Weekend Feature: Very Old Age Pensioners Beware

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Geoff Farr and his JODEL D150 Mascaret

Now listen up you Golden Oldies and Living Legends. Has it ever crossed your mind  how you would fair if confronted by having to take your driving test again? I'll bet it has and you have shuddered and dismissed the idea.

Very natural and I am right with you. Except that I fell into the trap twice.
A few years ago (not many) I decided that it might be a good idea to take a refresher course and thereafter become a member of the  Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists.  Arrogant fool that I am.
I went along to enrol with a group of prospective candidates and during the interrogation (and that is what it was) I was asked in my turn to say why I wished at my age, to pursue this foolhardy venture and what did I expect to get out of it.
Pompous as hell I was. After all this was going to be easy.
I said: "Well, I have been riding motorcycles since 10th April 1954 and much before any of you were born." I added to that: "I find myself a little surprised and pleased that I am still alive. However, upon reflection, I feel that I may, during that sixty or so years, have picked up a few bad habits; so I am here to iron them out."

Oh yes ! they pricked my bubble alright. It took me six summer months of escorted riding  twice a week, one exam ride failure and eight thousand miles of instruction before I extricated myself from that lot. I did finally come away with a pass and a complimentary report of the police motor cyclist who was my examiner.
Are you beginning to get my drift?
If you are contented to continue bumbling along don't knock it, don't stick your neck out or you might be in for some horrible surprises.
This could be a very short piece of advice, except I have done it again.

I recently celebrated my eightieth  birthday and it appears that it is a little unusual to find eighty year old pilots. Though no one has told me that I must give up flying, the threat seems to hang in the air.  Indeed I am asked at least twice a week if I am still flying and with great confidence I usually say "Of course I am", and hope I sound convincing.
So I signed on for a refresher course. It's got to be easy, hasn't it?. After all I have been flying for more than fifty years. I have flown all across Europe. I have dealt with emergencies as they arose. I have made 65 sea crossings. Surely it can't be difficult.
There I go again. The same arrogance. I don't learn do I?
So last Wednesday I went to Shropshire Aero Club to take my first flight.
The aircraft was so different to the one I am used to. It is a metal airplane with four seats ( not two)... It is very heavy and so different to my own.
For a start it took an hour to do the pre-flight check and prepare it for flight
My instructor (a young lad of sixty ) was very patient and we finally got into the air. " Go out to the West " he said and we'll do a few exercises.
"Demonstrate a rate one turn to the left" he said ."Now one to the right".
"You lost some height in the turn.W e expect you to be able maintain your height to plus or minus 50 feet." "Now do me a steep turn to Port then one to Starboard" "Yes that wasn't very good either. You lost 500 feet in the turn".
Oh  Blast !. I've done it again. I've bitten off more than I can chew. I had visions of trundling round the circuit a couple of times ,then landing and getting signed off and departing in a blasé of glory. It ain't going to be like that.

So back we went to the airfield; I did a standard re-join and made all the right radio calls. "Alpha alpha letting down dead side" then "Alpha alpha downwind left for runway 23", then "Alpha alpha base leg and on to alpha alpha finals for 23".

The touch down was not a greaser; more like a competent arrival. This heavy beast was rather like handling a brick built outhouse with wings.

Somewhat chastened I taxied to the park. My new taskmaster laconically observed: "You haven't forgotten everything. But you need some practice. At least three or four hours I'd say. You had better book an aeroplane for next week"
This young fella was right and I at this time was like a wrung out dish rag.
I came home rather deflated.
I might at some time later tell you how matters proceed; on the other hand, if it turns into a debacle you will hear nothing more and in which case I shall have finished flying.
Cheers for now