“Hi, I am Caroline Jenks and I was an airline pilot with Air UK and then BMI (British Midland) for 14 years.
I had an interest in flying from when I was a young girl because my step-brothers father used to come and pick him up sometimes in his small islander plane. There was a disused airfield called Chedworth disused above my fathers house and he would take me up for a little flight sometimes. His name was Desmond Norman and he designed the Brittain Norman islander which is a very well known island hopping aircraft and is still in use today. I believe it is one of the most successful island hopping planes ever designed. His brother Torquil Norman was also very into flying and the aviation industry. He has a collection of beautiful aircraft which he keeps at Rendcombe - a small private field in the Cotswolds. He had a Rapide, a Tiger Moth, a Pussy Moth and a Leopard Moth among his great collection.
When I was about 26 I did a sponsored ride on my horse and the first prize for getting the most sponsorship was a trial flight at Elstree aerodrome. I got the most sponsors and won the trial flight. On the day of the flight it was so windy they didn’t want me to go up but I insisted I wanted to go ahead. While we were waiting at the apron to line up a light aeroplane came in and it was all over the place, I commented that they were obviously not a very good pilot in control!! When we got back from our flight, which I loved, I was told that the “not very good pilot” I had been observing was the chief pilot and it was the conditions that day causing the problems!! After that I was determined that one day I would learn to fly. I left my job as a secretary in London when I was 28 and told everyone I was going to go and learn to fly and become an airline pilot - needless to say everybody just laughed at me. However I started to learn to fly at Leavesden airfield (which is now a film studio site where the Harry Potter films where all filmed). I got my fixed wing ppl and then learnt to fly helicopters, flying an R22 to gain my licence.
I bought a small Grumman AA5 to hour build in. In G-BBBI I went on the trip of a lifetime with my boyfriend at the time Julian Pooley. We flew to Marrakesh via Deauville, Belle Isle, La Baule, Pau Pyrenees, Santander, Santiago del compostello, Oporto, Evora, Faro, Tangiers and finally Marakesh. There we stayed at the famous La Mamounia hotel and drove into the Atlas mountains to stay at Domain de la Roseraie. On our return back to England we flew via Tangiers, Granada, Valencia, Perpignon, Nimes, Montpellier, Bergerac, La Baule, Dinard, Le Touquet and Elstree.
Having completed a BCPL upgrade to CPL/IR at Oxford Air Training School and having completed my ATPL exams at City Poly in London, I then got my first job with Air UK flying the Fokker F27 and it could be a real fokker to fly too!! I flew the F27 for a couple of years and then converted onto the 737 where we flew a contract for KLM - which was a real experience in itself - a wonderful airline to work for. The contract lasted a year and I then moved on to work for BMI. After a couple of years I converted onto the airbus which was my dream aircraft and I was very lucky to move on to the A330 and experience long-haul. I decided to retire from flying after 14 years and with a total of 5,000 hours flying for personal reasons. I had experienced short-haul, charters, long-haul and it was time for me to move on with my life in another direction.
I haven’t flown for many years now but became a member of the 99’s through my great friend Yvonne Trueman (Julian’s mother - my wonderful fiancee who was unfortunately killed on a motor bike many years ago).
I have just decided that I am going to get my licence back again and of course COVID arrived to scupper my plans for now but hopefully maybe next year I can start again. I love keeping up with and following all the wonderful stories from the very inspirational women of the 99’s.”