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David Gilmour and Intrepid Aviation Print E-mail


Intrepid Aviation signThe following are the recollections of Brain Damage regular Chris Kluttz, a fan of the band, and a fan of vintage planes. He therefore decided one day to combine both interests, visiting Intrepid Aviation...

Established in 1990 to manage David Gilmour's collection of vintage aircraft, the Intrepid Aviation Company have established themselves as the people to call for anything aeronautical. Operations manager Brendan Walsh's background in the music and film business has proved invaluable in matching the needs of productions with the highly specialised area of aviation filming. Responding to the shortage of filming facilities in the London area, in July 1997 Intrepid Aviation acquired Hangar 4 at North Weald - just 1 hour from Central London by road or 40 minutes by underground.

A few years ago, David decided to sell Intrepid, for the following reason (taken from a BBC radio interview in 2002):

    "Intrepid Aviation was a way for me to make my hobby pay for itself a little bit, but gradually over a few years Intrepid Aviation became a business because you have to be businesslike about it. Suddenly I found instead of it being a hobby and me enjoying myself, it was a business and so I sold it. I don't have Intrepid Aviation any more. I just have a nice old biplane that I pop up, wander around the skies in sometimes..."
The following report was based on a visit when David was still very much the boss of the company...

Beech Staggerwing from 1943
May of 1998 saw the vintage aircraft expedition at North Weald, hosted by David Gilmour’s company, Intrepid Aviation. Lots of amazing aircraft, accessibility to the public for a small fee, and a chance to meet Pink Floyd’s guitarist - a wonderful way to spend a sunny, weekend day in mid-May. I arrived on a dreary day in late June.

My scheduling error was, in fact, a last minute gift, generously given by my parents who sent me to England from the United States. Having lived in the London a few years before, my parents knew how much I wished to return. A well-appointed flat, courtesy of my aunt and uncle, sealed the deal.

Despite having missed the event by several weeks, I was excited because in my hands was a note from Intrepid’s go-to guy, Brendan Walsh. After sending an inquiry which I figured would get me nowhere, I had received a note from Brendan, inviting me to Intrepid for a tour.

Boeing Stearman from 1944
After a relaxing trip by rail to the designated station, I needed a taxi to complete the journey. Despite the spotty directions, I was immediately suspicious of the taxi driver - the trip was taking longer than anticipated. My limited funds had me paranoid that I’d ended up with someone corrupt and would be stuck an hour from London with nowhere to go for help. Maybe I was being exploited for my initial introduction of, “I have no idea where I’m going.” Regardless, we did make it - and the approach to the airfield is still something I can envision. Perhaps it was just that I was replaying the videos for “Learning to Fly” or “High Hopes” in my head, but there was a Floyd feel to the surroundings.

Upon approach, I noticed that one of the hangars boasted a small seal - that of Intrepid Aviation. Not big enough to draw too much attention, but easily identifiable to the inquisitive eye; I had identified my target location. Immediately next to the hangar was a small trailer/modular building containing the only sign of life - a 3 series BMW.

an amazing fighter plane, the SNJ7 Harvard
I dutifully parted with the taxi fare - as well as my lunch money, I am still convinced. The driver was kind enough to arrange to pick me up in an hour or so. Believing that I would pay dearly for such service, I conceded nonetheless, as my only other option was to walk back several kilometres to the train station, which I would never find on my own.

Walking up to the office trailer, it appeared that I could walk straight in. No one was in sight; only a narrow hallway was on the other side of the windowed door. I entered and it was immediately evident that I was to turn right and walk down the hall to the open office area. However, human nature got the best of me and I became curious. Upon seeing David Gilmour’s photo (in full flight suit) above an office door, I put two and two together, made the conclusion that this was his office, and headed directly for it - in the exact opposite direction of where I was supposed to go.

The staff of Intrepid Aviation, obviously not expecting Mr. Gilmour and hearing footsteps headed away from them, immediately began to shout politely, “Hello!? Hello!?” Before responding, I did get an inside view of David Gilmour’s office - a very nice, black leather sofa, a desk and a large Sony television. My memory is all I have of this, as I was quickly scooped up before being able to take a picture.

Yak 52
The main office of Intrepid Aviation was a large room comprising the entire right side of the trailer. Three desks, bookcases and a comfortable tan leather sofa acted as furnishings. (It was years later that I found a French interview with photos of Gilmour, seated on that sofa - a nice surprise!!) The walls were graced with various photos of their aircraft and a large whiteboard containing scheduling information (I believe my visit was on there, but alas, no photographic proof). At this time I met Brendan Walsh and some of his staff.

The staff were all very kind and incredibly accommodating, especially to someone right off the street. As a gesture of my appreciation, I had brought a copy of a book that my friend’s parents had written on World War II soldiers’ journals. (For those interested, and I admit this is a cheap plug, the book is entitled, “A Wartime Log” and is available on Amazon). I handed this to Brendan, giving my thanks and explaining the book’s significance. He was taken aback, as I recall, but I insisted it was the least I could do.

On with the tour. Seemingly fascinated with the book, Brendan walked me outside to the hangar, which was open and awaiting my inspection. All these years later, and I’m still impressed by the access that I was given. I climbed in and around all of the planes, snapping several photos as I went.

P-51D Mustang
I had a particular fascination with the P-51D Mustang, as I had built miniatures of this plane when I was younger. Showing my patriotism, I was also fond of the U.S. Mail plane. It will probably go un-noticed in the photos, but the actual hangar was a testament to organization and high maintenance - every tool was in its place and everything was clean, painted and just right.

After spending my hour-plus rummaging about, I knew my time was limited. I believe that had I asked, I could have taken a ride in one of the planes. A dream come true for some, but flying, ironically, is not something I enjoy. Visions of me ruining the inside of a vintage aircraft kept me quiet.

Yak 52 cockpitBefore hopping in with my friend the taxi driver, I again entered the office trailer with Brendan and was given several posters to commemorate my visit. My favorite is a close-up, in flight photo of the Mustang. I still have this framed and hanging in my office at home.

Thus concluded my day at Intrepid Aviation. As we drove back to the train station, I stared back at the hangar until it was out of site. When we arrived at the train station I was still smiling from ear to ear. I don’t even remember being upset at the cost of the taxi for the return trip.

Our thanks to Chris Kluttz for sharing his memories and pictures with us. Good stuff, Chris!

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