Veteran airman takes to skies one final time

Dr Sandy Saunders (94), of Burton Lazars EMN-170123-155206001
Dr Sandy Saunders (94), of Burton Lazars EMN-170123-155206001
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A Burton Lazars man who was severely burned when he crashed in a Tiger Moth aircraft during the Second World War has been talking about his surprise flight in the same aircraft for a television programme.

A Burton Lazars man who was severely burned when he crashed in a Tiger Moth aircraft during the Second World War has been talking about his surprise flight in the same aircraft for a television programme.

Dr Sandy Saunders is one of the few surviving members of the Guinea Pig Club, a social group for airmen who received pioneering plastic surgery after crashing on wartime service.

He received terrible burns which covered 40 per cent of his body following his accident in 1945.

Now 94 and suffering from terminal cancer, Dr Saunders was delighted to get the chance to fly once more in a Tiger Moth, despite those horrific memories of 72 years ago.

He said: “It was a total surprise.

“They only told me I would be flying in the Tiger Moth on the day it happened.

“It was very pleasant, very nice, although I had trouble getting into the cockpit with my legs.

“It didn’t give me any particular flashback memories of my accident but then I keep getting those all the time anyway.”

Dr Saunders’ flight is featured on the BBC1 East Midlands Inside Out programme tonight (Monday) at 7.30pm.

They filmed him meeting his pilot for the trip and then preparing to take off .

He says: “This brings it all back. I wish I was young again.”

The plane is shown airborne as it flies from the airfield at Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

Dr Saunders recalled: “I was invited to take over flying the aircraft but I didn’t feel confident.

“I have rather poor eyesight now and I’m not in the best health.

“I would have been able to fly it otherwise, though.”

Dr Saunders still keeps in touch with other surviving members of the Guinea Pig Club, who were all indebted to the surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe for giving them the skin grafts which have allowed them to live relatively normal lives.

Dr Saunders accompanied the Duke of Edinburgh in the unveiling of a memorial to club members at the National Memorial Arboretum last year.

The Tiger Moth trip may well be his last flight because of worsening health.

“It’s a lovely plane to fly,” added Dr Saunders.

“It was the only training plane they used during the war.

“I only flew 75 hours in it before my crash.

“It was very enjoyable to be able to go up in it once again.”

If you miss the Inside Out programme, you can watch it again on the BBC iPlayer.