Former pilot Frank Dell's dream comes true
These days 96 year old former pilot Frank Dell can be found soaring through the hallways of Bupa Aged Care in St Ives. But in the past, he was just as familiar with flying high over Germany in World War II as he was with carrying Royals.
The end of World War II led Frank to don a fresh uniform and secure the next stage of his career as a commercial pilot with British Airways. Now, 45 years after his retirement, the airline has worked closely with Bupa to make one of his wishes come true, as Frank ventured back into the flight deck of an aircraft.
The visit forms part of British Airways’ commitment to 100 acts of kindness across the world as part of its #BAMagic100 campaign, to celebrate its centenary this year.
“Being a pilot was beyond the reach of average people like me in terms of the cost. Then the war came along and paved the way for me to learn to fly,” Mr Dell said.
The decorated RAF pilot spent many years behind the controls of a De Havilland Mosquito flying over Germany.
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“In 1944, I lost a good friend of mine who also happened to be my navigator when our plane was shot down in Münster along the western edge of Germany near the Krupp armament factory. It all happened so quickly. One minute I was in the plane at 28 thousand feet and the next moment I was in the fresh air,” he said.
Frank was confronted by some horrific scenes as he trekked through European countryside.
“I was actually walking for four nights and didn’t link up with anyone until the fifth day. As you can imagine, I was incredibly worn out and tired.”
“When my time came to be released, there was no job for me in the air force, so I started with British European Airways. It was amazing to see how much pre-war flying and training came into the category of what we were doing then.
“It was a great privilege to work for British European Airways (BEA) and now, an incredibly proud moment to help them celebrate their 100th birthday and be back in the flight deck again.”
The veteran pilot spilled the beans on shuttling celebrities, battling millions of miles and other trade secrets of cutting through the clouds.
“I had no idea that 1976 was going to be my final year with British Airways, so I hit the jackpot by being able to fly a well-known Royal in my very last year of service.”
Bupa St Ives General Manager, Reba Hatcher said flying had been a major part of Frank’s life and has created many interesting conversations within the home.
“Frank is such an inspiring role model to me, the staff, residents and visitors. It’s so important for us as carers to celebrate the lives and achievements of our residents and to shine the spotlight on what makes them so unique,” Ms Hatcher said.
As British Airways lines up on the runway to celebrate its centenary, the airline’s Director of Brand and Customer Experience, Carolina Martinoli, shared Ms Hatcher’s sentiment.
“As soon as we heard that former BA pilot, Frank wished to take a trip down memory lane, we wanted to do all we could to make his dream come true by visiting a flight deck once again. We’re absolutely honoured to have people like Frank and all our customers and colleagues join us in celebrating our milestone 100th birthday this year.”