Mike Cooke

Mike Cooke, who died at the age of 69, was an international aerobatic pilot who started a second career as a specialist insurance broker.

Mike Cooke, who died at the age of 69, was an international aerobatic pilot who started a second career as a specialist insurance broker.

Flt Lt Cooke, of Old Catton, Norwich, joined 74 (Fighter) Squadron at RAF Horsham St Faiths (now Norwich International Airport) in 1958 as a young first tour pilot flying the Hawker Hunter.

He went with his squadron, the Tigers, to nearby RAF Coltishall in 1960. It had a longer 7,500ft runway to accommodate the new aircraft, the English Electric Lightning F1. Soon he became a member of the Tigers formation aerobatic team, which represented the RAF at the Farnborough and Paris air shows in the early 1960s.

A new RAF aerobatic team was formed with Lightnings and he was transferred to RAF Wattisham, Suffolk. In a low-level practice in June 1963 there was a collision involving two craft and he ejected.


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Although his parachute opened, he became tangled in some of the nylon lines and broke his spinal cord. He spent months at Stoke Mandeville spinal injury rehabilitation unit but never regained the use of his limbs.

Undaunted, he settled into civilian life. As a young man in a wheelchair, he started his own company, Wensum Agency Insurance Brokers. Despite total reliance on one finger touch typing, he created a leading east of England brokerage specialising in motor insurance.

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He married Patsy Cumming in 1960 and they had a son, Simon, born shortly after his accident. Both survive him.

After retirement the couple moved to Catton Hall, Old Catton, next to RAF Horsham St Faiths, and started another new and successful business - in property.

These successes were landmarks because, though the RAF and the RAF Benevolent Fund initially provided help, the excellent lifestyle they later enjoyed was due entirely to their own determination and hard work.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Margaret's Church, Old Catton, Norwich, at 2pm on Thursday.

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