One of the most outstanding, inspiring, and innovative minds in the air cargo industry is gone forever: Christopher Foyle. As the scion of a famous British Bookstore family, he was extremely broad in terms of topics, socially committed and married not only to his wife Catherine, but to the aviation industry.
“Just to let you know that Chris Foyle - a legend in the aviation business passed away earlier today.” This note, sent by Larry Coyne, I received yesterday at 6:30 pm. It was immediately
clear that we would publish a tribute in CargoForwarder Global. But what to write about a man who was a legend, but whom I personally met only a couple of times at some congresses or trade shows.
So e-mail to Ram Menen, who talked to him every two or three days, as Larry pointed out in his message.
Here is Ram’s appreciation:
“I’m really saddened to hear about Chris Foyle’s passing. He was a good friend and an amazing man, a true gentleman and a pioneer in the air cargo, aviation, and many other industries that he was involved in. He was a philanthropist with numerous diverse interests. Chris was also a past Chairman of TIACA and a Hall of Famer.”
You were in close contact with him and spoke with him very often. From your point of view, what are his greatest and lasting accomplishments?
“Picking one is very difficult. Even during his last days talking to him was always very motivating and inspirational. His accomplishments are so many that it is difficult to list them all here. I for one and, I am sure many others will join me when I say that he will be dearly missed. It was him who took the An-225 out of the mothball and got it flying again. He was an amazing man.”
Sadly enough, I met him only occasionally and never interviewed him. Today I very much regret this.
“Yes, it’s a pity you didn’t really meet him. He was such a positive force and very knowledgeable. He was the man who brought the An-124s into the international market. Also supplied all the BAE146s that TNT used to operate.”
He departed the aviation field about a dozen years back. For what reasons?
“Because he wanted to focus on the family bookstore when his aunt died. He had to buy back the store and turn it around. The Foyle’s bookstore is one of the oldest in England. He sold it a few years back. Chris was also the Chairman of Air League of UK.
My prayers are with Cathy and the whole family, to give them strength to bear their loss. May the good Lord bless him and may his soul rest in peace!”
As Ram pointed out, it is difficult to adequately acknowledge here the many activities that Chris Foyle initiated or was involved in, because they were so varied. But two should be highlighted nonetheless, without which an obituary would be incomplete:
He set up his own airline: Air Foyle and chaired TIACA from 1997 to 1998.
Larry Coyne also points this out in his farewell:
“Chris Foyle was an all-round good guy who made deep impressions on people he met and industries he worked in. He was very smart but always modest despite his many successes. He was really a very nice person, but I will remember him for his generosity, his good nature and most of all his sense of humor.
Chris was brought up in a family that owned the largest bookshop in the world but he didn't care much for stacking books so he left and went to Paris to broaden his experience. When he returned, he bought a small aircraft which eventually morphed into Air Foyle specializing in air cargo. He was the first to see the benefits of using the huge Ukrainian Antonov 124's and spent 2 years getting them on the UK register so that they could fly anywhere in the world. His timing was good because wars in Iraq and Afghanistan saw demand spike for their services.
He found time to help the EasyJet owner start operations using his AOC. He became Chairman of TIACA - and a very good one he turned out to be. He managed to unify the diverse interests of the many companies that make up that association and carved out a future for it that has seen it become the number 1 trade association for airlines, forwarders, airports and many others. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007 and was the first ex chairman to be "roasted" by his peers at the ceremony.
He was involved in many initiatives to foster open skies and make regulatory bodies aware of the huge contribution made by the air cargo industry.
He also found time to host bi-monthly Foyle Literary lunches in London which were graced by the literati. I attended several of these, which featured writers and politicians giving speeches but, without doubt, Chis was head and shoulders above all of them. His humor was never nasty about others but mainly self-deprecatory. I often wondered where he managed to find his many stories, like the one when he went to the House of Commons and was asked by the security man if his name was the same as the bookshop fellow. When Chris said yes, the guy retorted "I'll bet you wish you had his money.
We shall all miss Chris but none more so than his wife Cathy and three daughters. Our industry has lost one of its greats and I for one will never forget the huge contribution he made to it.”
Born 1943 in London, his passing has left the cargo community poorer. And not only the air freight industry, but also the media have lost a partner who helped to convey the concerns of the air cargo business to a wider public with his professional expertise.
He will have been particularly saddened by a news that became public on 03APR: the destruction of the world's largest cargo plane, the Antonov An-225, following Russia's attack on Ukraine.
After all, it was Chris who gave this iconic aircraft commercial wings more than 3 decades ago.
Chris Foyle, rest in peace!
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Ram Menen (Friday, 12 August 2022 14:04)
Heiner, you truly did a fantastic job with the tribute. Brings a tear and rakes up memories and emotions of the past.
Thank you for such a wonderful piece for a wonderful man. He will be truly be missed by all have known.
I am really honored and blessed to have known him and call him a friend.
Chris, thank you for all the precious moments that we had together.
Stavros Evangelakakis (Friday, 12 August 2022 14:17)
"Great article about a great personality in the aircargo industry“
Larry Coyne (Monday, 15 August 2022 12:08)
Great article. I liked it very much. You did a great job.
Best regards, Larry
Heiner Siegmund (Thursday, 18 August 2022 11:27)
Larry Coyne passed on to us this note, which we decided to publish here:
The Antonov Design Bureau (ADB) sent a lovely note to TIACA crediting Chris with taking them Global. Chris had to first convince the Ukrainians and then the Russians to allow the AN 124's fly abroad. It took Chris 2 years of hard work. Shortly before that, the ADB did not have an AOC and were not even able to operate flights on their own behalf. However, during a Gorbachov visit to Kiev, they lobbied hard to have their own AOC. Gorbachev agreed but ran into objections from Moscow, but eventually succeeded.
You can read from the email below how indebted they felt towards Chis. Sadly, the huge 225 was destroyed by the Russians shortly after 24th Feb. The Russians went straight for Gostomel Airport just outside Kiev and damaged a lot of aircraft. It looks like a willful act on their part.
To TIACA news readers.
ADB, Kyiv, Ukraine wishes to express our condolences to the family and all those who knew Mr. Foyle personally and in business.
We owe him our INDEPENDENT flying under Ukraine’s own aviation code, our first acquaintance with the international business. Our name and fame are now known in the remotest corners of the world for the transportation of the oversized and super-heavy cargoes.
There is no person amongst the thousands-strong ADB personnel who would not bow in deepest respect to Mr.Foyle for what he has done to us, Ukraine and many-many employees, who are indebted to him personally.
It’s a great loss to all of us. His name shall always remain among the “greats” in cargo business and a warm remembrance in our hearts.
Konstantin Lushakov – Director Antonov Airlines for 25 years
Igor Babenko – ADB veteran
Eugene Kazantsev – 13 years Director Air Foyle Representative office, Ukraine
Will Water (Sunday, 21 August 2022 10:47)
Well done Heiner. Great to highlight some of Chris’s many contributions.
Heiner Siegmund (Sunday, 21 August 2022 11:04)
Your remark is much appreciated. Chris deserves a dignified obituary.
Take care and all the best, H