Care home residents surprised with trip to see planes they flew as RAF pilots

John Orminston, 77, and Alan Sansom, 89, flew the planes in the 1980s and said the visit ‘brought back so many fond memories’.
John Orminston, 77, and Alan Sansom, 89, flew the planes in the 1980s and said the visit ‘brought back so many fond memories’.

A care home in Whitstable honoured the wish of two retired RAF pilots who wanted to return to the cockpit of the planes once flown during World War Two.

John Orminston, 77, and Alan Sansom, 89, are residents at Care UK’s Harrier Lodge, Kent, where they were surprised with a special trip to the RAF Manston History Museum to see the planes they once flew in the 1980s.

After finding out about their years spent as RAF pilots and their desire to see the historically significant aircraft, staff at Harrier Lodge soon made the dream a reality.

Alan Sansom with plane
Alan Sansom, 89, joined the RAF at the age of 18 (Care UK/PA)

A guided tour was organised for the former pilots alongside a visit to see the collection of jets, where neither “had any struggle knowing what every single button and dial did”.

“It brought back so many fond memories from my time in the sky,” Mr Sansom said.

“I really enjoyed (it).”

Mr Orminston added: “I had a great time back in my flying days and loved revisiting the planes at the museum.”

John Orminston
John Orminston and a plane he used to fly with the RAF (Care UK/PA)

Mr Orminston joined the RAF aged 16 as an electronics engineer, which saw him work on damaged machinery in Germany and cross the Berlin Wall.

He later became a flying officer and was stationed in the south of England.

Mr Sansom was a member of the RAF from 18 years old and later in his military career was stationed in Odiham, Hampshire, where he remembers converting a hanger into a social space so he and his colleagues could play badminton and basketball to pass the time.

Home manager at Harrier Lodge, Sadie Porteous, said: “At Harrier Lodge, we encourage residents to lead fulfilling lives, whether that comes from helping out in the garden, or flying down memory lane like John and Alan.”

John Orminston old photo
Mr Orminston, second from left, pictured in the RAF (Care UK/PA)

“It’s true what they say – a pilot never stops acquiring knowledge as both John and Alan demonstrated.

“Everyone at the museum was astounded by the knowledge both of them had of the jets and just how comfortable they both felt being back onboard – something most of us would find nerve-racking.

“Both of them had a brilliant time, and it was great to see their faces light up the room when they saw the planes close up.”

The care home has a wishing tree initiative, which lets residents suggest ideas for activities they would enjoy doing, from ziplining to being treated to a fish and chip dinner.