Tributes paid to former Emirates pilot killed in plane crash

Long-term friend recalls life in Dubai with David and Jan Maddern

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Tributes have been paid to a former Emirates Airline captain and his wife who died in a plane crash near Brisbane, Australia.

Australian grandparents David and Jan Maddern, both former Dubai residents, were killed when their light aircraft collided with another plane shortly after taking off from Caboolture Airfield north of Brisbane at 10.30am on Friday, July 28.

The Jabiru Ultra J430 plane built by Mr Maddern came into contact with a Piper Pawnee light aircraft as it came into land at the aerodrome, a report from crash investigators at The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.

The couple, both in their mid-60s, died at the scene.

Following their return to Australia they lived in Brisbane, living life to the full
Patrick Cahill

The pilot of the second aircraft escaped unharmed and is assisting investigators with the inquiry.

The ATSB is examining video footage and conducting witness interviews to establish the cause of the crash.

Mr Maddern, a career pilot, began flying in Northern Australia and built up his commercial flying hours with Trans Australian Airlines, one of the country’s first domestic carriers, later taken over by Qantas in 1994.

He left Australia following the 1989 pilots' dispute in which more than 1,500 walked out over pay demands and working hours.

Like many others who left Australia after the protest, Mr Maddern took up flying overseas, joining airlines in Colombia and Turkey to pilot Boeing 737s.

In 1991, Mr Maddern joined Emirates in Dubai as a first officer flying Airbus planes, becoming captain two years later.

Patrick Cahill, a close family friend, met Mr Maddern in 1993 after joining Emirates.

“We became close mates through our love of sailing,” Mr Cahill told The National.

“Dave was a very respected captain over his career and he became a training captain and examiner on the Airbus fleet that included the A310, A330, A340 and A380.

“He retired from Emirates in 2017 and went back to Brisbane.

“Dave was a founding member of the Emirates Airline Sailing Club and I have many happy memories of racing with him on the Dubai to Muscat races and winning the World Airline Sailing Championship in the British Virgin Islands.

“We also competed together as an Emirates-sponsored crew in the 1999 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.”

Keen sailor

During his time in Dubai, Mr Maddern owned an 8.5-metre Oyster sailing yacht called Time Out, that was kept at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club.

He also owned one of only a small number of vintage MGB Roadster cars in Dubai at the time.

Mrs Maddern was a yoga instructor in Dubai and published several fitness and well-being books.

Tributes have been paid to the couple on social media and on Dubai community message boards.

“Jan was a member of the Dubai Writers' Club, studied Italian and went on many trips to Italy to enhance her language skills,” said Mr Cahill.

“We had many great holidays with them chartering yachts in the Mediterranean throughout our time in Dubai.

“Following their return to Australia they lived in Brisbane, living life to the full.

“Dave built the Jabiru Ultra light aircraft and based it out of Caboolture aerodrome, which is just north of Brisbane.

“He and Jan would fly almost every second weekend, with longer trips in the summer months to Western Queensland and many spots on the east coast of Australia.”

The couple were dog lovers and kept Labradors, while Mrs Maddern was a volunteer and supporter of Guide Dogs Australia.

A memorial service is to be held at the Hugh Courtney Oval in Brisbane on Friday, August 11 at noon local time.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 12:34 PM