MORE than one hundred family members and friends gave a flying send-off to a “brilliant” pilot who pushed life to its limits.

Toon Ghosem was a former flying instructor at Shoreham Airport for more than 30 years. He was hailed as a local celebrity whose unorthodox teaching methods had inspired many to become pilots.

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Family and friends celebrated Toon’s life on Friday at Shoreham Airport and each person had a special memory of him.

To remember him, the airport organised a flypast with a red Chipmunk and two yellow T-21s. Toon’s daughter, Katie, 48, said: “Dad had this magical ability to connect with people.

"He was fearless and dad’s former students told me he had a great deal of common sense. Dad was also resilient, he had failed his flying exam a few times before passing it.

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“We are bowled over by the recognition and the support we received from the airport and from everyone who knew him. We want to thank everyone.”

Ex-RAF pilot John Lancaster, 100, from Hassocks, said: “Toon was universally liked and respected. He was a charming fellow and was very popular.”

Andy Johnstone, 51, from Hassocks, said: “I knew Toon when he offered to teach my son to fly 17 years ago.

"Toon was a local celebrity and he lived life to the fullest and he had a great sense of humour, you couldn’t upset him.”

John Hudson, retired flying instructor at Shoreham Airport, said: “Toon was a really lovely guy and fantastic instructor and also a fantastic cook.”

Toon, whose real name was Probhat, was born in Calcutta, now Kolkata, India, on August 19, 1927.

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He arrived in the UK in 1955 after an epic six-month journey from Kolkata on a Vespa scooter.

His passion for flying started when he was a boy. However, his parents forbade him from doing so as they believed being a pilot would be bad luck due to his horoscope.

During his career, he clocked up more than 100,000 hours of flying.

In the Seventies, he founded Toon Ghose Aviation, which at its height, operated 21 aircraft out of Shoreham, including the latest Cessna aircraft that Toon imported from America. However, the business went bankrupt due to a recession.

Toon gave up his commercial pilot’s licence at 80 as his eyesight began to fail. By that time he was one of the oldest instructors in the country.

Toon loved the Sussex Downs and the sea, and in later life lived on a farm in Edburton, taking long walks every day on Truleigh Hill and the surrounding countryside.

He continued to teach and examine RT (radio-telephony) at his flat, and at 75, he took up paragliding and did his lessons on the South Downs and in Nepal.

He inspired hundreds to fly, including dozens of airline pilots, but for him real flying was to be in light aircraft.

Alberto Namihas, 70, from Newhaven, said: "I've known Toon for 40 years. I came to Shoreham in 1979 and he welcomed me with open arms.

"Toon trained me and because of him, I got my Private Pilot Licence six months later.

"I had flown with him throughout the years and he was a well-loved man."

Victor Peirce, 58, from Shoreham, said: "I got here at about 1975 and Toon taught me to fly. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be where I am now. I fly for Easyjet and I flew for Air Europe Express.

"He really did change lives. Toon was an absolute legend and a very well-liked man."

Toon loved the Sussex Downs and the sea, and in later life lived on a farm in Edburton, taking long walks every day on Truleigh Hill and the surrounding countryside.

His spent his last years in Henfield and at Ladymead Care Home in Hurstpierpoint.

Toon died on February 20 from natural causes. Toon had three children, Sumi, Katie and Nanda.

A book titled Tiger in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of Toon Ghose, written by Pat Jackson, recounts Toon’s remarkable life.