Honing the Edge
Jamie Ewan goes behind the scenes at Duxford-based Aircraft Restoration Company’s recent pilot training day
“Help yourself to a doughnut and coffee,” beams world-renowned display pilot Paul Bonhomme as he and other Aircraft Restoration Company (ARC) pilots – Dave ‘Rats’ Ratcliffe, Cliff Spink, Lee Proudfoot, Lars Ness, Steve Jones, Martin ‘Mo’ Overall and Barry Hughes – hash out the final details for the outfit’s 2019 flying training day.
Commenting, head of training ‘Rats’ explained what the gathering was all about: “We recently ran a ground training day covering things like engine and parachute handling techniques, along with recent CAA [Civilian Aviation Authority] changes and Duxford rules and regulations. So, the idea of today is to put some of that into practice in the air. We also have to do something called essential training requirements – or ETRs – in the Chipmunk, before carrying out dual checks in the Spitfire, and then some of us have currency training as well. To that end we have the [Spitfire] T.9 flying four sorties, the Chipmunk two, Lee [Proudfoot] is going to fly the Blenheim for the first time this year and I’m going to take up the Lysander for the first time.”
Sitting in the briefing room overlooking a hangar full of warbirds, the room is humming with the chat about legalities, ratings, currency and pilot rosters, among other things. Given the wealth of experience in the room, the range of topics covered is mesmerising as the discussion turns to dos and don’ts. Rats continues: “As well as the training aspect, today also gives us a chance to get together and catch up. Hearing others’ accounts first-hand is by far the best way to share knowledge and skills. I’ve noticed a few things recently during a couple of check flights where some guys are not doing this, and others are doing that. But there is no criticism or finger-pointing here – the purpose is making sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, which ultimately helps improve the team’s abilities as a whole and prolongs the life of the aeroplanes. It is an open forum when it comes to this side of things.”
Dave clarifies further: “As company pilots, we are required to do this in-house, but now also by the CAA for the purposes of Standards Acknowledgement and Consent (SSAC) – basically passenger flying. ETRs will see us spinning the Chipmunk, practising forced landings, flying circuits with and without flaps and a few other bits. We could do it in a Harvard or the Spitfire, apart from spinning [in the latter], but we use the ‘Chippie’ because we’ve got it. And then we’ve got to do a dual check in the ‘Spit’, which you also need. People want the chance to fly in them and we give them that opportunity, but to do so we need to be safe. It is making sure you don’t just drag the aircraft out of a hangar, chuck someone in and away you go.”…
The rest of this feature can be read in the current FlyPast, in UK shops now, or available at www.flypast.com