Derek is a 14000 hour Pilot and father of Nigel, one of our display pilots, and working for South African Airways
I’m Mad about kids. When I did a medevac …. kids took prerference … even at night with no landing lights, I made a plan to get in and take them to hospital…. I almost got locked up in Livingston, Zambia because I refused to land there before going to fetch a little girl who had been bitten by a snake. This was at 2am in the morning. When I landed in Livingstone the whole of the Army was waiting for me.I said just look at the child and who was going to tell me? U going to stop me getting her to JHB? They let me go.
The next day after I landed in Joburg the Chief of the Zambian Air Force called Derek personally to ask about the wellbeing of the child bitten by a snake…
Derek will be captaining the DC3, a Dakota at the Children’s Flight
Derek Hopkins – The man behind the cheeky slogan stitched onto his flying suit: ‘I refuse to grow up’
By Cheryl Smit
Born on the 22nd August 1944 Derek grew up in Worcester an hour’s drive from Cape town. The town of Worcester lies in Breede River Valley, surrounded by the majestic Brandwacht, Overhex and Langerberg mountains. Derek attended SACS which was founded in 1829, It is the oldest school in South Africa and one of four schools expressly named by Cecil John Rhodes. The schools are a combination of the South African College Junior School and the South African College High School.
Derek told me that from an early age he always wanted to fly, but unfortunately the SAAF declined his application on the basis that he was ‘colour-blind’. This did not deter Derek and he joined the army at 18 and did his 9 months training as a paratrooper spending 3 months in Oudshoorn and 6 months in Bloemfontein.
He then joined the SAR and did his apprenticeship as a Marine Millwright, Derek went on to complete his diploma in Mechanical Engineering and Draphting. After which he travelled to Port Elizabeth and spent one and a half years there fitting out a yacht for his friend. During this time he met his beautiful little wife Maureen or ‘little Mo’ as he called her. However, ‘little Mo’ had other plans to travel to the UK to continue her nursing career.
Derek after pining away for ‘little Mo’ decided to follow her to the UK where he continued his parachuting. He also worked nightshift as a plant manager for Canada Dry Bottling Company, but after a 3 week strike at plant he packed it up to drive camping bus tours through Europe.
In 1972 Derek married his ‘little Mo’ in the town of Newcastle in the UK. Together they returned to South Africa and again settled in PE where Maureen gave birth to their two sons Nigel and Shawn. Today their son Nigel is a well known aerobatic pilot and SAA training captain with three beautiful daughters and their son Shawn is an Architects based in Durban with a son and a daughter.
Wanting to Power fly more than anything else Derek went to see Dr Harold E Ofsowitz who flew a Baron with the registration ZS-HCO, for a colour blind test. He declared Derek’s colour blind test blind test as ‘defective safe’.
Until such time Derek had flown gliders at the Uitenhage flying club. He was influenced to do power flying as they were often short of tug pilots for towing at the gliding club.
Thanks to Cheryl Smit for this great write-up!