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“Back to Life, Health and Flying” – Gary Whitecross’ Journey

Gary Whitecross has always been fascinated by flying and at the age of seven started flying model aircraft he quickly progressed to single channel radio controlled aircraft, and by the age of twelve he had mastered radio flying but wanted more. Gary’s life took a turn when he was offered a flight in a glider, at the age of fourteen, at Baragwanath Airfield. Later with the assistance of the Wits Gliding Trust Gary attained his Glider licence, but he was still not content and went to work on his private pilot’s license and later his commercial pilots license.

Always up for new challenges, Gary decided to take up paragliding with his gliding background and ability to read the conditions he quickly advanced in the sport. In 2006 he took part in the World XC Series in Spain and managed a third place against the best in the world.

Gary returned to gliding, his “first love” in 2007 and in 2009 he added Touring Motor Gliders to the long list of aircraft on his license. Gary won many regional Glider Championships and was placed in the top three in the SA Glider National Championships on three occasions. In 2014 he was selected to represent South Africa in the World Gliding Champs in Finland.

With a love for anything that can fly and an insatiable appetite to fly them all Gary’s has flown everything from Microlights to ex-Military Fighter Jets and even Helicopters. And in the process has amassed well over 4000 flying hours of which 1500 are instructional hours, he has always enjoyed sharing his passion with others.

Gary runs Airplay Aviation at Springs Airfield, the only Commercial Gliding and Motor Gliding School registered in South Africa outside of the Gliding Club Environment. Gary has successfully tutored and made solid pilots out of every single T&D Pilot holding a glider license in South Africa. Gary specialises in teaching young pilots from age 13 and up.

Currently Gary is the only Glider Aerobatic Instructor in South Africa and had the opportunity to go study with the Bertossio family in Italy. Luca Bertossio was the youngest Glider Aerobatic world champion, under their guidance and supervision came home with the skills necessary to pass on to the South African community.

Luca Bertossio

After a lot of perseverance, the “Motorised Aviation and Gliding Association of South Africa", known by the acronym “MOGAS” became a reality under Gary’s guidance and he was elected as the first chairman.

The object of MOGAS is to advance, promote and encourage the sport of Motorised Gliding in South Africa. They support touring motor gliders, light sport aircraft that are also TMGs and gliders. They aim to be an affordable representative body dedicated to the needs of Touring Motor Glider aircraft and pure gliders and endeavour to represent the legislative needs of MOGAS members on all forums available. MOGAS aim to be progressive in the development of the training methods used for pilot training and thus grow the sport. They intend to be the leader in the upliftment of Previously Disadvantaged Individuals in the arena of Flight and we will always strive to be non-political or non-partisan in their approach to the industry and foster a better cross pollination of skills between the various disciplines of flight. They will always strive to develop competitive skills among their pilots and foster discipline, safety and airmanship within the member ranks.

Gary’s passion for flying and teaching came to a grinding halt after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer during a routine Class 1 Aviation Medical exam in September 2017. Despite many top surgeons saying it was inoperable with no treatment options, Gary never gave up and was introduced to an amazing cardio-thoracic surgeon via a fellow aviator oncologist.

In October 2017 he underwent major high-risk surgery to remove the right lung followed by extensive chemotherapy. This was a life changing event which saw him taking over a year to recover to some sort of normality. Gary realized life as it was would never be the same and had to learn to adapt to his “new normal”. Living with one lung just means doing everything slower as you have less energy and strength than before. During his recovery his medical had been suspended and not many people thought he would ever be able to regain it.

However, that was not going to stop the “ever-competitive” Gary. He decided to challenge the SACAA medical system and applied for his class 4 aviation medical which was instantly rejected. Six months of hard work and legal manoeuvring later, he finally succeeded in becoming the first pilot in SA history to get a full class 4 medical and reinstatement of all his licenses on one lung. This is yet another victory for MOGAS who have subsequently represented no less than three other members to similar outcomes.

Gary is back on the airshow circuit wowing the crowds with his magnificent skill in his Pilatus B4 glider, after his ordeal he has decided to promote Pink Drive on the wings of his aircraft.



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