Mark Hanna - 6 August 1959 - 26 September
Mark Ashley Hanna was born into an aviation family
in Berkshire on the 6th August, 1959. Educated at Kimbolton School, Huntingdonshire, it was a foregone conclusion that he
would join the RAF, having first been taught to fly by his father, Ray Hanna (a former leader of the Red Arrows) from a small
coral strip in the Philippines. The aircraft was a T-34, and he was only sixteen.
A successful career as a fighter pilot followed,
flying Hunters and then F4-Phantoms with 111, 56, 29 and 23 squadrons - including a tour of duty in the Falklands. He left
the RAF in 1988 to run the Old Flying Machine Company which he had set up with his father in 1981, specifically to preserve,
maintain and exhibit rare vintage aircraft. With growing public interest in aircraft of this type, the business expanded steadily
and today includes many of the great military piston-engined fighters, together with several early British, American and Russian
Mark was always generous with his time and attention,
was considerate, forthright, wonderfully prejudiced and great company. His legion of admirers in the public at large and in
flying circles admired him for his skill and prowess in the air, but that was only the exercise of a God-given talent allied
to superb schooling and dedication. He flew with both authority and feeling, for flying was his greatest passion and one which
he always endeavoured to share with the general public. Interviewed recently, Hanna, who had flown more than 100 different
types, discussed the popularity of the company’s aircraft at air shows: "The older generation remembers both World War
II and early jets, and younger people hear their parents talk of those days and realise what emotive things historic aircraft
can be. The OFMC can put such aircraft into the skies once more, including the great adversaries of the Battle of Britain."
Major films in which he acted as both aerial advisor
and chief pilot included Empire of the Sun, Air America, Tomorrow Never Dies, Memphis Belle, Piece of Cake and Saving Private
Ryan. However, he was not always enthusiastic with some film directors, who sometimes could not accept the art of the possible
when it came to flying. Exceptionally, Steven Spielberg accepted this and did have a great understanding and feeling for aerial
imagery. Hanna said "My father and I each flew Mustangs in Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun and the consequent footage
was quite remarkable."
Occasionally, flying World War II aircraft in
Europe could create bizarre situations which appealed to Hanna’s dry sense of humour. A few years ago, he was flying
over Germany in a Messerschmitt Me 109 in formation with an American P-51D Mustang - deadly enemies in 1944 and 1945. The
aircraft became low on fuel and, as a precaution landed at a USAF base; "A serious looking US Air Force guy drove out to meet
us; he plainly thought we had passed through a time warp. He shouted: " Are these planes armed?" I said "Not since 1945."
"I’m not sure he understood the joke!"
Throughout the airshow and aviation film industry
Mark was known as the "Golden Boy" of aviation and was acknowledged to have become a legend in his own lifetime.
Mark was seriously injured in an aircraft crash
in Spain on Saturday 25 September 1999 and passed away at 8.30 pm the next day.
The accident took place at Sabadell near Barcelona
where the aircraft was due to participate in a large flying display. It occurred on approach to landing and there was a major
Mark was flying an Hispano Buchon, a Spanish-built
version of the Second World War German Messerschmitt Bf109 fighter. The aircraft had appeared at air shows throughout the
UK and Europe.
Mark was Managing Director and co-founder of the
Old Flying Machine Company which preserves and maintains rare vintage aircraft in airworthy condition. An ex-RAF fast jet
pilot, Mark had flown over 4000 flying hours of which 2300 were on historic aircraft.
Mark was buried at a private funeral at Parham
in Suffolk on Wednesday 6 October 1999.