AN airline pilot and former football club chairman has died from a brain tumour, aged 39.

Martin Vizzard battled the condition for four years, including treatment in America.

But despite his illness he remained active in the community, leading a successful campaign against a controversial wind turbine close to his home.

He was also a passionate supporter of the Sam Shaw Appeal to help the Hoddlesden youngster in his battle against neuroblastoma and made a number of donations to the family.

As chairman of Turton FC, he devoted his time and energy to saving the club, only stepping down at the end of last season because of his condition.

At the weekend players wore special t-shirts emblazoned with the word 'legend' as a mark of respect.

Martin's wife Emma, who is a fellow pilot, said: “He was very vibrant and was a big personality.

“You knew he was in a room because he would light it up.

“Even if they had only just met him, people would know within five minutes what a lovely man he was.

“He was so selfless and he had an infectious sense of humour.

“Martin was a real prankster and could get up to all sorts of tricks, but that is what made him him.”

Martin moved to Darwen from Wigan with his family in 1987, aged 13, and grew up in Knowlesly Road.

He went to All Saints Catholic High School in Rawtenstall and later St Mary’s College in Blackburn for his A-levels.

While studying at Lancaster University he funded flying lessons to feed his true passion.

His flying also led him to Emma, to whom he was introduced by a close friend and flying instructor who had taught her to fly.

They married at Pleasington Priory in Blackburn almost eight years ago.

When he left university he got his first job working for DirectFlight, performing maritime surveillance missions over the coast of England.

Most recently he had been working for luxury private flights firm NetJets.

He flew many rich and famous clients but Emma said to him it was just a job.

She said his family, friends and community were always the most important things to him.

Martin also left behind his mum and dad Michael and Audrey, sisters Nicola and Suzanne and their husbands, grandma Marjorie, and several nieces and nephews.

Dad Michael said: “He knew he was in a privileged position in terms of what he had achieved but his mentality was to help other people.

“He trained a lot of other people to be pilots and it wasn’t for financial gain.

“These people would never have learned to fly had it not been for Martin.”

Michael, deputy headteacher at The English College in Dubai, said: “When all the hi-jackings started I once asked Martin if anything scared him or phased him and he said the only thing was when Michael Douglas spoke to him using his first name.

“Martin had flown Michael and Catherine Zeta Jones before and when they boarded the plane a second time Mr Douglas said ‘have we got you again Martin?’ and he couldn’t believe it.”

Emma said her husband had recently discussed becoming a magistrate and was considering going part time to increase his community work.

She said: “There was a lot of other stuff he wanted to do but he just never got the chance in the end.”

At its home match on Saturday Turton FC held a minute’s applause in honour of their former chairman.

Current chairman Peter Gray said: “His place in Turton’s history cannot be underestimated.

“When he got involved it was ready for going out of business. He used his own personal money and time to save the club.

“The match on Saturday had the biggest attendance I’ve ever seen, which is a mark of the man and the respect for him at the football club.

“His dad came and spoke to the players after the game. It was really emotional and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”