‘He would do anything for anybody’: Tributes paid to retired RAF Wing Commander killed flying bi-plane he built himself

Brian North with the plane he died in
Brian North with the plane he died in

The son of a retired RAF engineer killed when his homemade plane crashed in America has said he owes everything to his ‘amazing’ dad.

John North described his father Brian as an ‘adventurous but modest man who died doing what he loved’.

He said: “He would do anything for anybody and he was always there for me.”

A former Wing Commander, 72 year old Mr North was flying a replica First World War SE5a bi-plane fighter aircraft he built in his Aylesbury garage when it plummeted to earth and burst into flames in a Colorado field.

His widow, Adrienne, called their son in the middle of night to deliver the tragic news of the November 21 crash.

John, of Douglas Road, said: “It was devastating. It was just a massive shock.”

Mr North completed an apprenticeship at RAF Halton in the 1950s after leaving school aged 15, going on to specialise in engineering and receiving an OBE. Former colleagues of his have paid tribute to his passion for aircraft.

Throughout his career Mr North travelled around the world and his fascination with planes continued after his retirement in 1990.

He built the aircraft he died in from scratch before shipping it to the USA three years ago when he moved across the Atlantic to be closer to his daughter, Elizabeth, and three grandchildren. Before that, Mr North spent years working at RAF Halton as part of the Flying Club, and that passion spread through his family.

John said: “I went up in planes with him dozens of times. Airplanes have been a big part of my life.”

The pinnacle of Mr North’s career came when he received an OBE for working out how a Harrier jet could take off and land in the middle of nowhere if airfields had been destroyed.

But his son, 34, said he was always modest about the award.

He said: “Hardly anybody knew about it, he never spoke of it.”

The crash took place about a mile north of Front Range Airport in Adams County during a recreational flight. Mr North was flying solo at the time.

Dennis Heap, airport executive director, said: “There was no problem with the weather, it had to be something between man and machine.

“He was flying in a pattern one moment and down on the ground, crashed, the next.”

George Black, who worked alongside him in Germany and at Halton, said: “We often used to joke with him because to get the wings built on that plane he had to go through the roof of the garage into one of the spare rooms in his house.

“His engineering standard was always very good. He didn’t rush anything.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news.”

Nev Feist, who was part of the same 80th Entry apprentice group as Mr North at Halton, described him as ‘very self-confident’. They went separate ways after the apprenticeship, but saw each other at reunions.

Mr Feist said: “He was very well thought of by everybody. He used to drive his wife mad building those aircraft.”

Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

A memorial service will take place in America and Bucks, but the details of these are still unknown.