“Mike” Vialls died March 24, 2010, in his native South Africa at the age of 87.
Prior to Princeton he was an officer in the South African Air Force, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. When asked if he shot down any enemy planes, he replied, “No, neither was I shot down, so my record was average.”
Mike accelerated his studies at Princeton, graduating in 1949, but retained his loyalty to ’50. He returned to South Africa as its first graduate aeronautical engineer, joining South African Airways (SAA). As technical director of SAA’s Engineering Department he facilitated its introduction of the Boeing 747.
In 1957 he earned a master of air transport engineering degree from England’s Cranfield University. For years he kept his pilot’s license active. He was president of the South African branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a strong supporter of the African Scholars’ Fund, which grants stipends to hundreds of students.
When he retired in 1975, Mike bought a farm and proudly produced fruit, nuts, vegetables, and honey. He was ever-competitive in sports, and in later years, was a presence on the senior croquet circuit.
Mike never married, but was devoted to his nieces and nephews, to whom we extend condolences.