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Let’s Fly Away – Two former RAF pilots wish to see Harrier Jets comes true

Highlighted home news

A care home in Whitstable organised a special trip for two retired RAF pilots to return to the cockpit of the planes they flew during WW2. 

John Orminston, aged 77, and Alan Sansom, aged 89, two residents at Care UK’s Harrier Lodge, on Thanet Way, were surprised by the care home team with a visit to RAF Manston History Museum to see the planes they once flew up close again. 

After finding out about John and Alan’s careers as RAF pilots, and their wish to see their aircrafts from 40 years ago once again, Amy Gullett, Customer Relations Manager at Harrier Lodge, worked with volunteers from the museum to make their wish a reality.

A guided tour was organised for the two former pilots, complete with a visit to see the collection of jets – where neither had any struggle knowing what every single button and dial did. 

This isn’t the first time the team at Harrier Lodge has granted a wish – the care home has a Wishing Tree initiative which allows residents to suggest ideas for activities they would like to do. This supports residents to live fulfilling lives – from ziplining through mountains to a fish and chip supper, no wish is too big or small.

Commenting on the visit, John said: “I had a great time back in my flying days and loved revisiting the planes at the museum.” 

Alan added: “I really enjoyed the afternoon we spent at Manston Museum. It brought back so many fond memories from my time in the sky.” 

John joined the RAF aged 16 after finishing school at Simon Langton Boys School in Canterbury. Passionate about maths, John started his RAF career as an electronics engineer which saw him work on damaged machinery in Germany and cross the Berlin Wall. He later went on to be a flying officer, where he was stationed across the south of England. 

Alan joined the RAF aged 18, where he was stationed at Stanmore Park in West London. Later in his military career, Alan was posted at Odiham, Hampshire, where he fondly remembers converting a hanger into a social space, so he and his fellow soldiers could play badminton and basketball to pass the time.  

Sadie Porteous, Home Manager at Harrier Lodge, said: “At Harrier Lodge, we encourage residents to lead fulfilling lives, whether that comes from helping out in the garden, or flying down memory lane like John and Alan.  

“It’s true what they say – a pilot never stops acquiring knowledge as both John and Alan demonstrated. Everyone at the museum was astounded by the knowledge both of them had of the jets and just how comfortable they both felt being back onboard – something most of us would find nerve racking! 

“We were thrilled to be able to make John and Alan’s wish a reality and help them to fulfill their dream of seeing the planes they once flew once again. Both of them had a brilliant time, and it was great to see their faces light up the room when they saw the planes close-up. We look forward to making more wishes come true for the residents at Harrier Lodge.”

Harrier Lodge is a purpose-built care home which has been designed to enable residents to live active and fulfilled lives, while also promoting independence. The home provides full-time residential, nursing and specialist dementia care for up to 65 older people in Whitstable, and incorporates space for hobby and leisure activities, including its own cinema, hairdressing salon and café. 

For more information about Harrier Lodge, please call Customer Relations Manager, Amy Gullett, on 0203 918 2873, or email 

For more general information on Harrier Lodge, please visit

Open to new residents

Thanet Way, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 3FS

Harrier Lodge

CQC Rating: Good
  • Residential care
  • Dementia care
  • Nursing care
  • Nursing dementia care
  • Respite care
  • End of life care
  • Day club

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