Sheffield pensioner Tony Foulds – who has dedicated years of his life tending to a memorial in memory of lives lost in the Mi Amigo air disaster – is set to take to the skies himself for an emotional flight over the crash site.
Tony was only a young boy when he witnessed the badly damaged B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed Mi Amigo, crash into Endcliffe Park in 1944, killing all 10 crewmen on board.
The 82-year-old’s dedication to keeping their memory alive by single-handedly tending to the memorial site inspired a military flypast that was watched by thousands of people in the park, and millions more live on TV, in February to mark 75 years since the tragedy.
He is now set to follow a similar route that the Mi Amigo took on that fateful day as he has been invited by the Sheffield Aero Club to board a light aircraft for a flyover the park.
There is just one small snag – the Lowedges grandfather-of-four is scared of flying.
He said: “I’m frightened to death to be honest! I have only flown once to Spain about 10 years ago and I didn't like it. We always take the coach now, which is about 35 hours.
“Witnessing the Mi Amigo crash all those years ago has probably got something to do with it.
“But they have invited me, and it is a very nice thing, so I'm going to do it. It will be quite emotional when I am up there looking down on the memorial in the park I am sure.”
He is set to take to the skies in a Cessna 172 on Saturday, April 13, from Retford Gamston Airport for a short one-hour flight over the park, Ladybower and Derwent reservoirs – where the famous Dam Busters practiced before their raid over Nazi Germany – before returning to Netherthorpe Airfield.
Pilot Christine Carlin, aged 56, chief flying instructor at Sheffield Aero Club, said: “Watching the flypast was so emotional, you could really feel Tony's pain, and we just wanted to do something nice for him and thought a flight like this would be fitting.”
The Mi Amigo had completed a daring day time raid on an airfield in Aalborg in occupied Denmark but was hit in the attack and limped back over the North Sea.
It is believed the crew was attempting to make an emergency landing on the field – but when they spotted Tony and his friends on the grass they diverted and crashed into a nearby wooded area to avoid landing on them.
The pilot, lieutenant John Kriegshauser, was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for minimising loss of life.
Tony said the tragedy left him with feelings of deep-seated guilt for years which prompted his dedication to keeping the memorial in good condition.