Now desperate, I decided I need do something. A good friend of mine, wanting to improve her language skills, applied to be an au pair in the UK, and although it was a very unusual choice for a boy to consider, the prospect of working as an au pair seemed to me reasonable at the time. Following my first interview with a single father from Kent and news that I had been accepted, I boarded a coach and twenty-six hours later arrived at Victoria station with my family fortune of £20.00.
You can only imagine how pleased was I when we arrived at the famous Biggin Hill. Having read so many books about the “Battle of Britain”, Biggin Hill was almost sacred for me.
My duties as “babysitter” started in the morning with breakfast and the school run, and resumed at 15:30 when I had to pick up children from school. That gave me about seven hours to myself, so it was time to start flying again!
Within three days I visited almost every single company at the airport, but could find no one who needed any help. On the third day, with a sense of resignation, I visited the last remaining hanger and to my surprise was accepted to help as an engineering apprentice!
Once again reunited with aircraft I was back where I belonged, and after a few weeks in the hangar my boss agreed to trade my work for flying lessons!
A few months later and near to obtaining my private pilot licence, I was walking to back to school when I saw the most beautiful pair of aerobatic aircraft coming in to land in formation. I couldn’t believe my luck at seeing aircraft I had only ever seen on the internet before. Following some investigation the next day, I discovered there was an aerobatic team based at Biggin Hill.
As I became increasingly involved in flying activities I had to resign from being a babysitter, and a year after leaving the family that had helped me out initially, I also found I couldn’t afford to stay in engineering in exchange for flying. It was time to find a “proper” job, and luck struck again, in the form of an opening at an aircraft parts dealership in Biggin Hill. Working in the office was never my dream but it helped me to stay on top of my expenses and also by that time I was helping out the Honda Dream Team – the same aerobatic team that I saw flying overhead those few months earlier.
My job with the team was very basic: cleaning and refuelling, sometimes carrying essential equipment to display sites.
When team leader Will Curtis agreed to help me out with aerobatic training in exchange for my work on aircraft I knew what heaven felt like.
For more than two years I worked two jobs, sometimes up to fourteen hours a day and seven days a week – but I knew it would be worth it.