11/08/2013 20:20 BST | Updated 11/10/2013 06:12 BST

Looping the Loop Like They Do In 'Planes' - How Hard Can It Be?

I have no sense of balance, hate heights, and get motion sickness on a milk-run to the shops. So why am I at White Waltham airfield, about to climb into a 1980 Pitts Special? I'm not sure I know either.

The mission itself is simple - run through the acrobatic tricks on display in the new Disney Pixar animation 'Planes'. But the siren song that calls me, an otherwise happily earth-bound person, to attempt such feats is much more complex.

We are drawn to the skies. They are places of mystery, and we set out to explore, casting danger aside. It's what human beings do. And also, Biggles.


As I walk towards the small yellow plane that's about to take me a couple of thousand feet off this very nice, very stable little planet, I remind myself flying's no big deal. After all, an Australian who isn't prepared to board a plane would never have made it west of London in the first place. (At this point my brain points out the structural differences between an A380 and the propeller-carrying Ford Fiesta in front of me, but I pay no heed. After all, I am carpeing the diem.)

Pilot Alan Cassidy is already seated in the rear of the plane - the ultimate back-seat driver - as his affable sidekick Charlie shows me where to step to avoid putting my foot through the wing. It's not a comforting thought, that the part of the plane responsible for keeping us in the air could be brought undone by a foot. Once inside, the process of getting strapped in begins. Unlike the single strap seatbelt air travellers are used to, this contraption could double as an effective pulley mechanism for a six-man team of mountain climbers.

As Charlie tightens the shoulder straps, he comments that it has to be very firm, lest I bang my head when we fly upside down. I've not finished processing that thought before the cockpit is closed and Alan and I are on our way.

As we taxi across the field to the runway we chat about the Ashes and the weather. Like this is all completely normal.

We line up and start down the runway, past a pair of bemused hares, and into the sky. Houston, we have lift-off.

Everywhere I look, the green and brown fields stretch toward the horizon before disappearing into the summer haze, interrupted only by clusters of buildings or a road or railway line. In the distance, passenger jets move in and out of Heathrow, and we are flying with them.

Alan's voice crackles over the radio. "How are you up there?"

It takes a while to answer. My brain can only find enough juice to run either my eyes or my mouth, not both at once.

Never mind that, this isn't a time for quiet reflection, we are people of action and it is up to me to steer. "Take the stick and move it to the left," says Alan, "then pull it back."

I slowly do so and the plane lurches to the left, wings shuddering towards perpendicular with the ground, while my stomach - obviously following a different flight plan entirely - lurches to the right. We turn the other way, and I feel that morning's Earl Grey slam against my left ribcage like stormy seas on the Dover cliffs.

My brain gives up on me. It had issued the warnings, only to be studiously ignored, and unable to deal with the basics - like up from down and left from right - it takes the only possible action left available: It shuts down.

The next stunt is a loop. For a second it looks like the earth is actually spinning around the plane, as if we have replaced the sun as the fixed point in the solar system, and then gravity hits. Kidneys and brain collide as the former careers into my skull and the latter goes to visit my feet, which are possibly above me, but just as likely somewhere else. For all I know, they could still be in the airfield bar and if they actually are, I wouldn't think I could feel more disjointed than I do.

I give up on the joystick, it's all Alan's from here on down. I feel too much like the living incarnation of a Picasso painting to be in charge of so much as a remote control car, so I'm fairly certain flying a plane is out of the question.

Back on terra firma, it's several minutes before all body parts reacquaint themselves with each other and manage to behave in a way resembling cohesive movement. And then it's off to the bar. Biggles would surely approve.

Planes is in UK cinemas from 16 August.