Like a moth to a plane

Like a moth to a plane

A sprightly 90-year-old war veteran who drew up a bucket list got his dream of flying in a Tiger Moth – after crashing in his first and only solo flight 72 years before.

Ex-naval airman Jack Green drew up his last wishes after losing his wife of 60 years, Brenda, who died of Alzheimer’s at the age of 85 last year.

He was determined to fly in a Tiger Moth again after his first failed attempt in 1942 when he accidentally FLIPPED one of the biplanes on a training exercise.

The report into his accident stated: “Pupil very inexperienced. Flapped on “umpteenth” attempt to land “

Navy seniors said he ”failed miserably” and he never flew one again – and went to sea instead.

His family arranged a surprise trip and and he was able to fulfill his dream and fly in a Tiger Moth and put to bed the embarrassing memories of his failed attempt 70 years before.

JACK_GREEN_TAM11Jack said: ”Today it was a wonderful flight and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The landing was perfect – perfect. I took the controls today for a few minutes and it felt lovely. Thankfully the pilot landed me today.”

The father-of-four, from Mansfield, Notts., knew he had to live his remaining time to the full and said he wanted to go back to the sea and the air before he died.

His daughter, pharmacy assistant Kim McGregor, 53, her two sisters and brothers took Jack on a Mediterranean cruise and arranging a special WWII themed birthday party for his 90th birthday.

Mum-of-two Kim said: “At his party we surprised Dad with his present of another flight in a Tiger Moth, hoping that he wouldn’t crash this one.”

He took to the skies again while suffering with liver cancer at the Darley Moor Airfield near Ashfield, Derbys., in June this year.

JACK_GREEN_youngIn 1942 he was training to be a naval pilot and as an 18-year-old he was sent off on his own in the biplane after just 10 hours flight training.

He panicked when he was told Stirling Bombers were coming in to land at Elmdon Airfield – now Birmingham Airport.

Stirling Bombers were manufactured and tested at Elmdon and on that afternoon a group of them came in to land shortly after Jack had taken off.

He said: “When I was flying two red lights came on signaling it wasn’t safe to land. The Stirlings had a big slip-stream and we knew we had to avoid flying near them.

“That must have upset me a bit because when I went around again and landed, I thought I’d bounced too much and went round again. This happened about 12 or 13 times.

“Finally it got dark. So they opened all the Stirling hangars and turned the lights on – and the café lights so as I didn’t lose the aerodrome.

“And then eventually my instructor got in another plane and told me to follow him. I followed him and then he’d land and I’d land, and I’d be off again. And he had to chase me and pass me.

“I landed eventually because of no fuel. And I thought ‘well this is the last time’ and unfortunately I must have had my hand on the throttle and opened it and I flipped it.

“My instructor, the next day, said ‘You’re the first person to do his first solo and his first night flight on the same occasion’.

“I had to take a chief flying instructor test, which I failed miserably. I wasn’t allowed to fly again so I went into the normal Navy.”

His second and final flight took him on the route of the Dambuster Lancaster Bombers and he even had a go of the controls. This time he landed safely, with the experienced pilot doing the touch down.

JACK_GREEN_boatAfter being permanently grounded, Jack then served on HMS Lagan – a Frigate patrolling the Atlantic then as a front-gunner on a Motor Torpedo Boat based in Dover.

Sadly Jack died last month. He had gone on the cruise after his wife’s death and found out he had liver cancer when he got back home.

Kim said: “We are so sad that Dad has died, it has left a gaping hole in our family. Right up until his last days he was going to the club, he liked to play poker and snooker and went to the bookies.

“He even had a last go at bowling in September.

“His funeral was a great celebration of his life, where we had pictures up of him in Tiger Moth.

“There were about 260 people at the service. He was well loved and loved each of his five grandkids and eight great grandkids.

“It is sad to see him go but we are trying to focus on the good things and that he got to do everything he wanted to do while he was alive.”

by Samantha Yule


Image of Tiger Moth courtesy of Towpilot at Wikimedia Commons