Former Head of GA at the CAA passes away

Former Head of GA at the CAA, Mr Rufus Heald MBE, has passed away at the age of 97.

“It is with considerable sadness I write to inform you that my father Rufus passed away last Thursday afternoon” announced Nigel, Rufus’ son, a sentiment many who knew him shared. Echoed across the Flyer and PPrune forums, well-wishers gathered to offer recollections, anecdotes and messages of remembrance for “a long life well lived” – and an aviation career comprising numerous military and civilian appointments.

Mr Rufus Heald (14 July 2025 – 1 December 2022) first joined the RAF in 1942, aged 17, and trained in Rhodesia under the Empire Flying Scheme. After completing a Spitfire OCU course in the UK, he flew the Hawker Tempest with 20 Squadron and 213 Squadron (in India and the Middle East respectively) before learning to fly the de Havilland Vampire at RAF Driffield; a type to pose problems when, in 1951, Mr Heald successfully force-landed an FB.5 into a field in Kai Tak, Hong Kong. In 1957, Mr Heald was also forced to eject (alongside his student) from a stricken T.11 over Anglesey; becoming the fifty-seventh member of the ‘Martin-Baker tie club’.

Subsequent RAF postings saw Mr Heald becoming Station Adjutant at RAF Wildenwrath for three years before returning to an instructors’ role at the RAF College of Air Warfare. During a stint at MoD Whitehall, he wrote a monthly article for ‘Air Clues’ magazine under the name ‘Wing Commander Spry’; an aptitude with a pen that would continue long into civilian life with subsequent work for ‘Flyer’ and other publications.

Mr Heald’s final military posting (1973-1980) saw him take up the position of Combat Survival and Rescue Officer at the RAF School of Combat Survival and Rescue at RAF Mountbatten. Here, his main duties involved testing and reporting on all new survival equipment and procedures prior to their adoption into the three services; work for which he received an MBE in 1978.

After retiring from the RAF in 1980 aged 55, Mr Heald became Chief Instructor of various flying schools and continued to teach until 2008, aged 83. During this time he also worked as the Civil Aviation Authority Operations Officer in Flight Crew Licensing, specializing in the approval of FTOs, alongside special responsibilities for flight safety.

Reminiscing on his father’s career, Nigel notes “some 15,279 hours flying some of the world’s most iconic types”; an aspiration many aviators would aspire to.

Author: FTN Editor

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