Obituary- South Africa has lost one of its greatest pilots.

General Des Barker had an extraordinarily successful career in the SAAF. He followed that up by becoming the world expert on air show crashes. He wrote the standard text, Zero Error Margin, and his recently released major reference work “Anatomy of Air Show Accidents”.

Des Barker was a pilot and leader of supreme capability. After flying Mirages, he became a test pilot flying extremely hazardous test missions, such as launching missiles at twice the speed of sound. Des Barker was a man of great accomplishment, yet he always had time to put something back into general aviation. He was a speaker in much demand, and I am honoured to have had him write a series of columns for SA Flyer.

Dr Guy Leitch – Editor SAFlyer

It is with a heavy heart that I write to you on this sombre Wednesday afternoon with tragic news of the passing away of Major General Desmond Barker. From the news received, General Barker and Colonel Rama Iyer both lost their lives in a crash of the Patchen Explorer, a South African Air Force Museum aircraft. The news has been reported by Defenceweb and other news streams earlier today.

He joined the Defence, Peace, Safety and Security Management Team as Aeronautics Competency Area Manager in 2008, after retiring from the South African Air Force. His career was nothing short of illustrious and distinguished. He flew 82 operational sorties in the ground attack and photo reconnaissance missions. During his career he was deputy of 12 Squadron, Chief Test Pilot, Officer Commanding of the Test Flight and Development Centre in the Cape, served 3 years as the Air Attache in London and General Officer Commanding of Air Force Base Makhado responsible for integration of HAWK and GRIPEN into the SAAF inventory. He wrote more than 70 articles in various publications on flight test and air news and received more than 25 awards, medals and certificates during his career between the CSIR and the Air Force. Most recently, he was awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the prestigious Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS). There are only two South Africans and approximately 200 worldwide recipients that have ever received this honour in the 100 year tradition of the Society. He led the Aeronautics area for 5 years between 2008 and 2013 and was Acting Director for the DPSS Unit between 2014 and 2015.

For some of us he was a manager and exemplary leader, to others a technical expert on flight test and decorated military officer, but for most of us he was simply a good human being. He insisted on being called Des. Sadly, I never caught the habit and always addressed him as “General”. He always had a story to tell and “never walked away from a combat assignment”. Many of us are reeling from the shock of this news, feeling that it was a life cut short by tragic circumstances. Our deepest condolences go to his wife and family. Please join me in observing a moments silence in his memory wherever you may be

Rest In Peace General !

Kaven (Acting D&S Cluster Manager
Division Operations Manager)


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