George Ritchie: IFFR President 2022 – 2024

How did I get into flying?

I was about six years old when my father learnt to fly. This was in the mid-1960s, and it wasn’t long before he started to venture into Europe and we were flying as a family to the Mediterranean for summer holidays.

I can’t say that yearned to fly from birth, but my sister Jenny, who was 5 years older than me, learnt to fly when she was 17.  As I went through my teenage years I became more and more interested. I started learning at 17, getting my PPL at the age of 18, nearly a year before I got my driving licence! Throughout my training, I would cycle around 12 miles to the airport and back. But then, with 3 pilots in the family, long trips were always fun. 

What’s my Rotary and IFFR journey?

My father was a Rotarian and joined IFFR in 1974, when the UK section was only a few years old and I was just a teenager. IFFR has been interwoven with my life story since then, but I suspect I am probably one of the newest Rotarians to be nominated to lead this great fellowship of ours.

My first IFFR meeting was in Libourne, France, in September 1989 with Caroline, my bride of only 3 months. We had met (in a police station – but that’s a story for another day) through Rotaract, which I had joined in 1982 on returning home from university.

1989, Libourne, French Section meeting with Caroline and my parents – my father had been inducted as an Echevin d’Honneur

On leaving Rotaract in 1991, I joined Round Table, the service club for young men between the ages of 18 and 45, founded by Norwich Rotarian Louis Marchesi as a “breeding ground” for future Rotarians. I served as Club Chairman, Area Chairman (the Round Table equivalent of District Governor) and a member of the Round Table Britain and Ireland National Council for my last two years before leaving in 2006.

In June 2008, my father lost his life in the tragic accident at the IFFR Italia meeting, together with IFFR UK member Kevin Young and IFFR Italia members Vittorio and Marinella Rossetti.

Memorial erected by the Italian section of IFFR to remember those who lost their lives at Passo Borcola

Dad had been awarded the Nordic Aviation Trophy by the Scandinavian Section in August 2007. When I took the Trophy back to Norway on his behalf in August 2008, I was given Honorary Membership of IFFR. I want to recognise the great support and kindness shown to me by members of the UK section of IFFR then.

After enjoying IFFR Fellowship for a number of years, and with Round Table commitments finally over, the time was right for me to join Rotary.  It took some searching to find the right one for me: Westminster International Rotary Club in Central London, a diverse club with 30 members of 18 nationalities from Albanian to Ugandan. Finally, in 2016, I was “double-pinned” as a Rotarian and full IFFR member. Since then, I’ve been club President, and I’m currently the Rotary in London District Fellowships & Action Groups Officer

Induction into Rotary and into IFFR

How about my flying now?

I now have comfortably over 1000 VFR hours.  We have always been a Piper family.  Previously we have owned a PA28C, and a Piper Arrow II. 

Our old Piper Cherokee C, sharing the tarmac with Concorde at Tours, France, in the mid-1980s

In 1997, when our children were small, we acquired our 1973 PA30-300 Cherokee 6, which Dad registered G-IFFR. Since then, we have flown the length and breadth of Europe.

PA32 – 300, registered G-IFFR

I also hold an FAA PPL, and have flown to Mackinaw Island, MI, in the north and Key West International, FL, in the South of the USA. I am predominantly a VFR pilot still, although I do hold the UK specific Restricted Instrument Rating (known in the UK as the IMC rating).

Family and work?

My wife Caroline and I have been blessed with two wonderful daughters, Katherine (born 1993) is also a pilot, an international rugby referee and an economist. Emma (born 1997) keeps as far away from planes as she can (but has joined IFFR trips to Prague, Czechia and Tours, France). Emma speaks French German and Spanish and works for an agricultural business. Our home is roughly halfway between London and Cambridge.

Ritchie Family Christmas 2021

I am also very fortunate that Caroline enjoys flying with me – especially if it’s to IFFR meetings abroad, or if, at least, there is a nice dinner at the other end of it.

Professionally, I qualified as a lawyer in 1985.  After seven years of general practice as a criminal defence advocate, I spent three years in the Government Legal Service.  In 1995, before the internet existed, I joined British Telecommunications as a regulatory/anti-trust lawyer. I retired in March 2022, just in time to prepare for my Presidency.   

And when I’m not flying?

Right now, its IFFR business.  But generally, its family, travel and constant DIY (our home and Emma’s) that takes up a lot of our time.  I enjoy working with wood, creating things, and am looking forward to going on a professional woodworking course in the coming months.

Last day before retirement in the office in the City of London

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