'Crash' Harrison, 93, pilots same model plane he flew in war
Seventy-three years after his first solo flight in a Tiger Moth biplane, a Saskatchewan veteran was back in the pilot’s seat Wednesday -- and he didn’t even crash.
Reg ‘Crash’ Harrison, 93, got his nickname during the Second World War, when he managed to survive not one, not two, but four different plane crashes.
Harrison was only 20 when he first flew the Tiger Moth solo, during training in Virden, Man., on Remembrance Day in 1942.
A Saskatchewan pilot who owns one of the antique planes let him take it for a spin on the anniversary, and the flight brought back memories, both good and bad.
Harrison made 19 missions from England into enemy air on continental Europe and was lucky to have survived. Nearly half of the 120,000 or so under the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command didn’t make it, he said.
Harrison said he sometimes wonders how they coped.
“You always had the feeling,” he said, “that you’d come back and there would be empty beds and empty chairs, but you always had the feeling that it wasn’t going to happen to you.”
“I think if you felt otherwise, you probably never would have had the nerve to take off again.”
After Harrison landed Wednesday, he said it was “a great feeling to be here.”
Dave Gillespie, who bought the plane from a museum and restored it, said he thought of his own father while seated behind Harrison on Remembrance Day. Gillespie’s father was also an Air Force pilot from Saskatchewan and he too trained on a Tiger Moth.
“To meet Reg today and see his enthusiasm and his spark for life still is incredible,” Harrison said.
“It was an honour to be able to fly with him.”
With a report from CTV Saskatoon’s Sarah Plowman