HomeLettersZimbabwe's 'Biggles' Ian Harvey leaves flying legacy

Zimbabwe’s ‘Biggles’ Ian Harvey leaves flying legacy

 Dusty Miller

RETIRED Air-Vice Marshal Ian Harvey, who died this week at the age of 65, had been a combat-hardened pilot in the air force since his teens and appeared in the Guinness Book of Records as the man with the most (4 000+) operational flying hours logged in the now

obsolete French-built Alouette Series III helicopter.

Locally born, the senior air force officer was often described as southern Africa’s equivalent of “Biggles”.

As a young flying-officer, he was involved in the 1961 search and rescue mission for the missing UN secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold, who died when his plane crashed in mysterious circumstances in thick bush near Ndola.

 He served with the Royal Rhodesian Air Force as part of a colonial contingent fighting with British troops against Front for the Liberation of South Yemen rebels in Aden and in counter-insurgency operations in various parts of Africa and the short-lived Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

After a colourful action-packed career throughout the long turbulent years of the bitterly fought bush war in this country, he briefly joined the Air Force of Oman in 1980, but returned home, re-attested and was commissioned into the Air Force of Zimbabwe where he swiftly rose through the ranks.

He was deeply involved in training young black pilots (several his former guerilla adversaries) in handling the various aircraft inherited by the newly-independent government and models subsequently acquired.

The former Umtali Boys’ High School pupil reluctantly retired from the air force at the compulsory age of 60 in 2001 but continued thereafter to fly and instruct as a Reserve Officer and worked as a consultant with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.

The air force will hold a parade in his memory at Manyame Air Force Base on Tuesday, which will include a fly-pass by 7 Squadron which he flew in for many years and later commanded.

There will also be a civilian memorial service at Athol Evans Chapel at noon on the same day, followed by a wake at Cranleigh Park Club, Prospect.

He is survived by his widow, Penny and a step-son.

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