Thursday 11th August 2022
We caught up with Dunc Mason, ex BBMF boss and Red Arrows pilot, and now the brains behind the Jon Egging Trust’s annual cycling sportive, JETRide.
You’re best known for your time in charge of BBMF, and before that as a pilot on the Reds, so how did you end up organising JETRide?
I was a Trustee for JET for 7 years. Cycle sportives are immensely popular so I suggested that we did a JET specific event to raise funds. As keen cyclists, myself and a friend, Graham Pemberton, volunteered to organise it and here we are looking at JETRide4!
How did you first get involved with JET and what have your highlights been?
I knew Jon Egging when we served on the Harrier OCU together and spoke to him as a former Red Arrow about his application to the team. Sadly, I was waiting to take off at Bournemouth Airport to display at the airshow in 2011 when he crashed. Jon was due to take part in a cycle ride I had organised for BBMF and the Red Arrows, and his wife, JET CEO, Dr Emma Egging, came and rode in his memory which was the first time I met her.
My highlights have been seeing the results of JET’s work with vulnerable young people, particularly when hosting Blue Skies cohorts at RAF Coningsby on BBMF.
There are some fantastic RAF cycle rides now, so give us your best sales pitch for JETRide – what makes it so special?
JETRide has always been run from RAF College Cranwell, the spiritual home of the RAF, which gives the ride a certain prestige even before you start riding. Arriving in front of the imposing College Hall Officers Mess gives a taste of what’s to come. Also we’re supported by brilliant sponsors such as Waitrose and Walkers which means our feed stations are second to none. We’ve been really lucky with the weather so far and have had magnificent BBMF flypasts at the end of the ride. All in all, it is a fantastic route with brilliant support and more than a few touches that are over and above a ‘normal’ sportive.
What’s it like on race day – do you sleep the night before?
I don’t normally have any trouble sleeping, but is an early start! We have the whole of the weekend setting up and then the first few hours on race-day it’s non-stop getting the riders briefed and away in a semblance of order. And something always goes wrong! From mechanical problems to people tampering with route signs, there’s always something to deal with. But we have a fantastic team of motorcycle paramedics and volunteers who dispatch to fix whatever needs fixing!
Image: Dunc Mason JETRide Organiser BBMF cycling 2022
And what about the course – Lincolnshire’s known for being pretty flat, but we’ve heard there are a few sneaky hills!
People always come back and say ‘I thought Lincolnshire was flat!!’ but I have ridden these roads for 20 years so I know where I can find some elevation! Mostly the course is rolling and not too demanding, but the longer course certainly isn’t easy! This year we have a 30-mile route for beginners and younger riders as well as the 60 and 100 mile options, and also a remote entry option.
What are your proudest career moments (aside from organising JETRide of course)?
I have been immensely lucky with a career continually flying in the RAF. Different aspects mean different things but operating with the Harrier Force on Operations was what I joined to do, so to be able to do that was both challenging and rewarding. Displaying with the Red Arrows was a privilege, and Commanding the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was both humbling and exhilarating. I was lucky enough to do that during both the 70th anniversary of D Day and the 75thanniversary of the Battle of Britain. Those commemorations were both poignant and challenging to ensure that we were in the right place at the right time whilst trying to keep 75yr old aircraft airworthy! Outside that I’ve been really lucky to teach future generations of the RAFs flying cohort on aircraft as diverse as Spitfires to Harriers!
So, how can Envoy readers get involved in JETRide this year?
This year’s ride is on 25th Sept, and it’s easy to sign up via joneggingtrtrust.org.uk/JETRide. We’re always on the lookout for extra pairs of hands on the day too, so if you’re anywhere near Cranwell that weekend, let us know!
And finally – what’s more stressful, flying a display with the Red Arrows, or race day at JETRide (sorry, we couldn’t resist)?!
Well, JETRide is actually a pleasure to organise due to all the help I get from within and outside the Trust, so the answer is definitely the former!
Top image: Dunc Mason JET Ride organiser commentating at JET Ride