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"Joey" the Little Airplane

Retired counselor, 341 short stories published by FSU. I have 4 sons, love sharing photography, writing, love travel, sunshine, sea & Grace.

Joey being boarded

Joey being boarded

Living in the Channel Islands, the only way to commute inter-island (other than by boat) is to fly on the little yellow airplanes called Trilanders.

When these planes were first introduced, the local people (known as Guernsey Donkeys because of their stubborn nature) did not take kindly to this change. They were worried about the size of the planes and the fact that there was only one pilot. Also, in the early days passengers were weighed and seated strategically so as to maintain the balance of the aircraft. Nowadays, passengers are saved the indignity of being weighed, but there is very little room in the 20-seaters.

The company who introduced the Britten-Norman BN-2A MK3 Trilander to the islands is “Aurigny”. One of the Trilanders had the registration G-Joey, so someone in the company had a brilliant idea and the delightful 'Joey' (resplendent with eyebrows over the windows and a big red nose) was born.

Nowadays, almost all Trilanders have the red cone on the front (which looks distinctly like a nose). It was hard for the locals to be hostile to the friendly-looking Joey, especially when the island children screamed with delight each time they saw him flying overhead.

As a therapist, I had a clinic in Guernsey and once a week I was flown into the neighboring island of Alderney, to run a clinic there. This was often a hair-raising experience. The British Isles are known for more than their fair share of fog; the Channel Isles are no exception. The fog can be so thick and so low, it’s like Pea Soup. Also, Guernsey airport is situated at the highest point of the island and well known for its exposure to cross winds.

On fair weather days, flights on Joey were wonderful as you got a great aerial view of the islands. But on days where even birds found flight challenging, Aurigny, apparently, did not. I would arrive at the airport and see all other flights canceled except there's. Like lambs to the slaughter, we would board Joey and be bumped, rattled and rained on...(rain drops through a center joint above). With senses reeling, shaken and disheveled, we somehow always got there...

During particularly challenging flights, Joey seemed determined to fly sideways, land in fields, or overshoot the runway: You can't see the pilots face as you sit two-abreast behind him; what you see is him appear to wrestle a bull...by the horns. Then there's the troubling sound of the engines; either whining desperately as Joey fights through turbulence, or sudden heart-stopping splutters as Joey drops a few hundred feet.

Shaken, yet defiant like Joey, I never backed out of my flights to Alderney, (thank God for Valium). Needless to say, as Joey navigated cross-winds, stomach-in-the-mouth air pockets and "Kamikaze " landings... (sorry, couldn't resist) it was a testing 15-20 minute 'ride.'

I grew to know all the pilots. Most of them were retired from commercial airlines. The saying "an old pilot is not a bold pilot " did not apply. These were great characters and exceptionally good aviators, but when a vintage pilot is flying the plane through fog or gale force winds, you do worry about his health.

As such, whenever I got the opportunity, I would quiz them about the controls (I had occasional exhausting dreams wherein the pilot clutched his heart and slumped forward. In the dream, I would leap over the other passengers; take over the controls and save the day).

Since the advent of Joey, a series of children's fiction books have been written about this little airplane and his courageous adventures. In truth, I could write a few factual, equally adventurous stories about the courage of the passengers!

Like most of the eccentricities of the island, I grew to love my flights on Joey and miss my weekly aviation adventures.


Helen Lewis 2009


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