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Autobiography of aerobatics pilot Richard Goode

The High Life, by Richard Goode

From my earliest days, I had a feeling that everything was possible. When, as a teenager, I said to my father that I planned to hitchhike from London to Cape Town, he was characteristically unemotional and indeed rather encouraging even though I would be travelling through two major civil wars in The Sudan and Congo! 

Then, when I went from a curious and very ‘outdoor’ school in the African ‘bush’ to the arcane world of Cambridge University in what was, for me, a foreign country, it was simply another interesting challenge.

Cambridge led me into automotive enthusiasm, and, in particular, XK Jaguars, including illegally ‘borrowing’ a seemingly-abandoned XK 120, although I did subsequently trace and regularise the position with the owner who had forgotten about the car! He was later charged with committing major fraud.

In the University holidays, I boosted my funds by helping to dig the escalator shafts on the London Underground’s new Victoria Line - 12-hour days, six days a week.

In my final year at Cambridge, I had rooms on the floor above those occupied by Prince Charles. I had a very attractive girlfriend with whom HRH used to enjoy chatting. When the college porters raided my room and found, as they suspected, my girlfriend spending the night with me, I was rusticated (sent down) and the story made the national press: the Sunday Express piece was headed, ‘Charles's college bars man found with girl’. It was a very different age!

Varsity newspaper article

For the next vacation, I and four friends, after consuming rather too many pints, had the idea of going behind the Iron Curtain, into East Germany, in a London taxi. We broke down many times but the first instance was 100 metres inside East Germany, surrounded by watchtowers manned by machine-gun-toting guards. 

I spent the Summer of Love with a stunning American girl in San Francisco. I was never into drugs but she introduced me to LSD and, when I was back at Cambridge, used to mail me batches hidden in contraceptive pill packets. 

Four of us (one would later become an MP, another the CEO of P&O and the third invented the Brompton folding bicycle) decided for another adventure to travel overland to North Africa. We chose to use a Mark I Austin Gypsy, which was a big mistake. The entire front-wheel assembly, including the brake drum, had a tendency to fall off.

Richard Goode and XK120 in Paris

After Cambridge, I began to train to be a barrister but soon decided that was not for me. My XK 120 and I went to live in Paris. After teaching English and devising a new audio course for commercial English, I joined a firm of security printers and began selling banknotes to African countries and various despots, including Idi Amin. One prankster managed to include the word ‘SEX’ discreetly within a bank note design!

Pilots love of flying

By then I had got the flying bug and this was to dominate much of my life from thereon. I had become a head-hunter and set up offices around the world including in Russia. This was handy because I had taken up competitive aerobatics and many of the best planes for this were made in Russia. I would later form various alliances which led to me selling over 450 aircraft. I would be a member of the British Aerobatic team and have a wealth of adventures, including one massive accident, when a wing structure failed. I spent many weeks in hospital with friends visiting, imagining they were seeing me for the last time!

airplane crash

Airplane accident

This is just a cursory glance at my very full life, which has included owning old bangers, vintage Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and my beloved XKs, restoring major country houses, creating a boutique hotel out of a run-down tea estate in Sri Lanka, having a business sending people from the West to fly in front-line Russian jet fighters, being served with an Interpol arrest warrant, facing up to the Russian mafia and selling the world’s only privately-owned Harrier jet fighter.

Having met Philip Porter through our shared, long-term love of XKs, Porter Press was the obvious choice of publisher with their fine reputation. Having had an exciting and very different life himself, Philip could relate to my story, loved the idea of an autobiography and has given me much encouragement and support over the last 18 months.

So, here we are: my story of a very full life involving beautiful ladies, extreme flying adventures, a wide variety of motor vehicles, several continents, my beloved dogs, my wonderful wife, distinguished friends and a good many scrapes and japes. 


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Mark Howard - June 25, 2020

Dear Philip,
I have almost finished your excellent biography on Stirling Moss (Vol 1) and am hoping that Vol 2 will be available very soon. Is there any news on this?
Kind regards,

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