British amateur pilot, 72, attempting to fly the length of Africa in a vintage plane is found after going missing for a SECOND time

  • A British amateur pilot was taking part in a rally from Crete to Cape Town
  • Maurice Kirk from Somerset has left the main group of flyers vowing to beat them to Cape Town and was found in Juba, south Sudan
  • Organisers asked him to go home when he went missing on Tuesday
  • Several of the 40 flyers were held when their entry permits were cancelled mid-air 
  • The group were finally freed from the airport building were they were held  
Maurice Kirk went missing flying from Sudan to Ethiopia in a 1943 Piper Cub biplane

Maurice Kirk went missing flying from Sudan to Ethiopia in a 1943 Piper Cub biplane

A pensioner pilot went missing from a vintage plane rally across Africa for the second time in four days, and was found in south Sudan.  

Maverick amateur flyer Maurice Kirk, 72, left the main group of flyers in the Vintage Air Rally vowing to beat them to Cape Town, organisers said on Friday.

But in the early hours of this morning, they announced he was safe, having landed in south Sudan with a puncture.

According to the rally's Facebook page, he was found by locals who called a British person they knew in Juba who contacted the embassy.

The rally had arrived in Kenya on Friday night without any sign of Mr Kirk before hearing from the embassy.

Organisers posted a statement on the Vintage Air Rally Facebook page.

It said: 'The Rally has just arrived in Kenya after the Ethiopians managed to figure out where they, we and the Sudanese managed to mess up.

'For the second time in two flights, Maurice is a no show. We have launched (again) an overdue aircraft process (now Kenyan rather than Ethiopian).

'We suspect he was trying to fly directly to Nairobi but has run out of sunlight and landed somewhere.

'Next of kin have been informed, and an overdue aircraft procedure launched (second time in two flights) but whilst many of his piloting skills are very poor (rules and regulations to start), his ability to drop his cub into a small field for the night is impressive. We hope he is okay and will continue in the morning.

'He is no longer part of the rally, but we have of course been helping him with everything (fuel, accommodation, oil, permits, flight plans etc. etc.) until Kenya.

It was the second time in a week the pilot had gone missing from the rally, and organisers had asked him to go home when he went missing between Sudan and Ethiopia on Tuesday.   

The route Maurice Kirk intended to make from Crete to South Africa as part of the Vintage Air Rally

The route Maurice Kirk intended to make from Crete to South Africa as part of the Vintage Air Rally

A major search was organised amid fears he may have crashed before he arrived safely hours after the rest of the group in Gambela in Ethiopia.

It later emerged he hadn't had proper navigational equipment onboard, suffered two engine failures and was forced to make an emergency landing in Khartoum in Sudan.

Last night Vintage Air Rally organiser Sam Rutherford said he was concerned for Mr Kirk's safety after he took off on his own.

He said he believed the pensioner, who was a drinking friend of the late actor Oliver Reid, had again taken off without proper navigational aids in his 1943 Piper Cub plane.

Speaking from Gambela last night Mr Rutherford said: 'When Maurice went missing the first time there were genuine concerns he may have crashed.

'This time we are still concerned because he has told us he wants to beat the rest of the group to Cape Town.

'But as far as we know he still doesn't have the right navigational equipment onboard.

'This is not what the rally is about. We want everyone to arrive safely.'

Organisers had earlier asked Kirk to pull out of the race after he suffered two engine failures on Sunday

Organisers had earlier asked Kirk to pull out of the race after he suffered two engine failures on Sunday

He was once rescued after ditching in the Caribbean in an attempt to fly solo around the world in a 65-year-old plane in 2008.

He was once rescued after ditching in the Caribbean in an attempt to fly solo around the world in a 65-year-old plane in 2008.

Yesterday the 40-strong team of flyers were preparing to head from Gambela to Nairobi after Ethiopian official gave them the go ahead to continue.

They had been held at Gambela airport after a mix up over flight clearance paper work which took two days to clear up.

It appears Mr Kirk, who is regarded as a maverick figure in the flying world, has stolen a march on the rest of the group,

Mike Flynn, 65, a friend of Mr Kirk's and a fellow amateur flyer added: 'Anyone who knows Kirk knows he can be a loose cannon.

'But he is a good flyer and if he says he is going to beat the rest of the group to Cape Town, I for one wouldn't put it past him.'

Mr Kirk is taking part in the 8,000-mile trans Africa vintage plane rally with 14 other single-engined vintage planes.

The rally which is being sponsored by Puma Energy will raise money for UNICEF and Bird Life International and is attempting to cross the continent at low altitude.

Rutherford, a former helicopter pilot in the Army Air Corps, runs a logistics company Prepare2Go, which got the rally off the ground.

The teams plan to cross 10 countries, many beset by war and borderline famine, in a rally that will seek to recreate the 1931 Imperial Airways 'Africa Route'.

From Cairo, the first stop, the pilots have already flown over the Nile to Khartoum.

Two helicopters and six modern aircraft, carrying spares and equipment, are flying alongside.

Special fuel has been flown in to points along the route.

Mr Kirk is a controversial figure with a colourful past.

The flyer, who was once Oliver Reid's vet, was rescued after ditching in the Caribbean in an attempt to fly solo around the world in a 65-year-old plane in 2008.

He was found 75 miles from the Dominican Republic by US coastguards who tracked his 'life-saving' radio beacon.

Two months later he was arrested by Texas cops after landing near former president George Bush's ranch

Former serviceman Maurice Kirk, 71, from South Wales, a former drinking partner of actor Oliver Reed, was detained in Ethiopia

Former serviceman Maurice Kirk, 71, from South Wales, a former drinking partner of actor Oliver Reed, was detained in Ethiopia

Father-of-four Mr Kirk said he wanted to thank the President for the way US coastguards rescued him after his World War Two plane ditched in the shark-infested Caribbean in February.

Shortly before he set off for Africa he was arrested after driving his vintage aeroplane through a busy high street.

He spent a night in the cells and was charged with 'driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence' and 'using a motor vehicle without insurance' through Taunton town centre.

Onlookers said the 1943 Piper Cub aeroplane was on a trailer with the wings folded up and was holding up traffic.

Mr Kirk, who is also known as the Flying Vet was preparing to take part in the rally when he was arrested.

He appeared at Taunton Magistrates' Court on October 13 and is due to reappear before Taunton Magistrates at a future date.

Since 1995, he has had a string of court appearances including for hurling abuse at police while he tended to an injured dog on a beach and on another occasion for refusing to give a sample when stopped on suspicion of drink-driving.

He was kicked out of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for 'disgraceful conduct' in 2002 following his court cases. 

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