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Eagle Aviation
Eagle Airways
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British Eagle
1948 to 1968

Capt. Gerhard Heilig


Capt. Gerhard Heilig

Jack Langley

It is with sadness that I have to report the passing of Gerhard Heilig. Gerhard was one of the ex Eagle flight
crew from the very early days of the Eagle Aviation operation in 1950-1951, serving as a Radio Operator.

His first flight was on a Dakota, G-AJPF, flying from Luton to Bovington. In 1951 he flew on Yorks with
Capt. John Sauvage and others. He also often flew with John ‘Pancho’ Villa. Whilst with Eagle he was part of the
flight crew on the first York flight into Kai Tak piloted by Capt. John Sauvage.

During his flying career he flew most of the UK’s Vickers Vikings, first with BEA and then with
many of the British Independents.

Gerhard was born in Vienna Austria in 1925, the son of Jewish parents. His father, a prominent Jewish
journalist, was held in a Gestapo concentration camp for thirteen months during the Nazi occupation of Austria but
escaped to England just two weeks before war broke out.
Gerhard recalled that he was on the first children’s
transport to England in December 1938 and had the good fortune to be taken in by a Quaker school in Yorkshire.

He eventually trained as an electrician and in early life became a telephone engineer. In 1943 he volunteered
for aircrew in the RAF. Because he said he was only too aware that Britain had saved his life. He trained
as a wireless operator. He completed many sorties over Germany. In 1944 flying a Lancaster and after taking
on several hits by the Luftwaffe they returned with their bombs still attached. Due to a heavy landing the
brakes failed. As they headed for the wreckage of an old aircraft at the end of the runway at an alarming
speed the aircraft undercarriage was pulled up and a belly landing was completed. After the aircraft stopped
and expecting the bombs on board to explode, they all quickly evacuated to safety. He later found he had grabbed two parachutes and helmets calculating in a split second that the paperwork resulting from the loss
of such items would be unbearable.

In 1947 in civilian life Gerhard continued his work as a radio officer on aircraft having first joined Eagle flying on
their York and DC3 aircraft. Later he joined BEA, followed by a number of other independent airlines. Eventually
obtaining his wings he became a pilot, continuing to fly Vikings and other aircraft.

In 1965 he returned to Austria, the country of his birth and as a pilot he flew for Austrian Airlines. As an author
he wrote some eleven books. One already advertised on the website.

Although I never met Gerhard in the flesh I have had many chats via emails with him relating to his life
in aviation. It was a very sad email that came on the 24th October 2014 giving his last farewell as he
only had a short time left to live.
He passed away later on the 24th October 2014.

On behalf of all ex Eagle staff we send our condolences to Sissy and his family.

Eric Tarrant

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