A 96-year-old RAF hero returned to the skies for the first time in almost 75 years after his final flight during the war.
Before workers from his Bupa care home organized a surprise trip for him as part of a wish-granting program, former Airman Bernard Rye assumed his flying days had been over.
Assisted by his son, Mr Rye had a 30-minute flight over Dorset and the Isle of Wight in a Piper PA Cherokee Six, piloted by a volunteer pilot who had volunteered to fly him.
During his tenure in Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe – he even had the opportunity to pilot Louis Mountbatten, the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
In his own words, Mr Rye described his time in the Royal Air Force: “I had a genuinely enjoyable time in the RAF and got to explore everything from South America to Australia and the Middle East.”
Last time he flew was seven decades ago, and he never imagined that he’d be back in the air: “It brought me a long way back in time, and I’m quite thankful to the crew for making it happen.”
The initiative is being implemented in all of the group’s care facilities in order to encourage people to enjoy life to the fullest while also checking items off their wish list.
“Everyone has goals and aspirations that they’d want to accomplish, and being in a care facility should not come in the way of that,” Ms McCarthy said. “We all like hearing Bernard’s recollections about his time in the RAF, and he gets a real thrill out of telling them. That’s why we wanted to assist him in reliving the experience, and we planned a surprise for him.”
She collaborated closely with fly2help, a charitable organization that specializes in aviation adventures, to plan the surprise.
Even though he was an accountant by profession, his mathematical abilities were put to use in his jobs as a pilot and navigator, which required him to calculate flight paths under very difficult circumstances.
Following the war, Mr Rye left the RAF and returned to his accounting profession, and was working for a manufacturing firm.
It was here, in 1955, that he met the woman who would become his wife. Following a brief romance, they were married a year later in a ceremony held at All Saints Church, Woodford Green, in London.
Following their marriage in 1969, the pair relocated to Poole in Dorset, where Bernard began working as a financial manager for a local firm.
He has remained in the region ever since, eventually relocating to the nursing home in 2013.