Thank you, Pat Malone for such a thoughtprovoking article (‘The ascent of man’, September). I very much enjoyed reading it as it reflected what many of us in our 60s and 70s must have thought from time to time, marvelling at the aviation progress in our lifetime.
I count myself so lucky that I joined BEA (1958) as a general apprentice (indentured) and got a fantastic grounding in the aviation industry. I had also just been taught to fly in Tiger Moths at White Waltham by the exceptional ATA pilot Joan Hughes. So much of what we did as part of our jobs was without computers or calculators: load planning and control and the preparation of fuel flight plans using maps and weather charts, all done longhand. While in Moscow in 1976 I was completing B707-336 fuel flight plans for the BOAC nine-hour flight from Moscow to Tokyo using Russian weather maps with everything in metres. It took about three hours to complete. Now it is all done by computer! I was also at LHR when Yuri Gagarin visited and we were hanging out of our office window shouting “Gagarin! Gagarin!” when he appeared. He was a hero to all of us.
Later I was fortunate, as COO of Jet Aviation Saudi Arabia, to have an empty Concorde as my personal business jet for me and my family to fly from London to Jeddah. We parked the aircraft outside my office at the FBO I had just constructed, as we were doing the handling.
I am sure that many seventy-year-olds have their own very special memories of aviation in this exciting period that Pat Malone so clearly highlighted. Graham Stephenson by email