Friday, 22 January 2010

Mr Bilney and his Bikes . . .

Hi All,

Great to see the stories of misspent youth appearing on the site now so I thought I would add mine to the list.

I went from Halton to Brize for my first tour and ended up on VC10 heavy rects for a few years, working with Tim Thompson and John Purser for a while on a team which was almost exclusively ex-appo. I went down to St Mawgan in ’89 and was a liney for a couple of years on Nimrods before deciding to have my brain removed. Just after the first Gulf War I was accepted onto the Shrivenham programme and went through my degree in Aeromechanical Systems Engineering with Rob Withers (Andy Bailey and Tim Thompson were 2 years ahead and Roy Lefley and Dave Dawes were a year ahead). Following officer training at Cranwell with Rob again, I went to Lossie as OC Eng Wing HQ Flt (Rob came up shortly afterwards on Nimrods at nearby Kinloss) and then St Athan as a production manager on the VC10 Major Programme (Rob went to VC10 2nd Line at Brize). I left St Athan in ’99 and went back to Cranwell as a flight commander on Initial Officer Training with guess who, Rob Withers again! I was promoted to Squadron Leader out of Cranwell and started a downwards spiral in awful jobs at Wyton in the DLO but escaped back to Cornwall and sunny St Mawgan for my final tour as the SAR Force Business Change Manager. Last time I spoke to Rob, he was working for Texaco in South Wales and looking to move to New Zealand.

I left the mob about 5 years ago and initially set up a corporate training company using extreme sports etc, but it proved a bit too seasonal for my liking so I concentrated on consultancy specialising in change management and business improvement. These days I still live in Cornwall but I work all over; mainly home counties and midlands in the UK but also Romania, Egypt, Denmark and later this year the US and the Middle East.

I kept up with my bikes until about 2000 with a selection of Jap machines; the best of which was my dream bike when we were at Halton, a Suzuki GSX1000 Katana. This beasty had a Yoshimura race tuned engine. I never owned an Italian bike Ed, but I did finish with a Honda Firestorm 1000cc V twin so I did make a bit of a break from in line fours and the noise was fantastic! Latterly and ironically in light of the US car theme that’s developing here, when I left the RAF I treated myself to a Jeep Grand Cherokee; so Andy May you have a lot to answer for by the sounds of it!

Personal life-wise, I am married to Hayley and have been for 2 ½ years and we live in Cornwall with Hayley’s youngest, Sarah (15) and our 2 dogs – a wee Westie and an English Mastiff. I have another step-daughter (Hayley’s eldest) Charlotte at UWE and I have my 2 daughters from my first marriage Grace (14) and Emilia (12) in Cambridge (its because I have 4 daughters that I have a 17 stone Mastiff – even the balance a little!). I got into mountaineering after Halton and have had some fun in Scotland winter climbing and in the Alps, but not as serious as our Everest conqueror, Mr Carroll!

Anyway that’s me. I hope the reunion does come off and if I can help, I will. All the best gents. I look forward to hearing from more 139’s.

Best wishes Mark

Mark Bilney

'H' Jones - seeking snow

Posted by Hodge on behalf of H . . .

Hi guys, here is my resume;

After Halton, went to Valley and had 3 good years mastering the Valley walk….head and shoulders bent forward into the wind and go for it. Married in ’86 first born in ’87. Still played a lot of Rugby at RAFU 21 level and then in the week for the station (much to my Chief’s disapproval).

Got some good knowledge on the Hawk so then volunteered for the Red Arrows. Did 4 years on the team and in this time had child number 2. So I now have a daughter 22 yrs, and a son 20 yrs.

Left the RAF in 1992 and took a job down in Southampton which paid nearly the same as a corporal at Aerostructures, Hamble, building the rear fuselage of the Hawk. Hated it.

My airframe repair skills were never that good and so lasted 4 months and got a live a/c job with Airworks Bournemouth……..on Chipmunks. Really enjoyed this but could not survive on the Airworks pay!

So after marriage breakdown, ditched the a/c industry, for what I though was temporary, to go to Uni in Bournemouth and took a degree in Engineering Business Development. My dream was to invent/manufacture/sell stuff to the military and make a fortune.

However…..took a year placement with the computer company ICL (now Fujitsu) which steered me into IT. Graduated in ’98. Worked for Fujitsu for 9 years. Another marriage, another divorce, no more children.

I am now a freelance IT Test consultant living in Berkshire (Wokingham) with Linda near the M4, so close to all IT companies and the big smoke. Rugby days finished far too early, fighting to stay semi-fit with cycling and gym stuff and enjoy my new love …snowboarding.

Anyone close by, would be great to catch up. (ask Hodge for H's email address)

Look forward to catching up.

Howard (H) Jones

BTW, anyone heard from Steve Monnery, Bob Swift?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Countdown to the Triennial

Taken from the RAFHAAA website (see our Links page)

Countdown To The Triennial - Click!

Guys - this is how long we (well those of us in the UK at least!) have until the potential reunion.

Better count me out unless you all want to chip in and buy your friendly webmaster a return flight* from Melbourne . . . hint . . .

*(I'll even pay for the carbon offset . . .)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

More American car shenanigans from Mark Freemantle

Posted by Hodge on behalf of Mark . . .

Excellent life summary, Ed, really interesting read. I wonder how many of us went onto higher education. I went to Chivenor after Halton and seemed to spend half my time down the beach and the other half in the pub anyway four years flew by and then there was talk of promotion/posting so I left v.quickly and went to Manchester Poly for 3 more years pissing it up. Had a great time, I’m sure life in the RAF was just training for get the most out of college life. Out of interest while at college I got a short term visa for America and spent 2 months working in a boat yard in Annapolis and then 6 weeks driving my Plymouth horizon all over the states (Coast to Coast, Twice)

Finished with a decent degree in Product Design but unfortunately 92 was not a good year for manufacturing so ended up at RAF Shawbury servicing Wessex for Serco for 6 months, meet up with Andy Dixon (140) while there so managed to keep spirits up. Sorted a job as a design engineer the following year for a Japanese automotive component supplier, and then spent the next 12 years working for a number of companies in automotive supply. Meet my wife, Taryn, while working in Shrewsbury and have ended up living in a village (12K population?) south of Wolverhampton. The Automotive industry turned truly shit in the early 00’s so in 2005 I jacked it all in and retrained (ha ha) to become a gas engineer. Now have a small gas and plumbing company employing a couple of people which keeps me busy along with the kids Saffron (13) and Miles (9).

Andy May has obviously had an influence on a few of us, while having British classic’s since I could drive, when I reached 40 I converted and bought a 64 Coupe Deville, and have stuck with Cadillacs since then.

Anyway great to hear update and a reunion has got to be on the cards at some point.



(Dr.) Ed Down

Posted by Hodge on behalf of Ed . . .

Had great couple of hours reading about the various antics of those reprobates I spent a few years with in the dark, dim past of my youth, so I suppose I should give you something to put up about me.

I recall doing an awful lot of travelling between Halton and London during my apprentice years. I was mates with the some people in the independent music scene there who went on to make an awful lot of money with bands like Oasis. My brother, a mate and I started up a record label while I was at Halton. We had some degree of success (Front cover of NME, John Peel sessions, etc), but we never managed to find that band that we could sell on to the majors for huge amounts of cash so, even though we ended up with a house in London out of it in ’84, none of us ever made a living out of it, and we wrapped it all up about ‘88.

I ended up going to Marham to work Tornado first line on 27 Sqn straight out of Halton (Remember the scrum outside the office when the paper was put up with the postings on it?). I volunteered for every deployment there was, and managed to see quite a bit of the world at a time when the Air Force seemed like that sort of thing was something of days gone by. I suppose I had a really great time of it looking back – Who can complain about 3 or 4 trips to Vegas for Red Flag (Or was it Green Flag?). Then the other one up in Dakota. It was always interesting staging over through Goose bay in the winter and being kitted out with the huge parkas and the big flappy-ear hats with the obligatory hammer and sickle drawn on the inside of the peak by some prior wag…. I put my never-ending battle with the pounds down to a particularly nasty night in the bar there where we managed to consume about 30 gallons of white Russians. (There was a girl, a snowmobile and a fence involved somewhere as well…) I wonder if the story about the fire suppression tank in the hanger being capable punching holes through wings was true? The thought was that the hanger was more valuable than any aircraft that could be in it, but I’m not sure…

I continued to be involved with music in London and Brighton after leaving Halton (I was in a Brighton band called the Doris Days), and I suppose the lack of time to really get into that type of scene completely first put the seed in my mind to move on from the Air Force. I started taking Open University courses (Never let your wife go to an OU summer camp…), and put in my PVR in ’89 I believe. I had been at Marham for a while, and always wanted to go to Scotland, so I asked for a place up at Leuchars, and spent the last year of my RAF career in the hanger up there doing Tornado work and living in a flat on Whitehall Crescent, down by the waterfront in Dundee. So I suppose I timed stuff pretty well for my military career: Joined just too late to go to the Falklands, and left early enough to miss the Gulf.…. Anyone remember those rumors we were down for cannon fodder in the Falklands after basic training?

I applied as a mature student (No A levels of course), and went to City University in London for an undergraduate degree in Aero engineering, freely stealing from my Halton course notes for various projects in subjects I had not attended any lectures in. I remember one particular course that I had one hour a week, on a Thursday morning. I didn’t manage to make one of those lectures, as I was always still recovering from the Wednesday rugby binge… Much like my RAF rugby days really.. I copied a whole set of notes on helicopter rotor control from my Halton notes and got the best mark in the class. Anyway I ended up with the standard Desmond (2:2), but managed to do a pretty good final year project and I was offered a place at City doing some industrial research, leading to a Ph.D.

So I spent until 1998 (was I really at college for 8 years?) finishing up that Ph.D (Well, playing rugby and MUD’s mainly, truth be told, but I’ve got the certificate!), and had by then teamed up with a Scottish journalist, Gillian, and was living with her in Clapham, south London. But we were both getting a bit pissed off with the City life and wanted to move. Plus I needed to get some sort of ‘real’ job for the first time in my life, so I applied for a few things, including one for Allied Signal over in the US. The US people came over to interview a few guys in London, I got the job, and found myself in Tucson, Arizona in late ’98, with a wife (no marriage = no visa for her, so…) and two very stressed cats.

So I’m now 12 years into my ‘real’ job. I design aircraft electric power systems (Funny, I hated electrical stuff during training…). Tucson is hot in the winter, and oven-like in the summer. We go to the beach down in Mexico as often as we can (Closer than California) and somehow have two American kids (Abbie, 8 and Lewis, 3) and the same two cats: George and Spider. I have a pool, and a separate guest house for the in-laws (Which all sounds posh, but is really very normal here, honest). Until recently I was the proud owner of an ‘89 Pontiac Firebird (Not up to Andy’s classic, but she did me proud for a quarter-million miles!), but have now seen the light and drive a small car.I’m now playing what I plan to be my last year of ‘competitive’ rugby, after which I intend to breed pigeons.

Well, it turned into a bit of a never ending story I’m afraid, but hopefully not too boring.

Cheers, Ed.