There were three meetings in 2003.
Spring Meeting: 26th-28th April 2003, Sywell.
Jeremy Radcliffe again put together an exciting programme, this time including a Saturday filled with news and information from disabled flyers, their trainers and medical advisers leaving Sunday for ad hoc visits. The meeting was open and had CPD accreditation.
The hotel (The Aviator) on Sywell Airfield is a development of the 1930s terminal buildings. It looks out onto the airfield (grass) and when modernised last year retained lots of Art Deco and aviation memorabilia.
Medicine at the Frontier; Importing illness:
Dr Ewan Gerard, Port Medical Director, Gatwick Airport.
The first presentation was by Dr Ewan Gerard of Gatwick Health Control. Not only has he to man the frontier against imported disease, but also vector rodents and insects. He exposed the contrast between high rates of reported post travel illness, mostly gastro-intestinal, and the low rates of airport reportage.
Incoming passengers include many migrants and some asylum seekers. Serious problems are malaria, hepatitis and amoebiasis. The media mislead the public because SARS is likely to be a lesser threat. The commonest infection among immigrants is tuberculosis and this requires post arrival surveillance. For this ‘NHS direct’ may play a role. The risk of disease transmission during flight is slight. The ‘dread’ diseases, mostly tropical zoonoses, were unlikely to be spread by air or used by terrorists and they present little real risk.
Dr Gerard reviewed the routine task of the Health Control Unit, treating ill passengers, screening some, and assisting Customs and Excise or Immigration Authorities. During discussion the specialist qualifications for the post were considered because it does not fit within the usual speciality structure.
Medical assessment for disabled pilots:
Dr Paul Collins Howgill, Medical Dept, SRG, CAA.
Paul Collins-Howgill’s lecture dispelled a long held myth, believed by many in aviation, that CAA stands for Campaign Against Aviation. He described his approach to assessing disabled pilots from the medical point of view, based on an individual assessment for each pilot of his/her ability to safely control an aircraft. This took into consideration the use of any approved appliances or modifications to the aircraft. He made it clear that the aim was to facilitate, where possible, the wish of disabled individuals to fly.
The flexibility applied to the usual medical standards is permitted by ICAO regulations. Medical experts and flying instructors are involved in the assessment. Examples of this flexibility cover a range of conditions from pilots with abnormal colour vision to pilots (private and commercial), with paraplegia. There are currently two paraplegic commercial pilots in the UK, one CPL and one ATPL.
The current situation under JAA is that a disabled pilot will train in a similar fashion to an able-bodied pilot until he/she is ready to go solo. At this point he/she will fly with a Flying Instructor Examiner and will be required to demonstrate:
- Positive control throughout the flight.
- Satisfactory handling of the aircraft.
- Adequate ability to perform emergency drills.
If these conditions are met the Safety Pilot Limitation on the pilot’s medical certificate will be removed. Some pilots will be limited to specific aircraft types, to aircraft with specific modifications or to the use of an approved prosthesis.
The main reasons for disabled people wanting to fly were mentioned, the freedom of flying, the ability to compete on a level playing field with other pilots, the achievement of getting a pilot’s licence, but mostly, because it is fun.
Paul left us reassured that the Medical Division of the CAA will do all in its power to help disabled people wishing to fly achieve their aim.
The Examiner’s View: Derek Davidson, CFI, Bournemouth.
Derek Davidson, a chief flying instructor at Bournemouth gave us some interesting insights into the problems he faces with student pilots. Pilots’ mental attitudes gave him most concern and he highlighted three topics:
- Concern about intelligent citizens in prominent jobs who appear to lack the ability to do repetitive tasks.
- Lack of pre-flight preparation and a tendency to forget things like radio frequencies time and time again.
- Fear which causes deterioration of flight performance and renders the pilot incapable. He felt that pilots need to talk through their fears and apprehensions. Many students were more concerned about failing the flight test than the catastrophic results which could follow engine failure. ‘Listen, say nothing and let the student pilot learn by his mistakes’, was his message.
His final plea was for more women to learn to fly as they only represent about five percent of the pilot population. Men tend to be on an ego trip and by implication don’t know when to stop! Women learn because they want to fly and stop if they don’t like it. There is a moral in this story.
An aviator’s perspective: Mr Philip Reeve, Chairman, British Disabled Flying Club.
It was a privilege to meet dine with and listen to Phil Reeve who is chairman of the British Disabled Flying Club. He told me that he had become paraplegic himself in a motorcycle accident with a complete T10 lesion. In spite of this he has over 300 hours solo in his logbook.
BMPA members, especially those who attend the “Summer Shenington Meetings ” are not strangers to flying for the disabled but most of those can walk and climb into their gliders despite artificial limbs, totally disabled arms and untreated Parkinson’s disease. The side effects of drug therapy for the latter may actually stop you flying and therefore if you are serious about your flying you do not take it. However when you are dealing with powered flying you are no longer dealing with a self governing body but the JAA and its agent the CAA. The pleasant surprise is that the CAA is actually quite supportive of flying for disabled pilots according to Phil, but this does not help with much needed financial support. Charitable finance is available and very helpful because simple modifications to adapt aircraft to the need of the disabled are expensive.
During his very informative talk one could immediately detect that many power flying organisations at different airfields were poorly informed about disabled flying and Phil’s main task is to educate the flying fraternity of its possibilities and practicalities. As he points out a wheel chair bound paraplegic is a very obviously disabled person, but once they are in the air flying their aircraft they are equal to all other pilots in appearance and ability once a few minor mechanical adaptations have been performed.
The favourite aircraft for paraplegics in particular or any one with no or impaired leg function is first a low wing aircraft and particularly one of the Piper group because you can become completely independent in these. You can walk on your hands up the wing backwards and open the door. It is then possible to fold the wheel chair and put it in the rear of the plane, cross to the left hand seat, retrieve your flight bag and your easy fit Vision Rudder and start her up. (The Vision Rudder can be fitted to the co pilot’s left hand rudder pedal and then operated by the right hand.) The other handy feature of Pipers is the hand brake for slowing and stopping. The Vision Rudder is a simple device that can be fitted to almost any aircraft with little or no adaptation to the aeroplane itself and was designed with the help of engineers at Cranfield. Also at Cranfield, the engineers have produced specially designed prostheses for people with no forearms and ‘hands’ for tetraplegics. They have also produced a modification to the aeroplane so that the brakes can be applied by pushing a pressure pad with the back of the head.
The British Disabled Flying Club has, by design, no permanent base and is a travelling organisation that does a great deal for damaged people to be able to fly and function on a par with anyone in the UK (in the environment which we in the BMPA particularly enjoy). I would like to think that any flying association with which we are involved would give them a warm welcome.
Walking on Air: Joe Fisher, Chairman, Portmoak gliding centre, Scotland.
At this point, possibly because of unclear instructions, the volunteers produced two items on the presentation by Carolyn Mclay and Bob Pettifer but none on that of Joe Fisher who under the title ‘Walking on Air’ described the origins travails and successes of the Portmoak gliding centre in Scotland in their efforts to provide gliding experience and tuition for physically disabled people. They have been successful in raising money, converting gliders, providing ground equipment (hoist and bus) and training a number of pilots who otherwise would not be able to fly, up to solo standard.
An Alternative Gliding perspective: Carolyn Mclay and Bob Pettifer, Chairman BGA Instructor’s Committee.
Carolyn Mclay and Bob Pettifer presented the work done by the Bowland Forest Gliding Club by flying severely disabled individuals. Unlike ‘Walking on Air’, this day receives no external funding, depends on voluntary effort by club members and utilises club resources.
Carolyn works in the Southport Spinal Injuries Unit and she explained how new techniques such as phrenic stimulation enable patients to extend their activities. A day spent gliding could be a turning point for some, especially young persons depressed by their misfortune. Several case histories were given to illustrate this point and we will remember Pasty Faced Paul, Big Dave and Enthusiastic Hilda.
Bob described the practical problems of getting people in and out of aircraft, of restraining against involuntary movement, of communication and of ground handling – particularly in the wet. The appreciation shown by the patients was the reward for the Club members concerned and the day has become established as an annual event.
An Alternative Gliding perspective: Carolyn Mclay and Bob Pettifer, Chairman BGA Instructor’s Committee.
Carolyn Mclay and Bob Pettifer described how for the last 8 years (with the exception of one for foot and mouth), a unique flying day for spinal injuries patients has occurred, grown annually and been acknowledged by the patients as their greatest day of the year. Operating from a farm strip with many of the clubs 150 members helping, we heard how tetraplegic, paraplegic and muscular dystrophy patients were helped into cockpits, coping with leg spasms and communication difficulties. Instructors describing what may be felt rather than seen if blind or by signs if deaf. It’s all done on a ‘shoe string’ giving patients an experience they will cherish.
Summer Meeting: 2nd-3rd August 2003, Thruxton/Middle Wallop.
Unfortunately it was not possible to arrange either gliding or Go Karting at Shenington this year until too close to the Brighton meeting. However, Thruxton and Middle Wallop more than made up for it with the fantastic ‘Music in the Air’ display.
Thruxton was the fly or drive in venue for lunch on Saturday 2nd August. Those who wished then went on to watch the annual ‘Music in the Air’ extravaganza at Middle Wallop. We had places in a BMPA area of the Garden Enclosure and Madam President organized al fresco dining a la Glyndebourne – she had the bit between her teeth following her Shenington experience last year. Hotel accommodation was near Andover.
I really didn’t know what to expect. An abbreviated weekend BMPA meeting with an open-air concert. I thought ‘lets go’ to support the BMPA and surely it’ll be a ‘bit of fun’.
With our aircraft being u/s (again), we drove to the assembly point – Thruxton. After a hurried lunch (we arrived late), some brief conversations, off to the motel. The BMPA group, organised as they were, on the coach for Middle Wallop, and only when stuck in the traffic did I realise we were in for ‘a big event’. In fact some 10,000 folks on the largest area of mowed grass in the UK, the Army’s Middle Wallop.
Settled at tables in the ‘garden enclosure’, we promptly set about indulging the wine and nibbles on an absolutely superb English summer evening. Only then did I glance at the programme. The text, although beautifully presented, just couldn’t describe the programme to follow.
As The London Pro Arte Orchestra struck up the National Anthem, so arrived the formation of Hawks of the Red Arrows. Their display, impressive as ever, and seemingly synchronised with the ongoing music really set the scene and mood for what became a spectacular evening. With seamless, continuing music, the lone Lancaster arrived. Its low passes with bomb doors open, accompanied by Elgars ‘Pomp & Circumstance’ was such and emotional sight and sound that many of us had a serious ‘lump in the throat’. Whilst still being impressed by the aerobatic capability of the K21 Glider, the Spitfire arrived to the music of Walton and Mozart. All present were then amused and captivated by Christian Moullec in his micro-light as ‘Mother Goose’, faithfully followed in every direction by his geese, so serene to the accompanying Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21.
A barbeque and brief interlude, then the very impressive aerobatic display by The Aerostars and their six Yak 50s, followed by the Hunter T7 to the marching music of Eric Coates. By the time the Matadors arrived (Sukhoi 26 and Extra 300), it was becoming seriously dark for such an impressive aero display (to the accompaniment of the ‘Star Wars’ theme).
The Silver Eagles freefall parachute team to the Fantasia on ‘Greensleeves’, then the intermittent nightglow of the hot air balloons. The Last Post and Evening Hymn just before the finale fireworks synchronised to Wagner’s ‘Pilgrims’ Chorus’ produced a setting that was truly memorable. Back to the motel bar (for most of us) to create Sunday morning’s feeling of ‘that really was a good night’. At breakfast I heard many comments relating to ‘Music In The Air’, some saying ‘we must do it again’, with another view ‘No don’t let’s try and repeat it, it could never be so perfect’. Another was the view that whilst the British have lost much of their manufacturing skills, there is still no other nation that can put on a pageant or ceremonious occasion such as a coronation, a state funeral or an event to equal Music in the Air. For the BMPA, the inspiration to attend and the detailed organisation, largely, I understand, by Frankie and David (and anyone else involved) was also superb. For me, I’ll sign up tomorrow for the next one, it was a truly wonderful experience.
Gordon J Williams.
Autumn Meeting: 29th-31st August 2003, Brighton.
Brighton and the delights of the Regency completed our year’s meetings.
Report: Saturday 30th August – East Trip.
Charleston, Berwick Church and Standen, chosen and led by Sheila Davidson.
The choice of these three visits was inspired. Charleston, below Firle Beacon, is the house where Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant lived with their unconventional family. They worked here and entertained their friends from the Bloomsbury Group. They are part of recent history, certainly of my lifetime. We then went on to Berwick Church also on the Downs and with magnificent views. Berwick Church, St Michael and All Angels were bombed during the Second World War, repaired with plain glass windows and then decorated by Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Vanessa’s son Quentin Bell. This commission by the Bishop of Chichester, Bishop Bell was greeted with dismay by the parishioners of the time, but is now seen as a great benefit to the village. The paintings are on plasterboard and then fixed to the walls and doors. They attract tourists from all over the world. Standen is a Victorian family house built on the Downs near East Grinstead. The Architect and the family were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement and the house and decorations are all in this style.
The feel of the two houses is entirely different. Charleston was originally a tumbledown farmhouse with no mod. cons. The inhabitants followed their instincts and had a very intense and free life. This included decorating every inch of wall, floor, door and furniture. Their guests were fascinating, amongst them Maynard Keynes, E M Forster as well as Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell’s sister. I would love to have been a fly on the wall at their discussions. The guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable, not only about the period, the paintings and the furniture, but also the gossip and who slept with whom and where! There is a sense of humour in the art. I am not sure Zeus would be happy portrayed as a Mallard duck with Leda.
Standen on the other hand is a wealthy family house filled with the most up-to-date appliances for the time and very comfortable and warm. It is decorated with William Morris wallpaper and wall hangings and with wonderful pottery. The mother and daughters were keen needle-women and their work makes the house still feel lived in.
The contrast extends to the gardens. Charleston has a painter’s garden. It is a riot of oranges, purples, pinks and whites surrounded by high walls. In odd corners there are sculptures and a small patio is made of broken pots. In front of the house is a wild pond full of lilies and with a gorgeous view. The twelve-acre gardens fold round Standen. Each area of the garden is different, from the croquet lawn, which is in use, to the winding hidden paths. There are formal areas and wild woods. I wish we had had more time to explore but I am looking forward to returning soon.
Sunday 30th August – West Trip
It was clear as we mounted our coach to the “West”, that the evening on the “Bluebell” had claimed a number of casualties. Several evening dancers were now limping with the aid of walking sticks, (whether this was attributable to urates or sprains could not be ascertained). Many others were sporting subconjunctival haem, and verdigris pallor.
Departure was scheduled for 0900; however, we pilots demonstrated a remarkable lack of aptitude as dispatchers. Rather by good fortune than any skill, we eventually departed at 0930, probably with all members on board, although the completeness of the passenger manifest was to remain unconfirmed throughout the day.
Leaving the tangled remains of Brighton’s West pier, (now more like a Tracey Emin sculpture than a Victorian pier), we sped off toward the Foredown Tower Camera Obscura. Thankfully unlike the previous day, the sky was now gloriously clear with only an occasional cumulus cloud.
Katherine (my 12-year-old daughter) asked me why the camera was called an obscura. Surely, she reasoned, if it was obscured that meant you couldn’t see anything? It was something in my slightly delicate state that I had also been contemplating but had hoped to obscure my ignorance by avoiding the issue. I felt compelled to assure her with confidence that a simple explanation would be forthcoming once we got there, and told her not to be so impatient. Thankfully I was not disappointed. Our guides explained that Camera means “chamber” and obscura means “dark”. In essence we were shown round the interior of an Edwardian water tower which had been converted into a sophisticated version of a pinhole camera cum periscope. Believe it or not, the camera itself was constructed for the 1990 Garden Festival, staged not a stones throw from our own humble abode in Gateshead. Through the camera, projected onto an old satellite dish, we enjoyed spectacular panoramic views of the South Coast and the Downs.
Apparently many artists such as Canalletto and our own John Constable used versions of the camera obscura to enhance their landscapes. Projecting the image onto their canvas, they were able to trace over the line features and improve accuracy. Maybe I should try that, and knock off a few masterpieces!
All too soon we had resumed our punishing schedule. Perhaps surprisingly we were only 30 minutes adrift of the schedule. After some cunning A27 queue avoidance via Worthing and queue jumping (the sort of thing I would have been fuming about had I been in the queue, but was secretly relieved that the coach driver displayed no scruples on our behalf!), we arrived at Tangmere Military Aviation Museum.
Whilst most of us made a dash for the much needed caffeine replacement therapy, Mike Bagshaw rushed off for his trip down memory lane. He apparently remembered RAF Tangmere as an operational base, prior to the blue ensign being lowered for the last time in 1970. He does wear well doesn’t he?
Being so close to Goodwood, there was a constant drone of light aircraft, which helped evoke the atmosphere of an active flying base (well with a bit of imagination a Lycoming bears a passing resemblance to a Merlin?). This museum, opened in 1982, is rich in military aviation history and is exceptionally well laid out. Tangmere has a fascinating history dating from its establishment in 1918. The museum covers all aspects of Tangmere’s history, but places special emphasis on its role during the Air War between 1939 and 1945.
By the start of the Battle of Britain, all three based Hurricane Squadrons 43, 145 and 601 had already seen active combat. The fighters of Tangmere inflicted heavy losses on German aircraft. In 1941 a Wing of three Spitfire Squadrons was formed, with Douglas Bader as its first Wing Commander.
Another major role for Tangmere included the night-time delivery and recovery by Lysanders of 161 Squadron, of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and Special Intelligence Service (SIS) officers into enemy territory. This was a fascinating display, giving some insight into the courage and skill of those, who with pin-point accuracy, located small fields in France, at night, aided only by three torches in the shape of an ‘L’ (and we complain about poor vis. on a hazy sunny day, even with the aid of NDB/VOR and GPS!)
In the post war period, Tangmere played an important role in the development of high speed flight. In 1946 Teddy Donaldson established a new world air speed record of 616mph in his Meteor. The record returned to Tangmere in 1953, when Neville Duke flew the prototype Hawker Hunter to at 727mph. The actual red Hunter in immaculate condition is displayed at Tangmere, together with Meteors, Spitfires, a Sea Vixen and many others.
We all could have spent a lot more than the 45 minutes in this splendid museum, but sadly we had to try and catch up on the schedule, and so continued to Selsay Arms hostelry for a first class (and well earned) luncheon. Miraculously, some of the party had even recovered sufficiently to enjoy the hair of the dog!
Sunday 31st August – Shoreham Airshow.
The BMPA were privileged to be allowed the apron in front of the Transair hangar as ringside seats for the Shoreham Airshow. The weather was wonderful and the main concern was the possibility of sunburn.
Many of the aircraft taxied past and we had uninterrupted views.
The AGM was held in the hanger, with occasional breaks in proceedings due to low flying aircraft. A wonderful setting.