Stories told, lessons learned
We bring you something slightly different in this issue with the sad story of Scottish racing driver and private pilot Ron Flockhart’s ill-fated early 1960s attempt to set a record speed in flying from Australia to England. Ron was a two-time Le Mans winner who was also well known as an F1 driver, particularly as a member of the BRM team, which finally won the constructor’s title in 1962.
Sadly, Ron Flockhart did not live to see his old team presented with the trophy, perishing in April 1962 when he lost control of his civilianised P-51 Mustang in cloud over the Dandenong Range in Australia. Ron held a PPL and seems to have progressed from the Auster taildragger he owned at Fairoaks to the WWII fighter with no great difficulty, at least as far as handling the heavier and more powerful aeroplane in visual meteorological conditions goes. However, as Neil Follett and Nick Stroud’s well-researched article starting on page 76 makes clear, he had no instrument flying qualification and had flown very little in the months prior to the accident.
Ron’s story is perhaps more of a ‘We Learned About Flying From That’ than a flying adventure that went wrong as, after a series of accidents similarly attributable to loss of control in bad weather, the UK IMC Rating was introduced only a few years later, in 1967.
Over the decades since the IMC must have saved a number of lives, but it has remained the only game in town as far as the private pilot is concerned. The demanding and expensive CAA and EASA Instrument Rating has always been beyond the means of nonprofessionals (the number of PPL IR holders has remained stubbornly at the 500 mark for as long as I can remember) and the authorities have never seen fit to align the European qualification with Federal Aviation Authority IR, which is both easier and cheaper to acquire — and has an excellent, proven safety record. I hear that moves are afoot, but until it happens the intermediate step we do have is the EASA Competency-based IR. How difficult is this relatively new rating and how much does it cost? Stephen Walker explains in Part Two of his CB-IR ‘Beyond the PPL’ feature, starting on page 44.
Finally, in a more light-hearted (or should that be lighthouse-hearted) mood, we bring you Geoff Scott’s inspired — if a little eccentric — tilt at the Pooley’s Dawn to Dusk challenge (‘Flying Adventure’, p.92). Like any Pilot feature, this one is a great story offering a fine mix of entertainment and — yes — education. We hope you enjoy it!