Episode 32 of Flying Podcast sees me back up to York to interview Peter Davies. Peter is an instructor on gyrocopters for the Gyrocopter Experience. He currently runs their Preston franchise. Quite by chance, when I was reading about gyrocopters I came across Peter’s name and I was fascinated to read about his experiences in the world of aviation. His flying pedigree goes way back to the early days of hang gliding and microlighting here in the UK and so I thought he’d make a good candidate to appear on the podcast.
Peter started out on your aviation career learning to fly fixed wing aircraft in Zambia, getting his PPL in his Father’s company’s aircraft over there and then converting it when he came back to the UK. His first job was at Blackpool airport as an apprentice helicopter engineer and although he loved to fly in the helicopters he couldn’t, at that time, afford to take flying lessons.
In order to get into the air as a pilot Peter took to hang gliding around the Pennines and in the Lake District. When the weather was not suitable for hang gliding he and his friends would stand around kicking their heels. Then on a visit to Wellesbourne in the late ’70’s he came across people such as Gerry Breen, Steve Hunt and the Baker brothers who were flying motorised hang gliders or, in effect, early microlights. So, inspired, Peter returned home and built his own trike.
Having survived that early era Peter built another aircraft based on a Manta Fledgling wing, which became a Pterodactyl, and decided to get into instructing. He went on the BMAA’s first instructor course and set up a flying school at Blackpool airport.
After a few years of flying Pete became a test pilot for the BMAA doing a lot of development work on the Shadow microlight. In 1984 set a world distance record in a Shadow microlight – Norfolk to Cornwall – 340 miles In 1985 he competed as part of the British Microlight team in the World Microlight Championships, flying a Shadow, attaining the distinction of ‘4th Best Pilot in the World’ At the chamionships meeting Peter was approached to distribute an American gyrocopter. So, having learned to fly helicopters and gyrocopters in the US he began importing the Air Command gyrocopter into the UK. The aircraft was imported as a self-build kit and, although Pete was now a gyrocopter instructor, a lot of pilots were teaching themselves to fly. Following a number of accidents the aircraft was grounded and Peter’s company ceased trading.
In 1992 he was approached by an Indian industrialist to put together a team to enter an around the world air race. After spending a great deal of time picking a suitable aircraft he eventually picked the Cessna Conquest II twin turbo prop aircraft. The aeroplane was highly modified and given a unique paint job. The team eventually went on to win the race in 1994.
Following the race he was approached by James Edmonds who wanted to make a flight from London to Beijing in a Shadow microlight. Peter was involved in the planning of the flight including sourcing an Antonov AN-2 in Slovakia to act as the back-up aircraft on the trip.
Peter went on to compete for Britain in the 1st World Air Games flying in a Mooney 252 in the long distance navigation flying element. His flight took him from Iceland, across Europe and the Med, across into Jordan and finally up into Turkey over two weeks of competition and he attained fourth place.
More recently, with the advent of more reliable and certified gyrocopters, Peter now runs a gyrocopter school, under the Gyrocopter Experience umbrella, near Preston in NW England.