100-year-old RAF veteran takes controls of plane to perform daredevil stunts

A Second World War veteran took to the skies once again to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Former Squadron Leader Jack Hemmings, who spent four years in India as an RAF pilot, took the controls of the two-seater stunt plane over the skies of Britain.

The adrenaline junkie completed a loop-the-loop, barrel roll and a 180-degree turn at White Waltham Airfield near Maidenhead, Berks.

The flight was a treat organised by wife Kate, 73, who knew about her husband’s dream to take to the skies once again.

Speaking to the Mirror from the West London Aero club after the flight, Mr Hemmings said: “It was a great success and pleasure.

“The pleasure of being off the ground, I don’t know how many people experience that.

“To be up there, detached from the ground, and looking down is a serene feeling.

“It was excellent and a suitable gift. At my age it’s difficult to find something to give a person.

“I happened to comment to my wife that I would like to do aerobatics and she quietly fixed it for me for my birthday.

“She knew what I wanted to do and arranged for it to happen. I’ve been given a treat.”

Mr Hemmings, from Heathfield in Sussex, always hoped he would fly again one day.

The RAF veteran, who is originally from Bentham, North Yorks, has completed courses in aerobatics since retiring.

Following the war and then a career in accountancy, Mr Hemmings, who piloted the first survey flight from London across Central Africa in 1948 to help launch Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), returned to flying in 1982.

He went to Russia to train in aerobatics in 1992 and continued to fly for pleasure until 2017.

He even owned his own aircraft as, together with his engineer friend Clive Steer, he built a single-seater Tipsy Nipper in 1994.

Eventually he got rid of it, though he still enjoys flying and doing aerobatics.

In 2017 he was awarded Master Air Pilot by the RAF.

Commercial pilot Nigel Rhind joined the veteran for the flight today to complete the take off, before Mr Hemmings took over for the manoeuvres.

Mr Rhind said Mr Hemmings was “absolutely amazing”.

“I didn’t need to be there. His experience showed and he has not lost any skill.”

Mr Hemmings said for the remainder of his birthday he would go home, have a cup of tea, then the family have a bottle of Champagne to open.

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