Welcome to the Auster Diaries – a blog about flying an old aeroplane called an Auster. The word ‘Auster’ means ‘South Wind’ in Latin, which is ironic, because the wind blows mostly from the west in the North East of Scotland. This is where this scruffy 1946 Auster 5J4 and the small but happy group of people who fly it are based. And when the wind is not blowing from the west? Well, then it is invariably from the North and cold with it.
Despite this small incongruity, the meaning of the word itself is sufficient to pique the interest of the romantic in most pilots and help those of us who fly ‘JT’ overcome some of the shortcomings of the machine, including but not limited to: exceptionally poor take-off and climb performance, mushy controls, bad ground handling manners, no flaps, awkward heel brakes and usually a fume filled cockpit.
She is, however, despite these things, a wonderful old machine; full of character: a distant haughtiness and reluctance to fly that becomes, over time, a sort of old nag dependability that you just can’t help but fall in love with. It is without doubt, the worst handling and performing aeroplane I have ever flown, but, she has found her way into my heart and she is, if nothing else, certainly inexpensive.
In the summer months the Auster lives at a little known farm strip, which is tucked away so effectively amongst the rolling Aberdeenshire countryside, that only those fanatics who fly from the often waterlogged and rutted strip of rough turf that constitutes the take-off and landing run, know that it exists at all.
This blog is all about the joys and otherwise of flying ‘JT’: mostly around Scotland with its vast areas of wilderness, remote landing strips and stunning scenary. I hope you enjoy what you find in these pages and I’m always happy to hear from anyone, who, like me, think that flying small and sometimes troublesome old aeroplanes from a rough strip of rutted and mushy grass to be actually good fun.