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So Gower took it on. Under the floats he placed four beams, manned by four men each. He walked backwards in front of them, conducting them with a baton like an orchestra. He passed between the barbed-wire fence on the edge of the bank and the side of the shed, he had them drop the wings on one side till nearly touching the beach and hold the other wings high over the shed roof while the bearers shuffled along. It was a great strain for those on the beach side, and I followed behind, biting my thumbs. All the bearers held on, and finally dumped the seaplane in the water. Everyone cheered – it was a fine piece of work. I am sad to say that Gower, who was himself so amazingly efficient, was drowned some years later in a yacht that went down sailing from the island to Australia.

I went aboard at once for a trial flight, thinking that if I waited I should get nerves, imagining all the things that could be wrong with the seaplane. I taxied well out, faced into wind and opened the throttle. The seaplane left the water as easily as a fairy dancing off. There was a splutter, the engine choked, picked up again, spluttered for a few seconds, choked again, coughed out a few backfires, and then stopped dead. I closed the throttle to prevent the engine from bursting into life again unexpectedly, and concentrated on alighting. Fortunately I was still over the lagoon, and it was easy enough.

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I anchored off the jetty and, standing on a float, I tried not to drop any tools into the lagoon as I removed the carburettor. The jet was blocked by a small piece of skin. I had cleaned the salt water from the carburettor and then wiped it with a rag soaked in linseed oil to prevent further corrosion. This oil had dried in a thin skin, which the petrol had peeled off. There were enough pieces to choke the jet fifty times. ‘Awkward for you if you had not found that until half way to Australia, said Gower. We cleaned every part as thoroughly as possible, but there were bends and passages into which one could not see. Gower said, ‘I wonder if you have left one piece behind.’

Again the Gipsy Moth danced off the surface with thrilling ease. I flew low over the lagoon, first waggling the wings a little, and then more and more, until the plane was rocking from one wing tip to the other. Now I began hurdling. I put her through her paces, increasing the strain steadily. She had never been more fit, I thought. Then I jumped her up 200 feet, and trimmed the elevators for hands-off flying. I left the stick alone – she flew dead level. The rigging by our island plane factory was perfect first shot.

The least I could do was to offer my helpers a flight. I sent the boat for Auntie; she sent back word, ‘Oh, she didn’t think she would come. The third time I sent the boat for her she turned up, groaning and sighing. ‘Oh, Captin, do you think it’s all right? Oh, Captin, are you sure I won’t die? During the flight she scarcely moved an inch. When we were back on the water she turned and said in a quiet voice. ‘Oh Captin, that was a wonderful thing! And to think I should have missed it if you hadn’t made me go up!’

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