Jim is a founder member of NOSAS which is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018. He is known in the Highlands for providing important aerial photos of numerous archaeological sites over many years. This is his story.
It appears to me that people can be divided into two categories – those who love flying, and those who do not. Brought up in close proximity to Prestwick Airport, I recall watching aircraft there, and determined that I would one day find out more about aviation. Inspired by a selection of Biggles books, I joined the local ATC (Air Training Corps) squadron, enabling me to sample flight for the first time in 1950 in an elderly Anson. Military aircraft have a distinctive odour of aluminium and oil, complemented in this case by an off-putting whiff of vomit, but I enjoyed this first ‘air experience’ flight along the Ayrshire coast. For the next flight, I borrowed a folding camera, and tried a few shots through the rather scratched Perspex window. Surprisingly, the results came out quite clearly, and another interest was born.
Going to University in Glasgow, I lost no time in finding the HQ of the University Air Squadron (GUAS), and was fortunate enough to be accepted as a Cadet Pilot in the RAFVR. This offered a high standard of flying training, during 1953-7, provided by experienced RAF instructors at Scone Airfield outside Perth. Our Chipmunk aircraft was state of the art at that time, but cameras were not encouraged on training sorties. At the end of my four years, I asked if I could take a camera with me on a dual flight with my instructor, having noticed some archaeological sites which I wanted to photograph. By opening the hood, I was able to take quite a good shot of a hill fort to the south of Perth, which presaged further attempts in later years. The Squadron experience qualified me for a Preliminary Flying Badge – a sort of junior wings – and allowed me to apply for a Private Pilot’s Licence, costing a very reasonable ten shillings, when I left the unit. Continue reading