How did you become a pilot?

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boing
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How did you become a pilot?

#1 Post by boing » Sat Apr 02, 2016 4:31 am

In another thread somewhere someone asked for stories about how you got into aviation. In my case the summary of the whole adventure would be that it was a case of making decisions that most of the time, at the time, seemed to be somewhere between risky and totally insane - but it worked out OK in the end. So, here is one of the decisions that got me airborne.

I had worked, or more precisely goofed, my way through Grammar School and was now in the Upper Sixth (sounds grand now does it not). I was strong in sciences but also interested if not good in the arts. After carrying out some internship work I was now apparently destined to become a ceramics engineer, a hot pursuit at the time. The position was all but confirmed.

Towards the end of the school year an RAF recruiting team visited the school. The briefing was held in the old part of the school which was the sanctum of the sixth form where we had some marvelous old study rooms. The presentation was interesting but I noticed that the team never really mentioned flying as a pilot, they were only interested in some job called Air Electronics Officer, vaguely interesting but if you were going to join the air force I thought that you might as well fly an aeroplane. The briefing team did mention that they would remain for questions after the briefing so I took them up on the offer and asked how I could become a pilot. They were bemused by this question and admitted that they did not exactly know because it was not their department but they did have a pamphlet on how to apply for something called a Special Flying Award.

I followed the instructions in the pamphlet, attended a selection process at Biggin Hill - which is a whole story in itself, and was pleased to win the award which involved learning to fly the Jackaroo at Thruxton airfield to gain a PPL. The Jackaroo is probably an aircraft that nobody has ever heard of but think of an enclosed, four seat, Tiger Moth conversion. Great fun.

The psychology of the RAF was very good. While I was still dancing on air from finishing the training a letter arrived basically saying sign here and you are in. I did and there I was. Never did hear of anybody getting a Nobel prize for ceramics engineering.

And I can truthfully claim that my career spanned from biplanes to the 747-400.
the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#2 Post by ExSp33db1rd » Sat Apr 02, 2016 7:16 am

H.M.Queen Elizabeth the Second demanded my presence for 2 years as a member of her Armed Forces. As a recently qualified photographic apprentice, at the initial medical assessment I approached the RAF recruitment team and asked to be considered as a member of the RAF Photographic Unit, after all, if I was to waste 2 years of my life, then I might as well do something that I enjoyed, and which might also be of advantage to me when I resumed my career ? No, was the reply, we can only consider you for the Photographic Section if you sign on for 10 years. Stuff that for a Game of Soldiers, I retorted ( or words to that effect ) O.K. then, they said, how about becoming a pilot ?

I almost fell off my chair laughing, 10 years for a photographer, I said, then it must be a life sentence to become a pilot ?

Not so, was the reply, as part of NATO the UK is committed to sending some. Pilot trainees to Canada as part of our agreement, so if you want to be considered, sign here. Nothing to lose, so I did.

Having subsequently undergone the aircrew selection process, and being selected to continue, I was then assigned to a Canadian trainee group. I don't know if the most promising candidates were sent to Canada, to show the rest of the World that the RAF had the best pilots, or the worst - to get us out of the way !

On my return Duncan Sandys, the then Defence Minister, had scrubbed the Auxilliary Air Force, so my continued flying career had gone, and further more, to save the taxpayer money on my additional flying pay, I could terminate my National Service there and then. No thank you, by now I was enjoying myself, and if I was not allowed to continue permanently in the RAF - my application having been turned down - so thank you very much I'll keep taking the money whilst I study for my civil pilot licence.

Leaving the RAF I applied to the then Fairey Aero Survey Co. and explained that they had to employ me as I was not only a pilot but also a trained photographer, so could also take the photographs. Yes, the agreed, but not both at the same time, we'll pay you 400 pounds a year as a photographer, or 900 pounds as a pilot, which is it to be ? Big decision, which took about a nano-second to decide, but then, having decided to continue Life as a pilot I learned that BOAC were recruiting, so applied to them. They employed me for 600 p.a. - and made me a Navigator !

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#3 Post by Sisemen » Sat Apr 02, 2016 9:59 am

I took lessons.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#4 Post by boing » Sat Apr 02, 2016 2:08 pm

Yes, the Biggin Hill selection procedure which was to decide if you had what it took to be a military pilot. At one point it actually used a fair-ground video game, as in "fair-ground" with round-abouts, dodgem cars and air-powered organ music, as part of the rating procedure.

The test made use of a mechanical driving game, the sort of thing where you would put in a couple of pennies, operate the machine and see how many points you could score for staying on the road. The machine was in a large case with a glass window at the top rather like a display case. The mechanism inside was a large rotating drum with a winding road depicted on it and appropriate surrounding scenery. There was a steering wheel on the front of the case. The centre of the road consisted of a string of little brass contacts and the idea was that if you could keep the little car moving over the brass contacts, which were electrically connected to a counter, you clocked up points.

The problem was that in the RAF version the steering wheel had been deliberately modified so that there was a large amount of slack in the control system and it did take quite an amount of judgement and anticipation to keep the car on the brass studs.

So the service that was advertising "straight-in" jet training was still using a 1950's mechanical skills game to select its pilots.
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#5 Post by boing » Sat Apr 02, 2016 2:19 pm

Aah! the good old days. Now only three left flying apparently.

Image
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#6 Post by Sisemen » Sat Apr 02, 2016 3:57 pm

But seriously folks.....I left the RAF in 1993 as an administrator with a lifetime's ambition to fly thwarted by eyesight and with the words of a Biggin Hill corporal ringing in my ears during an 'acquaint' visit when I was on recruiting and had a go on the aircrew tests, "Sir, you'll never make pilot so long as you've got a hole in your arse".

Having then moved to country West Australia I joined the local flying club for access to a cheap bar and like-minded people and was eventually conned into taking the secretary role. The President was a local farmer that also had joint shareholder interest in the local aircraft maintenance facility which had been rescued from closure.

It soon became apparent that the young bloke who was the chief engineer couldn't do his supervising LAME role as well as the business administration and financials. At that point the President of the club approached me and said "Come and work for us and we'll pay for you to learn to fly"

It took me all of 5 seconds to make my decision.

I ended up ferrying aircraft to and from the myriad bush strips throughout WA as well some solo ferry trips to the Eastern States and test flying after aircraft had come out of maintenance.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#7 Post by Pinky the pilot » Tue Apr 05, 2016 2:37 am

Began flying Gliders at age 12 as my now late Father was a senior Gliding Instructor and a former RAAF Pilot during WW11.

Always dreamed of joining the RAAF myself but had to wear glasses so that and a poor academic record put paid to that dream.

Found myself living and working in Darwin in the early 80s and sharing a house with a Coastwatch Pilot. (Don L.)
I use to try to get him to talk about flying around the place and more than once wished that I could do the same, but just did not have the finances to do any Pilot training. Finally one day Don just suggested that I get a job on a Seismic Survey Crew as 'they pay well and you could easily afford to do a CPL then.'

I asked him how do you go about getting that sort of job and his reply was that's your problem!

Only a few days later I received a regular letter from my Parents back in the Barossa and my Father mentioned in it that he had just run into one of his mates from years gone by who was working as a cook on a Seismic Survey Crew!

Now if that was not an omen I don't know what else it could have been!

The rest, as they say, is history. I had a job on that crew within a month and a CPL three and a half years later.

Lost contact with Don many years ago but I hope that he is still around somewhere. I know he gave flying away and at one stage ran a restaurant in Darwin but left there quite a few years ago. Really wouldn't mind running into him again one day, just to say
Thanks Mate! :-bd
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#8 Post by dubbleyew eight » Tue Apr 05, 2016 12:21 pm

I remember as a kid in high school looking up at a cessna flying overhead and thinking "I havent the faintest how it does that."
a few years later and one of my mates in the army school of survey said you should come out with me tomorrow. "I'll show you something that is fcuking interesting".
he took me flying in the cessna I had seen overhead.
I met Don, Robert and Bruce Bunn who were running a flying school full of old retired ex point cook flying instructors. probably the best flying school in australia.
that was 46 years ago.
the cessna I learnt to fly in is still living in the same hangar at Albury although the entire ownerships have changed. VH-DVD. same windscreen and same paint after all these years.
ARCAS has been polished off the side though.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#9 Post by rgbrock1 » Tue Apr 05, 2016 1:23 pm

Pilot? Not me. I made part of my living by jumping out of aircraft. Does that count? :D :D
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#10 Post by boing » Tue Apr 05, 2016 8:04 pm

RG
The good news is that all of your time is as first pilot. The bad news is that it is going to take you a long time to get enough hours for a commercial license. :-h
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#11 Post by Ex-Ascot » Wed Apr 06, 2016 4:52 am

'....remember as a kid in high school looking up at a cessna flying overhead and thinking "I havent the faintest how it does that.'

I still don't. There was a kid on a 'fljght deck visit' in the days that it was allowed, who asked that question. I pretended to be busy (rare) and let the F/O explain.

RG I have dropped some of you nutters who have never landed in an aircraft. I once had a problem and had to close one engine down (BN2T) and land. Some of the guys were scared stiff with this concept of arrival.
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#12 Post by Pinky the pilot » Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:32 am

I once had a problem and had to close one engine down (BN2T) and land


You have flown a Turbine Islander?? ^:)^

And you had to land one on only one engine? :-o

I have a total of four, single engine landings in the old 260hp Lycoming powered 'Bongo Vans.'

And if I never ever have another landing, assymetric or otherwise, in one of those aircraft, I will be a very happy chappy!!

EH...WHAT'S THAT?? SPEAK UP PLEASE!! 8-}
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#13 Post by Alisoncc » Wed Apr 06, 2016 10:57 am

Pinky he only had to shut down one engine. Probably flying one of those three engined things, so still had two to keep him up. :))

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#14 Post by rgbrock1 » Wed Apr 06, 2016 11:39 am

Ex-Ascot wrote:'....remember as a kid in high school looking up at a cessna flying overhead and thinking "I havent the faintest how it does that.'

I still don't. There was a kid on a 'fljght deck visit' in the days that it was allowed, who asked that question. I pretended to be busy (rare) and let the F/O explain.

RG I have dropped some of you nutters who have never landed in an aircraft. I once had a problem and had to close one engine down (BN2T) and land. Some of the guys were scared stiff with this concept of arrival.


Landing with one aircraft engine down is a bad thing indeed. Especially when the so-called "nutters" weren't expecting it. What is worse in my experience, though, is having a plan to land the aircraft - a C130 in this case - on a nice, newly-built airstrip only to have to disgorge from that aircraft at the last moment. And especially when that same aircraft has been riddled with 7.62x39 rounds, fired by the welcoming committee. That is a case of "highly unexpected." :D
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#15 Post by Ex-Ascot » Wed Apr 06, 2016 3:10 pm

Actually Pinky I really liked flying the piston but for para dropping it took for ever to get back down due to cylinder head temps. With the turbine I could get down on the deck in one circuit from 12,000' before the nutters in free fall.

Alison, maybe you are right. I thought that thing at the back was an APU.

I was weekend playing for the RAFPA. Our C206 was G-SKYE the piston Islander was G-DIVE and the turbine G-WOTG (RAF Weston on the Green)
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#16 Post by Slasher » Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:28 am

RGB there's nothing more frustrating than being shot at from
the ground and not being able to shoot back at the bastards. ~X(

Never flog a (unarmed) Chieftain into certain parts of wild Africa.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#17 Post by Ex-Ascot » Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:52 am

The last time I was shot at was by the Americans!

The old, 'The Iraqis are coming' the Brits keep their heads down, 'The Brits are coming' the Iraqis keep their heads down. 'The Americans are coming' everyone keeps their heads down.
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#18 Post by Slasher » Sun Apr 10, 2016 9:53 am

I think the Yanks now and then take the odd potshot at somebody just to keep their hand in.

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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#19 Post by Pinky the pilot » Sun Apr 10, 2016 10:41 am

Only ever got shot at by Raskols and most if not all of them, to quote my dear late Father....

"Couldn't hit a bulls arse with a handful of wheat from point blank range!" :D

Well, I never got hit anyway. :-?
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Re: How did you become a pilot?

#20 Post by Fox3WheresMyBanana » Mon Jun 06, 2016 1:13 pm

I wanted to be a pilot since I was born.
I got my first flight, in an Auster, aged 2. I have a pic of me standing next to it, dressed in tights and coat and a cute woolly tie-on hat. I think it was at Hatfield. Twenty eight years later,I climbed into my Tornado at Hatfield, probably the last fighter out of there.

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