17th March 2018.  Spring Meeting, held at the National Space Centre Leicester.

Following last year’s highly successful joint meeting with The Association of Aviation Medical Examiners, this year’s Spring Meeting followed a similar format.  The Saturday afternoon session was sponsored by the BMPA and was chaired by Professor Michael Bagshaw.  The speakers for this session were provided by the BMPA as follows:

Captain Jane Paros and Captain Mel Buchanan; two female captains working in the commercial airline sector.  Their joint presentation was quite unlike any other that this reporter had seen and heard!  Their title  ‘The XX factor in aviation‘, summarised the paucity of female pilots in the industry and the difficulty that they have in becoming accepted.

Mr Michael Miller-Smith (CEO, Aerobility).   ‘If I can fly a plane, what else can I do?‘  Despite severe disabilities, Michael Miller-Smith learnt to fly and with his passion for flying, subsequently enabled many others to do so through Aerobility.  He gave a fascinating account, describing how the company has grown and how adaptations to light aircraft have enabled even severely disabled people to fulfill their ambition to get airborne when previously that was thought impossible.

Other speakers during the day were provided by the Association of Air Medical examiners.

Professor David Russell-Jones; “Flying on Insulin – Innovation in the UK leads the field for diabetics”.  Whether to permit pilots with diabetes to fly is a question of balancing safety with fulfilling an individual’s full rights in society.  This dilemma faces AMEs on a regular basis.  The speaker reviewed the problems facing diabetics with differing severities of the disease and the approaches in various countries worldwide to pilots so affected.  He showed that the UK was leading the way with a liberal approach, although to ensure safety, blood sugar measurements are required pre-take off, every hour during flight and 30 minutes before landing.

Dr Harsha Kariyawasam;  “Allergy Medicine  –  Overview of disease and treatment approaches”.  Dr Kariyawasam gave a highly informative and easy to follow talk on this complex subject.  He described how treatment of the very common allergic rhinitis also improves eye symptoms.  Childhood allergies, e.g. to milk or eggs are often outgrown but allergy to nuts is not and can be very dangerous because of the high risk of anaphylactic shock.  The presence of blood markers can now indicate the degree of individual risk.  He emphasised the importance of the immediate administration of adrenalin following exposure to an allergen in high risk individuals.

Captain Dave Fielding; “The BLPA/BA Pilots’ Assistance Network – The first post-Germanwings PSP”.  Dave Fielding described how peer-support arrangements are being developed by BALPA in conjunction with BA.  In essence, pilots can report their concerns confidentially and are provided with a Peer Support Adviser (PSA).  Any intervention is decided on a case by case basis with specialists (e.g. psychologists) being consulted if necessary.  The objective is to provide pro-active and not punitive action whilst confidentiality is paramount.

The last two speakers were provided by the CAA and gave updates that proved highly useful to AMEs.

Mr Paul Collins Howgill (Medical Assessor, CAA);  “How to Survive your Audit“.  Changes to the way that the CAA audits the activities of AMEs were highlighted.  The speaker gave information on some of the common problems encountered during audit.  For example; the need to have witnesses to actually see documents being signed where relevant, to ensure that colour testing cards of the latest specification are used, and to arrange for a Reader Over Reader of ECGs if non-approved interpretive software is used.

Dr Sally Evans (Chief Medical Officer, CAA);  “CAA Update“.  Dr Evans reviewed the year’s statistics on the progress of the audit process.  Ninety were performed in 2017 and 16 so far in 2018.  Very few (less than 4%) had resulted in suspension of the AME’s licences.  Changes are due to be implemented between September 2018 and 2021.  These will include psychological testing of pilots and random drug and alcohol tests.

A black tie Gala Dinner following the meeting on the Saturday evening.  Excellent food and the fellowship of friends was enjoyed by all.


Friday 7th September:  We stayed at the Oxford Witney Hotel, Witney, which is only about 10minutes drive to RAF Brize Norton.  It was a very comfortable hotel and attendees enjoyed a very pleasant evening meal in a reserved area of the restaurant.

Saturday 8th September:

After breakfast, we boarded a coach for RAF Brize Norton at 0930.   After clearing security, we were welcomed by 4626 Sqn.  A number of demonstrations had been set up for our benefit and also for friends and families of serving personnel who were also present.  The demonstrations illustrated the work of the Squadron which  is a branch of the Auxiliary Air Force.   The Squadron shares its base with the Tactical Medical Wing.  Highly trained volunteer medical personnel of all grades are involved with the treatment and repatriation of sick and injured from all parts of the world.

Following a buffet lunch we were transported airside where we viewed many of the aircraft used by Transport Command 99 Sqn., especially the C 17 where we were privileged to be able to go aboard and be shown the flight deck and inner workings of the aircraft, including a demonstration of the opening and closing of the rear cargo door and the many features that enable large numbers of casualties to be transported in a very short time frame from, for example, a war zone to the UK.  Our hosts included a pilot and loadmaster, both of whom were enthusiastically generous of their time and patiently answered all our questions.

After lunch we re-joined our coach and left for Chastleton House and Garden (National Trust).  The house is considered one of the finest and perfectly proportioned country houses of the early 17th century. Built as a statement of wealth and power by a prosperous wool merchant during the early reign of King James I but falling into disrepair in recent centuries when the family’s financial situation deteriorated.  The National Trust has expertly trodden a difficult path of a light-handed preservation whilst leaving many features as they found it.

In the evening we had our black tie dinner at Oxford Witney Hotel followed by presentation of the Guinness Cup to the pilot who touched down closest to his ETA.  This was won by Jonathan Brown for the second year running.  There were two pilots in the running for this.  They arrived seconds apart with the same ETA.  The other (Mike Bagshaw) lost the award by arriving only a few seconds too early!  In all, we had five aircraft arriving at this meeting and all pilots enjoyed the experience of landing at an active RAF base.  The Pooley Quaich was presented to Janet Gibson for her years of service as Hon. Treasurer.

Sunday 9th September:

The  AGM was held at Oxford Witney Hotel and a number of important decisions were made.  For example, we will revert to having our Winter Meeting at the RAF Club in London.   Jonathan Brown became President-elect, to take over the presidency in September 2019 and, as agreed in 2017, Chris Lydiatt took on the role of Treasurer.  It was proposed that Cambridge should be the venue for the Autumn Meeting and Jonathan Brown agreed to investigate this further.

We returned to Brize Norton after the AGM and were captivated by an extremely interesting presentation about the role and work of 4626 Squadron by the Commanding Officer and completed our tour of the facilities of the Tactical Medical Wing.

In all, a very enjoyable and successful meeting.