Britain's oldest stunt pilot, Doug Gregory, still flying at 87

A lifetime in the skies

Doug prepares himself for takeoff, despite the strong winds. Order no: 10529073

WHAT A PRO! Display pilot Doug Gregory, 87, flying his replica SE5A plane over East Boldre to mark the airfield’s centenary. Echo pictures by Stuart Martin. Order no: 10529063

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Crime Reporter

FOR MANY fighter pilots the end of the war signalled an end to their flying ambitions.

But for one Hampshire grandad it only fuelled his determination to spread his wings and spend a lifetime in the skies.

At 87, Doug Gregory is Britain’s oldest stunt pilot and he has no desire to clip his wings.

Yesterday he could be seen racing through the clouds over the New Forest, showcasing his acrobatic skills in a replica of a 1917 war plane that he built himself 20 years ago.

Despite a strong gale, which saw many of his display team keep their feet firmly on the ground, Doug was determined to brave the winds and give the crowds a good show.

He and one other member of the Great War Display Team took part in a thrilling dog-fight above the forest to celebrate the centenary of the former airfield at East Boldre.

Doug, from Blackfield, said: “There was a gale blowing which made it extremely difficult to fly and half of the team decided to stay on the ground but I was stupid enough to go up anyway. I was a bit scared, because when you are up in a very flimsy plane you bounce around a bit, but we didn’t want to disappoint the people watching on the ground.”

The former RAF pilot first took to the skies during the Second World War and since then he has been a frequent flyer, clocking up thousands of air miles over the years.

On leaving the RAF in 1946 he became a teacher and after retiring in 1983 he decided to build a replica SE5A First World War fighter biplane, which took him four years.

He added: “Retirement gives you a whole new lease of life and I knew what I wanted to do.

“It is a wonderful feeling to be flying and I just feel right up there.

Sometimes it can be frightening but a lot of the time it’s the best feeling in the world.

“I can’t explain it really, rather like seamen who love the sea, we are airmen who love the air.

“During the Second World War I flew Mosquitoes. I wasn’t shot down but I was shot at. Luckily they missed – most of the time.

“Many of my colleagues in the RAF never stepped foot on a plane again after the end of the war but I love flying and I will keep taking to the skies until I die.”

Comments (5)

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2:10pm Mon 31 May 10

Mark Oxspent says...

Just prior the the Normandy landings my Father in Law, a soldier, was transported to a secret location at an airfield in the New Forest. He nor his troop knew where however it was an airfield.

He survived the war and now lives close to the Forest after he moved down from London. He and I have scoured the place to try and trigger some memories of where that 'secret' airfield may be and asked at several places but to no avail.

Was anyone else at this 'secret' place before being sailed to Normandy and know its location? He was there at D-Day -8 and at Normandy D-Day-6 securing the beach head for the mulberry docks.
Just prior the the Normandy landings my Father in Law, a soldier, was transported to a secret location at an airfield in the New Forest. He nor his troop knew where however it was an airfield. He survived the war and now lives close to the Forest after he moved down from London. He and I have scoured the place to try and trigger some memories of where that 'secret' airfield may be and asked at several places but to no avail. Was anyone else at this 'secret' place before being sailed to Normandy and know its location? He was there at D-Day -8 and at Normandy D-Day-6 securing the beach head for the mulberry docks. Mark Oxspent
  • Score: 0

2:29pm Mon 31 May 10

Steve Rodgers says...

Doug sounds like a hero and a real gent, but I bet he's a little bemused at the idea of doing 'acrobatics' over the New Forest. (It's 'aerobatics', Melanie. There really is a HUGE difference)
Doug sounds like a hero and a real gent, but I bet he's a little bemused at the idea of doing 'acrobatics' over the New Forest. (It's 'aerobatics', Melanie. There really is a HUGE difference) Steve Rodgers
  • Score: 0

3:56pm Mon 31 May 10

Jammy Donut says...

There were 12 Airfields in the forest during WW2 - check out worldwar2airfields.f
otopic.net
There were 12 Airfields in the forest during WW2 - check out worldwar2airfields.f otopic.net Jammy Donut
  • Score: 0

6:26pm Mon 31 May 10

Mark Oxspent says...

Have done Jammy and the Airfields of the NF and many others to boot. There were 6000 troops billeted there en-transit to Normandy
Have done Jammy and the Airfields of the NF and many others to boot. There were 6000 troops billeted there en-transit to Normandy Mark Oxspent
  • Score: 0

7:28am Tue 1 Jun 10

Westsidestory says...

There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. But there are no 'old bold' pilots. Doug is a real serviver, chocks away!.
There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. But there are no 'old bold' pilots. Doug is a real serviver, chocks away!. Westsidestory
  • Score: 0

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