A Royal Navy veteran says he never stopped reaching for the skies – after finally fulfilling a childhood dream to take flight in an iconic Spitfire.
South Shields-born aviation enthusiast George Heron has had his head in the clouds ever since he met World War Two hero Sir Douglas Bader, who piloted the plane during the Battle of Britain.
Mr Heron met Bader as an infant when he visited South Shields in the 1960s.
His life-long love of the Spitfire has continued to burn bright and an incredible anniversary gift from his wife saw his flight of fancy become an unforgettable reality.
Mr Heron, who was born in Simonside, South Shields, says he was ‘gobsmacked’ when wife Louise, 41, organised for him to take controls of a vintage Spitfire which saw action during World War Two.
The 54-year-old, who had a nine-year stint as a radio operator in the Navy before spending over 20 years as a constable with Northumbria Police, says he has yet to come back down to earth after soaring over the Kent countryside at the Biggin Hall Heritage Hangar.
The spitfire is a wonderful airplane and flying it was a fantastic experience.George Heron
He said: “As a boy I had the privilege of meeting Sir Douglas Bader. During my chat I asked him what it was like to fly a Spitfire and he suggested I should try it one day. Ever since then I have had a love for the airplane. Whenever I saw one at an airshow, I would tell my friends and family that one day I would fly one.”
When Mr Heron had to retake an English exam in the Navy, he chose the Supermarine Spitfire as his subject – and passed with flying colours.
Mr Heron, who now lives in County Durham, added: “In September my wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and I was gobsmacked when she presented me with an invitation to visit the Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar where I would not only see Spitfires being restored but I would take to the sky to fulfil a childhood dream in a specially converted two seater.”
Mr Heron, who now works as a powerboat instructor since retiring from the force, says the experience was worth 50 years of waiting.
He said: “The spitfire is an iconic airplane and flying it was a fantastic experience.
“When people ask for me what it was like I always say imagine going from driving a lorry to getting into a Formula One car.
“It was on top of my bucket list and I can’t thank my wife enough.”