At the age of 7 my father took me flying in a Tiger Moth. I remember the door was down for me to see out. I must have also been sitting on cushions and looking over the side, I thought how the houses looked like lego brick houses.
I don’t know exactly when the next occasion was when I flew in a plane, but planes started to appear at the bottom of the garden as my father had put a runway down and built a hangar. One Saturday late afternoon, I heard a big new noise arrive overhead, I recall running from my grand parents house to see this new plane. It was John Jordan in a 450 hp ex crop duster Stearman.
Gradually over the years more and more planes would appear for storage and occasionally I would be taken up for a flight. Today one of those people is still based at Gransden, Mike Blyth. He would ask my farther if he could take me flying. I would have been about 10 years old I guess.
In those formative years I had lots of options, pets, pony club, field sports (which made me money by selling the rabbits I had caught), fishing but that was like watching paint dry. At the age of 13, friends of mine in St Neots, my school town, were joining a new “club” called air cadets. It was not the word “air” that lured me but the getting out and doing things like camping, canoeing, shooting, trips abroad and of course gliding and flying. I even managed to get on the ‘once-a-year’ parachute course and did two static line jumps
Prior to cadets, I did make model planes and flew them, control line was my field. Since then I have not touched one since, it would be interesting to have a go again.
My teen years were spent fixing up mopeds and driving around the farm. When aged 16, I just had to get mobile with powered wheels, living in the countryside with a push bike to get you to the pub at 15, limited the number of pubs you could go to !
I left school and went into precision engineering college as I liked making things. This didn’t work out so I worked on the family farm.
Moped, motor bikes, girls and cars came along. I pimped my Cortina mk2, as you would do being mechanically minded!
When I was 21 years old, my father was ill in hospital receiving cancer treatment. With nothing to do on the farm that winter, I picked up a part from a CASA Jungmann that I had driven to Spain to collect in the autumn of 1979. It was obvious this part needed cleaning for the restoration so I did it, and the next bit and the next, then after six months there was nearly a plane.
In June 1980, I started to do my PPL and by December I had the licence. This would have been quicker but my instructor broke his wrist just prior to a lesson. He slipped getting a map from another plane but we still did the lesson and luckily he didn’t need to touch the controls as he could not fly for 6 weeks. The last few hours to make the minimum required was doing aerobatics.
With minimal money I could not fly often, so when the chance arose I took ‘petrol money’ from persons wishing to fly. Half of it was spent on their flight and half for me doing aerobatics. By this time I was solo on the Jungmann I had built.
Challenged by Barry Tempest to fly in the Tiger Moth contest at Woburn Abbey in 1984, I took part. This was the start of contest flying.
I have represented the country 10 times internationally in FAI contests and placed in the top 10, three times in World contests. Flying wise, I’m now concentrating on my team activities with other top pilots, the Global Stars.
As part of my enthusiasm for all things flying, I’ve just taken up Para-motoring in the flat lands at home in the UK and paragliding in the Alps. Adding these skills to my abilities of microlite 3-axis and weight shift, gyro-copter and all things GA from home builds to jets I’ve flown.
Feet of the ground go for it.