Pilot wins ‘Battle of Britain’ trophy in second race

John Bate aircraft racer in France (s)

John Bate aircraft racer in France (s)

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Dentist John Bate was certainly smiling after overcoming bad weather to fly to third place in France in only his second race.

Father-of-two John (52) lives in Colne with wife Rebecca and has worked all his life at Worsthorne Dental Practice.

Flying is just the greatest thing to do whether racing, pottering over Pendle or, as 50 of us did last week, we flew to an airfield with a pub, stopping overnight

Dentist John Bate

However, he decided to get his teeth into competitive flying – and was pleased to return across the Channel with a trophy in the Royal Aero Club British Racing Championship Battle of Britain Trophy .

John had been a hanglider pilot for 20 years with his friend Adrian Harris, who owns Pendle Kitchens in Burnley.

“We decided that we were getting too old and we needed something with a comfy seat and a propellor so five years ago we got our pilot’s licence,” said John.

“Then I decided I wanted to compete and so I had to join the Royal Aero Club and obtain a competitor’s licence.

“This involves having a flight instruction with the Chief Pilot of the British Air Racing Club so it isn’t easy.”

It is John’s first season in competitive flying and he entered the Battle of Britain Trophy which is fought for each year and the next round is in June in South Wales with a race in Alderney in the Channel Islands after that.

For the French round, John was up against 20 other British pilots – and the conditions over France didn’t help.

“Finishing in the top half was beyond my hopes as they were 20 experienced pilots, most who fly with navigators.

“So I am extremely happy with third, especially as I beat the European Champion and the Chief Pilot who was instructing me the week before. As I was flying solo, I also won a navigator’s trophy.”

The race involved flying 115 miles around the French countryside at 600 feet with various turning points at 200mph.

“It is exciting when seven or eight aircraft are bunched up making high speed turns over somewhere like a mast.

“The conditions were bumpy making life difficult – it was so bumpy it cracked the windscreen of one aircraft and he had to make a quick landing but thankfully it wasn’t mine!

“Flying is just the greatest thing to do whether racing, pottering over Pendle or, as 50 of us did last week, we flew to an airfield with a pub, stopping overnight.

“It’s exciting, challenging and never dull and it is now more affordable than ever with modern ultralight aircraft costing the same as a motorbike.”