YLP: Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you born? Where have you lived?
STUART: I was born in Scotland, just outside Aberdeen, with a Scottish mother and an English father. We lived in Scotland initially, but eventually moved to just outside London, where I finished my schooling. I enjoyed my childhood; I was lucky to have good friends and spent my school holidays on the farm in Scotland with my Grandfather and cousins. Since leaving home I have lived in Germany, the UK, the USA, Abu Dhabi, Holland and finally Portugal.
YLP: Did you always know that you wanted to be a pilot? Can you remember any funny episodes? Have you had any close calls?
STUART: Flying was the last occupation I was thinking about when I left school. It had been decided from way back that I would train as a quantity surveyor and then join the construction company that a couple of my uncles had in Scotland. So, at 18, I went to college in London to start my course. My heart wasn’t in it and after a year I knew that I wouldn’t be able do this for the rest of my life. So, much to the disappointment of my parents, I dropped out and enjoyed life in 60s London. All good things have to come to an end, though, and it was time to get a job. I cannot remember why, but I applied to the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. The RAF got back to me first and that is how I started my flying career.
Flying on frontline squadrons, by virtue of what you are doing, is somewhat dangerous, but the excitement is worth it and the vast majority of us have survived it, though I did have a mid-air collision over Germany when on my first squadron as a very young Pilot Officer. Actually, it was on the day of my promotion to Flying Officer, which, but for the luck of the gods, could have been very short. I ended up parachuting into the small Dutch town of Posterholt and landed in the middle of the main road, luckily it was not busy and I still remember clearly this old lady coming out of her house with a chair for me to sit on while she went back and poured me a glass of wine. It tasted so good. Sitting there in the sun, with a drink and cigarette, I thought - life is good!
She had probably done this before in 1944.
YLP: When you are flying as a passenger what’s the thing that annoys you most?
STUART: Generally not much annoys me, as most of my flights these days only last for a few hours, but if I have to think of one thing, it would be the constant communication by the flight attendants of a certain low-cost airline and their “On-Time Arrival Gong”, but it’s a small price to pay for generally a good service.
YLP: Is it true that a pilot and co-pilot cannot have the same meal?
STUART: Yes, and it’s easy to see why, as some forms of food poisoning can leave you totally incapacitated. About 20 years ago I was flying back to Abu Dhabi and luckily it was only about 30 minutes to go when the other pilot started to feel bad. Within 10 minutes he was almost unconscious and unable to perform any duties. He was taken to hospital on arrival and spent the next week there.
YLP: As a pilot you must have seen many wonderful destinations. Which have really left their mark on you?
STUART: I have visited and lived in many wonderful destinations and also a few not-so-wonderful, so it’s very difficult to single out specific places. But if I have to, the first would be Australia, which I have always enjoyed visiting, and then it would be Malaysia, where, at one time, I had considered retiring.
YLP: When did you first discover Portugal? And what was your first impression of the country?
STUART: I first visited Portugal in 1974. At that time there was a revolution in place; I didn’t stay long. I returned for a holiday in the late 80s and enjoyed the Algarve so much I left having bought a house, which I still live in to this day. So you could say I had a good first impression.
YLP: Why did you choose the Algarve to live permanently?
STUART: I have always felt very comfortable here. The people, climate, social life, the Atlantic coastline, proximity to friends and relatives, and already having a home here, made the decision very easy. Also very important, my wife Marie-Jose loves living here.
YLP: How would you describe the Algarve to someone who doesn’t know it?