The only thing I grew up wanting to do was to become a pilot and, sad to say, that longing is still with me. This desire clearly sprang from the fact that my father was a pilot during World War II and flew Wellington bombers in England as a member of the RAAF. He assured me though that he never flew an actual bombing mission as the war was just about all over by the time he finished his training. An important qualifying distinction when you say someone was a bomber pilot during the war. I devoured any comics depicting warplanes in action. As I said in an earlier post I must have had fifty or more plastic kit warplanes hanging from cotton threads attached to wires criss-crossing my bedroom. I suspect I was a little obsessed with all things flying at that time.
My dreams of being an air force pilot were shattered when I was about ten and had my eyes tested for the first time at a Legacy camp at Portsea I had the privilege of attending. It was strongly recommended that I wear glasses as the sight in my left eye in particular was less than perfect. Pilots didn’t wear glasses, my hopes were dashed. When I had a crisis in the teenage years and didn’t know what sort of career I wanted or was able to have given I didn’t finish high school, my mum said even if I couldn’t become a pilot I could learn a trade in the air force and that is how I ended up serving eight years in the RNZAF. I did have part of my dreams satisfied when I was lucky enough to get on a search and rescue flight in a Sunderland flying boat and was able to sit in the tail gunner turret for a period of time. Oh the exposure these poor gunners had, it literally felt like I was sitting on a chair suspended in mid-air with all the vibration of the aircraft causing it to shake as if it was going to fall off. I gained an incredible respect for the hundreds of airmen who took on the position of tail gunner, a high proportion who were killed, heroes all of them.
My civilian life after my service was filled with work, more work, raising a family, and all the time just managing to scrape by on what I earned. I could have learned to fly civilian aircraft even wearing glasses but there never seemed to be enough money available to be spent on expensive flying lessons. I do remember though that my ex-wife for my 30th birthday gave me one of the most memorable presents I ever got. She blindfolded me and drove me out to the airport where she had pre-purchased me an hour long flight in single engined propellor Cessna or some such aircraft which included some time on the controls. I had a magical period at the stick following the Manawatu river at low level. Ahhh the memory is still vivid of cruising along the river at the controls. Thank you Sandy.
Now of course age has joined eyesight in preventing me from fulfilling my life long dream but I am thankful that I have had the pleasure that dream has given me over the years.