My passion for aviation began early in my childhood but strangely I can’t ever recall wanting to be an airforce or airline pilot. I enjoyed tinkering with model airplanes and exploring novel designs, but as a child I think I was somewhat dissuaded from a career in aviation as being the oldest son my father did his best to involve me into the family business.
However sensing my interest in flight, together with the fact that he did his national service in the airforce and loved it, my father hoped that I too would join, “to make a man of me,” then return to the fold to help run the business. I had no desire to follow in my father’s footsteps but I was fortunate that he gave me the opportunity to learn to fly.
Earning my Private Pilot’s License as a seventeen year old gave me a huge boost in confidence that stayed with me throughout my early adult life. After this early start, times became tough economically, so flying a powered aircraft on a regular basis was beyond my means. I did, however, take to hang gliding and gliding and that’s where I really learnt to fly.
I was thirty-eight years old when I came to Canada to start a new life and took the gamble to become a commercial pilot. I still didn’t see myself as an airline pilot but was drawn to the idea of bush flying as it dovetailed with my love of the outdoors. Inevitably, things didn’t go to plan, but there was no lack of drama and adventure, which culminated in a few seasons of bush flying in the Yukon.
To get there I spent many hours teaching others to fly, building and testing experimental aircraft, and a short but successful period of aerial photography before the advent of drones. I tinkered and experimented – not always successfully – and most importantly, learnt a lot about what makes a good pilot. Through exposure to tragedy, I also figured out that some personality types just don’t make good pilots.
I also learned the hard way, that off-airport operations are by their very nature high risk, and that bush flying is a life of risk management and tough decisions under extraordinary pressure. I takes a very special person to make this a lifetime career, but there is no doubt in my mind that bush experience is valuable to anyone pursuing a life in aviation.
My latest book is available Kindle.