Tag: Exeter Flying Club

Nostalgia with wings!

Opening up the memory box.

Last Saturday, under the post title of The family flight, I wrote about the formation display given by five A350 XWB development aircraft.

That prompted a comment from Hariod Brawn:

He [my father] was an RAF pilot during the war and through to the early 1960’s. He test-piloted the Vulcan and Victor, though started on what he called ‘string bags’, by which he meant Tiger Moths. In between he flew the Spitfire, Lancaster, Meteor and specialised in flying in electrical storms, about which he wrote a manual for the RAF.

……

I took my father to see Vulcan XH558 fly what was then thought to be its final flight (it subsequently was overhauled and took to the skies again). It flew along the length of the runway at a 45 degree angle with its bomb bay doors open. On the inside of the doors in huge letters was the single word ‘farewell’. It was really quite an emotional experience both for my father and myself.

I thought it would be nice to include some video of XH558; that will be tomorrow’s post. For today, I wanted to reminisce from my own private flying days.

A K-7 two-seat glider.
A K-7 two-seat glider.

My first exposure to private flying was on the 7th June, 1981 when, at Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk, I was taken up for two air-experience circuits in a two-seater glider known as a ‘K7’.  I was immediately hooked! Those experience flights leading to a 4-minute flight (flight number 46) on the 6th September, 1981 that has the remark in my pilot’s log book: Solo!  Now fast forward to October, 1984 and my log book shows me attending a gliding instructor’s course at Lasham, resulting in me being issued with a British Gliding Association (BGA) Assistant Instructor Rating on the 14th October. (105/84).

Over on the power side of things, in March, 1984, I started Private Pilot training at the Suffolk Aero Club at Ipswich Airport and gained my PPL on the 9th November, 1984.  Subsequently, gaining my Instrument Rating in July, 1999 when I was then operating from Exeter Airport and flying frequently for business purposes.  For that ‘serious’ flying I used a Socata TB20, a French retractable, single-engined aircraft, based at Exeter.  A very fine, long-distance aircraft.

TB20, G-BPAS, photographed at Compton Abbas airfield (EGHA).
TB20, G-BPAS, photographed at Compton Abbas airfield (EGHA).

But the aircraft that I had the most fun flying was a dear old Piper Super Cub.  Here’s the background to the aircraft.

Piper Super Cub, L-21B, R-151

A/C Construction No. 18-3841, Frame No. 18-3843

Original Engine, Lycoming 135 Type 0-290-D2, 54/2441

Romeo 151 was one of a batch of 298 L-21’s delivered in 1954. There were 584 L-21B’s produced by Piper for military use, the ‘L’ standing for Liaison. The L-21B’s were PA-18-135’s with civil Lycoming 0-290-D2 engines, glasswork as most L-21A’s and L-18’s and a gross weight of 1760 lbs.

This aircraft was delivered to Koninklijke Luchtmacht, Dutch Air Force, on the 1st July, 1954 and registered R-151. After various homes R-151 transferred to the Dutch civil register as PH-GER, 1st April 1976 with 4,458 hours and shortly thereafter was registered to Vlieclub Hoogeveen, Certificate Number 2380.

On the 27th March, 1981 the aircraft was delivered to the UK with a total time of 5,043 hours and in September, 1981 became G-BIYR; ‘YR’. In April, 1983 YR was the first of type to be given a Public Transport CofA (Certificate of Airworthiness) and was used for training at Tollaton. YR reverted to a Private CofA in January, 1984 when purchased by Mike and Barbara Fairclough. The aircraft had by then accumulated 5,120 hours.

In 1992, YR was re-engined with a Lycoming 150HP, 0320-A2B No. L49809-27A (zero hours). Finally on the 2nd June, 1995 the aircraft was repainted in her original Dutch insignia and given CAA (UK Civil Aviation Authority) permission to use the original call-sign: Romeo 151.

The aircraft was based at and flown from Watchford Farm airstrip in South Devon, England.

Now forgive the nostalgic photographic memories!

Approaching home in South Devon, England
Yours truly approaching Watchford Farm airstrip in South Devon, England
Flying in the French Alps, Mt Blanc in sight
Flying in the French Alps with Mont Blanc in sight
9,300 ft up in the French Alps
9,300 ft up in the French Alps!

Every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit.  So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in.  As the next picture shows, there was absolutely no problem with that!

Come on Dad, let's get this thing off the ground!
Come on Dad, let’s get this thing off the ground!

My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft.  First, I did some taxying around Watchford’s large grass airfield to see how Pharaoh reacted.  He was perfectly behaved.

But then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight.  In the Piper Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or became agitated it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh sitting in the seat behind me.  So, in the end, I abandoned the idea.  The chances are that it would have been fine.  But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.

Thus we elected for taxying all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with full doggie approval.  The date was July 2006.

That was fun!
That was fun!

So enough of my recollections for today – tomorrow the Vulcan XH558.

Take your hands off the controls

Is that what I heard?

“Take your hands off the controls.”

We were climbing after take off in a Cessna 152, and I was applying significant control inputs to keep the aircraft level. Before the flight, there had been some conversation among other pilots on the ground about there being some turbulence at low level today, and I had just remarked that this seemed to be true.

In response to this gentle instruction, I took one hand off the control column, but continued to concentrate on maintaining the attitude of the aircraft in the bumpy conditions. Then the instruction was repeated, still gently, but with a little more emphasis:

“Take your hands OFF the controls”!

Now, whether one follows instructions like this does depend to some extent on who is issuing them! On this occasion, I was honoured to be flying with the most capable pilot and flying instructor I have ever met, or am ever likely to meet.

As it happens, I was not formally under instruction, being qualified to fly and my “passenger” having lost that privilege on medical grounds. Nevertheless, when flying with other people there is always something to learn and, when flying with someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Dickie Dougan, one is learning all the time! Dickie had a very long flying career during which very many people learnt a tremendous amount from him. Sadly, he passed away in 2007, at the age of 89.

So, in this case, the instruction was being issued by someone for whom I had the utmost respect and trust. Nevertheless, it was contrary to my instincts and seemed to me to be decidedly risky.

Very gingerly, I let go of the controls which, now free from my grasp, moved more violently and over a much wider range than I had been moving them. My instinct was to grab them again, but my trust in the instruction that I’d been given was just sufficient to hold that instinct at bay for a short while.

The aircraft seemed to be rolling more than it had under my control, but it was returning to level flight fairly consistently. It was, at least, stable and seemed to be flying satisfactorily without any input from me (to be accurate, I was continuing to apply some right rudder to compensate for the yaw effects of the single propellor in the climb, but it seemed to me that I was not controlling anything!)

After I had realised that the world was not turning upside down and my level of anxiety lowered slightly, Dickie then said quietly, in his soft Irish tones:

“There you are; you’re working too hard! The aircraft can fly itself!”

Incidents like that teach us something quite profound. The world functions without us.

We are not the centre of the universe!

Background:

This post was inspired by Trey Pennington’s description of his conversation with his daughter about Copernicus, as described in his interview of C.C.Chapman.

Further information about the legendary Dickie Dougan can be found in this document in an obituary for him written by Chris Martin who was the Chief Flying Instructor at Exeter Flying Club during the time that I was trained there.

By John Lewis