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Great-grandad will see his dream to fly a Spitfire come true for his 90th birthday




Alan Gilbert will have his dream of flying a Spitfire come true for his 90th birthday. He is holding a photo of a Cessna that he was allowed to have a go at flying in America. (3427651)
Alan Gilbert will have his dream of flying a Spitfire come true for his 90th birthday. He is holding a photo of a Cessna that he was allowed to have a go at flying in America. (3427651)

As a young man, Alan Gilbert's dream was to fly a Spitfire in the RAF.

While circumstances of war meant he never got the chance - now, at the age of nearly 90, he will finally see his dream come true.

The great-grandad, from Moulton, has been mad about planes for as long as he can remember, and he's forked out £2,750 for a 30-minute flight in a genuine two-seater World War Two Spitfire for his landmark birthday.

And while in the sky he wants to do a 'Victory Roll' to 'feel what those boys felt when they were in the air.'

"When I was younger I wanted to join the RAF," he said. "It was 1945 and I went round all the recruitment offices. I tried every one of them. Who knows what would have happened if they had accepted me? I would have tried for a pilot's licence.

"But because of reserve operations they would not have me. I was a tractor driver for John Cope in Gosberton Risegate and in those days it was just at the end of the war and there was a shortage of land workers.

"I went round all the recruitment offices. I tried every one of them. Who knows what would have happened if they had accepted me? I would have tried for a pilot's licence."

"Because lots of land workers had gone off to the army or RAF the boss had just four guys working for him and I was the youngest at 16.

"I had the ambition to join the RAF and would go to every recruitment office. When I went missing from work the boss realised where I'd gone!"

Alan Gilbert plans to do a 'Victory Roll' while in the air. (3427653)
Alan Gilbert plans to do a 'Victory Roll' while in the air. (3427653)

But despite his relentless efforts, fate did not allow him to live his dream - until now.

"My family think I'm crazy," he said.

"I'd been up in a few small planes in America but never had the chance to go in a Spitfire. I know it seems like a lot of money to spend but it is what I want to do.

"I've had five kids and I have brought them up. They know I am a bit crazy but I have had a life and I have not saved money. I have spent it on holidays and travel and they do not object."

His wife Irene passed away in 2005, and Alan said she was always very supportive of his dream.

"She used to say I am 'crackers', but was always supportive. If I had joined the RAF we might not have met."

He will head to RAF Biggin Hill in London next month for the flight, a little before his actual birthday in November. Biggin Hill played a huge part during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War, as one of the principal fighter bases protecting London and South East England from attack by enemy bombers.

Alan is looking forward to handling the controls of the plane, which is allowed subject to approval of the pilot.

He said: "They ask if you want to do aerobatics. Too right, I do. I want to do a Victory Roll and feel what those boys felt in the war. The only thing that will be different is I won't be getting shot at."



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