Why I love to fly
I started flying over 30 years ago, flying gliders from Usk in Montmouthsire and then from Wycombe Air Park.
I gave up flying for many years and then came back to it in 2005 when I started training for my PPL(H) at the Flight Centre at Southend Airport (EGMC) where I was taught by Mark Holmes. I trained in the ubiquitous Robinson R22 and passed my skills test in 2006 with Michael Jupp (aka "Juppy") a former IDB gilt broker who has now become a full time helicopter pilot. I then did a type conversion to a Bell 206B3 Jetranger and went to Bell Helicopter at Forth Worth, Texas to do the excellent Bell pilot's course.
Other types I have flown include the Aerospatiale Gazelle, EC120, Longranger and MD500. My "fleet" now includes a Jetranger (G-TCSM) and an R22 (G-OCOV). The Jetranger was previously operated by AV8 Helicopters based in Rochester and still has their racy on the engine casing. There is a video of it flying over London on their website www.av8helicopters.co.uk .
I love to learn all I can about a new skill or subject, and so in 2007 I decided to add a fixed wing license and started training for my PPL(A) with Rodger Filbee also at the Flight Centre. I passed my skills test in 2009 and bought a Socata TB20 Trinidad G-KPTT.
A few points which arise from my experience if you are thinking of learning to fly:
- It may not be cheap to learn to fly, but the hourly rate that an instructor charges is cheaper than a personal trainer in the City of London. I wonder which you would rather have sitting beside you in the event of an engine failure.
- General Aviation ("GA" i.e. private non commercial flying) numbers have been in decline for many years. I attribute this to the impact of budget airlines and fractional jet ownership. The rapid growth of budget airlines has meant that routes have proliferated and you can fly from almost any airport to one close to your destination, so no need for your own aircraft. Fractional jet ownership has brought private jet travel within the means of businessmen who would previously have learnt to fly themselves. Ironically, I find this means that the supposedly crowded skies are not so in reality.
- If you are thinking of learning do not do what I did and start with a PPL(H). There are common elements to all pilot's licenses involving learning navigation for example, and it's a lot cheaper and easier to do that in a fixed wing aircraft than it is in a helicopter.
Who needs a helicopter?
One major advantage of helicopters is that they do not need to take off and land on runways or at airports and so they can be used for point to point travel. Although I fly helicopters, they do have their downside: they are much more expensive that fixed wing aircraft to buy and operate. If you look at this clip of a short take off and landing competition you will see that there are some aircraft which come close to rivalling the performance of helicopters, particularly since helicopters rarely make a vertical take off or landing as there are dangers implicit in doing so. These planes also don't need runways to operate from. You may notice that they have fat "tundra tyres" for landing on rough surfaces.
Recent Aviation Articles
By Terry Smith, 24 March 2010
Checklists are suddenly all the rage as an article in the FT Magazine on 10th February “Checklists offer a cure for many ills” pointed out. But if you are in a tight spot, it's also essential to have a consummate professional with relevant experience at the controls.