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24 September 2014

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Personal stories: everyone has a story to tell
Bill Heine
Bill Heine

Hairy Flight

Author: Bill Heine

It's typical Bill - What other radio presenter could you name who would have hitchhiked in such style in their youth.

Listen to Bill's story >>>

"We were flying into this blackness, riven with sheets of white as the rain pounded into the windscreen at three hundred miles an hour."

Bill Heine: Weekdays 4-7pm, BBC Oxford 95.2FM


When I was a student I used to hitchhike. On aeroplanes. I know - You could do a lot of things then that you can't do now. I gave my details to the staff at the private jet lounge at Gatwick during the Easter hols from Oxford and they asked the pilots to take pity on this poor American student and take him to Greece.

I got a flight to Geneva immediately but them I got stuck for two days and only escaped camping out at the airport when the air traffic controller let me sleep on his floor. Finally, about eight o'clock in the evening, after twenty two cups of coffee, a man came over and told me that he was flying his Lear jet to Tehran, and he had to re-fuel in Corfu and would I like a lift, literally. I was delighted- the only problem was he couldn't leave straight away. He had to go home to collect his passport and money.

So I waited and waited - thinking "Oh no- I've been stood up - I'll never get out of Geneva" until many hours later, and well after he said he would, my saviour appeared and I climbed into the co-pilot's seat of the plane and we disappeared into cloud nine.

However yes, there's always a however in fairy tales, a storm screeched around us and we were flying into this blackness, riven with sheets of white as the rain pounded into the windscreen at three hundred miles an hour. It occurred to me that if anything happened to the pilot at this point there wouldn't be a thing I could do. I think it was at this time I discovered my fear of flying.

Then he told me that Corfu airport had to be one of the most precarious airports in the world - spiky mountains rising up like flames from hell on either side of the runway. When we came into land we couldn't make contact with the ground control tower and when eventually we got through at four in the morning, we discovered he did not speak English, so a nearby plane swishing in the storm acted as a translator.

We circled the island and the pilot decided to make a dive for the airport. It was bumpy, wobbly and I realised maybe I should have checked the pilot's licence.
Suddenly he pulled up "What's wrong?" I asked. "Did you overshoot the runway? "Yep"

We made another attempt and this time when we edged down I could vaguely make out the mountains, fortunately to the side of our path. It was all over in about three minutes. When we touched down I staggered out of the plane, collapsed in a heap and kissed the tarmac..and almost put paid to me hitchhiking on planes for life. Almost.

Geraldine Peer 's personal story >>>
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