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The magnificent man in his flying machine - war hero, 99, takes to the skies

By Sue Austin | Market Drayton | News | Published:

At the age of 99 former RAF pilot, John Trotman has not lost his need for speed or his love of being airborne.

To celebrate his birthday John, who lives near Hodnet, took the controls of a Cesna light aircraft for a flight from Sleap Aerodrome near Wem, staking a claim as the oldest person still flying in the UK.

And while he now has instructor and friend, Keith Walker, sitting beside him for insurance purposes, Keith admits it often feels like it is John who is the instructor.

The pensioner is the holder of two Distinguished Flying Crosses from the Second World War, one for his tour of operations as a Wellington bomber pilot, the other for operations in the elite Pathfinder Force.

John in his RAF days

"In the Pathfinder Force I flew Mosquitos," he said.

"They were wonderful aircraft. You would be flying at 400 miles an hour and going up to 25,000 feet and above."

Flight Lieutenant Trotman defied the odds of surviving as an RAF pilot in the war and was to clock up over 2,000 flying hours. He walked away from three crashes.

When not on operations over Germany, he spent about seven months as a flying instructor at RAF Shawbury as well as spending time based at Sleap, Tilstock and Peplow.

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So it was fitting that John's flight on his 99th birthday took him back to RAF Shawbury where he landed for a short time before heading back to Sleap.

He credits flying to giving him his life back after the death of his wife in 2002.

"I was devastated, I was absolutely lost," he said.

"I decided to get back into flying to take my mind of things and contacted Shropshire Aero Club at Sleap. The members here have been absolutely marvellous."

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Struggling to sit in the small plane with his back - a long term result of wartime injuries - John sought help from a physiotherapist, who went on to become his second wife, Olwen.

"So flying brought us together as well," he says

"I enjoy being in the air, I love the speed. Once you get the bug from flying you always have it. Its something you love or your don't."

At the age of 96 John was grounded for a while because he had to have a heart pacemaker fitted.

"But I was able to return to the skies and am very grateful that I can still do what I love," he adds.

In 2015 John released a book about his wartime exploits entitled J for Johnnie.

Mr Walker said his friend was absolutely remarkable.

He is a great pilot. In fact when we are flying together I often think that it's John who is the instructor and I am a student. He likes nothing better than low level flying," he said.

Sue Austin

By Sue Austin
Chief Reporter

Chief reporter of the Oswestry/Mid Wales office. Keen to hear your news.

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