RAF veteran, 94, sees his dream to fly in a Spitfire finally realised

Nelson Swinney
Nelson Swinney

A 94-year-old man whose ambition to be an RAF pilot was thwarted by poor eyesight has finally taken to the skies in a historic Spitfire.

Nelson Swinney, of Bury St Edmunds, enjoyed the thrilling flight in the T9 spitfire at Duxford Airfield as a birthday gift from his younger son Paul.

Nelson Swinney Spitfire

Nelson Swinney Spitfire

Nelson was an engineer on Spitfires and Hurricanes after joining the RAF in 1941 and was shipped out to Libya where the war in the Western desert was at its height.

His sons Paul and John always knew their dad’s war experiences were an ‘essential part his being’ - especially after regular weekend visits to airshows, model making on the kitchen table and his ‘remarkable recollection’ of his time in the RAF.

Paul said: “It was, therefore, a very moving moment for us all to see him climb into a Spitfire, an aircraft that, even now, he could describe in the most intimate detail.

“He had wanted to be a pilot and enlisted as soon as he was old enough.

“But he had poor eyesight, such that he crashed his bike into Henley-on-Thames recruiting office front door, careering in to offer his services to King and Country.”

Nelson joined a pilot for the flight in the two-seater Spitfire which saw action during the Second World War.

He said: “It was such a pleasure to be up for 30 minutes flying in a big circle over Duxford, Cambridge and Newmarket. And it wasn’t just a placid drive around the sky - we did some diving around which was thrilling.

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience but it was great fun and I would love to do it every day of the week.”

Nelson still puts in a 30-hour a week work shift at an office desk - catching a bus from Bury to Newmarket and then taking a taxi to the Lynx Business Park.

There he works as a credit controller for Tristel Solutions Ltd, manufacturers of products for infection protection and contamination control.