Day 7. This was the first day without rain! Bristol tower was in glorious sunshine and because of the weather, proved to be one of the best views yet. You get great views of the Bristol Channel and the Welsh south coast, and you can see Cardiff Airport out to the northwest. We were talked through the intricacies of approach sequencing with Cardiff because the extended centrelines for Cardiff and Bristol almost touch. It’s also got a single taxiway which can clog up really quickly when flow measures are applied. Bristol Airport is well known for a huge dip in the runway, quite visible from the tower and is also one of the first airports to suffer visibility issues when there is low cloud.

After we left, we were joined by five riders from the Swanwick area who rode up to Bristol to join us for the return leg, through Cheddar Gorge, Frome and Salisbury, before stopping off at a pub in Nursling. Here, we picked up another 10 or so riders for a short ride into Swanwick.

It was swiftly through security (it helps that three of the four of us work here) and just outside main reception, RAF warrant officers Andy Smales and Kirsty Webber were there to greet us along with Sara Scuffell, ATC Watch Manager from London City remote tower.

It was up to the restaurant for a brew and a round of applause from the staff there was a lovely touch. Fran insisted on buying the teas and coffees for us and Fiona Kelly from our communication team offered to buy us lunch. We very quickly popped into the London City remote tower facility to see it in operation but it’s quite a small room, so decided to pop back after it closed at 1230. 

So, it was into the AC and TC operations room, a familiar site as three of us work there (Shaun, Rich and Harvey) and Wayne’s visited a few times too. We had a quick photo and later caught up with the team in the restaurant, where the encouragement we received was overwhelming.

Next up was Southampton airfield, our last scheduled stop of the day before we had a chance to return home for the night. (Except Wayne who was bunking with Rich overnight).

When we arrived, we were escorted onto the runway in between an arrival and departure, to get some great shots of the tower and fire service in the background. That’s six runways we’ve now been on… far! Southampton tower is airside, so it was a very swift but thorough trip through security (Southampton & Gatwick are top contenders) and onto the tower. We were shown around the Solent radar room where Neil Carr, ATSA, explained the limits of their responsibility and the co-ordination procedures with Bournemouth and Farnborough airports. Upstairs in the tower, we missed their last departure for a few hours, but it was a great opportunity to have a good chinwag before it was time to leave.

Before heading home, there was something else we had to do. A well-known and very highly regarded colleague has sadly recently been diagnosed with cancer. He tried to come and meet us at Swanwick but couldn’t make it, so we went to see him instead, as 24in24 make people happy! I’m not going to write much but we spent some time with him, his wife and daughter. To say it was the most emotional part of the trip, is a complete understatement. We’ll be thinking of him and his family every mile.

In keeping with the 24 in 24 theme, it was also Richard and his wife’s 24th wedding anniversary. That night, as if we hadn’t already spent enough time with each other throughout the week, we joined them in the New Forest at the Horse and Groom for dinner with our partners. It was wonderful to spend a few hours with our families, but it was straight back on the road.


Day 8 started with glorious sunshine, and it was off to the New Forrest again to visit the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum, which had our visit billed as one of their events for the month! We were joined by at least 20 other riders, including Lee Morrison, James bond stunt co-ordinator, who was the gateway to our support from Triumph motorcycles. We also swung past to pick up James Hillier, IOM TT winner and Paris-Dakar finisher (at his first attempt) who was riding his late grandfathers pristine 1960’s Triumph T120. 

The legend, Sammy Miller was waiting for us when we arrived. I’m not going to try to explain who he is, just google him. Suffice to say, I’ve never seen such huge trophy cabinets or met a man that knows so much detail about every single motorcycle in his vast collection. We were also given free roam of his very impressive museum which has every type of motorcycle you could possibly think of. It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area – allow a good couple of hours! Loads of people turned out to see us and at one point there was well over 100 there from Richard’s Salisbury Motorcycle Club, the police force, local riders and some non-riders too. There was also another group of riders who support Prostate Cancer UK. They heard about us and came along to support and chat.

Before heading off for our appointment with the Portsmouth-Bilbao ferry, it was time to swing past my mum and dad. My dad is in recovery from prostate cancer, and as well as supporting my mates on this journey and supporting Wayne after losing Alan to this terrible disease, spreading awareness and raising funds is the primary reason for doing it. Unfortunately, Wayne lost his dad some time ago but the rest of us have been lucky enough to catch up with ours during the trip. After a quick cuppa, we had just about enough time to drop in and see the SAR team at Lee-on-Solent, just around the corner. The chopper crew were out on a job, so we caught up with the ground engineering team in the hanger, where we found out one of them lives just up the road from Rich. Small world!

Back on the road, it was a short hop to the ferry in Harvey’s home city of Portsmouth and we were ushered straight on. We’ve been looking forward to this part of the trip to give us some down time, recharge and try to take in what’s happened this last week!

To say this trip has been full on is an understatement. We’ve met so many lovely, generous and supportive people and seen so many different sides to NATS ATC it’s been difficult (late at night) to remember everywhere we’ve been and what we have done. One rare opportunity was, whilst at Farnborough, the airport staff took us to the site of Cody’s tree. Just under the approach lights to 24 is a commemoration plaque, marking the first powered flight in the UK. Everyone knows the Wright brothers ‘invented’ flying in 1903 but in the UK, it was Samuel Cody (also an American) who achieved 1,390 feet in 1908. He used to tie his aeroplane to a tree to measure the thrust, prior to actually flying it. 

“Samuel Franklin Cody measured the thrust of his first aeroplane in 1908/9 by tying it to this tree and his flight of 1390 feet on 16th October 1908 was the first powered sustained flight in Great Britain.”

The tree has sadly rotted away with the plaque now marking the spot, but it was amazing to stand on such an historic site that apparently very few people get the chance to.

We also had a ‘unique’ experience to mention whilst riding back through the Welsh countryside. Rich and Harvey had disappeared into the distance, while Wayne and Shaun were playing catch up. Imagine our surprise when leaning round a right-hand corner, we came face to face with eight sheep on our side of the road and an irate farmer chasing them, who was also on our side of the road in his car! The situation passed without incident, and we carried on.