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Squadron Leader Michael Cole


Squadron Leader Michael Cole, who has died aged 77, led expeditions up the world's great rivers to connect isolated people to medical services.

Using an innovative, highly manoeuvrable hovercraft, Cole pioneered “hover doctor”’ services on the headwaters of the Amazon in Peru and the Yangtze in China. The expeditions also opened up opportunities for hundreds of small-scale projects over more than three decades in which Cole inspired thousands of young people to serve the poor.

. . .In 1974 a local Baptist minister and RAF chaplain challenged Cole to help deliver a water drilling rig to the famine-ridden Wollo province of Ethiopia. At a time of defence cuts, diverting an RAF aircraft proved impossible, but with a tenacity that was to characterise his leadership over the next four decades, Cole chartered a civilian Hercules aircraft to Addis Ababa and delivered the life-saving equipment.

The trip marked a turning point in his life. He realised that he could combine adventure with purposeful and compassionate aid work.

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