Remembering Professor Michael Milde (1931-2018)

It is with profound sadness that we regret to inform you that former Director and Professor Emeritus Michael Milde passed away at the age of 87.

As an iconic figure in the global aviation community and at the Institute, Professor Milde will be deeply missed by his loved ones and by his colleagues and students who knew this accomplished scholar, professor, and kind human being. 

There will be a remembrance ceremony on October 25, 2018, at noon in the Birks Chapel of McGill University.

Below are personal accounts and condolences from people who knew Professor Milde.
Should you wish to share your thoughts, kuan-wei.chen [at] (subject: Remembering%20Professor%20Michael%20Milde) (please contact the webmaster).

If you would like to make a donation in memory of Professor Milde, please make use of this form or visit this dedicated site to make a pledge. Donations will be used to support graduate students at the Institute of Air and Space Law.

It is with great sadness that I learned of the sudden passing of Dr. Michael Milde, who served for several decades in senior legal positions at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), including as Director of the Legal Bureau.

I wish to take this opportunity to recall the exceptional contributions of Dr. Milde throughout the years to the development of international air law as well as to the work of ICAO. As Professor at, and Director of, the Institute of Air & Space Law of McGill University, he taught and mentored myself and many other Officers currently working in the Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau of ICAO. His lectures and presentations were always intelligent, insightful and full of humour. He will surely be missed.

In particular, I wish to highlight Dr. Milde’s long and outstanding career within the ICAO Secretariat where he was involved in the preparation of several international air law instruments, which still today belong to the most widely accepted codifications of international air law.

On behalf of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau of ICAO, and on my personal behalf, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to his family.

Dr. Jiefang Huang (LL.M. 1985), Director of the Legal Affairs and External Relations Bureau of the International Civil Aviation Organization

“To everything there is a season.” Dr. Milde used to write this sentence in his emails. I was left speechless by the sad news and looked back on my memories of him. I was extremely fortunate to be one of his last students before he retired from the Institute in 2005. I became his fan during the first class of Public International Air Law in September 2004. He was the kind of teacher who can make a three-hour lecture fascinating without any visual aids. Since then, I never lost contact with him. He responded to my numerous questions about aviation law, career plans, and life in general with wise answers over the past 15 years. His encouragement has been of special importance to me, and I have been greatly motivated to meet his high expectations. “Love your subject and respect your students”: his message with his picture on my office wall will continue to remind me of him. He was my greatest mentor, and I have lost the beacon for my life. I will miss his insight, humor, wisdom, and warmth very much. Thank you, Dr. Milde, for nurturing me.
Jae Woon (June) Lee (LLM, 2004-2005), Assistant Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong 

Professor Milde was my first air law professor. He was an exceptional storyteller, with his unique way of explaining the background of cases in private air law, and of aviation conventions. It was upon his advice that I focused on aviation safety and security, and on criminal air law. I never would have pursued a career in air law if it had not been for him. He also made the Institute of Air and Space Law at McGill, the hub of a lifetime. 

Professor Milde, you were “un très, très grand Monsieur”. Vous allez nous manquer terriblement.

Axelle Cartier (LLM, 1996), Joint Aviation Authorities - Training Organisation

Professor Michael Milde was the most inspiring teacher I ever came across and he was the the reason for becoming an aviation lawyer. I was mesmerised by his  stories and fascinated by his deep knowledge and love of public and private air law. He portrayed aviation as a magical, inviting place that was waiting to be explored. His published works will always be a reminder of his open, inquiring mind and a source of inspiration for the future generations of aviation lawyers. Always available to advise on professional and personal options, always willing to assist with job applications, always prepared to listen. He was a wonderful human being that left a mark in many lives and I feel privileged to have know him. God rest your soul. 

George Leloudas ( LLM 2002-2003), Associate Professor, Swansea University

Dr. Michael Milde was my thesis supervisor (DCL ’96).  He encouraged me to write my thesis in the form of  a book. This advice enabled me to publish my thesis immediately after graduation. This was my first book (Aviation Security: Ashgate) and my inspiration to follow through. He continuously encouraged me to keep writing.  Michael Milde should be recognized not only for his unparalleled achievements but also for his compassion, empathy and selflessness. I know of no other person who has gone out of his way to help young lawyers establish themselves as he has. I happen to be one of them.

Ruwantissa Abeyratne, FRAeS FCILT, Senior Associate, Air Law and Policy, Aviation Strategies International

It is with sadness that we see another giant in international air law leave us. I interacted the most with Michel during my tenure as Permanent Representative of Canada on the ICAO Council (2001-2011). During my years at the IASL (1978-1981), and later on at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Professor Milde was still providing many of us with advice and guidance. During my ICAO years, we spoke often on account of various files on which I had asked him to act as advisor to Canada’s Mission to ICAO. We later on spoke regularly after he moved to Ontario, sharing memories of ICAO and the IASL.

We shall miss him very much.

Lionel Alain Dupuis, Permanent Representative of Canada on the ICAO Council (2001-2011), Dean of the Council (2008-2011)

I had the honour of meeting Dr. Michael Milde (then Acting Director of the Legal Bureau, ICAO) for the very first time at 10am, on Tuesday, 1 November 1988: I still have the class schedule for the week, with his C.V. attached! The occasion was his introductory lecture to the IASL class of 1988-1989 on the law of international organizations. Even 30 years later, I can still see him sitting at the desk in front of the class and, dipping into his vast experience and knowledge, relating anecdotes and episodes – some serious, some funny – of international law-making in ICAO, and instructing the class on the practical aspects of public international law. His casual, informal, conversational-style teaching method and skills allowed me to imagine what it was like, in the ICAO Assembly, the Legal Diplomatic Conferences and the ICAO Council, as these bodies deliberated on and debated various diplomatic and legal aspects of international civil aviation. We kept in touch over the years, becoming friends. But Dr. Milde always remained my “guru,” my mentor, imparting wisdom of the world beyond the classroom, even after his retirement from McGill, and his move to London. I shall forever treasure his very last e-mail to me: “Life is great and also comes to an end. Keep happy!”

 Jitu Thaker (LLM 1988-1989), Technical Officer/Facilitation, ICAO

It is a very sad day to hear of the passing of our dear Michael Milde. He was so strong, impressive and permanent that I had forgotten he had the ability to leave this human life. Professor Milde was the best professor I ever had. I used to look forward to his lectures when I studied at the Institute in 1989-1991. He was a fountain of knowledge and had nan incredible talent to share it. A few years later I decided to do my DCL and I asked him to supervise it. It was the start of a very strong relationship. It took me 5 years of hard work, living and working in Europe and exchanging emails with Professor Milde, with frequent visits to Montreal. I learned a lot and I will never ever forget those times. He then graduated to Grampy in our correspondence which we kept going since then a few times during the year. I will miss you very much Professor Milde. All my condolences to Maria and your family. We all have very fond memories of you that will warm our hearts for ever.

Valerie Thirkettle-Kayser

In 1989, I had the honour of being Professor Milde’s first IASL LL.M thesis student, back when he was transitioning from his position as Director of the ICAO Legal Bureau to the Director of the Institute of Air and Space Law. I recall visiting him at the old ICAO Offices on Sherbrooke Street, across from the McGill Gates in downtown Montreal. Like many of his students, I didn’t realize at the time what a profound impact he would have on my life and career. He was an extraordinary mentor with an unwavering commitment to helping others throughout their careers.

Beyond Professor Milde’s many notable professional achievements, I admired him for his decency and compassion and cheerful outlook on life. He remained deeply committed to his family… over the years I recall hearing many stories of his children and grandchildren of whom he was so very proud, and how often he would speak in glowing terms of the love of his life -- “my Maria” as he would say. Maria was almost always at his side wherever in the world he would be lecturing and working. I have such fond memories of their company and good cheer.

Not long ago, I was corresponding with Professor Milde by email and we were reminiscing about the many years past. I am sure he would have been pleased for me to share the following part of his message:

“You and almost scores of other "my" students from different corners of the world fill me with nostalgia -- it was nice to work together, you were so full of talent and promise and we were younger and happy -- only did not always know about it...! We must remember to be a little happy… time progresses.”

Thank you Professor Milde for many years of inspiration and guidance. 

With sincere and deep condolences to Maria and family.

Catherine Zuzak (LLM 1988-1989)

Dr. Milde was my thesis supervisor and I was also research assistant at the Institute during my LL.M. programme. I first met Dr. Milde while I was training at Eurocontrol during the summer prior to the start of the programme and he was instrumental in my choosing McGill over other reputable alternatives. I remember that time as if it was yesterday, being unaware that I was about to start an experience with a person truly out of this world. I soon learnt how encouraging he was in every step along the way and became a important mentor without me ever asking for it, whose kindness, compassion and interest in personal happiness transcended everything he did. He was involved in my initial professional orientation, asked me if I wanted to choose academia or a career in other areas, enabled my participation with consultations for the Cape Town Convention and pushed me towards publishing one or the other contribution to legal writing. I only later became aware that this was probably the most meaningful period in my life both in terms of personal and professional growth. He was engaging even long after I finished the programme, kept up to date on developments and whereabouts. His insights deeply influenced my thought process, my outlook on life and the values that are important to uphold. I am deeply saddened to see him go and feel privileged to have met such a wonderful scholar.

Jan Krupski (LL.M, 1999)

Dr Milde will be remembered as one of the truly outstanding academics in his field and profession.

Philip Chrystal, Swiss Re

Professor Milde !!! The best teacher I ever had !!! So thoughtful !!!

Vanessa Warriner

It is with profound shock and sadness that we learnt about the passing of Prof Dr. Milde… my deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

In 2002, I was sent by the Government to study aviation law at McGill. After having received the course material and browsing through some of the content before the lectures started, I was absolutely petrified.  Everything looked so complicated and I was already starting to imagine how I was going to repay the Government for the expenses incurred for the studies. I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life entering into a contract for the studies…. that was of course until Prof Milde started lecturing!

That was the first time I met him and after a short while I immediately realized that I (and the rest of the students), would be fine…. Prof Milde not only had the uncanny ability to simplify difficult concepts, but his teachings were also personal and not only purely academical in nature.  He told us that he was personally involved in the negotiations and drafting of most of the aviation Conventions we have today. His famous story-telling about the background and politics of the negotiations regarding the aviation Conventions was fascinating to all of us.  I will always remember that every time when his lectures ended at tea time he would say “You now have the unalienable right to your coffee break”. I always wished that he would rather continue in lieu of the tea break so that we could hear more from him!

At the end of the term when Prof Milde’s lectures ended, I stood up and said a few words to thank him for his efforts on behalf of our class.  At that stage Prof Dempsey had already taken over as the new Director of the Institute and Prof Milde mentioned that he was contemplating cutting down on his lecturing due to his retirement.  I urged Prof Milde not to deprive incumbent students after us from his wonderful teachings, because “Prof Michael Milde, you are the common heritage of mankind…!”

At the end of this wonderful chapter of Prof Milde’s life, it is therefore appropriate to proclaim that he touched and made an immense impact on so many lives, including mine. In 2007 he travelled thousands of miles to present aviation lectures in South Africa, just because I was an alumni of McGill.  In addition to that, he unselfishly and without any remuneration provided me with an electronic copy of his aviation book that was in the process of having been published at that stage and he told me I could use it as I wish.

Without any fear of contradiction, I think it is opportune to commend and cherish the life of Prof Milde – a true and humble gentleman who treated everyone with respect and dignity, a brilliant and energetic academic and a wonderfully warm and compassionate person.

Prof Milde, we will all dearly miss you, but let it be known that your legacy will never be forgotten, because as I said before, “Prof Michael Milde, you are the common heritage of mankind…!”

May you rest in peace…

Colonel Leon Gernandt, Senior Legal Adviser, Department of Defence, South Africa

I had the privilege of following Michael Milde in the direction of the Institute of Air and Space Law while another permanent Director was being sought. I found the Institute to be a remarkable institution which bore the imprint of his many years as director. He had given intellectual direction and focus and led the Institute to even greater heights. His inspired leadership was legendary and the loyalty which he inspired in his students was quite remarkable. Michael led a very full life, jurist, legal advisor, teacher, academic administrator,  author, in short the very model for us all at McGill. He left an indelible legacy for which we must all be grateful.

Armand de Mestral C.M., Former Director of the Institute of Air and Space Law, Emeritus Professor of Law, McGill University

Professor Michael Milde was one of the most brilliant persons I have ever met. He has transcended already through his actions and because he made enormous contributions to the development of air law. He will continue to be alive in our hearts and through his academic work. I also would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family.

Fernando Fiallos

It was with deep sadness that I learned about the passing away of Dr. Milde. What a great professor, scholar, mentor, visionary, and aviation professional! I had the immense privilege to learn from him. To have known him. To have him as thesis supervisor. Today, aviation has lost one of its greatest figures. May you Rest In Peace, dear Professor Milde!

Adrian Cioranu

Many among us now recognize and support the relevance of the interaction of law and civil aviation in an environment that is trending to move from a sovereignty-based framework towards a more supranational domain that is influenced by the principles of a free market with growing numbers of global carrier associations. In that process, rules and responsibilities interact and sometimes clash. This presents legal and institutional challenges for the roles and responsibilities of ICAO, Regional bodies, States, Airlines and ATC Providers.  

The first among us to address these matters in his own inimitable way was my former boss and colleague Michael Milde with whom I have had the privilege to work for with and interact with for over thirty years, among others, as Senior Legal Officer in the one and only ICAO Legal Bureau.

Michael was the legal and institutional pillar of ICAO during important and sometimes critical periods; always ready to serve, with his phenomenal vision and memory, the President and Secretary General. He had the gift of advising Council Members in a rather convincing manner, often supported by a few well-chosen Latin quotes.  

He was a gentle giant for his staff and students; a wonderful Academic, always ready to discuss, support and inspire. No surprises that he also could be rather persistent in maintaining and defending his views when necessary. Particularly for ICAO, Michael Milde has been instrumental in setting and anchoring a realistic and effective legal and institutional global and regional role.

His wisdom and vision live on in most of us, often together with many precious personal memories.

Anne Marie and I would like to offer our deepest sympathies with Maria and the Family.

Roderick van Dam, General Counsel EUROCONTROL (ret.)

I will never forget Professor Michael Milde, such a fascinating speaker.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Audrey (GUELFI) Jauffret (LLM 1999-2000)

I never forget him based on great efforts made to me when I was about to lost my master degree in Air and Space Law on 2003-2005. The external professor gave fail to my thesis and that was very bad time to me and I was about to lost my degree . I was asked by the faculty to make great defense and argument to satisfied the faculty to appoint new external and at that time Prof. Milde made all his efforts and stand with me until I get pass to my thesis and graduated with my master degree. Thank you Prof. Milde and I will never forget you.

Mamduoh Ali Mohammed Al-Houdaili (LLM, 2003), Legal Specialist, Saudi Electricity Company

I knew Dr Michael Milde ever since I was posted as the Permanent Representative of India on the Council of ICAO in 1989. We had worked together on many legal aspects relating to  air transport including one on development of international legal instrument on Detection of Plastic Explosives when bomb explosion in mid-air caused major accidents with losses  of precious lives of passengers and crew involving  airlines of India, USA, and France . In the  Legal Sub Committee, Legal Committee and Diplomatic Conference he played a major role in drafting, modifying and finalizing the text which became a marvellous piece of international law on aviation security. He had also made substantial contribution to the  finalizing of  the revised version of the  Headquarters Agreement between ICAO and Canada along with Dr Edmund Faller.  I have been a direct witness to his performance in the Council, Assembly and  international conferences on air law. His clarity of thinking , knowledge of jurisprudence and his communication skill had impressed all .I also interacted with him  even when after his retirement when I was  Director of Bureau of Administration and Services. He encouraged me to support updating   of Repertoire Guide which he had prepared single handed. As Professor of the McGill University in the Institute of Air and Space Law he left an indelible mark as a teacher and guide to researchers. His eloquent advocacy for rewriting of the Chicago Convention to meet the challenges of 21st century at a conference on air law  in New Delhi will be remembered by students, lawyers ,aviation experts and diplomats .

In his exit from the world the global aviation community lost an eminent jurist, a brilliant professor and radical thinker.

May his noble soul rest in peace.

My most heartfelt condolence to Mrs Milde and other members of the family.

Vivek Pattanayak

I have had the privilege to know one of the most brillant lawyer in Air and Space Law. Michael combined strong personality and a special sense of human relations. I wish to give my warm condolences to Maria and all members of his family.

Marina Donato

Michael Milde was an oustanding scholar and teacher and an authority among air lawyers. His analysis was sharp; his expression was clear and polished. He communicated diplomatically and could easily introduce young students to complex matters. During the academic year 1988/89 I had the honour and privilege to attend the lectures he gave as a visitor to the Institute of Air and Space Law - and they made a difference. He later agreed to supervise my thesis, which was a wonderful experience. He strongly supported me and equipped me with a tool set for writing analytical research - skills that last for a life-time.

Stefan A. Kaiser (LL.M. 1988/89)


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