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I attended Captain Dick Holt's funeral on the 15 May 2000 and would like to share some of my thoughts about him.
Richard Tweedy Holt retired from Ansett Airlines on 29 November 1978 on his 60th birthday, five days before I joined Ansett, so our paths never actually crossed. Following the Australian Pilots Dispute of 1989, I wrote a paper documenting the history of the Dispute and in the course of research for that document I travelled to the Gold Coast, Queensland in late 1993 to meet Dick in an endeavour to gain an understanding of the history of the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP) and why the organisation and its membership had performed so well during the Dispute in the face of such extreme tactics used against them. In my opinion, the answer to this question lies squarely at the feet of Dick Holt and the legacy he left Australian pilots.
I spent two days with Dick and wife, Bunchy, sharing stories and their gracious hospitality. In the course of those two days I came to realise Dick Holt was an extraordinary human being who displayed a dignity and strength of character that is very rare in humans. It came as no surprise to me that Dick would spend $100,000 of his own money to place an open letter to the Australian people in all the major Australian newspapers early in the Dispute, despite the fact he had retired 10 years earlier and was not a wealthy man. The Pilots Federation was as strong as it was almost entirely because of his tireless efforts over a lifetime of building up the organisation and the example of selfless purpose he set for others. (Dick served 7 terms as President of the Federation) Dick of course, would not agree with that sentiment; as he told me frequently during the course of those two days, the Federation was a result of the efforts of many fine people. Whilst that is no doubt true, Dick's leadership and ethics were undoubtedly the glue that bound Australian pilots together.
For me personally, the events of 1989 and Dicks' Valedictory Address of 1978 - reprinted during the course of the Pilots Dispute - succinctly defined the profession of pilot and in the process transformed me into a professional pilot. Below is a short excerpt from that address defining the role of pilot.
"Through his seat at the front of the aircraft flow the efforts of thousands of people who provide the means by which he carries out his task. However, it is an undeniable fact that:
Dick's own flying career exemplified his discourse. On his first flight as Captain on the DC9 Dick was forced to shutdown an engine in flight. On his first flight as a Captain on the B727, Dick experienced an engine failure on rotation out of Sydney.
It is clear to me Dick had remarkable sense of justice and fair play and this is reflected in the democratic structure of the Pilots' Federation. He also had a very good understanding of human nature which is what made him so effective. Rare amongst humans, he bore his detractors and those who attempted to destroy his life's work no rancor. As he said of those who through their actions so damaged the Pilots Federation, their profession and the careers of their former colleagues; "their alleged character weaknesses are in us all to a certain extent and we have no right to judge them; our job is to live by our own personal ethics and ideals and not impose those ideals on others." Dick's definition of ethical behaviour was simple: "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself."
It also became clear to me Dick was a pilot's pilot. He had a boyish love of flying, something I warmly related to. If I have one regret in this life, it is that I never had the opportunity to share a cockpit with this great man. I felt extremely privileged to have spent some time with him all those years ago.
Dick's funeral was attended by a significant number of former colleagues from Ansett and Australian Airlines who had travelled from all over the world to attend. The funeral was also attended by a number of pilots who had returned to work during the Pilots Dispute a decade earlier and their presence served to remind me of how highly regarded Dick was by pilots. I personally experienced a great sense of loss and grief during the funeral, not just at Dick's passing, but also at the destruction of so much that he had built up over his lifetime associated with the outcome of the Pilots' Dispute.
The following passage was read out at the funeral and for some reason it brought forth a wellspring of grief within me, perhaps something to do with the temporal nature of life in this realm and the passing of someone significant. I wept as it was being read at the funeral.
Richard Tweedy Holt was a larger than life figure and will be missed by 58 members of his immediate family.
I mourn his passing deeply.
Alex Paterson (July 2000)
Copyright © Alex Paterson 1999
Alex PATERSON is an Australian airline pilot by profession. He writes articles and advises on issues pertaining to aviation, politics, sociology, the environment, sustainable farming, history, computers, natural health therapies and spirituality.
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The document, 'Eulogy to Captain Richard Tweedy Holt' is the copyright © of the author, Alex Paterson. All rights reserved by the author. Not withstanding this, the document may be reproduced and disseminated without the express permission of the author so long as reference to the author is made, no alterations are made to the document and no money is charged for it.
Additional keywords: R.T. Holt, RT Holt, Australian Federation of Air Pilots, AFAP, aviation safety, aircraft safety
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