The family of a 72-year-old British pilot who vanished while trying to fly a vintage plane across the length of Africa have spoken of their immense relief after he was found safe and well.

Maurice Kirk, from Bristol, had been part of a vintage air rally and was flying a 1940s aircraft from Crete to Cape Town.

But, his family feared the worst when his plane disappeared somewhere between Sudan and Ethiopia.

However, the explorer’s son, Charles Kirk, has now said that his father has been found. He had already been asked to drop out of the rally by organisers following two engine failures and a lack of equipment to navigate with.


Mr Kirk disappeared while on a three-hour leg of the journey from southern Sudan into the western part of Ethiopia.

Rally organisers said they had feared for his safety and asked him not to continue because there was no satelitte tracking or a compass that worked on his 1943 Piper Cub craft. He had also suffered from engine trouble, but made the decision to carry on to try to complete the challenge.

Mr Kirk is understood to have made a precautionary landing before the light started to fail, having sent no radio communications at all to organisers during the flight.

He is renowned as the pilot who was arrested when he landed a bi-plane on private land near to American President George W Bush’s range.

Mr Kirk was also known as the “Flying Vet” and is a former drinking buddy of the late actor Oliver Reed.

Over the last two decades he has faced a string of allegations of hurling abuse at police officers while he tried to treat an injured dog on a beach, and for refusing to give a sample when officers stopped him on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol.



Published by Elizabeth

A journalist from the South West of England, Elizabeth specialises in writing about politics, health and technology.