Family look on in tears as WWII pilot, 99, returns to skies 80 years on from wartime mercy missions

Former WWII pilot Ray Hobbs back in a plane, aged 99.
Former WWII pilot Ray Hobbs returned to the skies aged 99. Credit: Kory Kappes

A 99-year-old American war veteran has returned to the skies after a chance meeting with a local pilot at the airfield he flew missions from 80 years ago.

Lieutenant Ray Hobbs returned to Horham Airfield, in Suffolk, as part of a reunion trip organised by the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association.

When the group took a tour of the airstrip in a convoy of WWII vehicles it prompted local pilot Rod Wheeler to abort landing his light aircraft.

But after Mr Wheeler did manage to touch down, he discovered that Lt Hobbs had once flown B-17s from the airfield - and offered to take him up.

Ray Hobbs and his family with local pilot Rod Wheeler. Credit: Kory Kappes

Lt Hobbs' family watched on in tears as the pair flew several circuits of the airfield.

Mr Wheeler said: “At 1,000ft up, Ray took control of the plane and he flew it perfectly. I was struck about how calm Ray was, he was totally aware."

"It was a huge honour, especially to have Ray fly after what he did all those years ago."

Lt Hobbs, from Utah, flew seven missions with the 95th Bomb Group during the closing stages of the war in May 1945. He was tasked with delivering essential supplies to the Dutch population, who were starving.

On one such flight, Lt Hobbs recalls dropping a crate of supplies that plummeted through the roof of a house.

Years later he met one of the occupants and apologised - only to be told the supplies had been a lifeline and they had used the crate itself to patch the roof.

Lt Ray Hobbs. Credit: 95th Bomb Group

Lt Hobbs said: “I flew mercy missions; one to the Hague, one to Amsterdam and four to Utrecht, dropping food to the Dutch people.

"I flew a Cook's tour over part of Germany and France. At the end of the war, I flew with my group from Horham, England, to Bradley Field, Connecticut, where we left our plane."

Lt Hobbs said he was delighted to fly again and that he was on the reunion tour to "honour those who never made it home".

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