When asked to sit down and write this introduction following my appointment as your Chief Examiner & Safety Officer in October 2003 I was conscious of the fact that I have some hard acts to follow when I consider the excellent work that has been done by John Townsend and John Greenfield over the last 10 years. John Greenfield particularly, has worked extremely hard to “fine tune” the Over 20kg Scheme to make it the envy of other model organisations around the world and the LMA will be eternally in his debt for this effort. I would like to take this opportunity to thank John for the excellent support he has given to me whilst taking over this role.
Like many of you in the LMA, I began aeromodelling at a very early age and lived on a “diet” of building Veron, Keil Kraft, Frog kits and from the Aeromodeller Plans handbook – both free flight and control line. Interest in modelling and full-size dominated my early years and I would cycle many miles to aerodromes like Colerne (RAF Transport Command) and Bristol Whitchurch (BEA) to watch the aircraft take-off and land. Little did I appreciate at that time that I would be fortunate enough to realise many of the dreams and aspirations I had about flying later in life. On one occasion I was so late back that my parents called the Police and I arrived home in the dark with no lights on my bicycle completely oblivious of the panic I had caused at home. My father changed the inner tubes in my tyres for straw so that my “range from home” was limited, but all I did was get fitter!!
In my early teens I started installing radio control in my free flight models, which at the time, some of you may be old enough to remember, consisted of a transmitter with a quarter wave aerial standing in a converted tea chest, a valve Rx, and simple rubber escapements. This R/C equipment was all home-built using diagrams published in the Aeromodeller and Radio Control & Electronics magazines. Many of them were designed by George Honnest – Reddlitch. In the late fifties I became one of the founding members of the Bristol Radio Control Club and in association with other club members we made a documentary for BBC West about flying radio control models entitled “Into the Air”. I would never have believed anyone who told me that some 45 years later I would be helping the BBC to make another film only this time I would be flying my F15 Jet model with a computerised radio!
Flying at various events I got to know Geoff Franklin of Leicester (many in the LMA will remember Geoff very well) and I became a demonstrator for some of the first Orbit Reed R/C equipment which Geoff imported from the USA.
On moving to Scotland I started full-size gliding at Portmoak and Aboyne where I eventually achieved a Diamond Height (25,000 ft). The only hairy moment on this flight was descending through a light layer of cloud and breaking out at 10,000’ to see that as a result of the strong upper winds I had drifted more to the east than I thought and I was five miles out south of Aberdeen over the North Sea . Fortunately, at that height in a high performance glider it was not a real problem!!
This was just the first of a number of high adrenaline moments that I have experienced in full-size flying over the last 40 years. It would need a book to relate the rest.
I then obtained my Private Pilots Licence and subsequently amassed enough hours tugging gliders to obtain a Commercial Pilots Licence and Flying Instructors Rating. In the last 35 years as a Commercial Pilot I have completed 11,500 flying hours in over 40 types of aircraft ranging from the Tiger Moth to the Cessna Citation jet – over 8,000 of these hours has been as an instructor. The pinnacle of my flying instructor career came when I passed the RAF Chief Flying Instructors course for Flying Scholarship training and my flying school at Wellesbourne obtained a contract by the RAF to give RAF Flying Scholarship courses.
Several years ago I received the MBE for this work and other services provided to Her Majesty during my HM Customs and Excise career. That would be another book!!
Many people have asked how I managed to juggle a full-time Civil Service career with that of a Commercial Pilot and all I can say is that at times it was ***** hard work but both provided tremendous job satisfaction and similar adrenaline rushes!!.
Although I retired just over 2 years ago I still keep my hand in by flying a number of vintage aircraft which include my own 1942 WW2 Ryan PT 22 which has a Kinner radial engine. Prior to the Ryan I owned a Harvard but £400 worth of fuel for four and half hours of flying became too much (and that was 12 years ago) so the Ryan was a good radial engined substitute as it’s 160 HP engine only burns 7 gallons of fuel an hour. Mind you that still amounts to £30 an hour at present pump prices. During the late 80’s and early 90’s I gave numerous air displays with it so I bring to this new role a first hand knowledge and awareness of flying safety at airshows and CAA regulations. Until recently I also owned a Piper Cub and a Tiger Moth but my commitments to model flying and the expense to the pocket now that I am down to “retirement pay” has encouraged me to “cut my cloth” a little.
Throughout my full-size flying career I still retained my enthusiasm for model flying and at Wellesbourne airfield , my large models – fully assembled—would sit in the hangar with the full size so that I could grab one to fly without the problems of assembly when the airfield officially closed and my full-size flying commitment was finished.
I recently sold one of my longest serving models – a Bud Nosen Mustang which at 102” seemed enormous to me at the time!! – how times have changed. I have another kit of this model which has languished on the shelf for many years and it is slowly being brought to life but this time with retracts. Who knows it may be finished in time for Haigh Hall next year.
I still thoroughly enjoy my full-size flying and I fly quite a bit with ex-students some of whom own vintage aircraft and there is even one who has a Cessna 182 , owns a villa and a boat in Brittany and regularly invites us there- (how the other half live). Retirement, however, has enabled me to devote a lot more time to the hobby and more importantly my LMA flying and Committee activities. Many of you will know that I have tremendous support in all this from Emilly my partner (who has foolishly agreed to be my wife in December).
Emilly and I between us have a big variety of models which include slope soarers which we fly from numerous locations throughout the Midlands, floatplanes which we fly at the LMA site at Billing Aquadrome along with our President, Adrian Rowe-Evans and his “groupies”, and several indoor flyers which we fly at the Coventry Model Club indoor meetings during the winter. We also have several Over 20kg models – all of which have flown at shows this year – the ME110, VP1, and the AVR0 504K . I have also recently completed the test flying programme on a 14' Britten Norman Islander powered by two 3W60 engines which was a project that I took over from Tony Fisher. I have quite a few hours logged on the full-size version so I shall look forward to flying it at the shows next year.
As most of you will know , with the support of the Committee, I have tried in my capacity as the LMA Events Organiser over the last few years to bring a balance in the LMA calendar by having more informal Fly-ins to supplement our public show activity and the growing attendances at some of these new venues – particularly Belle Vue and Wroughton – has been most encouraging. The way things are working out we have an even busier programme of events for next year.
So there we are – a potted history of who I am and where I come from – I hope you will have gathered from my write-up that when I take something on I give it 100%.
Below are a few photograph showing Tony in his modelling career.