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Bill Parkinson, who still flies at the age of 81, has stepped down as the chairman of Phoenix Aviation, Kenya, the company he founded in 1994.

At the age of four, Parkinson wedged his head in the perimeter railings outside Newtownards airport in Northern Ireland, and spent hours watching the aircraft before it was noticed he was missing and was rescued by a distraught mother and the local fire brigade.

Eighteen years later he realised his childhood dream and was taught to fly in a Tiger Moth at Wilson airport in Nairobi by two ex-RAF pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain. He earned his commercial licence while working for the Kenya Police, where he served for 14 years and rose to the position of chief inspector in special branch before taking up full time work as a pilot.

Phoenix Aviation grew as a maintenance and charter company operating from Wilson airport, with a focus on charter and air ambulance services. It provided first generation jet aircraft to Amref Flying Doctors, a service that is still used today by the UN and several global insurance and assistance companies. The partnership is now a key element in the east African emergency services and is involved in rescuing up to 1,000 patients annually, along with patient repatriations as far as Europe and Asia.

Parkinson travelled with his son Steve to Wichita, USA, where they completed their training on the Citation Bravo and together flew Phoenix Aviation's first jet, which was equipped with tandem Lifeports for medical evacuations, back to Kenya.

The fleet has grown under Bill Parkinson's stewardship to include an MD83, a Citation Excel, four Citation Bravos, four Beechcraft King Air 200s, a Beechcraft King Air 350, three Cessna Grand Caravans and a Eurocopter AS 350 B3.

At 81, he is finally stepping down from the helm and is passing the mantle to his son, who will take over as chairman.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the Kenyan Government for its efforts to encourage foreign investment in Kenya, which is generating increased employment opportunities and capital helping bring new technologies to the country,” Bill Parkinson says. “With Kenya labelled the new east African hub, the aviation sector is going to continue to experience change and growth over the coming years, and it is a very exciting time to be in this industry.”

He will continue to pursue his love of motorsport following retirement.

Phoenix Aviation, which is still majority Kenyan owned, believes it is set for a secure and exciting future, and will continue to provide work for its 200 employees.