Jon Hilton’s epic story of the scariest and most challenging thing he’s ever done. And that’s saying something.
YOU should be aware that I am scared of everything. Flying, crashing, physical pain, the cold, letting people down, the unknown. The list is a long one.
I guess I’m an adventurer of sorts, who nearly died trying to do something no one’s done before. I made mistakes, and battled to stay alive each time I flew.
I have a GA licence and previously passed the IMC, night and multi ratings. I am not the complete pilot by any means. I gave up flying 15 years ago when an eye ulcer, a civil war in Zaire and a girlfriend problem put paid to my commercial ambitions.
Coming back to flying three years ago, I went down the microlight route. Why? Modern aircraft. More economical. Less expensive to maintain. Great for flying into little farm strips. In short, good fun.
It also takes more mental effort to fly a CT than a Cessna and you need to become more intuitive, plus it’s faster than most microlights so you need to think ahead a little more.
Fortunately I have an element of OCD which helps in more ways than you might imagine. Anyway, all this is simply background noise.
I initially talked to a few chaps about flying round the world as a way of raising money for a Liverpool cancer charity I support (www.justgiving.com/Jon-Hilton) and having a bloody good adventure.
In one of life’s unexpected consequences, the inherent fear of that trip led me to becoming a father. Which is a whole other story. But at the same time it means I now have responsibilities.
I’d also recently had a small medical scare. A trip to the optician led to a trip to the hospital. The suggestion was that my eyes were under too much pressure and there was a train of thought that pointed towards a brain tumour saying hello.
It turned out not to be the case, and all was well, but that kind of thing focuses the mind a little. It makes you want to get off your behind and experience life a bit more.
The Canadian trip seemed like a decent trip of seven to 10 days. Not round the world but not inconsequential. A test.
I put the aircraft through an early 200h service. The radiator grills were partly masked to defeat the cold of the Arctic. Special antifreeze was added.
A faulty EGT sensor was fixed courtesy of Deepak Mahajan and Co at London Airsports. They also helped me sort out calibration issues with the fuel flow sensor and the outside air temperature sensor, which always seemed out of whack.
If I had to guess, I’d say they thought I was a vaguely likeable idiot. Which is about right.
I seemed good to go. So did the aircraft. She’s called Samson. Or more precisely G-CGIZ.