Saturday, 3 March 2012

90th birthday of Lancs Aero Club and of its president, Tom Dugdale

The Lancashire Aero Club celebrated its 90th birthday today at its traditional home, Barton. Also 90 this year is the club's president, Tom Dugdale, who was flown in to take part. I learnt to fly at Lancs Aero Club at Barton in 1978, and one of my instructors was Tom.

Tom climbs from the Bell Jet Ranger helicopter which has flown him into Barton from his ancestral home near Ribchester. 

Tom takes the salute from the Air Cadets. The young lady closest to Tom is the winner of the LAC Tom Dugdale Scholarship, Rebbecca Morrissey. She will receive flying training to complete her Private Pilot's Licence. 

Tom is wheeled from the helicopter to the Barton Visitor Centre

In the Visitor Centre, Tom chats about his Lancaster squadron experiences to LAC members and visiting students from Manchester Metropolitan University

Tom and Rebbecca pose in front of the Grob115 in which Rebbecca is learning to fly

 Rebbecca has no excuse for failure; she is being taught by the very capable, enthusiastic, and experienced Lancashire Aero Club Flying School instructor Martin Rushbroke. I can vouch for Martin as an instructor who has very high standards but at the same time makes the learning experience tremendous fun. He taught me aerobatics and instrument flying, and checked me out on the Yak52.

Chris Copple of Mainair taxied this beauty up to the apron from its hangar

Chris in the 80% scale Spitfire warming the engine (a 180hp Jabiru unit). The aeroplane is owned by someone who doesn't fly it; it spent four years hangared at Perranporth and has only flown about 10 hours since it was built. Chris, lucky guy, gets to fly it up to fifteen hours a year which is all that is allowed under its limited 'care and maintenance only' insurance policy.

Tom, who has avgas in his veins, was delighted to see the Spitfire. Chris shows him the 'office'. Given half a chance, Tom would be out of that chair and in that cockpit, aerobatting the lovely machine!

Spitfire cockpit. Amazingly, there are two seats but you'd need to be a lot smaller than me to fit into the rear one!

This Cessna 150 was on the LAC training fleet back in the late 70s, when I did some of my PPL training on it. It's still on the fleet today though it was dark blue 
back when I flew it.

 Here's the 'star spangled Citabria' I once had a share in, taking off to join the flypast celebrating 90 years of LAC and Tom

A general view across the airfield today. Early poor visibility and forecast heavy showers later in the afternoon kept visitors away who might otherwise have flown in. It is sad to see so little flying activity at Barton these days; back in the 80s or 90s when this place was our playground it would have been buzzing with flying and 'aircraft fettling' activities. I think we had the best years of GA.

I'd like to add a couple of personal reminiscences of Tom Dugdale. One July evening in 1978 when I had fewer than ten hours training in my log book I was learning spins and spin recovery with Tom in Cessna 150 G-AYGC (in what is widely considered by pilots a retrograde step, spinning and spin recovery is longer on the PPL syllabus). We were doing 'flick entries' to the spins (slow right down to just above the stall, then full back stick and full rudder whereupon the aeroplane pitches sharply up, rolls inverted, and settles into a steady spin). When we got back to Barton Tom stood behind Golf Charlie; "this aeroplane's being sold off the fleet tomorrow" he told me. "Better just check we haven't bent the fin!"

Of course there was no such damage (Tom knows exactly what he is doing - GC is still at Barton today in private hands), and when we got back to the Tower Tom's next student had cancelled. I was in no hurry to go home so I readily agreed to doing some more work with Tom in the circuit. After two circuits, he said "just drop me off by the Tower. You're fine, you can go do one on your own now". I was gobsmacked; I wasn't expecting to fly solo until I'd done a few more hours of training. But Tom had already gone, having stowed his seat belt and closed the door. He didn't look back as he strode towards the Tower.

I did my checks very carefully and lined up at the 27 threshold, hand on throttle, looking along the short grass runway. "Once I get this thing into the air, I'll have to get it down in one piece" I thought; and pressed full power. The circuit went well, as Tom had known it would. My feet didn't touch the ground for weeks! I had actually flown an aeroplane entirely on my own! Tom was no fool; he knew it was exactly the confidence booster I needed at that stage of my training.

A few months later I had successfully completed all of the training syllabus, my ground exams, and my qualifying cross country flights. All that remained between me and Private Pilot's Licence was the dreaded GFT - General Flying Test. The examiner was Tom.

It was with some trepidation that I strapped into the left seat of the Cessna while Tom strapped into the right. A lot would depend on the next one and a half hours. Nerves caused me to make a couple of errors, including at least one which was fairly basic. I was sure it would have failed me and I wondered if I should simply give up now and turn this into a lesson and do the GFT another day,  but I carried on anyway.

When we landed Tom got out, and while folding his seat belt simply said "thank you very much. Very nice flight", and started to walk back to the Tower.

"But did I pass?" I blurted after him!

Tom stopped in mid stride, turned towards me and smiled. "Oh yes. Of course. Oh yes", and continued on his way.

Tom Dugdale - remarkable pilot (the only one I know who can gain height while aerobatting a Chipmunk), super confidence-inspiring instructor.... and above all, gentleman!


No comments:

Post a Comment