Ian MacKintosh

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Ian MacKintosh, MBE, former Lieutenant-Commander In the Royal Navy, writer of TV series including Warship, Wilde Alliance, and The Sandbaggers was larger than life, He was an energetic man who suffered fools very badly, dined in the best restaurants and collected tickets for driving beautiful cars too fast. There was a rumour that he had been involved in some secret work.

in the summer of 1979, he and his girlfriend Susan Insole, and his friend British Airways pilot Graham Barber set off on a flying trip to Alaska. A few days later, while crossing the, Gulf of Alaska in a light aircraft piloted by Barber, the party disappeared, never to be seen again.

The aircraft vanished at a point 320 km from the Russian mainland. The party were off course and flying In the opposite direction to the route they had informed people they were going to take. Friends were later to say that they found it "bizarre and out of character" for MacKintosh to change his course. He wasn't a whimsical man and had been planning the trip for months.

The aircraft -was not equipped for flight over dangerous waters. It contained no liferafts, jackets or floats. Susan Insole's mother sold afterwards that both her daughter and Mackintosh were meticulous about safety and neither would ride in a car without seatbelts.

Rescue aircraft were on the scene five minutes after a May Day call was received from Barber saying that the plane was losing cabin pressure, but they could find no trace of the plane or bodies.

If any, of these facts had surrounded the death of a less colourful and mysterious character than Ian MacKintosh, they would been dissmissed missed long ago - but MacKIntosh was no ordinary man. David Cunliffe, head of drama for Yorkshire Television and a close friend of MacKintosh, said: "If you talk to anyone round here, they will say that they wouldn't be surprised If he walked through the door the next minute. with Ian, nothing seems too improbable. He was a rare man and we miss him terribly."

It was during his 15 years in the Navy that MacKintosh started writing. He wrote several successful thrillers, and then came up with the Idea. of Warship. It was his energy and enthusiasm alone that persuaded the BBC and the Royal Navy to co-operate In a venture that attracted a weekly audience of 12 million in Britain. The success of Warship led to an invitation to work for Yorkshire Television and eventually to The Sandbaggers.

His great friend Michael Ferguson, producer of The Sandbaggers and an invited guest on the fatal holiday, says: "Ian was a tough man. Hard and remorseless in his belief In himself and,what he was doing. Success was his goal and he achieved it in the Navy and then in television."

Like Sandbagger boss Nell Burnside, MacKintosh had the reputation of being a workaholic. He would get to his office at 9 am, work until 7 pm, go to dinner, return and work until 3 am. Says Ferguson: "He was a superb craftsman. He took enormous pride in writing. Everything was impeccably typed and beautifully laid out - better than a secretary could do it. Out of the 16 scripts he wrote, four or five were written overnight."

The Sandbaggers was never intended to be a big hit series. Says David Cunliffe: "We were sure it wouldn't catch on so we killed off our lovely leading lady at the end of the first series. We were flabbergasted when we were asked to do a further 13 shows. lan wrote 10 of these scripts before his disappearance."

Source: Jane Ennis London's TV Times.

Books he wrote