Page 10 - World Airshow News Summer 2021
P. 10


                  A Few Thoughts About Des Barker

                              I   our airshow community, so    when I strapped into a high-performance airplane, I thought I
                                  feel I need to say something to   I would be lying to you if I told you that every time in my life,

                                  please bear with me as what I
                                                               have lived this way. We strap in, fire up, and go flying, enjoying
                              want to say comes especially hard. It   might be killed flying it. That simply doesn’t happen to us who
                              concerns things we in the commu-  every second, aware of the dangers involved and fully confident
                              nity don’t talk about very much, but   we can handle whatever happens. We are alive and doing some-
                              I feel the need to talk about them to-  thing we dearly love to do. Most of the time we are right, and
                              day. It might also be a long time be-  nothing goes wrong. Occasionally, however, something can go
                              fore I talk about these things again.  terribly wrong, and all of what we are, what we were, and what we
                                From time to time throughout my   could have been can all come to a sudden end.
                              aviation life, people have come up to   Earlier this year, something went terribly wrong for my long-
                              me and asked, “Why do you people   time friend General Des Barker. He was a pilot’s pilot with tons
                              fly high performance airplanes if it’s   of experience. I don’t know what happened. I’m sure the accident
                              so dangerous and so many of you die   investigation will reveal information and closure. I suspect that
                              flying them?”                    whatever it was happened suddenly and involved something be-
           Like many of us who fly and have flown these planes, when   yond what he could control. I am left with only the suspicion that
        this question has been asked of me, I have usually just smiled   when it happened, he did everything possible to save himself and
        and said something generic, as deep down I suspected the person   his aircraft. I know he didn’t fail to do the right thing. I knew him
        asking would never understand the truth, or appreciate the truth,   well enough to know that if it was beyond his control, it would
        had I attempted to answer the question seriously.      have been beyond my control as well.
           You see, we who fly and have flown these airplanes don’t really   So tonight, I sit here alone thinking and writing this for you
        understand it ourselves. We do it with the full knowledge that   about my good friend Des Barker, going over in my mind the
        at some moment something could go wrong and that intangible   twenty years we worked together on issues concerning flight
        thing we do and love so much could end suddenly and violently.   safety, knowing he is gone and that, were I young again and still
        But we don’t seem to be capable of dwelling on that for some   flying, I would not hesitate to fly tomorrow given the chance. We
        reason. We simply accept that the possibility exists. We somehow   were like that, Des and me.
        come to believe that it’s just a matter of managing the risk.   Rest in peace Des. The books you have written and your life’s
           So, instead of concentrating on what could happen to us, we   work in the interest of flight safety will save lives of both pilots
        instead gear ourselves toward managing the risk. In doing that,   flying today and pilots not yet born. They, and people like me, are
        we create a sort of armor plate around ourselves that protects us   your legacy.
        in some strange way.

         GONE WEST:

        Major General Des Barker

           Major General Desmond Barker (South African Air Force, retired) died
        in March 2021 in the crash of a Patchen Explorer that he was piloting from
        the South African Air Force Museum. Both Barker and another retired air
        force officer were killed in the accident.
           During General Barker’s 40-year air force career, he served as a member
        of the SAAF’s aerobatic display team, the Silver Falcons, and was also chief
        test pilot for the SAAF. He accumulated 7,200 flying hours and flew at least
        58 different types of aircraft. At the time of his death, Barker maintained
        his flying career as a civilian experimental test pilot. He was vice president
        of the South African Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
           Barker devoted much of his post-retirement time to documenting,
        studying, and analyzing airshow accidents all over the world. He published
        several books, including “Zero Error Margin – Display Flying Analyzed.”
        He was also the author of the recently published “Anatomy of Air Show
           World Airshow News sends our most sincere condolences to the family
        and friends of General Des Barker.
        Photo: Major General Des Barker

                                    10  Summer 2021                                                                                    World Airshow News   7  September/October 2018
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