A FLYING MACHINES STORY
Ever wondered why we're called Flying Machines? It's not just a cool name…
Like me, my dad was a dreamer and a perfectionist. In his early 20s, while building yachts and speedboats from scratch at his father's boatyard in Thames Ditton, he happened to chance upon a book that would change the course of his life irrevocably. It was called The Millionth Chance: The story of the R.101 by James Leasor.
The book documents the story of the R.101 airship, thought to be the model for the future, an amazing machine that was 'as safe as houses...except for the millionth chance', which crashed on the night of the 4 October 1930, when that millionth chance came up. Somehow, from this fascinating yet tragic account, my dad took great inspiration.
Despite the catastrophic crash that befell this startling machine, he was able to see the revolutionary potential of airships that few have been able to see since. A dream was born. He quickly shut up shop in Thames Ditton and went on to dedicate the rest of his life to these magnificent vehicles.
Surviving countless challenges and heartbreaks in a brutal and high risk industry, he became a world leader in his field, his many patented technological innovations redefining the airship into the Hybrid Air Vehicle that the industry has come to know it today.
His latest company, Hybrid Air Vehicles, was awarded a £50 million contract with the American Department of Defense, just 2 weeks before he sadly passed away in February 2010. Thankfully, they are still continuing his life's work and are busy flight testing his piéce de résistance, the Airlander 10, from the Cardington Hangars in Bedfordshire.
In a documentary filmed by BBC 2 called The Half-Million Pound Magic Carpet that aired in 1979, my father was asked rather cynically how exactly a book about the R.101 could have inspired him so much, given the tragedy that surrounds the aircraft. His answer still resonates with me to this day.
"Well, it's certainly inspiring, in a way that it's people working up against the odds".
I've pondered on this a lot. It's funny, even beyond the vehicles themselves, I wonder if he secretly relished occupying a high risk, niche sphere most of all, up against the odds, chasing his dream while enduring all manner of setbacks. The opportunity to leave a substantial and undeniable mark on the world...
Certainly for me, it was his work ethic, the grandeur of his vision, rather than the vehicles themselves, that left its biggest mark. He sparked the dreamer in me, the uncompromising search for finding a unique print that would start me on a similarly challenging but ultimately very different road towards finding an original and distinct voice in music, from which Flying Machines was born.
Every time I embark on our next big project, he comes more acutely to mind. As I write these words, I see him toiling away in our old living room and it reminds me all of the uncelebrated, solitary hours that go on behind the scenes, at the behest only of one’s heart and mind, where projects really take shape. Against the odds...Making this music is a trip into his world and in a way, I’ve never understood him more.
Alex Munk, June 5th 2018