2020 was especially difficult for London-native, Malcom Hanson. The strict COVID-19 restrictions that locked down England were difficult for everyone, but it was doubly hard when Hanson was forced to move his wife of 57 years to an assisted living facility for Alzheimer’s treatment.
His 12-year-old grandson, Harrison Gurney, hated seeing his grandfather so downtrodden. With his 80 birthday on the horizon, Gurney knew he had to do something to surprise and lift his grandfather’s spirits.
Harrison Gurney and Malcom Hanson. Credit: Daily Express
“Harri and his granddad are like two peas in a pod,” says his mother.
Since he was a child, Malcom Hanson had a love of a specific kind of aircraft: a Spitfire. The admiration spurned from one evening in 1945 London—the tale-end of World War II. Just a boy at the time, Hanson witnessed a “dog fight” between Spitfires that he would never forget. Ever since, he dreamed of flying in one, and Harrison Gurney wanted to make that happen.
Gurney drafted up letters to airfields and private Spitfire owners across the United Kingdom, asking them to help make his grandfather’s 80 birthday extra special by allowing him to fly in the vintage plane. His heartfelt plea shows just how close the grandfather and grandson are in just two sentences:
“It breaks my heart to see him so sad. I want him to smile again.”
“He wrote a letter and wanted me to help him find a place to send it,” Mrs. Gurney says. “When I read it, it just made me bawl my eyes out.”
In preparation for the trip, Gurney raised money by doing extra chores around the house and garden work for various family members. Eventually, he heard back. Touched by the letter, the professionals at Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex offered to fly both Hanson and his grandson.
When the day to fly finally came, Malcom Hanson was ecstatic. He not only got the chance to fly in the plane of his dreams just like his father had during his time in the Royal Air Force, but he got to take control of the aircraft.
“It was absolutely fantastic, it was the most amazing experience I have ever had to have been allowed to take control on the Spitfire,” Hanson says. “The pilot did barrel rolls and some dives, it was great fun—a brilliant day out, all thanks to Harri. …While I was up there I was thinking, ‘When am I going to do a barrel roll?’ and then I got to do one and even take control, turning left and right and up and down. It was a great feeling.”
The grandfather/grandson duo was able to share an experience together that neither of them will soon forget—a bucket-list item checked off, and a special moment with a loved one when they needed it most.
“It’s a life-long dream come true,” Hanson says. “Harri knew that and went and made it happen. He sets his mind on something and follows it through. We’re very proud of him.”
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