Hugh Miller remembers a friend
Oh Innes. You were always ticking people off for not doing up their helmet straps, turning the wrong way, and other misdemeanours. As a comp safety officer in the 90s, you watched Guy Anderson recover from a collapse which saw his helmet get plucked from his head. Instead of congratulating him on his flying, you ordered him to land for flying without a helmet!
Now you. You’re gone. With another pilot, Igor, too. It’s way too early to make sense of. For all of us in Macedonia. Craig Morgan has been left in bits. Guy Anderson, Russ Ogden, Alex Coltman, Kirsty Cameron and plenty more too. It was the worst worst worst possible way for a week to end. A stomach blow to the UK flying community. We’re all reeling.
The event meet director, Goran Dimiskovski, was just incredible, the way he brought us all together on Friday night. Professional and humane. An utterly tough act. He shared the specifics of what had happened with your mid-air and bared his personal anguish that these accidents still happen despite being a meet director for over 10 years. Then we all slowly left. Craig and Charles are still with you, bringing you home when they can. There’ll be a lot of people at your funeral, that’s for sure.
What else to say. No idea. That week up to Friday was just the best week of flying ever, utterly safe, with no incidents at all, just wide-grinned racing with old and new friends. We’d both come back to comps after years away to rediscover old joys. On the goal bus home one day, Craig and I reflected on how alive it makes us feel. You said something early on in the comp, about how you came to these weeks away not really for the flying but for the camaraderie, the spirit of it all, and I hope you at least had a blinding last week of that with those pilots you felt closest too. I know I wasn’t among that number, but Russ told me how much he felt privileged to have spent a last evening together with you, chatting away till late.
You flew a storm in your early comps, placing in the top 3 regularly and earning a spot on the British team. You had many close friends at Airwave, on the Isle of Wight, and then Dartmoor, when you moved south-west. Dave Morris recounts tales of you trailblazing new XC routes followed by monster retrieves and even bigger pub sessions.
Innes I didn’t know you as well as many others did but I know you stood up for others and what you thought was right, and often you didn’t back down – as many found out. Perhaps sometimes your judgement went awry after a jar or two. But who couldn’t laugh with a man, who, stopped on his bike by a policeman for riding without lights, could enquire, “how can you help me, officer?”
Bob Drury describes you as ‘the king of banter’ and despite your tough exterior I know you were more honest than most about your vulnerabilities and difficulties. You had an instinct for recognising those in others too, including me, and I’ll never forget your early words of support.
I wonder what your advice would be to others now?
“Chin up, mate, keep smiling”… said in your broad Brummie accent, perhaps?
So long, Innes.
Hugh Miller is publisher of Cross Country Magazine
A fund-raising campaign has now been set up by pilots to raise money for Innes’s funeral, and other costs
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