There are times when one must face down fear. When one comes close to death. When one realises that one’s belief in the future of flying hangs by the loosest of threads. People crash aeroplanes and are never heard from again. That is not to be my fate.
Today I encountered a thick layer of cloud as I flew in sight of the snow-topped peaks of the Taurus Mountains, following the outline of the twisted ravines below. I attempted to climb above this cloud cover but Jason sounded so very unwell at 10,000 feet.
I turned a corner. Straight into a bank of thick cloud. I pushed Jason’s nose down at great speed and, leaving the cloud behind, we were heading straight towards a wall of rock and almost certain death. That I am writing this diary tonight is a miracle beyond words. We swerved, Jason and I, we swerved and survived.
The day started angrily. I once again rose early. If we were to get to Baghdad we had to take to the air as soon as possible. Bureaucracy had other plans, leaving me waiting in an office for an inspection of my luggage. They emptied the contents of my flying suit and I had to turn my back on them when they sent everything flying across the floor. Did they not realise the scale of my ambition, the tough journey the two of us were about to embark upon?
It was clear that a full day’s flying was to be impossible. I handed out passport photographs of my self – the Turks have quite a passion for photographs and there was a clamour for my image – and they finally allowed me to be on my way. Only to find Jason badly oiled once more. A French mechanic repaired the leak I identified. I must check Jason’s plugs and change the oil daily from now to journey’s end.
We finally took to the air at 10am, heading for Aleppo in Syria. That was all that we could manage given such a late departure. Travelling over the rocky barrier from Turkey to Syria, we would fly over the home of utterly lawless wild bandits and tribesmen, who I feared would cut me up into bits in order to flavour their soup. As it transpired, the rocks that form those mountain ranges would pose more of a danger.
I write this from Mouslimie Aerodrome, sitting on a bed as hard as that mountain rock, in an officers’ mess. The French Air Force has given me a warm welcome and Jason is fit to fly. I even enlisted the services of French mechanics for today’s overhaul – they are a highly skilled and very kind array of men.
Listen to the Twenty Days podcast
Hosted by Hull Is This, Twenty Days is our daily podcast charting Amy Johnson’s solo flight from England to Australia. Written by Dave Windass, performed by Rachel Harris, with music by Jessica Dannheisser as part of her Orchestral Portraits | Seven Pioneering Women album released on Audio Network.
Watch Cross Borders
This 19-minute film by Mark Richardson documents the Cross Borders event presented at Hull Truck Theatre on the 1st September 2016. Cross Borders is a collaboration between musicians from Hull and Kurdistan. This evening of audio-visual culture included live projected visuals from artist Jay Moy and films captured in Northern Iraq of Kurdish musicians performing traditional music and also performing original compositions written by Nahro Zagros for the Cross Borders event.The film captures the story of musician Nahro Zagros and his return to the city within which he was a refugee. Nahro arrived in Hull in 2000 and returned to Kurdistan in 2011. This evening of music was a triumphant return to the city for Nahro and this film documents the beautiful music composed by Nahro and Hull musician Dave Gawthorpe specifically for this evening. The film also captures the striking projections created by artist Jay Moy.