HUNDREDS of friends and relatives turned out to pay their last respects to Knowle pilot Robert Mansell.
His funeral took place at Knowle Parish Church last Friday, with more than 200 mourners gathered to pay tribute to the man they hailed a “hero”.
Robert, aged 32, died in October, when he was forced to ditch his plane in the Caribbean ocean.
His quick-thinking saved the lives of all nine passengers on board, but tragically he was killed in the crash.
The pilot’s coffin, draped with the Union Jack and an aviation headset, was carried into the church by a group of grieving friends.
His father Roger Mansell said: “He was the son that everyone dreams of, very loyal, very affectionate, incredibly competent. He was good at everything he did.”
The Rev Richard Tretheway described Robert as the life and soul of every party, a kind and helpful son with a wonderful sweet spirit, who used his gift to take responsibility and save others.
Robert’s older sister Claire Mansell dedicated a poignant verse to a much-loved brother. Friend Ian Hart said: “Rest in peace, our hero Captain Robert Mansell.”
The family expressed thanks to the British Embassy and the Dutch and American governments who worked to recover the aircraft.
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman, who had helped lobby to bring his body home, also attended.
Robert was brought up in Knowle, attending Arden School and The Sixth Form College, Solihull. He went on to study aeronautical engineering at Bristol University and trained for a pilot’s license in Australia.
Jeep Holmes, a former Spitfire pilot and family friend, said: “He’s a hero and should be honoured for what he did. He was a very good pilot.”