A typical cadet
To prove my thesis regarding just how many pilots started their careers in a TX Mk.3 I spoke to several eminent aviators of my acquaintance. It soon became apparent that if they were ‘airmen of a certain age’ then the first aircraft they ever soloed was almost always a T31. They ranged from a couple of Air Marshals, several high-time jetliner captains, to club CFIS and myriad sport pilots. In fact there were so many that we could fill this issue with their reminiscences!
Occasional cameraship pilot Al Munro’s flying life started with a week’s flying in Cadet TX Mk.3s, and he shares his memories of flying with the air cadets, and his subsequent career here.
“It was a Monday morning in late July1958 when a bunch of raw cadets assembled in the 614 Gliding School hangar at the famous Battle of Britain station RAF Hornchurch, long since a housing estate. The course was a week long, with twenty-something dual flights in the T21 and T31, to be followed, if successful, with three solo flights in the T31 and then a BGA ‘B’ certificate.
“The instructors were a mixed bunch, with beribboned ex-wartime pilots including the station commander, national service pilots and a couple of civilians. Their patience was almost inexhaustible.
“The gliders were comparatively new, but the winch had seen better days as a twin-drum barrage balloon launcher. It had a manual gear shift and 1,100ft was about the maximum height for a T21 winch launch, the T31 making about 900ft. You can imagine that lessons were quite rushed and spins were never more than a 270° turn. However, with spare bodies on the ground to retrieve gliders, turnaround was fast and we probably made eighty or more launches every day.
“The T21 was the ‘hot ship’, while the T31 was regarded as a retrograde step. Downwind, the wisdom was ‘Now stick
your hand out at 45 degrees lad, and make sure that it’s pointing inside the airfield. And if it isn’t then fly straight to the airfield and land.’
“We all completed our three solos with flying to spare, so it was dealer’s choice. One cadet opted for an endurance flight and his instructor kept the T21 airborne over the Hornchurch sewage works by sniffing out a thermal. My answer was ‘aerobatics please Sir’, so that meant the CO, one Flt Lt Bill Verling. We did two loops in a T21 starting at 1,000 feet and ending pretty low. That was the day my blue touch-paper was lit, and it’s never really gone out. After the gliding came a flying scholarship at Fairoaks on the Tiger Moth (thirty hours and a PPL), then off to Imperial College for an aero engineering degree. That meant about 150 hours Chipmunk flying at White Waltham.
“I joined the RAF in 1964 and, after basic training in the Jet Provost T.4 at Acklington and advanced training in the Gnat T.1 at Valley, I got my first taste of a fighter (the Gloster Javelin) in 1966. My first operational posting was on Javelins with 60 Sqd at RAF Tengah in Singapore. After that, and a period instructing naval pilots at Linton-onOuse on the Jet Provost, I flew Phantoms with several squadrons before becoming an instructor with 228 (the Phantom OCU) at Coningsby.
“I finished my military career as a Tornado instructor, and after leaving the RAF flew A320s with Excalibur and Transair, instructed at Leicester Aero Club, and flew air experience flights for the ATC on the Chipmunk at Newton.
“I currently fly sailplanes and the Eurofox tug with the BGC at Saltby and – to bring this T31 tale to a suitably circular conclusion – on 1 August 2018 I flew with Dave in WT900, sixty years to the day since my solo in an identical TX Mk.3.”