Project Josephine
Project Josephine

Hughie Balfour Paul

Hughie grew up on the Island of Mull on the West coast of Scotland. Mull was without proper roads or electricity during Hughie’s childhood and the community made their own entertainment. Work was part of everyday life and Hughie enjoyed his upbringing on the family farm, where the cows had to be milked before he was dropped off at school from the back of a tractor trailer.

Hughie worked on the farm for a few years before leaving to work on fishing trawlers and eventually purchasing a small boat of his own. But the call of the world came and he left the fishing industry to work as a truck driver travelling around Europe, which included a period working on the Grand Prix circuit.

Eventually he set up his own trucking business, running 3 trucks on local and international haulage routes. The loads were mainly timber and accessing forests often proved difficult. Hughie reasoned the solution was to view the forests from the air, so he took flying lessons at a local airfield.

The training was perfunctory, so Hughie approached a large private flight company and persuaded them to open a local flight school that allowed him to utilise their highly qualified pilots when they were on standby. Hughie became the manager of the flight school and in return was able to obtain commercial training from the owners.

Eventually Hughie moved on from this work, taking himself to America to learn to fly helicopters. He chose a flying school in Arkansas because it was cheap, but he soon discovered there was a reason for this. The helicopter was an old Hiller – very basic, very noisy, but it was a helicopter – and eventually he succeeded in gaining his Commercial Helicopter Pilot Certificate.

On a visit home to Scotland, Hughie met someone who was delivering light aircraft from Germany to USA. He expressed an interest in the job and was stunned to be asked if he would like to do the same work – immediately. He staggered off to the airport, flew out to Germany, and flew the aircraft across to USA, via Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada. He eventually completed around 14 aircraft delivery trips to the USA from Europe and Africa.

After the aircraft delivery jobs, Hughie took up a new position as helicopter pilot working with an NGO in the North Pole, South Pole and many other countries. During this period, he was locked up, shot at, and chased by the authorities – but fortunately his helicopter was faster than theirs.

In his lifetime, Hughie feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to places he knows no man has set foot on before and he has witnessed things seen only by the privileged few. He has come close to death on more than one occasion and been grateful to his instructors, his God, and his survival instincts.

Hughie currently runs a small boat on the West Coast of Scotland and lives on board with his x-wolf dog. He takes tourists out on excursions to experience the beauty of the Highlands from the sea, but new challenges are always calling him and Project Josephine is his next adventure away from home: “Excited? You bet!” Hughie is Monty's father and Isla's father-in-law.