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View from the cockpit – Martin Gosling, Sterling card customer and Air Race pilot

Release date:
October 2019
Pilot standing in front of small piston engine plane holding trophy
Amanda Jones, chats to Martin Gosling and hears how his flight path into air racing certainly wasn’t a conventional one. “I’ve been a farmer all my life. I grew up on a farm and never wanted to do anything else. I ate, slept and drank farming and only began flying in 1975 at the age of 31, when a friend suggested it and we ended up purchasing a Grumman Traveller AA-5 together"


Gosling now owns a Robin DR400 (180 horsepower) which he has had for around 20 years and in which he and his wife have flown around much of the world. 


“We’ve travelled around Africa, Libya, Turkey, Ukraine, Crimea and much of Europe,” he says revealing that he belongs to and is chairman of the Flying Farmers Association. The group regularly organises tours and trips, most of which have an agricultural theme. 


It’s not uncommon for farmers to have flying as a hobby on their CV. Not only do they often have enough land to house their own aircraft and in Gosling’s case, his own landing strip, but aircraft can also be used as workhorses too, for hauling supplies, checking irrigation systems and compressing time when collecting supplies and parts. Still, Gosling considers himself enormously privileged to be able to keep his plane outside his house and to be able to fly as a hobby. 

Racing spirit

In 2000 he joined the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom (RAeC), a group of aviators which in addition to organising overseas adventures is also recognised as the national co-ordinating board for Air Sport in the UK. But it wasn’t until 2010 when Gosling was in his mid 60s that a contemporary persuaded him to go air racing.


Designed as an amateur sport handicap air racing is described as being


“as old as aviation itself in the UK.” It sees pilots pitting their flying skills against each other around the same course against the clock. The aim is to complete the course of 4-5 laps, up to 100 miles, closest to your handicap time, distance and speed. “It’s not a spectator sport,” offers Gosling. “There isn’t really much to see until the final lap when pilots’ race to cross the finish line but that’s over in a matter of seconds, so the thrill is really reserved for those who are competing.”


Gosling does however admit that air racing is “very different now than it used to be.” He recalls photos from air racing’s early days showing up to 50 planes all diving for the finish line. “The sky was full of aircraft all vying for positions from the Cessna to the Beechcraft, but now you’re unlikely to see more than 17 aircraft competing in any given race.” 

A typical handicapped air racing season currently comprises some six to eight venues and up to 16 races. The winner of this cumulative championship (which includes the Schneider Trophy and the King’s Cup) is known as the British Air Racing Champion and is awarded the Jubilee Trophy. Gosling claimed this title for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014 and was just pipped to the post for a third consecutive win in 2015. 


While air racing is very different to the daring aerobatics that are involved in something like the Red Bull Air Race, Gosling does confess there is of course a rush to competing and there are certain criteria that have to be met before a pilot can race. An aircraft has to be capable of a maximum continuous speed of 100mph, the pilot needs to have at least 100 hours in command and has to have undergone specific air race training.


“You must demonstrate you can achieve a turn without climbing or descending, which is actually quite difficult because the natural tendency is to pull on the stick as you turn a corner,” he says.


Sterling success

While Gosling agrees that being able to rely on a high-quality fuel and Air BPs expertise in fuelling services no matter where he’s flying is something he doesn’t take lightly, it’s all too often something that recreational pilots take for granted. But he also points out that beyond enabling him to refuel safely and easily, it was being a Sterling Card holder that won him tickets to see the last ever European Red Bull Air Race, which took place at Lake Balaton in Hungary in July.


“Watching the Red Bull pilots race was a real thrill,” he says. “It’s completely different to the racing I do and as much a spectator sport as it is for the pilots. But I’m very lucky and hugely grateful to Air BP for hosting myself, my wife and other Sterling Card winners in such style.”


Gosling might have come to air racing late in life, but true to character he has no regrets.


 “The only thing I might have done differently if I had my time over is to have started air racing 20 years earlier so I would have had another 20 years enjoyment out of it." And for those looking to get involved, he advises “just give it a go… There will always be a reason not to do something, but if you have a vision, you can achieve anything. Just come along to an air race meeting and talk to the people involved. You never know, you might get a pilot to take you up and fly you around the course.”


And with that he’s off… to his aircraft of course. He’s got a meeting that he needs to get to and he’s flying himself there!


Visit the News and views section of our website to find out who else we’ve met for our ‘View from the Cockpit’ series.