Welcome to the site.

This website contains my recollections and scrapbook of part of my 36 years spent in aviation, mostly as a pilot and in various management positions.  My career has been unremarkable but it parallels the experience of many who have contributed to the history of aviation and thus may be worth recording for posterity as it forms part of enterprises more important than individual contributions.  Aviation has been a story of innovation and progress and all of us have played our part, however small, in the pursuit of success in the various fields of this exciting but very demanding discipline.

I intend to maintain this website for whatever time I have left and hopefully a grandson will continue to pay the annual domain fee in due course.  It is a live site so if anyone reading this record wishes to comment, especially in the form of additions or corrections, then I hope they will feel free to do so using the facility provided in the individual articles or direct by email articles@ashpole.org.uk .    Personal experiences or anecdotes relevant to the subject matter would be particularly welcome.

William Ashpole – February 2014


35 thoughts on “Welcome to the site.

  1. My husband found your blog today, and I have spent the evening reading it. Brought back many memories of colleagues. I shall never forget going to meet a helicopter at Gatwick one evening with Doug Pritchard and Dave Eastwood flying it, and one of the engineers asking some technical question and their reply: “in the darness and the terror we didn’t notice!” I can also remember Dave and Tom Price recalling their antics crop spraying etc and early Experimental Days. Oh how we laughed until our sides ached. How I wish I could remember those stories now…… and of course I shall never forget the visit of the Russians – what an evening that was!

    Of course I shall never forget my first flight in the S55 with you as pilot, and us hitting a small air pocket on the way back from Heathrow and you asking over the headphones if I was ok, as you had forgotten to put the sickbags on board. I was ok, but I gather I was a little green around the gills when we landed!

    Thank you for the memories. Keep them coming.


    • Dear Mags
      Not being familiar yet with WordPress, I replied to you using your email address rather than the facility on WordPress. I hope you received my message.
      Kind regards
      Bill Ashpole

  2. Bill,

    Great website.
    I was a driller on Staflo 1973-76 so must have been in the cabin behind you at some point.
    Tried the e-mail link but it bounced.

    Roger V

    • Hi Roger
      Thanks for the kind comment. It is a pleasure to hear from an associate in the great industry that contributed so much to the UK economy, sometimes sadly at great human cost. I hope you are safely retired and enjoying the fruits of your labours. Best regards

  3. Bill,
    I retired last year after 40 years in the drilling industry, with all my faculties intact and the mortgage paid off, so I do count myself fortunate.
    I recall an inbound flight from Staflo that was diverted to Unst (Baltasound?) due to a technical fault. The airfield was closed and we spent a few nervous hours with only the sheep for company waiting for a relief aircraft. What a desolate place!


    • Hi Roger – thanks for the contact and comment. Congratulations on your safe retirement after serving so long. Stepping off the helicopter at Unst you must have felt you had stepped off the edge of the World! I wish you a very happy retirement. I can recommend it.

  4. Hi Bill

    How good to find you still alive and kicking after all this time. I have fond memories of you pushing your little one along Vale Road in the late sixties.

    I have read part of the blog and will read it all when time allows.

    I remember you joining us at Gatwick. It was still like a flying club then, before it all became serious

    The photograph taken at the Farnborough performance trials can be updated as follows:

    Top left Mike Holt, the bod between you and Dave was a Farnborough man, name N/K, far top right, Gareth Jones, bottom centre Harry Bedford.

    I was lucky enough to be on the trial at Boscombe Down and we saw the TSR2 doing hi-speed taxi runs but had to leave before the first flight.

    I was also on board with Dave Eastwood and Geoff Gurr when they did the first IFR rating at Stansted Airport. I repeated that in Amsterdam when Bill van Ghent became the first Dutch pilot to be IFR qualified.

    I retired from the CAA 18 years ago and kept in touch with Ron Kelly and Dennis Angel who both lived in the Isle of Wight. Ron died about 10 years ago and Denis nearly 3 years ago You may remember him on the performance trials in the cabin monitoring the test gear.

    I’d best call a halt for now but I’ll be in touch again.

    Kind regards,

    Tony Short

    • Tony, what a pleasure to hear from you after all this time. Writing the blog took a lot of effort but it is reaping rich rewards when former colleagues pick it up and renew acquaintance. Thanks for the two missing names for Farnborough. I shall include them. I do remember Ron and Dennis. So sad to hear of anyone who has passed on and, of course, the list grows. I am now in my 77th year – against all the odds with the family curse of heart disease and two major heart attacks already in the log book. That was a major incentive for me to put down all I could remember for posterity. All of us in BEAH/BAH knew we were the best, often pioneering innovation in helicopter engineering and operation.
      I look forward to hearing from you again.
      Kind regards

  5. Hello Bill,
    I tried to send you an email at “articles@ashpole.org.uk” with the followingcomments:
    Hello Bill,
    I have just discovered your web site with your full history of your flying career. I was sorry to hear about your sad loss of Margaret. I know how it must have grieved you, as Beth died in 1994 when what should have been a straightforward gall bladder operation went wrong.
    Both Alan Brew and Alastair Martin were on my 78 Sqn during the withdrawal from Aden and the move to Sharjah. Jim Blain and I were all set for a Sqn.reunion near Duxford in June. Unfortunately I had to cry off, as my 2nd wife Kathy fell and fractured her pelvis. Jim and Wendy had a good time meeting old friends.
    I hope that you are well and bearing up. I have attached some photos of our trip to Libya and the subsequent move to Borneo. I notice that in your history you wisely failed to mention our attempts to flog NAAFI cigarettes in the back streets of Naples to raise some pocket money.
    Thank you for reliving old memories,
    Best wishes,
    However it was returned twice. It did contain several photographs which you might have been interested in. If you send me your eMail address I will send the photographs again.
    Tom Hooper

    • Dear Tom
      Please accept my apologies for not replying sooner. There have been some problems with the website and I have not been receiving notifications of comments.
      What a pleasure to hear from you after so many years. I hope you are well. I toyed with the idea of including our adventures in Naples but had a rare moment of wisdom!
      Thank you for your comments re Margaret. Please accept my condolences re Beth. It must have been a cruel shock to you. I hope that Kathy has mended well. Falls can prove a challenge. Three weeks ago I moored my boat to have lunch in a pub. I tripped over the mooring rope and fell into the river! Clumsy old git! I developed severe bruising but my mobile phone was mortally wounded – expensive!
      I have Alistair Martin’s email should you wish to make contact. One of the greatest benefits I have had from the blog is making contact with former colleagues.
      Please stay in touch.
      Best wishes
      Bill Ashpole

  6. Hi Bill

    I have read your blog with great interest. I am Dave Eastwood’s grand daughter, and sadly he died long before I was born. It has been so lovely seeing pictures of him in uniform and seeing his name on screen. His son and my father also passed away a few years ago, but we still have some wonderful pictures of him at home, including one of him and the great Stirling Moss.

    Thank you again.

    Gemma Eastwood

    • Dear Gemma
      Thank you for your comments on the blog. Please accept my apologies for not replying sooner. There have been some problems with the website and I have not been receiving notifications of comments.
      Your grandfather was an icon in BEAH/BAH! He had everyone’s complete respect and affection. Amusing, dedicated, professional, sincere are some of his qualities. He was among the “Greats” who made significant contributions to advancing helicopter operations in the UK and, in some projects such as the helicopter instrument rating, leading the World.
      You have every reason to hold him in high regard.
      Best wishes
      Bill Ashpole

  7. Bill

    I was one of the engineers from BAH assigned to the Airlink in its early days working on shift with George the Greek, leaving late 1980 to study to be a nurse of all things.

    Life should always be an experience and my time on Airlink was very enjoyable, thank you.

    Alan Stewart

  8. Hi Bill,
    I’ve found your blog by accident and very interesting it is too!
    I was trained by BAH in 1979/80 at Hamble and Cranfield. So many of the names mentioned are familiar to me through the last 36 years.
    I started out as a Tech Clerk at Bristow Helicopters Hangar 6 at Redhill in 1976. The venerable Ken Bradley gave me some of my first experiences of helicopter flying in a B206 Jetranger on (over) the grass area at the northern end of Redhill Aerodrome. We covered a lot of ground in my attempts to hover the damn thing!
    When my training was completed Mike Evans and Jock Cameron came to give us our wings. I still have the photos in pride of place.
    Keith Gregson was on my interview team, so I’m grateful to him for giving my career it’s first start. I understand he died recently.
    It was not only the weather that made the North Sea a turbulent place to operate. The ups and downs of the fortunes of the oil industry didn’t help either. Like many of my colleagues at the time in the late ’80 I obtained a fixed wing licence and was lucky enough to end up in BA now flying a Boeing 747.
    Sadly, the history of BEAH/BAH is lost to many of my younger colleagues and it amuses me greatly to see pictures of the S61 on the walls of the main office at Waterside as many don’t know why they are there! No pictures of the aircraft I flew , the AS332L Super Puma, though.
    I’ve managed to keep my licence ticking over with a bit of charter work in a Jetranger every year. Every time I fly into Redhill from the north I remember my tortured attempts at hovering all those years ago.

    There was a reunion of BAH employees in November last year (2015) in Aberdeen. It was great to see so many colleagues I’d not seen for ages. I still see many ex helicopter colleagues around the crew room at Heathrow. However, the numbers are getting thin now as even the youngsters are retiring!

    Well done for doing this, it’s a great record of a critically important time in British aviation history.


    Julian Forshaw

    • Dear Julian – Thanks for the comments which add to the story to which we, and many others, made our individual contributions. Congratulations on moving to BA and the 747 to join the barons of the sky – a salary and working environment status to which no helicopter pilot can aspire! It is ironic that the photos of the S61 in Waterside are a puzzle to other staff. Back in the days of the Trident, which needed a load factor or 105% to break even, BAH was the wonder of British Airways returning 20% on capital invested! Jock Cameron had no difficulty then in asking for more money for new aircraft! You mention former BAH guys retiring from BA. As you can see from correspondence in other sections of this website, many of my former colleagues have retired permanently!! I can confirm that Keith Gregson is one such, also Alan Brew and Alistair Campbell. I hope that all is well with you. Best wishes. Bill Ashpole

  9. Hi Bill;

    Great to find your site with all the great stories and pictures. I’m one of many of the many individuals from Sumburgh that started out a career in helicopters (with Bristow in my case) and have kept on from there, doing many different things around the World since then. I remember when you first arrived in Sumburgh at a time when there was so much going on and so many people arriving there – I still stay in touch with a great number of them today. If you are ever on Facebook, check out the Sumburgh Airport Archives, as I think you will find many things there that will stir memories. Thanks for taking the time to record your own life and career here. With best regards to you and all the family;

    Phil Kemp

    • Hi Phil – great to hear from you and reminisce. I took your advice and looked up the Sumburgh Facebook site – amazing record! I do wonder where everyone is now, the Dave Clems and Martin Wibmers and Terry Wolfe-Milnes. Sadly some have passed on. As you can see from the website, I do hear from time to time from former colleagues and children or even grandchildren of former colleagues. I think we can pride ourselves on taking part in the great helicopter history in the UK and elsewhere in the World and in the case of Shetland, battling against enormous challenges and winning! Best wishes to you and yours. Bill Ashpole

  10. Hi Bill
    I remember coming down to Gatwick as a newlywed to work on the airlink in ’83 for a couple of years. It was such a brilliant time that gave me a love for flying in helicopters. I especially remember the red tartan jackets that just seemed wrong on us guys. The dark green / blue was so much better. Great memories.

    • Hi Ian
      Great to hear from you after all these years. I recall the red tartan jackets – the Cameron tartan chosen was in respect of Jock Cameron, the Managing Director of British Airways Helicopters and, no doubt, did not suit everyone. But you and all your team colleagues looked smart and did a first class job!
      Best regards
      Bill Ashpole

  11. Hi Bill, what great reading and a brilliant idea to document your career like this.
    It makes great reading. I certainly enjoyed reading it and working with you in BCAL on Airlink and BCAL Commuter. When in Sales in Dallas/Ft Worth, the Airlink proved to be a great product for us to sell passengers on with a non-stop flight from DFW to Gatwick then Airlink to Heathrow and we stole a lot of business off our American competitors who flew out of other US Gateways. You produced a great product and BCAL Commuter only enhanced it. Thanks for making our jobs easier. You built a quality team which all regarded highly.
    Great working with you and congratulations again on this site.
    Best wishes

    • Hi Phil – lovely to hear from you and I am pleased the blog gave you pleasure. They were great days. Yes – the Airlink and Commuter boys and girls were great teams who made it work. Sadly, there is a growing list of those who have passed on, the latest being Laurie Price, who conceptualised Airlink. He died last week after a long fight with cancer.
      I hope this finds you well and enjoying life with your friends and family.
      Best wishes
      Bill Ashpole

  12. Thank you for all the time and effort you have put into this blog Bill, it’s a terrific read and a real trip down memory lane for me and doubtless all your other readers.

    I joined BAH at Gatwick in 1975 as a temporary maintenance worker (supposedly for 6 weeks!), and ended up working for the company (and later BIHL) for 10 years, initially working in stores, then in fleet planning before ending up as a computer programmer in I.T.
    I have fond memories of the early Airlink days. At the time, I was AOG/shift storekeeper and would get called out at all hours of the night to provide replacement parts for the ones you drivers regularly broke.
    Occasionally, we would use the Airlink service to hand-carry AOG parts up to LHR to catch the BA flight to ABZ, so I had the pleasure of several round trips on G-LINK. It should also be said that whilst working at Gatwick, I would take any ‘jolly’ that was going (human ballast) and fondly remember a roller-coaster of a trip around Beachy Head lighthouse one fine afternoon.

    I flew on ‘EB’ a couple of times during holidays to IOS in the 70’s (a unique aircraft which I am in the process of making a scale model of). It’s good to know that G-BCEB is still flying (N618CK Croman Corp).

    I was one of the last to leave the facility at Gatwick, and remember walking around the empty offices and workshops after the company had relocated its operation to Dyce. I spent my final years in ABZ finishing off a computerised Technical Records system that I co-wrote.

    My last flight on a S61N was in October 2012, when I flew on one of the last BIH flights to IOS on G-BFFJ.

    Best Wishes
    David Tappenden

    • Dear David
      Thanks for kind comments about the site. You were one of the unseen but vital supports to the service without whom it would not have functioned. EB, like G-LINK, was very unique and I hope your model turns out well. I can imagine the poignancy of walking around the empty BAH offices. I had the same feeling when Laker went bust and I was told to look around their former property to see if there was anything useful worth purchasing for my operations with BCal at Gatwick – Once a busy set of offices and hangars, full of people doing their respective jobs and making the airline work but now a ghost with manuals and paperwork left on the desks! It felt like climbing aboard the Marie Celeste. I hope you are well and enjoying life. Best regards Bill Ashpole

  13. Hi Bill,

    Looking for information on the 225 Squadron Association and whether they had a journal or newsletter that may have obituaries of former members. If so do you know where these articles are kept?

    We are currently researching Substantive Flight Lt. Richard Brien Pilkington of 225 Squadron who died in 1986. We know that his death was registered by Gordon Henderson , who was at the time, the Secretary of 225 Squadron Assoc.

    • Hi Kathy
      My apologies for the delay in reply; I have been trying to find an answer to your question.
      I regret to report that as far as I can determine, there is no active 225 Squadron Association.
      I am in contact with two former 225 colleagues but I fear that most of the rest are no longer with us.
      Anyone who served on 225 must be at least 73 years of age. When I joined in 1961, most of the guys were over 35 although there had been an infusion of younger men which accelerated thereafter as the RAF changed its policy from only over 35 years old to fly helicopters to only under 35 years olds!
      You might care to “advertise” in the RAF News to see if anyone declares an interest. I am sorry that I have not been able to help.
      Best wishes
      Bill Ashpole

  14. Dear Bill
    After your Facebook comment I looked up this website and find it very interesting indeed.I have many great memories of Sumburgh and the helicopter invasion into our peaceful life.Still keep in touch with the helicopter world
    Via my son in law who recently retired from the North Sea after his whole flying career with Bristol and my son who has a very successful engineering career in Canada ( Heliwellders of Canada.)
    I am still very fit for my 86 years and spend a lot of time outdoors with a big veg garden. Best wishes.

    • Dear Alan
      Thanks for your comments. I am so pleased to learn that you are now 86 and still very fit – I am a mere boy having just had my 80th!
      I see that your aviation genes have been passed to your sons. I sent my two sons to the USA for their FAA CPL/IR’s on the way to their UK CPl’s. One worked for Monarch for many years and is now a training captain with EasyJet. Developments at Sumburgh have been dramatic since those early days and I can still see you setting off in threatening weather in your Trilander to some tennis court of a landing strip on one of the islands!
      I hope you have many more years enjoying the best of health. Bil Ashpole

  15. Hi Bill
    I have really enjoyed your various articles regarding BEAH?BAH. I expect you know I wrote a history of BEA Helicopters and its predecessors published by Air Britain in about 1986. Many of the people mentioned in your articles I met during my research and visits toPZE, Beccles, Gatwick, ABZ & LSI. My Dad was BEA Senior traffic Officer in Jersey 1958-66 and flew in WS55 on a battle of Flowers visit to the island, he subsequently became Station Supt at SOU and was a friend of Jock, who I first met in 1964 when G-ASNM was based in Jersey over the winter to fly. midday link to Guernsey whilst the JER runway was resurfaced. Jock provided lots of help for the book. I also am still in touch with Ron Rogers who was BEA/BEAH/BAH reservations manager at PZE. I expect you have seen the BEA Helicopters book but in case you haven’t and would like a copy please email me.
    Kind regards Phil

    • Dear Phil
      Thanks for your comments on the website.
      I was unaware of your book and would love to buy a copy. I will email you with contact details. From what you say about your research efforts it promises to be a very interesting read.
      I remember the Battle of Flowers in Jersey – my first commercial flight in the S61N as a FO in 1966 – Jock as P1 – and Wynn Jones as cabin attendant.
      I never took part in the service to Jersey during the unavailability of the runway; Russ Williams was one who did operate that route.
      I remember Ron Rogers and am glad he is still around.
      Best wishes
      Bill Ashpole

  16. Great collection of memories providing detail on this era in British aviation.

    Many thanks for taking the time to share. It’s appreciated by all of us who take an interest in our aviation heritage.

  17. Hi Bill
    Having started our jet training together I found your website most interesting. Although we have spoken recently I have misplaced your contact details for our reunion. Please would you send me an email.
    Best wishes

  18. Dear Mr. Ashpole,
    You used to fly helicopters with my father: “Lofty”. Flt. EWT Marshall. He was on 225 sqn RAF Odiham & a friend of Tom Hooper.
    I just wanted to let you know my father passed away in Shawbury, last December.
    Kind regards,
    Howard Marshall.

  19. Hi,
    I am not sure this message will be read, but in case it is I am contacting you to let you know that my father, Tom Hooper, died peacefully a few days ago, aged 89. He always talked about the wonderful years and adventures he had while in the RAF and the life-long friendships he made. His second wife, Kathy died three years ago and Dad spent the last 18 months of his life in a care home in St Austell, where he was described as a real gentleman.

    I have opened a tribute page for Tom on the RAF Benevolent Fund website, accessible via the following link:


    Michael Hooper

  20. Hello Mr.. Ashpole. I am the sister (older)! Of Bren Spikins an have been looking up info on his happy time inthe RAF. The internet being relativelynew to me. I f still close to his wife and family. I am wondering whether you know if anything can be done about huge inaccuracies in some accounts onhim. There is one which appears unde…lar Brendon Spikins which is totally inaccurate and another I came across. The must be what i think are Scams? And I wondered if you knew if anything could be done to remove them. I was pleased to read of your friendship with him. I miss him greatly. Should know how this can be rectified I would be very pleased to hear from you. It is just so disrespectful of someone to put this information on line. I was so pleased to read of his friendship with you. Thank you so much……….best wishes…Hazel

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