Most northerly of the Channel Islands, Alderney has a feel about it of remoteness, isolation and languid adventure. Unless you are the owner of a yacht, virtually the only way to get there is by air and even that is an exciting experience. Until very recently the aeroplanes used, the Brtitten-Norman Trislander, had a passing resemblance to a tube of smarties with wings, and not very much bigger. The most famous was called Joey, was bright yellow and had a face painted on his nose cone.
These wonderful aircraft took either 12 or 16 passengers in rows of two seats with no aisle. The seats were so small, so close together and so crammed against the (flimsy) sides of the plane that the airline avoided putting men and women next to each other unless they were related. Embarking was great fun. You had to ‘load’ by seat number, either through the pilot’s door, under the wing or through the baggage door and once in you were there until you were let out in reverse order. The emergency exits (other than the small entry and exit doors which you couldn’t reach because there was a seat in the way) were a selected number of the rather rickety single pane windows that were fixed into place by a clip contraption that appeared to be stuck to the widow with chewing gum – a bit like the clips on old car quarter lights. The new planes (I have no idea what breed they are) still only take 16 passengers with seats in rows of two but there is a central aisle, you get on via a purpose built passenger door, the pilot doesn’t have to share his cockpit with the passengers and …. there is even a co-pilot!
Once, flying from Southampton in Joey, our pilot seemed to fall asleep half way across the Channel. I was sitting in the seat immediately behind him and I swear I could hear him snoring. Fortunately, crammed into the seat next to me was another pilot on his way back to Guernsey to start work so I was not overly concerned. Anyway, I think our actual pilot must have had his mobile on alarm vibrate as he miraculously woke up before we flew past Alderney. The passenger pilot was very interesting and most generous. As we took off from Southampton and flew over the New Forest and Isle of Wight, he loaned me his aviation charts so I could see what all the places were that we were flying over.