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Ticehurst, Gary Edwin (1950–2011)

by Malcolm Brown

Gary Ticehurst, aviator for the military, police and the media, did many things in his life but nothing was as demanding as the 1998 Sydney-Hobart yacht race. The fleet was stricken by a deadly storm and he was obliged to perform far above the call of duty. Taking a mayday call from the yacht Winston Churchill, he deployed for hours, hovering above the flailing vessels and directing rescue craft.

Controlling his machine, with his own media crew on board, he survived merciless buffeting by howling winds in what might be regarded as the performance of his life. He was credited with saving more than 20 lives. Even in normal conditions, he was capable of reading ''the wind, the light and the sea'' and performing an ''aerial ballet'', an ABC cameraman said.

Gary Edwin Ticehurst was born in Newcastle on October 10, 1950, son of a customs officer, Ted Ticehurst, and Wanda (nee Fenton). The family moved to Narwee in Sydney's south and Ticehurst went to Narwee Boys High. He received a scholarship at the University of NSW and studied mechanical engineering.

Ticehurst was keen on Australian football and made surfboards that he sold to keep himself in pocket money. He did not finish his degree, joining the army instead. He attended the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville, in 1972 and became a second lieutenant. He then went to Point Cook in Victoria to do a course in military aviation.

Ticehurst was posted to the 161 Reconnaissance Squadron based at Holsworthy but flew assignments throughout Australia. He also served as an exchange officer in Britain and with the British Army in Germany.

Ticehurst married a secretary, Anne Baxter, in 1979 and a year later left the army. He did a course at the NSW Police Academy and became a helicopter pilot in the newly formed Police Air Wing.

He stayed with the police for 18 months, then formed his own company, G & A Helicopters, which secured a contract with the ABC. Ticehurst had two children, Michelle, born in 1982, and Matthew, born in 1986.

As a television helicopter pilot, Ticehurst knew what was needed and often thought of the shots before the cameramen. He formed another company, Film Helicopters Australia, and worked on films such as Australia – allowing brilliant footage of the Kimberley landscape – the Matrix series, Superman Returns, Fool's Gold and many others. Director Bruce Hunt said: ''Gary's enthusiasm and talent made the shots sing.''

Ticehurst and Baxter divorced in 2005 and he later married a management consultant, Teresa Hall. He kept up his work, flying a twin-engine Squirrel for years. During his flying career, he chalked up more than 16,000 chopper hours. The Squirrel served Ticehurst well until the final tragic moments on August 18, when it crashed at Lake Eyre, killing him, ABC journalist Paul Lockyer and cameraman John Bean.

Ticehurst is survived by his father, his widow, his former wife and children, son-in-law Damien Smith, and sisters Glenys Holmes and Denise Mackey and their families. He was looking forward to the birth of his first two grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 August 2011

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Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Ticehurst, Gary Edwin (1950–2011)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ticehurst-gary-edwin-16740/text28636, accessed 14 July 2020.

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