Reporter Rob takes to the skies of Cambridgeshire for flying lesson with Marshall Aerospace

THEIR interest in aviation started by accident in 1912. Marshall engineers helped to fix the engine of a British Army airship which had been forced to land behind their garage.

Now known as Marshall Aerospace, the company employs 2,500 people on its 475-acre base in Cambridge. They design, manufacture and repair planes - but they also teach the next generation of pilots how to navigate the skies. Reporter Rob Setchell went to investigate.

SAT in a small briefing room, my flying instructor for the day chooses a red marker pen to write the word “emergencies” on the whiteboard.

Don’t get me wrong, I like flying. But my sort of flying is the version where you end up in a hot destination after downing a couple of gin and tonics in the window seat.

That image is far from what is about to happen to me at Marshall Aerospace.

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After a 20-minute talk with instructor Anthony Cooke, involving nasty sounding words like “roll”, “horizon” and “plummet”, I’m ready to take to Cambridgeshire’s skies.

We climb into an ominously small Cessna plane and after a quick chat with the control tower, we say goodbye to the safe haven of solid ground.

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Anthony completes a smooth take-off and we climb to 3,000ft above Cambridge. “Over to you,” the pilot with 27 years flying experience says to the journalist with 10-minutes worth.

As I take the controls the ride seems to get a bit bumpier but we pass over the buildings of King’s College and head away from Cambridge towards St Ives.

“It’s quite good to see what the A14 is like from the air before I drive home,” says Anthony.

I navigate us around St Ives and we head for Ely, easily recognisable from the sky thanks to the cathedral.

We pass over streams, farms and fields, skirt around Waterbeach and return to Cambridge, where Anthony takes the controls for landing.

After the initial fear, flying suddenly became very relaxing.

We covered almost two miles a minute, the view was breathtaking and there was none of the congestion that you might face on the roads. It was not scary but strangely peaceful.

And if peace isn’t your thing Marshall’s do offer aerobatics lessons as well.

Apparently they put the sick bags in the front for those.

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