So long, Richard Westgate

Richard with Jocky Sanderson at the 2011 North South Cup

Richard Westgate: 1969-2012

Few had it as bad as Richard.

It only took a sniff of a good forecast and he’d be off, gunning from his base in Wiltshire to the Long Mountain, the South Downs, Scotland… wherever it was on.

Richard was the UK’s most enthusiastic cross country pilot, by far. He was one of those people who was always looking right over the horizons of possibilities, and he pulled a lot of us along in his wake.

He inspired Mike Cavanagh and others to keep digging away at the unmined gold of Scotland and spring – and only now do we understand the country’s huge potential.

Richard was a numbers man – and his accolades include the Tandem World Distance Record (356.2 km), several XC League wins, the UK triangle record and of course his name at the top of the UK’s ‘100 club’.

His latest plan was to free-fly across the Channel. By thermalling up inside a huge towering cumulus over Kent, he hoped a strong north-westerly would see him over the sea to France.

I flew closely with Richard many times since we both joined the Nationals in 1994, and our last close XC together was in 2008. Richard flew his tandem like a sailplane – pushing deep cross-wind, carving huge circles, and never stopping for anything less than a 3-up. I tried to keep up with him at last year’s North South Cup – no chance.

We’re a tiny little club of nutty free flyers here on our ‘mud island’, as Helen Gant puts it, but that in no way reduces the appreciation many of us feel to Richard for showing us how it’s done – always with a grin on his face.

Thanks for leading out, Richard.

Hugh Miller

Richard lines up for a speed flying race at the 2011 North South Cup

Footnote: Richard, an airline pilot for British Airways, suffered acutely in the last 18 months from ‘Aerotoxic Syndrome‘. This is a little known condition brought about from toxic fumes from jet engines bleeding into the plane’s cabin. The Independent write about it here.

• Got news? Send it to us at


Share this:


6 Responses to “So long, Richard Westgate”

  1. December 13, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    This is a total shock.

    Richard was a sky god. He was also always willing to help us lesser pilots–even across the paraglider to hang glider divide–and he shared my wacky hangie sense of humor.

    I still cannot really believe he is gone.

  2. Phil Mackereth
    December 14, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    I just can’t believe it, lost for words. I am so sad you are no longer with us. Life if so unfair. It always takes the good people. Absolutely devastated! I first met Richard in 1996 when I started Marshalling for the British Championships. Richard was such a nice bloke and always took time out to say hello whenever I saw him. He had so much time for the marshals and was always quick to come forward with his thanks to us at the beginning, middle and end of every comp. You will be sorely missed mate, you touched so many people. See you amongst the clouds. Your spirit will soar with us forever.

  3. Barney Barnes
    December 16, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I just got the news about Richard’s untimely death. What a loss to UK paragliding. I haven’t seen him for ages, but whenever I wanted to fly anywhere in Dorset, it was Richard who I’d call. His knowledge of the weather conditions and XC potential was a gold mine that he’d happily let you tap into. And he was brave too.
    At the British Nationals in St Andre he showed real courage in flying the highly unpredictable Cult for the entire week in very challenging conditions, even though he’d had to throw his reserve on the second day. Other pilots, including me, abandoned the wing after similar experiences, but Richard hung in and saw the competition through to the end – impressive!
    Hugh Miller will remember this as he won the competition that year.

    That Richard went on to greater achievements didn’t surprise me, he was a great competitor and a talented pilot. My thoughts and condolences go to his friends and family.

  4. jack
    December 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Google Leonard Lawrence pilot.

  5. Anne
    March 26, 2013 at 10:42 pm #

    Google Leonard Lawrence pilot.
    Aerotoxic Association

    11th March 2013:
    The Earth Needs Rebels Radio Show ft. an interview with Len Lawrence (Ex-BAe Pilot) regarding Aerotoxic Syndrome (first aired on 8th March 2013 on Orion Talk Radio)

    The Abuse of Psychiatry in the Family Courts aided by Alistair Pitbaldo Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts and May Maughan Deputy Official Solicitor.

    Lord Chief Justice, The Lord Chancellor and Admiral Sir John Brigstocke Royal Navy Rtd

    It is not understood why the report by Admiral Sir John Brigstocke KCB Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman on Leonard Lawrence did not inform the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor of the following, detailed below, when following a request for help by Leonard Lawrence Richard Anelay QC Deputy High Court Family Judge, Richard Anelay took only a few days to establish that Leonard Lawrence had been a patient subject to Court of Protection.

    What is occurring

    1). Individuals are being certified in legal proceedings, like Leonard Lawrence, Lee Gilliland and Michelle Goldberg as lacking mental capacity to manage their property and affairs by unscrupulous General Practitioners and Psychiatrists without medicals, following applications by solicitors or barristers to District Judges in County Courts.

    2). The individual is then placed by the County Court under the jurisdiction of the Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts, presently Alistair Pitbaldo and the Deputy Official Solicitor May Maughan.

    3). Medical certificates of mental incapacity have no serial numbers and are ready obtainable from various sources, accordingly when issued they cannot be readily tracked. In the Leonard Lawrence case their existence was denied by Helen Clift from the Official Solicitors office to Slough County Court until after Leonard Lawrence signature was, on the instructions of Helen Clift, gained on public funding forms by Sarah Benfield Ratcliffe, Duce & Gammer Solicitors, thus avoiding an application to the Court of Protection. Legal Aid was issued by the legal department, Legal Services Commission, knowing that Leonard Lawrence was a patient subject to the Court of Protection and was ineligible to public funding by more than Three Hundred Thousand Pounds.

    4). The Official Solicitor does not notify the protected parties’ status to the Department of Work and Pensions, or to the Department of Health, so no record appears on the patients National Insurance Number or National Health Service records. There is no requirement to notify the Land Registry of a persons protected status thus allowing the easy disposal of any property that a protected party may have an interest in. As demonstrated by Dominic Brazil 1 Kings Bench Walk.

    5). By not notifying the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection Alistair Pitbaldo Official Solicitor and May Maughan Deputy Official Solicitor can then make the medical and financial decision, substantially reducing the number of applications to the Court of Protection and achieving an expeditious turnaround of cases in the County Courts.

    6). His Honour Judge Simon Oliver in April 2012 considered the Court of Protection as simply a rubber stamping process who’s authority is routinely exercised by non-authorized District Judges. Dominic Brazil 1 Kings Bench Walk having identified that Leonard Lawrence was a patient and subject to the Court of Protection submitted that financial decision is what the Official Solicior undertakes, not the Court of Protection. Official Solicitors files do not support Mr. Brazil view.

    7). HHJ Simon Oliver has available to him a transcript where Ratcliff Duce & Gammer Solicitors alerted District Judge Susanna Jones that she did not have jurisdiction over Leonard Lawrence and that it was necessary to invoke the authority of the Court of Protection. District Judge Jones disregarded this warning and continued to act. District Judge Jones subsequently wrote to the Circuit Judges at Reading County Court denying having conducted any hearings in the Leonard Lawrence case following her disqualification from the case. A search by Her Honour Judge Ann Campbell at Slough County Court established five court hearings District Judge Jones conducted after her disqualification from the case. Both HHJ Campbell and HHJ Elly subsequently made orders disqualifying District Judge Jones.

    8). His Honour Judge Simon Oliver stated in April 2012 that he did not know whether he had jurisdiction in the Leonard Lawrence case. The Court of Protection promptly identified that HHJ Simon Oliver does not hold a Court of Protection authority. The Official Solicitors files identifies the appropriate orders were never sought from the Court of Protection.

    9). Simpson Millar LLP Solicitors refused to disclose Leonard Lawrence medical files to the Court of Protection, defying the instructions of Senior District Judge Waller, Principle Registry of the Family Division. Following an open email to Simpson Millar LLP in December 2012, copied to detectives from four police forces, Simpson Millar LLP immediately disclosed eight medical files on Leonard Lawrence including Court of Protection Medical Certificates CP3’s

    10). The power to remove Alistair Pitbaldo Official Solicitor and May Maughan Deputy Official Solicitor from their office on account of misbehavior, or on account of inability to perform the duties of their office, may be excised by the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling, with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice.

  6. Leonard Lawrence Pilot
    April 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

    Leonard Lawrence Pilot

    Richard Westgate. He was determined to stop the poisoning of others

    Wish some others showed as much determination

    For your interest these are extracts from some of his last emails beginning on 25th October 2012.

    Makes some pretty distressing reading given what happened later.

    25th October 2012

    I am a British Airways pilot suffering from 15 years of exposure to neurotoxic organo phosphates. If you have the time, I would like to talk to you regarding your experiences to avoid duplicating work and to avoid potential pitfalls.

    Many thanks for the reply.
    Unfortunately, it was their attempt to get my brain working with Quetiapine that killed me, shut down my endocrine system and released so many toxins that my liver and kidney function stopped. When I asked for the ‘antidote’ it all went very quite. I was literally sent home to die with pain killers. At least I now know why!

    My days are numbered

    I am personally comfortable in the knowledge that ‘they know what we know and we know that they know what we know’. I am interested in genetically testing and protecting my family, nephews, god children and friends; then any future pilots (include it in the initial first class medical) and my colleagues still flying.

    If a simple genetic test can prevent a huge amount of suffering in the future then it should be available to anyone.

    When I came here I knew I didn’t have long to live. I was sent home to die with pain killers by my GP. That was confirmed by one of the specialists here who said I didn’t like to tell you but…I said, why do you think I’m here! Unfortunately, when you know you know. Brain ends up on the wrong side of the drag curve. I had already said goodbye to my family.The brain has a hyrarchy of energy management and preserves as much energy as it can for itself. When it can’t even get enough energy to supply itself, it dies. Brain cells cannot survive in an anoxic environment. Toxicity and apnea have resulted in severe apoptosis with limited functioning and extreme pain.

    With the time I have left, I am determined to protect my friends and family. A couple of pilot friends have already been out to be genetically tested. At least they are taking me seriously.

    If I can put my name to a bill which puts genetic testing in the first class medical then my job is done!
    The CAA have admitted that every pilot has TCP in their bodies but if they ‘eat well and can detoxify then it isn’t a problem’. The legal argument is that genetically some pilots can’t detoxify at all and therefore are in danger of bio accumulation and a toxic injury.

    I want to see all pilots DNA tested to ensure that they are long term fit to fly.


    There are already pilots who have demonstrated that they have high levels if TCP in their bodies and the airlines have admitted that the only place that it could have come from was the work place environment but because they could not prove exact time and date of exposure, the action failed.

    I liken this to Asbestos claims in the 20′s. Now mesothelioma is a recognised industrial disease and just by having the disease it proves exposure and claimants can seek compensation without proving causation. I hope that OP poisoning follows the same path.

    you are more than helpful thank you. Unfortunately I have spent months formulating legal arguments based on the very premesis which you have already tried. My cholinesterase is also low and will not recover despite 5 months of treatment. I thought that would be a great card in the back pocket. I quite agree with the Bio Accumulation argument. How the hell do we bust this wide open? I do not want to see anymore 25 year old pilots who can’t feel their hands and feet!

    For the first time in my life, I am beginning to wish very bad things on a few people at the top! How the hell do we proceed?

    I met a BALPA rep in Amsterdam last week. He had been involved in air quality tests on the BAE146, a known bad polluter. BALPA came to the conclusion that there was no real issue. Half way through the day, he said Í can’t really feel my hands and feet…but that’s normal isn’t it. I looked at him in disbelief and said ‘no it isn’t mate!’, then he said ‘and the wife always says that I have problems with my short term memory’

    …mmmm… quote Black Adder, ‘The Lord does work in very mysterious ways these days. i prefer ‘You can’t escape to the Planet Janet’. [this is a phrase I said was used by Joanna who helped develop OPs for ICI but despite her knowledge was poisoned later]

Leave a Reply

Travel Guide: Suggestions

Guide to Bright, Australia

Guide to Bright, Australia

Banish the northern winter blues and give your year the perfect kickstart at one of Australia's best and most accessible flying sites Read >>

Guide to Tenerife, Spain

Guide to Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife is the perfect winter get-away from a winter in northern Europe – take the family and your wing Read >>

Guide to Traslasierra, Argentina

Guide to Traslasierra, Argentina

Fly Argentina’s magical valley with a condor at your wingtip. This is where Argentina brings its family to relax – from wine tours to horse riding to kayaking to gorge walking, it’s all here. Read >>