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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

91-year-old, World War two veteran Neville Croucher took his first flight in a Spitfire at Headcorn Aerodrome thanks to Keith Perkins and Aero Legends

23 June 2014
by Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

A 91-year-old World War two veteran has taken his first ever flight in a Spitfire after never getting the opportunity during his time in the air-force.

Headcorn Aerodrome welcomed veteran Neville Croucher to take a flight in one of the war-planes to fulfill his life-long dream.

Neville, orginally comes from Preston, near Canterbry, and was a Hurricane pilot during the war.

Neville, 91, was told upon arrival that he would be taking a trip in a Spitfire

World War two veteran Neville Croucher was told upon arrival that he would finally be taking a flight in a Spitfire

He never got the opportunity to fly a spitfire during his service and it became his dream to take a trip in one of the iconic planes. 

He arrived at the airfield on Sunday, June 22, with the understanding that he was going to see other pilots fly them, however, he was told shortly after arriving that he would finally be taking a trip in one.

When asked if he'd like to fly, Mr Croucher said: "Is that really possible for me to do that? Oh I'd love to, that would be just fantastic." 

Keith Perkins, owner of company Aero Legends, made arrangements for the 91-year-old veteran to have a flight in a Spitfire.

Spitfire owner Keith Perkins with his Spitfire MK IX

Spitfire owner Keith Perkins with his Spitfire MK IX

He said: "I've had the business idea for around a year, and when we finished the spitfire we thought, right, now we need to do something with it.

"When I heard about Neville's dream to go up in one, I thought what could be better."  

The company provides unique Battle of Britain aviation experiences in war-planes at the Kent airfield.

A team of well-known and highly experienced war-bird pilots, all members of the RAF Battle of Britain memorial flight, signed up to fly the aircraft. 

Neville Croucher, 91, ready to take his flight in the Spitfire at Headcorn Aerodrome

Neville Croucher, 91, ready to take his flight in the Spitfire at Headcorn Aerodrome

Mr Perkins owns an impressive collection of war-planes including the Spitfire HFIX TD314 and a trio of Tiger-Moths. Aero Legends also provides the opprtunity to fly in a Harvard IV 1747.

Later in the day a very shocked and excited Mr Croucher was helped into the Spitfire ready for his flight.

He added: "I really didn't think this would be possible, I can't believe it. I am a nobody I don't understand, everybody is being so wonderful."

It has been Mr Croucher's lifelong dream to be airborne in one of the planes, and thanks to Keith Perkins and Aero Legends, it came true. 

Pilot David 'Rats' Ratcliffe on the wing of a Spitfire Tr9.

Pilot David 'Rats' Ratcliffe on the wing of a Spitfire Tr9.

Pilot Dave 'Rats' Ratcliffe took Neville up for his experience. He said "It's an absolute pleasure to fly with Neville, he's a fantastic guy."

Mr Ratcliffe has been flying Spitfires for over 10 years, and is now based in Duxford.

Neville was taken for a lengthy trip in the plane, and was even handed the controls for part of the flight.

A close friend, Liz Reid, said: "It has been Neville's dream to fly in a spitfire. Whenever he watched other air displays he would have his hands in front of him as if he was flying the planes."

 

Pilot Dave 'Rats' Ratcliffe and Neville Croucher before take-off

Pilot Dave 'Rats' Ratcliffe and Neville Croucher before take-off

Watching him fly, a tearful Liz added: "It is the most phenomenal feeling watching Neville go up. We have been trying for so long to arrange this for him. 

"I never thought it would happen, and to finally see it, I can't explain how I feel." 

Liz, who is an events co-ordinator at Kent and East Sussex Railway said: "Neville is such a modest man and he doesn't understand why we want to do this for him. He's fantastic and I am just over the moon."

David 'Rats' Ratcliffe, John Romain, Aero-Legends owner Keith Perkins and Martin Overall.

David 'Rats' Ratcliffe, John Romain, Aero-Legends owner Keith Perkins and Martin Overall.

Returning from his flight Neville said: "That was absolutely fantastic. It was like being in a time machine, it took me back 40 years.

"That was absolutely fantastic. It was like being in a time machine, it took me back 40 years" - Neville Croucher

"I had so much fun and he even let me control it for a bit. That was marvellous."

The 91-year-old veteran joined the air-force at the age of 16. His enthusiasm for flying came after German planes shot as his town when he was just a young boy.

He said: "I was a little baker-boy. I had a bike with a basket on the front and when I was riding one day, a German plane came over-head and started shooting at us.

"It was then I thought 'I'm going to get you guys' and from then on I wanted to be a pilot."

For more information about Aero Legends and the planes you could fly, visit: http://aerolegends.co.uk/about-us.php

 

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