Aviation interests.....

Growing up in the shadow of Lee on Solent Naval Air Base it may have been inevitable that I ended up wanting to fly. But, having said that, one of my brothers ended up messing about in boats and going fishing and the other ended up driving trains. But, enough about them, let's talk about me.

I made loads and loads of Airfix kits when I was younger until I realised that girls thought it was uncool. At about that time I was getting into playing guitar and, if truth was told, that didn't help my cool much and girls were still not interested in me. Oh well.

The aviation interest remained dormant for a few years until I discovered how much was going on in aircraft preservation. This was in the early 1980s and there was a lot of activity just starting. The values of old aeroplanes had reached the point when it became economical to rebuild them and so many interesting aeroplane were emerging.

I spent my time attending airshows, taking photographs, reading magazines and making more models but something always seemed to be missing. I could wait enthusiastically for an airshow and then find that when I left I felt deflated and depressed.

Morane138 Bleriot 
La Ferte Alais remains one of those 'must visit' places. These pictures were taken during the 2012 show, l to r, the Morane 138, Bleriot XIbis, Morane H

In 1987 I visited France to attend the annual airshow at La Ferte Alais, south of Paris. After a good lunch (OK, a sandwich and half a bottle of wine) I got talking to the man standing next to me. We shared a common interest or two and stayed in touch. The following year we wenr to the show again and stayed at his house. He has now been a good friend for over 25 years. He visited Le Bourget in the summer of 1988 and met a group of people that were rebuilding a SPAD XIII. I thought this sounded like a lot of fun and so started reseaching World War One aeroplanes. This group of people morphed into the Memorial Flight Association and I am proud to have been associated with them for over 25 years and to have been involved in some excellent flying restorations.

The magnificent SPAD XIII 4377 was the first of the Memorial Flight rebuilds to fly. This aeroplane was built in February 1918 and is the last genuine SPAD flying.

I finallly started learning to fly in 1992 initially at Old Sarum and then at Thruxton under the guidance of Simon Cotterell and Barry Dyke.I made the decision to learn on a tailwheel aeroplane and so my first solo was on 2 June 1992 on Rollason Condor G-AVOH. I finished my licence in October 1992 and from then on I realised that the frustration I had felt at airshows was down to the fact that I was not flying, once I started it was as if part of me that had been missing was now in place.

I was also writing for Aeroplane Monthly at this time and got to meet some of the great characters in aviation.

Cloudster G-EVLE
An early publicity photo of a Rearwin Cloudster (Eric Rearwin)            Rebuilt NC25403, now G-EVLE being flown in November 2006 by Martyn Carrington

In 1993 I acquired Rearwin Cloudster NC25403 which was listed as 'complete and ready for reassembly' and just needing a new engine. Finding an engine took several years and when recovering of the aeroplane started it was clear there was a lot of work to do. The Rearwin had a complete ground up restoration between December 2000 and March 2005 when Stuart Goldspink took it for its first post restoration flight at Popham airfield where it remains based.

Owning and operating the Rearwin has been very interesting. I was lucky enough to meet Ken Rearwin, son of the founder of the company and the man that flew my aeroplane from Kansas to California in 1939 and I have also been able to take Ken's grandson, Eric, flying in the aeroplane his grandfather delivered.

The Rearwin is fun to fly and very gentle in the air but can be tricky on landing. I have flown it to France to visit La Ferte Alais and to Antwerp and have attended fly ins all over Southern England. I have also displayed it at Brooklands, Sywell and Old Warden.

In 1994 I answered an ad in Pilot magazine for part time airshow commentators and I then spent several years commentating for Brian Lecomber's Firebird Aerobatics Team, which operated the  Microlease Pitts, and later Extra 300L and the Rover Aerobatic Team with Brian, Nick Wakefield, Alan Wade and John Taylor. This also led me to radio and TV interviews and eventually full airshows.

I have also been lucky enough to do some fun photography including air to air with Delmar Benjamin's GeeBee, on a really murky day in France, some fun stuff with the Memorial Flight, and some nice work with both Aerosuperbatics and Wingwalking.co.uk.

GeeBeeAerosuperbatics Mike Dentith

Spare time is spent at Popham airfield, which is one of the best environments for aviation in the UK. I am currently rebuilding the engine on the Rearwin and so flying is somewhat limited.

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