Veteran a guest at historic flight
Just when former Royal Air Force pilot John Beeching had come back down to earth, he's off again.
This time the Nelson pensioner, who recently returned from a World War II memorial event in London, is to be an invited guest at a function in Ardmore, Auckland, on September 29 to see a restored World War II Mosquito take to the air again.
Mr Beeching, who turns 89 in October, flew RAF Mosquito combat planes on pathfinder and bombing missions over Europe during the war as a member of the 169 Special Duties Night Fighter Squadron.
He went to London in June, courtesy of a public fundraising campaign, to attend the dedication and unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial in London.
He has now bought a ticket to Auckland to be part of the September event marking the culmination of one of the country's most challenging warbird restorations.
Once airborne, it will be the only flying Mosquito in the world. The plane is owned by American Jerry Yagen who owns dozens of warbirds in his Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, United States.
A main driver of the project was Glyn Powell, of Auckland, who was enlisted to create new fuselage, wings, and tail sections for the Mosquito.
Mr Powell said it was "absolutely great" that Mr Beeching would be at the launch.
Mr Beeching said he was contacted by Mosquito First Flight Ltd, which is involved in the launching project, and invited to attend.
"It will be the only one I've seen flying since the end of the war," Mr Beeching said.
"I've booked a Grab-a-Seat [deal] and my son has shouted me the trip as a birthday and Father's Day present.
"It is another occasion, like the unveiling, I cannot afford to miss," Mr Beeching said.
Mr Powell described the Mosquito aircraft, which were made of wood, as "absolutely amazing planes".
"They were faster than a Spitfire, and had the greatest range of any aircraft of the Allied forces. They were the fastest planes in the world for a time," he said.
Auckland-based Tax Management New Zealand is working on a plan to take five former RAF members resident in this country to view the Bomber Command Memorial in London. Veterans who did not serve with the Royal New Zealand Air Force did not meet the criteria to attend the London unveiling as part of the official New Zealand delegation.
Mr Beeching was among them, which is why the Nelson community rallied to gather the money to send him and his wife to London.
Tax Management NZ chief customer officer Liz Taylor said the idea to send the British veterans came from the the firm's founding director who had an affinity for their plight. She said the firm did a lot of philanthropic work in New Zealand.
"We saw the article about the guys who were unable to go with the New Zealand contingent. It's not an absolutely done deal yet, but we're looking into it."
Ms Taylor said the five veterans had been selected, but she did not think any were from Nelson.
- © Fairfax NZ News