He danced the skies again

2008-06-27 00:00

Never thinking that he would relive the adrenaline-pumping experience of flying a fighter plane, Harold Braatvedt (85) has done it again — 65 years after his last flip.

“It was quite incredible,” he said smiling.

In 1945, aged 20, Braatvedt trained to fly the Mustang fighter, but Word War 2 ended before he flew a mission. “I never thought I would fly again,” he said.

For his 85th birthday, Braatvedt not only travelled across the world to Australia to attend the weddings of both his sons, he also got one of the best surprise birthday presents he could ever have hoped for.

“My son asked me if I wanted to take a drive with him to drop off some washing machines. So I went along. Then he asked me if I wanted to have a look at a Mustang in the hangar, and I said of course I would, and then he said ‘Wouldn’t you like to fly one?’ and I said: ‘You know I would, but I can’t fly it, I haven’t flown in years!’.”

Though a conventional wartime Mustang had a single seat, this one had two — one for Braatvedt and one for an ex-Cathay Pacific airline pilot, “who flies the Mustang just for fun”.

“The plane was pulled out from the hangar and after a few preliminaries, I struggled up and over into the back seat and there I was in a Mustang again! I couldn’t believe it; the familiar controls and smells and the V12 engine coughed into life with that unique sound that only the Merlin has.

We taxied out and I felt the thrust in my back as he opened the throttle and we were away,” he said, with sheer delight in his voice.

Braatvedt was absolutely thrilled that the plane had dual steering. “I was able to fly it and do a few turns.”

Afterwards, he sat back and enjoyed the ride. “He did a wing-over and dive and pulled up into a barrel roll and a low pass over a dam at 320 knots (about 500 km/h) and pulled up with lots of G into another slow barrel roll with plenty of time to see the world upside down.”

To read more about Braatvedt and his adventures, visit his blog www.harold.co.za.

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