Don Burgess (1933-2014)

Don hailed originally from Worthing, Sussex and came to the Midlands from his home in Croydon sometime in the early1980’s to set up an office for Nachi Bearings.  He joined the South Birmingham MFC after being a member of the Three Kings Model Flying Club near Croydon with Wal Cordwell and son Brian.

 Don’s main interests were control line speed and team racing.

His friends at that time were Dick Roberts, Mike Egerton, Paul Eisner and Tony Goodger, Tony’s association with Don lasted for some time, with them attending many speed and team race events around the South East, with Don being chauffeured by Tony as his only transport at that time was an old Norton motorcycle. He also recruited Paul Eisner to join them.

Tony Goodger related an incident while being Don’s pit man for a team race event, he forgot to activate the release catch on the dolly for take off after refuelling, which meant that more than a few laps were flown with the dolly attached. The dolly used, was made by Don and nicknamed the Forth bridge having been so strongly constructed. In another team race pit stop due to confusion with starting the engine, because Don was left handed, both the plane and the dolly crashed into Dons’ tool box causing further amusement to all around because it “exploded” scattering all of the contents across the flying field.       

In 1989 he looked after the great George Aldridge from San Antonio (designer of the Nobler and the Peacemaker) when he visited the UK . Driving him to Scotland to see the Blacksmiths Forge at Gretna Green where George and his wife Julie “re-married” over the traditional anvil; also to meet Iain Ward, and then back to Barkston Heath for the National champs of that year. It is no secret that Don complained of being shattered for days after what turned out to be over 2000 miles of driving in less than three weeks.

Don became friendly with George after meeting him in America. A trip Don managed to organise with expenses paid, after a visit to his employer, Nachi Bearings HQ in Japan.

McCoy engines were Don’s favourites and he had a sizeable collection of them. George however, gave him two Fox .29 engines he especially tuned for him, (tuning Fox engines was one of George’s enterprises at the time.)

Don married Tokiko from Japan in November 1990. They lived in Sutton Coldfield where Don continued with his aero-modelling interests until his sight began to fail. He still continued to come to the Friday club nights when Greg Miller could collect him.   

All of us in the SBMFC were greatly impressed with the quality of build and finish of Don’s models which were pristine and given a glass like shine.

Don was a great aeromodeller and engineer, with a deep knowledge of model aircraft and always helpful to new members. He passed away on 13/1/2014

I leave you with the words of one of our members and a good friend of Don –

Raconteur, A gentleman, civilised, well travelled, and very lucky to survive all the noxious chemicals he used in the fuel for his engines during his team racing days!


Don leaves his widow Tokiko.

He will be sadly missed and much remembered.


Tony Field,   

South Birmingham Model Flying Club