The Johan Bossuyt Trophy

 the man, his flying ability and life

Obituary

Johan Bossuyt

Johan Bossuyt, who died in a trike accident in Kortemark, Belgium, on 7 January, aged 41, was one of the world’s top paramotor pilots and a passionate ambassador for the sport. Although he only learned to fly paramotors in 2000, he was soon progressing through the competition rankings, placing 1st as a guest in the British Nationals of 2002. He won the Belgian championships in 2002 and ’03; placed 6th in the Worlds of 2005; came 1st in the 2005 Raid Nantes to Saint-Blancard as Belgian team-leader; and won his last competition (the Open at Qingpu, China, in September 2005) by leading from start to finish.

Everyone who saw Johan fly was struck by the natural elegance of his style. If any man was born to fly, it was Johan. The paramotor seemed to be an organic part of him. In certain paraglider pilots we find a natural balletic grace that comes from a complete affinity between pilot and wing; but in paramotoring this is harder to achieve, given the added dimension of thrust and the bulky, draggy contraption which the pilot is obliged to wear on his back. If Johan appeared to wear it lightly, it was because he had a complete affinity with the engine. He understood its mechanics intimately, and at championship meetings would set up his stall as a part-time repair-man. Britain’s top female pilot tells of a competition in which her engine failed her; Johan stayed up all night with his welding equipment putting it right, refusing any payment. He was one of those rare personalities who loved what he did so much that he wanted to share it with others, at whatever personal cost.

Johan could put on a show, but was never ostentatious. More shy than extrovert, he was also a perfectionist who demanded a lot of himself and had a quiet confidence in his ability to achieve it. Like many top pilots, he was always the one out flying, practising his technique, when the competition window was closed. And when conditions ruled out flying altogether, he was the one on the field ground-handling. Early in the morning, and sometimes even after dark, Johan was out there mesmerising us with his wingovers and crafted low-passes. In China last year he was the only competitor to hit the spot three times in a row in the accuracy task, which he did with deceptive nonchalance.

If Johan worked hard to achieve these effects, it was with the indulgence of his wife Veerle, who travelled with him and supported his efforts. The Belgian tent at competitions was always a social hub, bubbling with hospitality. Belgium’s loss is ours, and the international gathering of pilots at Johan’s funeral in Kortrijk on 14 January (a larger gathering than I have seen at any organised fly-in) bore testimony to his popularity in the paramotoring community. His work as a sales agent for PAP paramotors and his role in Belgium’s ‘Time2Fly’ paramotoring school further sealed his commitment to the sport.

Johan had bought a trike that had rekindled his early excitement for flying something new. He was flying this trike on Saturday 7th of January  at 11:50am  when he died. Those that knew Johan will cherish his memory and our ongoing thoughts are with his deeply loved family Veerle, and their three children Arthur, Astrid and Aline, and with the family of his passenger Bert Declercq who also died in this accident.

Kevin Taylor

(written for Skywings January 2006)

If you would like to view a video of Johan flying there is a beautiful farewell tribute on their Time2fly (foto-video tab, photo of Johan) web site here