|Ray and Mark Hanna
Mark Hanna - 6 August 1959 - 26
One of Britain’s most experienced
display pilots of historic military aircraft, Mark Hanna, was
seriously injured in an aircraft crash in Spain on Saturday 25
September 1999. Mark passed away at 8.30 pm, Sunday 26 September
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 fire.
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 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 jets.
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
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
Mark was buried at a
private funeral at Parham in Suffolk on Wednesday 6 October 1999.
The Hanna's wish to extend
their most sincere thanks to the many individuals who sent messages
of sympathy and support.
A celebration of Mark's
life took place on Tuesday 16 November 1999 at St Clement Danes in
28 August 1928 - 1
Squadron Leader Raynham
George Hanna has died aged 77. Ray was the leader of the RAF's Red
Arrows aerobatic team in its early years, developing a level of
expertise and panache in formation aerobatic flying that attracted
universal acclaim and established "the Reds" as the world's premier
team and star attraction at airshows worldwide.
During the 1950s and early
1960s, the RAF instructed various fighter squadrons to provide an
official aerobatic team to participate in public events and provide
welcome publicity. The "Black Arrows" and the "Blue Diamonds" were
extremely successful; but, with the loss of fighter squadrons due to
budget constraints, it was a wasteful activity to withdraw a
squadron from the front line each year. The Central Flying School
was asked to provide an official team and, in 1965, the Red Arrows
were formed at Little Rissington. Ray Hanna was selected to join the
team and within a year he became its leader.
Ray was the ideal
candidate to lead a group of individualistic and brilliant fighter
pilots and after an intense period of practice, flying their highly
manoeuvrable, all-red Gnat aircraft, the team's reputation for
excellence on the airshow scene was soon established. In a very
short time, the Red Arrows, together with the Battle of Britain
Memorial Flight, had become the public face of the RAF, as it
continues to be to this day.
Raynham George Hanna was
born on August 28 1928 at Takapuna, New Zealand. He was educated at
Auckland Grammar School before taking flying lessons on the Tiger
Moth. In 1949 he worked his passage to England by ship to join the
Hanna gained his pilot's
wings before the demise of the powerful piston-engine fighters such
as the Tempest, Sea Fury and Beaufighter, and his opportunities to
fly them proved to be the beginning of a love affair with these
evocative fighters that was to last a lifetime. He joined No 79
Squadron in Germany, flying the Meteor jet in the fighter
reconnaissance role, one of the most demanding for a single-seat
pilot. This gave him the opportunity to indulge in authorised low
flying, at which he excelled. Formation aerobatics was a routine for
all fighter squadrons, and Ray developed a passion for this form of
His appointment to the
Overseas Ferry Squadron provided him with the opportunity to fly a
wide variety of jet fighters. He ferried the early Hunters from
Britain to India and the Far East; this involved flying over
Pakistan, where he was often intercepted by Pakistani fighters,
enabling him to indulge in mock combat when fuel reserves allowed.
On one occasion Ray was
returning a Vampire fighter to Britain when the aircraft's only
engine failed over India and he was unable to restart it. He
eventually made a skilful crash-landing amongst a series of giant
anthills close to a railway line. He waited for a passing train,
which stopped for him; but the Indian guard refused to let him board
since he was unable to pay the fare. Ray finally offered his watch
as payment; the guard scribbled out an IOU and allowed him to
After qualifying as a
flying instructor, Ray became a member of the Meteor aerobatic team
at the College of Air Warfare, and in 1965 he was selected to join
the new Red Arrows team on its formation.
Ray led the Red Arrows for
four years, the longest of any of the team's leaders, but in 1971 he
decided to leave the RAF to begin a new career in civil aviation.
Initially he flew the Boeing 707 for Lloyd International Airways,
followed by seven years with Cathay Pacific operating from Hong
Kong. In 1979 he headed a company operating executive Boeing 707s,
which operated worldwide.
Shortly before leaving the
RAF Ray had been approached by Sir Adrian Swire, who had recently
purchased a Spitfire IX. Sir Adrian invited him to fly and display
the aircraft at a time when there were few of the wartime fighters
flying regularly. This proved to be the beginning of a unique
relationship between Ray Hanna and MH 434 (the aircraft's serial
number), an association which will be one of the lasting memories
for Ray’s countless admirers.
In 1981, together with his
only son Mark, whom he had taught to fly when he was 16, and
his daughter Sarah, Ray Hanna founded the Old Flying Machine
Company, specialising in the restoration and operation of classic "warbirds"
such as the Mustang, Spitfire and Kittyhawk. In addition to
appearances at hundreds of airshows, Ray Hanna and his son and their
pilots were in regular demand by the film industry.
Some of their flying
sequences in the films Empire of the Sun (1987) and Memphis Belle
(1990) were breathtaking in their skill and audacity. After seeing
the stunning sequences in the former, Stephen Spielberg insisted
that Ray and his pilots should provide the flying elements for his
film Saving Private Ryan (1998). Ray also featured in the 1988
television series Piece of Cake, a drama about an RAF fighter
Ray regularly shipped some
of the company's aircraft to his native New Zealand to participate
in the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, recognised as the premier
warbird flying event in the southern hemisphere. In later years he
established a branch of his company in New Zealand.
In September 1999 Mark
Hanna's death in Spain, whilst flying a restored Me 109 fighter, was
a devastating blow; but Ray vowed to continue their work, and the
Old Flying Machine Company continues to be a major force today,
managed by daughter Sarah.
Ray Hanna retained his
passion for flying to the end, and six weeks before his death he was
practising formation aerobatics in Spitfire MH 434. An
internationally-renowned airshow pilot who was flying alongside him
on that occasion has commented: "At every stage of a flying routine,
one had utter trust in his skill and judgment - he was the doyen of
Ray was never afraid to be
blunt when the occasion demanded, but his intolerance of bureaucracy
and all but the very highest standards was tempered by his great
modesty, warmth and approachability.
For his leadership of the
Red Arrows, Ray Hanna was awarded a Bar to the AFC he had received
earlier. He also received numerous international awards, including
the Britannia Trophy. In 2000 the Air League awarded him the Jeffrey
Quill Medal for his "outstanding contribution to the development of
air-mindedness in Britain's youth".
Ray Hanna died on December
1. He married, in 1957, Eunice Rigby, who survives him with their