Tributes paid to pilot and co-pilot of Gillingham helicopter crash
20:35 14 March 2014
The pilot of the helicopter that crashed at Gillingham was Carl Dickerson, who lived in Thornton, Lancashire.
Mr Dickerson was chief pilot of Haughley Air Ltd and had worked for the private company, which operates corporate flights within the UK, Ireland and Europe, for the last four years.
The pilot, who went to school at Lytham St Annes High School in Lancashire, previously worked for Heliworld Ltd in Blackpool for almost three years.
Members of the aviation community in Blackpool said they were “saddened” by the news.
Simon Menzies, managing director at Pool Aviation, said Mr Dickerson began his flying career at Blackpool Airport several years ago.
He said: “He was an accomplished flight instructor who was extremely capable, professional and conscientious with an unblemished safety record to the best of my knowledge. I am positive that he wouldn’t have flown [that] night had he not been convinced of its safety and serviceability.”
Mr Menzies said Mr Dickerson worked on the tragic helicopter at his hanger when it was based in Blackpool since September 2012.
He also paid tribute to co-pilot Lee Hoyle.
“Lee was a very enthusiastic and talented co-pilot who had flown many different types of aircraft and had an inexhaustible appetite for safety and professional procedures. The weather in Norfolk last night [Thursday] although not very pleasant would have been well within the pilots’ qualified capability and that of the aircraft to operate safely.
• The co-pilot who died in the helicopter crash was an Army veteran from Greater Manchester.
Captain Lee Hoyle, from Salford, was co-pilot of a helicopter that came down in heavy fog on Thursday night.
The father-of-two had been a co-pilot for Lord Ballyedmond’s air travel firm Haughey Air, based in Newry, County Down, since October 2012.
The 45-year-old served in the British Army in The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers – going on tours in the Falklands in the late 80s and early 90s.
A big Manchester City fan, he lived on Norwood Road in Stretford with interior designer wife Georgina before moving to a new home in Macclesfield recently. Mrs Hoyle was too upset to speak last night.
Before joining Haughey Air, Mr Hoyle was a director of helicopter training company Norwood Aviation.
A close friend, who asked not want to be named, said: “You couldn’t have wished to meet a nicer bloke. He was very clever, down to earth, just a top, top bloke. He was doing his dream job that he had tried so hard to get. For something like this to happen is just awful.”
Katrina Georgiou, 53, who lived opposite Mr Hoyle in Stretford said: “It’s just awful news. It’s such a shock. They were just a really lovely family.”
• Declan Small, of Mayobridge in Co Down, Northern Ireland, was 42 and a joiner by trade who was working as a foreman for Lord Ballyedmond.
Mr Small leaves behind his mother Margaret, and three brothers.
Yesterday Josephine O’Hare, a former Mayobridge councillor for the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said the community there was “dumbfounded and absolutely numbed last night when the word came”.
“He was a pleasant boy that grew up into a very lovely man,” she said, adding that he had been involved in all sorts of clubs when he was younger and was “very popular”.
“He was such a nice fellow and from a popular family, it’s just such a sad loss.”
The family, she said, are “devastated, just devastated, you couldn’t even describe how said they are… his mother’s heart is breaking.”