Veteran, 102, gets airborne in Spitfire

Sqn Ldr Jack Hemmings has flown as a passenger with Biggin Hill-based Fly A Spitfire

World War Two veteran Sqn Ldr Jack Hemmings achieved a lifelong dream yesterday (Monday, February 5) when he got airborne in the cockpit of one of the Biggin Hill-based Spitfire fleet.

Jack had never previously flown in the legendary fighter, but was finally able to experience one of them – and it was no less a machine than Mk.VIII MT818, the only surviving Spitfire prototype of any mark. The yellow-nosed aircraft was the first and only ‘Spitfire High Speed Trainer Prototype’ created by Vickers-Armstrongs.

 

Pilot Barry Hughes and Jack with Spitfire MT818
Pilot Barry Hughes and Jack with Spitfire MT818 BBC

Furthermore, Jack’s flight was done to raise money for a good cause. His 20-minute flight from London Biggin Hill was to raise awareness and funds for the charity he co-founded 80 years ago.

Jack is one of the leading lights behind the Mission Aviation Fellowship which to this day works with hundreds of Christian and relief organisations around the globe – it’s the largest humanitarian airline in the world. Having helped to establish MAF, Jack’s still involved with it to this day.

Jack Hemmings was a founder of MAF some 80 years ago
Jack Hemmings was a founder of MAF some 80 years ago Mission Aviation Fellowship

“I thought very strongly that aeroplanes should be used for good,” he told the BBC. “Where people are in need – get them to hospital or get doctors to them.”

 After sampling the controls of the Spitfire and, as he put it, “doing what the birds do”, he enjoyed three victory rolls in the aircraft – piloted on the day by Barry Hughes. “It’s an absolute pleasure to fly the veterans,” Barry commented, “and I don’t think Jack’s lost his touch!”

“I dare say a bit of a beverage might come in,” a celebratory Jack concluded.

Jack flying in the rear cockpit of MT818
Jack flying in the rear cockpit of MT818 BBC
Jack reflects on his long-awaited debut Spitfire flight
Jack reflects on his long-awaited debut Spitfire flight BBC
Flying in MT818 over Biggin Hill
Flying in MT818 over Biggin Hill BBC