A RETIRED RAF man celebrated an impressive anniversary at Europe's largest surviving First World War airfield.

Flight Lieutenant John Cooper made his first ever RAF flight in Tiger Moth T6055 on April 14, 1944, although the aircraft was renumbered as G-AIDS in 1946.

On Sunday, April 15, Flt Lt Cooper was reunited with the aircraft after 80 years at Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome, near Maldon.

Stow Maries pilot Terry Dann, who now co-owns the Tiger Moth, made the reunion possible and keeps the aircraft flying.

Flt Lt Cooper then took the opportunity to go for a quick jaunt in another historic aircraft – Terry’s 1946 ex-Army Air Corps Auster.

Terry and co-owner Keith Pogmore have spent over 8,000 hours restoring and maintaining the Tiger Moth, which flew for the first time in early 1941. 

Keeping aviation history alive is close to Terry’s heart.

He said: “Flying a Tiger Moth can be quite demanding compared to modern aircraft as she needs a lot of TLC – but is very rewarding. Especially on days like today.”

Keen aviation history fan Flt Lt Cooper and his party were given a VIP tour of the museum’s award-winning exhibitions by Martyn Gill, chairman of the trustees of Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome.

Mr Gill said: “It is always a privilege to welcome guests to the museum. Flt Lt Cooper is a particular honour, especially on such an auspicious occasion as this.”

After his first escapade in the air, Flt Lt Cooper went on to become a bomber pilot and subsequently an instructor. 

As a reservist, he flew more than 6,000 hours for Air Cadets while having a career as an air traffic controller. 

He said: “Flying is always so special and today has been a wonderful day. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself.”

In February, then-High Sheriff of Essex, Charles Bishop, paid a visit to Stow Maries alongside his wife Mrs Nell Bishop.

More information about and directions to the aerodrome are available on the website: www.stowmaries.org.uk;