It is with deep regret that the organisers of the Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) Shoreham Airshow announce the passing of its organiser Don Bean MBE following a recent illness at the age of 80.
In the year 2000 Don was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his tireless work for the Association. He founded the Shoreham Airshow 23 years ago following a small fete that was held to the East of the Airfield. The rest is history with donations made to RAFA of over 1.7 million pounds.
Don would have been the first to admit that it was a team effort. A firm handshake followed by a pat on the back was his way of saying thank you sometimes followed by a pint in the Airport Terminal Bar. Don was a modest man who worked hard to make the airshow what it is now – one of the best in the UK and respected by the aviation industry.
His efforts did not stop there. He in 1986 provided the Standard for Shoreham Branch RAFA. Later he became a Founder Member of the Friends of Sussex Down which was the RAFA residential home at Storrington in West Sussex. Several concerts were organised by Don to raise funds for Sussex Down with guests including the late Max Bygraves and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. Dame Vera Lynn became a close friend supporting his efforts on many occasions.
The word ‘Yes’ was replaced more with the comment ‘I Am Sure You Can Do Better’ when it came to negotiating prices for flying displays and the many others items associated in running such a large event. He had retained his selling skills from running his own company!
Don had no fear when it came to talking to a member of the Royal Family or a senior officer at MOD. The word ‘No’ did not exist when it came to getting a specific aircraft to Shoreham. He had a list of private phone numbers that got him to the highest places as well as some of the aircrew dispatch desks.
Don served his National Service in the RAF from 1950 – 1953 working mainly in Air Traffic. Following this he became an apprentice Glazier specialising in leaded light. He then founded Lancing Glassworks which he ran until his retirement.
He was a member of Old Steine Masonic Lodge, where his charitable interests developed, and was an ardent Brighton and Hove Albion supporter.
He was dedicated to his wife Anne who supported him through rough and smooth. The worries regarding the Airshow were tenfold and many restless and late nights were spent at their home sharing their concerns. The logistics involved were vast when it came to costings and planning the flying schedules. The worries prior to the airshow turned to smiles once it was over.
Most airshows have a fully paid staff and are there to make a profit. Don made sure his profits went to RAFA. The highest amount given in one year was just over £165,000 – an achievement no other airshow world wide has done for this charity. In 2012 it cost just over £340,000 to run the airshow! The first show made £1,800 – what an achievement!
‘True Grit and Determination’ made Don the man he was. He was respected by those that knew him. The word ‘Thank You’ was at the top of his list. He gave help to others when needed and was a loyal ‘friend’ to many.
The Airshow will carry on and it will be a fitting tribute to Don as well as the late Peter Eager who passed away earlier this year.
Acting Airshow Organiser Derek Harber said, “It is not easy to put into words how we feel about this sad loss other than to say; he will be remembered with the respect he truly deserved. The office at Shoreham Airport will not be the same without his smiling face and his laughter. He was a man dedicated to his love of aviation which grew from humble beginnings. Shoreham Airport is steeped in history and Don’s memory will be linked to this for others in the future to see.”
Don leaves his wife Anne, 2 daughters, a step son and step daughter, 10 grandchildren and one great granddaughter.