Christian Marty, the pilot of the crashed Concorde, was a fighter. The same drive that pushed him to the top of the pilot's profession also made him an an avid sportsman who would hang-glide over volcano craters, ski the most difficult slalom courses and who, in 1982, became the first Frenchman to windsurf across the Atlantic. "In everything he did, he always wanted to prove to himself that he was as good as the best," says Claude Bouvier-Muller, 71, a retired Air France pilot and a close friend of Marty's. "Yet he never bragged or sought to win any glory from his exploits. To him, it was a personal challenge."
Marty, 54, was a 32-year veteran of Air France who had flown the Boeing 747 and the Airbus A320 and A340 before joining the company's elite corps of Concorde pilots last year. Bouvier-Muller says Marty was "extremely conscientious and professional. If he lost control of his plane it's because it couldn't be controlled. He was not one to give up even in the toughest situations." Standing 1.73m with blond hair and hazel eyes, Marty — known to his friends as Kinou — was always testing his physical endurance. On stopovers between flights, colleagues recall, he would go hiking, water-skiing, rock climbing or head into the hills on the mountain bike that he always carried in the cargo hold. At one point, he even took lessons in competitive auto racing.
For all his love of demanding and dangerous sports, Marty — married with 2 children — was no daredevil. "Just like his piloting, he prepared all his projects in the most meticulous way," says Bouvier-Muller. "When he started talking to me about crossing the Atlantic on a sailboard, I thought he was nuts. Then I realized he had thought out every facet of the problem, and that he was dead serious about it."
Marty's 5,000-km crossing from Dakar to French Guiana took 37 days but he refused to allow his support boat to tow him while he slept. "I didn't want to gain a single mile unless my wrists and arms felt it," he said. An interviewer for
Wind magazine asked him in 1982 about his taste for extremes of effort. "For me, freedom is being able to choose my own challenges," he replied. "I am not afraid of losing because there are honorable defeats." Last week, Christian Marty died with honor at the controls of flight 4590. — By T.S.