Since joining Fibre Technologies nine years ago, Ian Hunt has risen from the role of sales executive to sales manager to sales director. Now, following a buy-out last year, he’s the MD of the Berkshire-based systems integration company.
Hunt’s progress in getting his pilot’s licence has been less impressive. Though he’s already a proficient flier of microlight aircraft, he’s failed to build up the necessary number of flying hours within the specified period and still has to fly with an instructor.
‘I’ve probably done twice as much as I needed to gain a pilot’s licence; I’ve spent the best part of £12,000 to £15,000,’ he estimates.
You learn to fly a microlight in stages. After a certain number of hours you’re allowed to fly the plane in daylight. Taking off and landing requires more experience, as does flying by night or over water.
While commercial jets are controlled almost entirely by computers, microlights offer a much more raw experience of aviation, with the wind on your face and nothing to stop you crashing into another craft except spotting it in time. It’s an experience Hunt became addicted to in his earlier days at Fibre Technologies, when he started to earn a little more money and began to take lessons.
‘One of my fondest memories is flying into a rain cloud,’ he relates. ‘It was just like flying into a curtain. Up in the air, everything looks so different – a cloud is just an endlessly rolling landscape in the sky.’
Reaching for the skies
That sense of wonder began at the age of seven, when Hunt would play with radio-controlled planes. Later, a family friend who owned his own aircraft would take him and his sister for the occasional flight, going as far as the Isle of Wight. The seeds of a lifelong obsession with ‘planes and electronics’ were sown, and Hunt secured an apprenticeship at GEC Avionics (later BAE Systems Avionics), where he would fly with two friends who had shares in an aircraft. As his career developed, Hunt found less time for flying until he moved to Basingstoke, where nearby Popham Airfield offered an opportunity to resume his hobby.
Hunt denies that flying microlights is more dangerous than driving or crossing a road. ‘It doesn’t make for a good story, but the only times I’ve felt in danger are when the instructors try to wind me up by pretending something is wrong,’ he says.
On one such occasion, Hunt’s engine stalled and the plane started to glide without power. ‘I could hear the thing ticking over, but it wouldn’t start,’ he says. After a few terrifying moments, the instructors managed to restart the engine. To this day, Hunt doesn’t know if this was a wind-up or a genuine failure.
Father to son
So much for the sense of humour of flying instructors. Apart from flying and his career, there’s a third passion in Hunt’s life: his family. But unfortunately, there’s only room in the cockpit for Hunt and his instructor.
‘My wife asks me, why spend time in the plane when you could be spending it with your family? And that’s an unanswerable question,’ he laughs.
Nevertheless Hunt’s youngest son, aged three, is ‘fanatical’ about aeroplanes. ‘He gets excited whenever he sees one in the sky and I’m always making paper aeroplanes for him.’
It sounds like things have come full circle.