisted of bare aluminium panels. It was our duty to metal polish the entire outside of the aircraft top to bottom, front to back, wings and all so that it looked like a mirror.
Several of us were hoping to go on weekend leave on the Saturday but couldn’t go until the job was finished. So we started on Friday and continued working all through the night until we finished on Saturday morning to go on leave. The reflection of the early morning Sun on the aluminium panels was blinding. One wondered if the King even noticed.It was in one of these King’s Flight planes, a Dakota, allocated to the United Nations that was the first time I ever flew. We in the Safety Equipment Section learned that one of the Dakotas was to be be test flown after a major service crewed by a pilot and a flight engineer. Three of us Navy men persuaded the pilot to let us go up as passengers and then persuaded the Section Sergeant to turn a blind eye to our absence for a hour or so. In those post-war days there was a lot of breaching of regulations and things happened with a wink and a nod.
And so we joined the crew of the Dakota which was fitted with about 30 seats. The pilot and engineer were in the flight cabin but left the door to the saloon part open so that we could peer over their shoulder. We were excited as the planes took off and were scrambling to look through the windows on either side to see the homes and fields diminishing as the planed gained height.
As we flew the pilot or engineer called out various features that could be seen below. The cities of Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich. The rivers, roads etc. Suddenly we passengers panicked because as we looked out along starboard wing we saw that the propeller of that engine was stopped. We imagined crashing to earth 10 000 feet below and although we were parachute packers there were no parachutes in the plane. However, the pilot told us not to worry as feathering the propellers one at a time was, of course, part of the test procedure (A Dakota could fly on one engine). After a circular tour of the Fen country we returned safely to ground.
We were subsequently offered the chance to go with a Lancaster or Liberator to Singapore as a cabin crew member but this would mean a 12 day round trip and leave would have to be taken to do it. I was not prepared to forfeit a two week leave to go.