My first flight only lasted 15 minutes - now I don't know when I'll fly again

Flying – until recently – was a thing most of us took for granted. But growing up in the 1960s and 70s I never thought about any trips or flights on an aeroplane.It was far too distant a concept for me at that stage in my life, and it seemed that only the rich and famous flew in those days.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 9:43 am
Updated Friday, 14th January 2022, 9:43 am

I had a friend called Paul – we were pupils at Burngreave Middle in the 70s – and his family would take their annual holidays to Malta in the Mediterranean.

This was at a time when many would be extremely grateful for a day in Millhouses Park or a seaside trip to Skeggy.

Flying to a place called Malta was so distant a concept let alone miles for me to think about it or even find out where it was. Google maps wasn’t an option back then, and trawling through a world Atlas never crossed my mind then for a place I was never going to visit.

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Chinook in The Falkland Islands

It’s funny how things stick in your mind; every time I hear of Malta I’m immediately reminded of my mate Paul and his trips overseas.

My youngest son was around 18 months when he first flew. My other children were around two and four.

These ages for first flights weren't unusual for children from the late 80s onwards.

But for me, I never really thought about my first flight until I joined the RAF, just before I was 18.

Library filer of an RAF Tristar. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons Thursday February 6, 2003 that around 100 RAF aircraft and some 7,000 personnel are to be stationed in the Gulf as part of the preparations for a possible war with Iraq. The force will include E3D Sentry aircraft for airborne command; Jaguar and Tornado reconnaissance aircraft; VC10 and Tristar refuelling aircraft; Hercules transporters; and Tornado F3s, Tornado GR4s and Harrier GR7s, providing an offensive capability. In addition, the RAF element of the Joint Helicopter Command will provide 27 Puma and Chinook aircraft and around 1,100 personnel. See PA story POLITICS Iraq Air. PA photo: LA (Phot) Bernie Henesy, RAF / Crown Copyright.

Before basic training we were told we would go on a flight experience, which would have been a first flight for many of us.

On arrival at Swinderby however, we were told experience flights were cancelled due to cuts. I’ve no clue why we weren't told before signing on the dotted line.

So even as a member of the Royal Air Force, flying still wasn’t a done deal.

My first RAF base was RAF Brampton down in Cambridgeshire, a base with no aircraft so flying most likely wasn’t going to happen there.

However, around 1985, on a trip to RAF Finningley, I was given an opportunity to take a flight in an aircraft called a Jet Stream,which had just come out of service and needed a final check before going back into service.

The aircraft needed what was called an air test, to check the aircraft's engine functionality, and I was given a seat.

After a short flight, I’d finally completed my first flight, short but sweet.

I didn’t fly again for around two years, however my next flight was in 1987, a 17-hour flight to the Falklands Islands, via Ascension Islands, 8,000 miles away.

Going from a 15-minute air test to 17 hours was a big jump that definitely got my air miles up – even if it was to the Falklands and not a 18-30s trip to Magaluf.

While in the Falklands I was given more opportunities to fly which I took full advantage of.

One of the main modes of transport there was the helicopter, many resupply tasks were carried out by heavy lift Chinook helicopters, as some parts of the Falklands are only accessible by air.

It felt like buses, none for ages then three coming all at once.

Now things seemed to have come full circle, with Brexit and Covid restrictions I’m again not sure when I will be flying again.