R.I.P. Graham White 06/07/2014

demoiselle aaI first met Graham White in the early 1970s. We shared a love of vintage aircraft, homebuilt aircraft and flying. We both hung out at Marshall Airways at Bankstown, and learned to fly at Hoxton Park Flying School. But while my main aim was to learn aerobatics and have fun, Graham wanted to be a commercial pilot.

The odds weren’t in his favour – he was by no means wealthy, was colour blind, and suffered terribly from airsickness. But he had a dream, and persevered until he had achieved far more than I think even he expected. Along the way he learned to fly damn near anything with wings, and helped many other people find ways to follow their own dreams. I don’t think he ever forgot the difficulties he’d faced, and always wanted to help clear the path for others.

The above photo was taken at Rylestone NSW in 1974. Graham (seated) and his friend Peter had been to see “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines”, and had fallen in love with the Demoiselle. So naturally they built one. It did fly, although not at Rylestone, and not until c.1980. It was just another instance of ignoring the odds and persevering until things worked.

I eventually lost touch with Graham, although I’d run into him at the occasional air show. He was always flying something new, adding to his skills. It came as a terrible shock to learn of his death last Sunday. He died instantly when the aircraft he was flying struck the water off Moruya, NSW. Graham had received his Unrestricted PPL in July 1974, and died almost exactly 40 years since gaining his wings. A life well lived, cut short too soon.

Goodbye old mate – we’ll miss you.