102-year-old WWII veteran Jack Hemings becomes oldest to fly in a Spitfire

Where: Biggin Hill, London, United Kingdom When: 05 Feb 2024 Credit: Jonathan Buckmaster/Cover Images

The oldest pilot in time has flown in a Spitfire.

Jack Hemings AFC, a 102-year-old former RAF Squadron Leader, has become the oldest man to fly a Spitfire plane.

On Monday, Jack seized on a break in the blustery weather and took off from London Biggin Hill in one of the Heritage Hangar’s iconic Spitfire aircraft.

It was a special charity flight courtesy of Fly A Spitfire to honour Jack, his WWII RAF service and the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) humanitarian charity he founded in 1948 following his World War II service.

The flight also took place to mark the 80th anniversary year of the D-day landings and honour MAF co-founder and RAF veteran Stuart King, who took part in the operation but sadly passed away in 2020.

Although he was set to make history, before getting into the cockpit, Jack said, “I’m told it’s a possibility I could enter the record books today, but I’m not interested in records, I’m just interested in getting in and going!”

He proceeded to walk across the apron alongside chief Spitfire pilot Barry Hughes at truly impressive speed, then clipped himself into the rear seat of the only surviving Spitfire prototype of any mark: the 1944 VIII trainer (registered MT818).

After pulling the canopy shut, the Spitfire was cleared for take-off, and Jack was waved off by a small crowd compromising reporters, RAF dignitaries, MAF friends, and his son Adrien.

After safely coming back into land, Jack told members of the press that the experience was “delightful”.

“I was surprised by how heavy the controls were,” he added, “But that’s probably because I’m just a bit rusty. It was rather bumpy up there, but the overall experience really was absolutely delightful.”

—Cover Media via Reuters Connect

fly a spitfire
Where: Biggin Hill, London, United Kingdom When: 05 Feb 2024 Credit: Jonathan Buckmaster/Cover Images
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