Keith Griggs is an LAA Pilot Member of the East of Scotland Strut and an Associate Pilot Member of the Scottish Aero Club. Born in Changi Singapore on 21st April 1955, the same day as Queen Elizabeth II, life started with a celebration that has been repeated every year since – fireworks, 21 gun salutes and more.
Born into service life, my parents were both in the RAF, and later my elder brother Terry also joined up. I changed the trend when, in 1970, I joined the Royal Navy where I trained as an Electrician. My main disciplines were internal communications, which involved anything from sound-powered telephones to Gyro’s, valve computers for the gunnery systems and magslip & survo transmission. I was also involved in power generation & distribution.
After my training, I joined my first ship, H.M.S. Ark Royal, where I spent a lot of time watching the flying activities. I spent a short spell ashore before returning to sea in the Navy’s last big gun ship, H.M.S. Tiger which featured 2 x 6″ & 2 x 3″ guns, 2 x Quad Seacat & Sea King Helicopters (H.M.S. Blake, sister ship, of the Tiger, saw the first deck landing of the Kestrel to become better-known as the Harrier).
As a member of the Scottish Aero Club at Scone Perth, I was lucky to meet two previous members who had served on different Ark Royals, John Moffat R.N. who flew Swordfish and was credited with the torpedo that disabled The Bismark in WWII and Trevor Harvey who served on the same Ark Royal as me, albeit a decade earlier.
Leaving the Navy in 1978, after a married accompanied posting in Gibraltar on H.M.S. Rooke (before the Spanish border was opened), I moved up to Edinburgh where my wife Theresa came from. My involvement in aviation at this time was limited; I had a young family and had to work several jobs, but I still managed to get to the PFA Rally at various locations where I assisted Don Lord with the gold, silver & bronze medals issued for attending aircraft.
In 1998 my father was looking to sell his Piel Emeraude, and, after travelling down to Norfolk most weekends, the aircraft finally had a permit to fly back to East Fortune where other works were required before its sale. However, best-laid plans meant that, due to some unforeseen deterioration in the sub spare which was identified after a short high-speed taxi on a grass strip, the aircraft had to be transported by road to the Museum of Flight at East Fortune, southeast of Edinburgh.
I then spent nearly two years rebuilding the Emeraude and at the PFA Rally in 2003, I was awarded the John Walker Trophy for best amateur restoration, which without the guidance of my Inspector, Tim Rayner, I would never have completed. I decided to purchase the aircraft from my father and having carried out the restoration obtained my PPL at the Britannia Flight School in Florida.
Having done a few hours flying in Scotland, England & Ireland, I also visited the RSA Rally in France, all in G-BBKL. Then sadly, it was time to part with her as at this time the aircraft was jointly owned. Enjoying the old classic Emeraude I was lucky enough to purchase G-BDKH and continued my flying career.
I started working for Amey Community in 2010 at Edinburgh Airport – a dream job, getting to work in all areas of the Airport from the Baggage Area to the Control Tower and from time to time (daily) having to drive airside getting close up to all the types of aircraft, GA transport and occasionally, Military. After working at both Stansted and Heathrow T5, Stansted & Edinburgh Airports were sold and I moved on to Scottish Schools within Amey as their Electrical QS. Amey gave a Community Day and in 2016, I used this to do a Charity flight around Scotland with Amey matching all funds raised to go toward CHAS & SCAA with my colleague Colin.
G-BDKH was 60 years old on the 26th of June 2016 and the first flight recorded for G-BDKH was from Saumur, France on the 26th of June 1958, so with a budding pilot and aircraft restorer Steve Bothwick, we planned to head to Saumur. We set off on Monday 25th June, calling into Gamston Retford for fuel, we then continued down to Headcorn near Ashford for an overnight stop. Headcorn is a very friendly location and after a night at a local B&B, we got ready to fly on.
Steve is high on Risk Assessment duties and often flies to the North Sea Rigs, he was also spotted on the recent programme on H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth. Consequently, we had survival suits, life jackets and PLB, but with the temperatures exceeding 30c we felt the risk was too high to wear the survival suits, fearing that we were more likely to pass out with heat exhaustion than ditch in the Channel! So, we decided to leave the survival suits at Headcorn & collect them on the return trip.
We departed Headcorn with Flight Plan & GAR filed using Sky Demon. As we flew over the Channel heading for Le Touquet, we were advised by Paris FIS that the Radio on Tuesdays was Air to Air only! Keeping a good listening watch with NO French we landed and parked up in front of the Terminal. We made a quick trip through Passport Control and were informed that fuel would not be available until 13:00 local. We, therefore, decided to do a local flight returning to Le Touquet for fuel ready for departure with sufficient fuel within C of G. We departed Le Touquet, handy having a long runway in the heat of the day, we were with Paris FIR to the end of their area then they said goodbye.
Continuing our flight South, we arrived a little early as the airfield was notamed closed until 18:00 local for military exercises. After landing at Saumur, the Airfield was deserted due to the military closure, however, we did meet the cleaner, but No French … and the cleaner didn’t speak English! After a while, a local pilot who did speak English explained that the Military was using the Airfield over the next few days and that the Airfield would close again at 04:00 on 27th June. I showed him the original log book for G-BDKH and he recognised the name of the pilot and confirmed that they still use the same ID Stamp in Log Books, he was going to let the pilot know that we had visited the Airfield 60 years to the day.
Sadly we had to cancel our accommodation and depart for Tours/Sorigny. After landing we made ourselves known to the maintenance staff – yes, one spoke English which was a great help! An instructor who was making alterations to his Robin offered to take us to a local hotel, he dropped us off and departed only for us to discover that the hotel was full. We had a meal at a bar opposite and decided to make our way back to the Airfield where we found the staff getting ready to go home. Learning of our dilemma, they offered to take us back into the Town, only to find all Hotels complete (full). So, we made our way back to the airfield and spent the night under the wing!
Having seen the Space Station pass overhead a few times, dawn came and the offer of coffee. Departing Sorigny we headed to Blois for fuel, where a friendly English-speaking lady gave us radio instructions. Fuel on board we headed back to Le Touquet, this time it was a full ATC we had just enough time to land refuel and then open the flight plan after take-off as per the plan submitted on Sky Demon two days earlier, only to be told by ATC that there was NO Flight Plan! They gave us a phone number to call and a Flight Plan was duly submitted from the aircraft on the now-baking hot apron. Permission to start and taxi was given and we departed Le Touquet in a direct line to Headcorn.
Landing at Headcorn, we waited for the required Border Control before our B&B picked us up. On our first visit, I said it might be an idea to have USB Charger sockets in the rooms, these were duly purchased and I had the job of replacing the existing sockets (& testing) before going for tea. In the morning, we packed up for our return to East Fortune, and taxied to 10 threshold where we observed a number of ‘interesting’ landings by arriving flex-wings in the strong crosswind. Having done a number of crosswind take-offs & landings over the past week, I took off with Port wing down, climbing out we headed for Southend, squawking and talking to Southend who requested that we descended as we were approaching their airspace and as yet, we did not have permission to cross.
As I turned, I caught the edge of a small cloud and no sooner had this happened, Carb Icing! This is the first time I have ever experienced full Carb Icing so I immediately applied Carb Heat and descended rapidly into the warmer air below, at the same time declaring a PAN. At 900ft, I was able to level off with the engine now operating correctly, I, therefore, cancelled the PAN and we were cleared to cross overhead. Lesson learned, no matter how warm it is if you enter cloud, add Carb Heat. Better still, avoid the cloud no matter how thin.
Arriving at Wickenby to refuel, we had a look around the R.A.F. Museum located upstairs in the Control Tower. Wickenby was a former Lancaster Bomber station. We departed Wickenby and headed for Eshott where Steve was to meet an LAA Inspector. En route, we relayed calls with a Coast Guard Helicopter on exercise.
After departing Eshott it was a straight run back to East Fortune. As the local Haddington Agriculture Society was having their annual base on the South side of the Airfield, I had Ed Lyon, former R.A.F. & BA pilot, meet us and close the access road over the 06 Threshold. Best laid plans … as I was coming into land, a car drove around Ed’s car and across the runway, forcing us to go around for a second landing. This time, it was all clear. After parking the aircraft in her hanger, we congratulated each other on the accomplished flight.
Happy Anniversary KH, I hope to have many more hours on the Emeraude: to date over 1200hrs on type.