Trevor was always an excellent pilot and a humble human being. I have known him closely from the time we were penniless student pilots learning to fly at Ratmalana. I may not be wrong if I say he was possibly the most intelligent of the Ratmalana flying fraternity at that time. We had to sit the British Commercial Pilots Exam comprising of 5 challenging subjects. Trevor was the only student I know who passed all 5 in his first attempt. He sure was clever.
Capt. Vanderstraaten was a ‘doubly handsome’ young man, tall, good-looking and soft and loved by everyone. Great sense of humour, never an ill word for anybody. Strange, after all these years I can still recall how he used to whistle and sing ‘I was born under a wandering star.”
The world got older. Some of us became qualified pilots from the ‘poor man’s flying school’ we attended. That was good enough for us to see international horizons flying in command of big jet aeroplanes.
Trevor walked that ‘hard rock’ road, starting his career on old Dakota aeroplanes and got his command on Boeing 737s. He went on to captain Tri- Stars, Airbus 340s and 330s and retired after flying for Sri Lankan Airlines. Trevor never wanted to be anything but a line captain. Never was there any managerial aspirations or instructor ambitions, just flew his aeroplane safely and went home to his loving wife Jenny and son Dirk.
Capt. Vanderstraaten had an accident-free record in all the flights he commanded. He was a master of the ‘priority’ who had no regard for the imitation filigree. Trevor just took off, got the job done and landed safely with pure professionalism. No, I am not writing fancy rhetoric in praise. Just the truth as I know it. Trevor would be the last one to stand on borrowed pedestals.
So, the ‘Gentle Giant’ is no more! Of the old Ratmalana clan none are flying today, all have said their good-byes to the sky. Yet remembrance wakes and memories come to light. The flight logbooks tell the tale. Those pilots who flew with Trevor would know what I am talking about. Capt. Vanderstraaten will always be someone who is nice to remember, far too nice to forget.
To live in the hearts of those you leave behind, is surely not to die.
So long old friend, it was a privilege to have known you and to have flown with you.
May you rest in peace.
Capt Elmo Jayawardena