Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
To succeed in long-distance aviation a degree of stubbornness is vital. A degree of diplomacy, and knowing when to deploy it, also helps. Milton certainly has the former in bucketfuls; whether he has the latter is open to question.
He is a very good communicator – as befits someone who has spent most of their life in (broadcast) journalism. The book recounts his idea of flying a microlight around the world, and moreover meeting or beating the fictional Phileas Fogg’s feat of doing so in 80 days. The build-up to the flight has the angst with which anyone who has been involved in seeking large scale sponsorship will be familiar. In the event he landed Liechtenstein Global Trust – essentially the sovereign wealth fund of Liechtenstein and a private client wealth management business wrapped into one. He deserves a lot of credit for bringing them on-board. But Milton had already proved his credentials with a flight to Australia, which had been sponsored by Dalgety, the food group. On this trip there was a well-publicised splash into the Persian Gulf. Indeed publicity is another strong suit of Milton’s. Having been in broadcasting so long he is adept at interviews, and knows where the best shots will be found. But I wondered how his flexwing microlight flew at all, encumbered as it was with several video cameras.
Only a very competent pilot could contemplate such a flight in a ragwing, and it is clear Milton is a master of this art. He describes frequent bouts of flying in IMC with only a turn & bank indicator and a GPS to help him on his way. Epic skills. Perhaps he was lucky, but last year a British flexwing pilot embarking on a long-distance odyssey only made it as far as the Channel before plunging to his fate into the sea in bad weather. Anyone who has done a journey such as Milton’s will know that the flying is only half the stress: at least as much aggravation is caused on the ground. Because a ragwing is such an unlikely mode of international travel he encountered plenty of bureaucratic obstruction, not to mention downright greed and corruption. It echoed my own experiences of flying to the Orient. He had particular problems in Japan, where native microlighters are only allowed to fly within a 1.5 km radius of their base(!), and so the men in suits were every loathe to allow him into their airspace.
Any long distance flyer will also know that another other major problem is sustaining a healthy relationship with one’s flying companion. Hours of boredom interspersed with terror in the confines of a cockpit is not a recipe for harmony. Quite why Mr & Mrs Jim Mollison (Mrs being Amy Johnson) thought it was a good idea to do long-distance flights together is beyond me. No wonder they divorced.
Around the World in 80 Flying Days
Brian Milton, New European Publications Ltd, 2003