by Brian Smith

In July 1962 Brian Smith joined British European Airways (BEA) as a steward. In 1991 he retired as a Senior Training Captain with British Airways. Brian describes this remarkable development, recalling some of the many hurdles and adventures along the way.

The title of the book, Straighten Up and Fly Right, seems to describe his ambitions. The adventures start with his desire to learn to fly. His working life as a Training Captain with BOAC and British Airways is described in detail. He manages to capture in print what life was like during what many call ‘The Golden Age of Flying’.

The book gives a detailed account of these adventures. They may appear to follow one after the other in rapid succession, and that is exactly what happened. Each chapter is laced with humour. The adventures are all true, but you might detect a slight exaggeration of one or two of the characters. If this makes you smile, he’d be happy.

There were two significant adventures that he recalls as if they happened yesterday. The first was as a Flight Controller in the Control Centre for the Breitling record-breaking balloon flight round the world in 1999. He describes the experience ‘like holding your breath for three weeks’. The following year he was back in the role of Flight Controller for David Hempleman-Adams’ record-breaking flight to the North Pole by balloon. As you can imagine, anyone involved with these adventures is familiar with the ‘Swan Effect’ – serene and calm on the surface, but pedalling like mad underneath! The adventures took mainly two forms: Aircraft flying – as a first officer on a BOAC B707 that had to land at Heathrow without a nosewheel – helping restore and fly an Albatross, a 70-year-old amphibian aircraft – a spell of bush flying in Rhodesia.

Hot-air balloon flying – becoming an instructor and examiner – flying in France, Holland, Austria, Ireland, USA, the Artic Circle, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, across Australia and across the English Channel. Brian also shares details of his latest venture – building and operating a Spitfire simulator in his barn in West Sussex, to raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund. To date GBP100,000 has been raised. Brian has decided to donate 10% of any profits from the sale of this book to the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund. The chapters have many photographs and cartoons drawn by the author.

To get your copy, email Brian on briansmithair@uwclub.net or call 01403 700346

Writing this book during the Coronavirus pandemic has been quite a moving experience for Brian. As well as bringing back many memories, it has allowed him to contact and then keep in touch with friends and colleagues from years ago. Born in London in 1938, his early life was spent trying to survive the Second World War and its after effects, then live a normal life. His time in the RAF gave many opportunities to show him that if you try hard enough you can succeed at anything. That statement needs some qualification. You can succeed, but, only if you give it your all. This means concentrating on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else, focussing day and night for as long as it takes. Once he decided that flying had become his quest, he gave it his all. He just knew he could do it. It was a long road with many hurdles before he became a captain with our national airline. However, along with the hurdles there were many exciting adventures. Brian lives in West Sussex, England. In 2020 he and his wife Cecilia celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have two daughters, and two grandsons.