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Old 10th Dec 2013, 11:35
  #4732 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Often in Jersey, but mainly in the past.
Age: 79
Posts: 7,863
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“Chocks away”, as MPN11 joins the 20-minuters ...

... or, more accurately, MPN11 joins the 9h 55m community. However, at least he has the air beneath his wings!

Prequel. It was in July 1962 that MPN11 first staggered into the air as a student. Not a virgin, exactly - he had already acquired a Gliding B Licence, and several hours Air Experience, with the cadets. But this was the start of his PPL course, on an ATC Flying Scholarship at Oxford/Kidlington. In a Piper Colt … a non-punchy little American armchair flying machine, with a nose wheel undercarriage, two seats and the ability to bimble around fairly safely. My early instructors, Messrs Johnson and Murphy, showed me which end was up (the Colt is non-aerobatic, so that was easy) and after 5h 35m, I was deemed fit to perform my first solo C&L.

Blah, blah, blah … usual stuff, which included one 30m sortie in a Chipmunk to do Stalling, Spinning and Aerobatics properly, instead of managing the Colt’s general inclination to mush in a downwards direction if you got things badly wrong. Eventually, on 15 Aug 62, I passed my FHT and that was effectively that. I were a Pie Lot. With 30h 15m under my belt!

Anyway, reality arrived on 20 Nov 63, when our BRNC course started the Flying Grading phase at Roborough. Was I bovvered? Did I look bovvered??

We were introduced to our steeds, aka the De Havilland D.H.82A Tiger Moth. At the time, they were fairly new. BB694 and BB814 were ex-civil registrations, impressed into service in 1940, whereas T8191was part of a batch of 2,000 built by Morris Motors in the same timescale. Oh, come on, they were only 23 years old … look at some of the stuff the RAF is still flying!! This one was “mine’ for most of the time (link to avoid copyright issues) with three stripes of Dayglo on the cowling … De Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth, T8191, Royal Navy

And, so equipped, we set off to perform Serials 6,7,8,9,10 of the syllabus (I assume 1-5 involved things like reading Pilots Notes?), which was the usual stuff … effect of controls, climb, descend, balanced turns, stalling and spinning. Then an Interim Test with the Senior QFI, and then Serials 11 and 12 which were repeated endlessly - I’m guessing that was Circuits and Landings. Round and round, like moths around a candle, we buzzed our way round the Roborough circuit with the brief respite of Serial 14 (whatever that was, with a different QFI - more spinning?) and a Final Test before yet more 11 & 12. “Summary for Course 9h 55m”, and on 6 Dec 63 that was that, the end of the Flying Grading Phase. Nothing was said - it was just another step on the road. And we returned to boat work, studies, running everywhere and generally being ‘victims’.

Sadly, despite my previous massive experience, I discovered that the Tiger Moth displayed an irritating reluctance to land properly. Above 50ft agl, everything was fine … reasonably accurate, balanced and generally “OK” from my POV. But could I land this dainty, tail-dragging, bouncing flying machine? Awful - simply awful. My time on a docile tricycle gear Colt didn’t help at all - the Tiger just kept bloody flying!

Now I don’t know what ‘training strategy’ was being employed (if any) but after the third trip I was given to a new instructor (they were all civilians). Mr L**** P was the son of the Boss (Mr L**** L) of the grading outfit. And he was a shouter. He bellowed at you to “Get in the bloody aircraft, we haven’t got all day!”, “Get the bloody straps done up, we’re supposed to be flying!”. You get the drift? So, Mr L**** P and I thrashed around in “his” T8191 doing the usual stuff … ‘Upper Air’ work, Stalling and Spinning, C&L. Well, not a lot of “L” to be honest, as that usually resulted in a bellowed “I have control. Christ, they’re sending me bloody tram drivers these days.”

You will easily envisage that, by this stage, all my confidence in the ability to fly an aircraft (or at least land one) was becoming a distant pinprick on the horizon. I don’t recall much in the way of ‘teaching’ either, just a case of “Do it again and get it right this time.” The couple of check-rides with his father (Mr L**** L) In BB694 were less stressful in one sense, in that he didn’t shout and scream, and more so in the obvious other.

And so, some 3 months later, to the end of course Exams. I did fairly well, it seemed, out of our little band of 21 … 1st in Science, Navigation, Torpedo/Anti-Submarine, 2nd in Supply, 4th in Communications, Naval History, Seamanship … a disappointing 9th in Maths, Mechanics & Theory of Flight (I used to teach that stuff as a CCF/ATC cadet!) and a dismal 15th (but a pass) in Gunnery. However, the roof fell in. Without an “Admiralty Warning” or two, which was apparently the norm, and with just 3 days to go to Graduation parade, I was binned. Period. Pack bag and go (one bag and a pillow-case, actually - how sweet). Goodbye … and I see that my Course Summary in my FORM S.1175 Pilots Flying Log was dated 26 Mar 64 - and left unsigned by Lt Cdr Air. Thanks for that, Andrew

The only bright moment was during clearing with the GIs, when PO McCurragh observed “I assume you will no be needing those boots of yours, Mr MPN11? I wonder if I might have them?” I have this vision, still, of my immaculately bulled boots, shining like glass (even along the welts and on the sole) being held up as a example to terrify future intakes into achieving a better standard

Subsequent correspondence with the RN, involving our MP (ex-Guards and SAS), led to an apology from Dartmouth and an admission that they hadn’t handled my case very well. Apparently I should at least have been offered a further 3 months to provide an opportunity for ‘further development’. I was subsequently offered 3 months at sea with the Dartmouth Training Squadron, with the prospect of becoming a ship-driver - but no further attempt at Flying Grading, as they he'd decided my flying was not up to the required standard. Stuff that - I wanted to be a pilot (flying) and not a driver (ships). And so I declined their less-than-generous offer, and became theoretically RN (Retd). However, it appeared that Mr L**** P also spun in, and was not further employed in the “Flaying Grinding” role, so I guess that was 15-15 … and I now needed another career.

Bitter? No.
Pi$$ed off? Yes!
Did it get better? YES!! I went into the RAF!!
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