Triumph and tragedy of Flying at the Edge

Tony on the runway in 1970.
Tony on the runway in 1970.
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A CAREER as a fighter pilot and display flyer has seen Sqn Ldr Tony Doyle live out his childhood dream.

Flying some of the world’s finest and fastest aeroplanes, Mr Doyle, of Barrowby, has seen more than his fair share of ups and downs, tragedies and near-misses.

All are captured in a comprehensive, self-penned 400 page book, aptly titled Flying at the Edge.

Mr Doyle said: “I was a 10-year-old boy during the war and I was crazy on aeroplanes so it started from there. I was obsessed with flying and the idea of flying.

“It’s true that I’ve been able to live my childhood dream.”

Mr Doyle was one of a select few pilots who had the experience of flying Britain’s only supersonic fighter - the English Electric Lightning but says he took far more pleasure in piloting Gnats.

He recalls: “It was beautiful, very light and fast. A slick little aeroplane - it was tiny.

“Although most of the aircraft I flew, I thought, were really nice.”

Mr Doyle witnessed two of the darkest days in display flying which were to have a large impact on his life.

He was a spectator at the Farnborough Air Show in 1952 when John Derry broke the sound barrier before his plane disintingrated, killing 31 people.

He was a pilot at the Paris Air Show when he experienced the worst moment of his career.

He recalls: “An Italian airplane crashed right in front of us. I found that very upsetting. The pilots were killed along with a lot of spectators.”

Mr Doyle has needed all of his skills and a little good fortune to keep himself out of trouble, having escaped a number of life-threatening situations.

Never more so than when he was forced to eject over the North Cornish coast after an engine explosion caused the loss of elevator control.

l Flying at the Edge is available from Pen & Sword Books.