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RAF hero, 83, who has Parkinson’s disease returns to the skies for one last heroic turn

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An RAF hero with Parkinson’s disease has returned to the skies for one last heroic turn in a Tiger Moth biplane.

Antony ‘Spike’ Hughes left his care home to fulfil his dream of flying in the iconic Second World War aircraft, 68-years after taking his first flight.

The 83-year-old was able to loop-the-loop and barrel roll through the skies over Bicester Airfield, Oxon, on Wednesday to tick off an item on his bucket list.

After touching down, a thrilled Spike said: ‘Well, that was unexpected’ and claimed it was an ‘excellent way’ to fly.

Antony 'Spike' Hughes  (pictured above) left his care home to fulfil his dream of flying in the iconic Second World War aircraft

Antony ‘Spike’ Hughes  (pictured above) left his care home to fulfil his dream of flying in the iconic Second World War aircraft

Spike didn't appear to be afraid while flying the Tiger Moth and said he had experienced more daunting bus rides

Spike didn’t appear to be afraid while flying the Tiger Moth and said he had experienced more daunting bus rides 

Spike is pictured above during his time at the RAF. He joined as an apprentice at age 15

Spike is pictured above during his time at the RAF. He joined as an apprentice at age 15

Spike is pictured above in his earlier years with other comrades. Joined the RAF in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset

Spike is pictured above in his earlier years with other comrades. Joined the RAF in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset

‘It’s been a very long time since I was last in the skies, let alone seeing a Tiger Moth, the first aircraft I flew in when I joined the RAF.

‘It was a little bit bumpy and noisy, just like I remember, but was an excellent experience. What a fitting way to end my time in the air.

‘I loved every second of it and can’t thank everyone enough for helping to fulfil my wish.’

He added that he hadn’t been scared performing the stunts and said it was ‘natural being up there’, before joking that he had ‘more daunting bus rides’.

Just like the old times! Spike is pictured all strapped into the plane back in his days at the RAF

Just like the old times! Spike is pictured all strapped into the plane back in his days at the RAF

Spike is pictured centre in his uniform with his other friends from the RAF. One of his roles was as ground crew

Spike is pictured centre in his uniform with his other friends from the RAF. One of his roles was as ground crew

Spike is pictured centre front. He worked as an engineer which meant his feet stayed mostly on the ground

Spike is pictured centre front. He worked as an engineer which meant his feet stayed mostly on the ground

Spike joined the RAF in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset, as an apprentice ground crew when he was just 15.

He was quickly promoted to engineer where he spent the rest of his 45-year career.

His first flight, which was in a Tiger Moth, was seared in his mind’s eye and he always dreamed of getting in the cockpit one last time.

The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth biplane was operated by the RAF throughout the 1930s to 1950s.

Almost 9,000 of the iconic aircraft were produced, but only around 250 are still in use today.

Proud as punch! Spike is pictured above with his certificate of flight following his epic journey

Proud as punch! Spike is pictured above with his certificate of flight following his epic journey

His final flight was organised with the help of staff at Goatacre Manor Care Centre, near Calne, Wilts, where Spike lives.

The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth biplane

The de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth biplane also known as the ‘Tiger Moth’ is a 1930s aircraft.

It was designed by English aviation pioneer George de Havilland. 

The plane was a commercial success  and  was exported to more than 25 air forces.

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One of the Tiger Moth planes (pictured above)

One of the Tiger Moth planes (pictured above)

In addition to military demand the aircraft was also produced for civil use. 

It is a single engine biplane light aircraft.

People praised the plane for its design and for the fact that it was both cheap and easy to maintain and repair. 

It was provided by Finest Hour Experiences, and he was joined by pilot Chris Thompson, whose father ‘Tommy’ Thompson also served in the same RAF squadron as Spike.

He said: ‘It was great to commemorate Spike’s time serving in the RAF with a flight. He couldn’t wipe that cheesy grin off his face.

‘Part of what drives us at Finest Hour is the desire to help those with service backgrounds the best way we can.

‘Spike’s a prime example of somebody who deserves our support and it was a pleasure to fly him from our home at Bicester Heritage.

‘The big coincidence of the day was finding out my father and Spike’s father served in the same squadron, now we just need to piece together where and when.’

Spike was married to Maureen for 53 years until her death last year at the age of 82.

They had a daughter, Cheryl, 54, and four grandchildren aged 33, 23, 21 and 15 and two great-grandchildren aged two and one.

Cheryl, who is also a receptionist at Goatacre, said: ‘It was a very special day today. Just amazing and emotional.

‘He said the flight was a fitting end to his career, how wonderful. I was a little bit nervous wondering how he was, so was amazed how he took it all in his stride when the plane had stopped.

‘I said to my son ‘hopefully mum is up there looking down on him, thinking silly old fool’.

Spike pictured on the field

Spike on a plane when he was younger

Spike (left) currently lives in a care home and enjoyed his flight experience (pictured right during his time at the RAF

Antony 'Spike' Hughes, with pilot Chris Thompson and his grandson Tom

Antony ‘Spike’ Hughes, with pilot Chris Thompson and his grandson Tom

‘He told us yesterday he wanted to do the loop de loop and given the chance I think he’d want to do it all again tomorrow.

‘Just seeing dad’s face made the whole experience really amazing.’

She also highlighted how important it was for residents to get out of the home and do things they’ve always wanted to do.

‘Goatacre helped Spike complete his bucket list and for that we’re all very grateful’, she added.

In addition to fulfilling a lifelong ambition, Spike also used the event to help raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: ‘It is a fantastic tribute to his career.

‘Spike is yet another example of an individual living with Parkinson’s who refuses to be held back by his diagnosis and continues to show great enthusiasm to achieve all that he can.’

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