For the past five years, my brother Nigel had been battling cancer. No one could have fought harder. He became a vegetarian; he trialled unproven cures, he imported medicines unavailable in Britain. He researched and he remained positive in spite of having large chunks of his body cut out.
It seemed so very unfair that someone not known for lounging around in the sun should develop a melanoma. And even more unfair that the first doctor he saw told him it was only a mole. So by the time he was given a definitive diagnosis, the disease had spread, giving Nigel a gloomy prognosis.
After his health forced him into an early retirement, he spent some time writing memoirs of his years as a pilot. During my last year in Melbourne I had the privilege of editing his manuscript. I discovered many things I never knew about my resilient brother. In his unembroidered, matter-of-fact way he described incidents that might put one off ever getting into an aeroplane. He also, very humbly, told stories of acts of kindness and generosity that made me very proud.
When we spoke on the phone during Christmas 2015, he asked if I could come over to England to help him finish the book. His time was running out. I caught the earliest available flight.
Although he was very ill, in pain and exhausted, we worked together to produce a book from his manuscript. Sadly, my knowledge of formatting was scant, and I had no experience of inserting photos into a digital book, but we managed. And in the evenings as I sat drinking wine with him and his beautiful girls, we shared many laughs.
It was a hugely emotional farewell at the airport, knowing we would not see each other again in this life, and I returned to my new home in New Zealand with a heavy heart.
A few days later I received an email with a photo of Nigel holding the first copies of his book.
He passed away about 3 weeks later, a great man, and published author.
Luck is a vital part of a pilot’s career, and timing is another. The author spent some 16000 hours at the controls of aeroplanes, always fascinated by what you could see from them, what you could do with them, the places you could go with them, the skills you needed to get the best out of them and most of all the sheer joy of flying them. This book is a treasury of his experiences.
The author takes us on journeys from Cessna 150s to Boing 747s, from Hurn Airport to Kai Tak, from smooth touchdowns to an upside-down landing, reflecting on what luck had to do with it all.
The book is available through Amazon outlets in both paper and kindle versions.