Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Goal 5: To learn to fly

I was a wanna be fighter pilot. I never simply wanted to fly a plane, I wanted to dance, to dodge; spin around and gain the upper hand on my opponent.

If I'd been serious about becoming a pilot I'd have read up on what was required. Would have tried to understand why geometry and algebra are necessary skills. Would have tried to get the A grades I'd have needed to increase my chances of joining the RAF.

I wasn't serious though. Flying was a dream. Not something I was willing to put real effort into achieving.

On Saturday, despite putting in no effort; having done no study or preparation other than watching the first five minutes of Top Gun the week before, I flew a plane for the first time.

It was an incredibly odd experience. I forgot to ask what type of plane it was - a tiny, two seater prop plane that was relatively easy to fly. I was able to bank, turn, lift and dive all the while thinking I must not be getting this. It can't be this easy, can it?

It was easy at 1500 feet. My only semi-legitimate worry was that I'd over steer or over compensate and we'd stall or start to spin but my instructor would never have let me get anywhere close to endangering us. I can't imagine how flight instructors cope with noobs like me at times tentatively banking and at other times, pressing the rudder too hard and attempting to fly backwards. 

1500 feet doesn't sound all that high when I think about flying. It was high enough to practise increasing and decreasing height and also high enough that judging distance and speed became extremely hard. We seemed to be moving incredibly slowly all the time... Right up until it was time to land.

Remember Maverick and Cougar approaching the aircraft carrier from five miles out? My instructor let me carry out a trial landing. Very quickly every little movement seemed too much. I'm sure from the outside I was doing a great Cougar impersonation!

We did our trial flypast and then, my hands still on the controls, my instructor got me to take us down a second time for real. I'm fairly sure I made landing the highly manoeuvrable prop plane look like landing the space shuttle - I was terrified to move the controls for fear I'd take us into the field. We came in at an angle, seemed to be too far forward and aiming for grass most of the way in and yet landed smoothly. Good job these planes have dual controls so the instructor can do all the hard work!

Flying a plane was a child hood dream and only ever a vague 'someday' goal and I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who made it reality!

I was half terrified the entire time, never certain whether I was handling the plane safely or not and extremely glad when we finally landed but it was an awesome experience and one I'd like to repeat.

You can view some highlights through the wonders of YouTube:

Editors note: Filmed and edited entirely on my HTC One X (apart from still images provided by my lovely wife). I never want to edit film on my phone again! Just because I can doesn't mean it is easy or fun... Rant over.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Rewarding success with Dredd 3D

Editing my novel is going to be a long process. To give myself an incentive to keep going I've decided to reward myself for each 5,000 word milestone reached.

My reward for last weeks milestone: the new Judge Dredd movie: Dredd in 3D!

I was never a die hard fan of the 2000 AD comic strip. I couldn't afford to get the comic on a regular basis but when I did I enjoyed the black and white viewpoint of Dredd. Justice has always been important to me. There is something very appealing about a crystal clear system with no delays, no doubt and instant justice. Of course, the brutal reality of Judge Dredd's Mega City One would be far less appealing in real life. No appeals, no mercy.

The world of Mega City One is a gritty, real future, similar to Battlestar Galactica in it's lack of gloss.

I'd heard the 3D was worth it just for the Slo-mo sequences and they weren't kidding! Despite several Slo-mo scenes potentially glamourising the violence, they were beautiful to watch. I don't know if this is a problem. I feel that as war and combat are horrific, depictions should also be horrific.

The 3D also worked really well in the close combat scenes in the hallways. The only other (mostly) non animated 3D I've seen is Avatar and I struggled with that - frequently unsure where to focus on in a huge Imax theatre watching a forest battle. The depth given to Dredd did add to the experience.

Judge Anderson's character was well written and acted. The whole interplay between her and Dredd seemed true to the comic from what I remember.

If anything, the Dredd of the movie was better than the comic, displaying mercy and recognising a higher law at key scenes. It made it easier to care about a character who frequently comes across as cold and heartless.

If you've seen Dredd, what did you think?