Farewell to Mike Charles, ‘pilot extraordinaire’ and ‘legend’


He was a pilot “extraordinaire”. A legend. Always ready to serve. Always ready with a solution. Loved nature. He loved children. But above all else, he lived life doing what he loved – flying.

It was easy to define the man Mike Charles was as hundreds gathered to bid a final farewell on Wednesday, but it was still a struggle to comprehend that he was being referred to in the past tense.

A section of the mourners at the funeral service of Lt. Col. Michael Charles at Nazarene Church, Timheri. Photograph: News Room/2023.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Charles, best known as just Mike Charles, the man who was fascinated with Guyana and fascinated Guyanese as he showcased the country’s natural landscapes, died a week ago. He did so serving his country, taking senior military officers to the western border as the country faces one of the greatest threats to its sovereignty.

The threats of seizure of Essequibo, two-thirds of this country’s land mass, by the Nicolas Maduro administration, saw him continue doing what the country had come to know him for – posting videos and pictures of that very Essequibo region.

Mike, 61, was killed in a horrific accident, his body completely burnt, when the Bell 412 helicopter he was piloting crashed in the jungles of Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni). 

When a rescue team arrived, he was identified from his name tag left intact on a piece of his uniform.

On Wednesday morning, appropriately, his remains were flown from Army headquarters in Georgetown to Timehri, East Bank Demerara in the other Bell 412 he often piloted.

It landed at Red Ground, and they fetched the casket, draped in the colours of the national flag, to his house nearby.

The casket of Lt. Col. Michael Charles is draped in the Golden Arrowhead, the flag of Guyana. Photograph: News Room/2023.


There, hundreds of relatives were joined by President Dr Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, Army Chief Brigadier Omar Khan, government ministers, members of the disciplined services, colleagues and friends to pay their final farewell.

In a moving tribute, President Ali said Lt. Colonel Charles was not “an ordinary” Guyanese but a legend.

According to President Ali, there was service in everything that was done by Lt. Col. Charles. The President rightly noted that Mike’s videos helped to portray Guyana’s “magnificent” natural beauty.

“In his videos he combined his extensive knowledge of the country’s vast and pristine hinterland with his accomplished skills as a pilot and a seasoned videographer, providing a marvellous birds-eye view of Guyana’s unsurpassed beauty.

“The sounds and colours of the rainforest is Mike Charles’s best work yet,” President Ali said.

And in celebration of this, President Ali said he requested that a tribute to Mike be mounted on the walls of the National Museum.

Above everything, President Ali said Mike was a patriot. 

“He was a patriot who would lay down his life willingly in defense of Guyana. In his job, he undertook risky missions and he always acted out of a sense of duty.

“He has fallen in the line of duty but in his falling, he continues to lift up our nation,” President Ali said.

According to President Ali, Mike’s death has left a void.

“Mike wasn’t just a brother. He was my dearest friend, my trusted friend. I feared nothing in the sky once Mikes Charles was there.

“My cherished friend. I will carry you in my heart always Mike. May your spirit soar like an eagle and look down on us…thank you Mike for your service,” the Head of State said.

Mike commenced his career in 1981, at the age of 18.

He served as an officer for 29 years before retiring in 2010. Throughout his service, Mike completed various military and aviation courses both locally and overseas.

He returned to service in 2011 and dedicated the last 12 years to the Army’s Air Corps. His expertise proved invaluable in search and rescue operations and medical evacuations.

In 2021, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by President Ali.

Anytime he was called upon, his reply was always, “Chief, not a problem”, Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Brigadier Omar Khan recalled.

According to Brigadier Khan, Lt. Col. Charles was “in every way” part of the successes demonstrated by the GDF over the years.

“He was full of love and lived to serve this nation and I am even more proud that he did it while wearing the uniform,” Brigadier Khan said.

He added: “Things that feel difficult and challenging there was always a solution. When we deployed our Air Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Charles was always there, with a solution.”

And even though he executed his duties with distinction, Brigadier Khan said Lt. Col. Charles continued to upgrade himself so he could contribute more in the execution of his duties.

“He took command of his cockpit – if it’s anyone that went the extra mile, it was him,” the Chief of Staff said.

Following the ceremony at his home, the casket was taken to his mother’s house.

After reflection and prayers, his remains were taken to the Nazarene church, just a stone’s throw away for a funeral service.

At the church, prayers and reflections continued.

The casket was then lifted into the helicopter, and Mike flew one final time across the country he died in service to.

Members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) lift the casket of Lt. Col. Michael Charles into the helicopter to be transported to Georgetown. Photograph: News Room/2023.