Gordon Baxter died yesterday. He was 81.
I don’t think Gordon Baxter will mean much to most of you, but he was a radio personality (and I do mean “personality” – not a personality-free meat puppet or a screaming idealogue which as what they mean now when they use that term) and writer. And to me, he was the epitome of what it meant to be a pilot.
When I started to fly, I subscribed to a load of flying magazines, including the iconic “Flying”. They’d all arrive about the same time, but before I started on any of them I’d turn to the back of “Flying” and read “The Bax Seat”, Gordon Baxter’s column. One of the first one I read was about how he’d had to surrender his medical and couldn’t fly solo any more. Many of his later ones were about flights taken with kind friends who would be Pilot In Command but let him take the yoke or the stick for old times sake. Many of his articles made me cry.
He didn’t write much about the gory and mundane details of flying, weather, regulations, airspace, or the machines (although he loved his Mooney). Flying for him was about being in the company of people who you love like your best friend on first meeting because they share your love for flying. It was about the places he went and the people he met. And he wrote about it in an easy effortless manner that many have tried and failed to emulate – because it was obvious that they were trying, while “Bax” didn’t have to try, he just wrote.
A few years ago one of the Flying editors said that Bax was too sick to write any more, and they started running some of his best old columns in the magazine. Then they wrote how overwhelmed Bax was by the outpouring of love from people who’d never met him.
I never met Bax, and yet I feel his loss.
Blue skies, Bax.