5 days in the life of ...

Britain's leading microlight pilot begins his flight from London to Sydney
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Indy Lifestyle Online
MONDAY: I left yesterday from London City Airport. I'd been planning the flight for 10 months. I'd wanted to raise money for charity ever since reading that Elton John had been giving away his royalties for years. Then Diana died and it was obvious I had to raise money for her memorial fund. Microlighting is what I'm best at - I won the world championship in the summer - and decided to try to make the first flexible-wing flight from London to Sydney.

With a tail-wind I got to Abbeville in an hour-and-a-half, where I made a brief stop, and to Paris in only another hour. It was a pretty bumpy flight. In Paris I was expecting to have to sleep in a tent at the airport, but I was met by a British diplomat - the cousin of one of the people who have helped organise the flight - and I ended up staying at the embassy and drinking champagne with the British ambassador.

It was on the flight to Nice that my problems began. The weather really deteriorated. I had to climb to 15,500ft flying over the Alps, and I got frost-bite in my fingers. I was in the air for over seven hours. Then when I landed at Nice I was arrested by police. They said I didn't have permission to land there. When they realised where I was heading and what I was raising money for they became more relaxed about it. Later it was accepted that it had all been agreed.

TUESDAY: The weather was even worse. I headed east towards Italy but could see storms ahead. So I turned south, and soon headed into another storm. By now I was over the Gulf of Genoa. I dropped to about 500ft to try to get out of trouble. It was a real battle. I thought the plane was going to break up. I've been a microlight pilot for 20 years and flown over 7,000 hours, but this was the most frightening experience I've ever had. Eventually I got the plane over land and came down at Perugia, about 100 miles north of Rome. I don't think people realise what you have to go through sometimes.

WEDNESDAY: I was grounded the whole day. The storms never let up. It was very frustrating. I had a wander around Perugia.

THURSDAY: It was still raining, but there was the the odd gap in the cloud and I thought I'd risk trying to get going again. Otherwise I could see I could be there for days. It was mountains all the way to the coast, all covered in snow - quite spectacular. But if the engine stopped there was no way I could have avoided crashing. There was nowhere to land. I began to think the whole world was just mountains and water.

I flew through valleys as far as the coast and stopped at Brindisi. There I had more trouble from the authorities. "You're not allowed to land here," air traffic control told me, but then they realised what sort of plane it was and calmed down. Still, I was glad to get out of Italy when I flew on to Corfu. The welcome was much warmer.

FRIDAY: My aim was to get to Crete, but out to sea the winds picked up and an electrical fault knocked out my navigation equipment. So I only got to Kefallinia, flying by the compass. Then when I was storing the wings away in an underground car park the island was struck by an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale. I thought someone was detonating a bomb down there. There was another earthquake 15 minutes later. That was enough drama for one day. Still, I'm being treated like royalty here. There's a television crew coming out to film me before I set off again, but it looks as though the weather's going to keep me grounded for another day.

Colin Bodill, a microlight instructor from Nottingham, is hoping to reach Sydney by mid-January. You can follow his progress on the Internet at http://www.newark.ac.uk/Microlight-To Sydney. Donations can be made by cheque, made out to 'London to Sydney', and sent to Marie Oldham, 2 Forest Link, Bilsthorpe, Notts NG22 8UD

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