LONDON (AP) — A former Royal Air Forces pilot has taken to the skies in a Spitfire at 102 years old.
Jack Hemmings, an ex-squadron leader with Britain’s air force, is believed to be the oldest pilot to fly the World War II plane. His 20-minute flight, from an airfield in southern England on Monday, was to raise money for a charity he co-founded nearly 80 years ago.
The veteran — who had never flown a Spitfire before — said it was “absolutely delightful” being back behind the controls, though he said the ride was “very bumpy.”
“To be honest, it felt a bit rusty. Not surprising I am rusty,” he said.
Hemmings was raising funds for Mission Aviation Fellowship, a humanitarian air service he helped launch after WWII alongside D-Day veteran Stuart King. The organization has since grown into a Christian organization that uses planes to deliver relief, medicine and emergency cargo to countries in need.
The flight marked 80 years since the D-Day landings and paid tribute to King, who died in 2020.
Hemmings previously performed aerobatics on his 100th birthday and raised more than 40,000 pounds ($50,000) for the charity.
Barry Hughes, a pilot who accompanied Hemmings in the aircraft, said the veteran had a “natural touch.”
“He didn’t need any instruction really. He just took control, flown us around, made some turnings and basic maneuvers,” Hughes said. “I think he really enjoyed every single moment of the flight.”