An entertaining account of the author’s experiences as a jet fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, an airline pilot with Dan Air and a private pilot, flying a variety of light aircraft, gliders and microlights.
Mike Holmes describes himself as ‘just an ordinary working pilot who has been lucky to have gained experience in a wide variety of different flying jobs, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed’.
His story begins in the 1930s when, at a very early age, he began to take an interest in aircraft and aviation and acquired the ambition to become a pilot. Amongst other things he describes being taken to Sir Alan Cobham’s Flying Circus when it arrived at Woodley, his local aerodrome, and how, at weekends and on summer evenings, streams of Tiger Moth and Miles aircraft would fly from there, passing over the farm where he lived.
He also remembers a marvellous display of low-level aerobatics performed by that most beautiful of fighters, the Hawker Fury, the thrill of sitting in the cockpit of a Bristol Bulldog for the first time and the aircraft he spotted as a teenager during World War Two ~ both 'ours' and those of the enemy.
He recalls the West London Flying Club at White Waltham, where he learned to fly in 1948 and the pilots and ground crew were all ex-ATA from the wartime years.
After gaining his A Licence he joined the Royal Air Force and undertook flying training in what was, in those days, Southern Rhodesia. He goes on to describe life on a first class fighter squadron, based at Biggin Hill, flying Meteors. This was followed by a tour flying Harvards in Kenya, supporting the army during the campaign against the Mau Mau.
On returning to the UK he was seconded to the USAF and worked for two years as a flying instructor at an American flying school near Munich. On returning home he was posted onto night fighters, flying Meteors once more, and then Javelins (7s and 9s). He finished his RAF service as a flying instructor, teaching the advanced syllabus at Oakington on Varsitys.
On leaving the service at the age of 38 he worked first as a flying instructor at the College of Air Training, Hamble, then moved on to airline flying.
In 1970 he joined Dan-Air and describes what he terms ‘an apprenticeship’ when he was a first officer on Comets, carrying holidaymakers to the Mediterranean. This was followed by five years as an Avro 748 skipper, working on scheduled services round Britain and on oil support flights out of Aberdeen, at a time when exploration in the North Sea was just starting and the work there had the excitement of a gold rush.
The author’s final ten years until retirement, at the age of 60, were as a BAC 1-11 captain, working out of Gatwick on what he calls ‘airline routine’. He brings to life the everyday difficulties of trying to get a flight away on schedule, meeting the slot time, getting airborne and climbing out, followed by the joy of settling the aircraft into the cruise and having to concentrate on just the flying.
Finally he describes the fun he had flying gliders and microlight aircraft until he finally decided, at the age of 75, that it was time to hang up his helmet and goggles.
Any reader – from aviation enthusiasts to those with just a general interest in the flying world – will find much to enjoy in this good humoured and entertaining memoir.