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GROWING A GRUMMAN - Home-Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10- Part 11- Part 12 - Part13 - Part14

Trevor Trautmann
In Memory of Trevor Trautmann

I knew Trevor since around 1987, some 26 years ago, when we met at Grand Central Airport MIdrand. He came roaring up to my aircraft parked there which I was cleaning in his Marauder sports car and we quickly found we had many interests in common. Over the years that bond strengthened and expanded as I discovered and came to appreciate Trev's personality and character. I have rarely met anyone more generous with his time, advice and assistance in all things automotive and aeronautical.

Trevor was a fount of knowledge and had a deep passion for these matters and helped me numerous times on various projects. He was the kind of guy who looked for no praise or even payment and in today's world of avarice and self-interest that is a rare thing. But he was a rare man. When his partner in his Grumman aircraft, Evan Boddy along with another mutual friend, Elliot Hutchinson who was piloting the aircraft on a delivery flight from the US, disappeared on that flight across the southern Atlantic in 1992, I was privileged to help Trevor in trying to discover what had happened to them. Authorities had not instituted any proper search, and in an extraordinary display of sheer determination, Trevor gathered enough facts, in contact with French and US authorities,to support the theory that the two friends were adrift on the ocean. I well recall sitting many times in his Maraisburg workshop shivering on a cold winter's night while we pored over maps and charts trying to figure what had happened to the guys and calling anybody in authority overseas who may be able to help. He took this evidence to Pretoria and managed to get the government of the day to listen, finally meeting Pik Botha, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Botha gave the green light and ordered the airforce to mount a search using a Hercules C130. Trevor went along on that flight, against enormous resistance from the SAAF as a civilian.

They flew up to Sierra Leone, the first such SAAF aircraft to have operated peacefully in Africa for decades and then out into the Atlantic Ocean to search for 4 days, based on the Azores Islands, regrettably though, without success. This episode illustrated to me that this man had determination and perseverance in abundance to be able to persuade the powers that be to do this - and no question, he would have displayed a large amount of charm too - he could do that when he wanted to! We all hope perhaps that our presence on this earth for the short time we have may have a good impact on others - that, in current parlance, we can 'make a difference'. Trevor certainly did make that difference - a very important difference, one could say 'the difference between life and death' - in the lives of thousands of people.

Trevor was the prime mover in getting the Aero Club Airbridge project going in 2000 at the time of the Moz floods which ravaged that country. It was he who phoned me after seeing the tragedy unfold on the TV, to say "Why don't we try to do something with light aircraft?" I suggested he talk to Aero Club to mobilise aircraft owners but also warned that money for fuel would be a problem and the lack thereof would probably deter many aircraft owners from volunteering. The next thing I knew, literally hours later that day, was Trev on the phone, telling me it was ON - he had secured R250K from Shell who used to sponsor his racing, and Aero Club was keen and he went on to secure another R500K from other fuel companies to keep the project running successfully for many weeks of operations during which time and over hundreds of sorties volunteer aircraft owners and pilots delivered 100 tons of desperately-needed supplies and aid.. During the days leading up to the first flights out of Nelspruit Airport we had a lot of arranging to do.

One meeting held at Nelspruit involved a SAAF colonel in charge of the Lowveld airspace who was clearly VERY concerned over our proposed flights. It became apparent to me during this discussion that this guy seemed to believe that he had some authority to forbid the flights - maybe so, maybe not - and Trevor must have picked that up too! The guy was part of the problem and not the solution as he began to lecture us on the dangers and difficulties, legalities and obstacles. In my mind it was becoming time to confront this guy, but this was taken care of by Trevor who Trev turned to him with a smile, stopping his 'lecture' in mid-flight, with words to the effect "Thanks for your input which has been very valuable. However we in SA have not been under the rule of the military now for some time, so with the border-control clearances and agreement of the Mozambique government which we already have, we will be flying tomorrow and expect the full co-operation of the SAAF." Trevor was rarely one to lay down the law in this way in any circumstance - but when the chips were down he came to the party! That party - The Aero Club Airbridge - as it was named, managed to deliver aid and succour to thousands in Gaza Province, Mozambique - food, water, and blankets to those at risk of death and disease as a result of the terrible and widespread floods in that country.

I have never forgotten hearing of how, on Trevor and others delivering food and water to hundreds marooned for weeks on high ground I was told that one woman literally fell to her knees at Trevor's feet in gratitude for saving them all. Some were already sickening and clearly in a bad way having somehow been overlooked for rescue. I asked Trevor about this incident later and we discussed it. He was greatly moved by the plight of those people and I know that made an strong emotional impact on him.

The rescue and aid work done by the 40 or more volunteer aircraft owners and pilots at that time would not have been possible in any way without the very idea which Trevor gave life to through his actions. His name is inscribed on the Honours Roll at the premises of Aero Club of SA since he was awarded Gold Wings, the highest award that aviation institution can give and he was recognised by President Mandela at a function at the State Theatre in Pretoria.

I will greatly miss Trevor's presence in this world - and wherever you may be now Trev:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

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GROWING A GRUMMAN - Home-Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9 - Part 10- Part 11- Part 12- Part 13
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