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Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society caters for veteran cars, vintage cars & classic cars, as well as commercials and motorcycles.




:: [ SVVS Dinner - Russ Hill Hotel, Charlwood - February 2009 ] ::

The Annual SVVS Dinner was held at the Russ Hill Hotel and was again a great success. The Photos are by Bozi Mohacek and text by Julian Alderton. Please click on any thumbnail picture below to see the full size picture. To return to thumbnails please click Explorer "Back" arrow (top left of screen).





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SVVS ANNUAL DINNER :    by Julian Alderton

This year's dinner was said by several members to have been quite the most successful. Opinions vary as to the reasons for this, some opining that the reduced numbers created a more intimate atmosphere but all those present were wholeheartedly in agreement with Derek's statement that our guest of honour, Maria Pallares-Digings, treated us to our best talk ever.

The Russ Hill Hotel really did us proud with a superb meal and even those, like your scribe, who are not great lovers of salmon, (unless scotch and smoked - and perhaps accompanied by a 12 year old variation of the Scotch), must admit that salmon has never tasted so good - it was truly excellent. Those who opted for the alternative missed a great treat.

Maria started by explaining, with great humour, how the Spanish and English components of her name, Maria-Jesus Pernia-Pallares-Digings, came about. More importantly she then went on to tell us of her incredible tenacity in her relentless pursuit of her chosen career from the age of eight when she decided that she really wanted to fly.

Having attained an appropriate age, her applications to the Spanish Air Force and to Iberia Airlines were rejected so she then worked as an au pair both in Paris and in London to perfect her language skills. She recounted several witty anecdotes, illustrated by her wild gesticulations that rendered the use of a microphone both impossible and unnecessary, about her time in London caring for two pampered dogs and how she benefited from their apparent reluctance to complain! However, she looked after them with affection while perfecting her command of the English language. Maria captivated her audience and kept us laughing from start to finish.

After a couple of years of this and having achieved fluency in five languages, her application to become a stewardess was readily accepted although it was not long before she was dismissed for spending too much time on the flight deck studying the work of the pilots instead of tending to the requirements of her passengers. But she had saved enough to take flying lessons with Air Service Training at Perth, flying the Cessna 150 and, after flying her first solo, she progressed quickly from the first stage, a Private Pilot's Licence, through the subsequent stages of Commercial and Senior Commercial licences to the ultimate qualification for all airline pilots, the Air Transport Pilot's Licence; the A.T.P.L., including, of course, her instrument flying rating. However, not even that satisfied her and she then took a further step to qualify as a flying instructor. What determination!

Her first real job was as an instructor at Goodwood flying the PA 28, Tomahawk before joining Love Air where she flew the Jetstream 31 with 19 passengers. Her next job was with British World Airlines flying the 72 seat ATP which is the commercial variant of the Jetstream 61. This was followed by a spell with Westair, a Swedish cargo carrier before landing, (forgive the pun), her present situation some eight years ago with Easyjet as a fully fledged, (another pun?), Captain, flying first the Boeing 737 and then the 'Airbus A 319' aircraft with four rings on her sleeves and more than 150 passengers in the cabin.

Maria then went on to recount, again with many gestures, some of her amusing anecdotes as a lady Captain, one of some 3% of the airline Captains in the industry. Only recently a passenger expressed astonishment at the presence of a lady member of the flight crew and asked to speak to the Captain. His apparent dissatisfaction with her reply led her to advise him, perhaps with an element of persuasion, that he was at liberty to leave the aircraft if he was unhappy about the part she was about to play but eventually, and with apparent reluctance, he decided that remaining on board was preferable to re-booking on a later flight. There were many such stories with which Maria amused the members of the S.V.V.S.

She went on to explain the differences between flying aircraft of the past and flying modern aircraft, using vintage cars and modern cars as an appropriate comparison. Older aircraft, and light training aircraft, require constant concentration to maintain control of their various functions while with aircraft like the Airbus the numerous computer systems, all with several back-up computers, manage the aircraft's controls and engines automatically - and correctly. She illustrated this by telling us that she always preferred weekend flights because the huge Saturday and Sunday newspapers that passengers left on board, gave her much more to occupy her mind in flight than the week day papers! Can it be that simple? Or was she pulling our legs?

She also recounted how her present position, requiring years of training, regular performance checks, written tests, simulator training and medical examinations, compares with the tasks of the ladies of the Air Transport Auxilliary during world war two such as the late, much respected Diana Barnato Walker who gave the S.V.V.S. one of her talks a few years ago. They had to fly many different aircraft types at a moment's notice, knowing nothing about instrument flying, (essential when flying in cloud), and with no radios and with no training on type other than a little book of checks and procedures for that aircraft that they carried in a pocket of their flying suits! It was good to hear a pilot as experienced as Maria giving credit to her brave predecessors with such modesty, many of whom, like Amy Johnson, did not survive their delivery flights simply because they lacked radios!

Having listened to Maria's talk one is left with the inescapable conclusion that her progress and achievements in the world of flying are no less remarkable.

The Chairman, committee and members of the Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society wish to give their most heartfelt thanks to Maria Pernia-Digings for entertaining us with such an amusing and informative talk.

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