In the early 1980’s I was a Masters Student at what was then Cranfield Institute of Technology. The campus was on the site of a former RAF airfield and I was studying Bio-Aeronautics with the International Centre for the Application of Pesticides (ICAP) attached to the College of Aeronautics.
As part of the course we got several hours flying tuition in the College Bulldog training aircraft and we also had some aerodynamic lessons in the two Jetstream flying classrooms flown by either Angus McVitie or Ron Wingrove.
College Jetstream 1 (G-AXUI and G-AXUM behind)
I’ve always been an aviation enthusiast and it was great being on an active airfield. I spent lots (probably too much) time walking around the airfield taking pictures of the many and varied aircraft that were based there or passing through.
I undertook additional flying lessons to get my PPL and I also helped out with a team that restored vintage aeroplanes. I helped with a Spitfire, Harvard, DC3, Ju52, Miles Student, and Venoms amongst others. I was lucky enough to get flights in a De Havilland Dove, Beagle Auster Terrier, and in a De Havilland Vampire I flew in the right-hand seat during a display at the Barton Air show in my hometown of Manchester.
On one occasion, 21 February 1984 to be exact (I sadly have a passenger log book with all the flights I have ever been on) I was stood with fellow student Pete Thomas on the corner of the College of Aeronautics main hangar between lectures. The college Jetstream G-AXUI pulled onto the peri-track taxying to (at that time) runway 24. We could see the famous Angus McVitie in the pilot’s seat.
We nonchalantly stuck out our thumbs as hitch hikers used to do on motorways. Expecting the plane to carry on by, to our surprise the two engines whined noisily as Angus throttled them back, the nose dipped as he applied the brakes, the door at the back complete with access steps swung open and hand beckoned us aboard. Joy-o-joy.
It wasn’t because Angus had recognised us, because he probably didn’t, and it wasn’t some altruistic gesture because he felt sorry for us. Basically, it was a class of aeronautics students who were doing a lesson on the flight envelope of the Jetstream and they needed additional weight to show the effect at the extremes of performance.
The flight was well over an hour, and Angus had the aircraft in some extreme positions and engine settings. Me and Pete loved it but not many of the others did. Several of them disembarked with their less than complete notes but full sick bags. We of course missed our next lecture and no doubt made some lame excuse as to why.
Pete eventually became a Royal Navy pilot, he once returned to Cranfield in a Seaking and took a group of Cranfield students out to an aircraft carrier for the day as a recruiting exercise. That would have been a great trip too.