Mike soars to a peaceful place

Mike Beachy Head sadly passed away on May 21.

Cape Town aviation pioneer Mike Beachy Head is remembered by those who knew him as the pilot who pushed the limits and did what many could only dream of.

Mr Beachy Head, who died suddenly of a heart attack last month, founded the iconic Thunder City in 1998.

Based at the Cape Town International Airport, it had the world’s largest civilian collection of ex-military aircraft, which flew at air shows and could be chartered privately for supersonic and high-altitude flips.

The Bishopscourt resident also co-founded Caudwell Marine, a marine engines and drive-gear company.

Following a fatal accident in 2009 in which an English Electric Lightning crashed at an airshow, Thunder City ceased flying operations after the accident investigation found major shortcomings in its maintenance programme.

John Caudwell, co-shareholder of Caudwell Marine and Thunder City, described Mr Beachy Head as “a genius innovator and a brilliant engineer”, despite his lack of formal training.

“Mike is absolutely irreplaceable as a friend,” he said.

Tributes poured in from all over the world following his death and described Mr Beachy Head as a daring pilot who was always looking to push the limits.

The Historic and Classic Aircraft Sales said: “You had no limits. You were what we South Africans call an ‘Yster’. A true man of steel. RIP and may your legacy live on.”

Knysna Speed Festival posted on Facebook that Mr Beachy Head had competed in five hillclimbs with his “thundering Porsche 917 replica”.

Louis Smit described Mr Beachy Head as “one of the biggest pioneers of South African aviation” who had gone “where very few would go” and made the dreams of die-hard aviation fans come true by giving them the chance to soar over the scenic Cape Peninsula in an English Electric Lightning, Hawker Hunter and Buccaneer. “May you soar with eagles!”

Mr Beachy Head’s family were not ready to speak to the media at the time this edition went to print.