RAF navigator maps his way into the skies

John with instructor Peter Darby
John with instructor Peter Darby

After spending decades in the back seat, a former RAF navigator has taken to the skies as a pilot for the first time - fulfilling his life’s ambition.

Squadron Leader John Hyde spent 40 years with the RAF working as a navigator on planes including Canberras, Valiants and Victors.

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174904009

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174904009

But during his distinguished career he never got to sit behind the controls of any of the aircraft - until taking up flying as a hobby.

Now, aged 84, he has fulfilled his lifelong ambition to take to the skies himself after completing both a take off and a landing.

He has been taking flying lessons at the Conington Flying Club based near Holme.

Grandfather of three Mr Hyde, from Stilton, said: “I have a friend who is a pilot, and he said I should join a flying club - I did as an associate member.

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174915009

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174915009

“During my 40-year career I had never been behind the controls before. I thought I would have a go.

“Even though I’m 84 I thought I would have a go. All I wanted to be able to do was do a circuit - to take off, fly and land one circuit.”

However, despite his lack of experience behind the controls , Mr Hyde quickly got the hang of flying.

He said: “Surprisingly, I took to it quite rapidly.

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174937009

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174937009

“I was a bit apprehensive, even though I am used to flying and am used to being in the air.”

Mr Hyde took to piloting as plane so quickly, he was able to make two take offs and landings after less than four hours tuition.

He said: “By the third exercise, the instructor said ‘you take us down’ - although he took over at 200 feet to make the actual landing.

“The next time he said ‘I’d like you to take off.’

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174926009

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-174926009

“While he set us up on the runway, I pulled the yoke (control stick) up at the right time.

“The next time I said I think I’m running before I can walk - but he said I was ready to do a landing - again he set me up, but I brought the plane down. He said it was a very smooth landing - I thought it was alright.

“It is totally different to the RAF - but it does give me a different perspective.

“I normally only had a small window, and would be facing backwards in my career - so it is very different. It is a nice way to see the world.

“I retired in April 1991, but I left flying behind in 1981 - although I have been on planes since then.

“I am hoping soon to be able to complete the circuit on my own. I will have the instructor next to me, but I want him just to be watching.

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-175010009

Ex-RAF navigator John Hyde of Stilton who is now learning to fly. He is looking through pics of his whilst service in the RAF EMN-170724-175010009

“My family are quite happy for me to do this - my daughter was a bit apprehensive, but now she says go for it,

“I am pretty fit for my age - I try and keep active. I certainly don’t feel like I am 84.”

John thanks all the staff at Conington Flying Club for helping him achieve his life’s ambition.