Jacqueline's 76 birthday was approaching and I needed to find her a suitable present to mark the occasion.

I remembered she had often remarked that she would love to go up in a helicopter and from March through to October there are flights available here:

Central Helicopters, based in a field, opposite Moorlands restaurant.

Flight charges are: £39 for a 5 minute, 6 miles round trip and

£69 for a ten minute 15 miles round trip to take in Chatsworth House.

I chose the latter flight and put the booking ticket for 23rd March 2016 in her birthday card. Alas, just before Jacqueline's birthday she had a fall outside the house and had to spend five days in hospital, including her birthday, 12th December.

March came and she had still not recovered sufficiently to attend the flight date. The company had no problem with moving the flight date to 23rd April.

 It was a warm, clear day when we arrived for her noon flight. I had noticed the two high and narrow steps into the aircraft and I knew she would need some help. One of the attendants said "Leave it with me , I'll sort her out."


Getting up the steps proved impossible for her so the man picked her up in his arms and placed her inside.    

The ten minute flight took them over Chatsworth House where she could see a long queue to get in and a full carpark.


Questions regarding the flight gave the following answers: The helicopter cruising speed is about 110 mile per hour, and it flies at a height of around 1000 feet. I asked a question about engine failure and was surprised with the answer.  I believed that with an engine failure the aircraft would just fall like a stone with little the pilot could do.

This is not the case. If the helicopter engine stops, the experienced pilot simply puts the machine into a controlled descent which allows air from below to turn the rotors and produce a degree of "lift".  This is known as ‘autorotation.’

If a descent begins immediately after the engine stops, the airflow from below will keep the blades rotating.  This might be a little hard to visualize, but it works a little like a windmill, or a descending sycamore leaf.  In any event, it works!  The helicopter will descend, but it will do so at a steady pace, and its direction can be controlled.  It can then be manoeuvred into wind and landed safely.   

At the end of the flight Jacqueline was lifted from the aircraft and we crossed over the road to have lunch at the restaurant.