Search

Francesca pilots plane at 90

PUBLISHED: 10:27 10 October 2008 | UPDATED: 10:43 12 July 2010

Francesca Hunter-Cooke, 90, at the controls of a plane.

Francesca Hunter-Cooke, 90, at the controls of a plane.

Some 90-year-olds may be content with a few birthday cards or a box of chocolates on their big day, but for Francesca Hunter-Cooke the gift of a flying lesson was the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream.

Some 90-year-olds may be content with a few birthday cards or a box of chocolates on their big day, but for Francesca Hunter-Cooke the gift of a flying lesson was the chance to fulfil a lifelong dream.

Defying her years, the spritely pensioner soared into the skies as she took control of a light aircraft during her first flying lesson on Wednesday last week.

Mrs Hunter-Cooke, from Wortwell, said there was no need for nerves as she guided the Cessna over the Norfolk and Suffolk countryside and even her home.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” she said. “It was very simple, you just turn the wheel to the left or right, but you have to do it much lighter than I realised to get any whoopsie about it.

“It's the feeling of going up there and being free,” she added. “I don't feel my age at all.”

Although three previous attempts had been cancelled due to bad weather, she took to the air from Norwich airport in clear, warm conditions. Anglia Flight flying instructor Nicholas Camu gradually handed her control of the plane.

Pat Turner-Downs, the friend who gave her the present, went along to watch the take-off and landing. “She's always wanted to fly, so I thought it would be a good present,” she said.

Mrs Hunter-Cooke, whose mother was English and whose father was an Argentine millionaire, said: “I always wanted to fly like my father used to. He was a great pilot. He was left a lot of money and was a playboy so he bought his own plane in Argentina.

“I was too young in those days to go up with him but I remember it let off the most extraordinary sort of smell of oil and fuel as it took off.”

She lived in Argentina until she was four, when her mother got typhoid and brought her back to Blythburgh.

Later in life, and with an eye skyward, Mrs Hunter-Cooke trained as an air hostess with British South American Airways but soon after she qualified, the company merged and she never made it in the air, although she has happy memories working on the ground at London Airport.

“There were planes fitted for war which were converted into passenger planes,” she recalled. “On Sundays there was nothing much to do so we used to go round the airport with the boys in the planes like nobody's business.”

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Diss Mercury

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists