BY BIKRAM VOHRA
A good man. More than a good man. An officer and a gentleman to the core. He brought to the table grace, dignity and an aviation acumen that was unchallenged.
And yet, he was approachable, down to earth and blessed with an often self deprecating humour.
Sir Maurice Flanagan.
They don’t come your way often and the few times we met were always memorable. A speaker of compelling worth, his erudition made for some delightful interviews and meetings.
As the architect of the Emirates experiment that became a global phenomenon Sir Maurice was almost shy and reticent but when he took the mike regardless of which country or the texture of the audience he had them mesmerised.
He was generous beyond normal parameters. I recall his beautiful barnyard converted farmhouse outside Manchester and the hospitality we enjoyed. He once invited me on a longboat on the serpentine (if memory serves me right) and was I a clumsy ox trying to retain my balance.
Whenever I had the opportunity to talk to him for The Middle East Aviation Journal or Gulf news and Khaleej Times, newspapers I have worked with, he was ready, willing and gave off his time without being patronising. It would always with a joke or two and segue into the subject at hand without a wrinkle.
You didn’t want to leave that articulate presence.
And now that presence has left us and the world of aviation is truly poorer for it.
It isn’t often you come across men in high positions who are so likeable and earn the affection and respect of their subordinates and their peers.
What better words with which to say goodbye than these lines from his passion for the romance and splendour of flight.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Travel well, Sir, it was a privilege to have known you.