After secondary school, John attended Torquay Technical College on an
Engineering Course, he was a member of the Adventure Club, camping hiking etc., also a founder member of the Drama Club (or should that be Dramatic Club)? That experience came in handy later for “sods operas”.
John’s dad wanted him to become a “Tiffy” (Artificer in the Navy) but, being the rebellious type and liking more fresh air and exercise, the choice was obvious! Join the Royal Marines.
The year of our lord 1966 on the 23rd of March saw the formation of 845 Squad at Deal, the Drill Squad at the Royal Tournament, followed by passing out in November. John’s first draft was to ‘X’ Company, 45 CDO at the “Big Beach”, Aden under the beady eye of Sergeant Major Bill Hackett. After many months of running around the hills, “up” and “down” country, with a stint at HMS Sheba naval base security, he was transferred to the Intelligence section under the tender care of “Bunty” Stonestreet and Ken Stokes.
Back home, and having had a trip to Sweden for the International Orienteering Championships, John did the JCC, became a PWI and returned to Deal. Joining the Weapon Training Department he was exposed to the likes of the “Poison Dwarf” Jock Webster training team including such notables as, Mick Harrison, “Tricky Dicky” Hudson, Sandy McLeod and Neil Muirison. John was a member of the Shooting Team visiting Bisley on a number of occasions for competitions.
Having satisfied that side of life John decided it was time for an increase in pay scale, he applied for pilot selection and, a couple of months later, in September ‘73 reported to the Army Air Corps Center, Middle Wallop, Hants, for training being awarded his wings June ’74.
On completion, he joined 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron at Coypool, Plymouth flying the venerable AH1 Sioux. Having “got to grips with the beast” and a couple of exercises under the belt, he was sent in September on a Northern Ireland tour with Kangaw Flight.
The 3BAS was replacing the Sioux with the Gazelle AH1, and in January ’75 he attended the Gazelle conversion course at Middle Wallop with: Maj. Ian Bain, Capt Rodney Helme, Lt Steve Bidmead, Al Streeter, Paul Braithwaite, Ken Blain and John Gilbert.
After a Westlant Exercise, which involved the hardship of cruising around the Caribbean, USA and Canada, and having had to put up with numerous runs ashore in August ’75, he received a draft to Salerno Flight on the sunny island paradise of Malta. Rod Helme was OC with Lt. Rob Wilsey as 2IC, and Ken Blain, being replaced by Barry Sheppard in March ‘76.
From Malta many good runs were had to NAS Sigonella, Sicily for “navigational flying training”. John had a short visit to Cyprus in July flying Sioux again to fill in for army personnel on leave. As Malta was sooo small, it was necessary for a couple of visits to Saillagouse, in the Pyrenees, France via Italy for mountain flying training, this allowed for sampling the local produce (grape) and to stretch our “legs”.
Leaving Malta in March ’77, a ground tour found John back to PWI’ing at Stonehouse Barracks in the Commando Logistics Regiment on the “All arms” Pre-Commando Course training team with C/Sgt “Banzai” Downey.
Rejoining 3 BAS in February ’79, March, off to Ballykelly, Northern Ireland with Dieppe Flight. Returning in October, someone saw fit to send John to the RAF Central Flying School and became a QHI (Helicopter Instructor), February ’80, back to Middle Wallop instructing basic students, and then on Gazelle conversion courses.
September ‘80 Scout AH1 conversion course, returned to 3 BAS at Coypool in the position of Squadron QHI on Gazelle and Scout. November 1981, Middle Wallop for a Lynx Conversion course and then back to 3 BAS. January ’82 Norway. April ’82 saw the Argies’ getting “Bargy” so off down south with Brunei Flight (Scouts), OC Jeff Nibblet, 2IC Chris Nunn. January’82 , ’83, ’84 Norway, June brief visit to Germany (Standards team), January ’85 Norway. July ’85 back to Middle Wallop instructing again, Aircrewman training Squadron, Operational Training Squadron, 671 Squadron.
John decided after having enjoyed 22 years with “Her Majesty’s Jollies” it was time for a change leaving the Corps in 1988 as a WO2. Having obtained his civilian license the ATPL(H), and being employed by Proteus Petroleum, he started working at Fairoaks Airport instructing on Bell 47 and Bell 206, at the same time, doing charters and flying for the Chairman of Aston Martin. Through this contact John was fortunate enough to be asked to chase cars around at the 24 hour Le Mans racetrack, he met a Greek gentleman (shipping), who owned a Gazelle in the USA. He asked John to do the same at Laguna Secca racetrack C.A. and again later at Watkins Glen N.Y.
John completed both trips and returned to the UK, two weeks later, a call from the Gazelle owner. He was about to set up an aviation company in the U.S. and asked if John would be interested in helping. Well, to John, being married to an American who he had met in Norway, it seemed like an ideal opportunity! Thinking for about two seconds he said yes.
Having hopped the “pond” in 1990, and assisting in setting up the company to be known as Associated Aircraft Group Inc. John started out by doing charter with two Bell 206’s and a 222. Progress was made, and over the course of 17 years he finds himself in the position of Chief Pilot with 21 pilots in a company owned by Sikorsky. Being based 60 miles north of New York City they have a fleet consisting of eleven Sikorsky 76’s. The company manages aircraft, performs charter flights and runs a Fractional Share programme.
Whats next ?
Starting to plan for the inevitable retirement, possibly in Nova Scotia, Canada.
Any “Old Mates” feel free to drop an E-Mail he would love to hear from you