An older eagle soars

| February 7, 2024

Mr Hemmings described his flying skills as 'a bit rusty. Not surprisingly, as I am rusty'


Interesting read about a fella named Jack Hemmings. He recently decided to enjoy a bit of flying in a WWII-era Spitfire (the plane, not the car) . It was a bit smaller than what he used to fly – A Lockheed Hudson, similar to the tail dragging twin engine Electra.)  Now for the kicker – Jack is 102 and enlisted in the RAF in 1940.

Jack Hemmings, 102, doesn’t recall feeling frightened when he joined the RAF in 1940 at 18 – he trusted the training would prepare him for whatever the war threw at him.

Going to war “made me grow up a bit, I suppose”, said Jack, a Second World War veteran and former RAF Squadron Leader, who on Monday became the oldest pilot ever to fly a Spitfire.

A bomber pilot, he was stationed in Kolkata with 353 Squadron to protect the Bay of Bengal and the coast of Burma (as it was then known) until 1946, and received the Air Force Cross for “exemplary gallantry while flying”.

It has been 84 years since Jack, now a grandfather-of-three, first took to the skies.

He might not have been fazed by much at 18, but at 102, you could have forgiven him for being somewhat daunted by the prospect of clambering into a cockpit on a freezing, windswept airfield and taking flight.

But as soon as the signal came to board, he bounded out of his wheelchair and strode towards the aircraft in his khaki flying suit with the vim and vigour of a man at least 20 years younger.

Known a lot of older folks and can’t think of any in shape to climb into a Spitfire like this. This is not Jack’s last hurrah after a decades long absence, by the way.

He bought a small aircraft after his retirement. On his 100th birthday in 2021, he performed an aerobatic display in a Slingsby Firefly – a surprise gift from his wife, Kate.

In 2022, he flew a 1947 Gemini – the same model he took to Africa in 1948 in what was the first British mission to assess humanitarian needs in isolated communities dotted across the continent.

Setting out with a map, a compass and only the River Nile as their guide, he and his friend Stuart King, who had been at D-Day, visited more than 100 mission outposts which were separated from vital resources by jungles and deserts.

Coming into land after his 30-minute flight, Jack wore a look of pure contentment on his face.

His co-pilot, Barry Hughes, had handed over the controls mid-flight. “I don’t think he’s lost his touch,” said Mr Hughes.

“Slightly heavier than I expected. We were flying at about 210 knots which is faster than I used to fly in my Air Force days. I was a bit rusty. Not surprisingly, as I am rusty.”


There may be a spot or two on his sheet metal, but somehow I doubt there is all that much rust to be found.  84 years in the air – most don’t achieve that on the ground. I wanted to close with “The greatest generation, indeed” – but Jack says it better:

“Who’s to say that our generation was any better than theirs?” he said, speaking before his flight in the Heritage Hangar at Biggin Hill airfield. “But by and large I think the present generation are a bit scatty.”

He added: “Going to war, your mind is concentrating on what you’re doing, which is your part in the war […] You apply your mind to your task and do it as well as you can.”

Back then, you relied on your squadron and your training to get you through, he said. “You’re trained to meet all circumstances. If there’s a new circumstance, that’s what you’re trained for – to work out what the problem is, put it right and get back.”  Telegraph

However, he did say the present generation “by and large are a bit scatty.”



Category: Veterans in the news, WWII

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What a GREAT story…Thank You so much for sharing!

At 102 years young, Jack IS a Spitfire!

Salute To Jack!

Skivvy Stacker

SAAAA-LUTE! British style.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

I hope to live as long and as well!


“by and large are a bit scatty.” I’m stealing that.

You see this, boys and girls? This is what badassery looks like. Half the brass in the UK make up this mans testicles. I’d fly with him anyday.


…Biggin Hill airfield…

My mind read that as “Benny Hill airfield” at first!


Pat the crew chief on the head before climbing in and taking off.


Glad to see you in the cockpit, good Sir. Keep enjoying your life Jack!


BZ, Good Sir! A Salute to your Service and a life well lived. Only thing scatty about Jack is he’s still scatting around, living life well.


“A bit scatty.”

Some younguns might need help understanding that. Not enough time in the woods hunting.


Speaking of old Vets and Jet Planes…

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