My mate Hans Heydrich by Bob Burke

Hans was like me - destined to be an engineer. He was one of my fellow final year engineering undergraduates [there were only 10 of us in the 1967 mech eng class at Adelaide University, in South Australia], and probably the most brilliant of us. He could easily have gone on to do a masters & PhD, but being already married with a son, earning good money was his top priority, so he accepted an offer from Boeing and was gone before our graduation ceremony.

As a third generation pilot [his father flew Ju88's, and his grandfather flew Zeppelins], I suppose it was always on the cards that he would die in an aeroplane crash. Having survived a couple of serious hang glider crashes, though, I felt sure that his switch to rigid wing gliders gave him a better chance of survival. Unfortunately not true. After Hans went to the US, we didn't see a lot of each other, but kept in touch; firstly through '1967', the class newsletter I edited, later by letters & cards, mainly at Christmas. Anytime I was going near Phoenix, of course, I made a point of calling in, and Hans & Meng made a point of offering me a bed. The first & best occasion was when my wife Judy, with daughters Melinda & Kerry, and I were driving across the US in December 1979, and we stayed with the Heydrichs for several days. Hans' father Fred was there too, and demonstrated his engineering skills by making & fitting a spring to hold the boot lid open on the old Valiant I had bought in LA [the original had broken].

After that, I travelled to Hermosillo in Mexico a few times with Britax, and caught up with Hans each time. My last visit to Phoenix was in the summer of '98, with temperatures around 50C - so hot I couldn't stand the water temperature in the pool in Hermosillo [and I thought Australia had the sole rights to that kind of heat!] After reminiscing & talking the night I arrived, Hans woke me early the next morning to say "sorry to be a lousy host, but the forecast is hot again & there'll be lots of thermals", and headed for the gliding field. Meng took me out there later in the morning, & we helped Hans wash the dust off his glider from the wind of the previous day. Didn't get to see him fly, but saw how good [and competitive] some of the others were: one bloke was doing loops frighteningly close to the ground.

Hans also came back to Adelaide a few times, the last for his father's funeral, which I also attended.

Hans was apparently attempting an emergency landing on a boat ramp, but the ramp was full of boats, and he lost control after a low pass over the ramp. Knowing Hans, I'm certain he would not have tried the landing if there was any risk to other people.

I'm sure I speak for the remaining nine of our "class of '67" when I say I'm sad to have lost a great mate, but glad to have such wonderful memories of our times together.

-Bob Burke

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