Fit to fly - pt 1
The first time I stepped through the doors of Cambrian flying club, I was accosted at the threshold by one of the many enthusiastic eccentrics I have previously mentioned. I was there for my first ground school lesson "So you wanna be a pilot is it boy" - a local to the area.
"Yep, like nothing else"
"Well have you done your medical boy? you gotta get your medical sorted first see". He was probably right. I'd definitely recommend getting it done before you start pretending the works van is a 737 and your doing PA announcements in the shower. I say this because I didn't. The only honest reason I can give as to why I didn't make obtaining a Class 1 medical my first step, is that part of me was crapping it that I wouldn't pass. My process was to get so mentally, physically and emotionally invested in becoming a pilot that, in my mind, I was effectively there and thus the medical would have to be a formality. It wasn't.
In many ways you can control, or have some control, over every other obstacle that will erect itself in your path. What you can't change is your genetics. The process of realising, planning and implementing a way to achieve my most fantastic boyhood ambition was so much fun I couldn't bear the thought of it being torched in 1 afternoon. I witnessed this natural disaster, and it wasn't pretty. As I sat, full of nerves and excitement, in the waiting area of Aviation house before my last medical appointment I watched as a boy was led to a not-very-private corner of the room and told he was colour blind. He couldn't be a pilot - "is there anything else you want to do?" the woman in white whispered. In that moment, surely nothing more than the thing just taken so permanently from him. I prayed i'd never feel that same heartache.
I eventually booked my initial class 1 medical for the 28/06/15. By that point I had started my PPL, visited all 3 of the best FTO's in Europe, assessed my aptitude, re-learned GCSE maths and Physics and convinced my folks. Bella and I had decided I would train at FTE Jerez in Spain. She just needed to get an au pair job in the area and I needed to negotiate funding options with my family. And pass my medical.
So on the date in question I set off for NATS in Swanwick. My outlook is good, I'm excited about the pace at which my quest is travelling - it's finally all coming together, today i'm just ticking another box. The first step is the Ophthalmologist - this was the source of my concern pre-testing. Not the quality of my eyesight, as I have no need (yet) for corrective lenses. I had a freak eye injury in 2005 and needed an emergency op. It took a while to recover properly, I have some internal scaring and eye ops count as significant invasive surgery that you have to declare. Not too long in the past if you'd had corrective laser surgery you couldn't apply.
An hour after arriving at Eye Style in sleepy suburban Swanwick the first box was ticked and what I presumed would be my biggest obstacle was cleared. I punched the air. I smiled a mile wide. I floated into the main NATS ATC reception for the rest of the appointment. Being there in that incredible building that houses controllers who are welcoming and releasing a constant caravan of airliners to and from our skies, was inspiring. Everyday I longingly watch jets cross the sky, I see the distance between us as a metaphor for the journey I have to complete to be sitting up there, up front. Here in this place where nearby people are talking to 747 pilots, I have a sense that my proximity to the flight deck is so much closer, and the path so clear.
With an ever strengthening feeling of euphoria and excitement I peed in a pot, listened to faint bleeps, got hooked up to many wires, had blood extracted and blew very hard into a mini loo roll... Not hard enough. My aero medical examiner, who has been entirely effervescent throughout the whole process, looks surprised "Oh this is low Mr Gibbs, try again, really try" he implored - I really tried. "Still low Mr Gibbs, one more go, if it's below 70% you'll have to see the respiratory specialist in Aviation house at Gatwick." I am literally and metaphorically deflating very fast. I am a trier who doesn't give up easy. I blew hard. Over my 3 goes I came up 4% short of the required standard for immediate issuance of a medical certificate.
The doctor explained what may be happening and what the next steps were then showed me the door.