His wife of 57 years had just been moved into a care home last summer due to Alzheimer’s disease, and sadness was his only companion—until his grandson surprised him by fulfilling a lifelong dream.
12-year-old Harrison Gurney wanted desperately to cheer up his grandad and came up with a plan to give him the surprise of a lifetime.
Malcolm Hanson had loved Spitfires ever since he witnessed a ‘dog fight’ over his head involving one of the vintage aircrafts as a boy living in 1945 London during World War II.
Harrison knew that he dreamed of flying in one, so, to help him celebrate his 80th birthday, the boy wrote letters to airfields and private Spitfire owners across the UK asking for help.
“It breaks my heart to see him so sad. I want him to smile again,” read part of the letter.
Bosses at Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex were so touched that they offered to fly the two of them in the classic aircraft.
Harrison managed to raise enough money to fuel his granddad’s surprise by doing chores around the house and offering to do garden work for other family members.
On Friday, Mr. Hanson finally got to live out his fantasy of taking to the skies—and even got to take control of the aircraft.
“It was absolutely fantastic, it was the most amazing experience I have ever had. To have been allowed to take control on the Spitfire,” said Hanson, whose dad was in the Royal Air Force during the War. ”The pilot did barrel rolls and some dives, it was great fun—a brilliant day out, all thanks to Harri.”
“It’s a life-long dream come true. Harri knew that and went and made it happen. He sets his mind on something and follows it through. We’re very proud of him.”
“While I was up there I was thinking, ‘When am I going to do a barrel roll?’ and then I got to do one and even take control, turning left and right and up and down. It was a great feeling.”
Staff at Boultbee Academy flight school were also touched by the youngster’s letter and they offered to also send him up in the 1940s Harvard.
“Harri and his granddad are like two peas in a pod,” said his mum. “He wrote a letter and wanted me to help him find a place to send it. When I read it, it just made me bawl my eyes out.”
“It said ‘can you help me mend my grandad’s broken heart’. He was worrying and wanted to help him smile again.”