The Gnat Display Team played a major role in providing a VIP day out for a youngster at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
Six-year-old George Holmes, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, travelled from Nottingham with his parents to experience his dream day. George had told the charity When You Wish Upon A Star that he’d always wanted to visit the Air Tattoo as a VIP, and a special treat was laid on for the youngster.
After travelling to the show along the purple route, reserved for VIP traffic, George watched displays and met the Red Arrows. He then enjoyed a tour of aircraft including the Folland Gnat trainer. George met Gnat Display Team pilot Oli Wheeldon, and sat in the cockpit of the historic aircraft, the original mount for the Red Arrows, while Oli gave him a guided tour of the controls.
Oli commented: “One of the great things about static displays at airshows is the people you meet. At RIAT we met people who had worked on Gnats, whose relatives had flown the Gnat, plus even a few ex-Red Arrows and Yellowjacks Gnat pilots themselves, but the most memorable for me was young George, who zipped along in his electric wheelchair at such a pace that I could barely keep up with him.
“George was a great kid, full of beans and with a huge grin on his face, and proudly wearing his new Red Arrows flying suit. We sat him in the jet and explained the cockpit controls and instruments to him and his parents – he was full of questions and wonderment, which was great to see. We don’t find many people for whom the Gnat cockpit is very spacious, but he was certainly one.”
Oli added: “The Heritage Aircraft Trust is a charitable organisation, and one of our missions is to give something back to the public and, where we can, to make special moments like this come true. As a team we were all very proud to have been a part of making this dream come true for young George at RIAT.”
Barbara White, founder of When You Wish Upon A Star, which specialises in making dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses, said: “Our aim is simply to make magical memories for a child and their family to remember. Granting a wish enables the family to enjoy a truly amazing time, and lets them forget about hospital routines, doctors’ appointments and the gruelling treatments that are a daily occurrence.”
Summing up his dream day, George said: “I had a really fun time and met lots of pilots from different countries who gave me badges from their flying suits and stickers. Even though I was very tired at the end of the day I was still really excited and didn’t want to go to sleep. It was a very special day and I will never forget it.”
For more information on When You Wish Upon A Star please visit www.whenyouwishuponastar.org.uk