Published: 06:00, 16 September 2020
The Archbishop of Canterbury and singer Cliff Richard are among those to pay tribute to a Normandy Landings veteran and co-founder of the world’s largest humanitarian airline, who has died aged 98.
Former RAF Flight Lieutenant Stuart King passed away at his Folkestone home on Saturday, August 29.
This year marks 75 years since Mr King helped set up the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), which delivers life-saving supplies to remote parts of the world.
Through the charity, founded in 1945, he risked his life to land in locations never reached by air, believing that aircraft and technology could be used for good rather than destruction in the aftermath of the Second World War.
It was during one of his adventures he met wife Phyllis, a missionary working in Sudan in 1951. Phyllis passed away unexpectedly in 2003.
The couple leave behind three children, Rebecca, John and Priscilla, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren
Today, MAF, based in Castle Hill Avenue, operates 138 purpose-built light aircraft in over 26 countries, employs over 1,300 staff and partners with more than 2,000 humanitarian organisations, including UNICEF, World Health Organisation, the Red Cross and Tearfund.
Paying tribute to her father, Rebecca said: "Dad’s life motto was always to be the best man he could be in God in every season of his life.
"He strived to be the best bachelor, then the best husband, the best father and finally the best widower.
"He was always so determined and committed to MAF. He is an inspiration to us all."
Last year, Mr King received the Award of Honour from the Honourable Company of Air Pilots and joined Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and the Red Arrows on a list of inspiring people who have “used aviation to write history”.
He also released a book, Hope Has Wings, in which he details his full and varied life.
Sir Cliff Richard, who forwarded the book’s early publication and flew with MAF in the early 2000s, said: "Stuart King was there from MAF’s earliest beginnings.
"He shared its first exploratory flight into the heart of Africa, and experienced its triumphs, tragedies, joy and pain.
"MAF brings hope and help to people in extreme need and suffering. It is a vital story of faith - exciting yet humbling."
Lord Dannatt, former chief of the British Army also paid tribute: "If ever there was a man who was inspired to turn a visionary idea into a reality, it was Stuart King.
"Stuart started with one aircraft but has changed the lives of so many by his passion, leadership and conviction."
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who has flown with MAF in South Sudan and Uganda, added: "Stuart’s tremendous contribution to the founding of MAF has had a profound impact on the ministry of many people across the world and the Anglican Communion.
"I was saddened to hear of his death and I pray for Stuart’s family and the MAF staff at this time."
MAF will celebrate Stuart’s legacy at a virtual 75th anniversary event in November and is publishing a book, Above and Beyond, dedicated to him in October 2020.
For more information visit maf-uk.org .