I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

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Alan Robertson
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I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Alan Robertson » Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:41 pm

I always wondered what it was going to be like to close my logbook for the last time. Now I know.

I’ve been flying helicopters since 2005 and in that time have had the pleasure of part owning 3 beautiful machines. The two R44’s are sadly no more, but the H120 (which I still part own) still flies out of the Ultimate Heliport in Midrand. Prior to 2005 I was a fixed wing PPL and owned a Cherokee 6. But when my partner veered off a runway and I was plane-less, I ended up doing an introductory flight in an R44 with Stephan Bosman from Hover Dynamics, and man, could he fly. We hadn't even cleared the fence past Runway 17 at Grand Central when I knew I was hooked. Who would want to fly an airplane when you could stop in the sky in this thing; when you could autorotate vertically whilst pedal turning through 360 degrees and then land on a dime.

Since then I've flown helicopters in 4 different countries; landed in back gardens, hotels, roads, petrol stations, golf courses, schools, hospitals, mountains, beaches, and on a large rock on a waterfall on the Wild Coast. My favourite landing spot has always been the confined space in our front garden between the trees and the swimming pool, where lifting out on a beautiful morning with my wife meant anything from a breakfast flight to De Hoek or a day flight to Kimberley. I've flown in the day and at night, between thunderstorm cells; flown low, flown high, followed rivers. I’ve done pleasure flights, business flights, charters, photoshoots, and as safety pilot. I’ve flown responsibly for the most part but I've also misbehaved and buzzed friends and places; followed my wife for 20 kilometres as she drove through Fourways, and I've raced a McLaren up a runway for some TV show.

I've made legal landings, marginal landings, and not-so-legal landings. With permission, I've buzzed my local tower many times and have hovered over a hockey pitch to blast the leaves off it (having blown them on there in the first place during a landing).

I've been to game lodges, restaurants, events, and matric dances, and have flown enough over gross that it required scraping the skids for nearly 100m along a runway waiting for a breath of wind to get me aloft whilst ATC asked me if I was ‘ops normal’. I’ve landed on Paradise Island (Santa Carolina) and beaches in Mozambique as well as in the bush to refuel between Kruger International and Vilanculous.

I've done a night rating, mountain course, and commercial pilot's licence. I've flown numerous types including piston, turbine, and warbird. I've spent a small fortune on fancy headsets, GoPro's, and all sorts of fun toys that enhanced the aviation experience.

I've flown with incredible pilots and instructors and never stopped learning. I’ve watched my son develop into a commercial fixed and rotor wing pilot who is now following his dream of flying twin turbine helicopters.

I've been lucky and have never had a safety incident, accident, or near-miss.

I’ve forgiven the guys who never paid for the flights they did, the new PPL that bent the one helicopter in a hard landing and still flew it back to base, and the guys who reported me to the CAA for running an illegal operation (which the CAA agreed I wasn’t).

I’ve learned that old instructors aren’t always particularly good, and that some brand new instructors are absolutely brilliant; that there is wonderful hangar talk on Avcom once you understand that there is no correlation between number of posts and quality of content. Whilst I've had many excellent instructors, I have also gained invaluable insights from people I’ve never even met, most notably the legendary Jim Davis. I’ve treated the guy that washes the helicopter the same as the person who is CEO of the multinational helicopter company, and most times trusted him more.

Flying has been good to me.

Most importantly, I have shared my passion with some amazing people who have enriched my life and whom I count as good friends.
 That said, there comes a time when as we revisit the utility and pleasure we get from flying and measure it up against the risks, costs, and currency requirements, one passes a break-even of sorts. I’ve been thinking that through for a while and basically whilst I absolutely love flying helicopters, there are steadily diminishing returns for me and the utility is no longer what it once was. Not because it isn’t one of the most enjoyable and satisfying things you could do in your life, but exactly because you have largely satisfied the desire.


I remember once reading that the day comes for every pilot when they climb into the pilot’s seat for the last time, and KNOWING that it is their last flight is what makes all the difference.

I recently took my last flight as PIC in my beloved ZS-RZZ. It feels great to hang up my headphones on my terms and of course I miss the whine followed by the ’tic-tic-tic-whoosh’ of a start - but I have wonderful memories and an exciting new road ahead.

Would love to hear how it felt for other pilots.
Last edited by Alan Robertson on Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Bearcat » Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:47 pm

Fantastic post Alan, and thanks for the flight I had with you in ZS-RZZ ... which has a side story which I might relate one day :)
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Fransw » Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:59 pm

Definitely a moderators "choice" post!..
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Bearcat » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:04 pm

This pic was taken in July 2009 after my flight in ZS-RZZ.
It was taken at an equestrian estate in the Midrand area
Thats Alan on the right
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by MadMacs » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:15 pm

Great post, wishing you a happy and long 'retirement'.
Don't worry about old age, it doesn't last long.
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Burner » Sat Mar 02, 2019 8:36 pm

Fransw wrote:
Sat Mar 02, 2019 6:59 pm
Definitely a moderators "choice" post!..
Absolutely!!!

It must have been a hard decision to make, but massive respect for doing it on your terms.

I have fond memories of RZZ buzzing up and down the Southern Cape coast quite a few years ago. Loved the sleek look!
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Ugly Duckling » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:01 pm

Alan

Thank you for the "peep" into your flying career. May whatever you choose to do be as enjoyable & fulfilling as your flying has been. I trust that you will be blessed with good health.

My Dad closed his logbook in September 1974 when his medical was due. He had flown since 1939 including being a SAAF instructor during WW2, civvy instructor post war & company pilot for Barlows.

In December '74 he had a stroke which left him with battling to walk & had useless left hand. He initially battled with speech but it improved with time. In May '83 he had a massive heart attack and passed on.
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Jean Crous » Sat Mar 02, 2019 9:02 pm

:shock: Alan we are the same age, and I am dumbfounded that at such a relatively young age you can hang up your headset :? I sure hope that decision avoids me for at least another 20 years.
But then you done so on your terms, all the best with your new interests , may you enjoy it as much as the flying.
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by YoungPilot » Sat Mar 02, 2019 10:33 pm

Alan Robertson. My father, my mentor and my friend.

Reading this post brought such mixed emotions to mind, even though I have known for over a month now that you had hung up your headset. Sad in that my wingman is no longer dancing in the sky with me and joy in that I know you have been able to have the most amazing experiences in your flying career.

I remember the day that you flew ZS-EIX down to Margate while I was down with the grandparents and then you and I flew her back to Grand Central the next day. The day I found out that a video camera, get this, could also record sound! The mind of a 7 year old was blown that day :lol: I suppose the best thing about flying as a kid is that no matter how hard you try, you are constantly flying IFR because you cannot see over the instrument panel... this was until I found out in 2005 that you were going to get your helicopter licence. "Keep a look out for that yellow helicopter over there. It might be me flying!" Every day that I saw ZS-RWL fly over, I kept thinking it was you.

Dad, I would never wish for any other career, and the fact that you have been able to put me through the astronomical costs of getting my licences, I have never and will never take for granted. You have pushed me as hard as you can and for that I am eternally grateful. From tasting flight in the early 2000's in your Cherokee 6, to flying HEMS today, I thank you.

Thank you for the memories, thank you for the opportunities, thank you for your support and thank you for being my dad.

Stephen
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by cage » Sat Mar 02, 2019 11:08 pm

Alan, sad to hear you've taken your last flight in command.
Your generosity in sharing your flying passion is an inspiration.
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by V5 - LEO » Sun Mar 03, 2019 12:11 am

....wow wow wow, if ever the passion for flying were encapsulated in words this must be it! Glad for you and your family that you could decide the final flight and may fond memories accompany you for the rest of your life - take care and remember that you will always be "one".
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by jimdavis » Sun Mar 03, 2019 6:42 am

Wow Alan, what a wonderful, transparently honest opening of your heart, and closing of your logbook. It takes a hell of a lot of guts to to either of these things.

Are we allowed to know what your next project is?

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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Spoke Eagle » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:28 am

Priest at Mike Spence's funeral service said something like this;

'It is a sad day to not have Mike around not for the heart ache but also for the loss of a type of man that he was. Less and less of those men around'.

Never heard of Alan but he certainly is one of those MEN.

Well done sir!
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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by Whirly » Sun Mar 03, 2019 8:32 am

Sorry to hear Alan, I promise you, you will miss it dearly and it won't be long before you return. :D

I dread the day I decide the same. :( :(

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Re: I took my last flight as PIC and it was great

Unread post by csparksfly » Sun Mar 03, 2019 9:59 am

Wow Alan, I did not see this coming! You engaged so many others strangers and pulled them in, sharing - legend.
Skill and luck - always have enough of both

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