As a kid I was mad on aircraft and joined the Air Training Corps. Got my gliding wings at 16, and was a staff cadet at RAF Filton in Bristol for a year; lots of aeros in Chipmunks. Career and kids then got in the way for a while. I didn’t get to touch aircraft controls until my late 40’s, when my wife bought me a trial lesson, May 2001. That precipitated a real mid-life crisis. If I was ever going to achieve the dreams of the kid I was, it was either now or forget it. Someone then gave me the best/worst advice of my life: “It’s what your credit card is for”, so I went for it.
However I did it in the most inefficient way possible by spreading it out over three years, with some significant gaps when the aircraft went tech, the weather was crap, or my instructor was away. I enjoyed the journey though, as did my Mrs. who often sat in the back. I thought it was important to keep her on side. 🙂
I got my PPL in October 04, and since have clocked up just over 100 hours P1 on PA28’s, C150’s and a C172. I started out hiring from the club, and then joined a group, the Dirty Dozen with a black painted C150 based at Shoreham so I could do some proper trips without bankrupting myself. Unfortunately the aircraft was written off in an incident with another parked aircraft (not by me!). My share of the insurance pay out was more that I had paid to join! I’m now a member of the Five Percent Flying Club (20 members) with a Cessna 172 based at Shoreham. Despite the number in the group, availability hasn’t been a problem and we occasionally share flights. We have a couple of aircraft engineers in the group, so we are all able to pitch in with maintenance even though it is a certified aircraft. I’ve learned loads from doing that.
I’ve been a member of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) since starting flying; it is a useful back-up for advice if you run fowl of the CAA (it does happen) and is an important campaigning pressure group supporting the interest of private flyers in the face of massive challenges from commercial aviation and the EU. I also have plans to have my own permit aircraft so joined the LAA a couple of years ago. Being involved with the Southern Strut has been a great way to meet people who share the passion.
I have a background in IT (university lecturer in computing) so it seemed obvious to volunteer to maintain the Strut website.
Update 3rd October 2014: After missing out on all the fantastic flying weather over the summer as I swapped pills to get my blood pressure back in limits I’m now good to go! Just did my second taildragger lesson in a PA18 Super Cub with Ian Perry at Perry Air, Shoreham. As I type this I can feel my legs aching a bit. 🙂