Day 3 started with a great view of the Liver building and Royal Albert dock from the opposite side of the Mersey. None of us were sure how rough the overnight crossing was, we were so knackered we all slept like babies!

Woodvale was the first stop on the list where controller Royston Hughes gave us a tour of the best smelling tower so far. Built in 1941, one of the huge aircraft hangers was erected in just seven days. Staffed by five ATCOs and two ATSAs, it’s predominantly a training airfield and home to three university air squadrons Manchester & Salford and Liverpool and no: 10 AEF Squadron (air cadets).

It was brilliant to see loads of bikers turn out to meet us and a pal of Richards joined us for the next leg of the ride to Manchester. A funny thing happened along the way… We were following Rich using satnav to the tower, when Wayne decided he knew best and branched off on his own towards Manchester terminal. After getting lost, he found some friendly police officers who escorted him back to where he should be under blue lights. You couldn’t make it up!

Daryl Heaselgrave, GM met us with a now obligatory and very welcomed coffee before going up the tower to meet the team. What an office and the tallest tower by some margin so far! The view was stunning but the Emirates A380 didn’t look so huge parked underneath the tower as it did at Glasgow. The airport is expanding rapidly, and you could see the huge amount of building work going on around the airfield, providing the tower team with additional challenges. We stayed for an hour and then set off for the ride up to Solo Motorcycles.

We were kindly been offered lunch by Steve Molone from Solo Motorcycles. Rich knew what to expect having visited once before but the rest of us didn’t know we were walking into one of the largest private motorcycle collections in the county. As we were about to leave, during the obligatory photo op, we were presented with a cheque from Robert Bentham for just over £1,400 from a fundraising event they held just for us, a few weeks ago – amazing!

On to our next military unit stop – Barkston Heath and it was rude not to go via the Cat and Fiddle, (A537) a very scenic road over the moors and popular with bikers. We met SATCO Degsy Hesketh and the team who had stayed on after work and come in on their days off to see us. Again, it’s a training airfield, built in 1943 and like Woodvale, operates pinboard to control ground movements and airborne aircraft by manually moving callsign counters around a representation of the airfield and circuit.

What a day! A two hour ride to Ipswich for our night stop tonight so we’re close to Wattisham in the morning.

Day 4 –  SATCO Craig Needham from Wattisham met us for breakfast at our hotel and we followed him from Ipswich into Wattisham. Sir Gerald and Lady Lizzy Howeth who are Aerobility patrons were waiting outside the WW2 tower to meet us. We were also introduced to Captain Adam Roberts who gave us a very up close and personal tour of the brand-new Apache AH64E attack helicopter of 656 squadron. The internals are state of the art and completely different to the old version. Afterwards, it was into the approach room and up into the VCR to say hello. Lady Howeth had brought cake and snacks to keep us going and then Craig also joined us en-route to Kraft Horse customs. We met the owner Paul Beamish at the London bike show a few weeks ago and he invited us for lunch at the restaurant there. (Rich beat Paul at a custom bike build show at Beaulieu in 2013).


Anthony Hatch and John Webster, Operations Managers from Luton joined us on the ride down to Stansted and in the tower, we watched a mini Ryanair departure wave. Martin Ruddy, Stansted GM talked us through the issues with airport expansion and how both the airport and en-route will cope with the extra traffic.


Anthony and John, with local knowledge, led us down to Luton, the only time we’ve entrusted navigation to someone else!! (Being the control freaks we are and having intercoms between the 4 of us). Luton have a very constrained and varied operation with a mixture of commercial and business jet operations. For a busy airfield, their taxiway system doesn’t allow much room for manoeuvre. They also described their frustration with free flow interruption when integrating Northolt departures.


We had an enlightening ride into London to the Bike Shed in Shoreditch, trying not to hit the cyclist with no lights on – yes really! Richard’s son, Ben and his friend Martyna were there to meet us for a quick bite to eat whilst we waited for London City to shut. Getting through security to get airside was an experience and Rich thanked them for the privilege of spending so much time with them. Josh Fake, the airports Operations Manager was absolutely amazing, allowing us access to all parts of the apron, taxiways…and runway!! Martyna snapped away taking photos with the London skyline in the background. We’ve not seen the shots yet but we can’t wait! It was a late one when we finished – we eventually arrived at our Gatwick hotel at 2am.