Part 1

Read the text carefully and choose the correct answer (A, B, C or D).


Six years ago Susie O’Hara was a successful Sales and Marketing Director when she treated herself to a trial flying lesson. She took to it instantly. Since then Susie has spent £40,000 on her habit. Eight months ago she gave up her job to become a professional flying instructor at the EFG Flying School. ‘It turned my lifestyle upside down. All my friends thought I was mad. But I just wanted to fly the whole time. I figured I had to do it now or I would be too old.’

So how good can flying be to possess someone to give up everything? To get your basic licence you are looking at spending £4,000 plus. Besides the time actually spent flying, there is a lot of homework and you must pass written exams on every aspect of flying from law and meteorology to technical papers on the aeroplanes and the limits of the human body. Susie has so far sat 31 professional exams.

‘Part of the appeal is the different view it gives you of life,’ she says. ‘Sometimes when you are up there and you can see everything so tiny below, you realise everyone has their problems and that so many problems are so small. It’s not like that all the time but sometimes that hits you.’

Another aspect is the glamorous lifestyle. France is only half an hour from the airfield and southern Spain is also a popular destination. To collect the required hours to get her licence, Susie used to stay out in the US after business trips, where flying is cheap, and has flown from Long Beach to Las Vegas and from Florida across the Bahamas. Flying in the US is so cheap that a lot of people go there to collect their air miles.

It’s a beautiful day when I try it. Once you’re off the ground you can see for miles – only the horizon is lost in a white haze. You are aware that the ground is way down there, and there’s the feeling in your stomach and your ears are popping. A great deal of the appeal is the amazing acrobatics you can do. One minute you weigh several times your normal weight, the next you are seemingly weightless. The earth spins confusingly somewhere over your shoulder as you do sudden 180 degree turns. ‘It’s a pity this is not really an acrobatic plane,’ says Susie, ‘because that is what I really love.’

As well as acrobatics Susie pretends the engine has stalled and goes through the process of crash landing. She also gives me a chance to handle the plane. It’s amazing how responsive it is. By the way, before you take off in a lesson, you go through a lot of the theory on the ground, as I had.

When we land I feel a little sick. But I asked for it - the acrobatics are optional, ‘You have to know the other person can deal with it before you do acrobatics,’ says Susie. More than anything I’m disappointed the whole episode is over so quickly. The entire time the flight had an air of unreality about it. I can understand its appeal.