THE sky’s the limit when it comes to larking about in one Morpeth family.
Retired firefighter Michael Turnbull became the 50th person to gain his pilot’s licence from Eshott-based Purple Aviation in December.
But Mr Turnbull decided to keep the feat secret from his son Alex, who works as a commercial pilot in New Zealand.
That is until Alex arrived in the UK for a visit and his dad decided to break the news as the pair sat in a cockpit, moments before taking off.
“Alex was just gob-smacked,” said Mr Turnbull.
The family travelled to the Eshott airfield on the pretext that Mr Turnbull had been chatting to someone from the facility and they had offered Alex a flight during his Morpeth visit.
Mr Turnbull’s instructor Lawrence Bell played the part, greeting the family and taking them to a microlight, then inviting Mr Turnbull and his son to climb in for photographs.
“Lawrence taught me how to fly so he has known me for several months, but we had to make out that we were meeting for the first time,” said Mr Turnbull.
“We got in and I started putting the harness on, then I said I wanted a picture with the helmets on. I leaned forward to flick the master switch, which enables you to communicate with each other and Alex said ‘Dad, stop it, you don’t know what you’re doing’ and switched it off again.
“It was then that I said, ‘just relax, I’m going to fly you’ and his face just dropped. It was a brilliant moment, one of the best moments of my life. It was fantastic.”
Alex, who initially started flying through Morpeth Air Cadets and now flies skydivers and visitors in New Zealand, said: “Everybody was standing around taking photographs. Dad said to put the harness on, then the headset. I didn’t realise what was going on at the time, I just thought it was a bit over the top for a photograph. Then he started flicking switches. I just thought he was fiddling with stuff he shouldn’t.
“When he said ‘I’m going to fly you’ it began to sink in.
“I’ve worked as an instructor so I’m used to being flown by people, but this was so different because I wasn’t expecting it. Even when we got back from the flight it hadn’t really sunk in, though we have been up since and it was great.”
The flight was brief as Mr Turnbull’s youngest son Chris was also visiting from his home in Bristol and he then took him up.
The family were together for the last time in the UK as the Turnbulls are soon moving to Nelson in New Zealand.
Mr Turnbull thanked Purple Aviation for their support.
“I have always been interested in aviation, but I always thought it was out of the realms of the average working man,” he said.
“It was when I retired that I decided to do something about it, which is when I came across Purple Aviation.
“For me flying is purely a hobby, but it has been fantastic learning. It has been challenging, but I have really enjoyed it.”