Day 5. We started the day airside at Gatwick after a slightly smoother interface with airside security. Shaun Bowler and Sarah O’ Connell escorted us across the airport to the VCR where I was talked through the intricacies of the lighting panel. It’s touchscreen and the lighting operator is responsible for ensuring the planes have a safe route to and from the runway. For a single runway operation, it’s a very busy and complex operation with a ‘tight’ staffing situation.


A one-hour trip up the M23 & M25 and we were at Heathrow. We would have got through security quicker had we not started chatting to them about what we’re doing and why. We met a few security personnel who are bikers and now some of them may be joining us at Sammy Millers on Sunday!!! Pete Glass, GM gave us the full tour of the VCR giving amazing views of the London skyline to the east, Wraysbury and Queen Mother reservoirs to the west, then out to Windsor and beyond. The amount of traffic this airport handles was very visible with four or five aircraft lined up on final approach at any one time and double that amount waiting to depart. With all the pushback and taxiying movements, how ground keep up was a mystery. We were also privileged to see controller Angus MacCormick working after recovering from a shoulder op!


A very short trip (by our standards) down the M3 and we were smoothly ushered through security to Farnborough Tower. It’s the first time we had seen Louise Woods, our amazing all-round tour organiser, again after leaving her at Aberdeen and after the now familiar airfield briefing, Alex Cully, GM and the airport team took us out onto the apron for a few photos with the airport fire service. Then, the opportunity we had been waiting for…a chance to get onto the 24 threshold. (For 24in24 – see what we did there??) We waited for a gap in traffic and were then escorted on whilst the airport team snapped away. It’s a very tidy airfield matched by the very shiny business jets scattered around the aprons. Compared to most commercial airfields, it’s quite a unique operation and the pressures from their private customers are very different to the other major airports.


There was no way we weren’t going to swing by Aerobility, especially as they had promised us tea and cake and the chance to catch up with the amazing team there. We spent some time chatting on the apron with our bikes lined up behind one of their Grob aircraft and for a change, some of the Aero team sat on our bikes to pose for a photo!


It was a bit of a dull ride to end the day along the M4 to our hotel for the night in Cardiff but a chance to reflect on where we had been so far.



Day 6. We woke up in Cardiff and opened the curtains to bright sunshine, however, we weren’t expecting to see Wayne in his bike boots and underpants flying his drone!! It was off to the airfield where Rich and I both did our Aerodrome training over 30 years ago and guess what? In walks in Paul Keeble who was one of our original trainers – and he’s still there!! Ross Trezise, Deputy ATC Watch Manager showed us around the approach room and up to the tower. The place has hardly changed a bit and brought back some familiar memories. It’s a very seasonal airfield and is starting to ramp up for its peak months and they have six trainees which when valid, will make a massive difference. Ross had arranged for us to meet the fire service team and a now obligatory shower from one of their fire trucks!



We are so grateful to Triumph motorcycles, who have lent us four Triumph Tigers for this trip. It wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for Richard’s neighbour, Lee Morrison who has doubled and stunt co-ordinated for Daniel Craig in the last five James Bond movies. With that in mind, we couldn’t pass by the Aston Martin factory at St Athan, where Stuart Lord and one of the team leaders Chris gave us a whistle stop tour of the DBX707 production line. These cars are still hand built and the attention to detail is second to none. We were lucky enough to have a swift two laps of their test track with Ben, one of their test drivers. Unfortunately, Wayne missed out because he had a date with RAF Phantom Black Mike at the South Wales Aviation Museum. You’ll have to google it!!


We were under some time pressure to get to our next military unit St Athan because Wayne had something set up for us that the rest of us had no idea about. On with the hi-viz (again, now standard procedure), we were ushered through a side gate and on to the runway. Quite normal for us now. What followed wasn’t. As we started to roll down the runway, in our mirrors, we could see a police helicopter following us pretty close behind. As we got closer to the threshold at the other end, two fire trucks were set up at either side of the runway for a water salute for us to ride underneath and we met Malcom Bradbury, SATCO at the far end who was busy with the camera. Malcom is another of our trainers from Cardiff 30 years ago, so he’s got a lot to answer for! He’s an amazing photographer and one of the nicest people in the business, now retired. When we met the team in the tower, I didn’t get an answer to the question I asked about what the clearance was for four bikes, two fire trucks and a police helicopter travelling down the runway at the same time!

It wouldn’t be a Big Tour day without some rain. We’ve had it every day to some degree but it didn’t spoil the ride up to Aberporth through some stunning countryside. Paul Collins, a controller from Cardiff joined us for the Cardiff to Aberporth legs and I don’t think he was planning on getting wet, but by the time we arrived the clouds soon cleared, and the sun was shining. The Aberporth team really appreciated our visit and their hospitality was superb. The place is stunning; rolling hills and a gorgeous coastline looking out over the sea. Over tea and cake, another highlight of the day, the team handed over the proceeds of a recent cake sale, increasing our amount raised by another £275. Thank you Aberporth!


What some of the units have put on for us we will remember for ever, along with everyone’s kindness, generosity, support and encouragement. It restores your faith in humanity. We’re night stopping at Bristol Airport tonight, so it was time to head all the way across Wales, this time eastbound following G1 (for those of us old enough to remember that airway designator and Green 1 for those even older!). Harvey was in his element during a spirited ride through some lovely south Wales roads via Baffel Haus, a coffee shop started by two bike enthusiasts for bikers and then back down the M4.