YOU get some great opportunities as a journalist, but I never quite imagined loop-the-looping in a biplane with an ex-RAF pilot.

With the help pilot Richard Goodwin that is exactly what I ended up doing on day two of this year’s Bournemouth Air Festival.

My day began at Compton Abbas Airfield near Salisbury, meeting with Richard for some pre-flight refreshments in the airfield café.

Click here to read more about Bournemouth Air Festival 2023

The weather was dreary and I was hopeful that the clouds would clear in time for take-off.

Bournemouth Echo: Compton Abbas Airfield Compton Abbas Airfield (Image: NQ)

After swigging the last of his drink, Richard grabbed a wooden spoon from the café and told me to visualise it as a biplane central control stick. He demonstrated how to move it, and how to achieve aerobatics in the sky.

It was then he told me he wanted me to have a go at taking the lead on some rolls or loops in the sky. I laughed - but he wasn’t joking.

With flight time nearing, we headed outside to the grass airstrip, making a quick stop off at Richard’s very own G-JPIT biplane.

Richard had spent four years building this plane in his own garage, and gave it two jet turbines to enhance its aerobatic capabilities.

It was also the plane he would be flying off in later that day to perform at Bournemouth Air Festival.

Bournemouth Echo: Me in Richard's G-JPITMe in Richard's G-JPIT (Image: NQ)

After getting some pictures in the cockpit, and footage of the engines starting up, we moved over to a red Pitts biplane.

Excitement started to kick in as I realised this was the plane I’d be flying in.

I climbed into the front seat, before getting buckled up and set up with noise cancelling headphones. Richard then got into the seat behind and pulled over the canopy – we were ready to go.

Richard fired up the engines, waited for the airfield to clear, and carried out final checks, while I braced myself for take-off.

It felt like I had barely blinked before we were up in the sky, and I was looking down at green fields and tiny clusters of people and wild stock below. 

Bournemouth Echo: Onboard the biplaneOnboard the biplane (Image: NQ)

After a few minutes of cruising, Richard asked me to take over the central control stick and talked me through the build up to a ‘roll’ manoeuvre. 

“Pull it sharply to the left on one, two, three. Now roll.” he said.

As the plane barrelled over, I let out a huge scream, and then a sigh of relief when the wings came back level.

The confidence boost that came with rolling - and not crashing the plane - spurred me on to try a few more.

Richard then took back control, demonstrating a loop-the-loop and a corkscrew, before weaving through the clouds.

We spent about 20 minutes up in the sky, with each twist and turn just as exciting as the last - I could not wipe the smile off my face.

One particularly special moment was coming back down from a loop and seeing the breathtaking views below.

As we approached the airfield for landing, I took a last opportunity to take in my surroundings, knowing this is something I probably won't ever get the chance to do again. 

I feel extremely to have flown in a biplane with such an experienced pilot thanks to BCP Council, and it is definitely something that will stay with me for life.