Sir Maurice Flanagan, KBE [1928-2015]
Sir Maurice Flanagan, who helped get Emirates Airline off the ground, and guided its breakneck growth for nearly three decades, has passed away, aged 86.
Sir Maurice was a much-loved figure in the aviation industry. A fortuitous interruption of his wedding anniversary celebrations in 1985 led him to pioneer his greatest achievement, becoming a key architect of Emirates Airline. Under his leadership, Emirates Airline, which began with two borrowed airplanes, grew to a 230-strong international nexus for travel, effectively putting Dubai on the global map. ‘Maurice was a man of great character, and a legend in the aviation industry,’ Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group, said.
Born in 1928, Sir Maurice looked to be destined for a life in sports. A talented footballer, he was set to play for the Blackburn Rovers when a knee injury ended his chances. ‘I think wrecking my knee was the smartest career move I ever made,’ he was once quoted as saying.
Sir Maurice’s work with the airline did not hinder his passions; they amplified them. As well as sponsoring teams and stadiums around the world, he was able to nurture his creative side through the launch of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
Sir Maurice was an avid reader, and liked different writers at different times in his life: Charles Dickens, William Cobbett, Dr Johnson, Evelyn Waugh, Elmore Leonard, PG Wodehouse, Graham Greene, Raymond Chandler, and Damon Runyon. He enjoyed the humour in all of them but also, apart arguably from Wodehouse, the seriousness and morality. That’s true too of his favourite thriller writers such as Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, John Le Carre and Len Deighton.
Sir Maurice was a master of clear writing, which comes through so strongly in his award winning television play, The Garbler Strategy, where the quick, precise dialogue ridicules management consultancy pretentions, and the false confidence that can be found in business. It is not just funny; it remains a marvel of economy and is subversive too.
Isobel Abulhoul, CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature shared her appreciation of Sir Maurice’s efforts in setting up the Festival. ‘From the very beginning, Sir Maurice Flanagan was a key mentor and supporter for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. The truth is that without Sir Maurice, there would have been no literary festival. His vision and advice were invaluable, in helping making the Festival a recognised and respected event on the international calendar, twice winning Best Festival in the Middle East.’
Isobel Abulhoul added, ‘I have such fond memories, in particular, of Sir Maurice and Lady Flanagan hosting the Authors’ Farewell supper at their residence, making everyone so welcome, a wonderful evening each year, filled with laughter and stories. Authors from around the world felt that this was a highlight of their visit.’
A constant figure at the Festival, Sir Maurice’s love for the arts led him to become a Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, established in 2013 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The fruits of his efforts continue to be sowed as the Festival and the Dubai International Writers’ Centre, under the aegis of the Foundation, work towards building a culture of reading and writing in the country.
Queen Elizabeth II made Sir Maurice Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010. During his long career, he also received numerous aviation honours.
Sir Maurice’s poetry reflected his great loves – his love of flying and his family, especially his wife – and his poems were reminiscent of the works of his favourite poets, Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Roger McGough. Powerful words interspersed with daring lines of humour. They were an apt reflection of the man himself.
The many industries and people that he has affected will sorely miss a man who remained humble till the end of his life. He is survived by his wife, Audrey, son Julian, and his daughters, Siobhan and Claire.
Sir Maurice is remembered in the Telegraph, Financial Times, The Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business, Gulf News, The National, 7Days, Daily Journal, Arabian Business, Manchester Evening News, Arabian Aerospace and Zawya.