Paul Stephen Burnham
27th June 1977 - 1st April 2009

Paul in a Puma Paul in the garden.
This site is dedicated to the memory of Captain Paul Burnham.

Paul was the Captain of Bond 85N which crashed in the North Sea off Peterhead, near Aberdeen in the afternoon of 1st April 2009.

Paul was my friend, my former student and all round good bloke.

He is survived by his mother, brother, girlfriend and countless friends.

He idolised his mother having lost his father during his teenage years and never missed an opportunity to dote upon her (using her as a taxi service at throwing out time was also not unheard of).

He has always wanted to follow up on his fathers aviation connection to the Fleet Air Arm, and decided to become a helicopter pilot after leaving his job as a financial adviser in London and selling up to start his flying training.

Flying the early days.

Paul had been flying helicopters since the 1st September 2003 when he did his first trip in a Hughes 300 with me at Biggin Hill, we flew a few hours together and became good friends and drinking buddies. He completed most of his flying training with Simon Maynard and Paul Newman in the next 4 months and by January 2004 was more than ready for his test, which he passed without any trouble.

He spent most of 2004 hour building and passed his ATPL exams during the same year, he completed his CPL skill test with Rod Wood in February 2005 in a Jetranger.

He continued hour building and would come and position some of our Public Transport jobs on the Jetranger and Longranger at every opportunity, once he had the required hours he headed to Sterling Helicopters at Norwich and completed a flying instructor course under the watchful eye of Captain Roy Bayliss.

The next few months were spent as a flying instructor and line pilot for Biggin Hill Helicopters and in late 2005 he was offered a job with Bond Offshore Helicopters flying the Super Puma as a co-pilot.

The North Sea

Paul trained on the EC-135 at Gloucester and then began his instrument rating training he passed that in March 2006, I still have the text message on my phone, it reads
'Passed off to get very drunk'
A short spell in France in the simulator followed along with some company training and soon afterwards he was Super Puma type rated and flying the line as a co-pilot.

He loved the job but didn't particularly like being up there and desperately wanted to come further South and be near his family and friends. He made some good friends up there and that coupled with the mention of a captaincy seemed to tempt him into staying.

He was selected (more like he was groomed) for a command upgrade over the next few years and began training for that in early 2008, he passed his line check as a captain on 18th August 2008 , less than five years since he started flying to North Sea captain. He did his first trip as a captain the next day.

Winter 2009

He had not long converted to the EC-225 when the first Bond crash happened on 18th February 2009, when I found out my heart was in my mouth and I was so relieved to hear Paul answer the phone, I blurted out something daft like 'So it's not you then !' he realised what I meant straight away and after I told him what I knew he set about finding out how his colleagues were, I could tell he was shocked and genuinely concerned for their well being.

Over the next few weeks we spoke a lot on the phone about the plans for 'Helicopter Safety' in the coming year, the Cougar S92 crash in Canada, and the EC-225 accident, we were both due in the Dunker the same week and my complete lack of swimming ability got a good ribbing.

That fateful day

I was at my desk when I found out about another helicopter crash near Aberdeen and made an almost nonchalant call to Paul after all we had been here 6 weeks before and everything was ok, and I subconciously expected it to be once again. There was a ring tone, but there was no answer, never mind he's probably out flying I'll speak to him later I thought. Well later came and went, I went flying and came back and tried again, this time there was no ring tone. Then my phone rang it was a mate with the bad new, it was indeed Paul's helicopter that was involved. At that time 8 dead, 8 missing things were not looking good, the weather was perfect and there was still no sign of survivors.

The next few days became a blur for all of us, his family being down South meant they were particularly isolated from everything at the beginning.

Paul's Funeral was held at the end of April and we reckon about 150 people turned up, some from Scotland, many from his pre-flying days and a group of us from the 'Biggin Hill' days. A few of us spoke at the service, certainly one of the hardest things I've ever done and I know the others felt the same.

The future

It was decided shortly after the accident to dedicate this site, and indeed the helicopter safety UK initiative in Paul's honour and after discussing it with his mum and his brother they both thought it a fitting tribute.

Gary Spender
September 2009