Spring Meeting: 28th February – 1st March 1998, Islington.
This was held on 28th February and 1st March at the recently opened Stakis hotel in Islington. Thirty-six members and guests attended some or all of the event (those who had insisted on a London meeting were conspicuous by their absence). We gathered over lunch, which like all the food over the weekend was particularly good. As our contribution to the ecosystem (and purely incidentally to save some money) we went to Tower Bride by tube. It was a tribute to members’ navigational skills that without GPS, or even an umbrella to follow, no one got lost or arrived late. We were taken on a standard guided tour of the bride, a triumph of Victorian engineering and shrewd politics, followed by a private tour of one of the bascules and it’s operating machinery. The original engines are still in place although now replaced by oil-filled hydraulic ones. The basic machinery is exactly as first installed. The tours over, people looked at the bridge in more detail or moved off to other local attractions.
Saturday evening’s dinner, held in private rooms, commanded a splendid view of London. Robin Lawrence provided a generous donation for a name place raffle and we ate and drank our fill and enjoyed good fellowship.
David Ogilvy, Secretary of the GAAC spoke first on Sunday morning. He described the relationship between AOPA and GAAC – the former hosts the latter which endeavours to smooth the interface between GA and the general public. He described the increasing gulf between major/intermediate size airfields and light aviation and the increasing gulf between aviation and the public – unless they happen to be using a commercial flight at the time. As one of his horror stories he cited the case of one unfortunate German organization being sued for the noise that its gliders make. The work of the Council is divided into two main areas, education and planning. The first works both ways, to educate aviators in the likes, hates and foibles of the rest of the human race and to educate the latter in the better aspects of aviation. Planning takes and increasing part of the resources with scrutiny of district and county plans for aviation policies and advising individuals on their airfield or strip plans.
Both our next speakers were dogged by projector troubles which disrupted their thoughts but did not detract from the fascinating stories they had to tell. The projector problem was that state of the art machines will not cope with the thinner slide mounts of yesteryear, insisting on trying to swallow them two at a time.
Ray Clegg described his route to a medical qualification from steelworks (no other jobs in Sheffield) to national service as what in this day and age is known as a lab technician. Time at Millbank and experience at the Lewisham train disaster propelled him back to Sheffield as a mature student. A yen for plastic surgery was thwarted by ageism so he settled for otolaryngology and the reconstructive aspects of head and neck surgery. He subsequently and recently acquired the well known but little used qualification MBBT (Maker of Bigger Boys’ Toys) by building a KIS composite 2-seater. As an afterthought he learned to fly and since he has now acquired a 4-seater project, he has moved house to accommodate the embryo squadron.
Simon Janvrin led us through a career which started at Guys and then took him to the Zambian Flying Doctor Service. His account of surgery, even on hearts, under difficult conditions with a text book handy, done against the magnificent backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro was gripping. A return to the UK and a surgical consultancy in the CAA’s back yard at Gatwick allowed him to pursue a belief in change, in this instance by crossing the fence into aviation medical work. He is also a home builder with a project in the loft. The CAA policy at that time was that all their chief medical examiners should also pilot scheduled services. In due course the opportunity came to do that full time. His enthusiasm for his job and his Fokker Friendship was glowing testimony to his policy of a life’s change of direction every seven years.
Those who didn’t listen to the morning’s presentations joined one of the “London Walks” tours of the alleys and byways of the famous square mile. We all reassembled over lunch before finally dispersing.
- The General Aviation Awareness Council – What it does and how it does it (David Ogilvy OBE)
- How to build an aeroplane in your consulting room (and acquire epoxy pox) (Raymond Clegg)
- The life and times of a consultant surgeon, CAA medical officer and airline pilot (Simon Janvrin).
Autumn Meeting: 3rd-6th September 1998, Dundee
Friday 4th September: Morning tour of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther (guided tour of displays about Scotland’s maritime history) or a walking tour of St Andrews (guided walk around the old town, university, abbey and golf courses). Meet up for picnic lunch followed by a visit to The Secret Bunker (Fife’s nuclear bunker) or a visit to Falkland Palace, Garden and Burgh (country residence of the Stuart kings and queens when boar hunting in Fife forest). All back together for dinner, again at the hotel. Then Scottish Evening aboard the Frigate Unicorn, ten minutes walk from the hotel, including Scottish music by award winning musicians, singing, display dancing and an opportunity to try some Scottish Country Dancing. Fisheries visit may be replaced by visit to RAF Leuchars if they can work it around their impending air show.
Saturday 5th September: Either flying event or Royal tour during the day. Flying event: fly out to a Scottish Airfield for a picnic lunch, flying competitions en route (see below). Royal tour: Glamis Castle (family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since 1372, childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret) followed by picnic lunch, journey up the picturesque Glen Isla, through Deeside and past Balmoral Castle to Lochnagger Distillery for a guide to turning mountain water into malt whisky. Then back by Cairn O’Mount to Dundee.
AGM and dinner followed.
Sunday 6th September: Visit to Discovery Point, home of RRS Discovery as well as an excellent exhibition centre. Guided tour of the ship in which Captain Scott travelled to Antarctica in 1901-1904. Buffet lunch in the hotel before departure.
Guinness Trophy, awarded as usual to the pilot who arrives closest to their ETA.
- Pilot’s Quaich, awarded to the pilot who:
- Shows the best airfield joining technique.
- Shows the most competent use of radio.
- Demonstrates the best landing (skill rather than spot).
- Correctly answers a short general airmanship quiz set at PPL/SPL level by a panel of senior QFIs from CSE aviation.
- Navigator’s Quaich, awarded to the crew of the aircraft who:
- Complete the navigation route most accurately.
- Complete in flight the best/most accurate navigation log.
- Correctly answer a short general knowledge quiz on very basic VFR navigation. A knowledge of GPS and electronic aids will not be required.
- Scottish Quaich, awarded for the most intrepid flight.
This was the Association’s first foray north of the border. In view of the plethora of local attractions, another first was to have a three day event, gathering on Thursday evening (3rd September) and departing as usual after Sunday lunch.
At various times on the Thursday and Friday 11 members essayed a flight to Dundee. Seven actually got there. The rest of us were defeated by the weather which put low-level visibility well below our personal minima. However like fishermen the stories this generated were legion and formed the basis of many ice breaking conversations.
Once again we stayed at a newly built Stakis hotel. This one was on the north bank of the Tay with, when the harr lifted, over-water views from most guest rooms and also from our large dining room tables.
The flavour of the hotel and our doings was Scots, as shown by one of our larger older members dousing his breakfast haggis and other local delicacies with a generous libation of the local staple eau de vie.
We divided on Friday morning, half to RAF Leuchars (courtesy of our immediate past president) and the other half to a walking tour of St. Andrews. Leuchars welcomed us with a comprehensive (history, raison de continuing etre, organization and safety) briefing leading to a hands on guided tour of an operational (dripping fuel to prove it) Tornado and a similar tour of their ATC facilities. We left with a better understanding of military flying and especially a reduced fear of their control zones.
[Report on walking tour missing]
Both parties joined up for an excellent lunch and redivided for either a tour of Scotland’s now redundant “secret” bunker/regional seat of government, or a tour of the Falkland Palace, Garden and Burgh.
The bunker entrance was through a small “normal” house, down a long fairly gently sloping tunnel into a comprehensive self-contained administrative centre and its ancillary support services designed to be self-contained for many weeks. It was cramped; bunks in dormitories being occupied for eight hour shifts but probably no worse than life aboard a nuclear submarine. One was left uneasy that a holocaust was seriously anticipated and that so much was done in secret to keep a small scale semblance of normality thereafter. There is perhaps an even greater unease that the envisaged forces are now under even less secure ownership.
[Report on Falkland Palace missing]
Dinner that evening was informal and followed by an evening aboard the frigate Unicorn moored in its own dock just down river from the hotel. The ship, wooden and unusually built by two shipwrights, is the oldest Royal Naval vessel still afloat. We were able to explore its entirety. Each shipwright was responsible for his own side, leaving one six inches wider than the other with two similarly placed but very dissimilar doors in the stern cabin. Life aboard was well illustrated and there were knowledgeable guides to answer questions. Once we were well aboard and had broached the bar, music from violin, guitar, piano accordian and keyboard from the covered main deck variously entertained and provoked outbursts of dancing, some conventional and some Scottish. The latter produced feats of athleticism many thought beyond them and demonstrated the satisfactory results of hip prostheses in at least one.
Saturday breakfast gave plenty of time to judge the horizontal visibility by counting the number of Tay Bridge arches visible. There weren’t enough, so flying was abandoned and we all took coach for Glamis castle, a favourite watering hole of the Royal Family in general and the Queen Mother in particular. A conducted tour formed the backbone of our visit but there was time for individual explorations as well. The pilot and navigator competitions were handed out to a number of consortia who worked on them throughout the day.
Bob and Janet Pooley of Guide fame, who had been with us on the Unicorn on Friday had invited us to eat our picnic lunch at their castle, derelict for 350 years and reopened after his restoration, on the anniversary of its sacking, on 7th July 1990. Our nose bags were replete, the backdrop and weather incomparable, Janet furnished hard drink, soft drink and coffee and Bob guided us round his valley bijou in three groups. The results were empty nose bags, full stomachs, a feel for the clan skirmishings of the 1500s, an appreciation of the origins and workings of Scottish castles and indebtedness to our hosts.
We eventually dragged ourselves away and coached somnolently (those who weren’t taking the competitions seriously) through scenic touristique Glen Isla along Deeside past Balmoral and into the Lochnaggar distillery. Our tour was preceded by a sample of the product which we then learned how to make in industrial quantities. The coach took us back to Dundee by the scenic route in time for a short AGM.
The Annual Dinner followed our usual pattern of excellent food with wine before, during and after. The Presidents Cup was awarded to Norena McAdam and Andy Sayers for their excellent organization of the meeting, the Guinness Cup to Kevin and Ann Gibbin, the newly inaugurated Pooley Quaich to Jeremy and Sally Radcliffe, individual quaiches to Stephen Gibson & Kenneth Whiteley and Kevin Gibbin, David Reader & David Rowe, with copies of Pooleys Guides to non-quaich holding members of the teams.
Sunday’s weather was much the same as Saturday’s. Metars suggested on top by 3,000ft and clearing all the way south. The more intrepid flight planned, after which the meeting walked up to the Discovery to tour the ship and exhibition (one of our guides turned out to be a Scottish pathologist ex-member) before returning for lunch and departure.