Soon after I retired in 1979 I joined a flying club at Biggin Hill. In August 1980 I obtained my Private Pilot's licence and acquired a Night Rating and Instrument Meteorological Conditions Rating. I made my first night solo on 30 October.
I bought a Cessna 150 had it repainted green and white and installed a new engine. It was wonderful flying at night in my own aircraft, and each time I lifted GAWCL off the runway it was as though only a few weeks had passed since I first experienced the thrill of night flying
Forty years on, aircraft with me in them still went wrong. I took off at night in one of the Club's aircraft and just as I became airborne the instrument lighting failed. Landing was an interesting experience.
I was to fly with a friend, accompanied by his wife on a trip to Cranfield in his twin-engined aircraft. On the point of getting airborne the starboard engine failed. Luckily we were using Biggin Hill's long runway so the take-off was safely aborted. My friend's wife and I were then transferred to another aircraft The pilot started his take-off run and the port engine caught fire! The third attempt to make the journey was successful: we went in an old, but reliable single-engined machine. I accepted such vicissitudes as a normal part of flying, but I sympathised with the lady for she must have felt as I did on my first flight when the Anson started to fall apart!
The fun and the frustration of learning to fly are summed up by an incident that took place after my first solo. I was having great difficulty making other than bad landings so I went up with the Club's Chief Flying Instructor who had decided that I needed his personal attention to get things right. After the final landing I said rather diffidently, "Are my landings still bloody awfully?" In a resigned voice he replied, "No, just awful".