Well there was only one thing for it - I would have to take up this flying lark.
But - How do you start?
I was working up at Biggin Hill one day for the Formula One Production Company! Ecclestone has bought the old RAF station at Biggin - well part of it anyway, and decided to take a look round and collect some brochures. It was a real eye-opener, most schools were shoestring affairs based in old scouthuts, which gave me the impression that people were doing it all for love, as there didn't seem to be any spare cash around for any niceties. I guess they're all spending their money on aircraft. Anyway I thought that they were all much of a muchness, similar prices, some like Cabair gave a very offhand welcome, as though if I wasn't flying for a career, they weren't interested.
I felt that with my lifestyle I couldn't be a weekend student and decided on an intensive course. Research proved that the principle place to do this was the States, however you have to add on the cost of travel and accomodation, which meant little saving to one closer to home, added to this - no-one could give a straight answer to the question of license compatability, the worst case seemed to be a further few hours flying and to sit another exam (Aviation Law) to convert to a British Licence. After due consideration I plumped for a 3 week intensive course with Stratair on Alderney.
Alderney - a nice quiet island - No VAT - perfect. The course came with very cheap accomodation at the Deveraux Hotel owned by the same people who ran Stratair - the school, all I had to worry about was the weather.
Well - 1 PA28 Tomahawk - 1 instructor - 2 then 3 students - crap weather - 10 minute transit to French airspace each way before you could do anything, wearing a life vest! All housed in an old scout hut on the airfield.-------- I had a fabulous time!!!
Sadly Bill Brooks the Instructor quit due to overwhelming pressure of work, coupled with little or no support from the owners, so it all came to rather an abrupt halt. No replacement was found which left me a little in the lurch.
I rejoined Bill, a week later and flew from Biggin Hill down to Haute Provence, the site of his old school The Sisteron Valley Flying Club where in a week I had regained the lost ground and had over 30 hours in the Logbook, including a fabulous 6 hour flight through the heartland of France at 10,000ft over the mountains.
Then came WINTER 97 - what a pain that was! pressure of work mean't I couldn't sort the remainder of the course, whilst in the meantime Bill had joined the Bournemouth School of Flying which within 6 weeks of his joining had been sold to CabAir and he was once again looking for a job.
I did some flying in Bournemouth, in a Piper Warrior II, but it was no more than a few hours of refresher flying, and you guessed it, I spent most of the time helping to tie down the aircraft, due to the Tornadoes that were lashing the Southampton and Bournemouth area.
I have now returned to the scene of the accident - Biggin Hill. I learned here that the CAA require the written exams to be sat within 12 months of the application for the licence, also Spin/Slow flight and Instruments within 9 months. I had a lot to redo! Biggin Hill is however a great place to fly, as it is so busy! OK Alderney was great to hone your landings, both ends of the 18m wide runway are within 300ft of the cliffs, and you have to be very precise and always on your toes. Sisteron was also great, the hard runway being only 10m wide with no centreline also makes for a precision approach to landing. Flying in the Alps also requires a high level of vertical navigation, and definitely a full understanding of thermal activity, no wonder it's the Mecca for european gliders!
Biggin Hill is one of the busiest GA airfields and has given me the opportunity to experience the full gamut of pattern approaches, in very busy airspace. I joined Iris Goodger at Classair flying a Robin 3000/120 and after finishing the qualifying cross country (Biggin, Cambridge, Southend, Biggin), I took the GFT on 28th July 1998 and passed, I delivered all the paperwork to the CAA at Gatwick on the Day, The licence arrived almost 4 weeks later, during which time I had a checkout flight in a Robin 3000/160, a four seat tourer, in which I now have over 40hrs.
I picked up my Private Pilots Licence on the 24th August 1998 so it's official - Kev can Fly!!
I'd like to thank Bill Brooks, for his patience and support, and Iris Goodger for kick starting and finishing me off!! Good Luck to you both! I'll be seeing you!
I have been flying G-PAVL a 160hp Robin 3000
Since this time I have logged up to almost 100 hours, I have flown into many airfields in the South East, also crossing the Channel into Le Touquet, which was very much easier than I first imagined, I was lucky with weather, it seemed like stepping through a door mid-channel and became a glorious day there ( great mussels). I tried twice to fly on business down into the Paris area, but had to abort due to bad weather and take the train. I am looking forward to a weeks flying down throughout France this summer, which should help on logging the 12 hours needed for this 2nd year of JAA regulations.
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