Rodney Leigh

RODNEY George Leigh, who was a patient and gifted flying instructor and who taught the present generation of Royal Air Force pilots to fly, has died aged 67.

His kindness and patience were such that he would often be sent students who were struggling and he would get them through their course.

He was a dedicated and experienced pilot whose talent was flying training, and when he retired from the RAF as a flight lieutenant in 2002 he continued to instruct and pass on his knowledge to trainees by working in the flight simulator at RAF Linton on Ouse, near York.

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He was born in Ripon where his father George was serving with the army, but the family moved to Newcastle where Rod, as he was always known, spent most of his childhood and was educated at Rutherford High School.

From an early age, he was interested in aviation. Against his father’s wishes, he chose direct entry to the Royal Air Force instead of going to university.

Following his flying training he flew Shackletons on 210 Squadron at Ballykelly in Northern Ireland, and 205 Squadron at RAF Changi, in Singapore, where he met his future wife Pat. Her father was also serving there in the RAF. They married in 1969 and returned to the UK later that year.

He then served at St Mawgan, in Cornwall, and after converting to Nimrods served on 203 Squadron at RAF Luqa in Malta.

His next posting was a ground tour which, as a dedicated pilot he did not enjoy, but he was then fortunate to be posted to Central Flying School where he became a qualified flying instructor and showed his talent for training young pilots.

His skill was such that he even taught a sparrow to fly.

It was there in 1998 that he also achieved 10,000 hours flying a Tucano and two years later was awarded a “Good Show” for his flying skill and judgment. On take off in a Tucano a bird went into the engine, but he managed to land safely.

In 2001, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators awarded him their Master’s Commendation for his “outstanding and exceptionally long standing contribution to flying training in the Royal Air Force”.

At his funeral his coffin was carried by six pilots from RAF Linton on Ouse, and there was a fly past by a single Tucano from the base.

Flt Lt Leigh, who lived at Crayke, near Easingwold, is survived by his wife Pat, daughter Joanna, son Alex, and three grandchildren.