For me the love and fear of flying began when I was five years old. My step-brother was a pilot in the RAF and on Battle-of-Britain day in 1952 he smuggled me on-board a Wellington Bomber at RAF Hullavington and I was immediately ‘bitten’ by the flying bug. On a foggy day in October of the same year the love turned to fear when my step brother was killed in a crash at the same airfield in the same aircraft.
Years later I joined the forces and was faced with an air transport flight from London to Hong Kong. I was literally sick with fear. It was a 28 hour flight with frequent fuel stops and at every landing and take-off my stomach knotted up and my mouth filled with bile. Having arrived safely in Hong Kong I was self aware enough to realise that I had to do something about my irrational fear. Three months later I was in Singapore and I approached a local flying club about learning to fly. They referred me to the Civil Air Board who in turn sent me to an RAF sponsored scheme that trained non-flying service personnel to obtain a ‘flying licence’. I went through all the formalities and was accepted for basic flight training.
Basic training was carried out in a Tiger Moth, my instructor was a retired RAF pilot who had flown fighters during WW2 before becoming an instructor. He was patient, good humoured and very perceptive. He sensed my fear and dispelled it with ease. The learning process was fun and I progressed quickly to solo. Once I was considered proficient I was moved up to a more powerful aircraft, and I passed the basic flying test with ease and an ‘above average’ notation. Next came instrument flying and yet more powerful aircraft. Finally after some nine months of intensive training I was handed my Pilots Certificate. I had little idea then that I had earned a commercial licence, not a PPL. I just wanted to fly.
The flying hours mounted up and after a few years I found myself back in the UK and a civilian again. I flew whenever and whatever I could and then had the luck to meet another retired RAF pilot who was a ‘ferry’ pilot. He helped me to get part-time work ferrying aircraft around the UK and Europe. Often this involved flying specials that had been built or adapted for movies. The rules then where far more lax than they are today and often I flew aircraft that really should not have been classed as airworthy. I remember particularly a 70% scaled replica of a FW190. There was barely room to breathe in the cockpit and it was horribly underpowered. I had to fly it from the factory to Elstree and it was a nightmare flight, climbing to 3000 ft took 20 minutes and it would cough and splutter. When I finally landed at Elstree I made it known what I thought of this