First Solo

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Sir,

I have been most intrigued by two recent articles on the old DH Moth.

I joined the London Aeroplane Club in 1925, when I was still an apprentice in an engineering works in Basingstoke, when we still worked Saturday mornings. This made it very difficult to get dual instruction as it was necessary to book about three weeks in advance, and getting to Stag Lane on my old motorbike also added to my difficulties.

As far as l can remember we paid £1 an hour for dual, and 10/ for solo.

After doing my first spin, I felt so ill, I decided that flying was not for me, and only by pure chance did anything happen to make me change my mind.

It so happened that I was working in the Running Shed in the works and was detailed to deliver a lorry chassis to the north. For a change I decided to go up the Great North Road, and this took me past Stag Lane, so I turned in for a chat with any members who might be there. I found myself sitting in a deckchair next to that wonderful comedian Will Hay, who happened to be a member, and he asked me why I’d not been at the Club for so long. When I told him he said “that’s just what happened to me, but I was persuaded to have another go, and got over the nausea induced by a spin — why don’t you have another go” — so I did and all went well.

I did my first solo in G-EBKT on February 17th, 1927, under somewhat peculiar circumstances. The Chief Instructor was a Captain (they were all Captains!) Sparkes and after a quick circuit and bump, he leapt out and said “off you go”. I was absolutely astounded, as I’d last flown the previous November, but you didn’t argue with “Sparkie”. My take-off was hardly out of the book, and once in the air I was so overcome with amazement that I got completely lost. After a while I found the church spire at Harrow on the Hill, and finally with a nearly empty tank came to earth again after the fourth or fifth bounce, like an inebriated kangaroo.

What I didn’t know was that “Sparkle” had mistaken me for someone else, who’d already gone solo, and when he realised his mistake he tried to stop me by yelling blue murder, but it was too late and I was away.

In those days, the test for an A licence was to do figures of eight over the aerodrome, then climb to 6,000′ and without using engine, glide down and land as near the circle marked in the centre of the aerodrome as possible. The day I took my test Captain Barnard was the Official Observer, and after making a horrible mess of my final approach and landing I realised I must have failed miserably.

However, I went to his office and to mysurprise found him with his feet on his desk, sound asleep! His only query was “did you break it?” I said, “no”, whereupon he signed the necessary forms.

I did quite a few hours in G-EBKT, and also in G-EBLI. The latter aeroplane was written off by a club member named Swann. He often said that when he did his height test he would spin down and this he did, but forgot to stop in time and went straight in.

Eventually G-EBKT was crashed, but by whom I can’t remember, but I have an idea that the redoubtable Lady Heath was responsible. At the time I was away in Assam attempting to settle for the life of a Tea Planter, but the life failed to appeal, so I came home and got a Short Service Commission in the RAF.

While I was waiting to report to Uxbridge I went up to Stag Lane, where “Mickie”, the Ground Engineer, presented me with the compass from the crashed KT, which he’d kept for me as a souvenir.

After the war I found this memento, and presented it to De Havillands at Hatfield, and I understand that it is now in their museum and is the sole relic of the very first Moth ever built. I was lucky to train in Egypt, so flew the old “Nineack”, and later Bristol Fighters on Army co-op in India. At odd times I flew nearly all the types mentioned in the article, but of all the aeroplanes I ever flew, the Gauntlet was the one I really enjoyed flying — its acrobatic qualities were superb.

Chulmleigh, Devon
T. W. G. Eady
Group Captain, Retd.

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