Freedom, Fame and Flying – a busy 2 months for President George

One of the reasons my newsletter planned for March is a bit late is that there has been just so much happening here. In addition to helping WPE Mike McFarlane with the preparations for the Tango Round the Outback FlyAway following the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, Australia, next month, I’ve had some great personal moments.

The Freedom of the City of London

Ask most Londoners what they know about the Freedom of the City of London and they will perhaps reply “is it something to do with driving sheep over London Bridge?”. There is probably more than a grain of truth in that, because the origins of the Freedom date back to mediaeval times when craftsmen and women organised themselves into guilds and in the City of London these guilds became known as livery companies. The livery companies are not now leftovers of history, but rather they promote and support their relevant trades and devote vast sums of money to charitable and educational foundations.

Having worked in the City of London for 25 years, I was honoured on retirement by the members of my team sponsoring me to take the Freedom of the City. My application was submitted to, and approved by, the Court of Common Council of the City, in October 2022, and finally, in the last week of March I was able to appear before the Chamberlain’s Court in London’s Guildhall for the Freedom Ceremony. I was brought to the bar and introduced to the Chamberlain by the Beadle, following which I took the Declaration of a Freeman before the Chamberlain and then signed my name in the Freeman’s Declaration Book.

Emma Ritchie, Caroline Ritchie, George Ritchie, Russell Hunter, Councilor Tijs Broeke

Having become the “youngest Freeman of the City” (for a brief few minutes before the next ceremony) I was presented with a document of sheepskin parchment called “copy of Freedom” together with the City of London’s book entitled “Rules for the Conduct of Life”. The ceremony concluded with the Chamberlain offering the right hand of fellowship and greeting me as “a Citizen of London”.

One of the first to become a Freeman in the First Year of the Reign of King Charles III

Following the formal part of the Freedom Ceremony, the Chamberlain gave me a tour of the court, showing items of historical importance, including a sheepskin Freedom certificate from the 1400s, the wooden box presented to Winston Churchill with his Freedom Certificate, and Freedom entries of a variety of significant historical figures from President Dwight Eisenhower, through Nelson Mandela to King Charles III.

I feel truly honoured to be part of such an august and revered institution – and to be advised that the City of London considers that I am no longer “a peasant”! And yes, I do intend to take part in the annual fundraising London Bridge Sheep Drive organised by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen!

Fame – Presenting the Flying Rotarians to Rotary International President Jennifer Jones

The Commonwealth, formerly the British Commonwealth, is a free association of sovereign states, the United Kingdom and a number of its former dependencies who have chosen to maintain ties of friendship and practical cooperation and who acknowledge the British monarch as symbolic head of their association. Not many people know this, but Rotary International is one of 82 accredited organisations to the Commonwealth. And thus it was a pleasure for us to host Rotary International President Jennifer Jones together with her husband Nick Krayacich and Rotary International Vice President Nicki Scott here in London during their 5 day visit in March for Commonwealth Week.

Jennifer and Nick had a whirlwind visit, including the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey, with The Royal family in attendance including Their Majesties the King and Queen Consort, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. During the Commonwealth Day Service His Majesty King Charles III addressed the gathering as Head of the Commonwealth for the first time. They also attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by King Charles, visits to the Palace of Westminster with meetings in the Houses of Lords and Commons and a whole host of other activities. You can read more about their visit on the Rotary GBI website.

Westminster International Rotary Club members with RI President Jennifer Jones

Amongst their busy programme, President Jennifer took part in three meetings with members of Rotary in London, including a celebration of International Women’s Day hosted by the Rotary Club of London on the theme of Unleashing the Potential of Young Women, a meeting in the House of Commons on Polio Eradication and a lecture at the Royal Overseas League on Global Challenges. I was fortunate to attend the first and third of these and to see just what an inspiring leader she is, as well as a genuinely kind, generous and fun Rotarian. And of course, this was my opportunity to put Flying Rotarians on the President’s map with the presentation of one of our banners.


Here in the UK, recreational GA pilots are far less likely to obtain a full Instrument Rating than our American colleagues, or even some of our European neighbours. One of the reasons for this is that several decades ago the CAA recognised the need for a safety rating for recreational pilots that didn’t require them to undertake the massive amounts of ground school and required for a full IR which are more suited for those on their way to an ATPL. So, we have had what used to be known as the Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) rating, now known as the Instrument Rating (Restricted) (IR(R)) rating.

Although I’ve been flying for decades, I’ve not had the time to get my full IR and I’ve not been flying enough hours to remain really current and so the IMC/IR(R) has been the route for me. I’ve often thought it is pretty close to an FAA IR, which has a more practical syllabus and more reasonable requirements. The IMC trains pilots to fly in IFR conditions down to IR limits +200′, subject to a minimum of 500′ AGL for precision approaches and 600′ AGL for non-precision approaches.

And thanks to the generosity of Hong Kong Section Leader Eric Chin, I now have the perfect flight training hat. Far better than Foggles!

With the pandemic restricting flight training, renewal of my IMC rating was about a year overdue. So, wanting to get back in the groove and current again, and to learn how to get the most out of the new glass Garmin avionics I’ve put in my PA32, I signed up with a Cambridge based instructor, Alan Evans, who specialises in IR training and glass panels. Since Christmas, we’ve flown more weeks than not, not once missing a session because of weather (we did have to wait an hour or so one week for bases to reach 800′) and I’ve been blowing away a lot of cobwebs.

Alan has been an amazing instructor – his view is that you learn far more if flying in genuine IFR conditions, if having to watching for icing, or if battling with 40kt or more winds than you do on a sunny day with a hood on. And I agree. Its been quite intense, but tremendous fun “doing it for real”. Alan has also been training me to IR standards, so these hours can count towards getting a full CBIR.

My options now are to continue training in the UK for the CBIR, or getting an FAA IR in the USA and then converting it to an IR here (potentially doable in 2 or 3 days if ones flying is up to scratch). If you have done one or other route yourself and have views on the merits/demerits of either, do give my your thoughts in the comments box below.

So, a busy two months, and now we start on the summer season of IFFR events in Europe! So much to look forward to.

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