Friday's Fabulous Flyer!
Mark possesses and avid love of aviation. He writes often and shares updates so quickly that I did not know the aviation event transpired. He's got his nose to the heart of aviation. So, who better this week to be our Friday Flyer. His passion did not stop when he was prevented from flying. A true inspiration.
Mark, when did your love of aviation or interest of flying begin?
Mark: "From a very early age, as far back as 76, aged 6 when my dad took me to my first airshow, and listening to my dad's father and his Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force career, late 1917 to 1960 as technician/airframe fitter. My, dad (gen technician station workshops) also had stories to tell, but was also the school holidays at his base R.A.F. Wittering, Peterborough, home to the sadly missed, Harrier jump jet.
During holidays or odd sickness, dad took me to his work, I would sit
in the crew room while he worked. I remember still this day the
outlay of the station workshops, it had a long corridor with offices and
engineering sections off, and to south of corridor, the engine section, which housed all the rolls Royce Pegasus engines undergoing inspection / repair.
the road, was one of 6 hangars, this one like 4 others, were WWI era,
this particular one was the heavy maintenance hangar. During, times with
dad, we would have the odd visit out, to rectify an issue, or go up to
see his friend, Len, who was a chief technician on the Harrier's of
number 1 squadron, and get to sit in the cockpit."
You spoke of a continuing passion for aviation and learning to fly, tell me about that.
Mark: "After my dad left the R.A.F. in 1985, I was still into aviation buying the" Flypast magazine", after gaining my drivers liscence and a car in '91. I was getting the urge to take flying lessons, and gain pilot's license. Although, their was a flying club to west of Peterborough, it was only a grass airfield and had high voltage power lines one end and a row of trees other, the power lines put me off, and the flying instructor told me of a new club that a friend of his had just recently started at a former b-17 base called Deenethorpe near Corby Northamptonshire.
During the same time, my mum, who was doing the family history was researching our branch, and found via a family, that emigrated from Devon, although one son remained, that one son came a B-17 pilot with the 94th bomb group at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and did the full 25 missions, march 8 1944. After making the phone call, I took a drive over to see and what had to offer, after driving through the very small village of Deenethorpe, 5 houses, I arrived at the field, making my way to the porta cabin that acted as flying control, besides cabin, a small micro light school, the school I was going to had 3 Cessna 172s, of the three triangle form runways, only the main east / west was used still fully concreted and half another, but grass now close to the original control tower.
Over a coffee, the mates' friend, talked me through the club, and was still gaining new members and aircraft. I asked why a small village? The friend replied which one? I said Deenethorpe, it only has 5 houses! He said that Christmas eve '44, a fort lost an engine due fire on take - off, full bomb load and fuel, careered off runway and came to rest in the village school playground. No children at school and the crew escaped un hurt and set about evacuating village, some 15/20 mins later the b-17 blew up and most of village, no casualties or death.
I flew out of Deenethorpe, just over 8 months, but problems were starting to surface, between the micro light school ,us, and the land owner, and one day I went to do a lesson, only to be told, no more flying closed down, with records in hand I left and by following weekend, had joined another club to south of Peterborough, at a village called Glatton, and again another fort base, the b-17 "Sentimental Journey", is painted in the colours of the bomb group stationed there, again the field of triangular form, had two of the original runways in use, and same runway use as of Deenethorpe.
It was from this field I went solo and a further 3 solo flights gaining 20 hours, but was to be cut short in an accident at work, which put me on crutches just over a year and goodbye to flying."
Karlene: Tell me about the accident, and then you said you went back to the flying club?
Mark: "Yes, I remember still this day quite vividly. For the previous 7 years, I had been working as a warehouseman in one of Peterborough's 2 hospital's, the other being, Edith Cavell hospital, named after and of whose father was a vicar at Peterborough cathedral, at time of Edith's death 1915. This said day, I was unloading metal wheeled cages, off a lorry from the regional n.h.s. distribution centre Bury St Edmunds. The cages had 4 wheels of which 2 were castoring, and to be placed on the lorries tail lift with the castoring wheels facing the lorry, all previous had, as I, started to remove the cage both wheels went opposite to direction of travel.
The cage, then duly tipped forward, but I couldn't hold due weight and the nylon straps holding the 5 plastic crates gave way, trying to stand I kept falling over, was taken to the hospital emergency dept, whereupon spent next 12-16 months on crutches, upon investigation, each of the plastic boxes had 2 full boxes of photo copy paper, to much.
Karlene: What a horrible accident! You also spoke of working at an aviation museum called Duxford.
Mark: Yes, I worked at the former R.A.F. Duxford airfield near Cambridge, which was owned operated by the Imperial War Museum.
Duxford, was a former Battle of Britain airfield, and still has its original command room the plotting table set for sept 15th 1940, the hangars are all ww1, being built by German prisoners of war, although, one hangar was blown up, in the making of the 1970's film Battle of Britain. The airfield, was also home to quite a lot of flying aircraft and flying organisations, The only flying Bristol Blenheim, The Fighter collection, The old flying machine company, B-17 Sally - B, the only original Messerschmidt BF-109g6 captured in north Africa still with orig Daimler Benz engine owned an flown by R.A.F., only surviving Hawker Hurricat ( a hurricane that was designed to be catapulted offcoal merchant ships during battle of Atlantic, both latter Aircraft were parked always next the York.
Every time turning up to start at 7am and not leaving till near same time at night. Working every Sunday on an Avro York transport aircraft, it used the wings from the Avro Lancaster, being trained in sheet metal work, I, was to remove badly corroded parts and renew. At times, due lack of drawing plans,and being outside for many years very much you had to use original as pattern, I renewed on the Avro York the following... both elevators internal ribs all of both main landing gear doors all of both ailerons 50/60% of internal ribs on main wings and rear both outer tail fins internal ribs, and a go at, sewing fabric on inner tail fin (yes inner was of irish linen then doped in glue) all leading edges of forward wings.
With working at Duxford, also came other privelages, whether in making friends or casual conversation, this led to invites, to airshows away or at Duxford, helping pre flight aircraft. Also, on going was an agreement, between Duxford and private operators who had their light aircraft based at, over dinner the names of a few volunteers would be put up in staff canteen, for a flight that afternoon, in a way of saying thankyou for your time, my name came up one such weekend, and went for an hours flight.
After take off, the pilot handed controls over to me, prior I had told him of previous experience, it was so nice to be flying, we chatted away,but toward the end, the pilot said you ok, I said my left leg was starting to tire ( the injury) he said id done very well and had been only one all weekend who had the turn indicator and balance ball central all time.
Today, although not flying, I still very am into aviation, still have very a passion and live near our local airport Nottingham. Am always when hear an aircraft look up, normally its either a Ryan air 737 or Thompson/ Thomas cook 787, or due local being a major freight hub for American parcel companies U.P.S. D.H.L. you see the varying types they fly, they come over around 5pm, we also have the mighty antonov 225 6 eng aircraft."
"I still get my aviation fix. I fly an airbus A321 flight simulator at home, and look up on line at friend's sites, but I will never fly as in flying again."
Mark Thank you for sharing your story!!
Enjoy the Journey!
No matter what life throws your way!