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Flying experience

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martin perman18/01/2019 19:15:57
1614 forum posts
67 photos


I regularly buy Pilot, not because I am one, not, but I find it an interesting general aviation magazine.

February's magazine has an article in it which has brought back some happy memories and as the article say's most of us are over 45 and chances are we all either flew in or obtained our BGA "B" certificate after three solo flights in a Slingsby T31 MK3, I was an ATC cadet with 301 sqn Bury St Edmunds and was fortunate to attend one of the multi weekend training courses at RAF Swanton Morley in Norfolk and wondered if any others in the Forum did the same.

Martin P

Andrew Johnston18/01/2019 20:42:01
4719 forum posts
532 photos

Not me I'm afraid. I did go to the ATC at Cardington Camp around 1971 for a few weeks. That was before the days of parents acting as taxis, so a bus into Bedford and then one out to Cardington Camp (right outside the main gate) and the reverse back afterwards. Initially I got on well as I knew a lot of facts about aeroplanes. I even did some target practice with live ammo. When I came to sign on it became obvious that I had to bow 'n' scrape to the next guy up the chain just because he had one stripe on his arm, and so on. That's not me, so I never signed on and left.


martin perman18/01/2019 21:08:45
1614 forum posts
67 photos

The ATC are still at Cardington and have a brand new facility care of a Developer who turned a third of the airfield into homes, the Hotel/Camp headquarters is now a block of apartments but is still an untouched building on the outside. The Developer also had to carry our serious restoration works to the hanger nearest Bedford.

Martin P

ASF18/01/2019 21:36:25
129 forum posts
12 photos

Not me. I did it the other way then.

Work all week and then go to Panshanger for weekend flying.

Probably the nearest I came to an expensive drug blush Think it was £99 an hour back then

66 hours of training and passed 1st time Only failed one written exam as well

pgk pgk18/01/2019 22:39:24
1401 forum posts
278 photos

My licence lapsed about 20yrs ago, It was more than £99 an hour out of Biggin back then. I had the PPL, IMC and Night ratings on three types- great fun but at the price and therefore restricted actual flying I spent as much validating licences as going off on trips. I did make it as far as Denmark and the island of Anholt in the Kattegat. Fun days.


NJH19/01/2019 00:31:37
2314 forum posts
139 photos

Yes Martin as a member of 150F (City of Oxford ) squadron I too attended a course (for a week I think) and,as you say, obtained my A and B gliding certificates. The T31 flew like a brick and instructions were give to make a circuit related to the reading on the altimeter and land anywhere on the field!

This experience, of course, whetted my appetite and, in time, I sought out my local gliding club ( near Oxford) and and was taught to fly properly in a K13. Once solo was achieved then progression was made to a K8 single seater and some soaring was achieved! Progress from there was to buy a share in a syndicate - three of us owned a Pilates B4 ( an all aluminium sailplane) between us . I progressed towards gaining a silver “C” by achieving the height gain and the cross country requirement - all that remained was a 5hr. flight. I must admit that this was a bit off-putting as I didn’ t relish sitting in my armchair for 5hr solid let alone being strapped into a small cockpit! That was all settled by a house move ( to Devon!) so my flying ended there - all gliding clubs are too distant.

Great memories though of happy days spent on the airfield.


Martin Harris 919/01/2019 13:44:43
13 forum posts
Posted by NJH on 19/01/2019 00:31:37:

Yes Martin as a member of 150F (City of Oxford ) squadron I too attended a course (for a week I think) and,as you say, obtained my A and B gliding certificates. The T31 flew like a brick and instructions were give to make a circuit related to the reading on the altimeter and land anywhere on the field!

Laudable as the ATC may be as an organisation for getting young people interested in aviation, my memories as an outsider of their training was rather coloured by a young lad who turned up at Dunstable for a week's course, proudly announcing that he had already soloed with the ATC in a motor glider. First impressions were not good, with poor lookout, little co-ordination and spacial awareness, coupled with a very nervous disposition. It emerged that he had been taught to fly circuits solely by reference to the altimeter and ground features - the exact opposite of the training the BGA encouraged where reference to the apparent angle to the landing point and flexibility in circuit adjustments to counter lift and sink encountered on the circuit was the key to a successful landing approach. A little later in the week he confided in me that he hadn't felt ready to solo but the instructors had sent him anyway - and he'd crashed while making a hash of the circuit!

Another time, I was talking to a member of another club who had been an ATC instructor. He had given up instructing after crashing into an inflatable hangar at Halton...because it hadn't been there the week before!


John McNamara19/01/2019 14:35:28
1299 forum posts
113 photos

Yes got the bug when I was in my 20's and started lessons on a PA28 piper. did about 20 hours. My instructor was David Colquhoun sadly passed, I will always remember him. he retired from the RAAF as Air Commodore DFC AFC, when he retired he kept flying and teaching at the royal aero club Moorabbin. As a young man I was in awe, Oh and what stories he could tell over a drink at the club bar, (at the end of the day)

Once David suggested I go along with him and pick up his Wife from Tullamarine Melbourne's main airport. So a flight plan was lodged and we got clearance not normally given! It helps to have high rank. It was a lot of work for him, he was in command, I was just an onlooker, entering controlled air space with the big planes flying so much faster than us was quite a job, we got our slot and landed. The tower gave us a gate, it was surreal to be in a single engine plane and pull up to a gate that a full size aircraft would normally use. we had to go through a little door and up the stairs on the side of the ramp. So we met up with his wife hopped back on the plane and off we went. What a day!

My partner was not keen on flying it worried her as we had started a family, money was tight too, so that was that. Another memorable flying day was when I went up in a Blanik 2 seater Glider at Benalla, country Victoria. This was an experience I will never forget, It was amazing.


Edited By John McNamara on 19/01/2019 14:40:32

Gray19/01/2019 17:09:28
994 forum posts
8 photos
Posted by John McNamara on 19/01/2019 14:35:28:

Another memorable flying day was when I went up in a Blanik 2 seater Glider at Benalla, country Victoria. This was an experience I will never forget, It was amazing.


Edited By John McNamara on 19/01/2019 14:40:32

Ah, fond memories of Blanik R11 at Bicester RAFGSA. Didi most of my initial flying in that (probably because no one else wanted to fly in a tin can!) Great aircraft with lots of character. Moved on to K21s and then K13 to do final solos then into the K8 and K18 for many enjoyable hours, further flying plans were thwarted by an overseas posting and there endeth my flying days, with a young family the beach clubs of RAF Akrotiri (Cyprus) were more attractive and so began my days as a windsurfing beach bum

Martin Harris 919/01/2019 17:17:47
13 forum posts

Was that the Blanik which killed Andy Gough? A bent rusty spanner was found to have jammed the ailerons and was suspected to have been lodged somewhere in the wing since the glider left the factory, as it was of Czech manufacture...

Cornish Jack19/01/2019 17:46:49
914 forum posts
120 photos

I watched the Andy Gough incident at Brize - tragic, obviously, but quite strange also. He arrived overhead on tow while the previous display was concluding. I was one of very few people to see it and the sequence was OK until the inverted downward portion, when he pushed then relaxed and pushed again. The second push removed the outer wing panels and he disappeared into the bomb dump. I haven't read the BoE report but if Martin's version is correct, it doesn't quite tie in with what I saw - certainly no aileron involvement.



Martin Harris 919/01/2019 17:56:33
13 forum posts

I didn't see it but it was described to me at the time by someone who did. I was told that he appeared to be manouevring to attempt an inverted landing as he was unable to roll out and too low to pull through to upright and hit a guy line from an aerial mast - perhaps that ties in with the wing panel separation?

Edited By Martin Harris 9 on 19/01/2019 18:00:59

Chuck Pickering19/01/2019 18:26:22
36 forum posts
2 photos

I too, got seriously interested in flying Gliders while stationed at RAF Upper Heyford with the USAF in 1975-1977. I Often went to Brize-Norton and worked towing the winch cable to earn my instruction flight time. I believe I was the only yank there at the time. Enjoyed the social time at the Club Bar at the end of the day.


Edited By Chuck Pickering on 19/01/2019 18:27:11

Cornish Jack19/01/2019 18:57:32
914 forum posts
120 photos

Re. flying experience ... varied extensive and (most importantly), free! Joined at Cardington in 53, Swanton Morley training as Signaller during 54, then a total of 34 plus years, 6000 hours split 50/50 fixed wing/helo , operated in all crew positions except gunner, 2+ years Special Duties, completed Air Traffic controller course, test flying Boscombe Down, VC10 Sim console Op, then BA tech instructing (Tristar and 747 400) and Virgin 474. Signed off for full motion ops on all the sims plus demos on BAC 111 and 737-200.

That mish-mash plus having held Master Aircrew rank made my user name easy ... as in "of all trades" with acknowledgement of the complete version!!sad Best flying? unarguably 14+ years helo S&R - on line and instructing and the most satisfying piloting being the Whirlwind 10! - much the most difficult but much the most satisfying when you got it right!

15 years since last involvement - where does the time go?



Neil Wyatt19/01/2019 20:34:17
16277 forum posts
679 photos
74 articles

Got very tempted in my 20s, after a couple of trips in light aircraft, but I felt I couldn't afford frequent enough lessons to be worth it


John Duncker 120/01/2019 02:57:02
32 forum posts

I can still remember the first time I got airborne. My instructor was Howard Edwards. I was flying a Chargus Vortex and the flight lasted about 4 seconds. Why so short well the location was Bletchley Bowl and even with a nice 10 knot breeze helping that is just about as good as it gets in a hang glider on an 80 ft hill.

Those 4 seconds changed m life.It was instant addiction. It was a 4 day course spread over two weekends though it needed a couple more to find the right conditions to get my P1 with three flights with good landings from Dunstable Downs. Between 5.30 am and 7.30 am. My Mini Cooper was sold and a Triumph Herald Estate bought and a front stay added to carry My first glider a Flexiform Spirit. A few weeks later and I got my first soaring flight and top landing at Rhossili Downs on the Gower Peninsula. I can remember clearly my first ever big rough thermal. I was flying Lords Seat in the Peak district and I had no instruments but there was someone flying with instruments I got in under him and suddenly everything started getting smaller pretty quickly. and I was soon at cloudbase. At times it was like a giant Jack Russel had got hold of the glider and was shaking it. The Flexiform Spirit I was flying had 22 feet long 1 1/2 aluminium leading edges with bracing wires. They were certainly flexing as I struggled to stay in that thermal.

When I got home I worked out that I could afford a parachute, a custom flying harness. a Ball vario and a stronger safer better performing glider an Atlas 18. I turned down the lucrative job I had just been offered as it meant relocating to Hong Kong [ no hang gliding there ] and accepted a post as a college lecturer [ 10 weeks summer holidays to go fling in the south of France and Spain. ]

For ten years lived to fly. Weekends would see me following the forecasts to the best flying the UK had to offer Hay Bluff if it was NE or NW Pandy if it was E The Blorange for N Mam Tor Lords Seat and the Roaches got visited but air space was an issue in that area.

But the best das were living in my converted diesel Sherpa in the South of France and poring over the accounts of the flights made in the twentys by glider pilots flying wooden gliders with other pilots as we worked out possible routes to fly. My dream was to fly from the South of France via the Cheval Blanc to Briancon then past rhe Fort at Exiles and on to Milan. I flew it all as legs but never did stitch it together.

I look back now and still get a natural high remembering those magic times. Wave days at weather Fell. Pioneering cross coutnriy routes in the Alps. or jusr cruising effortlessly in the glass off in the early evening when the whole valley lifts off.

I never took a day off work to go flying but everything else was secondary to flying hang gliders.

But there is some sadness.

Howard Edwards ran the hang gliding school killed in a microlight accident

Bob Harrison instructor seriously injured in a paragliding accident

Steve Hunt of Highway Hang gliders who made some special gliders for me always yellow and black and gave me really good deals killed in a microlight accident.

The boss of Mainair Sports who sold me my instruments over the years killed in a microlight accident.

Most recently Kay Simpson/Draper who made my extra comfortable custom harness with all the spreader bars killed in a gliding accident.

Andrew Johnston20/01/2019 20:46:14
4719 forum posts
532 photos
Posted by martin perman on 18/01/2019 21:08:45:

The ATC are still at Cardington and have a brand new facility care of a Developer who turned a third of the airfield into homes

Yep, seen the houses from the air; great shame. I've visited Cardington a number of times over the years. First time in the 1960s I had a ride in a barrage balloon - wait for it - inside one of the sheds. I had a friend at the NAE Aero Club at Twinwood Farm who, as a schoolboy, had seen the R101 on it's mast at Cardington from his school dorm. It must have been an impressive sight.

Both my parents flew gliders in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. My father was on the BGA Tech committee in the 1960s and was part of the design group at Bedford which developed the Olympia 4 series gliders. As a kid I used to cycle up to Twinwood Farm and explore. Eventually I got rides in the Blanik and TIger Moth.

I started gliding properly when I went to RAE Farnborough after I left school. I learnt on a K7 and K13 and progressed to the Olympia 2, but wasn't allowed to fly the Pirat, although I have flown one since. Over the years I've flown at Twinwood Farm, Thurliegh, Sackville Farm, Lyveden and now Gransden Lodge. I did a lot of flying in a Blanik at Twinwoods. Quite an advanced glider for it's era, albeit rather a complex build structure, as befits a commercial aircraft company. One design hiccup was that the levers for the spoilers (pretty useless) and the Fowler flaps were the same size, shape and colour and were about two inches apart on the same side of the cockpit.

I did my Silver height and duration in an Oly2B in stubble fires (RIP) and Silver distance in an Oly463; flew it back as well as the club members said they weren't coming to collect me. All from Twinwood Farm. Gold distance and Diamond Goal were flown from Lyveden in the early 90s and Gold height at Talgarth. Diamond height was first done at Aboyne, having just missed it in a wave flight over Snowdon. Best distance so far is 450km. Currently flying a DG200 and Nimbus 3DT with the odd flight in an Oly2B and, hopefully this year, a Skylark 4.

Not sure how many types I've flown but there have been some oddities including a SHK, FK3, K18, Kestrel 22, SF27 and a Mucha.

I started power flying while I was doing post doc research at Cambridge in this:


Then I flew the Tiger Moth at Thurleigh, a Super Cub at Sackville (where I started towing) and a Wilga at Lyveden. At Gransden we had a Rallye and Pawnee, but now have two Robin DR400s. In the past I've owned shares in a RF5 and Auster.

Total hours, gliding and power, something around 3000.

Occasionally I also dabble in model engineering. smile


Cornish Jack20/01/2019 22:43:57
914 forum posts
120 photos

John D 1 - I can well understand the attraction of hang-gliding - described by some as the nearest you can get to flying like the birds. The tragedies you note are the other side of the coin and in the early days the easy access and lack of 'airmanship' was a recurring factor. It would seem that enthusiasm can still outweigh caution and commonsense ...


Might be worth him having a punt on the lottery!!



Fowlers Fury20/01/2019 23:04:41
323 forum posts
72 photos

The somewhat negative comments about the ATC and gliding bring back one unpleasant memory.
As a teenage member of a school squadron in 1960 we were offered Sunday training days at RAF Spitalgate. Lincs (home of the Central Gliding School). The objective being to gain our A & B licenses. On the final Sunday the RAF officer insisted that those deemed capable of flying solo must be pushed through. By early evening, the winch operators were getting fed up and there were still about half a dozen of us to go.
Unfortuantely as it got later and darker, I was the last to be called. By the time the Kirby had been hitched up and I was strapped in, it was practically dark. No lights on an airstrip, just a large grass field.
On my 3rd launch I couldn't even see where the hell the field was. I didn't believe anyone could see me either. Eventually Aldis lamps were randomly flashed skywards, headlamps put on the Land Rovers and rapidly running out of height, somehow I got it back. It must have been after 23:00h by the time I got to very anxious parents.
But overall, in those days, the ATC experience was great.

Mike Poole20/01/2019 23:05:20
2017 forum posts
46 photos

If you want to do something thrilling and dangerous just get a motorbike, much cheaper than flying.


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