Chocks away!

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Malcolm Brocklehurst, 77, isn’t a morbid sort of chap but he has already designed the coffin to carry him off to the great unknown.

It takes the form of an aeroplane in tribute to Malcolm’s aeronautical engineering days.

It is also bright orange in honour of Malcolm’s beloved Blackpool Football Club. And in place of an RAF logo the aero-coffin will bear the football club’s logo, and the fuselage inscribed TANGO ONE.

As Malcolm, of Cleveleys, admits: “I will not only know when I have been well and truly tango-ed I will make darn sure others do, too.”

His coffin, now bespoke to his last wishes by specialists in Nottingham, gets an earlier departure than Malcolm banked on when it joins others on display, including from Pa Joe’s in Ghana, at London’s Southbank Centre in the Festival of the Living which runs from this Friday to Sunday, January 29.

Never say die? This is the ultimate in DIY, Malcolm devising the design, the boffins at Crazy Coffins giving him the works.

Malcolm adds: “Life is too short to be taken seriously.” Not that he’s planning on spending any quality time with his casket-in-waiting this side of the grave – other than at the Southbank show.

“I’m hoping not to go just yet but having worked in aircraft engineering all my life I wanted my death to celebrate and commemorate that too along with my other great passion, the Seasiders! It’s rather nice to know my coffin will be on display to show others that dying need not be such a serious affair ... and that even your coffin can be more meaningful.”

Malcolm worked in Bremen, West Germany, on the first German civilian aircraft made after the war, the VFW-Fokker 614, which was distinctive because engines were mounted on pods above, rather than below, the wings.

“It was designed to land where there wasn’t a hard runway but wasn’t a success,” says Malcolm, who also worked on Airbus and as a fitter on Concorde’s prototypes.

He worked around the world, both as an engineer, and also technical consultant, in a bid to save his wife Mary’s eyesight.

“She was an electrical inspector, which is how we met, but lost her eyesight, so I used to take her to see eye specialists everywhere.”

He also spent three years in Munich working on a monorail for Disneyland and a train for Boston Massachusetts before returning to England to work on Heysham Power Station.

“Aircraft remain my first – and probably last – love,” Malcolm admits. “Along with Mary too, of course. I’m now my wife’s carer so this has been another way of just escaping from the cares of the world for a while.”

Malcolm, who is semi-retired from technical publications, adds: “I was working until four years ago on aircraft manufacturing in Blackpool doing refrigeration equipment for the new Airbus 380.”

He’s also a leading member of Cleveleys Writers Group, has written two books, and is now on with a novel, linked to Preston Guild Hall, about the Battle of Preston (1715), fought during the Jacobite Rising. “A lot of people don’t realise there was street fighting, and even barricades up on Church Street, Fishergate. About 200 Redcoats were lost on the barricades, the Jacobites held them off for three days.”

Malcolm’s a character, as the team at Crazy Coffins know. He’s already visited Vic Fearn and Company’s Crazy Coffins base in Bulwell in Nottingham to fit the undercarriage and wheels to the coffin prior to it going on display with other showstoppers, a ski pack, barge, Angel of the North, skateboard and corkscrew!

The company, in business since the 1860s, became well known after creating a pearlescent coffin for the late Paula Yates.

“I sent them some drawings, and my own cartoon of what I wanted, and asked if it was possible,” Malcolm says. “I also contacted the funeral director who will be arranging my funeral and asked whether they would be prepared to deliver me to the Crem in an orange aeroplane while playing Glad All Over, the Dambusters and Fly Me The Moon. We don’t see why not, I was told. Funky coffins are all the rage elsewhere, so why not here? It works out at roughly twice what I’d pay for a more conventional coffin. I’d also like to be carried on to the pitch, match permitting.” It helps that David Crampton, director of Vic Fearn and Co, and Crazy Coffins, is familiar with Lancashire humour. “My wife Lynda was born in Blackpool, and my youngest son, Bob, has just moved to Lytham. It’s quite a dark sense of humour but it’s all about celebrating life – it’s not in bad taste at all. We’ve become very famous for what we do although never thought it would catch on. We’ve done Viking ships and Rolls Royces and all sorts. Our customers do the thinking, we do everything else.

“It’s all environmentally friendly and there’s no pollution of ground or air. In Malcolm’s case a fuselage is not dissimilar to a coffin... and the wings slot off...”