The late Action Aviation chair Hamish Harding
Aviation entrepreneur and legend Hamish Harding was one of five lost when the adventure tourism submersible Titan imploded during a descent to the remains of the RMS Titanic. (Photo: Hamish Harding LLC)

Search for Titan Sub Ends with All Aboard Lost

Aviation luminary Hamish Harding was among those who paid up to $250,000 for the doomed trip.

The search for a submersible on a sightseeing mission to the remains of the Titanic ended in tragedy as the U.S. Coast Guard announced on June 22 that it had located the imploded wreckage of the Titan on the sea floor less than 2,000 feet from the ocean liner’s bow. All five on board were lost, including Hamish Harding, chairman of Dubai-based aircraft brokerage Action Aviation and a noted adventurer, who was onboard as a “mission specialist”—one of the individuals who paid up to $250,000 for the trip.

The Titan, which had survived previous dives to the Titanic, lost contact with the surface on June 18, less than two hours after it began its descent. It is not known when the submersible suffered a “catastrophic implosion,” although rescuers spent two days futilely trying to home in on what was described as a banging noise in the area. The urgency of the search was spurred by the limited hours of life support available on the Titan.

The wreckage was observed via a remotely operated submersible, and an expert from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute explained that the distribution of the Titan’s debris field was consistent with an implosion in the water column.

Harding, 58, a commercially licensed jet pilot, was inducted as a Living Legend of Aviation last year. Aside from founding Action Aviation in 2004, he was a member of the Explorers Club, and his thirst for adventure took him from the depths of the Marianas Trench to suborbital space aboard a Blue Origin rocket. In 2019, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Harding was part of “One More Orbit,” a record-breaking pole-to-pole circumnavigation in a Gulfstream G650ER. He also made several trips to Antarctica, landing on an ice runway, while working with the tourism company White Desert to introduce regular business jet service there.

In a media statement posted on the Action Aviation website, managing director Mark Butler said the company and Harding's family were united in grief with the other families who also lost their loved ones in the disaster, and described Harding as a loving husband and a dedicated father to his two sons. "He was a passionate explorer—whatever the terrain—who lived his life for his family, his business, and for the next adventure." The statement concluded, "If we can take any small consolation from this tragedy, it's that we lost him doing what he loved."

A frequent speaker at aviation conferences as an expert in the aircraft sales arena, Harding expressed continued optimism about the business aviation markets during a recent interview with BJT sister publication AIN. “There’s a tremendous amount of activity,” he said, noting that his business was booming and adding that prices had adjusted slightly down from the peak period they were in and have provided some degree of stability. “There was a period when you did a deal and then people would walk away from the deal as a seller because they had a higher offer. People don’t walk away from deals anymore.”

AIN contributor Peter Shaw-Smith, who interviewed Harding on several occasions, most recently on the eve of last month’s European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition, called him the “quintessential bizav man,” and added, “His succinct precis of the market in the Middle East and around the world were avidly consumed by readers seeking an insight into the true workings of the bizav market."

While he loved the business, Harding also was one of Dubai’s foremost proponents, Shaw-Smith said, “never missing an opportunity to extol the city’s virtues as his business’s node. He lived the city to the fullest, enjoying life from his villa on Palm Island, as most of Dubai’s most successful do. Knowing he won’t be coming back is a sad loss to his colleagues at Action Aviation, and it is indeed hard to know where they will go from here without his steady hand on the tiller. He will be missed and it is sobering that he is lost to us in his prime.”