They gave me a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Aerospace Media Awards dinner in London last Sunday evening. It was an honour, and I thank the judging panel.

But in a way, it’s a double-edged sword. Is there an implied suggestion that one has been there, done that, got the T-shirt – and now it’s time to shuffle off into retirement?

Well, I am not quite ready to do that yet. Here for the record, is the short piece about myself, that I wrote for the Awards programme:

To use a fashionable phrase, “it’s been a journey”. At first an aircraft enthusiast, then starting working life in the airfreight industry; then helping to edit a military aircraft database; consulting about the express business and organising conferences; editing two trade magazines about air cargo; and finally becoming the defense editor of Aviation International News (AIN). Plus, as some of you may know, chronicling the history and operations of the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.

My greatest achievement? Doing most of these things without actually being on anyone’s full-time payroll! This has allowed me to juggle my work. I have earned a living – although not a fortune – while devoting time to my other interests.

I want to mention a doyen of aerospace journalism, the late Gordon Swanborough. When AIN decided to expand to cover international aerospace shows in 1988, and therefore needed to add defence content, it was Gordon who recommended me to Jim Holahan, the editor and joint owner of AIN. For over 30 years now, I have tried to follow Jim’s cardinal advice – don’t editorialise!

These days, I describe myself as semi-retired. It’s hard to let go from such a rewarding profession. I have no intention of doing so.

What about the U-2, then? That story began in the 1980s, when I realised that the aircraft was poorly served by the current literature. So I wrote a book. When some key Americans overcame their surprise that a Brit had tackled their secret spyplane, they accepted me. That led to me becoming the first foreign civilian to fly in the Dragon Lady. If I told you how high we flew, I’d have to kill you!

I have written three more books on the U-2 since then. I had no idea that this jet would last so long, nor that I would become its unofficial expert. Solum Volamus!


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