Interview – Terry Knight, Pilot, Gama Aviation
At a very young age in New Zealand I used to accompany the local Aero Club with my late father John, who was the club secretary at the time. Guess that’s where I got stung by this little bug called aviation. The result, as most will say, is a strong desire that you just can’t shake!
After leaving school with no formal qualifications other than an unwavering affliction in aviation and the need to go my own way in life, I found myself halfway around the world and half a century later , with a full career in the Royal Marines behind me. I find myself in my dream job, piloting an air ambulance, and what a life it has been in between!
I fly over the English Channel admiring the view of the White Cliffs of Dover and the mosaic of fields that my childhood heroes like Douglas Bader, Johnny Checketts and other WWII pilots would have seen, sometimes landing on the airfield iconic Biggin Hill and, to top it off, watch Spitfires always take off from here. Who would have thought, when I read Reach for the Sky in elementary school in New Zealand all these years ago, and dreamed of the famous air battles that took place over the south coast, that I too I would fly in that same airspace trying to bring good?
From the war zone to the cockpit
I had started pilot training years ago in New Zealand, but found it difficult to earn the kind of money needed to complete the course in the small farming community where I had. grown up. So after moving to the UK, where my father was from, and well advanced in my military career, I decided to give it one last shot.
It was in 2006 that I made this decision, just before my departure for my second tour of Iraq. I took my self-study books for my Provisional Pilot License (PPL) in my comfort box and put my head there at every available moment when I was not on patrol, preparing for my PPL course on my return.
After listening to one HEMS helicopter pilot’s stories about his job, I decided it was probably the best job in the world to do – however, I couldn’t afford a helicopter license!
One momentous occasion, I was sitting studying in a Portakabin at Basra Air Base while we were there for a few days, when a rocket attack happened, landing very close and causing me to hide under a desk. This particular tour was pretty kinetic, with daily rocket or mortar attacks, plus all of the other stuff that happens while on patrol.
On my return to the UK I booked a seat for my PPL theory course and practical flight to Bournemouth. I was about to make my dream of becoming a pilot come true! Over the years, self-study books have accompanied me wherever I go. I studied hard, even in the Land Rover on exercise.
I first studied for my commercial pilot license and then followed with an Instrument Rating Rating. After listening to one HEMS helicopter pilot’s stories about his job, I decided it was probably the best job in the world to do – however, I couldn’t afford a helicopter license!
It wasn’t until I took an airline pilot license course that I met another person who flew for an Exeter based company that did the next best thing – medical repatriation. So I made it my goal.