On a sunny, windless morning in early September 2013, Glen Dell took off from a remote airstrip in the North West bushveld to perform a stunt with FMX rider Nick de Wit. He was to fly his Extra 300 aerobatics aircraft low enough enough for Nick to ramp his bike over it.
Under Over was the culmination of two years of detailed planning; careful scheduling between two prolific travellers and would, ultimately, become the final building block in an aviation legacy that spans 30 years and over 25 000 hours on over 250 different types of aircraft.
Glen died on 12 October 2013 after a crash at Secunda airshow. During the days that followed tributes streamed in that transcended the aviation world, countless came from non-flyers, from fans – those who had experienced Glen doing what he did best…
Glen had a zero foot aerobatic display waiver. This, along with his ability to perform awe-inspiring aerobatics manoeuvres over just about any venue, made him the finest display pilot South Africa had ever seen.
And while the spectators loved to watch him fly, Glen loved being in the cockpit. Flying coursed his veins – his father was a World War II pilot who later joined SAA and Glen took to the skies at age 16. He qualified for his licence while still at school and then joined the South African Air Force in 1980, where part of his training was aerobatic flying. Stunt flying became his passion and in 1985 he started competing.
Glen won eight South African titles and was crowned the Advanced World Aerobatic Champion in 2004. But aerobatics airtime made up only part of his logbook. Glen held an Airline Transport Pilots Licence (he flew intercontinental for SAA) with a Grade One Instructors Rating; was a SACAA-designated examiner on aeroplanes and helicopters and a Display Authorisation examiner.
In recent years he had turned his focus away from airshows and competition to perform at exclusive events – the prestigious Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race and Top Gear Live festival come to mind – and to work on speciality projects such as Under Over.
The skies are emptier today without Glen Dell, but his legacy will forever have wings.