How a courageous seven-year-old Leeds boy Jacob 'the pilot' took to the skies for first flying lesson
The father of a "plane mad" Leeds youngster, who lost his mother from breast cancer last year, has opened up about helping his son take to the skies. Ruth Dacey reports.
Jacob Newson, a RAF-obsessed schoolboy, took the controls of a plane during his "first flying lesson" under the guidance of instructor Mark Green.
His father Andrew Newson, 53, watched on with admiration from the back seat of the Piper PA-28 Cherokee, during the flight out of White Waltham Airfield, near Maidenhead, on the weekend.
Mr Newson, an emergency medical technician for the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, described his son's flying lesson as a "bittersweet moment".
The Armed Forces Veteran who served in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, has a fear of flying and said the "plan" had always been for his mother Andrea, who died of breast cancer in December last year, at the age of 49, to chaperone Jacob.
He told The Yorkshire Post: "Andrea was always going to do it but unfortunately she passed away at Christmas with cancer so I had to step up to the mark and be brave for him."
Mr Newson, who took footage of his son during the flight, added: "I made a joke about it on social media and with him - saying he was braver than me to dampen my fear and boost his bravery and it seemed to work quite well.
"Seeing how excited Jacob was helped me - being in the back of the aircraft being so determined to get some footage of him and photos of him in the aircraft helped distract me from looking out the window particularly too much."
Under the watchful eye of Mr Green Jacob was able to take control of the plane for roughly 10 seconds when they were 3,000ft (914m) in the air.
"The highlight was when Jacob took the controls of the aircraft... And effectively he was in control of the aircraft which was amazing," said Mr Newson. "He was engrossed in the whole thing - he loved being up in the air and looking down on all the people down below and trying to spot all the things."
Jacob added on twitter: "This is the best day of my life, fact!"
Mr Newson said his son has been a fan of aviation all his life but he added he was careful to wait for the "right time" for Jacob to have his first flight.
"I was always a bit weary to introduce him to it too soon as I thought that it would scare him and then put him off forever, but over the last few weeks he has been constantly saying he wants to do it and so I thought now was the right time," he explained.
It is hoped Jacob will be able to have a second flying lesson in Yorkshire, with Mr Green if the instructor is able to make the trip from near Maidenhead to Sherburn, during the summer school holidays.
While later this year the father and son are planning to climb Yorkshire's three highest peaks - Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough - to raise money for St Gemma's Hospice in Leeds, which supported Andrea.
The determined mother-of-one worked as an analyst for the NHS for more than 20 years, and was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in October 2019 at St James Hospital in Leeds after she felt a lump while feeling ‘completely healthy’ and showing no symptoms.
After her condition deteriorated she was admitted to St James' Hospital on December 12 last year, and thanks to the ‘brilliant efforts’ of hospital, ambulance and St Gemma’s Hospice staff in Leeds, she was able to spend her last Christmas at home with her two boys before she died two days later on December 27.
So far the determined pair have raised more than £22,000 for the hospice through their fundraising efforts but they are aiming to raise £30,000 in Andrea's memory - the equivalent of the wage for a palliative care nurse for a year. "His mum would really approve, being as she worked in the NHS as well as I do - she would be really proud of that," said Mr Newson.
To help support Jacob's effort for St Gemma’s Hospice you can visit his just giving page here.
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