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By David Rhys-Jones

Life of Brian Continued

There was a glorious moment in 1991 when I realised that the house was paid for, the children were educated and there was suddenly a surplus of money in the bank. One sunny morning I got into the car and drove down to Parham to restart what I had left at Firle thirty five years before.


Re-soloing did not go smoothly. I had not forgotten how to fly. What you learn at sixteen stays with you for life. Teenagers are completely fearless but middle aged men are not. I had a rising apprehension as the ground got closer and could not control the speed or round out. I was holding the stick in a vice like grip.


Brian Bateson sensed this and took me through a series of winch failures and spin recoveries until the panic dissolved, the rational self returned and the natural flying instincts took over. For this, I am eternally grateful. I might, like many others before me, have given up the sport at this point.


Brian is one of the best and most experienced pilots that the club has ever produced. I would rate him as one of the best instructors. We usually write an epitaph for our more outstanding members. Brian is still very much alive, and this might be the time to let newer club members know more about his background and achievements. It might also be the time to make a case to the club and the BGA to avoid the waste of his huge talents and experience. Here then is Life of Brian.


In these days when anyone can get a university education, it is worth remembering that, in our youth, you only got there from a private or grammar school. Both were barred to the majority of the population. Most people who wanted to rise in industry took up apprenticeships. These were, in many ways, far more valuable than university. You rose through the structure of company gaining a far better understanding of how it worked and the people who made it work.


At the age of sixteen, Brian got on his cycle and rode to the De Havillands factory near Bolton. They were working on the manufacture of missiles and propellors. After two years, they recognised his abilities and sent him to study aeronautical engineering at Hatfield Polytechnic, now Hatfield University, while working part time on the development of the Redtop Air to Air missile.


From here, he joined the team that was developing Blue Streak, Britain's ICBM. When liquid fuel rockets were no longer considered practical as nuclear deterrents, Blue Streak became the first stage of ELDO, the European Satellite launcher. While the UK first stage operated faultlessly, the French and German second and third stage failed repeatedly. Eventually, the British Government pulled out. The French took over and went on to develop the highly successful Ariane program.


Brian was then recruited by de Beers, the diamond miners, to develop a process for making synthetic diamonds in South Africa. Natural diamonds are made thousands of feet underground at huge temperatures and pressures in volcanic cores. To recreate pressures of a million pounds per square inch and fourteen hundred degrees centigrade is an amazing feat of engineering.  De Beers achieved this which only two other companies worldwide managed.


Concrete buildings require openings for pipes, cables and ducts, but to try and provide them a year or so before they were required was totally beyond the booming construction industry. A diamond coring tool which could cut through a concrete slab was going to be a winner. Brian left De Beers and some time later established Nimbus Diamond Tools which made diamond impregnated saws and corers. The business boomed through the seventies and eighties until he realised that the Chinese were about to flood the market. Nimbus Diamond Tool was sold and Brian set about devoting the rest of his life gliding.