04/02/1961 – 09/12/2015
It is such a bitter irony that a man who spent thousands of hours safely teaching people to fly, in an environment thought by so many to be so dangerous, should be tragically killed in a road traffic accident – so much life, ended in the blink of an eye.
But what a life he had!! Steve was a very special person to whom everyone instantly warmed. He was a larger than life character who touched so many people with his fabulous zest for life and his great sense of humor. However, if I could use one word to describe him it would be ‘mischievous’.
A proper ‘Geordie’ lad, he was born and brought up in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of the City. His first job while still at school was working as a petrol pump attendant, driving to the garage illegally on his motorbike but never being stopped because by then he was already a big lad. Having left school he went on to operate and drive huge excavation machines for the NationalCoal Board at one of their Open Cast Sites where his love of “diggers” was to begin. He went on from there to become a manager within the Stage Coach Group and alongside this set up his own taxicab business. He was very proud of the fact that his most famous ‘rides’ were Melanie Griffith, the star in the film “Working Girl” and Sean Bean. His spare time was spent playing Rugby in the second row for a local 1st XV team.
In the early 1980’s he learnt to fly a weight shift microlight and thus became one of the forefathers in the sport. It was about this time he decided to leave the pressures of working in Newcastle and having sold his taxi business, moved up to a cottage and small holding next door to Eshott Airfield where he opened up a flying school. He competed in 3 National Round Great Britain events with his long time, close friend, Gordon Douglas from East Fortune. They flew in their trustee two stroke Flash 2 Alpha using bungee cord to pull and hold back the bar enabling them to maintain maximum level flying speed without using their arms. Since those early days, he has taught many a would be pilot how to fly using his fantastic flying skills, sense of humor, relaxed teaching manor and ‘can-do’ attitude. He built up over 7000hrs flying experience in both 3 axis and weight shift planes. In 2009 he was jointly awarded the CAA Safety Award with members of Newcastle Air Traffic Control having successfully guided a light aircraft which had suffered engine failure at night,to land at Eshott Airfield by relaying instructions using a hand held radio and positioning his car with lights on full beam at the threshold of one of the runaways. The Civil Air Patrol awarded Steve a Certificate of Commendation after he landed his aircraft on a local golf course so that he could render first aid to the crew of an aircraft that he had witnessed crashing into an adjacent wood following a structural failure. It is highly likely that the 2-crew members owe their survival to his quick action.The BBC recreated a trial flight he gave in a P&M Quik as part of their crime watch series. It showed Steve taking a customer for an experience flight, which moved from a sedately cross-country flight to tracking a stolen caravan belonging to a friend, down the A1 towards Newcastle. Steve successfully coordinated the police using a mobile phone and the thieves were subsequently apprehended.
As well as flying Steve started to breed sheep on his small holding befriending and taking advice from many of the local farmers. It was by doing this and because of his immense character that he became intrinsically woven into the fabric of the community. Realizing he needed more than sheep to survive he bought an old JCB ‘digger’ and set up a Ground Works Company using all the skills he had developed in the open cast industry. More recently, he established a Woodland Burial Site to run along side his smallholding.
By leaving the city of Newcastle 26 years ago and working for himself, Steve established his ‘karma’ for life that served him so well. He did what he wanted to do and was passionate about, living life to the full – he was a self made man in the true sense of the word. He was extremely clever although hating paperwork he was never daunted by a practical problem and often came upwith many an ingenious method of making it happen.He excelled at and enjoyed playing golf and frequently won the coveted monthly ‘green jacket’ contested in the Farmers Golfing Society. He took up shooting 6 years ago applying science research and practice to become an extremely good shot being asked to join many a Shoot in Northumberland County where he would be accompanied by his 2 faithful cocker spaniels.
Skiing was another passion and in any one January he could be seen in various resorts in the Alps. His distinctive style was to point his huge bulk down hill looking like he was carrying a roll of carpet under each arm as he hurtled downwards.
He also loved his rugby following the Newcastle Falcons and England and was never happier than having a pint of Guinness watching a game under way.
The fundamental aspects of Steve’s life were the varied interests and work pursuits which gave his life the richness he so loved. As such he knew many people and without exception they would all say he had the ability to make them feel good and put a smile on their face. He disliked no one, never failed to see the best in people and no one disliked him. His wit, humor and endless mischievous ability to create fun pranks are what we will all remember him for.He never missed a thing and is famous for his one-line responses.
He was a big man with big hands that loved his food, beer and whiskey and embraced life.
Steve was married to Fiona, who he loved and adored. He was immensely proud of his son, Scott,and his daughter, Sarah, who gave him his first grandchild, Sophia, just 7 weeks ago.
Steve was the heart and soul of Eshott Airfield. He was Chief Flying Instructor at Purple Aviation, Examiner and undertook all aircraft inspections. He will be greatly missed in every aspect of the Airfield and Club.
We will miss his humor, his loyalty, his friendship, his integrity, his wisdom, his ability to do the right thing and his. ………mischievousness.