Bob Morcom's Interview
During a career spanning over thirty years Bob Morcom has flown everything from light Piper Aztec Twins, Boeing 737’, 757’s 767’s, and Airbus 320’s, all the way through to unique and priceless World War One fighter planes. Here is his story.
How Did You Get Into Flying?
Bob: I worked as an engineering apprentice and part time manual labourer to fund the start of my Commercial Pilot’s training. Then, thankfully, I was sponsored by Cabair to complete the training. I joined Monarch Airlines in 1987 and spent the bulk of my time there, rising to Senior Captain.
What Is the Best Part of Flying Big Jets?
Bob: It has to be the views. Thirty five thousand feet is a very good place to watch the sun rise and set. And looking down across the Arctic and the Aurora borealis (Northern Lights) is really quite something.
And the Worst Part About Flying Big Jets?
Bob: In a word, exhaustion. Jet lag hits pilots just as badly as passengers. And living in a continual state of jetlag is fantastically tiring. Also, the uniforms never seem to fit …
Do Things Ever Go. Wrong?
Bob: No, not really. Commercial aviation is an incredibly professional environment. Pilots are exceedingly well trained. Equipment is thoroughly maintained. The risks are known, and very extensively mitigated. People are quite right to sit in the back and not worry.
There Must Have Been Some Incidents During Your Long Career?
Bob: One stands out. I was taking off from Gatwick in a Boeing 767. We were accelerating hard down the main runway under full throttles when there was the most blood curdling scream from the passenger section. And I mean blood curdling. The engines were at maximum thrust, the door between the cockpit and the passengers was shut, and I was wearing a headset, but my blood still ran cold. We aborted the take-off immediately and pulled off the runway. Then, while the entirety of Gatwick Airport waited, I went back to investigate. I was expecting to find a terrorist, or a murderer, what I actually found was a frightened old woman clutching her seat. She’d apparently realised the plane really was going to leave the ground and was terrified.
You Were a Training Captain, What Do You Look For in A First Officer?
Bob: It’s more a matter of what you don’t want to see: over-confidence. There is an old saying that: ‘there are old pilots, and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots’. Flying is about being hugely vigilant and looking endlessly for the problem that isn’t there. As someone else pointed out: ‘Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect’.
What Has Been the Greatest Honour Of Your Career?
Bob: Without a doubt being asked to fly for the Shuttleworth Collection. Amongst other World War One planes I’ve been entrusted to fly their 1913 Avro Tutor. It’s the only one left in existence, and is an invaluable part of British aviation history.
In essence talking to Bob was immensly reasurring. It made us very aware of just how professional a place a big jet cockpit is, and just how compentent the men and women who fly them are. The next time we go to Spain, our fingers are crossed that Bob is at the controls. And do make sure to check out the Shuttleworth Air Museum website. Seeing a World War One biplane in the air really is something. Thanks Bob.
BOB MORCOM WEARS