I was commissioned as an Acting Pilot Officer on Probation on 30th May 1959. After completing pilot training on Piston Provosts at No 2 FTS, Syerston and Vampire T.11s at No 8 FTS, Swinderby, I was awarded my Wings on 18th November 1960. Following the Bassingbourn OCU Course, I was posted to No 31 (PR) Squadron, flying Canberra PR7s on low-level photographic reconnaissance.
In November 1963, I was posted to the OCU at Finningley, to fly Vulcan B2s. I joined No 35 Squadron, Coningsby, in April 1964, moving to Cottesmore in November of that year. The most memorable period during my time in the V-Force (nuclear role at the height of the Cold War) was a Pacific Ranger (complete westabout circumnavigation of the globe) lasting two weeks in September 1967, stopping at such exotic places as San Francisco, Honolulu, Wake Island and Guam.
In January 1969, I left No 35 Squadron and completed a Canberra Refresher Course at Bassingbourn, before joining the Radar Research Flying Unit, RRE, Pershore, where I flew Canberra variants (and hybrids!) and Viscount 837/838s. We were cleared down to 50ft AGL – definitely my best tour in the RAF!
In July 1971, I was posted to CFS Little Rissington, for QFI training on No 258 Course. In January 1972, I commenced an 18-month tour at Linton-on-Ouse, instructing on Jet Provost 3s and 5s. The unexpected swift return to CFS Staff at Little Rissington tore me away prematurely from those glorious Yorkshire Dales. My tour at CFS included instructing on the ‘Waterfront’, Pilot Navigation Instructor (air and ground), HQCFS Air Staff (writing the Commandant’s correspondence, and helping him choose the next Red Arrows – heady stuff!) and Air Cadet Liaison Officer – often all four simultaneously! On 12th April 1976, I flew Jet Provost Mk5A, XW425 in a Formation Flypast – destination, Cranwell, where CFS set up its new home. So, having failed three times to become a student at Cranwell, I finished up on the staff!
I left the RAF on 1st July 1977, not wishing to take up a career flying desks. Then followed ten years as a Commercial Flying Instructor at Oxford Air Training School, mostly on Piper Seneca Mk2s, training the World’s airline pilots up to CPL/IR standard. When my instructional juice had been used up, I joined FR Aviation, Bournemouth (Hurn), flying Dornier 228s and BN2T Turbine Islanders on seriously low-level maritime reconnaissance (Fisheries Patrol, Customs Patrol, Foreign Submarine Spotting, Hush-Hush Stuff, Search & Rescue, Coastguard, Dumping & Dredging, and HM Government General Dogsbody on the High Seas). I was a Flight Commander, Training Captain and Licensed Hooligan – definitely my best flying job ever!
In September 1998 after looming redundancy, I chose early retirement, and reflected upon my incredible run of good fortune, which in many ways felt uncomfortably similar to the tales related by Ernest K. Gann in Fate is the Hunter! Perhaps the Closest Encounter of the Nervous Kind was an argument with an ITCZ thunderstorm at Butterworth, Malaysia, on 15th July 1966. At 700ft on final approach in a Vulcan, we lost 45kts in a split second and literally fell out of the sky in a deep stall, in what was recognised years later as a microburst. My Guardian Angel was quite adamant that standard stall recovery would not work. What He/She gave me in that instant of sheer terror was the only way to survive a microburst. We managed to climb away at 150ft! Many years (and many incidents) later, I wondered – for how much longer in my career could I be this well protected and avoid the clutches of the Grim Reaper? So, when my ATPL came up for renewal in December 2004, I allowed it to lapse, and reluctantly, but gratefully, hung up my flying boots, with a total of 16,000 flying hours. I now live in Oxford with my wife, Carol. We both enjoy walking, beachcombing, geology, and gardening.