Navy Wings’ Chief Pilot Andrew ‘Mum’ Davis flies to inspire and remember.
Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
15 February 2022
I’ve always had a hankering for aviation. My father worked for Qantas and every time I got near an aircraft as a boy, I’d be trembling with excitement and anticipation. At that time, the quickest way to get into flying was by joining the Royal Australian Navy, which I did when I was 17.
I’m Chief Pilot of the Navy Wings. Although we’re a civilian charitable organisation and regulated by the CAA, we’re based at RNAS Yeovilton, so we comply with military procedures and receive great support from the Royal Navy. I’m responsible for writing the flying programme, compliance and administration, as well as management of our pilots, who are all ex-Navy aviators with lots of experience in warbirds.
In winter, the aircraft are mostly in maintenance. In spring and summer, we fly up to six times a week, training and displaying at UK airshows and events. It’s such a privilege to fly these wonderful historic aircraft in displays.
The Navy Wings’ collection includes a Tiger Moth, Chipmunk, Stinson Reliant, Harvard, and a Wasp helicopter. We inherited two Swordfish from the RN, currently under engine refurbishment, and recently were gifted a magnificent Supermarine Seafire, which will form the core of our displays. These aircraft can be skittish in ground contact, but once in the air they’re not that different from flying your basic SEP. They’re irreplaceable though, so we look after them very well.
“Thinking back to those night deck landings still gives me a tingle”
I joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1978 and went straight into military flying training. I was carrier qualified at age 20. In 1984, I came to the UK on exchange to fly helicopters. In 1987, I transferred to the Royal Navy, underwent a Sea Harrier conversion, and flew them for 17 years. Afterwards, I worked as an airline captain on Airbus A330/340 for Virgin Atlantic.
Before becoming Chief Pilot in 2020, I was a volunteer pilot. Our training is graduated: you start on the Tiger Moth and make your way, via the Chipmunk and Harvard, to more challenging aircraft like the Swordfish and Seafire. We still learn every day. In aviation, there’s always more training and you’re always being checked, it’s how we keep high standards.
Even though I’ve flown all kinds of amazing fixed-wing aircraft, I have to admit my favourite flight was in a helicopter… Mountain flying in a Sea King on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. The weather was beautiful, the location fabulous. What made this flight spectacular, though, was the visual thrill of watching the ground fall away when flying over the mountain edge.
CVS21, HMAS Melbourne, my first aircraft carrier. The challenge of taking off and landing aboard that ship was extraordinary. Our deck was short, so the catapult gave you an incredible acceleration and deposited you just airborne 30ft above the water – on my first launch, my mind just tilted backwards. Thinking back to those night deck landings still gives me a tingle.
Yes, I’m lucky enough to be joint owner of a Glasair, based at Yeovilton. I enjoy taking it for a spin around the countryside, flying around the mountains in Wales or dropping into GA airfields for lunch.
‘MOMSOBGYTAST’. It stands for: ‘Muck or mud, sh*t or blood, grit your teeth and stay there’. I first heard this ‘encouragement’ from my QFI during formation training in jets in Australia, and still say it to myself in formation.
Want to learn more about Navy Wings? Visit here.
After a career flying fast jets from aircraft carriers, Andrew ‘Mum’ Davis is now Chief Pilot of Navy Wings
|Started current job||September 2020|
|Now flying||Tiger Moth, Chipmunk, Stinson Reliant, Harvard|
|Favourite aircraft||Sea Harrier. “I’ve spent most of my flying life involved with this magnificent jet which can do extraordinary things.”|
|Hours at job start||Approx. 19,100|
|Hours now||Approx. 19,300|