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Being the new pilot on the scene I am eager to start flying everything I can get my hands on. The Chipmunk is the first, and wha...

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Olly Smith

28/04/2014 09:54:47

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Becoming the new boy

Being the new pilot on the scene I am eager to start flying everything I can get my hands on. The Chipmunk is the first, and what a beautifully delicate beast she is, worlds apart from my day job of flying Twin Otters. Classic Air Force is such a special place, but don't think for a second having a commercial pilot's licence qualifies you to start on the Chipmunk - my CAF experience started almost a year ago!

Turning up on one beautiful day in April 2013, unsure of what to expect, I enter Hangar 404 to be presented with one of the most fantastic collections of aircraft, and instantly think, this is where I need to be, amongst all these flyers! Before my brain can complete that thought I’m instantly put to work. I have had many jobs in my life and am definitely not shy of a bit of elbow grease. I was directed to the then largest aircraft in the hangar (and my favourite type of all time) Douglas DC-3 G-AMRA. The wing of RA which had come under a sustained attack from the local bird population so, feeling put in my place but still happy to be involved I set to work.. Here I was, sitting on the wing of an iconic DC-3!

After that day all thoughts of a social life or a life away from Classic Air Force dissolved and I found myself spending more and more time in the hangar, moving up to cockpit tours, and opening the dreaded hangar doors (to this day my daily workout). I soon found a place amongst the flight operations team, dispatching aircraft and helping with the boarding and strapping in of passengers, a very rewarding job. Taken under the wing by Andy Barton, Geoff Ogden, Chris Williams and Rob Springett made me feel more and more belonging, finally becoming the flight operations manager when Rob departed.

At this point I would recommend whole heartedly, if you have a passion for aviation, even if you can give one day in a month to volunteer, the people you meet, the variety of things that you can end up doing have made it the most rewarding thing I have ever done.

So the big day, after about 10 months volunteering, rumours started to spread from Jon Corley (chief pilot) and Andrew Dixon (one of the senior pilots) that I was getting my chance, and on a stunning April day, almost a year after first entering 404 I took to the air with Andrew Dixon in the Chipmunk, an experience that will stay with me forever.

my flying boots now firmly back on the ground, and G-APLO tucked away to bed in the hangar, I savour the moment, and in the corner of my eye I see the birds most recent attack all over the tail of the Anson.

Time to fill up the bucket again..

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