As time passes by, one begins to realize the impact of aging. Several years ago, when it was not as important as today, I noted that there would be a mad rush to the heavens at some point. I felt it was a mathematical thing. When an industry has an aging population, at some point, the death rate increases significantly.
For instance, if you know of several hundred ag pilots personally and you surmise that within a given number of years, say twenty years, for example, for every hundred ag pilots, a minimum of five must pass each year. In reality, that number is exponentially higher. Note for every hundred, even more annually at some point should you know 500 or more, and I do.
This thinking came home to roost on May 5. A longtime friend of mine passed and in an odd way. Dudley Beek of Jamaica was killed in an Ercoupe of all things. Dudley had over 28,000 hours in 47 years of ag-flying. He flew for the Jamaican military, too. However, when an engine quits, the outcome is not always favorable. That was the case with Dudley. The Ercoupe ended up in the trees, then fell nose-first to the ground.
At the time, Dudley was teaching a young gentleman how to fly. When the engine failed, Dudley made several attempts to restart it. When the engine would not start, he took over the controls from his friend and made the most of a bad situation. The passenger escaped with only a few bruises. Such was not the case with Dudley.
Dudley helped extract his passenger and started making calls for a rescue. Then, quietly he laid back and closed his eyes for the last time.
I have known Dudley for over 25 years. I visited him in Jamaica three times, and he visited me at least once during those years. The first time my wife and I flew our V-35B Bonanza to his beautiful home in St. Mary in the late 1990s. In the years following Pat Kornegay (Texas), Ret Orsmond (South Africa), Dudley and I made a quasi-illegal trip to Cuba. The last time I visited Dudley, he, Nigel, his son, and I flew his MU2 to St. Lucia and several islands in between, including another stop in Cuba. I have a lot of fond memories of the man.
In Dudley’s passing, he was honored by several aviation entities in Jamaica. These included the Airports Authority of Jamaica, Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority and Aeronautical Telecommunications, LTD. when he was recognized and celebrated for his “54 years of sterling service in the aviation industry.” For this, he was awarded the Aviation Trailblazer Award on the International Civil Aviation Day in December 2019.
Formally known as Major Dudley Beek, Ret’d, we ag-guys knew him simply as “Dud” or Dudley. May you rest in peace, my friend.