Published: 08/06/2018 19:00 - Updated: 08/06/2018 12:01

Pilot helps jet fan take to the skies

Written byNicole Webber


Yusuf was all smiles as he soared across the skies with pilot Paul Gibbs.

A BOY with a keen fascination for planes saw his dream come true when a pilot took him on a surprise trip in a vintage jet.

Inverness teenager Yusuf (14) was known to the pilots at the city airport as "the threshold lad" because he would regularly visit the edge of runway five to take photographs of aircraft.

The autistic lad, who has asked for his surname not to be published, loves to watch the Jet Provost aircraft in particular and thinks of the airport threshold as his "happy place" – convincing his mother, Mhairi, to take him there whenever things in life get tough.

She said: "His love of aviation – civil and military – has been there since he was younger, but has grown over the years into his main hobby."

Pilot Paul Gibbs found out about Yusuf’s passion for planes after his wife got talking to Mhairi by the runway during an earlier flight for the jet. The retired training aircraft is now only usually flown for the owner himself or his friends and associates.

Tracking Yusuf down through a Facebook appeal, Mr Gibbs was impressed by his enthusiasm when they finally met.

"He goes out in all weathers and in all seasons – this boy is keen, just like I was," he said.

"I made contact and offered to get them airside and show them around the hangar, with particular emphasis on his favourite machine, the Jet Provost."

A former Highland Airways and Flybe captain, Mr Gibbs now works on contract in China but lives near Dalcross. He had to work hard to gain the trust of the shy Yusuf, but once they entered the aeroplane hangar, he said, Yusuf "came alive".

"We sat in the cockpit and I gave him a full tour of the workings of the vintage jet," he said.

"His knowledge continued to impress me."

Mr Gibbs then offered Yusuf the chance of a lifetime, inviting him to fly with him.

"Knowing his anxiety issues, and very little else about his condition I didn’t want to put pressure on him or cause him distress," he said. "But it was clear he was up for it, and then some!"

After one failed attempt when the haar was too thick for the planned flight to take place, Yusuf finally made it into the sky on Monday.

"He had the chance to take the controls and flew smoothly and precisely," said Mr Gibbs.

"His family were watching from his ‘happy place’ as we overflew them and broke into the circuit to land.

"It was a pleasure and honour to fly this special trip, and I hope he goes on to continue to develop his aviation future in whichever way it takes him."

Mhairi thanked Mr Gibbs and his wife afterwards, telling them that "without kind-hearted people like you both the world would be at a complete loss."

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