A maintenance check flight in the skies above Perthshire recently saw air ambulance pilot Captain Russell Myles record his landmark 11,000th flying hour.
While Russell’s “day job” as senior pilot with Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) sees him notch up thousands of hours at the controls of a helicopter, this significant aviators’ milestone was passed while flying his beloved replica World War One German Fokker Eindecker.
56-year-old Russell from Wolfhill in Perthshire has nearly 40 years experience as a fixed-wing and rotary pilot in a wide variety of roles and aircraft.
Winning a flying scholarship from the Royal Air Force helped Russell attain his Private Pilot’s Licence at the age of 17 so he could fly before he could drive.
A high-flying career with both the RAF and civilian/commercial operations saw Russell at the controls of a variety of aircraft from smaller Fokker F27 passenger turboprops to Boeing 767 jet liners carrying 300-plus passengers and smaller Squirrel and Jet Ranger helicopters to RAF Wessex helicopters in both military support and search and rescue roles.
Now a highly-respected pilot with Babcock, Russell has headed up flight operations at SCAA’s Perth Airport base since it launched seven years ago, initially flying the charity’s Bolkow 105 helicopter and then its upgraded EC 135 air ambulance.
Despite his crucial rotary role, however, Russell loves his character Fokker aircraft which he hangers at Perth Airport alongside his two-seater RV6 touring aircraft.
He said: “Reaching my 11,000th flying hour while circling above my Perthshire home and workplace in the Fokker was a special moment.
“I notched up my 10,000th hour while on a mission with SCAA. One thousand hours on, this landmark was under much more relaxed circumstances I’m pleased to say.
“I’ve owned the WWI replica for five years and it doesn’t fly far and it doesn’t fly fast but I absolutely love her. Flying the air ambulance for SCAA is work, flying the Fokker is play.”
With recreational aircraft restricted by Covid-19, pilots have been only taking to the air to maintain engine health and record official maintenance test flights.
On a busy day at SCAA, Russell can record up to six hours piloting the air ambulance to and from any part of the Scottish mainland and its many islands.
“I was fast approaching the 11,000th hour and knew I would tip across the line while doing her maintenance check,” Russell added.
“Every 1,000 hours is a special moment for flyers. It’s now onwards to 12,000.”