Fly-boy Jack is on a high after visit

Jack Driver learns to use a machine gun from Tech. Sgt. Dietrich Thurston, 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons expeditor, in an HH-60 Pave Hawk aircraft on the RAF Lakenheath flightline, March 14, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Conner Estes)
Jack Driver learns to use a machine gun from Tech. Sgt. Dietrich Thurston, 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons expeditor, in an HH-60 Pave Hawk aircraft on the RAF Lakenheath flightline, March 14, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Conner Estes)
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AN 11-YEAR-OLD aviation enthusiast who has a rare autoimmune disorder got the birthday surprise of a lifetime this week at an RAF base.

Jack Driver was given the Top Gun treatment on Wednesday when his parents took him for a surprise visit to RAF Lakenheath.

The Ipswich schoolboy, who was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia at the age of seven, thought he was going for a routine visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge.

But his parents, James and Helen, had something else in mind as they took a diversion to the US Air Force base where Jack took part in the Pilot for a Day programme.

Jack said the day was the ‘best birthday present ever’.

“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, ever since I went to Bristol in 2010 for a bone marrow transplant.

“Thank you to RAF Lakenheath,” he said.

Jack’s day saw him given a briefing by USAFE flight commanders, given a tailor-made flight suit and taking a ride on the F-15 flight simulator.

He was then shown the real thing and had a chance to sit in an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and F-15C Eagle fighter jet.

After lunch at Pizza Hut, he was taken on a tour of the base, including a meeting with ‘The Bird Man’, Keith Mutton. Mr Mutton looks after the base’s predatory birds which clear the flight path of hazardous birds.

Making a decision over what had been the highlight of the day was a tough choice.

Jack said: “It’s very hard to decide. I really loved sitting in the Pave Hawk and the F-15 Eagle and I also loved being in the simulator and shooting down 10 enemy aircraft.”

The day was organised by Capt Jason Bianchi, an F-15 pilot from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010.

He said: “Jack is a phenomenal and brilliant young man. He blows me away with how much he knows about aviation.”