Tributes to 92-year-old glider pilot who died from coronavirus

Ronald Courtney flying the Rattlesden Gliding club K21 two seat training glider during the club expe

Ronald Courtney flying the Rattlesden Gliding club K21 two seat training glider during the club expedition in 2019 to the Scottish Gliding Union near Portmoak, Kinross in Scotland. Picture: Rattlesden Gliding Club - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a “remarkable” man who continued to be a glider pilot up to the age of 92.

Ronald Courtney, from Docking, died from the coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn on Friday, April 17. Born and raised in Oxford, Mr Courtney was an instrument mechanic in the RAF and worked as a jeweller and watchmaker in Oxford before going on to become head watchmaker for Rolex in London.

He later moved to Suffolk, where he ran a jewellery shop with his wife and later retired and moved to Docking.

The 92-year-old had a real passion for aviation and was the oldest flying member of Rattlesden Gliding Club in Bury St Edmunds.

Ashley Courtney, his son, said: “He was very fit and active up until he caught this virus. He was a remarkable chap and he loved his gliding. He did it in his youth but took it up again when mum passed away.

“He got stuck in and was fitter than a lot of chaps 20 years younger than him and he was keen to keep going.”

The 52-year-old added that his dad “loved keeping busy” and would help anyone where he could.

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He added: “No job was too boring or little for him. He was a gentle soul and would never hurt a fly. He never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“He’ll be missed. I’ve been lucky and blessed to have him as a father.”

Mr Courtney ravelled around 90 miles on Wednesdays from his home to the club, clocking up more than 200 flights since joining five years ago.

His last flight was on Wednesday, March 11.

Richard Goodchild, his friend and instructor, said: “Ron went back to his first love - gliding. He was inspirational to younger people at the club. He had bags of energy and was capable of flying a glider very well.

“His passing is a great shame as he wasn’t ready to go, he wanted to go solo as a glider. He was always interested in everything and everyone. He was remarkable, it’s a sad loss.”

Kevin Western, his instructor and club chairman, said: “My last flight with Ron was enlivened by Ron deciding that some loops and chandelles would be fun and Ron flying them to a high standard.

“Ron was a truly amazing character and he will be hugely missed. He was immensely brave and demonstrated his zest for life. He didn’t let age defeat him.

“Ron was one of those people that everyone loved. He was always smiling and laughing, just a lovely gentleman.”

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