Writer’s BLOC

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Me, completely glued to the view from our suite at the BLOC Hotel, Gatwick

With a holiday booked to Malta in the late summer of 2017 and a very early morning flight (6:30am to be precise) with British Airways from London’s Gatwick Airport, I was dreading that 3am wake up call that I’ve never been accustomed to. Imagine my amazement getting a phone call from my other half to say that he’s arranged a little treat; a night at the BLOC Hotel, located slap bang on the top of the South Terminal Gatwick. Okay, so it might not be everyone’s idea of a romantic evening in a plush hotel but for any plane geek like me, this was just what the doctor ordered.

Having first opened it’s doors in 2014, the hotel is a renovated office block, with four floors and 245 rooms – and we were booked into the “Runway Suite”. With it’s stunning views across the airport’s apron and single-runway, I was in my element. The interior of this quirky modern hotel is also cutting edge for the everyday traveler passing through the airport.

As soon as we arrived, I was glued to the window of our room – a panoramic view – watching the comings and goings of the variety of aircraft carriers that Gatwick hosts. While the other half cracked open the beers from the mini-bar and bedded down for the evening (he’s not a plane geek), I could not tear myself away from the view. I was transfixed at seeing British Airways, Norwegian, Thomas Cook Airlines and Monarch (RIP) to name a few lined up.

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“The Runway Suite” at the BLOC Hotel, Gatwick. Photo Credit: helloworldtravel_rob

This exact same view I had not seen for at least twenty years and it would send me straight back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember my dad took me to Gatwick’s then spectators viewing platform and there walking out on that deck I could smell the jet fumes, the vibrating sounds of the different aircraft types and seeing the tails of the likes of British Caledonian, Dan-Air, Air Europe, Air New Zealand lined up. This was Gatwick in the eighties and I loved it.

Looking out at the view from our room and slightly below us, I could see the now defunct viewing platform. Having closed down almost 18 years ago, the canteen and plane enthusiast shop were both boarded up and the deck that was once jammed packed full of spectators was sadly empty and looking abandoned. As I peered down at the platform, images of the past came back; my dad picking me up and putting me on his shoulders, pointing at the various aircraft: “Look Bob, British Caledonian”, he would say. Or “Cover your ears, it’s going to get noisy”. Although slightly tinged with sadness, I loved the memories flooding back and it is thanks to my dad that I have this life-long obsession of planes.

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1980’s Gatwick, the Viewing Platform. Photo Credit: Longreach

Living, working and breathing in London can at times, be stressful and hectic to say the least. The majority that live and ride the violent jolt of the capital will no doubt say the same, so for me thinking about planes, seeing planes keeps me grounded (if you excuse the pun). They calm my nerves and help with my anxieties – just a simple thing like that. I recently told a friend this and her advice was: “If this helps, then keep doing what you’re doing, keep collecting the model planes, keep traveling on planes and going to airports, it’s the tonic you need”. Those words have now stuck.

And so back to the BLOC; watching a Norwegian 787 push back, an Azores Airlines A320 land, an Emirates A380 take-off, I was able to forget; forget about the stresses of what life can sometimes bring. So really this is a huge thank you to my dad for what he started back then and to my other half (even though planes are not his thing) – for what he continues to do, he knew what he was doing when he booked the BLOC.

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The view from “The Runway Suite” at BLOC Hotel, Gatwick. Photo Credit: Simon Kent

Prices at the BLOC Hotel Gatwick can start at around £100 per night depending on which room/suite you intend to book. 

For further details please visit:- BLOC Hotels Gatwick

The Dan-Air Stewardess

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Lorraine with Dan-Air at Newcastle Airport

As I have said previously, I have been lucky enough to come across some great people that have or are currently still working in the aviation industry, thanks to the modern medium of certain social media platforms. One person who I’ve had the fortunate pleasure of connecting with is a former Dan-Air stewardess, Lorraine. Lorraine and I share a mutual passion for this once great British airline. I was lucky enough to fly with Dan-Air myself when the airline was at the top of it’s game; first in 1985 to Majorca, Spain and once again in 1987 to Zakynthos, Greece. Although I was very young at the time, being a plane geek I can remember both journey’s so vividly well. Lorraine has even more memories to share having worked for the airline from 1976 to 1992 and based at Newcastle Airport. She has been kind enough to take some time out to give an insight on the different types of aircraft she worked on, some really scary moments while in the air and what it was like being “The Dan-Air Stewardess”.

What made you want to be an air stewardess? My first flight as a pax [passengers] I was nine years old and it was from LGW/LUX [London Gatwick/Luxembourg] on a BAC1-11 with British Eagle and I think that gave me an interest in flying as a career, I thought it was so glamorous, the girls I noticed were so smart, never would have believed then that my dream would come true and I actually worked on that aircraft as British Eagle folded and Dan Air purchased that aircraft from them.

How did the role at Dan-Air come about? The role came about when I was working as a junior secretary in an office for a telecommunications firm, my mother who worked there also, rang me and said that there was an advert in The Newcastle Journal for Air Hostesses and I should apply for the job, I did and the rest is history.

Can you remember how you felt during the interview process? The interview process I remember very well, it was at the Airport Hotel, I was rather nervous and was interviewed by Dan Air’s Chief Stewardess and NCL’s [Newcastle Airport] base stewardesses. The questions that were asked “if I was married”? That time they did not employ you if you were married, then mostly about how I dealt with situations and how I coped with people, and obviously what qualifications I had, I felt that the interview had gone well.

What are the most important parts of being an air stewardess? The main thing was to make the pax feel comfortable and safe.

What were the stages of recruitment at Dan-Air? I only had one interview, I know other airlines had a process to go through, but not for Dan Air.

Can you give us a brief about the area/team you worked with at NCL? My typical roster was given a fortnight in advance and it would be around eight flights and two standby days per fortnight.

What was the best thing about working for Dan-Air? I can honestly say that working for Dan Air were the best years of my life, when I meet up with my Dan friends they all say exactly the same, that we were very lucky to have had the pleasure of working for them,  they were a great company to work for. Newcastle Airport was such a small and intimate airport that everybody knew each other from the ground staff to the customs, and other airline staff. A lot of our pilots were ex RAF very old school and so gentlemanly and great great characters.

Can you name the type of aircraft you trained and worked on? The aircraft that I worked on were: DeHavilland Comet first commercial jet, and it was my favourite. Such a beautiful aircraft, but rather noisy down at the back especially when taking off! I also worked on the following: HS748, BAC 1-11 all series, B-727, B-737 and the BAE 146.

What was the best place you visited during your time flying? And can you recommend anywhere? Most of our flights from NCL were flown to the destination (all European or internal) and then return on the same day, there was no long haul from NCL then, so we were back home after our flights, we did have night-stops in Bournemouth, and in the latter years Berlin which at the time the Berlin Wall was being taken down and that was fascinating. We were also now and again sent to different bases if there was a shortage of staff.

Tell us about any scary moments when up in the air (or on the ground) that you experienced when working? Two flights that I remember, one was on the HS 748 and we were flying from LGW, as I was serving drinks (on a tray, no trolleys on this aircraft), there was a small jolt, I looked to my right and noticed the propeller was slowly stopping, the captain called me into the flight deck and said that we were making an emergency landing at Dijon and to clear the cabin. Thankfully the aircraft landed safely.
The other time I was on the BAE146, the First Officer brought the aircraft down too steeply banging it down on the runway, all the oxygen masks fell from the cabin ceiling, unfortunately some of the wheels burst and the smell from the rubber filled the cabin, no pax were hurt just rather shocked. I was then sent to LGW to help with enquiries, that for me was the most terrifying!

Do you still keep in touch with any of your ex-colleagues from Dan-Air? I still keep in touch with a lot of the girls that I few with, we have a bond and go a long way back.

If you could, is there anything you’d like to ask Dan-Air? I can’t think what I’d like to ask them, I wish they hadn’t have gone under, but I would like to thank them for the happy years they gave me and for employing me, again the best years of my life loved every minute flying with them.

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The Dan-Air crew at Newcastle Airport in 1992. Photo Credit: Dan-Air Remembered & Martin Gascoigne

Thanks so much Lorraine for taking the time and sharing your memories of Dan-Air! IMG_2936 2

Dan-Air was founded in 1953 and ceased operations in 1992 when it merged with British Airways. The airline’s main hubs were London Gatwick, Manchester and Berlin-Tegel as well as focusing on operations at Newcastle.

For more memories please visit:- Dan-Air Remembered