Saturday, April 07, 2012

Hucknall flying club celebrates 50th anniversary

 A HUCKNALL flying club is celebrating its 50th anniversary – carrying on the legacy of a handful of factory workers who set it up.

While the Red Arrow display team is more famous, the Merlin Flying Club has been going two years longer – and members also have a host of aerobatic tricks and stunts up their sleeve.

And the club, based at Hucknall Airfield, in Watnall Lane, prides itself on sharing these techniques – with around 500 people learning to fly there since it was set up by a handful of Rolls-Royce factory workers in 1962.

Fifty years on, the club has more than 130 members, 25 of whom are students.

Member Nick Perkins said: "People tend to view flying as a bit of a James Bond-style pastime.

"When they come they discover that it actually tends to be a cold, dirty and uncomfortable pastime – which is far from James Bond but still very enjoyable.

"For me it's just so different to anything else in your day-to-day life.

"When you are flying all the issues you have on the ground just disappear – it's a different world."

The club, which is open to Rolls-Royce employees and their immediate family, started when several workers asked for permission to use the airfield to start a flying club. Its primary aim is to help people learn to fly in an affordable way.

Mr Perkins, who flew to Wales in around an hour for lunch last weekend, said: "It's such a good way of getting to places quickly and the people who fly with us wouldn't normally be able to afford to learn to fly.

"That's why it's important that the club continues because if we didn't exist then a lot of people wouldn't even try flying.

"A lot of schools are very expensive and it is difficult for people on average salaries to fly – certainly to fully follow through to the point of getting a pilot's licence."

While anyone is capable of learning to fly, Mr Perkins, 55, said some people take to it more quickly than others.

On average it takes about two years and the Civil Aviation Authority recommends a minimum of 50 hours.

While some club members keep flying as a hobby, others have made it a career.

Mr Perkins, who lives in Ockbrook, Derbyshire, added: "Occasionally you get ex-members of the club on the radio.

"One of them I heard recently was a chap who was on his way from Heathrow to Chicago in a jumbo jet and he radioed in to let us know he was flying over."

To celebrate 50 years of success at the club, members will hold The Merlin Pageant, also known as Wings And Wheels, on Saturday, June 16.

It will include at least one flying display and at least one Spitfire from the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight.

There will also be an aerobatic team featuring two Yak aircraft and a display by a Pitts Special.

The club's chief flying instructor Colin Hutson will also take to the sky to perform his own stunts.

Food and trade stalls will also be available and entertainment will include the Rolls-Royce Brass Band.

There will also be a display of classic cars and bikes and anyone wanting to show their own vintage vehicle is welcome.

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