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Following the loss of my Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence in 1995 as a result of my first myocardial infarction (heart attack), I have occasionally hired aeroplanes for short sessions of dual. The CAA advised that I could fly gliders solo but not with passengers. I went solo with the Southdown Gliding Club but although it gave me a buzz I did not pursue this form of flight. Whilst living in France for 10 years I had an extraordinary flight in an aircraft consisting of a girder, two seats, an engine and a wing. It was extremely exhilarating, especially flying over the picturesque and exotic scenery of the Dordogne and Lot. Back in England, I even tried the Virgin balloon experience – a very worthwhile adventure. Now in my 82nd year, I look back on my time in aviation with great fondness and a little pride. Like so many others, I did make my small contribution and did so without causing death or destruction. I have renewed my subscription to the Royal Aeronautical Society and can again put the recognition “FRAeS” after my name. I will let my FCIT lie fallow as there is a limit to my finances! I work with the local RAF Air Cadets instructing a wonderful group of young boys and girls on the squadron’s flight simulator. I am also an “Ambassador” for the Aviation Skills Partnership next to Norwich Airport, where I give talks to visitors on aircraft operation and instruct on their three flight simulators. This organisation has a number of functions and facilities, including an engineering training school, encouraging young people to take up a career in aviation. As a member of the Felthorpe Flying Group, I have occasionally flown in the C42 microlight owned by Bob Gotts, the generous owner of the airfield and two microlights and hope to experience the gyrocopter. I have learnt that whereas my heart problems effectively prevent me from holding a private licence (£1,000 for the initial medical tests and the same every year thereafter), the CAA does now allow self-certification to fly microlights. But perhaps I should be sensible and not seek to fly solo again. Living in Norwich, I regularly hear the glorious roar of today’s jet fighters exercising overhead and recall the time, 60 years ago, when I was the one making the noise but in an aircraft, the Vampire T11, with a fraction of the power and the most basic of equipment.
These are beautiful aircraft weighing less than 350 kg AUW (all up weight) and are classed as microlights. A holder of a UK driving licence can self certify medically provided one has no psychological history.