Pilot

Steve Carver

Steve Carver Steve lives in Derbyshire with his wife and their three dogs. He flies the Embraer 145 regional jet for a UK airline, is an instructor, Type Rating Examiner and instructor course tutor based at East Midlands Airport. Steve is the holder of an Unlimited level aerobatic display authorisation from the CAA for solo and formation aerobatics down to 100 feet and flypast at 50 feet. He is also a member of the Global Stars Aerobatic team, and is an experienced flying display director.

Having spent his early years in Wigan, Steve’s first visit to an air show was at Woodford in the early 70’s. “That was the first time I saw an English Electric Lightning close up. We’d got to the show early, and aircraft were arriving from all over the place. The day was clear but very humid and these two Lightnings appeared low and very fast from nowhere; hit reheat crowd centre and went vertical in an explosion of noise and what was in effect artificial cloud: disappearing up and almost out of sight”. That sort of thing can make quite an impression on a small boy and so Steve joined the Air Training Corps, flying as often as possible with the Air Experience Flight at RAF Woodvale in the Chipmunk. He subsequently went on to fly gliders at RAF Burtonwood close to Warrington. “We learned the basics in open cockpit T21 gliders; a side by side aircraft with the glide angle of a drain cover. The aim was not really to learn to soar but to fly circuits, each of which lasted around three minutes: a bit like aerial tobogganing. We then flew the T31 which had a different layout, the instructor sat behind the student from where he would shout advice and encouragement. This is the glider that we eventually flew solo. My log book showed that as with most cadets, I went solo with around one and a half hours in the air”.

In 1980 after “A” levels in Pure and Applied Mathematics and Physics, Steve went to Leeds University to study Mathematics, History and Philosophy of Science. “I chose Physics as a subsidiary subject in year 1; but I’ve always had an interest in the history of science and not just the science itself. Richard Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century and now something of a hero of mine spoke of how science had changed his appreciation of the beauty in nature; … it only adds, I don’t understand how it subtracts. He said jokingly though, that philosophy of science was as much use to scientists as ornithology is to birds. I don’t entirely agree with that sentiment, but I know what he meant by it!”

Having obtained a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1984 Steve got married and started his first job as a lecturer in Pure and Applied Mathematics at North Manchester College. “We were living in Holmfirth and both commuting large distances; so after three years at Manchester I found a job at Huddersfield Technical College. We’d started gliding by then at Camphill in Derbyshire, a superb site for soaring in ridge, thermal and wave. Flying cross country in thermal is exhilarating but soaring in wave has to be one of my favourite kinds of flying: on a good day the cloudscapes are incredible, you can see the atmosphere setting up in huge standing waves that go up tens of thousands of feet, mind blowing!”.

In 1988 he did a “silver C” conversion from gliding gaining a Private Pilot’s Licence at Sherburn with the aim of getting into aerobatics. A career change into commercial aviation occurred in 1990 through glider towing at Aboyne airfield and self-study to obtain the experience and licence to get started. “Deeside Gliding Club had two Pawnees and a 180 HP Super Cub and the idea was to tow the gliders into wave. I flew most days, often thirty, forty or more times to get the magic figure of 700 hours: A few months later we went to war in the Gulf and that put life in commercial aviation on hold for a while!”

Steve’s first proper flying job came in 1992 flying the Saab 340 turbo prop for Business Air based in Aberdeen. Having flown around the UK, the Highlands and Islands, his first command was in Glasgow and then South to East Midlands. In 1999 the Embraer 145 fleet was created and Steve was one of the first four Captains tasked with kick starting the operation as a Training Captain. He now has around 11 000 flying hours in powered aircraft and 2500 in gliders. His time is divided between line flying on the company’s routes, training and examining at the simulator based in Le Bourget. “It’s quite a nice mix, flying the line and testing on behalf of the CAA. You always learn something new in the sim’ by watching others and having to keep yourself clued up on the systems and current wisdom”

Aerobatic competition and display flying began in 2000 and Steve has competed at Intermediate, Advanced and Unlimited levels. His first aircraft was a Pitts S2S which he helped to restore in 1997. The Extra came in 2003. “It doesn’t have the look of romance that the biplane has on the ground but I think that the Extra makes up for it both in sound and performance and you have to admit that it has a look all of its own.” Having flown both solo and formation aerobatic displays at inland and coastal locations in the UK, from 2012 onwards Aerobatics4you will be concentrating solo performances. “I’m looking forward to the display season; there are some new figures in the sequence which I hope will show the Extra at its best. The engine has had lots of attention over winter and sounds amazing.”

Extra 260Steve has worked on the restoration of several aerobatic aircraft, in particular the process of fabric recovering. These include a variety of Pitts Specials, a Christen Eagle and Bucker Jungmann. He also has a keen interest in science and the public understanding and expectations of science and technology. “There’s a common misconception about the nature and pedigree of scientific knowledge which we often see in the debate about climate change. We got all the way to the moon and back armed with little more than the physics of Newton’s Principia; and yet we now know that Newton basically got it wrong. That’s not bad going! For me, the scientist and broadcaster Jacob Bronowski summed it all up when he said that science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible.” Steve also enjoys cooking, reading, music, film, television and growing trees.