AircraftEventHigh Fliers

MAF pioneer Jack Hemmings does it again at 101!

2nd September 2022

MAF co-founder and RAF veteran Jack Hemmings AFC* took to the skies once again today in a surprise flight to celebrate his 101st birthday. The retired airman took off from Spilstead Farm Airfield near Hastings in East Sussex watched by delighted friends, family, former MAF colleagues and the BBC

Jack Hemmings AFC*, son-in-law Chris Watts – a retired British Airways captain – and former MAF UK CEO Ruth Whitaker, took off in a Robin DR400 aircraft for a short circuit around Beachy Head.

Jack loved taking control of the aircraft mid-flight before they safely landed back at base.

Another birthday surprise!

On his birthday, he was also greeted by a surprise landing from a 1947 Miles Gemini aircraft piloted by its owner Stu Blanchard.

Earlier this year, Jack had the privilege of flying Stu’s Miles Gemini– a model he hadn’t flown for 74 years – in memory of his friend and fellow MAF co-founder, the late Stuart King.

It was in 1948 that Jack and Stuart flew a Miles Gemini from Croydon to Nairobi – the first British aerial survey across central Africa, which assessed humanitarian needs of some of the world’s most isolated people.

Jack sums up his memorable day in East Sussex:

‘There were whispers about a surprise, but meeting folk from MAF and the BBC to see the Gemini and to watch my flight in the Robin DR400 was thoroughly enjoyable!’

An ‘inspiration’

Former MAF UK CEO Ruth Whitaker who has known Jack for sixteen years was in awe of his latest feat:

‘Witnessing Jack take control of the aircraft today was such an inspiration. It reminds me that thanks to the skill and passion of dedicated airmen and women like Jack, MAF has grown to become the global, lifesaving organisation that it is today.

‘Also seeing Jack alongside the Miles Gemini aircraft – the same model he flew to launch MAF in Africa 74 years ago – was a really wonderful moment, and a special way to mark his 101st birthday.’

Ruth Whitaker, former MAF UK CEO

Jack – who has won awards for his contribution to aviation and performed aerobatics on his 100th birthday last year, is thought to be one of the oldest British pilots still flying and performing manoeuvres of this kind.

Happy birthday Jack!

*AFC = ‘Air Force Cross’, which is a military honour awarded to officers for acts of exemplary gallantry while flying.

News coverage

BBC South East