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WWII pilot thrilled to take to the skies again

PUBLISHED: 17:34 15 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:13 12 August 2010

Flying high: Bill Sanders

Flying high: Bill Sanders

A 92-YEAR-OLD former RAF pilot took a trip of a lifetime to see the Spitfires he once flew, writes Kate Nelson. Bill Sanders and his wife sat in the helicopter cockpit last Thursday at London s RAF Museum, which houses three of the aircraft he piloted

A 92-YEAR-OLD former RAF pilot took a 'trip of a lifetime' to see the Spitfires he once flew, writes Kate Nelson.

Bill Sanders and his wife sat in the helicopter cockpit last Thursday at London's RAF Museum, which houses three of the aircraft he piloted in WWII, as a birthday present from his friends and family.

Mr Sanders and his wife, Mabel, 96, both residents at Sundridge Court care home in Bromley, stayed in Denham, Buckinghamshire, the night before the trip to prepare for the early morning flight the next day from Denham Aerodrome.

He said: "This is such a dream come true, I really can't believe it. It was so good to be up in the skies again and to see the beautiful Spitfires on display at the RAF Museum London.

"I can't thank my care home enough, and the RAF Museum for making this possible; it really was trip of a lifetime."

Mr Sanders was a Spitfire pilot and Flight Lieutenant in the 609 Squadron stationed at Biggin Hill and No 19 Squadron at RAF Duxford in the 1940s.

He flew with many Polish, Czech and Commonwealth pilots and escorted the first American bombers on the daylight raids over Europe in 1939.

In September 1941 he was escorting bombers to Lille and ran out of fuel on the return flight. His Spitfire crashed into a concrete gun turret at the edge of the airfield and Bill suffered horrific injuries.

But he resumed duties in October 1942 and spent time training pilots at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire. During the last years of the war he was responsible for flying the top brass in the RAF and the Army over Europe to survey progress.

Home manager and Mr Sanders' nurse, Maggie Candy, said: "It was a marvellous day out for Bill and his wife and a great opportunity to celebrate Bill's career with the RAF.

"Bill's stories are fascinating and give a wonderful insight into the days gone by and an opportunity to celebrate his fantastic achievements."

katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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