British pilot Maurice Kirk missing in Africa rally 'found alive'

Image caption, Maurice Kirk was taking part in a vintage air rally flying across Africa when he was reported missing

A 72-year-old British pilot who went missing while attempting to fly a 1940s plane the length of Africa has been found alive, his son has said.

Maurice Kirk, who lives in Bristol, was part of a vintage air rally flying from Crete to Cape Town.

A search and rescue operation was launched after the aircraft went missing on Monday somewhere between Sudan and Ethiopia.

Mr Kirk's son, Charles Kirk, said he had been told he had now been found.

Vintage Air Rally confirmed he has been found and said: "All participants including the hitherto 'missing' Maurice Kirk are safe and accounted for."

The pilot had continued to fly despite being asked to withdraw from the Vintage Air Rally event after two engine failures and a lack of navigational equipment.

Mr Kirk, who also has links to Taunton in Somerset and the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, went missing on a three-hour leg of the cross-African flight from southern Sudan into western Ethiopia.

Media caption, Maurice Kirk posted a video online on 19 November saying his radio had broken

Organisers of the Vintage Air Rally said he had been asked to withdraw from the rally because of a lack of satellite tracking or a working compass on his 1943 Piper Cub plane.

He previously reported suffering two engine failures, but had apparently decided to continue.

Image source, Vintage Air Rally
Image caption, The Vintage Air Rally flies from Crete to Cape Town

On its Facebook page, Vintage Air Rally said earlier that Mr Kirk departed Ad-Damazin, Sudan at approximately 14:00 local time (11:00 GMT) on Monday on the three hour flight to Gambella, Ethiopia.

The statement added that Mr Kirk had sent no radio communications or satellite tracking at any time during the flight and his location had been unknown.

Organisers said they believed he made a precautionary landing before sunset.

The rally describes itself as "following in the footsteps of the pioneering flights in the 1920s" connecting "some of the most beautiful and evocative points in Africa".

Image caption, The self-styled 'Flying Vet' is originally from Somerset and has a home in the Vale of Glamorgan

Who is Maurice Kirk?

Once described as the "bad boy" of the veterinarian profession, the Bristol University graduate and self-dubbed "Flying Vet" is also an amateur pilot and a former drinking friend of the late actor Oliver Reed.

Since 1995, he has had a string of court appearances including for hurling abuse at police while he tended to an injured dog on a beach and on another occasion for refusing to give a sample when stopped on suspicion of drink-driving.

He was kicked out of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for "disgraceful conduct" in 2002 following his court cases.

Most famously he was arrested for landing a replica World War One biplane on private land near American President George W Bush's Texan Ranch.

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