Saturday the 19th January saw Mike’s family, friends and many colleagues gathered at Morningstar, to celebrate his remarkable life. Mike was tragically killed in an accident on approach at Bang Phra airport, in Thailand, whilst attempting to fly around the world in his specially adapted aircraft. Despite the sweltering heat, several hundred people turned out to listen to family and friends speak about his life. Ross Leighton, chairman of the Morningstar Flying Club,delivered a fitting eulogy and there were many tears in the audience.
The event was finished with a missing man formation of 4 local aircraft, led by a fellow club member, Giovanni Human
Mike was born on the 24th September 1958. From an early day he developed his passion for flying and went on the join the SA Air Force and qualified as a pilot. He enjoyed a very illustrious career in the SAAF, initially qualifying to the helicopter line. During his early career he was based in the Durban area and was involved in some really dramatic rescues of stranded climbers in the Drakensberg Mountains. He rose quickly through the ranks finally reaching the converted position of “test pilot”. He was sent to America, to attend the USAAF test pilots course, which he passed with flying colours and carried the SAAF’s name with pride. Mike went on to become a senior test pilot for the Rooivalk Attack Helicopter programme and carried out the second ever test flight on type.
In 1990, he was involved in a tragic motor accident that left him without the use of his legs, Mike, being the determined person that he was, was adamant to carry on flying. After many years of struggling and working with the CAA, he eventually purchased a Glasair Sportsman 2+2. With the help of his friends at Morningstar and the CAA, he was able to modify the aircraft so that he could fly it using his hands only. He took to the air at Morningstar and soon became a very active and popular member there. He entertained many a member and friend and they were all in awe at his amazing skills and determination.
Mike eventually became involved in Handiflight – a project to take flying to disabled people and get them to fly and enjoy flight. It culminated in a project to fly around the world. After years of planning and help from many sources, the project came together and the two aircraft formation set off from Geneva on the 18th November.
The two ship formation made their way down Italy, via Greece, the Middle East, India and Pakistan until his tragic accident in Thailand, on the 30 December.
Mike will be remembered for his determination, his unselfish attitude and friendliness. Nothing was a problem for him – he loved to entertain people at his hangar and speak about how he manged, against all odds, to take to the air again.
He served as secretary at the Morningstar Flying Club, for two terms and served with distinction, He was the consummate professional and loved his dear aircraft and aerodrome.
Fly well Mike and enjoy the ride – you will be missed, but your determination and legacy will not be forgotten.
Because I fly
I laugh more than other men
I look up an see more than they,
I know how the clouds feel,
What it's like to have the blue in my lap,
to look down on birds,
to feel freedom in a thing called the stick…
who but I can slice between God's billowed legs,
and feel then laugh and crash with His step
Who else has seen the unclimbed peaks?
The rainbow's secret?
The real reason birds sing?
Because I Fly,
I envy no man on earth.
— Author unknown