Veteran pilot reunited with aircraft of love
It was more than 60 years ago when aviation enthusiast Alan Bickley took to the skies to shuttle between the Midlands and Scotland for a relationship that was to span the decades.
Mr Bickley would regularly fly his two seater Piper Cub aircraft from Pendeford airfield to a landing strip near the Dundee home of wife-to-be Isobel during their long distance courtship.
And now the father-of-four, of Alexandra Road, Penn, has said it is a "dream come true" to have been reunited with the aircraft which he had last flown in October 1948.
Mr and Mrs Bickley met, in Scotland, in May 12, 1945 while he was stationed at Arbroath before serving as a pilot with the Fleet Air Arm, in Ceylon, formerly Sri Lanka.
He returned home to Wolverhampton in 1947 and soon afterwards his father George paid £600 for the Piper Cub, an American Air Force spotter plane built in 1943 that is now worth over £22,000.
It was immediately commandeered by Mr Bickley, now aged 86, to ensure romance blossomed with Isobel and he made the regular flight north of the border.
"I regularly flew up and down to Scotland a lot in it. She was the first passenger I carried in it and the last.
"I flew her back to Dundee with the engagement ring to ask for her hand in marriage. It carries a lot of happy memories."
The aircraft was sold by Mr Bickley's father in 1948 but one of his sons, Martin, aged 60, from Victoria Road, Bradmore traced it through the internet last year and discovered it was owned by an eight strong consortium based in High Wickham.
And on Saturday, one of the group, Nils Wedi, a 42-year-old meteorologist agreed to fly the near 70-year-old plane to Halfpenny Green airport, in Bobbington, Staffordshire and take Mr Bickley up for a spin in it.
Mr Bickley, a retired insurance broker, was thrilled to be allowed to take the controls for 20 minutes after it was airborne.
He said: "It was a magnificent experience and just like riding a bike. It felt just like I had last been flying last week. It felt like I was 21 again. The only problem was getting in. I used to leap in and out when I was young but sadly that is no longer the case.
"We flew over the house where my wife and I first lived after our marriage. Then I took control from the pilot and flew the plane until we were down to 500 feet on the final approach when he took over.
"Many happy memories came flooding back during the flight I cannot thank everybody enough for organising this wonderful experience."The former councillor and past chairman of Wolverhampton Education Committee, added: "What a wonderful sight. I thought I would never see it again and assumed it had been written off long ago. It has a very special place in my heart. It was not where I found love but it certainly helped things along a lot."
Mr Bickley's lifelong friend David Barber, aged 86, of Derwent Road, Tettenhall who was best man at the couple's marriage was on hand to see the return of the Piper Cub, said: "He courted her by air. The romance might not have lasted if that plane had not made light of the distance between them."
David, aged 62, another of Mir Bickey's sons added: "It has been a perfect day for Dad and the rest of the family. The only thing missing was mum. She was the reason he flew the plane and that it is why it played such a significant part in his life."
They have two other sons Michael, aged 59, and John, aged 55.
Sadly Mrs Bickley passed away on June 12 this year. The couple were married for 64 years.
Mr Wedi said it was an "honour" to reunite Mr Bickley with the aircraft.
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