Posts Tagged 'booker'

Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

I enjoyed my years at Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) for three reasons – I loved flying – I loved teaching and I loved my home comforts. All three came together when I married Ann in 1943.

Booker airfield was all grass in those days, and we took off and landed into wind. We commenced flying at 8.00am and flew until 12.30 or 1.00, had some lunch in the mess and returned to our flying at about 2.00pm. At 6.00pm we left the flying to the night boys. Those of us who were flying that night would finish day flying a bit early or might go straight on to night flying and have the following morning off. A busy life but I loved it. There were plenty of challenges to be mastered for we flew in all weathers compatible with the aircraft we flew, Tiger Moths and Magisters. I think most of us became extremely good pilots – as Cecil (Sagittarius Rising) Lewis wrote in his book “All my Yesterdays” ‘There is nothing like instructing for improving one’s flying’.

I had many good pupils and rarely failed to get them up to solo flying. I remember one interesting case of a pupil I had to fail on account of his night flying. The glide indicator at the beginning of the approach used three lights – green, amber or red. If you were too high you saw Amber, if you were too low you saw Red and Green was the correct one. The Amber meant closing the throttle to lose some height. The Red meant open the throttle further until you could see Green. This pupil consistently closed the throttle when the red light appeared and I am pretty sure he had no suicide tendencies. He passed all tests for colour blindness. Once when we were three miles away over the valley above Wycombe and the red light showed I had time to ask him ‘What colour do you see?’ He answered ‘Red’. ‘And what does that mean?’ ‘We are too low’ and he opened the throttle a little which I immediately increase to full throttle and hoped I was not too late!

Later in the war I remember I was with my pupil over Maidenhead when I noticed the sky in the West almost completely blacked out by aircraft. They were on their way to Arnhem. They were also towing gliders and approaching at 140 mph or so in a line so long that I knew they would reach me in a few moments. More worrying was that they seemed to cover the air from almost ground level up to 2000ft. I was at 1000ft and knew I couldn’t fly round this armada or out-climb it. There was only one way left – get down to tree height as quick as you can. It was a frightening few moments as I aimed the Tiger Moth at the ground in a vertical dive and levelled off brushing tree tops at 100 feet or so, as the masses of tugs and gliders, some of them flown by pilots I may have personally trained, swept by. The lowest of them was only some 200 ft above the ground and they kept on coming for the next ten minutes while I crept back to Booker! Obviously we couldn’t be warned to expect this attack on the bridge at Arnhem.

Life was sometimes frustrating. Trying to instruct on a very busy circuit with a pupil almost ready for solo encourages us to fly to one of the nearby fields we used for forced-landing practice. Such a field was within the river bend above Henley. This field had been a mushroom farm and I remember the times we instructors would go there, park our Tiger Moths around the edge and instructors and their pupils would be seen picking mushrooms and packing them into the Tigers’ lockers. We would get going early and our CO. O’Donnell soon found that his practice of standing on tarmac with his stopwatch at 8.0’clock to check any late starters was no longer necessary. Unfortunately the seeds of doubt started hatching – Why? He asked our CFI Jackie Hicks to get airborne early to discover what we were ‘up to’ – in this case ‘down to’ is more appropriate for he discovered all his instructors on their hands and knees at this field picking the best of the mushrooms, and rather than joining us he decide to put a stop to the practice we had enjoyed.

Some of us did not have to fly beyond Booker to increase our wartime rations. I landed on and killed a hare. I did not know I had done so but another instructor had seen it and added that as he was eating in the mess he had no use for it. Ann turned it into a superb ‘jugged hare’ which we much enjoyed – likewise a partridge which my flight commander Davies had killed but forgot to take with him when he went on leave.

For solo cross-country training we used Fairoaks, Sywell and Cambridge aerodromes and it was on one of these exercises we came into contact with the cable of a drifting barrage balloons which I have already mentioned.

One of these cross-country exercises my pupil consistently got lost and I wanted to see what he would do. He said he would land at the first airfield he saw and ask them where he was. I told him to go ahead as I wasn’t sure myself. By a few gentle suggestions I was able to get him to go towards Booker as I told him that most airfields were built to the same pattern. We finally arrived at Booker and I told him to go to the control tower to find out where we were while I remained in the cockpit. He returned with a broad smile on his face!

This reminds me of Finlay who was an American who joined us before the Americans entered the war. He was solo in America but had considerable difficulty in flying a Tiger Moth. His solo flying had been on tricycle-equipped aircraft. We were all very fond of Finlay and our Flight commander at that time was S/Ldr Davey who, like Cecil Lewis had been a pilot in the 14/18 war. He decided to take on Finlay but could make very little progress with him and handed him over to me. After a week I manager to get him solo and I remember Davey’s words as with remarkable hindsight he said “Oh dear. I feel our troubles have just started.” And indeed they had! Although Finlay now flew the Moth well he would lose his way as soon as he strayed any distance beyond the circuits at Booker and we were often picking him up from airfields miles away. I well remember his last flight when we received a phone call from Pershore Airfield, near Worcester. “We have just sent off one of your pilots – a fellow called Finlay – we refuelled him and pointed him towards Booker.” So in about an hour he should have arrived. But it was three hours later that he turned up – as we were just about to stop flying for the day. Davey told me to march him into the Flight hut first thing the next morning. I did so and witnessed the following interview – Davey: “Finlay can you tell me why you took off on your own when you know you are not allowed to do so?”

Finlay “Well sir I had caused so much trouble in the past that I felt one more would make no difference.”

Davey “ Can you tell me why you took so long to get to Booker?”

Finlay “ I had to stop to refuel at Eastleigh” (An airfield on the South coast)

At this point I noticed Davey suddenly drop his head onto the desk and indicated with both arms that he wanted me to march Finlay out of the Flight hut. I returned to find Davey literally weeping with laughter. The next few days saw the Americans enter the war and Flinlay left us to join them.

S/Ldr Davey often took us up above the clouds where he demonstrated leading several aircraft with his hand signals as they did in the last war. He once told us to follow him to Booker as a a formation and make a formation landing. “ I shall be in trouble for this” he said after we landed because we were not allowed to practise formation flying. And indeed he was posted to other duties soon afterwards. The CO and the CFI thought he was getting too old and should be given a less demanding job. Davey turned up once at Booker flying a Tiger Moth from the front seat! He told us he was mapping out many airfields with the idea of possible extensions. As for his front-seat flying he said “It’s warmer and I can smoke my pipe!”

After the war Ann and I took Davey to lunch in London and I feel I might include on of his experiences when surveying airfields after he left booker. It has nothing to do with me but is typical of an older man who possessed great skill in map reading and mathematics and who would often put himself on the night-flying stint if the weather was specially bad and he noticed a junior instructor there. He told us “I decided to visit an airfield on the Welsh border. When I was approaching the Welsh mountains the cloud level began to drop. I was gaining height at the same time, I was following a valley and soon realised it was too narrow to turn in so press and with my map and my watch I calculated the moment when I had to make a turn to the right. The right wing-tip brushed the top of the trees – I had been a bit early in my turn – but I was now clear and only had to climb on full throttle to get clear of the surrounding peaks. When I knew I had enough height I flew West until I was clear of the coast. I then descended to sea level, found where I was and then found the airfield and landed. The place was empty and in the watch tower they asked me ‘where have you come from?’ I said I have just landed here. ‘What do you mean? We have been shut all day.’ It took them a while to accept the situation.”

Vignettes of an Instructor’s life

All instructors had to maintain a high standard of blind-flying ability. We flew in pairs for this exercise – one as ‘look-out’ and the other under the hood. I often used this exercise to visit my brother at White Waltham where he was stationed flying for the ATA. My flight commander at one time was F/Lt Davies who possessed a bristling moustache. He and I decided to see what the food was like at Henlow which was the RAF medical centre and training hospital. The officers’ Mess was the lovely Rothschild house near the aerodrome. We walked into a large room packed with high-ranking officers – Squadron Leaders and above and not one of them with RAF wings. Davies looked them over rather pointedly – his moustache bristled and having got their attention said “bloody penguins” in a loud voice. They didn’t seem to mind and we had a good lunch.

At one time pressure was put on all instructors to sample life at the sharp end where many of our pupils would be going. We were given the option of a trip in a bomber or a Sunderland Seaplane. I chose the latter and was posted to Mount Batten, near Plymouth, for a week. My crew were enthusiastic Australians and I enjoyed their company. When we couldn’t find a U-Boat we would drop a smoke bomb and try to sink it before it expired naturally. A story going about at that time concerned a Wing Commander instructor who requested the Captain of his Sunderland, who was only a flight lieutenant, that he be allowed to take the controls. The humble F/Lt let him do so but became worried when the Sunderland headed inland and started to loose height, and alarmed when he commenced a circuit of Hendon airfield, the W/.Cs own airfield. He spoke very abruptly to the W/C and they headed back to Mount Batten where they landed. The F/Lt was worried that his abrupt words to a superior officer might do him no good. He apologised and the W/C accepted this and added “Yes, it was rather foolish of you to think I could mix up a landplane with a seaplane.” He then opened the door and stepped straight into the water!.

We lost a respected instructor when Sergeant Needham did not return from a bomber raid. Instructors also cost a lot to train. Altogether not a well thought out scheme I fear.

Tiger Moth solo

One should never fly a Tiger Moth solo from the front seat. I have only once seen this done and that was when my flight commander Davey flew in to see us after he was consigned to another job. He was also smoking his pipe! “It is so much less draughty in the front seat” was his explanation. While he was with us at B flight he never shirked any of the routing jobs; taking night-flying in the foulest weather and often taking the place of any new instructor who he considered should be broken in gently. He delighted in meeting half-a-dozen of us above cloud and re-enacting formation flying as they did it in the last war with hand signals. We were not allowed to practise formation flying and I well remember the day when he got us to do a formation landing. “I shall be on the mat for this” he said. But I think it was his age and the fact that he often wheezed that made our CFI Hicks post him to a less demanding job. His new posting was surveying airfields all over the country for possible enlargements. Ann and I made contact with him after the war and we often met. He was wonderful company and some of the trips he did on his surveying business were hair-raising.

On one of these trips Davey was told to survey an airfield on the coast of Wales near Snowden. He started off with his carefully studied map of the area and his stop watch. As the ground rose as he neared the mountains he decided to follow a valley which did not place too much strain on the climbing ability of the Moth. But mist and clouds were descending and forcing him lower and lower until he was flying at treetop height. The valley at this point was too narrow to permit a turn and retreat. This left the option of climbing through the clouds. He knew exactly where he was and he also saw that in another mile he would have to make a 900 turn to avoid rising ground that was well above the Moth’s climbing ability. Out came his stopwatch and mental calculations told him when to turn. He was only a few seconds out and his right wingtip missed the ground by inches. But he was now free to climb until he was higher than any peak ahead. He then headed West until he was clear of land before descending to sea level. He then returned to the coast, located his position, found the airfield and landed there. He found no-one about and those in the control tower told him “We have been closed all day so you can’t have flown in”. “Well, I just have” Davey replied and had to show them his Moth before they would be satisfied!

Tiger Moths

The Tiger Moth Story has given me great pleasure and I now wonder if I am the only person left who has done repeated slow rolls in a standard (unmodified) Tiger Moth without losing any height.

I learnt this in 1940 when under training at Cambridge airfield from which I emerged as a full qualified EFTS instructor. As far as I can remember I could generally manage three rolls before ‘losing it’. My instructor was W/C Peter May who was the CFI at that time. He demonstrated six of these rolls and once, when I was acting as his safety pilot, he did six under the hood. When I managed three I was flying solo. I remember Peter May’s words as we started the inverted part of the roll: “Just keep enough back pressure on the stick to keep the petrol flowing”, beautifully demonstrated by several gentle and very slight back movements which conveyed exactly what was required. I managed one of these rolls with Peter May and when we landed he said “Now, boy, go and practise”!

A short time after this Peter May was shot down in an Albermarle when towing a glider during the Sicily landings. Flying the Albermarle was an achievement in itself. It was built using no aluminium and was so heavy that pilots reckoned it was useless. I believe about 60 of these 2-engined bombers were built.

Flying at Booker – navigation

Apart from teaching our pupils the art of flying they were taught the art of navigating their way about the country. Use of the compass, the effect of wind etc. As the duration of their course at Booker was a fixed one the weather was often the limiting factor and sometimes we were unable to get our pupils up to the solo stage. But the war would not stop to suit our convenience, so we just had to do our best. It cost a lot to train a pilot up to flying a Spitfire or a Lancaster and if we could sort out the likely pilots from the unlikely ones at the beginning of their training a lot of money and time would be saved. Thus the grading scheme was started and a few instructors were chosen to carry it out. I was one of these. We were required to test all pupils who had failed to go solo and any others with whom their instructors had some doubt. Thus produced some interesting results including my only crash!

The pupil had not soloed but was considered ready but for poor weather. His general flying was good and his approaches and landings good. Normally I would have sent him on a solo flight, but there was something about him that worried me. I said to him “I am going to ask for one more circuit; you had it all your own way so far and I am going to give you a small problem”. I handed over to him on the start of the approach and final leg – but about 20 feet too high. He closed the throttle and started the approach at the correct speed there was plenty of airfield ahead – and I mentally relaxed and removed my had from the stick thinking ‘he’s OK’ when suddenly he pushed the stick hard forward. We hit the ground – the undercarriage crumpled and the propeller was quickly reduced to the boss. For some time after this I was known as ‘crasher Steynor’.! Another moment I remember was testing a pupil who had not soloed and after putting him through all the most fiendish positions to which he reacted as an experienced pilot would I said “I find it hard to believe you have never soloed. As far as I am concerned you can go solo whenever you want to”. I have a strong feeling that I was being tested by the Air Ministry as to my ability for this job as a grading officer.

Flying at Booker – landing out

The country between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury was our low flying area and when a pupil had soloed we would send him there to practise his flying and so prevent the circuit becoming over crowded. There was a useful landmark in this area – the Chinnor cement works with its smoking chimney – and pupils were told to fly south when they wanted to return to Booker. If they failed to spot the airfield in poor weather they would soon see the river Thames. Then all they had to do was find Marlow and follow the road to the airfield. I remember when two of our pupils on the same day didn’t make it home. One of them turned left when he saw the river and followed it for miles and miles, finally landing at Hornchurch. The other one turned right and flew on and on until, as he said “I ran out of river and landed in a field”. The barrage balloons were up and the first one had flown through the lot. When asked if he had seen them he replied “Oh yes, but I kept well below them”!

If a pupil lost his way and ‘landed out’ he was instructed to phone Booker with as much information as possible and we would send two instructors in a single Tiger Moth to retrieve him My flight Commander Michael Harraway and I formed a rescue team and we had some interesting moments. A pupil had landed in a field at Pinner and the police had put him in the local Goal. My sister-in-law Betty lived in Pinner and I phone her and we met at the field. She was thus able to see our rescue team in operation. On another occasion a pupil had landed in a field next to the local vicar’s house. The vicar insisted we had tea with him before we left. The vicar had an attractive daughter and Michael told me to take the pupil back in the pupil’s Tiger Moth and he would follow later. This worried me a bit because Michael was very susceptible to young ladies and it was already late in the day and we had a forty mile journey ahead of us. I was met on the airfield by the CFI, Jackie Hicks, with “What’s happened to Michael?”. He arrived half-an-hour later as our CFI was about to get the Chance-light going. Before coming to Booker Michael had been adjutant to Group Captain Malan at Biggin Hill. He suggested to me that we could use our compulsory blind-flying time by flying to Biggin Hill. We went there in a Magister and arrived as their Spitfires were returning from a successful strike over France. A moment for celebration followed, and Michael was quickly drawn into the Officers’ Mess. I went to the Sergeants’ Mess and had some difficulty refusing most of the drinks offered me. But I had the journey home and I had doubts about Michael’s ability to fly when the time came to go. My doubts were justified and his friends had to lift him into the Magister. I needed a little help too I regret to say and I have no memory of the actual take-off. The first thing I can remember was that we were at 2000ft and my brain was clearing. I think Michael was then asleep. I was now faced with the task of locating the half-mile gap over the river which marked the only safe crossing if we were to avoid being shot down by the Army anti-aircraft guns. In my present state I knew this would be impossible. The alternative was to fly South until clear of balloons. It was a longer flight, but I was becoming more sober every minute and made a good landing back at Booker. Looking back at this episode I remember feeling confident that I would be able to manage. I put this down to the competence one achieves from a thousand hours of instructing. As Cecil Lewis says in his last book, All My Yesterdays, “In the First World War I had been accounted a first-class fighter pilot, expert in aerobatics; but there is nothing like instructing to teach you accurate flying. By the time I had been at it three months, I was flying far more skilfully than I had ever flown before.”

After the war Michael Harraway became our solicitor. Ann and I were fond of him and he often stayed with us. He lost his life at a fireworks party given by Diana Dors when some fireworks exploded inside the house and set fire to it.

Flying at Booker

Early in 1942 an American, Finlay, came as pupil to B flight. America had not yet decided to help us. Finlay had soloed in America and he just felt the urge to help us in the war. We all wanted to do our best for him and his training was taken in personal hand by our flight commander, F/Lt Davey who had been a pilot in the 14-18 war and, like Cecil Lewis, had re-enlisted. But Davey failed to get Finaly up to solo in a Tiger Moth, and he asked me to see what I could do. I see from my log Book I took Finlay up seven times covering 2 hours before sending him solo on March 10th 1942. I remember Davey’s words when I gave him this news. “I think our troubles have just begun.” How true this was to prove! Finlay could fly safely enough, but his navigation skill was nil. I gather that in America there are straight lines everywhere. Like our own pupils Finlay was required to do several solo cross country flights. Even if he landed at another aerodrome he was supposed to phone Booker to get someone to guide him back home. After a few such flights Finlay decided to do it his way “I have caused enough trouble already”. I think he arrived at his last destination, but the return to Booker beat him. We receive a call from Pershore airfield “ We have just sent off your LAC Finlay having pointed him in the right direction.” Now Pershore is about an hour away but he only made it back after some three hours. Next morning I marched Finlay before Davey in our flight hut. “Why did you take so long to get here from Pershore?” Davey asked him. “Well Sir, I had to stop to re-fuel”. I saw Davey drop his head and cover his face with his left hand whilst indicating ‘get out of my sight’ with his right. I marched Finlay out of the hut and found Davey crying with laughter, tears running down his cheeks. America was now in the war with us and Finlay joined them.

Cecil Lewis

During the early years of the war Cecil Lewis came to Booker as an instructor. Cecil, who wrote ‘Sagittarius Rising’ about his flying experiences in the 1914/18 war, lived at Frieth, half a mile from where Ann and I lived, but apart from this our lives came together in a somewhat dramatic way. Apart from my flying duties I had taken on the job of entertainments officer and Cecil loved producing sketches. I got to know him well and he chose me for some of the more exciting flying duties he was also involved in. One must remember that there were moments in the war when the possibility of stuka attacks were quite likely and the powers-that-be decided a simulated attack by our own home-based aircraft would not do the citizens of Marlow any harm A programme was arranged by Cecil who asked me to accompany him in another Tiger Moth. The proceedings started by a ‘bomb’ dropped by me at 8.30 am on the Pedestal at West Wycombe. I did this exactly on time to complete silence. I expect the fellow with the matches was still asleep! Half an hour later Cecil and I found the RP post in Marlow – at Quoiting Square – and by repeated dives almost down to ground level, we quickly cleared it. I flew as his ‘inside left’ position with my wingtip only a few feet from his fuselage. We then flew up the High Street at dangerously low level before flying close to Henley and then back up the river with our tailskids inches from the water. Then came a moment I will never forget.

Would Cecil or would he not fly under Marlow bridge? We had no radio in those days but I had decided to keep close to Cecil’s Tiger and we approached the bridge as almost one unit (there was another Tiger Moth in our dive-bombing unit – a F/LT Shepherd – but he had remained well outside to the right throughout). Just short of the bridge Cecil pulled up in a climbing turn to the left and we then faced the church spire: Cecil went to the right of this, but I could see there was just no room for me between Cecil and the spire and I pulled away and went to the left of it. But it was far too close to have been planned. I thought then, and still think over sixty years later, that Cecil had forgotten that I was tucked under his left wing as it were. He preferred not to talk about it afterwards. But I never let him forget it.

To this day I still look at that magnificent church and its spire with especial affection whenever I am in Marlow.

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For many years I have been interested in miracles – not just lucky moments which we all experience from time to time, but those moments when a logical explanation cannot explain them. Here is an example:

During the last war London was festooned with barrage balloons. These were balloons filled with hydrogen and tethered to winches by thin steel cables and flown at 5000 feet. They had an explosive charge fixed to them about 50 feet short of the balloon and were effectively stopping German aircraft from low-level bombing. They brought down many aircraft and also many V1s or ‘flying bombs’ later in the war. Occasionally one of these balloons would break loose from its winch and set out on its own cross-country trip downwind trailing several thousand feet of cable.

I was a flying instructor during the war and on 25 September 1942 I sailed into one of these drifting balloons when flying a Magister aircraft, together with a pupil, just north of Aylesbury. The balloon was in cloud and one would never spot a cable at 100 mph. We were flying at 2500 feet – some 500 feet below cloud base. Now for the miracle: The cable struck the Magister’s left wing hard against the fuselage and proceeded to saw into it. The engine continued to run at 2000 rpm and with no loss of power indicating no damage to the propeller. (We had quite a long battle and were brought down to 1000 feet before breaking free). On landing back at Booker a thorough examination showed no scuffing on the wing and just the single gash which reached about half-way through the main wing spar. The propeller was unmarked. The cable must therefore have passed through the propeller’s arc (about 10 feet) when the propeller was pretty close to top-dead-centre.

Now you computer wizards work this out! The news of this episode reached JF Roxburgh, my headmaster at Stowe, and he wrote to me to say he had given the mathematical problem to the top maths and physics teachers. They failed to solve it.

The only satisfactory answer is that it was a miracle, and I stick to this, especially after reading Sylvia Brown’s “The Other Side and Back”. She is psychic and explains how these things happen. You disbelievers have a long way to go!


The Booker Gliding Club had been formed at my wartime airfield a few miles away, and as my elder son, William, was learning to fly during his last years at Leighton Park I decided it was time I considered renewing my flying licence and be able to help him should he need it. After 16 years of no flying I was pretty rusty, even in a Tiger Moth, and required an hour or so of instruction before I was happy on my own. In due course I qualified as an instructor and spent the next 30 years instructing on gliders or flying their tug aircraft for them when ever I had the time. Being impatient by nature I never had any desire for cross-country flying with the risk of landing out and waiting for someone to come and fetch me with the trailer. To qualify as an instructor one had to do a solo cross-country, a flight of 5 hours and a certain minimum height gain. I chose Cambridge for my cross-country trip and with plenty of thermals on the way ended up 5000 feet higher than the start (at 2000 ft) at Booker.

As a sport I found gliding more appealing than power-flying. And in many ways the motor-glider has the best of both worlds. I bought a SPERBER RF5 with my friend Rolf Pasold of Ladybird garments fame and enjoyed many, many lovely trips with Ann, my wife. One specially I remember was when William flew the RF5 to Nitray in France for a get-together of RF aircraft at the factory where they were built and Ann and I drove there in our MG during a splendid holiday in the Loire valley. I was then able to explore the Chateaux of that lovely part of France from the air. William flew it back to Booker and Ann and I returned in our car together with a good supply of Chateau Nitray’s excellent wine.

I also taught both my other children to fly – Linden achieving her 300km flight in France and her Gold height (18,000 ft) in Scotland. James, my younger son was up to solo flying by the time he was 10, but rather than wait for the legal limit of 16 decided to take up motor cycle trials riding at which he soon became an expert, so repeating my own life but a considerably younger age.

Soon after I qualified as a gliding instructor I seemed to concentrate on the Tuesday evenings flying group until it had become “my” evening and was to remain so for the next 30 years. Gradually I moulded it to my liking – only having instructors who were able to land ‘short’ – before the launch point – and so avoid the unproductive time while gliders were retrieved from landing far down the airfield to clear the way for the next launch. This had a beneficial effect on Club funds and made it possible to get in 53 ‘air experience’ flights between 6.00pm and dusk one memorable summer evening. This was never at the expense of shortening a flight if a thermal was met – when we would limit the flight to half an hour. I also asked my instructors not to indulge in aerobatics. Here, I regret, I was not always as successful as I should like to have been. I must pay special tribute and thanks to my chief tug pilot, Shep, a vital part of a successful team.

When Norman Smith became our CFI he and I gave an exhibition of dual aerobatics during our annual show. We each flew a K13 and demonstrated dual loops, stall turns and formation flying (all without any radio contact) – then chased each other about the sky. When Norman left to take up commercial flying we lost a valuable asset.

I think it is a mistake to put highly-qualified power-pilots in charge of gliding clubs. The use of the rudder around the stall is a case in point. In a glider the rudder can be the most useful control a pilot possesses; in a powered aircraft it is little used – but it could be used, and beneficially too, if the pilots hadn’t forgotten how to use it.

In 1993 I flew, as usual, with the CFI for my annual check to see if my reactions were still OK and he passed me, but told me I must take a new set of lessons as instructional methods had changed. In future when a pupil made a faulty approach on the circuit (for example) I should say “I have control” and take over – sorting out the problem in a de-briefing afterwards. How anyone could learn to fly safely under such conditions if he is never allowed to make a mistake is beyond my comprehension. It would certainly take much longer and cost him a lot more and swell the club funds. Perhaps that was the object! But I did feel that at 84 I was, maybe, too old to be flying people who were not fully capable of coping – should something happen to me. And so, via twists and turns and many diversions I finally returned to my Steinway and produced the CDs you can find on this website!

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