Nigel Brendish

Nigel Brendish

Founder and Director of Harvest Air from 1974 to 1987

As the old adage goes…”There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are few old bold pilots” and without a shadow of a doubt, this rang true in the case of Nigel Brendish who was most certainly one of Southend’s most lively and charismatic characters. Born in 1949, he became involved with aviation from quite a young age and went on to start Southend based Harvest Air in his mid-20s. He also made quite a name for himself as a stunt pilot at numerous air shows and in a few film productions which included the 1981 James Bond film ‘For Your Eyes Only’ where he would summarily ‘strafe’ a yacht in a ‘machine gun equipped’ float plane.

Brendish letter

However, Nigel’s crowning moment came on July 25th 1981 (the 75th anniversary of Bleriot’s crossing of the Channel) when he carried out a flight across the water in typical Brendish style. He would fly his modified Chipmunk G-IDDY known as the ‘Mighty Monk’ to France inverted in aid of a charity that was close to his heart, namely Muscular Dystrophy. This stunt gained international attention with even the likes of Prince Phillip penning a letter to Nigel wishing him success with his endeavour. Needless to say, everything went as planned with Nigel arriving back at SEN quite naturally inverted.

Nigel Brendish Chipmunk

Aircraft building was yet another pursuit that Nigel would engage in, having constructed the Brendish Cassutt Racer (G-RUNT) which he began putting together in 1983. His love of aeronautical japes was quite legendary on the airfield too as one tale related by Jamie Popplewell confirms only too well Nigel Brendish was building a Fokker Triplane while I was working there, complete with gas operated machine guns, all looked very real. Early morning air test… Finals on 06 with the old road close to the threshold… Unigate milk float passing on the road… You get the picture… Nigel opened up the guns straight at the float, the milkman leapt out of the cab, no doubt thinking that this was his final milk round.”

Sadly though, as often seems to be the case with aviation’s most daring pilots, he would tragically lose his life on September 25th 1987 at the age of only 37. Having departed Southend for Ipswich, the Cessna 150 aircraft (G-XUSA) that he was travelling in was later seen performing aerobatics over a field near Tollesbury when during a low loop, it inadvertently hit the ground seriously damaging its undercarriage before flipping over onto its back and impacting the ground inverted and in a slightly nose down attitude. As a consequence of this tragedy, Harvest Air was left without an owner and would eventually end up being absorbed into Regionair.


Many thanks to:

Robin J. Pinnock & Paul Cole for the newspaper articles and

Marc Wilmott for the charity letter


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