Hollywood has proven time and again just how effective the combination of airplanes and rock and roll can be. Little else goes together like the glamour of music and the romance of flight. So it’s no wonder that Pink Floyd founding member Nick Mason could find profound passion in both. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with the rock legend at his historic hangar in England to talk music, racecars and flying. Mason, who just completed a full Garmin retrofit on his Eurocopter AS350 B3 helicopter – including G500H, GTN 750, GTN 650, and more – explains his origins in aviation, how his passion grew and why he flies behind Garmin avionics.
Mason: The start of my aviation career, I’m afraid to say, is not that glamorous… I was talking to a friend…about the fact that the one thing I found really difficult about being on tour with the band was…all of us had become really nervous about flying. He told me the solution was to learn to fly, which has probably been the most expensive therapy I’ve ever undergone…He found me the most wonderful character to teach me, we started off with a Jodel taildragger flight from London to Paris because that was the only place he thought you could get a suitable flying jacket.
Mason: I actually started flying about 30 years ago, and I started with fixed-wing, and I probably flew fixed-wing for about 10 or 12 years…Then, David Gilmour got involved with a Robinson helicopter and my wife went up with him and said ‘this is what we should be doing.’ So I was dragged into helicopters next and after someone took us for a flight in the Jet Ranger we realized that we could really use this. We had kids and bags and all the rest of it, and suddenly there was something that really could carry everything that we could land in the garden, in the country or wherever. So I became a real convert to helicopters and have continued to be so.
Mason: I suppose partly because it all started with Garmin. I remember coming back from America maybe 20 years ago, when the first Garmin device that you basically just put in a waypoint and it would tell you to fly left or right on an arrow. That was a real breakthrough, quite extraordinary, and I think I’ve just stayed there ever since. When we started looking for suitable equipment to put in for this refit of the cockpit, Garmin absolutely had the right package for us. Just having a look at the options available, it was fairly simple to go ‘this is what we want to do.’
Mason: We’ve got the G500H, GTN 750 and GTN 650. One of the rather special things about this setup is the fact that you can setup the 750 for where you’re going to fly, or how you’re going to fly, and it’s immediately transferred to the G500H which is directly in front of you. The element I like best of all, particularly in terms of a safety aspect is traffic avoidance. It’s something we’ve never had before and it is extraordinarily difficult sometimes to spot traffic. That fact that it gives you a guide at least to where traffic might be, you can pinpoint it and find it so much more easily. In terms of overall situational awareness there’s so much mapping, but there’s all other elements to go with it. There’s the ability to fly a flight plan that’s extraordinary, you can just set the thing up to take you where you want to go. The great thing about the fit is that you’ve got all the information you require, which means you can concentrate on the flying.
—By Garmin Staff