After 1,900 displays and air races in 38 countries, and 37 years as a professional pilot Nigel Lamb has retired from airshow flying
At eighteen years of age Nigel joined the Rhodesian Air Force, for which he flew piston-engined aircraft, jets and helicopters. After military service, which he completed as an instructor, Nigel was inspired by Richard Bach’s A Gift of Wings to become an air display pilot. He applied to join Philip Meeson’s UK-based Marlboro Aerobatic Team and, after being turned down twice, flew to London to force an interview. As a result he was awarded a six-month contract to fly a Marlboro Pitts S-2A. “When I arrived in England I had no clue it would be the start of such an amazing journey. I have been incredibly fortunate,” he says.
Nigel became a partner in the team in 1985 and, with his wife Hilary, also an aerobatics pilot, bought the business from Meeson in 1987. Together, they launched Team Toyota Aerobatics at the end of their 1989 Marlboro contract. After five years they moved to Asia with the Golden Dreams Team, displaying in Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Returning to the UK, Nigel was British Unlimited Aerobatics Champion eight times in succession — a record which still stands — British Freestyle Aerobatics Champion four times, and a member of the British Aerobatics Team at three World Championships and two European Championships.
In 1993 Nigel began flying with Mark and Ray Hanna’s Duxford-based Old Flying Machine Company. After Mark lost his life in the Hispano Buchón crash in Spain in 1999, Nigel managed the Breitling Fighters Team for Ray. Whilst continuing to fly warbirds, for the latter part of his career he focused on the Red Bull Air Races, setting up the Breitling Racing Team in 2005 and winning the World Championship in 2014, as reported in the air race diary he wrote for Pilot.
“I retired from air racing at the end of last year, but was planning to keep flying airshows in OFMC’s Spitfire and Mustang for several more years,” Nigel says. “However, after a great deal of soul searching over the winter months, I’ve come to the conclusion that now is the right time for me to hang up my display flying gloves as well. I plan to focus not just on recreational sporting aviation but on other interests outside aviation,” he says