I will be attending a meeting in London soon, it is being held at the rather nice RAF club in central London, I have stayed there a few times, back in the day when my brother was a serving officer and occasionally we would meet in central London, enjoy a pie and a pint and stop over at the fine and functional rooms. The last time that I attended was in December last year when the  CILT’s Presidents inaugural lunch was held there. The event took place in the grand restaurant which over the years has hosted the great and the good from the long and noble history of the Royal Air Force. Which by coincidence celebrates its 100th birthday this very year.

Therefore without doubt a more than suitable venue to host an organisation like CILT which celebrates its centenary next year. Just reflecting on these two great institutions it is interesting that from a personal perspective my father, my brother, and myself ,have had interesting career overlaps with both. My dad and brother both served in the RAF, my dad was conscripted into the RAF towards the end of the second world war where he was trained as an engineer which he always loved. He joined the RAF as an  Air craftsman second class (AC.2)  especially when later in his distinguished career as a General Manager of large bus Companies he used to visit the engineers in local bus depots, where he would happily quote his name, rank, and number, and tell them that  his job was to patch up bombers that had been damaged by enemy fire while on bombing raids over Germany, classic aircraft like Lancasters, Wellingtons, and Shackletons were his workshop from 1944 until 1946 while he served. He did well and was asked to stay on and take a commission to become an officer. He declined as he wanted to go to University which he did reading Geography and Economics at Nottingham University.

By contrast my brother only ever wanted to do one thing in life, since the tender age of three when he decided to jump off the top of the stairs luckily being caught by mums cleaner the wonderful Mrs Baker. He did warn her of his intentions when he shouted” look I can fly,” and off he went into infinity and beyond. This set the scene for his lifelong ambition to become a pilot, but not just any pilot, he always wanted to be a fighter pilot, and as boys growing up and sharing a bedroom our ceiling was littered with Airfix models of classic fighter planes, Spitfires, Hurricanes, Stuka’s, Messerschmitt’s, you name it, we brought the kits, glued them together, painted them, and hung them from the ceiling, and imagined many an effective dog fight as the Battle of Britain was recreated with heroic boyish enthusiasm.

To be fair, he worked hard and pursued his ambition joining the Air Training Corps and quickly rising through the ranks, he got a scholarship at University and joined the University Air Squadron, post graduation he was commissioned and did his officer training at RAF Cranwell, where all the family gathered to watch his passing out as a Flying Officer. He then went to RAF Anglessy to learn to fly fighter planes and that is what he did eventually becoming a Jaguar pilot. Back in the day the Jaguar was the plane to fly as the pilot did everything including navigate, it was a single person plane and he was good at it. His carrier developed rapidly and he ended up flying Nimrods, finally becoming a Group Captain and Station Commander before taking redundancy and joining a commercial airline specialising on catering for the wealthy and famous. So, the family went from AC2 fitter to Group Captain and Station Commander, not bad to be fair. And now the journey continues with one of his sons joining his University Air Squadron, the third generation with the Birks name to serve in the Royal Air Force.

In a similar way both my, and dad’s, relationship with CILT has interesting parallels, we both joined when we started our careers, dad as a BET trainee at Northern and General bus Company in Newcastle, where he was forced to join the Chartered Institute of Transport, and pass the required exams. Fast forward some 25 years and I do the same as a Senior Management Trainee of the National Bus Company where I also have to pass 9 exams to qualify as a Chartered Member, which I eventually do. We both became active members of our local regions both joining the committee and both becoming Chairman of in dad’s case two regions and in my case the West Midlands. Dad was awarded the Frederick Speight memorial lecture medal following a lecture that he gave, I still have the rather fine medal which has an engraved image of Pegasus the winged horse, it sits in my conservatory where I can see it every day.

I went onto become the Chairman of the Bus and Coach Forum and vice chair of the Safety and Logistics Forum, where I have been active for 8 years with the Bus and Coach Forum and 6 years with the Safety Forum. Both dad and myself had a strong passion and enthusiasm for the Institute and both keen advocates for the work done by the Institute. Today in my view 100 years almost on it is in a good place. The CEO Kevin Richardson is a good man with a clear vision of where he wants the Institute to be not only for the next 5 years, but for the longer term future and with good senior people around him and below him all is good and positive. One thing is for sure, he has my full and unreserved support for what is a Force for Good as Sir Peter Hendy calls it.


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