I have always been interested in aircraft and may have been influenced by some of my father’s experiences during the Second World War in Bomber Command. He was a senior aircraftsman working on the larger bombers and also on the Mosquito. Originally he joined the RAF with the intention of becoming a rear gunner, but was turned down for this job as his Morse Code was not fast enough. He was transferred to maintenance duties and then during the following years he became aware of the dangers of his first choice, when he had to repair or replace many of the rear turrets blasted away by enemy fighters.
Like many thousands of people over the years, I have attended many air shows including regular visits to Farnborough and Biggin Hill. At 29 years of age while watching the BBC television evening news, they covered the 1972 Air Show at Biggin Hill and during this broadcast it was mentioned that if you could drive a car, there was no reason why you could not learn to fly. When you remember that most of the fighter pilots and air crews during the Second World War were in their early twenties (some even younger) it made me think.
The following day was April 3rd 1972 Easter Monday Bank Holiday so I decided to drive to Biggin Hill and get some more information on flying training. There were a number of flying schools on the airfield and after watching some flying, I ventured into King Air Flying Club where I was met by Gordon King. After a short briefing with Gordon, I was given an introduction and inspection of one of their club aircraft which was a small two seat Cessna 150 registration G-AYBC. I was then given a familiarization flight which lasted for 35 minutes where we flew over the Sevenoaks and Tonbridge area. After returning to Biggin Hill for a coffee in the club house, I joined the flying club as a member, paid a subscription of £1.50, bought a book on flight briefing for £1.10 and paid for my first 35 minute flight all for the princely sum of £8.72. From that moment I was hooked.
My next two flights were on the 18th where I was introduced to my instructor Cyril Knight who became my regular instructor throughout the rest of my training. The majority of my training was carried out flying a number of Cessna 150’s and on occasions a Cessna 172 and a Piper PA28.
The first few lessons involved getting used to the controls and keeping the aircraft straight and level which takes quite a bit of practice. Once the basic controls have been achieved the next lessons to be tackled are circuit training (circuit & bumps) where all the lessons learnt so far are carried out in continuous take off and landings.
On the 24th September I had a short flight with my instructor Cyril and after the second landing, he told me to pull up short on the runway at which point he got out and told me to carry on and do my first solo circuit.
On returning to the airport, I parked the aircraft and returned to the clubhouse where I was told that I had made a perfect landing and then issued with a solo flight certificate. I tried to keep up my training by one or two hours each month which included stalling and spinning practice together with cross country flights.
On the 7th March 1973 I had an hours revision flying with Cyril and this was followed by an hour and a half GFT flight with another instructor Richard Ellis which was successful.
I continued to fly during 1973-4 but found it very difficult to keep it up as I had recently got married and the expense of my new lifestyle meant that my flying had become very intermittent. Sadly my last flight was a check flight in a Piper PA28 with a new instructor Alan Carter on the 13th February 1975.
During my flying time with King Air Flying Club I managed to pass my written exams and gain my flying licence in 45 lessons between April 1972 and March 1973. The total cost of my PPL worked out at approximately £460.00 and apparently it is now around £8000.00 (2011).
I have been a regular member of the Southern Strut for around 40 years and now retired and my licence well and truly lapsed, I still have some great memories of my short flying period in the 70’s.