AS my hand hovered on the throttle, the lever suddenly moved forward. The propeller roared and the birds that had gathered on the runway scattered into the air. The plane eased itself slickly down the strip, picking up speed before the control stick in front of me pulled back, gently gliding the small craft off the ground.

As we climbed skyward the pilots voice crackled through the headphones. “Nice and gentle hey, now, wanna go upside down?”

“Err, ye...” The plane suddenly flipped over in a swift sharp movement and before I knew it I hurtled through the sky, hanging, upside down. Gravity lifted me out of the seat, my harness, the only thing saving me from crashing through the canopy. The experienced stunt pilot, Gerald Cooper chuckled behind me, before righting the plane and posing the proposition of another manoeuvre that was suddenly executed with swift precision.

Only an hour earlier the whole flight had seemed in doubt as the rain crashed around the Turweston Aerodrome in Northamptonshire. I had driven down for the press launch of the World Aerobatic Championships, being held at Silverstone from the 20th – 29th August. The WAC collects the best pilots in the world to compete, performing sequences of high precision flight within a small box of sky. Pilots learn both known and unknown sequences and then perform these as fast and as accurately as their skills allow. The championship has been likened to the Monte-Carlo Rally or the Americas Cup in terms of its prestigious stature. Puddles continued to form around the aerodrome before the misty cloud broke late in the afternoon. Rays of sun lit up the sky and we scrambled to make best of the lucky break in the weather.

In the breaking clouds I found myself spinning around in a surprisingly gentle barrel roll, before shooting vertically towards the heavens. As we climbed and the blades of the propeller cut into the sky, the plane lost speed before stalling. Gently, as if connected to an axis, the craft turned on its side back to earth and the patchwork countryside with the curving circuit of Silverstone suddenly filling our view.

Gravity pulled us blindingly towards the ground as Gerald picked up the speed. Before my next breath we had straightened out. His voice crackled through once more. “Right, now we are going to perform a nice gentle loop. You’re gonna feel some light g-force, firstly take a look out over the left wing.”

With a gentle movement of the stick we launched skywards once more, the horizon gradually turning vertical as I looked to my left. “Now look straight ahead.” The nose of the plane gently tipped backwards and yet again I found myself sitting upside down. As we came out of the apex of the loop, the horizon had completely flipped, the sky swapping places with the ground.

We shot towards the earth once more, and Gerald hauled back on the stick, pulling us out of the dive. “Can you feel that?” I certainly could. The g-force pushed me back into the seat and drained the blood from the top half of my body into my lower half. Pressure weighed on my stomach before the force subsided as we levelled out.

I merely got a taster of the manoeuvres these expert daredevil pilots perform with graceful ease. So if you want a chance to see these incredible stunts for yourself first hand and actually fly with one of the pilots in a stunt plane, enter our exciting competition.

David Gennard